Tuesday 1 February 2022

Emotions: what colour is anxiety?

This was a tricky one.  Emotions themselves are tricky.  I read online somewhere that if you are cranky, short with people, and frustrated with annoyances building up to exlode, then you are not feeling your feelings.  Suppressing and avoidance doesn't work.  Instead we have to recognise, be curious and understanding in order to let emotions come and go.  

After 2 years of Covid with lockdowns, cocooning, not being able to go farther than 5km from your home, pubs and cinemas closed, no visiting friends or family unless in a bubble most of us have not been feeling our feelings, I should think.  

Now that we are opening back up again after Omicron there is naturally a mix of feelings.  While out walking the dogs we got to talking about depicting anxiety as that seems to me the feeling that runs through all of these past years and the return to people mixing freely again.  I pictured anxiety as a dark blue, not black as that's too despairing.  Gordon sees it as purple and that seems spot on too.  

I couldn't find a dark enough purple so ended up with navy thread and tried a technique called neurographic art to depict what I felt about anxiety.  I had been seeing this technique all over YouTube and the way it works is you write what is bothering you or what you want to focus on, on the back of a piece of paper.

Using a wiggly line draw from one side of the page to the other crossing over if you wish.  You can add more lines and more shapes and not take too much time with the lines - about 3 minutes to doodle.  The main thing is to go back to your drawing and round the sharp corners where the lines cross   Then you can add colour to the different areas created by the shapes.

I wondered if this could be done in thread with free motion quilting.  So I thought I'd give it a go and explore anxiety.  I see it as knots in your stomach and a weight pulling you down. To be quick I drew my wiggly lines onto fabric with a frixion pen and then free-motioned over it rounding the corners.  At first I tried to add colour by thread painting but even with stabiliser I was getting some pulling as I hadn't hooped the piece up properly so I thought I'd add some free motion fillers instead. 

I thought this would be where I'd finish it and backed it with this night time fabric because anxious thoughts can wake you up in the middle of the night and keep you awake for hours counting the endless stars.

Then I remembered I had some acrylic paint that I wanted to try on fabric.  These are the only colours I have but luckily I think they go well with the project so far.


So I added some paint in the spaces and think this is where I should have left it .  I like the open spaces showing the background fabric through.

But instead I went the whole hog and added in more blue and don't really like it so much.  Oh well, live and learn!

I have to say this was a fun little project even if it was a dark subject.  So anxiety maybe blue or purple but in my world its pink and turquoise too.


  1. This is fascinating Ruth, I had never come across neurographic art before so thanks for the introduction. I really like that something that could have been dark and dismal ending up being fun, sewing is indeed our "happy place" :)

  2. Thanks for such a thought-provoking post! I was getting so into your ideas about colour and mood that I read the labels on your fabric paints literally and thought that Distress Paint was the name of the colour :-). It's a great result to what looks like quite a therapeutic way of working.

  3. Interesting piece, both in the idea and execution. It reminds me of zentangles. Your thought of distress/anxiety come through.

  4. What an interesting piece. I enjoyed your description of the process. Very nice work.

  5. I haven't heard of neurographic art, so I learned something today. I think your piece is very thought provoking, and I can certainly relate to the anxiety, at times. Nice work!

  6. It seems to me that taking a positive action is a good remedy for anxiety, so your piece shows both of those aspects -- what it feels like and a way to deal with it! I think your stitching captures the antsy feeling of anxiety and the way it gets its hooks into you.

  7. Neurographic art is an interesting and new to me idea. You have ended up with a fascinating and compelling image.