Monday, 29 August 2011

The Muse in disguise

It's funny, I've written so many posts about my Muse over the years, yet as soon as I find a writing prompt to do so, she deserts me. I can hear her now, laughing hysterically in the background, at my foolish belief that she'd bend to my will. Fickle creature. I have a cunning plan though... I will leave this post for a while and sneak back when she is least expecting...

You see the Muse might be her own woman, but she does have a tendency to turn up while you are creating. She's nosy. Once you've got her in your thrall then she just can't help giving you a little idea or inspiring thought here and there. Suddenly from nowhere, the word feather will appear and you'll realise it's just what you needed to finish your piece.

The Muse loves mermaids. Perhaps that's where she goes when sneaks off - to swim with sirens? This mermaid wanted to go to the Reef Masked Ball. It's a sumptous affair with everyone having a whale of a time proudly displaying their coral and pearl jewels. Melissa wanted to be a little different so had a word with Freddy the Flying Fish (he's well known to be able to procure anything and he owed Melissa a favour after she got him out of trouble with the loan shark).

Melissa's mask has feathers thanks to Freddy (probably best not to ask where he got them from... although have you seen that parrot without a tail?

Shh.... the Muse is back and she's in a playful mood...

We made this together but can't quite decide if we prefer the original (immediately above) or the one with a little PhotoShopped texture (up top). Freddy says he likes the first one, but he would as he supplied the texture.

It's disguise theme at Illustration Friday this week. We're sneaking in under cover...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The child within

I've made a series of postcard-size rectangles splattered with paint, pattern and stamping. I'm taking one in turn and turning them into something new based on what calls to me. This one had one red blob that just said 'rosy cheek'.

I don't often feel very grown up - but who wants to eh? I like to play. When we go to the park I'll be one of the few adults clambering up the climbing frame or discovering that swings now make me feel sick... (most annoying!).

We all know I love to play to paint of course. Sometimes the best course of action is to approach the exercise with the mind of a very young child and just have fun with the substance itself, but other times the play becomes an intense exercise with a very precise end goal in sight.

This one was somewhere in between the two!

A little piece for Sunday Sketches.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Tuscan dreaming

Last time I dreamt I went to Tuscany again...

Well actually I didn't, but why let the truth get in the way of a great opening line?

I was doing a little online research this morning, gazing at image after image of sunflowers in anticipation of painting one for the IA challenge. But then I had the idea of combining the sunshine of both flower and scene for total immersion in my subject matter. I rather like it!

I'm still plotting my Tuscan holiday though...


Earlier this Summer I posted 5 (+1)* identical postcards of my art to Kat Sloma so that she could send them out across the world on adventures to meet new people. Over 170 other artists across 13 countries performed the same postal ritual.

The bags of global postal workers suddenly got heavier and hands were clapped in joy as bright colour sat atop the drear of the bills.

Now we are gathering to share the fruits of our doormats and since this was an exercise of Art Liberation, I decided that rather than just post scans of what I'd been sent, I would use them to create more art. Both sides of postcards were scanned and overlaid in PhotoShop to make more pretty pictures.

We're blog-hopping this weekend to share our haul. I'll be interested to see where my picture of Flavia is now!

I didn't have a link to respond to everyone, so let me use this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU - especially to Kat whose hard work and dedication made it all happen.
Based on Kat's postcard

 Based on Susie's postcard

Based on Hilary's postcard

Based on Lara Jones' postcard

Based on Claudia's postcard

Based on Martha Brown's postcard

* one for Kat too of course!

Friday, 26 August 2011

What? Eh?

Blog posts have been a bit lean in these 'ere parts this week, I haven't even hopped around my usual online haunts much either. One of those weeks where I spent so much time glued to the PC screen in the day job that  in the evenings I became allergic to computer screens and my time was better spent lying on the sofa watching TV.

So, little artistic output to report on either. Last night I was all set to create something amazing for Paint Party Friday, but inspiration failed to arrive until I came up with this piece above.

The question I pose to you today though is:

a) Was this piece the result of carefully considered study of red poppies viewed against an azure skyline while lying on my back in the garden...? Or...
b) Childish play splatting paint between the pages of my sketchbook and strategically squirting with water... Or...
c) One of those ink blot tests that require you to tell your therapist what you see and trying not to answer with the words of a lunatic?
d) None of the above?

Answers scribbled on a banana skin and tied to the foot of a homing monkey...

The good news is - IT'S FRIDAY!! And it's a BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND! (It's also raining, but we'll gloss over that part).

If you are from foreign fields and find the term 'bank holiday' bemusing, allow me to explain...

Periodically throughout the year the Bank of England pays for all citizens to go on holiday. Special coaches and trains transport the population to the Seaside where they are met by representatives from this great financial instituion and given free fish n chips served wrapped in old £50 notes and bags of shiny pennies to play in the slot machines on the pier.

If you're very lucky, you might find yourself at the same resort as the Chief Cashier whose signature appears on all bank notes. You can watch him signing piles of cash - he may even let you have a go!

There's always plenty of entertainment - the ever-popular 'Guess the number of gold bars in the vault' and 'The best note forgery competition' to name but two...

A great tradition!

PS: Yes, I am in a VERY strange mood today!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Lisa... a work in progress

I often forget to record a work in progress but did actually do so with this. I was responding to the Willowing challenge - paint a portrait using only shades of black, white, flesh, titanium buff and a smidge of pink.

I began by brayering the colours onto the paper to see what emerged - just like Lisa as a kid - trying a bit of this with a blank canvas waiting to be filled.

Then I sketched out the face in charcoal before fixing it, and added some strategically-placed as well as totally random paint. A further metaphor in my own creation I believe - the way we often shape our destiny by making decisions that impact us for life.

Funny how I didn't notice until I thought I was finished that one eye was way bigger than the other - just like me, a bit wonky!

I am feeling full of reflection this morning. I dreamt again about going back to University - usually the same theme, that of not being prepared for final exams. I did OK at Uni, not brilliant, just average (I did have rather a good time though!!). What this dream really means I think is that I certainly didn't get the most from the academic experience. I should have studied Art in some shape or form. It wasn't until my late 30s that I finally discovered my passion, the element that was missing. I may never be a great artist, but creativity is in my blood.

It's interesting that it found its way out wherever it could - even when working for a financial institution or an IT conglomerate my creativity was what made my name. Words and Pictures. Words from Pictures. Pictures from Words.

I am still a work in progress, a life drawing - but hopefully with a lot more direction than 20 years ago.

Posting for Sunday Sketches and Willowing.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Ice Queen

She's trapped in icy kingdom but Queen of all she surveys. The Ice Queen rules the frozen wastes of the North striking fear into her chilled subjects. She is sharp and cold, but it wasn't always like this. Trapped inside the icy exterior somewhere lies the remnants of a warm heart, broken and snapped in two. One half remains in the South with the man who foolishly broke it...

Poor Queen. She does look sad doesn't she? Like the painting though, she has many layers. I wonder what it would take to crack that icy exterior?

Back at work this week (and suffering with a cold), I haven't had much time to exercise the paintbrushes so last night felt great to create again. I'm hosting the challenge at Inspiration Avenue - an Icy theme. Is she cold enough for you?

It's Friday -- yay! That means Paint Party Friday too. I'm off over there now to browse the galleries and warm up a little!

Mixed media portrait. Layers of brayered paint, stamping, charcoal, acrylics, pencil and more stamping - I rather loved the frosty filigree that made up her dress.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Guest posting

You can find me today over or should I say at The Bottom of the Ironing basket where I am helping out the lovely Simone on her beautifully dreamy blog with a guest post.

Simone is sunning herself on the beach and leaving her blog in the care of a range of lovely bloggers. I'm thrilled to be one of those and hope I do her justice. Do pop over and have a read.

A clue to the subject matter is given in the image above... Whatever you do, don't go there hungry or I won't be responsible for the consequences!

I am of course happy to help anyone else out with guest posts if they so desire - just feel free to get in touch!

Sunday, 14 August 2011


It's funny the way the Muse pulls you sometimes. I had in mind a sunkissed maiden, but a visit to an exhibition by Chris Prout and my Mum suggesting I try more landscapes, had me thinking of playing with the sun-dappled hills of Tuscany landscape for IA's 'sunkissed' challenge this week. I searched through photographs and paintings looking for inspiration. I even made a few sketches, but nothing spoke to me. Yet I persisted. I really wanted to paint something soaked in sunshine.

In desperation, I picked up an older unfinished painting and began to introduce light - but she wasn't having any of it and became Amy Winehouse instead (you can see her at Friday's post). I splodged papers with bright colours and let them dry. Layered up some more. "A flower!" thought I. So I painted one atop of my sunshine shades in a thick, rich red, but it seemed most uncomfortable on the page so I splatted the lush colour onto a sketchbook page and resurveyed the remnants...

I slept on it... I painted a white wash over the top... then washed it off... Eventually I thought I'd just sketch a face over the top in charcoal for Sunday Sketches. Then, finally, this sun-kissed Asian Princess emerged. But she wasn't going to be happy just being a humble charcoal sketch. She wanted jewels and light, texture, fabric and richness. She asked and so she received...

Then I had to write about her. Normally the words just flow, but once again I was struggling with where to begin. Words flowed through the keyboard OK, but they just didn't reflect her creation. Then, when it was way past bedtime and the computer was asleep, I turned at last to good old paper and pen to make the magic flow.

Strange how so much effort went into one piece. I knew it (or indeed 'she') was in there. I just didn't pay attention to intuition. 'She' was calling me all week. I should have listened!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Slowly but surely

In a week where I've thrown a great deal away, I'm very pleased that I kept this painting. It was abandoned in disgust a few weeks ago when, after several attempts, the face would just not form. The paper buckled under the weight of layered collage and acrylic. I grew angry and made half-hearted attempts to put things right... but we all know that never 'wins fair maiden'.

Then, despite anger dissipating, I returned at her with a knife - the art kind and did away with attempted realism to take a more abstract approach. The knife loved all the texture and layer that was already there and a different woman began to emerge, influenced in part by Amy Winehouse - wild, tragic, lost.

I like this direction. I'm not sure if it's finished - or indeed any good but I like its edgy and raw quality and it's certainly an improvement on what was there before. What do you think readers? I'm submitting her to Paint Party Friday for some critique.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Community spirit

This week I was alternately ashamed and proud to be English as the riots tore through our town centres wrecking lives. Then, when I saw the communities pulling together - standing strong and saying "enough", and arriving in their hundreds with brooms and bin bags to help clear up, it got me in the gut.

It doesn't take much to pull together to achieve something special and nor does it have to be a monumental undertaking or achievement. Today my son and I went to the park. We ventured into the wooded area to see if the old 'den' was still there. Inevitably, since our last visit, someone had destroyed it. A pile of logs and sticks were all that remained.

We resolved to rebuild. A couple of little kids joined us. I taught them the rudiments of building a structure out of wood, trees and logs, with a quick lecture on health & safety on the side (I've watched a lot of Ray Mears!). My son said he'd get help and promptly rounded up every kid in the park. Before I knew it I had at least fifteen kids of all ages forming a construction crew being happily bossed about by my offspring.

One team went off for supplies and soon more building material was dragged through the trees - strong timbers for the main structure, dried brush for roofing and lots of stick for building the walls. Heavy logs formed seats. More children joined the crew. Occasionally a curious parent checked in too.

We pulled together. We organised. We rebuilt. We're made from stern stuff us Brits. Today a bunch of kids brought together by a common cause reminded me of that fact.

Image is of the actual den - a little PhotoShop round the edges helps draw the eye into the focal point.  Cool eh? I don't think I'd want to spend the night there, or indeed shelter from a storm, but if you've got a healthy dose of childhood imagination it can be anything you want.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Strange goings on...

I think I may have become possessed by some form of crazy decluttering sprite, for the urge to cleanse and organise is oozing from every pore. This Goddess Leonie and her tribe have cast a spell on me... Help!

Do you know that last night I actually sorted through a whole heap of CDs and DVDs - the kind you write yourself - to see what was on them. They were from the 'must sort these through one day' pile. I even found some long lost items hiding on them - including an old iTunes backup! Now, I'm sure you are thinking, "why on earth didn't you write down what was on them when you made them?". I asked myself that same question many a time. I think the same part of brain was operating as when I hid my online banking password - or worse... the time I wrote a secret code which I couldn't remember how to solve...

As we all know, getting access to one's own money online (or otherwise) can often be a tortuous affair. This particular bank required that I turn up in the branch with ID - even though over the telephone I could tell them the entire history of my bank account back to neolithic times. Still, security is important (I've been hacked twice before!). Only trouble is, they've pretty much done away with the branch and replaced it with machines that suck and spit cash. Heaven forbid that you actually might wish to talk to someone. "There's a bit of a wait" I was told... "about half an hour".... Seriously?

Then, the whole logging back in part took further precious moments of my creative time (or decluttering as it has become).... "pick a memorable word", "mother's inside leg measurement", "town of birth of your great auntie's cousin's grandmother's neighbour". It's enough to send a person doolally. I diligently recorded all of my secret answers on a scrap of paper. Now, if I could only remember where that was...

On a brighter note. Last night, I did manage to restore about 90% of my iTunes database. It took around four hours of pain and monotony, but I got there. The remaining 10% of tracks presumably couldn't remember their "first pet's date of birth" and have been banished from virtual reality.

PS: I'm sure that by now you're wondering the significance of this charming shot of The Three Degrees. Well, I typed 'decluttering' in google image search and this is what came up, so why not?

Monday, 8 August 2011

Summer of Colour - end of term report

We've been celebrating colour all summer long over at Kristin's Twinkle Twinkle blog. She has been the most gracious host and showered gifts galore as well as shared her talents and provided an outlet to share ours.

We've made new friends and explored our paint pots, colouring our palettes with rainbow splashes and swirls. And now, like all good things, our journey is at an end. Mine luckily appears to be at the end of a rainbow where I found a pot of gold guarded by a garulous leprachaun.

So now, we meet one last time to showcase our work and thank Kristin. You may spot a bit of theme with mine. I didn't start off intending to just draw girl's faces but they were queuing up to be committed to paper so who was I to argue? I experimented with materials, textures and mediums.

I thought I'd finish with the flourish above. Groovy hair eh? I could have done with those locks when I went to an Austin Powers themed party last week. I had to make do with a Farrah Fawcett wig instead.... (probably best that I don't share those pictures... they were a bit scary what with the hot pants and all....)

And remember readers... Somewhere over the rainbow...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Art strikes back

I am sad and sulky. When I upgraded my pc somehow my iTunes didn't copy across properly and half the songs are missing - sometimes half an album... It's really odd. They are still on the iPod though,  however I can't update my iPod without losing them. Anyone know some good (preferably free) software that lets you rip everything over?  I admit this happened months ago, but this weekend (as part of my getting organised plan), I resolved to fix the issue once and for all, and we reconnected the old pc to attempt once again to get the music over. It spent 2 hours copying empty folders. You have no idea how frustrated I am. The music is THERE on the old pc. I can hear it! Why won't it copy over?

That aside, here's a sketch I did while watching The Empire Strikes Back with my son. Even though he had never seen the movie he knew what was going to happen next from playing the lego game on the Wii. Funny!!

I know I mentioned an art ban earlier this week, while I declutter and organise myself. However, surely a little pencil sketch is allowed... What do you think??? And the odd digital piece....??? I mean I can't totally abandon the creative urge. This doll-like face with big blue eyes was begging to take form in my sketchbook.

For Sunday Sketches. Pop on over to Sophia's pad and see what everyone else has been creating in their sketchbooks!

Friday, 5 August 2011

She couldn't see the wood for the trees...

Following on from Tuesday's 'to do list' post, I thought I would update you on progress towards creating the home haven. Today I took a box to the charity shop. It was just an empty box, but I felt like I was heading in the right direction. OK, seriously, there were a few bits in there.
I have signed up with Goddess Leonie's circle of love and support. I am part of a tribe of women reclaiming their homes from clutter or just plain dreariness. We are building the oasis of calm and creativity that suits our unique selves. For some this may be minimalist chic. I would hate that. I like to be surrounded by an element of clutter - but one that is contained within boundaries and not flying randomly around the house getting wrapped around my ankles.

I love the high of being organised. I'm just not very good at getting there.

I have found that my pinterest distraction has actually come in very handy. I am creating dreamboards of my ideal home on there. I am dreaming of floating chiffon encasing the softest of beds. Sumptuous velvets and textures in rich plums and golds for my living area and white creating space to make room for all the colour ready to pour forth. I have something to focus on - a goal and this truly helps.

Instead of walking around the house despairing and failing to start due to lack of destination, I think I finally know where I want to go. Last night I even had a little attempt to declutter my finances. I am looking for the wood in among the trees and it is taking shape. The little vines and roots that attempt to slow me down are hacked into submission. I will find the mighty oak and make it mine.

Somewhat appropriately, the creative theme at Inspiration Avenue this week is a perfect match, so I couldn't resist a little PhotoShop tinkering before I return to sorting through the piles of paperwork and planning Boho chic interior design.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Keeping control of the To Do list

I've been great today. I made a huge list to carry me over the next few weeks. It's all about getting organised. I banned art  (my universal distraction) from the equation until I had accomplished a good sized chunk from the mountain of tasks.

The universe was with me - for did not she dictate to my Muse that she must go on vacation for a few days? The poor Muse was distraught (she had some serious plans for me this evening that involved getting glued to a great deal of paper and ruining my nicely varnished fingernails with acrylic paint). In fact, the Muse was so cross that as she left, she slammed the kitchen door... which dislodged a picture from balancing on a shelf ... which fell onto a pile of paperwork underneath.... which unsteadied the filing trays underneath... which caused the whole lot to come crashing down over the floor.

The Muse legged it, while the Universe looked on and smiled (this chaos being her intention all along). Now, I could have just shoved it all back from whence it came, but no dear readers, I did not. I removed it to the lounge and spread it across the floor and began to SORT THROUGH IT... Yes, I know that might seem strange for those that know me, but this house is beginning to resemble that chubby kid from Willy Wonka who eats too much and blows up into a big balloon. I fear one false move and the fragile skin will burst and where will we be then? Bedlam I suspect.

And so, things began well, but I'm sure you've guessed. Yes, they stalled. The West wind began to blow and up flew the 'to do' list and darted out the window. I chased it down the garden path, but that pesky breeze wanted to play. Last I saw it was headed in the direction of the coast - probably fancies a paddle.

And so:
I forgot all about the list
I got bored sorting through mountains of paper.
I had paid work waiting for me (on a more tightly controlled list kept trapped inside a hard drive)
The Muse only leaves when you don't want her to
I got distracted by my favourite art board on Pinterest
I thought I might just write a quick blog post...

But help is in the air. Goddess Leonie is providing an e-course in decluttering and getting all zen. I felt it might be worth the investment and hope there will be other sufferers like me there to hold my hand. We'll see.... The Goddess haven beckons...

Monday, 1 August 2011

Tangerine dream

When I was young, my Grandmother would always make us mandarin oranges in jelly for dessert. This has no relevance whatsoever to this artwork, but the sweet taste and soft texture began melting in mouth and penetrating my subconscious right through to my fingertips, so there we have it.

Is this girl dreaming in tangerine? For some reason I feel she is in the South of France in a garden by a wall of honeyed stone covered in waves of soft greenery and vine. She sits at an ancient iron table and nurses a glass of wine while soaking up the last of the sunshine as it readies itself to hide away for another day. The gentle chords from a distant guitar remind her of a lost love...

She is a digital amalgamation of two of my paintings - following my girl theme for Summer of Colour where I have tried to do something a little different with every outing. It hasn't been easy and I got rather cross and cranky this week. Then, when all seemed set for disaster, what happens? I end up with two!

I posted this one yesterday for Sunday Sketches, but the colour orange was clearly still on my mind. I rather like her hair! You can read the story about her here.

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