Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Love Yourself

Evening petals,

Where do I begin? 

Whilst the world was going mad for the 2298372934th time, because that's all it ever seems to be doing, I spent the week in Totnes in a pretty holiday cottage with very little wi-fi. Personally, I could deal with unreliable Internet because we were so busy but I felt it worth mentioning to account for the fact I have been missing a lot of news. Whilst I have been missing a lot of news, I was getting sunburnt, eating a lot of ice cream, paddling in the sea and also spending a lot of time with my two-year-old niece (is actually my boyfriend's niece but I've acquired the title of "Uncy Lauren"). I also celebrated my two-year anniversary with my boyfriend last week, which was lovely. We're not a very post-it-online kind of couple, but I'm mentioning it here because I want to. Thank you for everything.

Personal catch-ups aside, as I did say I would stop doing those for entire posts, I would like to talk about watercolour painting. I have recently made my first three attempts at watercolour paintings and, let me tell you right now, it is not as easy as YouTubers make it look. I was warned many times about the difficulties regarding technique and such, but I was very optimistic and tried my hand at it anyway. The word "can't" is definitely in my dictionary, but I try not to use it and feel disappointed if I do.

So, firstly I decided that the image was going to be a happy one. After all, I needed a suitable mood to match my enthusiasm for my new project. Next, I slathered my desk in an old copy of The Guardian (though I did wish I could have pilfered someone's Daily Mail in the hopes of giving Piers Morgan a little Pride flag and a 'snowflake' graphic t-shirt), then I clunked an old glass of tap water on a "Sweet 16" cork coaster I had for one of my birthdays (no prizes for guessing which one) and rummaged around for my paints. I've had these paints for several years and they are beautiful. The watercolours are in their own little white boxes with their wonderful colour names printed on the side such as 'viridian', 'burnt sienna' and 'ultramarine'. Each of these boxes sit in neat rows in a larger white case with the Winsor and Newton logo on the front. My grandma bought me these when I was young, as she is an artist herself, and I'm so glad that I'm finally getting to use them properly. Next, I set out my brushes; my Winsor and Newton Cotman set (which I did not pay that astronomical price for - go to Amazon) and some Frisk masking brushes. I also used the Royal & Langnickel Watercolour Artist Pad which I had seen used successfully in other artist's' work. Although any paper that claims to be for watercolours is fine, you get what you pay for so do expect some potential negative effects if you go down the cheap road like I did. Negative effects means, mainly, warping of the paper when loading it up with water and ultimately having little balls of paper accumulate on what should be a smooth coat of paint.

For sketching, I initially used a plain old HB pencil but I went over it with a brown Brunel and Franklin watercolour pencil, which I could only seem to find a link for at b&m for some reason. Then I lightly brushed over the sketch with an eraser which left the brown marks, which I went over again in the same brown. My hopes for using a watercolour pencil was that it would blend in when I started to apply the paint, which it kinda did. Next, I decided that I would tackle masking fluid for the first time. Although it looked pretty simple when done online, darn those YouTubers, it was an absolute shambles when I started slapping it down on my page. I don't know if it was the quality of the paper or if I had spread it in far-too-thick globs, but the end result was ripping off much of the top layer of paper with the brown pencil attached. I used, what I deem to be, a good quality masking fluid (Winsor and Newton again) so I can only conclude that practice must make perfect. I was a bit put off by the eggy white-yellow colour at first, but it did go tacky and pull away quite satisfyingly without any discolouration, so I think I will wait until I have a higher quality pad. If anyone has any tips, it'll be much appreciated. Anyway, after I had masked the outlines of the sketch, washed the background a 'cadmium yellow', and rubbed away most of my poor outline, I redrew the brown lines and used a small end-of-pencil eraser to get rid of the frilled, jagged paper that had been torn away. After this, I happily blocked in the base colours, waited for it to dry and added shading in darker colours. Part of my issue with watercolours is that it requires a lot of patience. You must wait for the previous layer to dry before adding another or you will basically ruin the painting. I find the concept of patience quite easy until it comes to art, and then my brain is rapidly rendering the image I want and urging my hand to make it happen instantaneously. However, I did manage to do some waiting this time and didn't waterlog the page too much.

Finally, after being satisfied with the colouring, I moved onto the outline. Originally I was going to have no outline and allow the blended brown pencil to remain as the only visible lines. However, this didn't prove to be a good idea considering the mess that was the masking fluid and the blurriness there was once I'd applied water: I have a soft spot for sharp, crisp lines. I had initially been lining with a very fine brush and a shade of black called 'hook' but I found I couldn't quite get the right consistency and it was fluctuating between being grainy and dry or translucent and difficult to keep control over. This is when I decided to use my beautiful Pigma Micron liners. I own a set which contains Sakura Pigma Microns with sizes that range from 0.05 to 0.8 and an extra brush pen, which I adore. I began by lining the entire image with the 0.05, the smallest of the pens with a minute nib. This looked okay, but I didn't want the lines to be a monotonous thickness so I added thicker areas with the 0.8, which admittedly makes up most of the lines. I then began to taper out the thicker lines with the 0.05 on parts such as folds in the clothing and facial features, which I like to keep quite thin and sharp. Finally, I added in some pupils, which were originally a more saturated version of "cadmium yellow" which didn't pop enough for my liking, and scribbled my name and the year.

If you're still here at this point, I am deeply sorry for the piece of artwork you're about to see. I usually prefer using markers and pens, so watercolour is really out of my comfort zone. Therefore, I did something incredibly simplistic, though still undeniably my style despite a new medium. There's some warping and bleeding of the colour, but overall it's not a bad attempt. I think I'll stick to my favourite markers and pens for the most part though!

Oh, also she's a pastel princess alien who doesn't give a damn, frankly.

Love yourselves,

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Second Summer: what now?

Good afternoon wallflowers and wildflowers,

 To be frank, toddling out of second year and wandering, dazed, into third has felt a bit like this;

Hercules. (1997). [film] Directed by J. Musker and R. Clements. USA: Walt Disney Pictures.

I've started to hear the word "dissertation" spoken aloud as though it is now an impending reality. Those of you who already have their degree, and may even be brandishing a Masters or a PHD, will likely look back on your dissertation as comparably easy to the work you tackled from then on. However, that does not take away the knock-kneed, trembling-lip, nervous-stutter approach I'm going to take to mine (though that is my general demeanour when I approach anything remotely new). I'm sure I'll let you know in the coming weeks when I have finally decided on a topic, though I imagine it will definitely reside in the field of stylistics. I must make sure that, before I leave, I thank one of my lecturers for the infinite amount of confidence and reassurance she has given to me throughout my two years at university so far. I began by regretting the aspect of language in my degree and was thinking about changing course, but her enthusiasm and excellent teaching style has meant that, not only do I love studying language now, but I am opting to do an independent study in it. Then again, the entire English department at my university are nothing short of wonderful, in my humble opinion. 

Anywho, aside from work-related business, I will admit that my summer is still very much in full-swing, despite some wobbles in trying to pin down a specific study topic for next year. 

  A while ago, I made a Summer books list for what I wanted to read this year and in accordance with this I have started reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is long awaited and I will likely make slow progress on it, but reading it I am. In an exciting turn of events, I am also attending one of the book signings that Matt Haig is holding this summer! I don't think I could possibly explain my excitement for this, but if I tried it would be that my boyfriend observed that when I hear the word "author" said on the tv I always look to see if it's Matt Haig, however unlikely. As far as other reading goes, and I know I said I'd stop talking about this, I think the majority of it is going to be about research methodology and stylistics, which I'm weirdly looking forward to planning and making some notes on. 

   Also on the agenda; video games. I will admit, with only a hint of shame, that my teenage years were spent mostly playing video games. After starting university, naturally, they took a back seat and I very rarely make time for the lengthy gaming sessions that I used to (all of my waking hours). However, as it's the summer now, I am very happily slotting back into Stardew Valley. This is easily one of my favourite games and is a welcome substitute for gems such as Harvest Moon which I used to play on my battered baby-pink Nintendo DS. Though I haven't quite found a suitable exchange on PC for Animal Crossing, games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon have always been appealing because they aren't based on real-time, whereas Animal Crossing requires that you are logging in regularly to ensure that your neighbors don't start to hate you or, at the very least, you don't end up with bed hair or a weed-infested town. Although I was able to take on Stardew' in the place of 'Moon, I don't think I could replace Animal Crossing quite so easily, as it's a staple of my childhood in gaming. 

  Additionally, I have also managed to one-hundred-percent Grim Fandango on Steam. For those of you who don't know, Grim Fandango is my favourite video game of all time. This masterpiece by Tim Schafer, who also gave us the Monkey Island series (good ol' Guybrush Threepwood), was genuinely my favourite game to play since I was old enough to use a computer. My uncle Rob used to let me and my brother play it on his Windows 95 PC and had never-ending patience with us as we tried to work out the pretty obscure puzzles. Now I can, quite proudly, say that I have completed all of the in-game achievements, one of which included completing the entire game in the original tank controls. Strangely, I preferred the tank controls as it was what I was used to playing the game with as a child, though I did enjoy the smoother graphics that the remaster offered. I could not have been more thrilled that such a classic, that happened to be so close to my heart, was given a full remaster and put on Steam. 

  Finally, in terms of gaming, I am half-way through Alice: Madness Returns. Now, I'm not a huge fan of EA Games, but ever since I saw the teaser trailers for this I felt compelled to purchase it. I love Alice in Wonderland and fully intend to complete this game and it's individual take on the story and upload a review at one point or another. 

  Books and games aside, I'm hoping to complete some art and series I've been meaning to watch for a long time now. Art takes a lot of time, motivation and enthusiasm, so I imagine I will begin churning it out when my plans for my dissertation have been submitted. Series, on the other hand, will have their own post in the form of anime - my favourites and must-watches. Hopefully my blog posts will consist of less catching up and more specific themes from now on, I have some as work-in-progress pieces.

 Be green, 

 Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Playing Catch- Up: Mental Health Awareness Week

Good evening fellow mammals,

After what I can only describe as a turbulent couple of months, my second year of university will be officially completed on Thursday 18th of May. You might be thinking, "why the heck are you writing a post if you're not even finished yet omg" give or take a few words. The honest answer is that I'm resting in the name of self-care after a day of panicking and revising; do with that information what you will. 

Unfortunately, due to assignment stress I was unable to get around to writing a post last week. I regret this particularly because it was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which naturally I feel very strongly about. The truth is, talking about mental health is really difficult. You might not think so if you've spoken to me recently, as I've been making a conscious effort to be a lot more open about it to help eradicate the stigma, but actually being open about having a mental health issue can be terrifying. The truth is, I wrote an entire paragraph detailing some specific experiences I have with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and deleted the entire thing out of fear; 

"What if they think I'm self-absorbed?"
"What if someone thinks I'm an attention-seeker?"
"What if everyone just reads this and thinks it's pathetic or insignificant?" 

This in itself shows me that we have a serious problem with how we approach mental health. 
Talking about mental health is vital because right now it is often quicker and easier to get a box of emotion-altering tablets than it is to get someone to sit and talk to you about your emotions for an hour-long appointment. 

If you have mental health issues, advice or have a personal story to share - my advice is to allow yourself to talk about it. As I have demonstrated above, sharing personal experiences can be daunting but letting yourself share it in a way that you are comfortable with (counselling, family, friends, online) is a healthy way to raise awareness, receive support, fight stigma and encourage others to speak up as well. I truly believe that human connection and compassion is the best possible way to combat mental illness. 
If you're worried about what people will think, remember- "those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind". 
Of course, my pal Steph has written a beautifully eloquent piece for Mental Health Awareness Week; check it out here. I will always commend my friend for how wonderfully she tackles the issue of mental health and the experiences she has had. 

In other slightly less serious news, I drew a comic about anxiety and also purchased a stress ball. 

Firstly, the stress ball (product link)was an unfortunate impulse buy on amazon and I didn't think to check the reviews before just adding it to my basket of stuff and clicking check out. I realised that most people had managed to burst it within the first 30 minutes of use and had been covered in sticky gel. So when the bubbly sack of strange slime flopped out of the cardboard Amazon box, I wasn't entirely prepared for the fact that I could potentially have it explode in my face. I took it upstairs, held it over the bath and squeezed. Low and behold, my freakishly limp, cold hands were literally too weak to force the little gel bubbles to pop out of the black net. Anyway, after some cautioned two-handed crushing I managed to loosen up the rubber, or whatever, to make it so I could squeeze the weird bubbles out. After doing this for about five minutes, leaning over the bath, I realised that I was never going to be able to actually use this stress ball the way I want to because I'll be constantly terrified that it's going to burst and I was probably going to end up causing some injury to the tendons in my arm if I had to keep squeezing it with as much effort as I was. 

Basically, you guys, I bought a ball that is causing me stress. A literal stress ball. At this point in my life, I'm not even surprised that I've managed to achieve making a stress ball actually stressful. 

With that tragic confession out of the way, I'll leave you with the doodle I made during Mental Health Awareness Week. 

Have you ever thought you were a fraud because you deemed other experiences of mental illness as more valid than your own? You didn't think yours were that bad or that you are somehow wrongly claiming you have something when you don't? I do this all the time with anxiety and have realised that it's just best to trust how you feel. If you feel it, it is real. 

Merry May everyone, 
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Get To Know Me TAG

Happy (late) Chocolate Egg Day! (or Happy Easter/Happy Normal Sunday if you prefer)

It's mid-way through the Easter holidays so naturally I feel sick because I've eaten a stupid amount of chocolate. I have also been experiencing heightened anxiety since beginning my assignments. I'd like to say that this is because it's especially difficult this semester, and perhaps it is in its own way, however, April was very similar last year. April is the dreaded month of little money and lots of work. After writing a detailed to-do list to empty my head of assignment stress (I love lists), I decided that a blog post would be a therapeutic way to end my evening. 

A little catch up, as I haven't posted for a little while, is that I have have purchased several books that are squirrelled away in my room until I can fully enjoy them over the summer - but I have been unable to stop myself from tackling the shorter ones. Last week I completed Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me; and Other Essays. I was a little bit hesitant about the title, as I've not always been very fond of the term "mansplaining" though I can sympathise with the experience, but it was a good read. I would be lying if I claimed to be fully clued in on everything that Solnit wrote about, as it was politically historical in parts, but the point that she was trying to make very much hit the mark. I have finally reached a point where I am not frightened to identify as a feminist. 

In other news, I'm currently halfway through Nicholson Baker's Vox which was a lot better than I was expecting. Fifty Shades of Grey did rather darken the doorstep of adult novels for a while, and I was reluctant to purchase one considering I had made it approximately three pages into Anastasia Steele's life until my eyes winced along the phrase; "floor the pedal to the metal". Needless to say, eyes rolled and book was closed. Vox is considerably less cringe-worthy, though still creates a very necessary weirdness and sense of discomfort. I'm still trying to make up my mind about it, so perhaps there will be an update in the future when I have read it.

I know that I made a summertime list for the books I was going to read this summer, and I intend to gather the remaining ones on my list, however, I worked with what little money I had to treat myself to some affordable books!

- All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven (Steph inspired this!)
- Making Friends with Anxiety - Sarah Rayner (I know)
- Men Explain Things to Me: and Other Essays - Rebecca Solnit 
- The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath 
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (My lovely friend Bridie let me borrow her copy a while ago and it was so lovely I had to own one!)
- Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher (I must see the hype)
- Vox - Nicholson Baker
- Watership Down - Richard Adams (I adore the film)

I think that's it for the general roundup of things-Lauren-has-been-doing-in-between-worrying-about-stuff. I have decided, after seeing several of these things on YouTube recently, that doing a Get To Know Me TAG thing might be a nice thing to do. 

A conversation with myself:
Self-conscious me: Nobody cares! Why would you do something so self-centred? 
Self-loving me: Do whatever you want, it's your blog, you crumpet. 

Here we go! 

Are you named after anyone?
Yes. I'm named after my Grandad whose name is Laurence

When was the last time you cried?
This afternoon. I'm a very emotional and sensitive person, as I'm sure you've all gathered, and I was experiencing a lot of anxiety which caused me to cry. 

Do you have kids?
Only if pets and cuddly toys count.

If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?
Of course. I think we would all benefit from imagining what it would be like to be our own friend, we would be a lot kinder to ourselves and put more effort into self-care. 

Do you use sarcasm a lot?
Not usually. I tend to use sarcasm in writing or texting etc when I have time to plot how I'm going to use it. Otherwise I would fear that I had upset someone with it. I will occasionally use sarcasm with friends if I know it's commonplace. 

What’s the first thing you notice about people?
Would it be cliché to say their vibe? Probably is. But I genuinely build up a little caricature in my head and then the more I find out about the person the more it changes in my mind to suit the person. Admittedly, I'd be better off starting with a blank slate but I'm human and I like to guess at the personalities that people might have - I just have to make sure I can easily accept it when I'm proved wrong. 

What is your eye colour?
There is some debate about this, but I've settled on grey. Photos rarely depict what they usually look like. 

Scary movie or happy endings?
Happy endings. I don't particularly mind sad endings, but I will pick absolutely anything over scary films. Dark films? Great. Scary films are the worst.

Favourite smells?
Any kind of food being cooked (though Italian always smells the best). Clean washing. Petrol. Winter. Summer. The seaside. 

What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Wisconsin - USA. My family have friends living there who we visited for a couple of weeks in 2005 (if I'm not mistaken). 

Do you have any special talents?
Give me any situation and I'll tell you how it can go catastrophically wrong. 

Where were you born?
In my hometown, in the same hospital that almost everyone here was born in. 

What are your hobbies?
Art, eating, listening to music, reading, painting, video games, watching films and writing. I have also dabbled in crocheting and polymer clay modelling. 

Do you have any pets?
A border collie by the name of Jack Jack (yes, the baby from The Incredibles)
A black cat called Salem (Again, yes - Sabrina The Teenage Witch)
A ginger and white cat called Alistair who we usually just call Ali because Alistair is a bit of a mouthful for a cat. 

Do you have any siblings?
A younger brother.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
If I think about this question I will inevitably panic again. 

Who was your first best friend?
She is a lovely individual, who I very rarely see now, who I met in reception in primary school. I was playing with a plastic Pongo from 101 Dalmatians, having him trot around a dollhouse, and she asked if she could play with me.

How tall are you?
5'8 the last time I checked, though I may be taller now. 

Funniest moment throughout School?
I spent most of Year 10 and 11 with two particular friends who constantly made me laugh. I couldn't possibly extract a single memory from those two wonderful years of school - it was all lovely. 

How many countries have you visited?
I have only been abroad once to the aforementioned Wisconsin. 

What was your favourite/worst subject in High School?
Favourite: English. I adored Art, but English has always been the one I genuinely looked forward to every lesson. 
Worst: Maths. I have never felt more stupid than when I was sitting in a maths lesson. 

What is your favourite drink? Animal? Perfume?
Drink: Tea.
Animal: I've always said pandas, but I genuinely adore all animals. 
Perfume: I don't really know. I liked one by Britney Spears, but I don't particularly agonise over perfume. 

What would you (or have you) name your children?
I used to have a pretty solid list of names I liked for potential future children, but I don't remember any that I still like now. Except for Violet, which completely coincidentally is linked to this blog.

What Sports do you play/Have you played?
I used to love badminton, basketball and netball. I haven't played any sport for a long time though, apart from a game of badminton with my boyfriend once which nearly killed us both.

Who are some of your favourite YouTubers?
A Thousand Words - she is actually my mom's favourite, however, I recently emailed her about giving a shoutout to my mom and she did!

I probably have a lot more but I'm tired.

How many Girlfriends/Boyfriends have you had?
None-serious? Probably like seven?
But things that I would actually class as proper relationships: two.

Favourite memory from childhood?
The one that makes me laugh from when I was a toddler is when I was on the beach and kept putting pebbles in my pockets until my jeans got too heavy to walk in. 

How would you describe your fashion sense?
If I had the money to afford all the clothes I want then it'd be 50% retro/vintage and 50% gothic/punky? But who knows? I don't really know how to label it. 

What phone do you have? 
iPhone 6!

Tell us one of your bad habits!
I think my worst ones are pulling all the skin off of my lips and plucking the mascara from my eyelashes (resulting in some very sparse eye-hair).

Source: here.

It's now almost midnight and I've successfully vented out my worries through writing!
Sweet dreams saplings, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 6 April 2017


Good evening fellow Earth-dwellers, 

After a somewhat strange week, I have returned for another look into some of my previous work and a post I have been wanting to make for quite some time. As I've grown up, I have generally stopped vigorously typing hourly life updates on social media due to a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is that the people I love in my life have taught me that you really don't need to shout it from the rooftops for it to be special - in fact it's usually quite the opposite for us. I also found that the worse I was feeling, the more I felt I needed to post things online to make me feel better - it was a way of compensating for the things I felt I could not fix. Now I am a lot happier and where I want to be, so the desire to post on social media about my private life has drastically lowered. 

However, I think that something different can be said for mental illness. Sometimes the stigma associated with mental illness is far more difficult to cope with than the symptoms, which means that we must be proactive. We must speak out loudly and truthfully. Those who have a voice should speak up and lift up others who do not. The last couple of years I have openly and, without shame, admitted that I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and panic attacks. The mere fact that I wrote that sentence with "admitted" and had to clarify "without shame" indicates there has been a problem with how we deal with mental health. Nobody "admits" to having the flu, asthma or cancer, unless you know particularly cruel and unsympathetic people, because people generally accept that it's through no fault of your own. Even if you never wash your hands, smoke a lot or take part in high-risk activities, they will often not attack you for gaining physical illnesses as a result because they realise that you are not being ill on purpose. So why don't we carry the same assumptions for mental illness? I'm not going to go through full scientific reasons why we should, but all I'm going to say is that the brain is part of the body and no amount of willpower can stop your body from getting sick. 

Today I decided that having the next two weeks off meant that it was safe to tidy my room. Yes, I use the word "safe". When you don't have time off, you turn up to university and you get given even more work to complete, so planning any time for other activities is difficult when you're as disorganised as I am. Having two weeks free from university with my assignments and reading requirements set means I am free to plan my remaining time - some may relate to the consuming feeling of being completely occupied by one thing at a time. As I was tidying, I came across these;

These are Worry Dolls. Quite a few years ago (which I was panicked to discover was actually a decade ago), when I was just entering the pain that is adolescence, my mom handed me the little purple bag. She explained that these were 'worry people' and that at night-time, when my worries were always the worst, I could whisper my worries to the 'worry people' and they would take care of them for me whilst I slept. At that point, my life was completely devoid of smart phones so I didn't claw at Google to find out more about them. I simply whispered my worries to them and left them under my pillow every night. I didn't actually realise they were a common thing, however; 

"In traditional and modern times, worry dolls are given or lent to brooding and sorrowful children. They would tell their doll about their sorrows, fears and worries, then hide it under their pillow during the night. After this, the child will literally sleep over the whole thing. At the next morning, all sorrows are said to have been taken away by the worry doll"

(Wikipedia - an incredibly reliable source that you should always turn to for academic writing.)

Personally, I laughed at the idea of calling myself a brooding and sorrowful child. It conjured up an image of being a moody tween complaining about boys, ripping your jeans and plastering your eyelids with blue eyeshadow and rhinestones (obviously I grew up in the nineties/noughties). 

Finding these dolls reminded me of how involuntary my experiences were and that I had GAD long before I could realise it. As life got more stressful and I gained the responsibilities that come with getting older and older, my anxieties worsened and I was about to realise just how much it affected my life. 

Firstly, I want to address the actual symptoms of anxiety. They are different for everyone, but there are some classic elements that most anxious people have in common. If you know of, care about or love someone with anxiety, or any mental illness for that matter, then please take the time to educate yourself about it. The time you take to research the illness of another person is infinitely valuable and it will enrich your relationship endlessly if you are able to gain a better understanding. 

If you're looking for something simple then please do allow me to direct you to the NHS GAD page which explains in general terms what GAD is. A general understanding is better than no understanding, of course. However, I will detail some more in depth symptoms that many of us experience; 

  • Constant fear, dread and restlessness - If I had £1 for every second I felt relaxed I would never magically receive £1 coins. 
  • Excessive and unrealistic worry - Is that a molehill? Let me just get my magnifying glass. 
  • Feeling constantly overwhelmed, on edge, exhausted and stressed - "No, I don't take [illegal/recreational] drugs. Why do you ask?"
  • Being irritable and finding it difficult to concentrate - Becoming overstimulated by subtle changes and starting my work at 4pm because it took me all day to get into 'the zone'. 
  • Feeling shaky, experiencing trembling and being easily startled - Basically one of those little dogs that constantly shake and need to be held and reassured.
  • The inability to sleep - I have heard of this thing called an early night but I'm not entirely sure I can grasp the concept.
  • Panic Attacks - If you have ever had a panic attack or experienced someone having one then you will understand why they are called 'attacks'. Your heart beat rapidly increasing until it feels like a steam train is rocketing across your ribcage, your body becoming hot and sweaty and claustrophobic, and being undeniably convinced that you are dying. Panic attacks are often accompanied by other symptoms of anxiety such as dry mouth, cold, numb or tingling extremities, nausea, dizziness and shortness of  breath. Naturally, it is very hard to tell yourself that you are not having a heart attack. 

Questions Some May Have

I realise that the stigma facing mental illness is often a product of simply not being informed, and not out of malicious intent. Therefore I will do a mini Anxiety FAQ.
(c) Lauren Newman - 2016 
Always credit me for my artwork.

I know that you might be itching to say to someone with anxiety, "hey, just don't worry so much about things". That is probably one of the most unhelpful things you could say. Although it is always easy to tell who genuinely means well by this statement, it can make some feel uncomfortable about confiding in that person. 

Do you worry about how having anxiety will effect being employed?

This is a common point made to me and my answer will always be the same; if someone does not want to employ me because of anxiety then I am glad not to work for them. 

Would I rather be unemployed than lie about my anxiety though?

Yes and no. I would never lie about my anxiety, and if I am asked I would freely talk about it. However, I'm not going to write that I have a mental illness on my CV or use it as a topic of discussion in a job interview any more than someone with Crohn's disease or carpal tunnel syndrome would. If I can get a degree with anxiety, I expect I can do many other things too. I always work to the best of my ability, and I don't expect to have to lie about having anxiety when I don't have to lie about having migraines. 

How can I help someone with anxiety?

Accept that no matter how much you love someone, you can't fix it for them. Anxiety can often be made worse if the sufferer feels that they are letting you down every time they feel unwell or that they are making you feel inadequate. Just love them, be there for them and listen to them and that is all you need to do. Mental health is a personal struggle and responsibility and, just like any illness, they are the only ones who can figure out how to deal with it. The best you can do is create a loving and supportive environment for them to grow in at their own pace (they might not grow at all - that is not your fault). In addition, do not tip-toe around them. Be kind, considerate and loving but they are still a human being and are capable of making choices. Do not stay with someone who is treating you badly just because they are ill. You are a human too and you must not forget your own mental wellbeing.

How can I cope with having anxiety?

This is a difficult one because everyone is different and it is unlikely that the same thing will work for every single individual. I mean, of course it couldn't possibly. The key word here is 'cope'. When I was very young, my family and I thought that I would grow out of worrying. Obviously, we didn't realise what was to come, but since then I have never actually thought about curing anxiety. I have accepted anxiety as part of my life, and furthermore, I don't think I know where I end and anxiety starts. It has taken me a few years to work out some coping mechanisms that are actually healthy and I will share these with you;

  • Counselling. 
  • Taking a break from technology and/or social media. 
  • Write down how you feel at length - pen and paper is usually best but if you only have a phone it will do.
  • Let it all out - vent and cry to a trusted person.
  • Regular exercise or outdoor activities.
  • Learning breathing techniques and ensure you're not taking shallow breaths.
  • Good diet and drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Keeping your environment clean and tidy.
None of these will fix anxiety, they might not even help, but they are all things that have contributed to a little less stress in my life. Sometimes it's simply giving yourself one less thing to worry about (though you will inevitably find something to take the empty slot).

This was a very long and general approach to having anxiety which I will definitely revisit when discussing more specific aspects of it. The topic is far too large to cover wholly in one post! 
I will leave you with my mini comics on anxiety and the situations which can cause us some bother!

Stay freaky, 
Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

(c) Lauren Newman - 2016 
Always credit me for my artwork.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Summertime: books, books, books.

Good evening lovely readers,

With my previous essays done and dusted, another set of newborn deadlines have sprung and are descending upon me again in the coming weeks. Though I'm invested in reading course material, revising and figuring out how to outwit the future assignments, I am also looking to the future. Of course, I mean my immediate future; the distant future is that thing that everyone has rolling around at the bottom of the drawer and ignores. My immediate future, aside from death-by-assignments, consists of a beautiful place known to many as;


(c) Lauren Newman 20-whenever

As someone who generally drops most of my hobbies during the academic year, the summer is quite literally a paradise where I can spend all of my free time being unemployed, scribbling, reading and staring at screens for hours on end. I will not apologise for this because quite frankly I need some downtime. So, what will the shr-Inking violet be doing this summer? I made some lists. I'm that kind of person who cannot function without making a list. My notepads are full of to-do-lists. I CAN'T STOP

Lauren's List of Stuff  (excited noises)

First Section: Books To Read (or re-read)

The Top Spot: How To Stop Time - Matt Haig
Image (c) Waterstones
After finding Matt Haig through The Humans, which my Uncle Rob bought me for Christmas one year, I sought out his other novels in the hopes of finding a similar joy (which of course I did). In addition to The Humans, my collection now includes Reasons to Stay Alive, Echo Boy and The Radleys. Haig's depiction of the human experience is so warming that curling up and reading anything produced by him is like being accompanied by a friend; every other line you will smile, laugh or cry. I could not possibly be more excited to expand my collection and purchase his most recent work. I will also definitely be re-reading these titles as they are perfect when I need to reduce anxiety. 

The Not-Top-Spot-but-still-on-my-list:
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath: I want to acquire and read this novel because it's been mentioned so many times during my course and I've heard so many positive things about it that I simply must. It's also the book that the feminist protagonist of 10 Things I Hate About You is reading in the film which, I will be honest, was the deciding factor. 

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen:  I actually own a copy of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen and seeing as one of my closest friends, Steph, is obsessed with Austen I must give in and finally read it!

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness: After recently watching the film, whilst sobbing uncontrollably into my hands, I have been eagerly awaiting my chance to read the book. The underlying messages in the film genuinely struck me and I was completely overwhelmed by the depth and emotional complexity of the story that was unfolding in front of me. I can only imagine that the book will be even better. 

The Color Purple - Alice Walker: I truthfully don't know as much as I'd like to about this novel but I certainly know I'm missing out! I've received so many recommendations that I don't want to ignore it any longer. 

The Re-reads:
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood: I studied this for my English A Level and I actually quite enjoyed it. It has concepts I would like to explore again with knowledge I have acquired whilst being at university. 

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee: Another book I enjoyed at school, except this time for my GCSE. I have yet to read the latest installment, but I think I want to re-acquaint myself with the story before tackling it. At this point I must drop in a reference to The Boo Radleys because who doesn't like this song?

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë - Another novel I loved during my A Levels which I want to read again with new appreciation (or perhaps I will change my mind?)

Of course, I will also be re-reading every single Matt Haig novel I own because, well, I want to. I will also be trying to purchase the remaining novels of his I have not read if I am able to afford it as a treat for completing my second year. 

Personally, I think this will be more than enough to get me through summer (perhaps too much considering all of the other projects I will have on-the -go). In the upcoming weeks I will be adding sections talking about my favourite anime and anime must-watches, discussing last year's Inktober, some self-care tips and dealing with mental health issues. 

Thanks to everyone who made it this far!

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 23 March 2017


I genuinely cannot believe it's been an entire week since my last dredge-up-my-art post. I'm going to want to use a lot of the pieces for themed posts and truthfully I don't have a lot of time today so I've decided to share a really weird old doodle I did quite a while ago. I remember feeling really ill and sorry for myself and I didn't have the energy to draw anything so I decided to scribble some silly cats.

Obviously, care was taken to ensure that each cat was anatomically correct.
The stripy white-ginger cat and the black cat are both mine. No, they couldn't possibly be more different!

Short and sweet, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Relaxation Music

Good evening gang,

Approximately ten minutes ago, I plodded downstairs and poured myself a glass of milk. Actually, it's not a glass, it's a square mason jar with a handle, lid and straw. My mom has hopped onto the adorable trend of drinking things out of anything that isn't cylindrical. Anyway, because I'm irrepressibly obsessed with consuming things before they reach the expiration date, I was doing the necessary check and noticed the milk expires on the 25th of March. What was my first thought? "When this milk is out of date, my deadlines for this round of assignments will be over!" (or at least for the essays).

After spending the day completing an assignment, panicking and introducing myself to John Milton's Paradise Lost, I think it's safe to say that I am stressed. Bearing in mind that I am no more stressed than people around me, my friends have been working tirelessly on their assignments and my boyfriend has been working continuously for several weeks, I am a believer that "others have it worse" is usually not a relief.

So what do we do? Those of us who are constantly confronted with stress? I was chatting with a colleague at the end of my lecture on Monday about assignment stress and she was very surprised that I suffered similarly to her. We talked about the inevitable comorbidity of tears, panicking, sleepless nights and assignment periods. Is such stress unnecessary and avoidable?

Unnecessary? Maybe. Avoidable? Not for me. My general logic is that if I care about something I will worry about it, regardless of what it is. Therefore, and this leads me to my point, healthy coping mechanisms are essential. To lighten this up, and to get to the point of what I wanted to do tonight, I am sharing some music that I use to deal with worry. Should someone with Generalised Anxiety Disorder even be recommending ways to relax? Probably not. Are they going to do it anyway? Of course. (Not to mention there will be a post about dealing with anxiety in the future but if you want one right now, my friend Steph has already written a brilliant one: here).

(In no particular order because that would make it too stressful for me).

1.) Roslyn - Bon Iver & St. Vincent

I know I've recommended this song previously, but it's one of my favourites for when I need to empty my mind. If I'm being completely honest I still don't know the lyrics because I find it hard to work out what they're saying and don't really want to ruin that by looking at them, if that makes any sense at all. I love the atmosphere and images that it conjures up in my mind - I'd tell you, but I think it'd be more fun for you to make your own!

2.) Pearly Dewdrops Drops - Cocteau Twins

This is band I recently looked into as they were recommended to me by my lecturer who has previously recommended some great music. This song in particular stuck with me because it has a way of making me feel something indescribable. I could only attempt to describe it as a feeling so personal, it's as though nobody else could possibly have felt it. Not to mention that 'Pearly Dewdrops Drops' is one of the best song titles I've ever seen.

3.) There She Goes - Sixpence None The Richer
4.) Kiss Me - Sixpence None The Richer

Truthfully, I love the original of 'There She Goes' by The La's too, but I have a special place in my heart reserved for Sixpence None The Richer. My earliest memories of music are the late nineties, and 'Kiss Me' was played constantly in my house so when I hear that song I can smell my childhood and feel what the house used to feel like when I was little. I highly recommend nostalgic songs but be warned - nostalgia sometimes feels sad.

5.) Prelude in E-Minor (op. 28 no. 4) - Frédéric Chopin

I have always loved classical music. I'm not very well acquainted with a lot of it, but I love quite a few pieces from various composers. I know that most of Chopin is quite sad, but music that makes me cry has a strange way of making me feel calm.

6.) Howl's Moving Castle OST

This one is highly dependent on the fact that I have watched the film and adore it. For anyone out there who has never seen a Studio Ghibli film - I insist you must try them at least once. This song is so uplifting, gentle and simple and fills me with all the emotions I feel when watching the film.

7.) The Very Thought Of You - Billie Holiday

It was difficult to choose between this and 'I'll Be Seeing You' until I remember that the latter does actually tend to make me not-the-good-kind-of-sad. 'The Very Thought Of You' literally sends shivers down my spine and gives me goosebumps because her voice is so comforting and the crackle of the recording gives me that warm, flooding feeling that music is eternal and can awaken such complex emotions.

8.) God Only Knows - Bioshock Infinite Barbershop Cover

Anyone who knows me, even just a little, knows I adore the Beach Boys. However, I'm also a sucker for good covers. I found out semi-recently that I adore barbershop quartets (I don't really know how or why) and when I realised that Bioshock Infinite, the third in a great game series, had added this into the game I was completely hypnotized by it for weeks. Most people I know haven't been taken with it in the same way I have, but that makes it all the more personal to me.

9.) Tugboat - Galaxie 500

When I first heard this song in 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' I fell in love immediately. Every time I listen to it I feel like I've slipped into another world, one which is magical and beautiful and when it picks up at 2:25 I literally feel my heart flutter. I realise this doesn't feel good for fellow anxiety sufferers, but fluttering for good reasons is always worth it and I feel so calm afterwards.

10.) Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're The Nail - A Day To Remember

Just a heads up, this is most likely not going to be everyone's idea of "relaxing". ADTR are one of my favourite bands and after going through a significantly distressing experience, this song is a genuine relief and somewhere I can unload my feelings. If you want to skip the screaming, I know it's not everyone's thing, 2:50 is the part that genuinely hits me in the chest. The lyrics make me tear up every single time because it symbolises my coming to terms with anxiety, the responsibility for the mistakes and choices I have made and defending my sensitivity.

I hope anyone who reads this can take away at least one new song that they like. I hope to make more lists in the future. I recently did an exchange of ten songs with a friend when we realised we had no idea what each others' music taste was, it's a fun exercise in getting to know someone a bit better!

I'm going to go and pass out now before an early lecture tomorrow!
Sweet dreams,

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Make Love Not War

How now, mooncalves?

I must admit, I really shouldn't be writing this at the moment. I have two essays on the go, a novel, a forum task and I've just ordered a copy of another book I need to start reading. However, after doing a recent collaborative post with my lovely friend, I've caught the writing bug again. I wish I had time to do more creative writing, but for now this is a good stress-reliever. 

If you've read my first post about this, you'll know I actually despise the phrase "throw-back Thursday". Maybe my inner hipster is just appalled at saying something so mainstream?...No, it's just a shit phrase and a bit of a tacky concept, but I'm obviously doing it anyway. 

This week I'm dredging up a piece that's quite fresh and may be remembered by anyone who added me on Facebook more than a year ago. It's approximately a year old but my sentiments and feelings which inspired the piece have not changed - the only guns that I would ever approve of would shoot little smoky hearts at people that make them feel fluffy and good inside. Disclaimer: I'm not a maniac, I'm an idealist. 

I'm quite regretful of the fact my art often contains representations and portrayals of myself. I would apologise for how incredibly egotistical this seems, but believe me when I say I desperately need an outlet in the form of self-expression. 

Lauren's Sidecut
An incredibly necessary solution to dealing with a crisis.
You are missed.

TIP: If you're feeling sad, get the hairstyle you've always wanted but are too scared to try. Hair grows back.

Personally I really like this stalling tactic until I have time to make more art.

Off to make a cuppa, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Make Love Not War - March 2016

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Dear Younger Me

My lovely friend, Steph, runs a great blog and she's a lot better at it than me (you won't be waiting too long for a new post). Anyway, she suggested that we write a collaborative blog post together and we got really excited about it and brainstormed so many ideas until we settled on 'Dear Younger Me'. 

I think this concept is really important to us both, and probably to a lot of people, because there are so many things in life that we wish we had known a lot sooner. Even though I am grateful to have learned from very valuable lessons, I think I can speak on behalf of both me and Steph that lessons were learned the hard way. 

Lastly, I just want to say how proud I am of my friend for how far she's come and how much I have enjoyed getting to know her and being her friend. Please give her blog a read - you won't be disappointed! 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Wednesday, 1 March 2017


The funny thing about time is that when you're doing a degree you suddenly don't have a lot of it. That's my subtle apology and excuse, not only for barely posting here, but also for generally being unavailable whilst I'm panicking over working on course-related reading and assignments.

I'd like to say I'm incredibly resentful of the fact I have no time for social or personal activities, but I'm genuinely grateful for the opportunity to get a degree. It's hard work and I'm finding it quite easy to get stressed out but I don't think I'd still be here if it wasn't what I truly wanted to do. In fact, I'm finding it enjoyable and rewarding when I actually work hard and come out with a good grade at the end.

Today I attended my lecture on Shakespeare's Hamlet. Initially I found the play pretty boring and I can still say that I don't take pleasure in having to read extensive notes before I can fully understand the actual meaning of a sentence. However, after watching film clips of the play and discussing it in lecture I have, at last, found an interest in it! A similar thing did happen with The Tempest and has generally been the case with other texts on my course. It's fun to break down a text and explore themes in my lectures as it finally gives me something to get my teeth into that is reliable and safe to absorb. I think that doing this degree has opened me up to a lot of texts that I would have otherwise never picked up, which I am also grateful for.

Whilst working on something for a module called Text, Context and Spin, I was listening to a band called This Mortal Coil. My lecturer recommended them to us today and I was excited to find that I had already unknowingly been listening to one of their songs already; Song To The Siren. I almost always take up the opportunity to listen to music recommended to me. I'd been using Song To The Siren as part of a soundtrack I listened to when I went through a phase of doing Tai Chi (yes, I know). Although it didn't work for me, I highly recommend that anyone who is prone to stress or anxiety give it a try - everyone is different.

On that note, I will recommend one of my favourite songs that I use to relieve stress or just generally listen to whilst studying or tidying; Bon Iver & -St. Vincent - Roslyn.

So, time. What can it do? I'm staying on this theme because despite my confession of having very little personal time at the moment, I have managed to work on something. I decided to take a relatively old piece of digital art I created in 2014 - a punky-floaty-goggly human - and remake it using whatever new techniques I had learned since. Truthfully, I was concerned about the results. Three years, give or take a few months, is not a long time, is it? I have never felt like I have progressed or improved artistically and always felt as though I was going backwards rather than forwards. This exercise was truly helpful for me, because it has helped me see how a lot of time invested in art is never wasted time,

I issue this challenge to any artists who happen to be reading! It's fun and relaxing to remake something you used to think was pretty good, but now think you could do better!

And with that we have the results;

Merry Wednesday and a Happy New Thursday!

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Jack Jack

It's Thursday again, which is my designated post-an-old-piece-of-art-until-you-run-out day. This piece is really important to me because, not only is it a picture of my beautiful collie, Jack Jack, but it's one of the first pieces that made me feel like I might want to pursue art. I had been drawing and painting and sketching my entire life, but this made me feel like I could really do something with it. It's very old, simple and I've seen better fur detail but it was a genuine spark in my life. I remember being particularly proud of his shapely snout and the light pink fuzz all over it. Jack Jack is a gift.

Hopefully some new art coming soon!

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet


Lauren Newman - May 2016

It's okay to cry (or not cry)
Personally, I don't think that this is said enough. I will be the first to throw my hands up and say that, not only am I an incredibly sensitive person, I cry a lot. When I say a lot I mean at least once a day. When I tell people this, though I might get the odd surprised reaction, generally they can believe it. I laughed whilst writing that, because maybe they just know me, but even when I mention it to people I don't know they will often have a very similar thing to say about themselves. Does this not mean that crying is a perfectly acceptable thing for us to do? So, if this is the case, why on earth do we put so much pressure on ourselves, and often on others, not to cry? Similarly, why do we prod people who don't naturally burst into tears in sad situations? 

I think a lot of this all falls into expectation. We must not project our expectations onto others and pull them up on their behaviour if they don't act accordingly. A big factor of this, I have observed, is gender. 
Please don't brush off girls or degrade boys for crying. I think we see it time and time again where people will say to their boys who are crying, "you're not a girl are you?" or "come on, be a man about it" or something equally as demeaning and insensitive. It is also hurtful to dismiss the crying of a female as "she's a woman, she's just emotional". Biologically, we may possibly have more reasons to cry (I don't really know, I got a D in GCSE Science) but this doesn't mean that our feelings become invalid. What I do know is that we should not judge the reasons why others are crying and decide whether or not we think they deserve to cry over it. We should believe people when they are showing their emotions and have the empathy and decency to accept it and offer comfort, if they want it. 

There's also the issue of people who don't cry being accused of being unemotional or heartless. I know quite a few people who often can't muster up some tears but who are still very empathetic, emotional and sensitive. The reasons why they can't cry is for them to deal with and, again, for us to accept and understand. I often used to worry that if someone didn't cry at something I cried at, it meant they didn't care about it. I could not possibly have been more wrong. 

Crying is a personal thing and if someone cries in front of you, whether by accident or on purpose, do not traumatise them by making crying into a shameful, forbidden thing. Sometimes when someone cries in front of you, it can feel uncomfortable because you might not know what to do. TIPS: Ask them if you can do anything to help. Ask if you can give them a hug (and act accordingly). Stay with them and offer hot drinks, blankets, food or if they want you to stay with them or leave them alone. 

Don't be afraid of crying. Be afraid of the fact that there are so many people who hide their true emotions for fear of being judged by others and let that fear drive you to help people who need us. 

Final Food for Thought
- If you're hungry, sometimes your stomach rumbles. If you are stimulated enough in a certain way, sometimes your eyes leak water. They are normal bodily functions. 
- If you cry, your gender identity doesn't slither out of your brain and stream from your tear ducts. You are a man if you say you're a man (even if you say it whilst crying). 
- If you cry for a reason you deem stupid (like dropping a Cadbury's cream egg on the floor - notthatIknowanyonewhohasdonethat), it doesn't mean you're not allowed to do it anyway. 
- You are allowed to cry because of PMS/menstrual related issues. Uteri freaking hurt and also casually create sadness on the side when they're not making a baby. 
- You are allowed to experience the most sad or happy moments available to humankind without shedding a tear if that's not your style. 
- Crying is not the zenith of caring. If you're not a crier, it doesn't mean you're not a carer. 
- Crying on the inside is still crying. 

Take care gang
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

It's that time of year again where varying degrees of twitterpated people will be scattering rose petals, popping heart-shaped chocolates and writing poems in cards trimmed with red paper lace. You might have someone special this Valentine's Day, you might have someone special every Valentine's Day so I wish you all and your loved ones all the happiness in the world. However, it's also very important to remember to love yourself. So many people will experience increased loneliness and mental health problems on Valentine's Day and it's important for us to remind each other that love is not worth having for the sake of itself. Love is the most wonderful when it's given to someone who truly deserves it, and not because you just want to be in love. If you are not celebrating Valentine's Day with a spouse/significant other/FWB (friends-with-benefits) or any other complicated variation of someone you like a little, treat yourself. Eat something that makes you feel happy, enjoy getting to pick the film you watch, surround the bath with roses and candles and spend as much time as you want in the bath (you don't have to shave if you don't feel like it either). Most importantly, however, beyond all materialistic and trivial things; remember that you are not defined by who loves you, or doesn't love you. We all dream of falling in love and it's beautiful, but the most beautiful kind of love is when we learn to give it to ourselves. 

Happy Valentine's Day
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking Violet