Life sometimes feels too big, scares me or overwhelms me. Anxiety rears its head, hello PTSD! But fortunately, there are more and more times when PTSD fades into the background. And the crazy thing is: you can see it in the illustrations I make!
Narrowing your circle versus expanding it
I once had a therapist who described it very nicely. When you feel anxious or stressed you make your circle smaller. Think of it as the figurative space around you. You make a shrinking motion, just watch it, it really is! When you feel good, you feel free, you make your circle bigger. You expand your space. You explore and enjoy. You also connect more easily with others, letting your large circle "contact" someone else's circle.
I have always remembered this little reminder. It makes it easier for me to understand what is happening and interpret what I need. The remarkable thing is, it suddenly struck me last week that I do this in my illustrations too!
Paint what I feel
Let's start with a few examples. Below are some illustrations I made while in my little world, the small circle. I retreated and sought safety and security.
Two of these illustrations I made on vacation (two different vacations). I only see this myself now, but it is true. Vacations are always tricky for me, I enjoy nature and beautiful hikes, but it also evokes anxiety more quickly.
Generally, I can say that I paint here purely as therapy. I paint what I need. No drama, just a warm cocoon. I very often get asked why I don't paint certain things (boys, girls or women with different skin color, religion, glasses, blonde hair etc), well the answer is so simple. I don't create to run a business, sell a lot or make everyone happy. I create for myself, to understand my own feelings.
When my circle is a bit bigger
I feel a little better, maybe still very tired, but I can handle the (adult) world with proper self-care. I find it very instructive to create this blog, because suddenly I see this myself clearly now in my illustrations, haha.
Ik schilder waar ik behoefte aan heb (zoals altijd!). Maar in plaats van me te verstoppen in mijn magische wereld, blijf ik wat meer in de echte wereld. Ik kan het aan, voel me goed, maar ik heb dit wel nodig als ‘self care’. Zie jij het verschil? Of misschien voel je het wel?
On top of the world
And sometimes, I feel free, curious, in need of contact or to do new things. I dream about new places, beautiful views or cosy moments. My circle is large, I have room to move and feel I can take on the world.
Enjoyment is central. Often at this stage I discover through painting what I am in need of. I have lived in a constant state of fear for so long that this is actually a new piece of life to discover. Coincidentally, here are 3 illustrations with several people together, but there is absolutely no need for that. Perhaps "splash fun" left at the bottom speaks most to the imagination of "enjoyment, relaxation, space and freedom".
So you see, again, I illustrate as a kind of therapy, or journey of discovery.
Did you already know the bigger and smaller circle? What is your circle like right now?