Illustrating those that have passed on.

Recently, I’ve been inking a commission of a recently passed, lovely cat. Inking individual beings as opposed to collective totems is a very different process. Generally, in terms of ‘ease’, totem animals are easier than living animal companions are easier than passed animal companions.

Because of my practices within shamanism, it is taboo to contact a passed being companion within 13 days of its passing (unless I was the one who personally ‘pomped for the being), but after that, this taboo lifts, and it becomes okay.

And though it’s never easy, it’s always rewarding and worthwhile (hopefully as much, if not moreso, for the client). There is a profound sense of being honoured by the animal in question, and often, a profound sense of love comes through. Not for me, I am just the messenger – but for the client in question.

I suppose if I wasn’t a spiritual person, I’d be singing that love through in a different way. But because of my shamanic practices, there are trance state and spiritual conversations involved, there are random feelings or colours or textures or even thoughts in a way that is just a different flavour to illustrating totem animals.

I’ve drawn many animal companions over the years and the process fills me with similar emotions each time. Being honoured by both the client and the animal companion and, in some cases, my own guides  who help me make contact. The fear/hope that comes from wanting to do my very best and pushing myself hard and hoping clients can see that. The satisfaction of actually putting my pen or brush to the board and seeing life emerge from a static white space.

But I can’t spend too long blogging, I must get back to work. 🙂

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PS: I can’t believe it’s been over 8 months since I last blogged here. Boy and howdy do I have some exciting news! But that can wait for another post. 🙂

I’m here, I’m alive!

Look how many weeks it’s been!

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Well, in the time that has passed us by, I have been to the Cottesloe Sculpture by the Sea Exhibition, which was busy and lovely all at the same time. There were some truly awesome, incredible sculptures:

by Ravenari

The basic premise is, a large outdoor exhibition that is free to the public (and designed to be interactive to varying degrees) is installed onto the famous tourist beach of Cottesloe. We were there during the opening weekend, so we saw more people than sculptures!

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I saw these metal hot air balloons and looked up to view them properly. I noticed about fifty people walk past who never bothered to look at them from a different angle. Interact with your art people!

photo by Ravenari

There was also wildlife to contend with, as feral corellas were about. Now, corellas belong in Australia, it’s just they’re a pest in Perth and are ousting local parrots.

corella by Ravenari

I have been working hard on a lot of art. The one I finished most recently was this commission of a Parson’s Chameleon, which are endemic to Madagascar. It was a lovely bout of synchronicity with this one. I had watched David Attenborough’s documentary series Madagascar (which I highly, highly recommend) and had felt an overwhelming strong piull to illustrate a chameleon. A few days later a wonderful client emailed me with a commission for a chameleon; one of the very species of chameleon that had inspired the feeling!:

Parson's Chameleon by Ravenari

Most importantly, the earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear issues have been happening in Japan. This has hit me quite personally for two reasons. One, I love Japan. But two, I had a very good friend in Tokyo while the worst was happening (he’s in a safer place now), and one can’t help but worry.

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Also importantly (but of less global significance), my beautiful bengal cross rescue cat Maybe got very sick. She was diagnosed with Feline Idiopathic Cystitis; but a more aggressive form in that the struvite crystals (all thousands of them) were in a rare and unusual form that was more unpleasant for the bladder. Basically, she was urinating a lot of blood. She’s had a complete diet change and seems to be doing better, but for a while there it was four vet visits in three days. The last visit required sedation and needles to the bladder and tests and all sorts of things. Here she is recovering from one of the vet visits:

'I hate the vet' - Maybe by Ravenari

And of course how did her older ‘brother’ Moet react to the whole thing?

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Well, he wasn’t too fussed:

champion of relaxation - by Ravenari

Scorpion of Doom.

I was going to talk about how much I love nature.

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I was really going to talk about how much I love nature.

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AND THEN I FOUND A LIVE SCORPION IN MY STUDY (or Maybe found it and then was rapidly grabbed and put away before she could hurt herself, which is what she clearly wanted to do) AND I CHANGED MY MIND.

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The SCORPION OF DOOM

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I was going to be all like, hey I saw a western brush wallaby in the bushland today and it stared at us for ages and it was all magical and crap.

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But then I changed my mind. Glen’s all like ‘I didn’t know we had scorpions in Perth!’ and I’m like ‘I did, I didn’t know we had them IN OUR HOUSE.’

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We are now discussing the merits of moving anywhere but here. (I actually prefer close encounters with snakes over scorpions, but that’s because snakes can’t grab you with two pincers before stabbing the crap out of you.)

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(Anyone concerned with the welfare of the scorpion should know that we ‘rehomed it’ in some bushland far far far away. FAR AWAY.)

On dogs, PTSD, and being an artist with issues.

This is not a ‘new art’ entry. Though… okay, alright then, here’s something I’m working on:

Zentas the Mini-Dragon- by Ravenari

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Now for the actual entry.

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In one camp (CAMP 1), you have many mental health officials and organisations release studies that say things like: Cats and dogs markedly reduce the stress of those with mental illness, and provide a sense of responsibility that can sometimes save a person’s life. Sometimes, the only thing that helps a suicidal person get out of bed in the morning, is feeding their dog.

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And then in the other camp (CAMP 2), you have many dog training officials and organisations release information that say things like: Cats and dogs benefit best when they’re raised in a stable and consistent environment. Remember that dogs need socialising, and to try and minimise tension, stress and fear around them, because dogs can pick up on this and it can create behavioural problems.

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And then in my camp, you have a conscientious, but mentally ill person who wants very dearly to have a dog in her life, but knows very much that my mental illness would on occasion create atmospheres that may stress a dog out.

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Now what there doesn’t seem to be is another camp of specialist dog trainers (or professionals in general) that have read both the scientific studies on ‘rescue people’ (i.e. humans with mental illness who would benefit from the presence of dogs), and dog happiness (i.e. dogs who would benefit from the presence of a more calm environment), and create dog/human positive-reinforcement training techniques designed for the mentally ill.

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I know some trainers out there exist like this, but in Western Australia, you can’t even find trainers to specialise in helping you train a professional therapy dog, let alone step in and offer as much understanding reassurance to the human as to the dog. Now I hope I’m wrong in this, but the divide between the initial camp 1 and camp 2 is quite large.

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What to do? I don’t know. Unfortunately, my illness has gotten in the way of me having a dog once before, and with no trainers to help me through my very specific issues, I’ve had to put getting a dog on the backburner. But my heart is open for a dog, I love dogs, I love being around them, I love spending time with them, I research training techniques (I’ve clicker trained my cats, particularly Maybe, who thinks it’s the best thing ever), I research dog breeds, I research dog genetics, I watch Youtube videos of dogs that I enjoy, and more than that, I contact breeders to ask them questions about their breeds.

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I think a lot of people don’t overthink things as much as I do. People want to do the best for their dogs, sort of, but many don’t buy books, or research training, or figure out a lot of things regarding their dog before they get it. Many people learn ‘the hard way.’ And many people still get it mostly right by happy accident. But I’m not ‘many people,’ I am a person with post-traumatic stress disorder, and a dissociative disorder. I have nightmares at night, and can shriek and flail and be very frightened – which rules out very protective breeds. I have to be responsible and do a lot of research.

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And I have to try not to scare the crap out of myself, which is very easy because you know… all the stuff I just mentioned above.

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There’s no easy answers for me. I am, in a word, a stresshead. Being in the presence of animals does significantly relax me, and my cats are – according to our vet – happy, friendly, well-socialised cats that are sweet-natured. In their presence I can go from ‘ZOMG LIFE IS HARD’ too ‘aw, pretty furry animal, do you want to do some training? Let’s play!’

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But enough about that, I want to know where the meet is between camp 1 and camp 2. Where are the trainers and psychologists meeting together to make pets work for people with mental illnesses in ways that are both humane for the pets, AND humane for the people? If we can spend so much time rescuing dogs and cats (I am a big believer in rescue dogs and cats), surely we can spend as much time rescuing the people that need so much help to make it through the day. And surely, considering that both people in camp 1 and camp 2 tend to care about living beings, there is room for a niche to develop? A niche of ‘people who help people with mental illness have pets.’

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We have a growing number of ‘people who help people with physical disabilities have pets,’ but – at least where I am – there doesn’t seem to be much of the ‘helping people with mental illness have pets.’

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That’s a sad thing, because clearly there are benefits to be had all round if the situation was managed safely and ethically. And on a very personal (and probably selfish) level, I find it is yet another of the things I am impacted by, in terms of having these illnesses. Something as straightforward as expanding our family – that millions of people do – is not straightforward here. It is not straightforward, but in a more supportive and nurturing environment; it could be easier.

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It could even be healing.

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I see many futures for myself. Too many. In a world where one of my debilitating symptoms was being certain I wouldn’t live out the year (every year), starting to overcome that has presented a world of overwhelming possibilities. But in one of those futures, I take the time to get a dog. It is a journey of trial and error, but with research, there is love and happiness too. And maybe one day, I can help there to be more professionals who can help people with mental illness have successful relationships with their canines; especially those people with mental illness who are conditioned by their disorders to lack confidence in themselves and their abilities. It is often those people who most need the animals who aren’t prone to overthinking. Who do just often enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

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Of course, in yet another future I see myself as a professional space-travelling chocolatier. So…you know. O.O