Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Visits and Vexations - June Work in Progress

Planting them in November has really paid off -
not only flowering much earlier but longer stems as well!

June is usually one of my favourite months. 

View from my back bedroom window!

It's the time when my garden is at its best with climbing roses, lavender, mock orange, sweet peas and honeysuckle all giving off heady fragrances! And usually the summer is just beginning so it's not too swelteringly hot yet, just how I like it.

But of course, one of the best things for me is that my birthday is in June and that means being in touch with friends and family and, the highlight, my son coming down from York for a few days.

As well as helping me with some chores in the garden that would have been practically impossible for me to do by myself - yes, the Dog Rose hung down over the road at the front again, like a floral curtain! - when that was all tidied up, we went out for our usual walk. For once we remembered to pack a picnic lunch and we ate it in a beautiful, quiet spot in the Linda Vista gardens:

Wonderful Californian Poppies in Linda Vista Gardens

Then we set off across Castle Meadows, right up the lane that passes under the Heads of the Valleys road and comes out in Llanfoist, across the road that leads up to the Big Pit, and onwards and upwards to the Brecon and Monmouth Canal at Llanfoist Wharf! 

I was surprised I was able to walk that far because of the problem I've been having with nerve pain in one of my legs. But we had bought some Nordic Walking Poles as we came through town, as recommended by the physio who's been treating my back - and so on we went, up the steep, slippery, rocky path up through the wood on the side of the Blorenge!

The path ran alongside this little stream
so you can see that it was fairly steep!

This year I've been particularly lucky - my younger daughter has been over from Sweden for a few days, bringing two of her children, her eldest boy and my one and only granddaughter. As I haven't seen any of them for more than four years, that has been a special treat! 

They were only able to stay for a few days because her husband had bravely volunteered to look after the other four boys - aged from two to fifteen! And unfortunately the day we picked to go for a walk and to visit a few local 'sights' was the one and only wet and drizzly day we've had for weeks. 

The River Usk at Abergavenny, from the Castle Meadows

Looking towards the Brecon Beacons from Abergavenny Castle

And the historic Tithe Barn and Abergavenny Castle were both closed! 

But the two grandchildren had fun skimming stones in the River Usk and we visited the Tithe Barn the following day.

But sadly, this year, Zazzle have cast a shadow over my favourite month. They have decided to withhold 30% tax from any 'non-resident alien' designer - that's us! - who doesn't get an International Tax Identification Number from the IRS. And, quite apart from this being a lengthy, tedious and quite expensive process, the IRS has told us that we don't actually need this number to qualify for the Tax Treaties between our countries that would mean that we only pay taxes in our own countries. So that's an ongoing, time-consuming, stressful bone of contention.

On a more productive note, I had an interesting request from a physiotherapist who specialises in Mind-Body 'treatments', Georgie Oldfield. I've never met Georgie except online but I've been receiving her newsletters for about five years and she was kind enough to order some of my greeting cards back when I was printing my own. Georgie has decided to create an Adult Colouring Book to raise money for her 'Hardship Fund' and she wondered whether I could contribute some pages to colour. 

Of course I was glad to contribute and started to trace some of my designs - but had to send the scans to Georgie in their rather raw state to give myself time to prepare for my daughter's visit, which I didn't know about when I said 'yes' to Georgie! But she has assured me that she knows someone who will 'clean them up' and I'm looking forward to seeing the book when it is finally published!

Here are a couple of them with contrasting amounts of detail!

I actually wouldn't find trying to colour neatly inside the lines in the least bit relaxing - quite the opposite! I'm more of a 'broad brush', splosh-the-paint-about kind of person. But it's surprising what Photoshop can do with a messy, untidy scribble! 

So this month I'm going to show you how totally absent-minded, half-watching-television doodles can morph into a whole collection of patterns!

This is how it all started!

And with some help from Photoshop, these pencil-drawn motifs became the basis of this set of related patterns:

- which then enabled me to make a faux patchwork:

I've also been experimenting with adding scanned Broderie Anglaise - which I've always loved and often used when I made little dresses for my toddler daughters, many years ago:

The next thing I worked on was creating a border pattern from the original motifs - I've noticed to my delight that our local dress shops are full of border patterns, reminding me of a nightie I had in the Seventies that I wore as a dress to our house-warming party!

First the usual square border: 

 - and then just a single side to leave space for some text. Custom Indigo Blue Floral Border Lumbar Pillow

Next I challenged myself to create something that I've wanted to try for ages - a circular border!
With or without the monogram!

Finally I had plenty of choice when it came to make 'Indigo' greeting cards!

Custom Blue and White Floral Mother's Day Card
Custom Blue and White Floral Mother's Day Card by poshandpainterly
Find more Floral Cards at Zazzle

500+ gifts and cards from the
'Indigo' Collection

Yesterday, the final whole day before my daughter and her children started back home to Sweden, the weather started to really hot up. 

So we were able to relax in my little garden - after my tall, handsome grandson had helped with dead-heading the Alchemist rose, always a huge job and difficult for me to reach. 

And today the temperatures are soaring - quite unusual for June and much too hot for my liking. But it's perfect for drying the mound of towels, sheets, duvet covers etc in the open air that always result from having people to stay. I think the fourth load is in the machine at the moment and at least a couple more loads to go!

Once all the laundry's done and the house tidied, I should have a chance to get back into my work routine and hopefully make some inroads into my long list of ideas for designs and patterns  . . . maybe! (Much depends on Zazzle.)

Poppies by the roadside near Abergavenny Bus Station!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

May (not that you'd know it from the weather!) Work in Progress

So much for thinking that May is the start of summer!

We've had lower temperatures than April, persistent rain, heavy 'April Showers' and wind that felt just like March. 

Oh yes, and a few little glimpses of sunshine in between!

In fact the storms earlier this month resulted in my lovely Ceanothus falling over with the weight of the rain just as it was beginning to bloom, bringing with it the trellis and honeysuckle behind it!

Nevertheless, my Dreaming Spires climbing roses came out on May 4th, just the same as last year, to the day! But, strangely, they have again decided to grow away from the sun and towards my neighbours' house, where they have a lovely view of them from their kitchen window. Whereas I can only really enjoy them from my bedroom:

A lot of my time is still taken up with appointments. 
I've given up the counselling as it was expensive and not all that helpful. But there's still the physio for my back at the hospital and exercises to do in between appointments. And we're still experimenting with inhalers and nasal sprays to see which helps my breathing most while there's all the pollen around, under the supervision of my doctor and the Practice Nurse. 

And then, of course, I've had builders to make coffee for. 
But it's good to know that my roof is all sound and various annoying little repairs to windows and woodwork are now all up to date - apart from needing me to find some time to touch up the paintwork! And replacing the small area of blown tiles in my shower turned out to be a much bigger job than expected and involved disconnecting the toilet to 'do a proper job'! Just as well I get on well with the builders and know from experience that I can trust them to do whatever's in my best interest. (I don't know many builders I'd say that of!) 

This Tote Bag arrived from Red Bubble one day, just as they were leaving - a birthday gift for a friend who loves primroses - and they were so curious that they stayed while I opened it and were duly impressed!

The Red Bubble quality is, as ever, excellent, the price abd the cost of shipping very reasonable!
Red Bubble have now introduced skirts so I've spent some time putting my patterns on those too. 

And I've been re-sizing greeting cards such as this one to upload to CardGnome - 

Blue Gold Islamic Pattern Ramadan Card

The result of all these diversions and distractions is that I still haven't quite finished creating products and cards for my Granny Print collection. So no new pattern collection to write about this month. 

However, I was surprised to see just how many products I've made with this one basic pattern and its growing number of coordinates, just by doing a bit of uploading in between other things!

This mix of patterns with a Broderie Anglaise trim is one of my favourites - the decorative white edging came from a local craft shop, scanned and brightened up in Photoshop.

I like the idea of 'faux lace' to go with my 'faux patchworks' to give a real 'vintage vibe'. So I scanned some genuine antique underwear for this 'Friendship' quote:

It's always fun to experiment!

And these paper beads were a bit of an experiment too! 
I rolled them in the usual way but instead of relying on the colours of the paper to make the patterns, I painted them all by hand. I used some cheap acrylic paints that I had lying around but I don't think that was the best choice as it was almost impossible to paint the detail, no matter which paintbrush I used. Even with a fine-tipped brush there was a 'blobbi-ness' that frustrated me.

Zazzle continue to keep us designers busy! 
Apart from adding new products to the inventory on a weekly basis, they've now enabled us to create 'collections' at the click of a button. So that's kept me busy too, as it's such a useful promotional tool, especially if you design with collections in mind as I do. So here are a couple of the collections I've created so far -

And what have I got planned for June?

Well, with my son coming down for a few days for my birthday, I don't expect to accomplish quite as much as usual. 

But here's a doodle that's been itching to get out of my doodles folder and onto a greeting card for ages:

I did base my first advert for the local Work-at-homers group on this Jolly Gentleman but it was done in such a rush that I had to resort to colouring him digitally. 

I think he deserves a spot of proper watercolour treatment and I hope he'll appear suitably coloured in next month's Work in Progress blog post.

The Cherry Blossom on the path to my front door  - just before the rain arrived!
I was planning to work on an Apple Blossom pattern next.
But the fruit trees in my garden lost the last of their beautiful blossoms in the recent storms so the moment has passed and I'll move on to something else when the Granny Print runs out of steam.

Maybe I'll keep it really simple and just develop a pattern I made a while back -

- though I'm sure to be unable to resist creating a few coordinating patterns to go with it!

I noticed today that my beautifully fragrant Mock Orange Blossom has started to flower. It's too wet to go out and photograph it. 

But maybe next month . . .

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Primroses Colour Palette for Springtime

What colour comes to mind when you hear the word 'primrose'?

I'm sure most of us associate primroses with the colour yellow - the particularly delicate, pale yellow of the wild primroses of springtime. I remember, as a child, travelling on the old steam trains in the Isle of Wight, you could look out of the window and see a 'carpet' of pale yellow! 

The wild primroses almost completely covered the grassy banks of the cuttings we passed through just before we went into a tunnel. Anywhere else, they would have been picked or even dug up for someone's garden. But it was probably too dangerous for anyone to venture down the steep slopes of the railway cuttings to pick them. So they were left in peace, to grow and multiply - a lovely sight in spring!

But cultivated primroses come in a wide range of colours!

Years ago I grew them from seed. But nowadays my lack of wide enough window sills for the seedlings, sends me off to the supermarket to buy the plants. (That's my excuse, anyway!)

I particularly like the pink-ish orange ones  - 

Sometimes I can't get enough of them all the same colour for the shelf in my front porch, so then I go for as many different colours as I can:

To me the different coloured flowers look fine - splendidly bright and cheerful! 

But when you look at all the colours together, I can't help feeling that there are too many colours, that some need to be eliminated to make a cohesive colour scheme.

So from this group of eight colours, we could pick out lots of different schemes.

I have chosen 2, 3, 4 and 6 for this traditional Islamic pattern:

But there are lots of other possibilities!
Which four would you choose?

You can save this pattern tile and experiment with it if you wish -

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

True Friends Illustration

Friends! Hmmm . . . where to begin?

It's a topic that's very much on my mind these days.

As time goes by, I've become increasingly aware of the value of friendship. And yet each year that passes, the number of people I would call real, true friends gets smaller and smaller.

Some of my good friends have died; frankly, more than I would have expected at our age, especially as we keep hearing on the media that we're all living longer.

Others, from places I used to live and who were maybe not the closest of friends, have allowed the physical distance between our homes to finally let go of an increasingly meaningless 'friendship'. And then there are some who have been unable to understand, let alone support, the fact that I have finally set out in pursuit of the career I always wanted, at the point when most of my contemporaries are winding down into retirement. Sadly, another parting of the ways.

And it isn't easy to make new friends later in life when we can no longer make friends whilst waiting for our offspring at the school gate. And those of us who have retired or work at home no longer have the opportunity to turn work colleagues into friends.

I'm sure they serve a very useful function for some but I for one am not quite ready for the likes of Lunch Clubs for Seniors in the Community Centre! 

But I've come to realise that I'm one of the luckier ones!  I do have a few 'best buddies', true friends who, although they live hundreds of miles away, also live in my heart!

Please feel free to save and print this A4 300 dpi Friendship Quote
or maybe just 'Pin' it?

But loneliness and social isolation is rife amongst older people. 
The replacement of the extended family by the 'nuclear' model has played a large part in that. Times change, sometimes, but not always, for the better.

One day my son commented that there are a lot of 'old people' in Abergavenny! I hadn't noticed it but once he mentioned it, I started to realise how right he was. As I cross the park on my way to the shops, I often overtake older people, out for their daily breath of fresh air. Normally I'm in such a hurry that I bowl past them at a rate of knots. 

But if I can spare the time, I've begun stopping for a chat and I'm finding that it's very much appreciated.

It's easy to get into conversation, surrounded as we are by the beautiful trees in the park as well as the mountains, there's always something to talk about. And of course, we Brits are always ready to talk about the weather! It means I have to walk much more slowly than usual but I think it's worth it to see how pleased people are to have someone to chat with, even if it's only for five minutes or so.

I'm not pretending that these brief, chance encounters are a replacement for a lasting friendship - our paths may never cross again. But they are better than nothing, by a long way!

When I'm busy working, I can go for several days without speaking to anyone. As an introvert with work that I enjoy, that doesn't bother me too much. I also have family who are at the other end of a phone/email/text message - and of course, I have friends online!

Some of the older people I meet on my way to the shops have nobody to talk to and very little to fill their days. But they do love to talk about their family or their former job or career, if only there's someone to really listen!

So please, if you possibly can, spare a little time for the older generation - you might find it more rewarding than you ever imagined!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A Spring Landscape Colour Palette

I've never been drawn to the colours of the typical spring landscape.

Years ago - probably nearly half a century ago! - I'd paint little water colours of the countryside in winter with fingers almost too cold to hold my paintbrush. And the landscape colours of late summer holidays driving down through France have been know to get my creative juices flowing. 

But springtime? No - the colours of fresh green sprouting buds are just too acidic for my liking, strangely cold and harsh compared even to the winter colour palettes. However, here's an interesting spring colour palette - yes there are a couple of sharp, bright colours - the lemon yellow and the neon green.

So why do I quite like this photo of the park that I cross every time I go shopping, in spite of those bright greens and yellows? 

It's probably because those brilliant colours are offset by some wonderfully mellow tones, especially the colours of the copper beech trees that are more reminiscent of autumn. So that harsh, bright green and 'aggressive' yellow are just accent colours balanced by the more muted, subtle tones all around them. And that way, I find them less aggressive!

But even so, if I were using this palette for an interior or for an outfit or a pattern, I think I'd choose just one of the bright accent colours and it would probably be the green. In fact the six colours on the right-hand side could make a good combination, as could the whole of the top row . . .

Which ones would you choose?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Work in Progress - April, a Very Mixed Bag!

Until this week, our weather in April has been more like early summer than springtime!

Just as well, as I've had to be out and about a lot more than usual, mostly walking into town to meet friends or going to various medical appointments. All this walking is much better for my back than sitting at a computer. But on the other hand, it's time I'd otherwise be using for designing and 'creating' products and greeting cards for sale in Print-on-demand stores!

All that taken into consideration, I haven't done too badly!

I've made three of my new 'Friendship' quotation illustrations into Flexible Fridge Magnets.

You can see them, and a couple of older ones

And I've finally finished creating products with my collage fishes, ending with a set of Persian New Year (Norooz) greeting cards. This custom-front card is just one of the fifteen cards addressed to various family relations and friends -

Zazzle have introduced so many new products since I first started stocking my Posh and Painterly store in August, 2013, that one of my weekly tasks is to go back over my collections, adding new products wherever there are gaps. 

This month, I finished some of the 'Daisy Chains' patterns. And then moved on to my 'Islamic Collection'

Here, for instance, is a Cube Pouf -

Red Bubble have also added scarves to the products we can put our patterns/designs on so that has kept me busy as well -

If the quality is anything like as good as the
Tote Bags, they'll be excellent value and just right
for gifts for friends that I have to send by post!

It's been quite a challenge to fit in working on a new pattern with so many other things going on. 

So I cheated slightly and chose a pattern that I'd begun a while back. It still needed a lot of work, though, and I'm quite pleased with how many products I've been able to create with it, in spite of a lack of time!

Here it is - my "Granny Print" collection,
another hand-painted paper collage,
digitally manipulated to make a repeating pattern.

I've barely started creating coordinating patterns for my 'Granny Print' so I expect that to take me right through most of May.

One of the new products that Zazzle have introduced this year really caught my imagination - Ceramic Drawer Knobs and Pulls!

They seem the ideal product to feature my somewhat 'Shabby Chic' patterns. So, whenever I've had a few moments to spare, I've begun to 'create' some of them - lots more to come! 

(If only Zazzle would slow down with the introduction of new products, just for a while, it might give us time to catch up!)

And finally -

My Fairy House is finished and varnished!


Can you see the lacy pink Fairy Wings hanging on the washing line at the back?

So I've turned my attention to my paper bead-making

I'm not finding the roller I bought is all that helpful in getting the paper to roll nice and straight. I seem to have more control over it when I use a cocktail stick - hopefully I'll be able to post some finished necklaces next time!

I wish, as always, that I'd had more time to be creative.

But I think the various appointments have been worthwhile. It seems that, having been prescribed asthma inhalers for nearly three years, I almost certainly don't actually have asthma! (The symptoms may be caused by the acid reflux/possible hiatus hernia that took me to hospital just before Christmas.)

And the physiotherapist I've just started seeing seems to know what she's about, even if that does involve leaning heavily on my back, causing a lot of 'treatment soreness' for the rest of the week! I've had an increasingly nagging, burning pain down my 'wrong' leg for more than four years and it didn't feel like sciatica. But apparently it is nerve pain coming from my back - though not the sciatic nerve. Now that we know that, I can be treated and do exercises in the hope that it will gradually improve. I've already begun to feel that my back is less stiff than it was a week ago.

Who knows, I might even be able to go out with the local walking group again one day! 

With a bit of detective work and a lot of determination on my part the pieces of the puzzle are finally starting to fit together. (I'd rather be designing, though!)