Monday, 2 December 2013

Festive Sewing and Other Things

November and I managed to catch two colds one after the other so, I spent the month in a Lemsip haze. So, it was time for some quiet, home type things. In one of the shops I saw some material bunting and wanted to make some for my fireplace to decorate for the Christmas season. I have a lovely garland but, it is covered with glitter that gets everywhere....besides I am going through my vintage period.
This was probably as a result of coming across a Magazine called Daphne's Diary. It was new out last month but, I really enjoyed it. I love flea markets, vintage and shabby chic and so, it thoroughly cheered me up leafing through the pages between coughing fits.
Then when I paid a visit to a local craft shop, I came across some beautiful, vintage inspired materials from Tilda "Making Memories". So, now not only was a I going to make bunting but, some hearts too. For the hearts, I got a template off the Internet and stretched it in photoshop until it was the shape I wanted.
I wanted a little motif for them too. so, I found an old linen tablecloth, cut out small pieces with pinking shears and then stamped on them with a rubber stamp using Memento. It was quite kind to me and didn't bleed or anything so I sewed them to the front of the heart before I stitched them together.
I filled them with a small amount of polyester filling and attached the buttons and ribbon. The little flower is crochet. I found a really good tutorial for getting them nice on here
For my bunting, the one I had seen was finished inside out using pinking shears. But, this was a little too rustic for me. I don't mind things fraying but, we could easily be back to the land of the glitter with showers of cotton instead. Eventually, I found a nice tutorial on this site.
This worked pretty well for me...I sorted my own template and I did use the instructions. One thing I would say I often had to neaten up edges with scissors and getting the pointy bits, pointy sounds easier than it is.
I did want it for my fireplace though and as such, I did measure and plan especially where the colours were going to fall. I am yet to sort out my Christmas decorating but, when I do, I will try and remember to post a picture of the fireplace when it is finally decked out.
Art wise, I have also done a little and pulled out the colour pencils for some time consuming but, restive art. This one was inspired from a lovely photo from Bob Keppel on Paint My photo. I loved the photo but, at time when I was making this, I was sure, I couldn't have chosen a more diffciult subject!

Somewhat easier and from my imagination was this one using pastels and coloured pencils.

I have had fun making some things that I  haven't done for ages. So, Whilst I could have done without the colds, I have at least been creative with my time. Meanwhile, I am knitting rabbits but, more on that one next time.............I hope all my blogging friends are in good health! :D

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Creating a Storm

It has been a while.....I had to laugh. My last post was the end of the winter and now we are almost back to the beginning of one!
A whole summer ~ where did it go?
I spent a lot of it taking photographs and hopefully improving my technique. Sadly, I got very little art done. I got to August before I realised I was totally uninspired in that direction. I did complete a few things in pastels and coloured pencils but, nowhere near my usual output.

I did mange this one and a couple of others but, that was a while ago. One of my thoughtful artists friends must have realised what was happening and very kindly sent me a book ~ "The Artists Way" by Julia Cameron. I started to read it before I went on my holidays and made up my mind to follow it when I got back. So, after settling back down and getting the washing done, I started working through it at the beginning of this week. Yes, I did write my pages every morning this week.
However, I had no idea how much silly things were annoying me or indeed the extent of my "lack of imagination". In only a few days, I had made some resolves and set to work to do something. Now I love coloured pencil and pastels but, often they don't push me into freedom! For me, I need this to get my creativeness going.
So, I decided if I was at such a loss, I would work myself through one of my books. For ages I have had a copy of David Bellamy's book ~ Watercolour Landscape. I have begun to work my way through. Landscapes are not something I do very often and it is different following someone else's techniques. But, it is basics and I have started right at the beginning. The first lesson is on tone. I didn't find it too difficult apart from the fact that I did this on paper by far too small for me which, made it difficult to add detail and I lacked freedom when it came to bigger sweeps with the paint.

However, I am loving the mix of some detail with some very bold painting. One thing I am going to make myself do is every exercise out of the book, I also do another using one of my own photo's. Already this morning I started one using this photo which I took in Wales during the summer which of course with the above colour combination will turn it into a stormy scene.

I have already experienced one disaster which has ended up in the bin. I was using practice watercolour paper and sadly the quality has already let it down when I did a very strong and sweeping sky. So, a new one will soon commence with decent paper!
I have also started some small paintings in my sketchbook based on anything I see out on my walks. Rather than use a photo I am bringing them back and working from life. Hopefully, I may get around to some small sketches too. The aim is little and often.

Meanwhile, I hope all my blog friends are well.....and a special thanks to Yvonne for providing me with some much needed inspiration X

Friday, 22 February 2013

An End to Winter

Well, not officially for a few days but, I have had anough winter now so as you can see my blog has been updated with a springlike feel. It is a little wishful thinking on a day like today but there are signs.
We have been out enjoying the snowdrops and there are other flowers spring to life here and there too.

Snowdrops always inspire me to complete at least one piece of art and I found some of those cut out rustic hearts online. I decided to draw on the wood in coloured pencil and it was easier than I thought. Now I just want to spray this with some weatherproofing and I shall hang it up in the garden.

Meanwhile, I have been spending a little time in the garden on the days where it has warmed up a little. It is still quiet out there but those little irises are making a bright splash of colour.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Beginning of a Year

It has been a while since I last posted and I think that was because I had so little to say. January is probably one of my least favourite months. For sure, it is when I have the least inspiration and that has definitely taken it's toll on my art. However, it is a time when I think things through and almost like the early buds on the trees, ideas are formed and it is a thinking and rationalising time. Normally I would be itching to get out in the garden looking obsessively for the first signs of life so I can get my macro out. But, instead I have gone with the flow...... I don't ever make New Years resolutions......but, somehow in the quiet of it all, there have been a few changes:
1. The house got a bit of a clear out. As I write I now I have another large bag for the clothes recycle! Other things that had truly annoyed me for ages got thrown out and is a GOOD feeling.

2. I have read more than usual and some books that perhaps I normally wouldn't. One of which was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh which I loved on many levels. Not only did I enjoy the story but, I loved learning more about flowers and their meanings.

3. I have used the time to cook again. So many things from scratch after treating myself to a slow cooker and I have really enjoyed seeking out new recipes.

 4. I took more time to go out with the camera walking and take winter scenery!

5. I rationalised some of my on line presence that was becoming a chore. So you will see that Fine Art America has been removed from my sidebar.

6. I have contacted a stock photo company and passed their quality control and now have lots of photographs uploaded and key worded. Strangely the whole experience has been quite educational and has certainly provided me with some new photographic goals for the forthcoming well as going through existing photos with a technically critical eye...........This also had the benefit of making me tidy up my existing photos. There were some that I had never even opened!

7. I have only made art when I felt like it...which hasn't been that often. I think my only production this month was inspired by the discussions of the portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge.

8. I have booked myself onto some wonderful short 3/4 hour courses which really appeal to me. The first one of those is coming up soon and is "Identifying trees in Winter".

9. I finished my sketchbook project and sent it off to Brooklyn. I look forward to the updates but, decided this year, I AM going to take more time out to update MY own journal.
10. In the recent bad weather I took an hour out very day to feed the birds and actually sit and watch them.

All in all, it hasn't been one of my most dynamic of months.....but, it has been interesting.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tis the Season....

Already it is December and as usual I am very disorganised! The last month has seen my art take a festive turn and I have been painting and drawing with Christmas in mind. There have been several watercolours which were a mix of actual places with "a lot" of artistic licence.

I have to confess, I do really enjoy this kind of thing. I love to let my imagination go free and Christmas provides free rein to be a little more creative than usual and of course unusually I have had the time.

So Christmas cards have been designed, my Zazzle store has had some serious input and a local magazine featured some of my cards too which was rather nice. Check out page 16, my old card making friends might be surprised that I have actually been doing some of those too ;)
I have also been featured as an artist and photographer on paint my photo...perhaps I better mind my p's and q's in this post ;) I have taken part in a challenge in the Coloured pencil facebook group which was using a beautiful photograph by Lori Fairchild. It was the first time I have used coloured pencil in ages.

I have been playing at graphic design in photoshop too for making backgrounds for some of my cards and I don't think you would believe how long that took! However, it has been of benefit because I have been designing a few bespoke ones for friends.

I have been working on some commissions for Christmas which I cannot show as yet but, here is one where I just had a few hours having fun with pastels.

But, am I prepared must be joking! I haven't written so much as a single Christmas card, no decorations, in fact no preparation cleaning either ;) So, if you are like me......I raise a toast "clink"...tomorrow maybe? haha

Friday, 5 October 2012

Trials and Tribulations of Photobook Publishing

I have been busy over the summer and one of my projects was to publish a photo book. For various reasons, I ended up producing three with very different aims and therefore, pricing has also been from one end of the scale to the other. However, I thought that some of my thoughts and experiences may be interesting for others.
Initially, I just put a lot of my favourite photographs of Skiathos together with quotes and ordered a small paperback copy from Vistaprint. The software was easy to use although the lack of spell checker and not being able to see what I was actually writing because it was so small  with the online program was problematic. However, when it arrived, I was pleased with the result, the photo paper quality was great, the print colour rendition was lovely and the binding was quite nice for a paperback. I ended up taking two of them to Skiathos as gifts for some friends who have been very kind to us. One of these friends has a shop and questioned if we could produce something maybe of a bit lesser quality, a little more cost effectively for the tourist market.

So, on our arrival home, firstly I looked into buying greater numbers of the book produced by Vistaprint. Sadly, when I accessed the site, only the very small photo snap books are now available. Therefore, I contacted customer services. The response was brilliant given that it was a Saturday and I had my answer inside an hour! However, Vistaprint have stopped doing photo books temporarily while they increase the quality of their product. Actually, as value for money, I was quite happy initially. Every day, I get an email from the company offering discounts on every product in the sun...apart from the one I want!

So, then I went looking a little further. This time I used Lulu because the pricing was competitive. Especially for what we were thinking of and the discount is good for multi buys. I spent a week creating a 30 page book. The online publishing tool was good and very easy to use. When adding text, it zoomed in large so you could easily see what you had written. As recommended by Lulu, I then ordered a proof copy. When it arrived, it was nicely laid out, the cover was lovely gloss and overall represents fairly good value for money. If I have one complaint, the binding is a little tacky. The print quality is not as good as the Vistaprint one either but, then the price tag wasn't so hefty either. Except.......

After viewing it for real, I had a couple of minor alterations to a couple of pages, only tiny tweaks but, things that stood out to me. After going back online and changing these, the price mysteriously more than doubled! To be honest at the time, I was incensed! Customer services took more than 24 hours to respond and told me to republish. After which, the pricing came down a little more but, even then the cost was half as much again as the original price! After puzzling for ages, I took a good look at the site and realised that in between the first copy and the second, the prices has been increased somewhat dramatically. I wished I had left it as it was, so much for proof reading! Anyway, customer services came back and offered me a laughable discount.....I was so angry, I almost removed it. However, that would be silly, if anyone uses the 20% discount from the Lulu homepage, it is still a very affordable book with lots of images and wildlife of Skiathos. It can be viewed here

Nevertheless, I am still looking around for something along similar lines because I have not been entirely happy with the Lulu experience!

My final experience was completely different but, I decided I wanted a book for our coffee table. For this one of course I was not thinking of commercial viability at all. This was a no expense spared one for us, with our memories and favourites. Having experienced two very different qualities already, I wanted a top of the range super glossy, large, hardback book where the binding lay flat. I came across Albelli who are doing a promotion at the minute of £15 off any photo book. I have to say their editing software was a treat and unlike both of my previous experiences you could see exactly what price you were going to end up with at every step of the way. The price updates as you add pages, photo cover etc in the corner of the software program.

Now, this one has arrived today and it will take pride of place.....The colour rendition is wonderful and I love, love, love it. I guess you get what you pay for!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Hanging Loose

This year I have tried hard to get more movement into all of my art. I quite freqently change mediums but I want to inject more vibrance into my subjects. Whilst on holiday I got the chance to spend a few hours with Mary Dillon. Mary paints very beautiful botanical work but, also very loose and vibrant watercolours. Some examples of her work are shown here Mary is also a very lively person and I knew that the opportunity would also be fun! The first thing I noticed is that Mary is much more disciplined than I am. I confess to mixing my watercolours very haphazardly and cleaning my brush in between colours is not something I do naturally ;) The first thing we did was to create a colour chart....given that I have never done this in my life!

Strangely enough I have referred to it frequently in subsequent paintings! Mary uses a lot of splatter and salt which I love. She also builds up her work in layers. This is not unfamilar to me in coloured pencils. Anyone that has ever had a go at fruits will know that yellow is often the base colour. It provides the vibrance and light and this painting technique is similar. We used very heavy paper and in three hours this was how far I got with some pomegranites picked off a tree...I know you cannot really pick pomegranites here unfortunately!

I was going to finish it when I got home but, there were some things I knew I would do differently. For a start, I had been quite tentative with colour and I also found that my pencil guidelines had got lost along the way and I hadn't accounted for leaves in the foreground. So I ordered myself some 600gsm paper and decided to practice.

I was happier with this version the end anyway. I confess that at times, I have been frustrated at my efforts especially at some stages and was so tempted to look more closely at Mary's work! But, I resisted that, the technique can be taught but I don't want my work to be a (very poor) imitation of Mary's. So, for the next one I set up my own little still life and went berry picking. I love Autumn fruits so it was a natural one to have a go at right now.

Something that I did want to do was to ensure that I kept my highlights better. So I used masking fluid. I have to say that masking fluid on 600gsm paper is tricky. It works well for small highlights on berries i.e dots here and there but anything bigger than that took a lot of work afterwards to correct. Needless to say I have been more cautious with it's use since. Following this one, I though it was time to move onto to move familiar subjects and I attempted to paint a blue tit. I wanted a sort of snowy background and chose indigo blue as the main BG colour. Oh, dear...what a disaster that was! On this occasion, I was far too heavy handed. I tried afterwards to scrub it off but learned that the pigment in indigo blue is much like paynes grey and it doesn't come off no matter how much water you use. I would show it but, in a fit of pique, I threw that one in the bin!

The next effort was some flowers that I had taken photo's of in the summer. This time I made better use of "a little" masking fluid and made sure to leave some highlights. I also found that Inktense water colour pencils really provide a little vibrance and a touch of definition and I liked them whilst the paper was still a little damp especially. I also found that for tiny little highlights, you can gently scrape with a knife...once it is dry.

For some reason after this one, I was disheartened. I didn't really know where I was going with this. Thankfully I watched a video on youtube about painting ponsietta's loosely. On here Debbi Wilson was suggesting that you paint 30 (paintings) at a time, keep going, keep although I was about to give up a while, I took her words to heart. Not ponsietta's though... this time I moved on to holly. However, I decided at the current rate of use that I may have to work a bit smaller. My paper supply is dwindling (doesn't help when you chuck them in the bin), so I halfed a quarter sheet.

I normally like working quite large but, I did find it easier worker a little smaller. Drying time was easier to guage and my flow went a little better.....meanwhile, I have since been back working on that little bird. Iteration number two.....:p.

Thanks to both Mary for her company, time and patience and also Yvonne Ayoub for her generosity once again (giving up her studio and valuable painting time).