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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Lunch and Cows

Hi Everyone
Bit late today - weather is up and down, at the moment the sky is clear and blue. Much warmer than lately but very windy, so it feels colder.

Today, it's Richards birthday and we have celebrated by having a lovely lunch at a place called Vallum Farm. It was very nice - wonderful food and great atmosphere, relaxed but special. The whole place is very nicely presented. Underneath the restaurant there is a deli, full of lovely stuff. - cheese and marvellous cakes etc.
We had planned to visit a gallery too, linked to Vallum - the owners are related. In the end, the gallery was closed but I thought I would share a piece of work which introduced us to the work of the artist. Here it is. We will go another time. The artist is called Sue Moffitt. I love this picture, especially when it's huge. This is just a card size copy.

had a lovely time. Earlier we had a 5k run and Im feeling slightly tired but very relaxed. Pity there's dinned to cook and scout to deliver. Mustn't grumble, it's not even my birthday !

As I mentioned yesterday, the end of Jan. is looming. My Jan painting is almost there. I've decided to add some extra 'distress' lines and a bit more light in the centre. I will do that and leave for a while. On Feb 1st. a new piece will start. This is to make sure I'm not rushing the painting, simply to fit a deadline. I think the Jan painting is beginning to 'speak to me' - that's what Im after, in terms of my own development. I will show the painting to date, tomorrow ie the last day of the month.

Before I go, I'm just showing the card and cake for Richards birthday. It turned out OK. I'll be talking a bit more about the die cut items I used on Friday.

Bye for today.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Resistance and solutions

Hi Everyone
We have a weather change today - most of the snow is going/gone and its much milder. The clouds are racing across the sky - probably means rain !

I've hit a 'resistance' episode. My Jan painting is still waiting and Im a bit stuck ! I like my progress so far and feel I want texture and a 'cloudy' 'dream-like' feel. My fear is that I will loose the detail - obviously, I will - that's what my 'cloudy' idea is. However, I want to be selective about which bits go. I've been thinking about it for a few days and pondering. To 'feed' my dilemma , I started reading. I've also been reading the plaster book (from yesterday - look for details in Mon blog) - huge inspiration ! I see the end result in my head. I guess that's a start. I need to be brave and just do it.

Last night, I spent some more time on the Zentangle project. It's six weeks long so I feel relaxed about it. On the surface, Zentangle is very simple but as I study the course book, I realise there is lots to 'master'. Take a peek at lesson 2 sketches

I'm enjoying doing this course and know it will improve my creative skills.

Some thing I saw earlier, got me very excited Here makes me inspired to make one as son as possible

My mind is racing - trying to think if I have comparable fabric and other bits to do justice to the item. The project is part of a course unfortunately it's in USA so not likely for me to get there. I love the combination and the luxury of it.

I think Im ready, Ive got the paints out and it's time to get going. Bye for today.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Zentangle and 'plaster art'.

Hi Everyone
Today, the snow is definitely going and I think it's about to rain ! There is a strange sunlight and it feels cold. This is my weather shot.

I'm feeling my usual stressed Mon. with a huge list developing ! We have a birthday on Wed and I still need to wrap things that Ive had for a week or two. Can't think why Im always late to wrap ? However, will make it top of the list as my first job.

On more interesting matters, Ive yet another new book. It's this book. It's been on order a few weeks and its great. I love the idea and process and am hoping it will add to my regular creative development. For those who do not know about Zentangle. It's essentially a process of creating little 'art tiles' - this is my description rather than the one in the book.

The book gives a list of things which should be done in order to achieve each tile and as you can see from the cover, the book is a 6 week course in development the skills for Zentangle.

The list details the eleven steps and the book provides mini lessons. Here is my first lesson sketch.

It's wonderful and it's about concentrating and relaxing and using specific rather luxurious pens and paper. Just my sort of thing. At the moment, I'm having to adapt my current pens and paper but I've just ordered the suggested stuff and am into why these specific materials/tools are necessary. I will follow the lessons and then, I can let go and do my own thing with Zentangles. Am quite excited about the possibilities ! Watch this space.
My other new thing is the plaster thing. Here is a reminder of the artists work Stephanie Lee.

The book has also arrived. I've ordered materials and again, I'm so looking forward to trying these things out. It's all about learning and developing my own work. Generally, I'm so motivated by acquiring these new skills.
Back to the here and now, I'm still working on my Jan painting. Time running out ! I'm determined not to be stressed about this. But, I also want to be disciplined - so again, lets see how I cope !

Must go, I need to bake a birthday cake.

Bye for today.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Die Cut Friday #1

Hi Everyone
Not sure how the weather will turn out today ? Lots of forecasts about loads of snow around lunchtime. The snow in the garden seems to be going ! Here are a few photos to get the picture.

Today, is my first 'Die Cut Friday'. I think this is the name (for now) for these little sessions. I've chosen a simple idea which could apply to many situations for this first session.
My example is a gift pocket. This pocket is destined as a gift wrap item for an Aunt. See the finished item. Regular readers will know the gift pocket plan. Look back to Christmas prep blogs for the details.

Ive taken a few photos of the process and will highlight the details which make this particular design unique.
I've been in the bin again for some upcycled materials. I'm using left over stuff for almost all the materials. Including a ribbon which came from Christmas packaging.
The main die focus today is called an embossing folder. This one is by a company called Cuttlebug. It measures about 15x15cm, this gives a finished pocket size of approximately 15x7cm.

I'm also using a Sizzix thick heart die as a double tag for the pocket.

The pocket paper is placed in the embossing folder and put through the Big Shot.

When is comes out the paper is a little too long,I've trimmed it to give a glueing seam. My paper is A5 size before trimming

I've glued the seam and end up with a tube.

I've also cut two sets of hearts. Thick card and thin patterned paper. I like to use very thick card for these tags, the finished tags have a real quality feel and present a gift beautifully because of the 'thickness'. I cut both card and paper at once to give a good 'line' for glueing. I sometimes glue first but occasionally the papers stretch and give a distorted finish line.

I've used a clikit tool to make holes in the tags. I often use this little tool, it makes light work of making the hole in the very thick card. I also use the clikit to make the holes in the end of the pocket for the ribbon. The tags will be tied onto the purple ribbon with some embroidery thread in a co ordinating colour.

I, then, inked the edges of the hearts. I like the finish it gives to the edges. The detail is so important to give a quality finish and as result provide a lovely gift. I use this Cut-n-Dry stuff to ink, it saves inks pads and gives a little more control to the inking.

While inking the edge I overdid the distressed edge. I quite like this almost water damaged look but I know my aunt would not. So, I repaired the problem by cutting another thin paper heart and sticking on top of the 'damaged' tag.

I use a non stick craft sheet for inking - it saves making a mess on your working surface and can be cleaned quickly. Tim Holtz has some great you tube videos about using these tools. Take a look , so inspiring.

The last photo shows how I could emphasise the embossed images on my paper using the inking method Ive used for the tags. This is a very useful technique for lots of projects. In my example, Ive chosen not to ink the embossing. I like the subtle embossing finish and I know my Aunt will. Often, the design and finish should be dictated by the recipient. I find that if I have a person in mind my ideas for design and detail just happen.

Hope you enjoyed the first episode of Die Cut Friday.

Have a great weekend. Bye for now.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Plaster Inspired !

Hi Everyone
Weather is improving, slightly. It's still like the Arctic Circle outside my window but I'm sure the rest of my immediate area is OK. It's very cold.

I'm in 'a fog' today. I have so many ideas of what I want to do and am struggling to get going. My major problem is what to do first rather than anything. My solution is to read a bit of Creative Thursday by Marisa Anne. She puts all my thoughts into her book and I can read them back to myself. Having read a section, I think I can go on and make a list of priorities for the day.
I need to produce a birthday card and wrap gifts. I also need to food shop (big groan here). I also need to clean some very dirty rucksacks - they have been patiently waiting to be cleaned for about 2 weeks. I need to do them in order to get out of the back door (now snow is retreating). In theory, other than my painting - that's it (other than general daily things like cooking and washing clothes). What a 'doddle' !

My January painting has moved on slightly.

I've also decided to make a few prints from each monthly painting, altering the image in some way. Here is an example of what I mean, not necessarily using the whole painting as with this example.

Then apply more paint etc on the reworked picture. However, I'm racing ahead. I need to get finished first.

Moving on, while browsing yesterday, I came across this fantastic piece of inspiration from a
Blog I love the ideas of Stephanie Lee. She runs lots of classes in the States and online. However, there is a book. Looks great. I need it.

This is an example of her work

I love this sort of thing ie the idea of using plaster as a medium. I do have some materials described as acrylic plaster products. I'm immediately inspired to have a go. I think the birthday card maybe a good target for this. I will let you know how it goes.
Tomorrow, I will start the inspirational Friday Die Cut session. I need a new name for this. Will keep thinking.

Have a good day, bye for now.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Beading Insects etc.

Hi Everyone
Not sure about the weather today - it looks as if things are improving ie the snow is over and possibly even melting ? However, it's very cold and the sky looks full of snow again ! Radio reports say driving is 'tricky' - I'm not keen to go out !

My efforts yesterday where very poor - I did manage 'a go'at the beaded insect (first mentioned a few days ago) - I started with a butterfly wing and pulled it out - I didn't like the colour pattern, so made up my own. Then, I didn't like the size or the shape. In the end, I made my own and completely ignored the instructions from my book. This is OK as Im now confident on the technique and will use the pattern book for ideas.

I can improve on the technique - it's OK for now as it is. My next move is to complete the insect. I think it's going to be something other than a butterfly - not sure what ? Maybe a dragonfly type shape would suit ? I will see how it goes.

Very exciting, yet another book arrived for ME today, its another part of my 'never ending' Christmas present - I saw this book in a review and thought it would help my drawing/painting skills - it's a reference book for me and very interesting on a 'first look'. '100 Girls On Cheap Paper' by Tina Berning. I have for a long time been keen to develop a technique for painting a face. I hope this book will help me.

Every page has a different image of a 'girl'.Some pages are faces but there are lots of different style and poses of girls bodies too. I especially like the 'model like' images. I thought I would start with this image, it's called 'Napoli'. I will share my progress - maybe !

So little progress on my painting 'Just Walking' - not worth a photo ! Must do better !!!!

Lastly, to the 'die cuts'. I think after this little note, I will have covered the basics of 'die cutting FROM SCRATCH style' and can then move onto being creative about the actual die cuts. I've decided to try and bring a few examples of how I can develop use of die cuts in my work. I will share my creative experiments in the blog each week. I hope this will stretch me and develop some inspiration for future works. Perhaps, I can choose a day as 'The Die Cut Chronicles Day' - my initial thinking is for Friday.Will review this over the day. I think the last thing Im referring to is a piece of equipment called a Multipurpose Platform. As you can see, the platform allows the Big Shot to use a wide variety of dies with various layers of the platform (the platform is like a book with 3 pages of different thickness on a hinge). The cutting pad (the clear plastic bits that 'sandwich' the dies) is still used with all layers. The different layers act as 'mega shims'. I talked about this earlier in the die cuts episodes.

With the platform, there is no need to use the adapter ( talked about this yesterday ). The platform has a detailed explanation of how to organise the layers but its very simple with a little bit of experience.
I hope this brief look at die cutting over the last week or so will persuade everyone to give die cutting a go. Many brands have electrical versions of the cutting machines but I think, for me, I will only ever use a limited number of individual die cut shapes. I tend to use generic shapes or letters for further creative development as part of a piece. Having just checked on Ebay, a second hand Big Shot machine can be bought for approx. £50-£70 and a Side Kick approx. £16-£20. Dies are so varied in price that its impossible to give a simple figure. I often shop at an online shop called CuttingEdge Crafts. Excellent service and free p&p ( this always attracts me). They, in my experience, offer a great price on all their stuff. Take a look.

That's it for today. Bye for now.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Die Talk and other things

Hi Everyone
Another very snowy day here. We have spent most of the morning shovelling to get Richard off to work. One school closed, the other open so am on 'tender hooks' wondering if we can expect another closure. It's been snowing all morning- lightly but persistently. I'm OK indoors - so no complaints.

Work has not been great, I've done a little painting and will get going this afternoon.

The insects are underway with their colours and the painting has some extra colour too.
Here are a couple of photos showing the colours and my progress - much more to go !

The Die Talk today is about different types/brands of dies. I've already mentioned the need for different size machines to cope with thin or thick Sizzix dies. However, if you wanted simply to have one machine, the Big Shot is the one for me. It can cope with all the different thickness and brands of dies I have tried. More about that in a later episode.
For this episode,I thought it would be useful to show a range of dies from my collection Most of which can be used with the smaller Side Kick, Sizzix machine.

The first picture shows a couple of dies Ive already talked about ( go back a few blogs for details). Most dies on the board are Sizzix brand along with a few Quickcutz and a couple of Provo Craft. I've also included something called a Sizzix Adapter, this allows very thins dies to be used in the standard Side Kick machine.

Yesterday, I highlighted the Quickcutz cutter which is designed for the very thin dies. With the addition of the little black piece of plastic, I can effectively use the thin dies in my Sidekick. As you see in the photo, just place the thin die on the adapter and sandwich as usual (in order to cut). I've particularly chosen this die as it shows a 2 piece die rather than the single shape. Many of my Quickcutz dies are at least 2 pieces and some more.

The 'frame' die is an interesting one - you can use it to show something like words or numbers or anything else through the frame shape - this means it can be positioned inside the die. It's often useful for little embellishments eg for cards or labels etc. There are different kinds of frame dies. I will go into more of the options in a later episode.

The next die is another useful one. It's lots of 'off' squares cut inside each other. They can look great linked or used as single frames. This one struggles in a Sidekick as its a bit wide. I would use it with the BigShot.

The small die, is another Provo Craft die. Very useful for small embellishments. I love the paisley shapes and often weave the shapes into my paintings.

The last 2 dies are Sizzix and I'm showing them because they show a sample variety of thin dies. There are thousands of dies available. Some are retired and can be bought second hand and many more are being designed by an ever increasing brand list all the time.

The green die is an example of an alphabet and the red is a buttons die.

The alphabet letters are quite small and give upper and lower case. This alphabet is called The Ginchiest. It's highly stylised but I do use it often. There are 12 dies in this alphabet collection. Note the comparison with the single long die holding an alphabet collection.
The buttons is another well used die from my collection. I've cut lots of fabric with this one. Felt is OK too. I tend the put a layer of thin paper next to the cutting edge if I'm cutting fabric. It needs to be said that some fabrics do not work at all, you would just need to give it a go on a sample.

The pirate die is simply that, ie a picture of a pirate. Its very thin so needs the adapter.

This die is great for kids stuff. Each element of the die can be separated effectively so the bones and the hat part can be cut in different papers or colours to make the finished die cut really special.

I will be showing how I use some of the dies in future episodes.I have quite a few dies so there are many months of material available !!!! Please ask any questions along the way.

That's it for today.