Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Dear Lisa

A letter to myself for the Year ahead (with thanks to Jamie and her Wishcasting)

This time last year you promised yourself to write (nearly) every day. Well done girl. I bet you had no idea that starting a blog would open up such a rich vein of creativity, shrink the world a little and give you the wonderful gift of new friendships.

What will 2010 bring I wonder? Please keep up the writing and, whatever you do, don't stop painting. When you hold colour in your hand spells get woven and imagination soars. Above all don't forget that creativity is as much for you as anyone else; it's about forming something you are proud of and reflecting a little of what resides in your soul out into the big wide world.

Don't stop dreaming but maintain some focus. It's not going to be easy setting up in your chosen career. You'll need to learn to cope better with rejection for a start. Dig deep for those hidden reserves of stamina and determination. You're already well on the way to achieving your ambitions so don't fall at the last hurdle.

Start thinking about your birthday now. 40 is a time for celebration. Don't let the day slide by unmarked. Plan for the party.

Spend a weekend in London. You know how much you love it there.

Give that novel one more try then, if it doesn't work, start another. Don't give up. You will be a published author.

Now, let's get down to a few specifics. We need to talk about your 'office'. You simply cannot work in that mess. Make to do lists and stick to them. At the end of every one write the word TIDY UP AND FILE and do it. I want to see some targets drawn up for both work and personal
ambitions and regular review. Give yourself a quarterly appraisal and if either a little bonus or a big dressing down depending on how well you score yourself.

OK Lisa, enough now. You've never been a person for too much structure. Sieze every day and grab all the opportunities you can. Remember that life is not a rehearsal. This is your movie. You are the star - go grab everything you can and enjoy!


Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Something old, something new

Something old, something new...

No weddings here, just an entry for an art challenge. The Three Muses' prompt delighted the Muse who has found her MoJo again.

I'll tell you in a minute how I made it, but you know me and my Muse; we never can be content with just posting up a pretty picture. We like to ponder and stretch fingers across keyboard.

Something old: I feel my age. In just a few days I shall reach the year that sees my 40th birthday. When are you middle-aged? Surely not yet? I don't feel middle aged that's for sure. I have far too much still to do before I start watching Countdown and buying comfortable shoes.

Something new: I may be nearly at the top of the hill, but I have something new. Today I received official notification of my Ltd Company status. The Wright Stuff Communications Ltd has been noted by the Inland Revenue. The Tax Man is watching me... I am a Company Director which sounds rather grown up and highly suitable for a soon-to-be-4o-year-old.

And now to the art...

Ancient arches and crumbling ruins. Ghostly remembrances and forgotten romance. What histories have danced through this garden? What overlaps between past and present seeping between the cracks in masonry? Old and new collide and compete but the magic remains constant...

This piece was inspired by a page in a magazine. I painted a strong background then attempted to transfer the image using gel medium. Half way through the rubbing off process I stopped and kept the backing page. It seemed to have melted into the other scene like it was meant to be - a magical overlap. I added lots more paint and the old book to add to the sense of ever-changing stories.

It was fun and another almost 'accidental' piece. If you're still feeling creative, I'm running a challenge on my blog looking for submissions of accidental art. I'd love to see what you might have.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Italian mustard

I was badly in need of splashing some paint about today. I've spent far too much time eating and watching TV in the last week and my Muse was getting into a right old sulk. She wasn't even to be placated when I bought some bargain canvases in the sales. I had to do something. I couldn't bear all the sighing.

Popping along to Mixed Media Monday's challenge seemed the cure. Paint something with a colour you don't like. Hmmm.... Well, that's a bit tricky but mustard immediately came to mind. Reminds me of the suits my English teacher used to wear back in the 1980s when they were never fashionable.

I took some sludgy looking paint and brayered it on. I started thinking ugly, decaying thoughts. I made a rather dreary background planning for a miserable picture and, for my Muse, this was the final straw. She leapt out of her apathy and vented at me in Italian for several minutes. I was surprised as I've always thought she was Greek.

As I don't speak Italian (or Greek for that matter) I hadn't a clue what she was screaming about, but it did at least prompt a chain of thought. It's coming up to New Year... I really want to go to Italy this year... Shall we list as a resolution? I think so, don't you?

My Muse wasn't finished with me though, not by a long chalk. Naturally she fancies a holiday under the Tuscan sun but she was also concerned with me finishing something today and getting back to blogging.

She muttered something about inspiration being di fronte al tuo viso and the penny dropped. A leftover from Christmas feasting - not a mince pie or Turkey leg - a napkin with an Italian scene - heavy on the mustard. I abandoned my decay and went for a bit of sunshine. I could just nibble on an olive now...

I'll leave you to guess which bits of the picture are collaged from my napkin... (my Muse has given up on me and retreated to bed with a cold compress).

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Lazy days...

I'm having a lazy day. My son is with his Dad. I stayed in bed for 12 hours last night and slept for around 10. Later I'm hitting the movies with my boyfriend to watch what looks like the wildest Sherlock Holmes adventure, a long way removed from the smooth unruffled detective we are normally given. Rupert Everett's opium-addled portrayal will take some beating though - have a quick look. (Warning: this clip shows Holmes injecting himself with heroin, don't watch if you don't like).

For something a little more light-hearted though you can't beat a bit of Ant & Dec with their old mate Robbie.

This is a very indulgent posting - I'm letting the talents of others do all the work. Where is my creative spark? I think it may be clogged in an over-loaded digestive system competing for attention among all the chocolate, cakes and other naughties. I can't seem to move. I'm beset by a fug of laziness. Or maybe I just need a rest?

Thursday, 24 December 2009


“That's the thing with magic. You've got to know it's still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you.”
Charles de Lint

There is something very special about this time of year when you are around children. It is their belief in something magical. Whether it's angels telling shepherds that a King has been born in a stable or that an old man with a white beard will fly to your house in a sleigh drawn by reindeer and bring you a sack full of presents. There's not much beats the wonder as their faces light up in excitement.

Since my husband and I separated and divorced we have two Christmas visits from the man with the white beard. His first trip was here on Sunday. Aside from the mountain of brightly wrapped gifts we knew he'd been by the other clues he left behind - the handwritten thank you note for the mince pies, the crumbs on the plate, the nibbled carrots and most impressive of all, the magic sparkling glitter dropped by the reindeers in the snow where they had landed outside. If you look carefully you can still see some glistening on the path.

Yesterday we were lucky enough to receive another magical nocturnal visitor. The tooth fairy herself stopped by to make an important collection. My son's first tooth to wobble and fall. The tiny jewel came out in a piece of cheesecake but he made sure he licked all the sweet stickiness off before placing the fairy treasure in a special little box (made for the occasion by yours truly) and stowing it next to his pillow.

Morning came and with it indignation. "She's not been!" he wailed in disappointment while I struggled to regain consciousness at an unseemly hour. Of course she had been, he just wasn't looking carefully enough. You see she originally put the coin under the pillow, but came back later to check it was still there. She'd forgotten that small boys are equally as active in slumber as waking hours. The coin had been shoved down the bed. She thought it best to leave it on the wooden edging for safety and there it remained until he looked a little more closely (and with the light on this time).

My message to you is that belief, magic and miracles are not just the stuff of children's fairy tales or old books. Heed the wise words above and let a little something special guide you through life and be in your thoughts this Christmas.

Inspired by the Inspiration Avenue art challenge - Believe. Mixed media: yellows, greens and reds were painted in acrylic to form the background. An image transfer of a model in a posh dress makes the body of the angel, I painted in the wings then decided she needed a more dramatic background - a starry sky. I forced myself to find the time for the challenge this week, mainly because of the topic - how perfect for Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends. Health and happiness to you all.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Dear Father Christmas

Jamie Ridler invites us to share our holiday wishes for Wishcasting Wednesday and this got me thinking... You see it's been a while since I wrote to you Father Christmas. I guess I expect you to be a mind reader which is really rather foolish. I mean you are immortal and all that and can fly through the sky on a sleigh drawn by reindeer as well as climb down chimneys without getting all sooty; but how can you know what I really, really want for Christmas without me telling you?

So, here we go...
1. I wish for some more freelance work please. At the moment I haven't got enough to live on so a few more clients and some regular income would be lovely. I will help you out here by networking and marketing furiously so I am sure between the two of us we can make this wish come true.

2. I would really like some Jimmy Choo shoes. I don't know why. Perhaps it is just a girl thing but I think a pair of shoes I can't really walk in but look fantastic should be a staple item in every girl's wardrobe.

3. I'd love some more art supplies. I'm getting a bit low on canvas and can never have too much ephemera. While we're on the subject, can I ask for some more customers at my Etsy shop?

4. Well, I don't want that much for myself, so this list should just about cover it. Naturally we all want world peace and personal health and happiness. I guess even you can't manage that one though. It's something we need to find for ourselves so please give us the means to try and do just that and especially to appreciate all the magic and meaning of this Christmas and not just the gifts under the tree.

Thanks a lot Father Christmas. I'll be leaving a mince pie, glass of Baileys (there's ice cubes in the freezer if you want them) and a few carrots for the reindeer out as usual tomorrow night. Hope you have a good journey and make sure you wrap up warm - there's quite a bit of snow here.

I've been a good girl and will try to keep up the good work next year.

PS: If anyone fancies a fun art challenge, please see my previous post.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Accidental Art - a Challenge!

Sometimes we labour for hours over a piece, only to screw it up or paint over it in disgust. Other occasions see the paint float across the canvas as if Turner was holding the brush. Then there's those pieces that just appear almost by themselves, like this one.

What do you see? I absolutely love the layers in this piece. Is it perhaps a view through a rainy car window in the city at night? A wild party at the paint factory?

Nah, it's none of those... It's my palette paper after a spot of art journling - working off excess paint from the brayer! And yes, I was happier with this than the journal page!

Might make a good art challenge - especially one over the Christmas period when we are all so busy with other stuff. Go on, share with me your accidental art and let's see what is lurking in the cupboards and drawers! Can't wait...

Monday, 21 December 2009

Constructing a link back to childhood

I have discovered something rather funny; a little quirk to my personality that I had completely forgotten about... I love Lego! Clearly my son has inherited this characteristic for it is his obsession that has taken me back to the wonders of childhood architecture.

"I think you're Bob the Builder" he announced yesterday as we reached the half way point of police station construction. Indeed, perhaps I am, but I don't need a crew of machines or endless cups of tea to assist with my building enterprises. No way. I just roll up my sleeves and get stuck in there.

These sets have come a long way since my collection fitted in a 10 inch square tupperware container. I thought myself the height of sophistication because I had a door and windows with blue shutters no less... Now, we have a fully equipped police station complete with water cooler and coffee pot. Satellite dishes spin on the roof picking up the radio transmissions and keeping the coppers inside in touch with the villainry on the outside. Wanted posters grace the office walls and the interrogation room boasts a mean looking angle-poise and state of the art tape recorder - perfect to caputuring those hard fought confessions.

Cells come complete with all the facilities - including toilet paper (I can't tell if it's soft or scratchy though). Large keys hang temptingly outside the bars but these fortunate brigands don't need to worry about locks. No, they have it sussed. A little device outside allows their cell wall to completely fall off, creating the perfect means for escape.

Will they make it safely across the carpet before the dog picks up the trail or the motorbike and police vans are scrambled. It's all happening...

Great fun. Great fun. Now, what can I build next?

Saturday, 19 December 2009


The pressure was on this week. I was hosting the Inspiration Avenue challenge - I had to come up with something good. The more sensible soul might have forward planned, but somewhat foolishly, I had selected my 'hidden' theme without having any particular thought in mind as to what I might create. I guess I just figured I had all week to come up with something.

This, dear readers, leads me to ponder just what exactly has happened to this week. Did someone perhaps press the fast forward button down too hard? Have we been hurtling through the space/time continuum on a race with the good Doctor in his TARDIS?

How can it possibly be Saturday again already? What did I do for the past seven days? Let's have a think... Well, I have barely had time to pick up a paintbrush that's for sure. I've only done one proper day's work. I've sort of cleaned the house but it's messy again already. I've wrapped up all the presents, written all the cards. I've spent all day cooking and preparing for a big family party tomorrow (and let's not mention all the shopping that entailed). I did my bit for the community by clearing much of the snow out of the road in front of my house (and now I have a back ache, no surprise there...). This morning I found myself unexpectedly mopping up the mess after a 'hidden' leak in the shower pump resulted in a waterfall through the kitchen ceiling. I've sat in the audience of both a nativity play and a carol concert starring my son. Friends have been wined and dined... Hmm, perhaps I have been busy after all...

This waffle is really an excuse for my entry this week. I just didn't have enough time to devote to create exactly what I was after.

She had a hidden dream - a Palazzo in the Tuscan countryside. Her lover gazed unseeing from a bedroom window, searching the horizon for the rest of his heart.
I'm here she breathed softly. Wait for me...
This piece was created by layering up three magazine image transfers on a green and golds acrylic background. If you look closely you can see both the Palazzo and the interior hidden away and inhabiting the girl's dreams. A few more layers of acrylic finished the piece.

Friday, 18 December 2009

The end of an ear ah...

Well, that's two ears really. Two very large ears. I mean have you seen the size of 'em? Today sees the legend that is Sir Terry Wogan finally step down from his golden throne in Broadcasting house and pull up his slippers by the fire. The stalwart of broadcasting, the nation's breakfast ingredient as essential as toast and marmalade is stepping down from the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show after several generations of entertainment. The nation weeps.

Terry is an institution, a national treasure. How can we pay tribute in a short blog post? His dry wit has kept me chuckling for my entire life. I grew up with Terry. When my son was just a tiny baby 'Uncle Terry' used to look after him every morning while I got showered and dressed. He kept me cheerful on the drive to work even if occasionally the mirth was a little hazardous to safe driving conditions.

As he bowed out this morning with a farewell speech that brought a tear to the eye of Togs across the country we acknowledged that without a doubt Sir Terry was (and still is, he is after all not actually dead but retiring and he'll be back on Sundays), the country's greatest broadcaster.

If you're not from these parts and haven't a clue who I'm talking about. Well, then I'm sorry you've missed a treat.

Thank you Terry old Boy. Enjoy the snorkers and try to keep out of mischief!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The office Christmas party...

It was wild... I've only just woken up and it appears to be getting dark again already. There's nothing like the office party to get you in the mood for Christmas. It's that time of the year when inhibitions are loossened by cheap wine, crisps are trod in the carpet leaving a faint aroma of cheese & onion throughout January and naughty bottoms are photocopied.

Fancy dress is usually the order of the day for me. Past festivities have seen me disguised as Dolly Parton, a lush has-been actress (personally I think my performance here was Oscar-worthy!), a hairy pirate and even Darth Vader. After it took me a week to wash off the 'eye-liner pirate leg hair' I decided enough was enough. This year was all about the glamour. After all, when you are the Company Director you have to set some standards.

Dress therefore by Dior, diamonds naturally Tiffany's, make up Bobbi Brown (in person), escort... (well, that would be telling!).
OK you got me. The more observant among you may recall I work for myself. The company consists of me, a desk a computer and a printer. I've discovered that furniture and electronics make poor party companions. Mix that with the fact I can't hold my drink any more, am not particularly fond of cheese and onion crisps and we have a rather dull cocktail dear readers - more of a Canvey Island Iced Tea than the Big Apple version.

So, no wild office party this year. Bottoms were held securely in undies and pain killers not required.

Oh well.... this time next year....

PS - Yes, I am silly enough to have specially mocked up that photo up top just for this post!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Little donkey

There's not much cuter a sight than a children's nativity play. Well, actually there is... It's one with your child in! I was such a proud Mumma yesterday watching my boy in his little donkey costume and hearing him and his friends singing those songs we've been rehearsing for weeks. He might not have been Joseph, the Innkeeper or a talking Shepherd but he was my boy on the stage. As the cast marched in through the audience around 60 pairs of eyes scanned the crowd for the ones they most wanted to see. I helped my boy out by yelling his name so he could spot me easily (well, it was dark!). They are still at that age where it is entirely acceptable to wave to family from the stage in the middle of the production and fiddling constantly with your donkey or sheep ears is, frankly, mandatory!

I have to say I was really impressed by the whole performance. They sang, they recited, they played instruments, including the steel drums (why didn't they have steel drums at my school?)If they were handing out gongs I'm sure my boy could have carried off best supporting actor in a donkey role.

I wonder if there's much money in writing scripts for school plays. It wasn't exactly Shakespeare... Hmm food for thought...

I think we might have to go and see this film together next week on school hols...

Friday, 11 December 2009

Imagination roaming

Maybe it's because I have a good imagination, because I allow my dreams free wing, or perhaps just because I get bored easily... Whatever the reason, I can see more clearly now why I was so ready for this change of direction in my life.

I've talked in previous posts about tribes and the new movement of New Brand Tribalism I am so interested in. I've been reading more on the subject this week and am understanding why it resonates so clearly with me and my Muse. It's about not being afraid of rocking the status quo. In fact, the more you shake and disturb the better...

Take this piece of art for example. At school I was a sheep. I did what I was told unquestioningly. When Mr Bailey said paint landscapes because you're good at that and they always come up in the exam, that is exactly what I did. (There wasn't a landscape option in the exam, but that's another story!). I would never have dreamed of producing anything like this and for decades after A levels I still only ever painted landscapes. I would doubtless have been told this wasn't 'proper art'. I'm certainly more proud of this than any piece I produced at school. This is an expression of my imagination. It comes from the heart and soul. I never had the guts or even comprehension that life could be like this. I have been a sheep for far too long. I am casting off my woollen comfort blanket and running free on the fells.

Sounds a bit mad I know. I've been thinking, maybe my last job, the one I hated, was in a strange way the a good thing for my career. It required me to be a sheep and I finally realised that I was no longer capable of bleating and following tails. I want to be the wolf! I looked at the rules and I didn't believe in them any more. I like to challenge, in fact I love to challenge and I want to make a difference. I know there is another way, there are other believers not afraid to let their imagination roam and 'colour outside of the lines'.

This post was doubly inspired. The picture by Inspiration Avenue's weekly challenge - 'Imagination' and the words by Seth Godin's Tribes which I am nearly through reading. I had planned two separate posts but as I was thinking what to write about the art, the whole thing fell into place. I realised that my imagination is one of my most powerful assets. I just haven't used it enough up to now because I was too busy being a sheep.
Artwork started as acrylic on watercolour paper. I then transferred a magazine image which is the right hand side of the face. I drew in the left eye and the rest of the mouth and jaw line. I collaged and added more acrylic. I used soft and oil pastels and did a bit of printing and I flicked some paint about a bit.

Back to Seth... Have a look and listen...

Other posts on tribes:
here and here and here with more information on New Brand Tribalism here.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

How to shop with a man at Christmas

Personally, I prefer to leave my man at home when I shop. He can be a proper nuisance, dragging me into electronics shops for repetitive browsing and then giving me less than 30 seconds to look at important things like shoes and handbags. However, sometimes it's necessary to have them tag along - notably when they need to pay for things. There's also the added bonus of hand holding and general pleasure at being in their company (but don't tell him I said that).

What many women fail to do though is to fully understand what to do with a man in a shopping environment. They just don't recognise their limits. Take today for example. I had some serious mooching to do in Marks & Spencer and this particular store had three floors to mooch upon (what more could a girl ask for?). I could sense the agitation pulsing through his veins (another advantage of holding hands) and so before any form of stress overload could occur I securely deposited him at the boyfriend/husband creche aka the Cafe. There, installed with coffee and tabloid he was happy to sit quietly while I raced up and down the escalators clutching stocking fillers and trying my best to avoid the ladies' clothing department.

Other women should heed my advice. That way I would not have found my journey around the store constantly hampered by men trying to 'keep out of the way' and succeeding instead at being everywhere they shouldn't. Like a herd of lost sheep they wander slowly down the aisles weighed down by swinging carrier bags with sharp protuberances. Annoyed wives wave 'jumpers for Mother' at them expecting some sort of response. Come on, you've been married 25 years, surely you've realised by now he has no sense of fashion and is colour blind?

This post is therefore a heartfelt plea. Unless absolutely necessary, please leave your man at home where he is most comfortable - on the sofa with remote in close proximity. Failing that, just keep him out of my way! Remember, credit cards with pin numbers were invented (by a woman) for a reason.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Spirit wishes

This week for Wishcasting, Jamie Ridler invites us to ponder what our spirit wishes. What is my spirit? Is it my Soul? My Muse? Are they one and the same thing?

If I close my eyes and just listen, what do I hear the spirits whispering? Where do they want to take me?

I see an open meadow high on a hill with a sea of soft grasses bending gently in the breeze. Dappled sunlight, chirping birds and humming insects. Floral abundance. Warmth. Relaxation. Indolence. Love.

Quite romantic my spirits aren't they?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

A load of old bottle

The Three Muses are clearly getting in the festive spirit already as their theme for artistic creations this week is 'bottles'. These four have been gathering dust in my bathroom for years. I bought the deep blue one in trendy store in Hampstead and doubtless paid around ten times what it was worth. I used to love hanging out with the 'folks who live on the hill'. If you've never been, it's a very expensive part of London with trendy boutiques and bars. The best bit though is the Heath - a vast expanse of parkland and woods slap bang in the centre of London. A favourite haunt when I lived in our capital, especially enjoying the view from the top of Parliament Hill.

Anyway, back to my bottles. I took a photo then had a good old playaround in Photoshop giving what is supposed to be a slightly vintage feel. I felt there was a bit of magic around this old glassware - I'm sure I can see the remnants of a spell or two spilling out...

Monday, 7 December 2009

On the wings of love

Her dress swirled as fast as the music and her feet lifted from the ground as she gazed into his eyes. Was it his strong arms carrying her or was she perhaps rising on the wings of love?

I've only just stopped singing poker face and now I'm 'on the wings of lurve' with Jeffrey someone circa 1985... and Mixed Media Monday's prompt.

A magazine transfer took the effort out of getting her facial features aligned and arms in the right place, but other than general shaping not much of the original model remains. She was given her wings with a liberal dose of acrylics, ink, the magic of love and promised passion!

Sunday, 6 December 2009


I offered Rachel a lift home since it was on my way but it turns out she lives in Hornsey, which is the opposite direction. I only know the High Road. It was weird because she acted like we were still great friends but tonight must be the first time I'd seen her in twenty years. No wonder I didn't know where she lived. I'd parked the car in a sneaky little spot. Must be the only place in London not on a meter or time limit. Strictly speaking the mini wasn't still on the road, but since it had magnetically attached itself to the gates of an imposing mansion, I figured it was private property and out of bounds for the wardens.

The room was rapidly filling with soft furnishings. Cushions with elaborate frills and heavy embroidery reminiscent of a stately home. I wasn't sure where they had come from but apparently they were something to do with Christine and her friends. That's what Dean told me anyway as he danced with the curtain.

I needed to get back to the car. I had to visit my Auntie. Rachel had gone anyway, so she would have to find her own way home. The stairs just kept on going, round and round in dizzying circles. I tripped. Fell. Yelled. And woke with a start...

No, I haven't gone mad. This was just a Sunday Scribble on the subject of Weird. An excerpt from last night's nocturnal adventures!

Saturday, 5 December 2009


My mouth as salivating as I daydream of sun-ripened peaches oozing sticky juices and dotted with clotted cream. Yum! This week our thoughts at Inspiration Avenue turn to fruit. My interpreation of the peaches & cream theme though seems a bit lacking in anything edible. This piece took ages. I just couldn't get happy with it, so layered and layered and layered (the paint is actually four inches thick!) and I wasted some beautiful epherema by painting over it. Still, it all turned out peachey in the end!

I also could not resist a little digital experimentation and love how this turned out. I think it's Audrey Hepburn, I found the picture in a folder marked 'dreamy'. The flowers were from my garden.

A London auction house sells off some of Ms Hepburn's wardrobe next week. I like to imagine that the buyers will wear their (surely very) expensive purchases - perhaps on holiday in Rome or enjoying a bowl of cereal at Tiffany's. I would certainly feel obliged to retrace her steps trailing behind me a long line of handsome admirers!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Deck the halls

Once I moved out of the parental establishment and got a place of my own something very important happened in my social calendar. I got to choose when the decorations went up! Oh yes, no more waiting until "a bit nearer Christmas" before the boxes of magic were brought down from the attic; as far as I'm concerned the first week in December is perfect timing. Now I have a small boy to share in my fever pitch of excitement and I pretend that we put them up "for him", but we all know better don't we?

Rather like an early Christmas Day, there's always wonderful surprises waiting to be unwrapped in the decorations box - those little treasures we forget about from year to year delight us over and over. Even the cats like to get in on the action, sniffing and pawing with excitement as they remember how much fun it is to bash balls on Christmas trees.

We pulled out tinsel and baubles, we plumped up the tree, I did the high branches, he did the low. It was dark so we decorated by the lights from the tree (which was actually a little tricky to see what you were doing, but small boy insisted). Some of the decorations aren't quite 'crisp and even', but I don't have the heart to rearrange his careful positioning!

Festive songs provided our soundtrack - a little bit of Cliff, Shakey, Slade bringing back the memories. Then, as Roy Wood sang his heart out and swang his beard around, a little voice piped up "I wish it could be Christmas every day too..."


Thursday, 3 December 2009

Monkey business

Swing over to Blue Chair Diary if you've a mind and take a look at this fun little game. Sock Monkey wants to come visit you for a few days. Will you offer him a room and feed him bananas? I love these travelling toys. What adventures he will have to write home about...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Winter wishes

Jamie Ridler and the gang of Wishcasters are making Winter wishes this week. I know what my son will wish for - lots of snow to play in. Last year we were literally snowed in, such a rarity for the part of the world I live in. For several days cars wrapped in white blankets remained on their driveways and snowballs flew. The end of our cul-de-sac had become a sheet of ice several inches thick topped with fluffy snow. A no go zone for most vehicles (sledges were fine!). We sat indoors wrapped up warm waiting for a thaw that didn't seem to be on the horizon.

Then, something amazing happened... A few of us (myself included) braved the elements and began to hack at the ice with shovels and scrapers. I met my new neighbour Wendy for the first time. More doors opened revealing strangers we normally just nod to. We worked as a team and dug ourselves out. We laughed and chatted. The ice was well and truly broken!

So, my Winter wish is more of this please! More community spirit, more snow for little boys to craft into snowmen and to throw with wild abandon.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


I'm a bit lonely this evening so am reaching out to my friends in blogland for a natter. Perhaps it just seems a bit quiet after all the excitement of my launch party last night - I didn't get to bed until 4am, I was too busy partying the night away with 'A List' friends and celebrities (all those hunks just wouldn't go home)! Today the sequins are safely behind doors, I'm back in jeans and t-shirt and wearing not one but two pairs of socks. December arrived with a snap this morning bringing a nippy little frost with it. Sitting working at my desk all day I discovered a mysterious draught wafting around my tootsies and now I'm a skint freelancer I'm too tight to put the central heating on until icicles form on the end of my nose. Plus I've discovered that Jimmy Choos* are actually only meant to be dangled on the end of your fingers by the skinny strap whilst ensuring everyone see the label, rather than actually walked in...

You may have spotted the word 'working' above. It seems as good a time as any to share some thoughts on my first few weeks as a freelancer. I'm rather enjoying it. OK, so I do get a bit lonely at times and have been talking to myself more than is usual, but I like this lifestyle. Something occurred to me today - as we went through another iteration of the same presentation because someone else wanted to add and change bits... I wasn't the slightest bit stressed about it. Now I just do what I'm told. I pull things together, jazz them up, add a bit of flair just as I always did, but somehow because I'm not actively involved it realeases a bit of the pressure. I can just get on with what I enjoy without worrying about sign off and internal politics. This is an entirely unexpected bonus.

Of course, now I've put thought to paper, no doubt I'll be tearing my hair out with stress this time tomorrow...
With the beginning of Advent today I am determined to be better organised this year and am busy making LISTS. My son is with his Dad on Christmas Day which I find tough but I had a special word with Father Christmas and he said he could pop round early to our house for an extra Christmas so that's OK.
Much excitement this morning as we got to open door number 1. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to Advent calendars. I prefer my doors to be on a nativity scene and open to reveal pretty pictures rather than confectionary. So, son got Mummy's choice, but Mummy's not daft. Oh no... Mummy thoughtfully bought a nice bag of choccies so he gets his sugar fix as well as the star shining over the stable.
To banish a little more commercialism, take a look at the link to the advent calendar in my sidebar. Daily reflections with quite an environmental theme urging us to slow down and consider our lifestyle. Today's message suggests that taking more time allows us to take in more around us.
I'm feeling a creative urge... Until next time readers...
*For the record, I don't actually own any of Jimmy's creations, but if anyone's offering...

PS Why does blogger sometimes repeatedly take out my carriage returns???

Monday, 30 November 2009

Open for business

Oh you made it! I am so glad you could come along. It's quite a party here, come on in and grab yourself a glass of bubbly and something to nibble. Now don't worry, not everyone knows each other so let me introduce you to a few people. Follow me... Mind you don't trip on the red carpet, Kate Winslett just went such a cropper and snapped a heel on her strappy sandal. It was a good job Jimmy Choo was here with a few free samples just her size - that's him over there on the floor checking out feet and about to be stepped on by Kevin Spacey.

Well, this is the party room, I'll take you through to the gallery shortly. There are some wonderful artists here already though. Oh look, over here are the lovely ladies from Inspiration Avenue, they are such darlings and the most creative creatures. Can I tell you a secret? They've asked me to join their little tribe. I'm so honoured I'm virtually speechless. Well, I would be if I wasn't such a chatterbox! Oh, there's one missing... where's Luthien? Ah there she is. I knew I shouldn't have invited Robert Pattinson, she's been glued to his side since he arrived...

Look who else is here, or should I say 'Hugh' else - Mssrs. Jackman and Grant, why don't I leave you in their charming company while I ready myself for my opening speech.

Ahem, Ladies & Gentlemen, thank you so much for making the effort to fight the rain and paparazzi to be here with me today at the opening of my Gallery. I'm delighted to see you all. I can't believe it has been only a few short months ago that I once more picked up a paintbrush after years spent in creative exile. It has been through the encouragement of you, my fellow bloggers and superstars that has prompted not just an artistic outpouring but the opening of this Gallery - my Etsy shop. Without your support and wonderful comments I would never have believed in myself enough to take this gigantic step. I am proud to be a part of this inspirational tribe.

Without further ado, and before Shirley Bassey starts singing again, may I now proudly declare, my Etsy shop well and truly open!

Do step on in and have a look around and please let me know what you think. I'll be adding more as the weeks progress so feel free to help me clear some space in the stock room!

Picture up topwas created just for today. I was going to put her for sale but I'm rather attached. She's another mixed media piece - I painted a party background on a canvas block. Transferred on the image of the party girl using gel medium then painted and oil pastelled over the top of her. I even 'sewed' on the sequins!

A special invitation...

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Game

Cheryl turned sideways, sucked her tummy in and drew herself up to her full 5 foot 5 inches. She was ready for battle and had no intention of becoming a casualty. Her eye on the prize she began to move imperceptibly across the field. Sidestepping the eye of the enemy she kept her focus. It helped to turn sideways, she could slip through the ranks un-noticed, then a quick flick of the shoulder and she was past the first wave. Watching carefully she judged her next move. Where would it be safest to position herself? It wasn't just a matter of grabbing the first safe spot, it was about who would be her wing man. She hesitated almost a moment too long as she spotted an incursion to her left. But Cheryl was a veteran, she knew the game. A sharp elbow, a small imperceptible shove and she made it to the front of the bar, smiling sweetly into the topaz eyes of a besuited City type. Captured by her sparkle he allowed himself to be drawn into her net until, almost without thinking, as the indifferent barman handed her the large glass of Chardonnay he uttered the words "let me get that for you" and handed a crisp note across the counter.

A Sunday Scribble on the subject of 'Game'.

Friday, 27 November 2009

French revelations

I was so incredibly excited by this creative challenge - it had such possibilité. Create a piece inspired by France... But where do you start? Paris seems as good a place as any, but that's rather cliched so I clambered down from the Eiffel Tower, ignored the Mona Lisa's gaze and boarded le metro to the nearest Gare. I travelled the length and breadth of the country, the TGV speeding me through the wintering countryside. How could I possibly encapsulate all that was French in one simple creation?

I returned home scented with the fruits of the vine (that's right I spilled a Merlot down me) and rummaged through my art supplies. Taking canvas and paint I began to create le drapeau tricolore. I transferred some images using gel medium onto the canvas. It didn't work too well, but there was a kind of vintage appeal. Next I planned on painting on top... but I thought I'd first experiment with what it might look like by scanning it into Photoshop then 'painting' in a wine bottle. Naturally, this looked far better than anything I could achieve... and I was tempted to 'paint' some more in this medium. I added a few more snapshots of my whistle-stop tour and threw in a little present for Luthien (that has absolutely nothing to do with France, but I know she'll love it when she spots it!). Toulouse Lautrec rose from the grave to pen a quick sketch of some romantic lovers (merci mon ami). The whole thing was softened and made subtle before a poster filter returned a little clarity. Que pensez-vous?

I always I feel I've cheated a bit though when I 'go digital' so my guilt got paper out, squeezed some acrylics on the palette and then borrowed a bit of inspiration from Monet et al to create a provencal lavender field bathed in golden sunlight. I can't decide which version I prefer - my original (above) or the same with a poster filter applied. It was a very quick sketch and lacks much detail but it was fun to paint which is surely the point. My cat liked it. She sat on my lap for some time studying in depth!
Challenge from Inspiration Avenue.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Oh my...

I bought a book at the weekend recommended by a friend. One of those obscure novels no one has ever heard of. I took a sneak peak last night. I shouldn't really because I'm already knee deep in another adventure and it seems cruel to leave those friends in such dire straits. Poor Pug is captured and faces a life in slavery and Tomas was in the middle of battle... Anyway, life is meant to be torment for novel characters, (for how else will they have a happy ending?) and I was only going to read a page or so, just to get the feel.

Something happened though. Forces beyond my control pulled me deeper into the pages until I was sunk in chapters completely mesmerised by a hypnotic gaze, eyes that swing from bronze to darkest black, brooding looks... I'm not going to be doing any more blog hopping or painting this evening... I must read....

I've forgotten the name of the book now but it's about a young woman called Bella and the most incredibly sexy guy called Edward... Perhaps you've heard of it?

Big steps

Wishcasting Wednesday this week asks what us what step we wish to take. Well, readers, you know I have taken mine. Less than a month ago I quit my job. It was quite a moment I can tell you. I put myself out of work in the middle of a global recession. Sometimes I feel quite fearless. Yet, why should we be scared of following our hearts, for that after all is what I have done? After a long career of working for other people, I’m taking back a little more control. I’m bringing together all I’ve learned over the years and taking it out in the marketplace for others to have a bit of use of. I’m going freelance…

This week and next I’m working with a communications agency helping them with a project for a High Street bank. It’s literally throw yourself in at the deep end drama but it’s OK. I’ve had lots of practice at swimming and my little lifejacket of knowledge is keeping my head above water. In fact, I’m rather enjoying it. Naturally, the pressure is on and it really is a case of sink or swim – I’m rather expendable, not tied to any employer contract. One mistake and I could be out… but then I always did thrive under a bit of pressure, there’s nothing better to sharpen the focus than an impending deadline or that VIP to impress.

I’ve no doubt there’ll be moments of calm and catch up too when my focus will shift to marketing myself, networking and hunting out the elusive paying opportunities. Also expect to see some serious paint slopping about during these ‘stand down’ days.

There’s a down side naturally. I do get a bit lonely – I miss the colleague sitting beside me to bump ideas around with – it’s not quite the same when you have to call someone and the cats don’t have much of an opinion. It also gets a bit cold here in November and it seems an extravagance to heat the whole house when I’m spending all day sitting at a desk in one tiny (and very untidy) corner. Ah yes, untidiness. My natural predilection toward having all my work spread out around me in a seemingly chaotic mess has meant an even more untidy workspace than usual and I can’t just go home and leave it at the end of the day! My little Lottie cat is most upset at me sitting on her ‘bed’ all day and is getting quite vocal in her complaints. She exacts her revenge by leaving muddy paw prints all over my paperwork. Her brother just clambers onto a lap already laden with notebooks and scribbled reminders and makes himself comfy where he can.

Regrets? Not one. The little teaser on my blog earlier in the week is to tempt you toward my forthcoming Etsy shop. Keep stopping by here to pick up your invitation to the star-studded launch!

So, I’ve taken my step and I’m feeling good!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Why you should always wrap up warm in winter

May this be a lesson to all those fair maidens out there who don't heed their mother's wise words. Keep your neck and chest wrapped up darlings!

This little bit of digital fun was for SoArtfulChallenge. They invite you to take this little picture below and make something of it.

Well, in the olden days vampires weren't of the dashing Edward Cullen variety I'm afraid and young girls like Mina were far more foolish. I'm sure that Bella or Buffy would have successfully sent him packing! I wonder if he stole her hat when he'd finished drinking her blood, it really is rather fetching...

Monday, 23 November 2009

Poker Face

I might play with this a little more, I can't decide. Can you tell by looking at me... Am I inscrutable? Can I hold my nerve? Or am I bluffing?

Collaged playing cards, acrylics and some other little surprises... look very carefully...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Something's coming...

It's not Santa... well not yet anyway.... but it brings gifts and sparkly things... What could it be??? I'll leave you guessing....

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Romantic fairy tales

Once upon a time in a fairy tale castle far, far away lived a radiant Princess. Her beauty was legendary in both her own and neighbouring kingdoms and many fought for her hand. She had eyes for only one but, as is the way of fairy tales, the path to true romance was not smooth. For he was not only the son of one lowly born, but belonged to the sworn enemies of her Kingdom. How could they ever be together? Love will find a way...

My romantic entry to this week's Inspirational Avenue challenge. Mixed media on canvas block - quality of image not too good as it didn't fit in the scanner. Collage, acrylics, pastel, mica, stamps and a sprinkle of romance. I had such fun with this I even made a sister painting. I nearly sold it too. A lady had it in her hands... she was captivated by the romance... she came back for a second look... she asked if I would do a commission using a picture of her daughter instead.... I gave her my details...

This week the Etsy shop goes live! If I say it here then I'll have to do it won't I?

PS: Happy Birthday little sis!

Friday, 20 November 2009

On tribes and drawing boards

"Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn't change one person at a time. It changes when networks of relationships form among people who share a common cause and vision of what's possible. This is good news for those of us intent on creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don't need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage and commitment that lead to broad-based change."~Margaret Wheatley

I came across this quote while blog-hopping and it yelled “look at me – more on this tribalism topic you are suddenly so interested in!”. I liked the sound of this Wheatley woman so I travelled hundreds of miles to a suitably-sized academic library and spent hours researching to find out more… or did I just google?

In other work she talks about the pitfalls of the ‘same old, but better’ techniques employed by many companies when planning their business strategy or even Governments with public policy. What’s missing, she suggests is room for a creative approach, something to shake up the entrenched thinking. It’s about doing the ‘unthinkable’, being brave enough to step outside our conventional ways of working.

She had me jumping up and down in agreement there. I left my last employer for this very reason. As a right-side of brain creative thinker, I feel particularly uncomfortable with the same old, same old – particularly when it is linked with death by powerpoint presentations. Where making it ‘better’ actually meant give me more slides, with more information on a slide (that the participants already know anyway). This company was just not my tribe.

My experiences at the New Brand Tribalism workshop earlier this month gave me a reminder (as if I needed it!) that it doesn’t have to be this way.

We are no longer playing by the same rules. When I began my career in the early 1990s, if I’d come across an interesting quote by Margaret Wheatley, I would have needed some serious intent to go and research about her. Today, having stumbled upon her completely by accident, sitting in the comfort of my own home, I was then reading her articles within seconds. The world shifts. Economies shift. Business shifts. Employee relationships shift.

Scientists concur that the only building block in life is relationships. How well do you understand the relationships, or tribes, in your organisation? What social networks are building behind your back? Interesting food for thought.

Leaping about a bit (well, it’s my blog, I can do what I like!), I wanted to somehow bring these thoughts around to blogging too. When I started this back in February, I had absolutely no expectation of joining any tribes. I just thought I’d write an online diary of musings. And yet here I am, regular participant in various blog art and writing challenges, making new friends across the globe, joining in debate and offering support on topics close to my heart. We’re forming new tribes all the time and I’m more than happy to be a member of many great ones (see also new blog badge for new brand tribalism on right hand banner!).

One tribe I am still desperate to join is that of ‘selling artist’. I had a stall at the my son’s school’s festive fayre last night. Half my stand smelt sweetly of hand made soap. The other looked ‘pretty with pictures’. Perhaps the customers were just a grubby lot, because the soap sold, but the art, despite admiring glances, did not. Perhaps it was not the right market. Oh well. As they say, back to the drawing board… !

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

It's only art...

... but I like it!

I was enthralled by a wonderful piece of television. No, it wasn't Jordan picking cockroaches out of her cleavage or Sam Fox balancing a large and very alive water spider on her tongue... It was culture darlings, of the kind that you can only trust the BBC to produce.

OK, I admit the 'I'm a Celebrity who needs a bit of publicity so I'll allow myself to get tortured on TV for three weeks' was rather tempting, because sometimes you do have to indulge in a little trash, just so you put things in perspective. However, 'Art on your walls' was just lovely!

Little Sue Perkins took us on a journey of nostalgia from the sitting rooms of our grandparents in the 1950s to IKEA just last weekend. This was a programme celebrating art for the masses, as interior design, escapism and joyful sentimentality. You might love looking at a sheep in formaldahyde in a gallery, but over the back of your sofa? I think not. We prefer the windswept branches of a silvered tree on a white beach or the hypnotic sunset over Ullswater.

This mass-produced art selling by the canvas-load is giving birth to a whole new breed of artist. What's so special about them? Well, they're still alive for one thing which is a novelty and making a tonne of money which is another!

The programme paints an evocative picture of our childhood visits to Nan's with a Tretchikoff exotic lady with a strange tinge to her face giving a bit of colour to the woodchip. Then it took me to student digs where our poster choice indicated our tribe. This put you very clearly into the camps of those you either had something in common with or, more likely, wanted to be a part of. Coming from small-town-in-the-Midlands-that-nobody-has-heard-of put me at a distinct disadvantage on day 1. Your choice of cheap art from Athena (or even cheaper knocked off from street traders) was a statement about YOU. Were you, like Sue a Betty Blue? Or did you favour the political statement perhaps? My romance was more traditional. I think I might still have this poster somewhere - a little tattered and frayed but I was too unwilling to part with it - a little episode of my history! Oh how I longed to be passionately kissed by a tall, dark & handsome man on the Champs D'Elysse!

So, what did I take from this programme? A reminder of my Nan's hallway. Memories of bug-eyed children looking sadly down at me from 1970s portraits. The reminder that to be cool, you really have to be French. And the lesson that what defines art is up to you. It's what gives meaning and pleasure to your soul and opens a window to another world.

Oh yes, and a new item for my 'to do' list. Create some very marketable art and sell it to The Art Group - these are the people that fill IKEA, Argos and B&Q with affordable art and make the artists a fortune in the process and guess what.... they are based about 2 miles away from my studio (aka dining room table)! Serendipity??

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Finding the key

I'm an Autumn person when it comes to colour. A professional (hello Tina!) told me so. The rich orange and green hues bring out the best in my skin colouring giving me a healthy glow. I love painting with these colours too - a peek in my acrylics box will see rather a lot of rust!

I started this picture for Inspiration Avenue's rust challenge, but felt it lacked a focal point. It's another of my collage with acrylics, pastel, ephemera and a bit of transfer experimentation. Then, I mosied* on over to check out this week's theme for the Three Muses - Keys! What a perfect fit! The keys have been added digitally to my original picture. Thank you for finding me my focal!

* I have no idea how to spell this word, but you'll get my drift I'm sure!

Monday, 16 November 2009

I am woman

I'm wearing make up today. And a skirt. I'm not going anywhere. In fact I'm sitting at home working. I was prompted by this piece for Mixed Media Monday's I am Woman challenge. It reminded me to be feminine and to embrace that feeling. So, I envelop myself in soft scents and pastel hues and remember that I am woman!

Digital collage - various pictures from magazines, some of my artwork and photography.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Cinnamon rust

Warm and deliciously spicy, the scent of cosying up in front of a crackling fire, nibbling on sweet pastries or swiss cookies crafted for Christmas. Ah cinnamon, my favourite spice and half of the theme for this week's Inspiration Avenue creative challenge.

I hope you're listening to the song. It's one of my favourites, by a little-known band called The Storys. I saw them live once in a tiny venue. I was in the second row. It was the kind of gig where the band wander out into the foyer afterwards and sign star struck 30-somethings' tickets.

And so, I tried to bring Cinnamon, she of the long, tangled hair to life... She started as a painted canvas board in rich hues, her face was transferred from the fashion pages then she was collaged and painted and dabbed and daubed, rubbed and smudged and painted some more. Her hair disappeared somewhat under a shawl, she decamped to Moorish tiled corridors in Marrakech. She really didn't scan very well, so I dabbled with her a bit in photoshop where a spotlight brings her out of the shadows. She's rather introverted.

And because I'm of the attitude, why enter one picture when you can have two... I also present a little result of my visual poetry course - aka doing fun stuff with photoshop. I gave this rusty padlock a retro feel which some lighting and colour adjustment and finally learnt how to make those lovely rounded corners!

Look what I found hiding away!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Mother realises she is not a super human

Shock! Horror! UK Mother realises she is not super-human after all!
Disturbing news from suburbia today when the mother of five-year-old came to the sudden realisation that, despite her best efforts, she was not capable of doing everything.

We caught up with the distraught woman to find out more.

"It's terrible," she trembled. "I really thought I was super human. I just kept taking on more and more. I'm setting up my own business working as a freelance internal communications professional, bringing up my son, keeping house, organising a craft sale at my son's school next week, making art, crafts, soaps and bath fizzies to sell there, cooking fresh and healthy meals, being a loving girlfriend... Something just had to give..."

The not-so-super-Mum admitted that this week she had not taken part in the Joy Diet blogging group (because she hadn't actually found the time to read the relevant chapter); she had only managed a few thousand words on her novel for NaNoWriMo and as for working her way through the Artist's Way... Well least said about that the better.

Let this act as a warning to mothers the world over. Remember. It is not possible to do everything. Just priorise and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

It's dare

Can't embed this clip, but I invite you to follow the link for a bopping soundtrack to this post.

OK, are you wriggling to the rhythm? Dancing comfortably? Then I'll begin...

Tomorrow I dare. I dare to take the BIG new step in my career. I dare to take everything I've learnt in safe full time job environments and spread it about in the freelancing world. Tomorrow my first assignment begins. I'm daring to be big, bold and adventurous. I'm daring to live my dream. I'm daring to believe...

Next week I'm daring to put my artistic efforts for sale at a craft market. I even dared to organise it!

Dare I open that Etsy shop as my next step?

I dared to make quick art by flinging paint and ink on paper. How very satisfying. Two minute art! (See, I knew there was a good reason never to pack your paints away!)

Dare you make your wishes at Wishcasting Wednesday?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Do you dream...

Do you dream in black & white, or let your coloured wings take flight?

A dream theme from the Three Muses - this could have kept me busy for a week and indeed it was a bit of a late one last night as I snipped and dipped. This mixed media piece contains... wait for it... acrylics, collage, stamping, inks, tissue, old book, a scrap of black lace... with the final edition a little omni spotlight from photoshop to really highlight the butterfly.

I am very tempted to write a long post about my weird and wonderful dreams but won't for several reasons. 1) It can be rather boring listening to other people's night time adventures; 2) You might think I'm insane; 3) I must get back to my novel!

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