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Every Day Is Different: Day 1

Chrysanthemum

Every Day Is Different: Day 1

It’s Crohn’s & Colitis awareness week and this year we’re all trying to highlight that every day with chronic illness is different. I thought that I would share my life with Crohn’s alongside something that is beautifully different! Today it’s a chrysanthemum, a favourite flower of mine to gaze upon, photograph and create artwork with.

 

Today I woke up feeling awful from a night of sweats, cramps and night mares. That’s usual for me though! I also woke up with another day of horrible earache. I take medication that reduces my immune system in order to treat the Crohn’s, which is an auto-immune disease. This means that I get a lot of infections but I refuse to let it deter me from getting out and about.

Fatigue

This is the state I was in with my fatigue!

I set an alarm for 8.29am so I could try, for the second day in a row, to get an emergency appointment at the doctors. Yesterday was an epic fail as I slept through my alarm and by the time I contacted the doctors there were no appointments left! I tried and tried to get through today and all I got for about seven minutes or more was the busy tone. Then I fell asleep with the phone still in my hand and no appointment! That happens a lot to me as I have such bad fatigue and my nights are anything but restful.

CCUK

My care assistant came to help me get up, washed, medicated and dressed at 11am and by the time we had finished and I finally got through to the doctors – no appointments! I tried pleading, telling the receptionist that I’m immune compromised and explaining my difficulties in the morning (I have lost count of the number of times I have had to repeat this conversation). She just kept telling me that I had to phone at 8.30am and everyone else was in the same boat as me. I asked her to check with my GP and she said that she’d already asked her administration manager and there was nothing they could do. I broke down in tears. An infection can get really out of control with me if I don’t get treatment quickly. I felt so stupid, it’s just earache after all! But it really hurts 😦

My hubby, Simon, called me on his lunch break (he always does, lovely man) and was utterly dismayed that I still couldn’t get an appointment. Bless him, he got straight onto the phone to the doctors and had a discussion with the receptionists about what the NHS says about their duty of care for patients who need to be seen (strong words but a calm head!). He discovered that only 13 emergency appointment had actually been available today! That’s not healthcare, it’s a lottery based on whose phone connects first. Anyway, to cut the story down just a bit, suddenly they CAN fit me in but it’s a one-off special favour?!?

Every Day Is Different

I was seen by one of the doctors that I really like at 5pm who confirmed that I do have quite an infection, possibly inner and outer ear from how red and inflamed they were. So finally I have the antibiotics I need, a soothing ear spray and the relief that I will feel better soon. My hubby, my hero, thank you so much for backing me up and always being here for me!

Ornamental Chrysanthemum

Different Is Beautiful Too!

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One Four Challenge: February Week 4

One Four Challenge: February Week 4

One Four Challenge: February Week 4

Here’s my last edit for February’s One Four Challenge, hosted by Robyn Gosby at Captivate Me. I’m not going to give you a run down of the processes this week as it would be just a bit too much! I’ve used a combination of all the processes used in my first three edits and added the butterflies and flowers using the polygonal lasso tool in PS. My inspiration this week was drawn from a pen and ink design I created many years ago, using a self-portrait to create a playing card Queen of Hearts. My design had been based up a pen and ink drawing that my father had created, during his own college days, of a fairytale style playing card! I hope you’ve all enjoyed my tributes to past works and different mediums as much as I have. I’m still deciding on my image for March but it has been suggested to me that I tackle a landscape. What do you think?

If you would like to pick a favourite (it’s not obligatory!) please use this poll and/or leave me some feedback and suggestions for future One Four Challenges in the comments πŸ™‚

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One Four Challenge: February Week 3

One Four Challenge: February Week 3

One Four Challenge: February Week 3

February is flying by and we’re already onto the third week of this month’s One Four Challenge, hosted by Robyn Gosby at Captivate Me. Some of you may have guessed by now that I’m attempting to recapture the feel and look of Fine Art processes that I have used in the past. This month’s edit is inspired by the very short experience I had of print making during my A level studies. I really loved it! I made a series of self portraits using lino, block and screen printing techniques. I’ve tried to capture the essence of those techniques in this pop-art style image.

Photoshop CC
Clean up base
Select Figure with Polygonal Lasso
Refine Edge
Layer Via Copy
Add grey background
Invert Difference Blending (Save Portrait 1)
Invert Divide Blending (Save Portrait 2)
Invert Normal
Copy Figure Layer
Multiply Blending
Invert Screen Blending (Save Portrait 3)

Create New 3×2 Ratio White Background
Copy and Paste in all 3 Portraits
Arrange with right hand figure as 1st Layer
Use Polygonal Tool to select and remove white overlapping areas
Use Soft Low opacity Eraser to blend images

Greater Than Gatsby
Soft Pearl Matte 20%
Reduce Noise
Your New Aesthetic 25%
Brilliant Dance 20%
Vinyl Revival 30%
Painterly Soft 20%
Flatten Image

Lightroom
Use masking brush to reduce clarity and and sharpness to areas of skin while increasing clarity to hair and facial features

Colour Efex Pro
Tonal Contrast Fine
Classical Soft Focus and Diffuse selectively
Colourise Soft Pink
Ink
Pro Contrast
Glamour Glow Cool

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One Four Challenge: February Week 2

One Four Challenge: February Week 2

One Four Challenge: February Week 2

For the second week of February’s One Four Challenge, hosted by Robyn Gosby at Captivate Me, I wanted to create an effect that resembles charcoal and watercolour. I really enjoyed using that mix of mediums when doing life studies, often on textured pastel paper. It was a fast and free technique that gave a lovely flow to lines and created extra depth to shadowed areas. Rubbing in some chalk to the still wet paper would bring out the highlights and complete the sketch.

Photoshop CC
Cleanup Background
Solarise
Invert with Difference Blending
Increase Brightness and Contrast
Reduce Noise 100%
Make 3 new Copy Layers
Copy Layer 1 apply Poster Edges
Darker Colour Blending 50%
Copy Layer 2 apply Dry Brush
Normal Blending 55%
Copy Layer 3 apply Diffuse Glow
Normal Blending 30%
Add B&W Texture Layer
Create Layer Mask
Soft Black Brush Low Opacity gradually remove texture from figure
Merge Visible
GTG – Painterly Soft with Multiply Blending 50%
Adjust Levels
Use Soft White Low Opacity Brush to enhance highlights and lift unwanted shadow
Increase Brightness
Decrease Contrast
Add Warming Photo Filter
Use Blur and Smudge tools to accentuate “brush” strokes

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One Four Challenge: February Week 1

One Four Challenge: February Week 1

One Four Challenge: February Week 1

It’s time for February’s One Four Challenge, hosted by Robyn Gosby at Captivate Me. A new month, an old image with a brand new look. The original photographs were taken in early 2007 on a Fuji Bridge camera. I think it was a 5mp camera, which really goes to show how fast technology is moving! I took a lot of images in the camera’s own B&W mode at that time as it had been what I was most used to in film photography. The portraits were originally taken as part of a photomontage project for the National Portrait Gallery’s annual photographic competition. I haven’t had any of my images included in the exhibition but I really enjoy the process of creating images for the competition, it’s a great motivator πŸ™‚ I’ll include my 2007 entry within my gallery and, as ever, I would love your feedback and criticism on my processes!

Photoshop CC
Clean up base image and remove shadows
Invert with Linear Light Blending
Merge Down
Invert with Screen Blending
Merge Down
Invert with Difference Blending 50%
Merge Down
Soft Edge Glow Action 50%
Soft Posterise
Save Snapshot
Rippled Oil Texture 40%
Merge Visible
Add Snapshot with Lighten Blending
Public Domain Texture Overlay
Difference Blending
Masking Layer – use soft, low opacity brush to remove texture
2nd Texture Overlay
Overlay Blending 60%
Use soft white brush to paint over dark edges on portrait
Flatten Image
Add White Canvas Border

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Travel Theme: Broken

Self Portrait in Hospital

Travel Theme: Broken

Well that’ll be me then! This post comes as a way of explaining my late responses to you all for comments on my posts over the last week or so. Both my immune and nervous systems are well and truly broken resulting in Crohn’s and Fibromyalgia. My consultants and I do everything we can to stabilise my conditions and I have a lot of support, especially from my wonderful Simon, to enable me to have as full a life as I can. I think you all know that I get a lot of joy and happiness out of life and I make the very best of the good days. This might be wordy so I’ll break it up with some pretty pictures! They were taken on my phone in the beautiful and quirky Igloo Flowers shop in an old Victorian ArchΒ  in the underpass that leads from Guy’s Hospital to London Bridge Underground station. I’d like to dedicate these flowers to all my fellow bloggers with chronic and life limiting illnesses like mine. You know who you are!

Sometimes things can go rather wrong for me. They certainly did last week! My teeth are in a bad way because of the Crohn’s and I’m seeing dentists at Guy’s Hospital in London now. On Tuesday one of my molars had to be removed as it’s been badly broken for a long time and I’ve been getting persistent infections. We still don’t know exactly what went so wrong but it’s suspected that the very large amount of local anaesthetic that I was given, alongside the severity of the infection, sparked off a really bad Fibromyalgia attack.

It hit me full on, without any warning, while mum and I were on the train heading home. I know I scared mum and I probably freaked out the other passengers too! It’s probably a bit like watching someone having a fit. Uncontrollable shakes, extreme sweating, complete weakness and horrific pain everywhere. To my shame and horror I had to be lifted off the train at my home station, by paramedics, before being rushed into my second hospital of the day. I do apologise to passengers on the 16:55 from Waterloo last Tuesday for having delayed the train! I just hope nobody missed any connections at Woking.

It was close to midnight before I was allowed home with Simon. The following day I still felt like I’d been in a car crash and my local GP prescribed some extra antibiotics as I still had a very high temperature. I so wish that that was the end of the sorry tale but by Friday my face was complete agony! My local dentist confirmed that the infection had spread through my upper and lower jaw and added in a third antibiotic, called Metronidazole, and codeine to take between doses of tramadol. Yes, shake me, I rattle!

I’m still in a lot of pain but I’m finally on the mend from at least this particular episode! The hospital will probably have to put me out before removing any more broken teeth. I’m not going through all that again I can tell you! My main image above is actually a self-portrait that I did in St Marks Hospital (a specialist bowel centre) the night before my fourth major abdominal surgery, three and a half years ago. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever share it but it certainly fits this week’s theme. The main thing is that I accept that I’m a bit broken, vulnerable and I do need a lot of help, but I’m certainly not useless.

I found a lot of strength in accepting my vulnerability. There’s no point in recriminations, regrets, guilt or anger. Life’s far too short for that and there’s so much to enjoy when you can. The help I get from my loved ones, friends and care workers enables me to do so much more than I’d be able to otherwise. I like to celebrate all the things I love in life through my photography and poetry, that you all enjoy what I do is a real confirmation that what I am able to do matters, that I matter.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Threshold: Also called limen. Psychology, Physiology . the point at which a stimulus is of sufficient intensity to begin to produce an effect: the threshold of consciousness; a low threshold of pain.

People often speak about having either a low or high pain threshold. I think that’s a difficult thing to quantify! My own threshold is the point at which it becomes unbearable, the point at which I break.

I’m often told that I’m brave. I don’t really feel it! Chronic illness doesn’t give you many choices. You just have to make the best of a bad situation, to find and hold onto the good and beautiful things in life.

Some years ago I made a series of self portraits when I was in a lot of pain, both physical and emotional. My Crohn’s disease had recently spread and was causing a very rare set of symptoms. I was in such agony and was having real difficulty in getting the right medical support and treatment.

It’s taken five years to finally get the complete diagnosis and a treatment plan that keeps the symptoms somewhat under control. I have Ano-genital Crohn’s with secondary psoriasis. There are only thirty cases, that know of, being treated by the specialist hospitals in London and the South East. At times I feel very isolated.

My pain threshold has been breached on far too many occasions! Thankfully the latest steroid cream has kept the wounds at a minimum and it’s been about sixth months since I last had to use any morphine.

All this is in addition to my general levels of pain from Crohn’s and Fibromyalgia. Every day feels like I’ve just been in a car crash! I couldn’t really tell you how I cope, I just don’t have any other choice.

So I just wanted to say to people that everyone has a breaking point! No one should feel like they have to put on a brave face all the time. It’s not a competition as to who can hold out the longest. If you know someone with chronic illness, let them be vulnerable, accept that their pain is real and sometimes uncontrollable. Just be there for them when you can.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

This weeks challenge brought up a mix of emotions for me. Living with chronic illness for almost twenty years has often led to feelings of abandonment.

Whenever emotion becomes overwhelming I try to let it out through art and poetry. It’s a hard thing to do when life and society knocks you back again and again.

I’m fortunate to have my art as an outlet and a wonderful support network of family, friends, care workers, Specialist Nurses and Consultants. They all love my art too!

These wonderful people have helped me to rebuild my life every single time that my illnesses have tried to break me apart. They will never abandon me and I love them dearly for that and so much more!

My featured image this week is a photomontage called “Not Yet Dead” (2008/9). It’s an evolutionary piece following an oil painting made shortly after my diagnosis with Crohn’s, entitled “To The Grave” (1996/7).

These self-portraits and their companion poems document the hard times but are also a statement of intent, I won’t be kept down or left behind no matter what life throws at me!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

This week’s challenge theme prompted me to revisit a piece I started working on a couple of years ago. I had put it aside about a year ago as I felt I was starting to overwork it.

When I opened it up again in Photoshop I could clearly see that I’d overcomplicated the composition with far too many unnecessary elements. Sometimes less is more! I wanted to leave an air of mystery to the piece.

I really enjoy creating portrait montages with a surreal/fantasy undertone. I have a series of self portraits that I call Dreamscapes and this is number five in the series “Moonstruck”.

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Face The Future

Face The Future

1 year, 365 days, 1 new photo every day, a great experience!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy

You bet I’m joyful tonight! Now that I’ve achieved my goal for 2013 what more lies ahead?

Well, first I shall give myself a few days off! I think deserve it πŸ™‚

But before we all embark on whatever adventures await us in 2014 I thought I ought to turn the camera on myself and say “Hello and thank you”!

For every new follower, for each individual like, for the inspiration, for such great comments and encouragement, THIS is my happy face.

I’m really proud of myself for having completed my challenge and I’m looking forward to my second year of blogging, albeit with a slightly different look to my site!

Happy New Year to one and all! May 2014 be a joyful, creative journey for you too.