Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Work in Progress - March

My top-floor studio is like an ice-box in winter and an oven in the summer, even when it's not particularly hot outside. 

But at this time of year it's just the right temperature so I try to make the most of it, working my way through my list of ideas for designs. For some reason, I seem to have created more patterns and cards with furry or four-legged friends than usual recently.

First there were lots more elephant patterns -

Then the fishes, Finnegan and Friends, still ongoing:

And then there are the hedgehogs I've been working on. 

But I'm not yet at all satisfied that I've found the best way to use them for a birthday card - and this is the ninth attempt!

(I have the feeling I need to leave them alone for a while and then,
 maybe, when I come back to them, I might see them differently.)

But I have been working on other things as well as animals.

A birthday card for a friend -

 - and a faux patchwork tote bag from Red Bubble for the same friend's birthday gift.

Here are some more tote bags I've created for my Red Bubble store -

I'm adding a few each week because I'm so impressed with the one I ordered. 

The colour is great, the fabric strong and the price is very reasonable, even including shipping to the UK. (The only downside was the length of time it took to arrive so I'll order even further in advance the next time!)

Just for a change, inspired by Pinterest, of course, I've been making a 'Fairy House' from a plastic juice bottle, a cardboard toilet roll tube and papier mache! 



Not quite finished yet but nearly there!

And last but not least, I've been working on another 'Friendship' Quotation with the illustration in hand-painted paper collage. 

Here's how I made the collage and here's the finished Illustrated Quote:

This image is A4 size, 300 dpi so please feel free to save and print it you wish

It's a quote that I have on a fridge magnet.

And my fence did once actually break during a gale - but I was still able to enjoy the flowers in my garden! I just think it's a pity that some people seem to have such highly developed 'flaw-detectors' that the first thing they notice is the 'broken fence'. 

So I plan to put this quote on some Zazzle fridge magnets, hoping it might help some friendships along!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

How to Make an Easy Floral Hand-painted Paper Collage

My eldest daughter was born in the late Sixties which I realise, with hindsight, was a time of momentous change in the world of Children's Books.

I'll freely admit that I never much enjoyed reading my children their bedtime stories but I was constantly drawn to the illustrations! My favourite was EzraJack Keats but it was only relatively recently that I discovered that his illustrations were made from handpainted paper collage.

Painted paper collage seems to be a popular medium with children's book illustrators and when I decided to have a go at making a collage myself, I found Eric Carle's demonstrations really helpful.

And it's really quite a simple process - you just cut out the shapes and glue them onto a sturdy background!

My very first attempt was really far too ambitious for a beginner and involved some drawing and the use of tracing paper to place the pieces where they were supposed to go.

But if you stick to something simple, such as imaginary flowers, you don't even need to be able to draw!

So, in case you'd like to give it a try, here are a few hints and tips -

Here's what you'll need

  • Tissue paper or any kind of fairly thin paper.
  • Paint - children's ready-mixed paints in pots, acrylics or gouache
  • Big paintbrush
  • Newspaper to protect surfaces
  • Craft Knife
  • Scissors
  • Glue - pva or any craft clue. I used wall paper paste for my first attempt and it wasn't too bad.
  • A sheet of card, probably best to start with something about A4 size
  • A cutting mat or surface that doesn't matter if it gets scratched
  • Craft tweezers (optional)

First paint your papers - 
leaving plenty of time for them to dry thoroughly before you plan to use them.

Use the thickest, widest or fattest brush you can find and don't make the paint too watery or your brush will tear the wet tissue paper. Paint a good selection of colours, including several shades of green if you are going to make a floral collage.

You don't need to worry about painting the colour evenly. In fact, you can have fun making your painted paper streaky or use a piece of sponge or scrunched up newspaper to create 'paint effects'. It all looks much more natural when it comes to creating flowers and leaves.

Once your paper is completely dry,
 start to cut some shapes - petals, leaves etc.

It will save a lot of time and make your petals and leaves more uniform if you fold the paper and cut through several thicknesses at the same time.

This is probably easier to do with scissors but you'll discover by trial and error when to use scissors and when to use a knife. At this point, you may discover that it's not wise to sneeze, or even sigh with any force, as your petals will scatter far and wide if you do!

Then all that's left to do is to stick the petals and leaves onto a firm sheet of card.

I sometimes use old coloured page dividers that I no longer need!

Here's mine, scanned.

It came out pretty dull and dreary with that yellow background but this is where Photoshop comes in so handy - an advantage that the illustrators of the Sixties and Seventies had to manage without!

And now it's all ready to have a quotation written in the big yellow-ish space at the top.

Anyone guess what the quote is going to be?
if you can't guess, don't worry - you'll find the answer 
in next week's 'Work in Progress' blog post!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Daffodils for a Beautiful Spring Colour Scheme

This clump of mixed varieties of daffodils and their soft green leaves creates a wonderfully typical Spring Colour Scheme, set off beautifully by the purplish grey of the wall in the background - 

Spring is not my favourite season of the year - I love the late summer and I even enjoy a lot of aspects of winter (apart from the bigger heating bills!) 

Years and years ago, I used to paint watercolour landscapes and they were almost always winter scenes. I love the muted browns and purples in the winter hedgerows and copses and I also like the mellow golds and browns of late summer into autumn. The spring landscape, on the other hand, seems to me too strident with its brilliant yellow/green foliage - a colour that somehow seems to irritate me. 

But I do love daffodils, especially the ones that are almost white - maybe because of the soft green of their leaves.

If I were using the colour palette above for a decorating scheme, I'd probably stick mainly to the three more subtle colours in the bottom row, with maybe some of the pale yellow and white above - and then introduce either the brilliant orange or the bright yellow as an accent.

How about you?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Doodling Hedgehogs!

I'm very fond of hedgehogs!

I think that may be something to do with the fact that one of my earliest memories is of being woken up, late one evening, and carried downstairs and outside, wrapped in a blanket, to see a hedgehog my parents had discovered in the back garden. 

That was so unlike my mother! She was normally pretty strict, having been born while Queen Victoria was still alive - just! She was most definitely all for children sleeping at the proper time, no matter what, so maybe that's why this lapse in my usually highly disciplined upbringing has stuck in my memory.

The 'hedgehog' doodle above is waiting to be tidied up and painted and turned into a greeting card. And I'm thinking maybe these jolly little fellows could even feature on a  repeating pattern for Nursery curtains or something like that.

As ever, I have plenty of doodles but never enough time to make something of them. The Six Nations (rugby) season doesn't help as weekend afternoons are usually my painting time. But these are now on my list of ideas to pursue so they will get done - eventually!

In the meantime, here's a hedgehog scenario that seemed to come out of nowhere - as do most of my doodles!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A Colour Palette for Early Spring

This lovely Aubretia grows on the outside of the big hedge that runs along the side of my house.

I didn't plant it and I don't know who did but I love the fact that it can be enjoyed by anyone passing by. (And I just hope that people will be understanding about the way it makes the pavement slightly narrower!)

Have you noticed that most spring flowers are either yellow (primroses, daffodils, cowslips . . .) or purple (violets, bluebells, aubretia . . .)? Crocuses, of course, can be either purple or yellow but I notice every year that it's the yellow ones that the birds prefer - sometimes they are torn to shreds!

I'd love to make a pattern using this colour palette but I have a thick folder full of 'patterns pending' so it might be a while before I get around to it.
But if you want to use this palette, please go ahead  - and I'd love to see what you make of it!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

February's Work in Progress -

The time-consuming health distractions that beset me in January have continued into February with a very bad back and then concerns about my blood pressure meaning that I've spent more time in my doctor's waiting room than I would have liked. Thankfully I've now been told that my blood pressure isn't actually anything to worry about and my ECG was also fine. That's a relief but it's all been time-consuming!

So I'm quite surprised at how much 'work' I've managed to complete since I my last 'Work in Progress' blogpost, a month ago!

First there were the birthday cards for two of my teenage grandsons . .


 . . . and one for their mother, my eldest daughter, somehow completed and sent off in time - 

I've also finally finished a hand-painted paper collage to illustrate a quote that's been sitting in my ToDo file for at least a couple of years!

It's probably my favourite definition of a really good friend -
but I've found they are hard to come by
so I focus on trying to BE that friend to others!

And while all the messy collage stuff was out of its box, I made a couple of little friends for Finnegan the Fish - Freddie and Fiona. 

I hope I'll have completed some Greeting Cards for the Persian New Year with Finnegan and a pattern with all three fishes by the time I'm writing next month's Work in Progress blog post.

Shortly after Christmas, Zazzle added fabrics to their wide range of products - excellent news! But at about the same time, they put in a new algorithm for searching the Market Place and that has meant a lot of extremely tedious work for us shopkeepers! (Oh for a team of minions - or at least a willing Creative Assistant!)

So I'm still working with the 'Heffalumps' that featured on my grandson's birthday card, making a pattern collection for products on Zazzle, encouraged by having won a category prize in the Zazzle Fabrics competition. *see foot of post.

This will probably become a Pillow/Cushion

I can imagine this pattern on a little boy's pyjamas,
with a different coloured background, maybe.

I had planned to spend most of my 'zazzling' time putting my existing designs and patterns on the hundreds of new products that have been introduced since I opened my Posh & Painterly store in August 2013. I've managed to do quite a lot of that, most recently working on the 'Spring Sunshine' collection - but not as much as I'd hoped!

I never thought I'd do this, but in a 'mad moment' one afternoon, I actually put a design on some chocolate brownies and shortbreads! The thing I've learned about selling online is that you never know what people are actually going to buy!

And I've also made a start on creating gifts for St Patrick's Day, featuring my 'Shamrocks' collection!

So I've been pretty busy - and even when I'm relaxing in the evenings, watching my favourite WhoDunnits, I haven't been entirely idle. I don't know whether it's a result of spending so much time on the laptop, creating products and greeting cards that don't actually exist until somebody actually orders them.

But I've had a real yearning to make things, using my hands, real things, things you can actually handle!

A friend sent me a paper bead necklace for my birthday last year and it fascinated me. Apart from anything else, it appealed to me because I already have everything needed - scrap paper, glue and cocktail sticks. 

So I made a start, rolling strips of magazine paper around cocktail sticks, moving on to newspaper, junk mail and my favourite so far, wallpaper. I'm not very good at rolling them evenly yet but I am improving and I find it actually quite therapeutic!

I just KNEW I'd find a use for that plastic insert from a box
of biscuits - NEVER throw anything away!!!

Strictly speaking, paper bead making doesn't require expensive materials or tools and that's always a plus for me, especially when it also uses up junk mail that would otherwise have to go in my recycling bag. But as you can see from the assorted shapes of the bigger 'beads' above, I'm not very happy with the evenness of my rolling so I've sent away for a paper bead roller which I'm hoping will improve my technique sufficiently to make something really wearable. What I shall do with them if I succeed, I have no idea. I already have more necklaces than I know what to do with. 

Maybe it'll be making for making's sake?

I made the mistake of searching for Craft Ideas on Pinterest - now there's an occupation to while away those long winter evenings! I'm just dying to get back to some papier mache and some salt dough craft. I'm also attracted to the idea of Shrink Plastic, mosaic and decoupage on bottles - though I'll have to make some Coq au Vin and a Boeuf Bourgignon to liberate some wine bottles first!

I've made hand-sewn patchwork quilts in the past. Here's a nice bright cot-quilt I made a while back - the design is an Islamic one:

But now I'd like to try my hand at applique . . . 

So many ideas, so little time!
Watch this space . . .

*My winning pattern in the Zazzle competition 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Pomegranate - Friend or Foe?

I haven't eaten a pomegranate since I was a small child.

And there's a reason! Born during WW2 and growing up during 'rationing', I can vaguely remember that imported fruits weren't always available. But somehow pomegranates found their way into my diet and I loved them, not so much for their taste as for their novelty value. Unlike other fruits, it's the seeds that we eat and it was that peculiar difference that made them so attractive to me.

But then, a week before my eighth birthday, I was rushed to hospital with a burst appendix and I found myself on the 'critical list' for a week. I can't remember who it was, but someone told me afterwards that it was eating pomegranate seeds that caused the emergency - and I took this to heart and have avoided them ever since.

But I'm sure that the pomegrate seeds weren't to blame and, reading about the potential health benefits of this rather unusual fruit, I'm tempted to give them a try again while they're still in season.

As fruit, I don't think they look particularly tempting. But their colours caught my eye in the market, ranging from cream to orange and pink to crimson, especially vivid against the bright blue of their packaging -  

I wonder how they'll taste!