Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Going Green - Emerald Green, that is!

It seems that the colour green will feature prominently this year. Emerald is the Pantone Colour of 2013, and it is accompanied by two other green hues, Tender Shoots and Grayed Jade.

Bulbs in my garden already well on their way at Christmas-time!

I have mixed feelings about green in general. I don’t think either Emerald or ‘Tender Shoots’ are colours that are universally easy to wear next to the skin. And, true to my Awkward Squad reputation, I dislike the countryside in Spring because of what I think are harsh, yellow-greens! 

My Honeysuckle sprouting new leaves at Christmas-time!

In my pastel paintings, I much prefer the darker greens of fir trees –

But on the other hand, I find Dulux’s ‘Castle Mount’easy to live with. In my previous house, the dining room, living room and cloakroom were all painted in that colour and my bedroom and stair carpets were a slightly darker shade of green! Even now, the tablecloth in my dining room, where I often work, is green, as are the walls of my shower room (below)-

So I turned to my really big book on colour to see what it said about green -


 And what I found was interesting – it seems that green is a colour of contradictions. 

The section on green begins, ‘Green is an ambivalent hue. The colour of mould and decay, it is, none the less, the colour of life itself.’

So I’ve picked out a few points from the book that I hope you will find interesting and maybe a springboard from which to do your own research into the colour green –

  • Green was the colour associated with the Ancient Egyption god, Osiris, the god of both Vegetation and Death.
  • Green is a restful colour to the eyes – hence the Green Room where actors can relax when offstage. But, gruesomely, the Roman Emperor, Nero ‘peered through an emerald to enjoy the spectacle of lions devouring Christians.’
  • Although there is plenty of green to be found in Nature, there are very few minerals available to make green pigments and even fewer to make green dyes. My own attempts to make a dye from the bright green water that I’d cooked broccoli in, resulted in a dirty beige colour and this is, apparently, typical.
  • The human body is never green unless there is sickness present. And many people are repulsed by slithery, green creatures such as lizards, snakes and even frogs, perhaps because green is usually the colour of ‘slime’. Green is associated with poison because of the colour of arsenic and in general, ‘Green is the colour of creepiness’.
  • Green is said to be the colour of emotional balance, being a mixture of happy yellow and tranquil blue. But it is also the colour of jealousy!
  • We say that a good gardener has ‘green fingers’ but in terms of building materials, it describes timber that is not ready for use and it has similar connotations of ‘unreadiness’ or naivety in relation to people, particularly in situations involving new recruits. Do you know why surgeons and their assistants in the operating room usually wear green, and the walls and covers they use are also green. I didn’t until I read about in my ‘Colour’ book. It’s because green is the complementary colour to red so it helps to prevent unpleasant after-images when the surgeon looks away from the wound!
  • On a personal note, I grew up with the belief that green was an unlucky colour, particularly for weddings and for cars. A google search revealed that this superstition is a British one – but how many green cars do you see on the roads these days? 
  • Green is associated with Robin Hood and his followers who wore Lincoln green (probably as camouflage in Sherwood Forest) and with Ireland, the Emerald Isle, where Leprechauns always wear green! 

In spite of all those negative connotations, I'd say that is that green is a very good colour for backgrounds! A green lawn shows off the colours of the flowers, green lettuce leaves make a good bed for a colourful salad . . . and my green walls are just right as a backdrop for paintings, and in particular for my many blue and white china ornaments.

But I also have a lot of houseplants and they are green, of course. Without them my house would look rather barren, lifeless.

So I finally have to conclude that I need the colour green for its life-giving qualities.

How about you? How do you feel about the colour green? 

Click HERE for gifts and apparel in Emerald, Tender Shoots and Monaco Blue patterns in my Zazzle store.

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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Three Years of Blogging!

This week my blog will be 3 years old! 

And, in some ways, my blogging experience has been a bit like a toddler, trying all sorts of new things, experimenting with what it can and can’t do, and occasionally learning new skills along the way! 

This winter, through the Surface Pattern Course, I’ve come into contact with a wonderful group of artists, some of whom are just starting out on the blogging road and others who are still thinking about it. A common question that puts people off from starting a blog is, ‘What shall I write about?’

Committing oneself to finding something to blog about, week after week, or even month after month, is a pretty daunting thought! And to those who are still holding back, I would love to be able to say that it gets easier! But the truth is, I still often wonder what more is left for me to blog about. I worry that I’ve said all that I have to say and that very soon my blog will run out of ideas and end up in that great blogging graveyard in the sky - or should I say 'in the cloud'?

But somehow, something always comes up!
One way to make taking the plunge easier would be to decide on a type of blog subject matter that will never run out, such as posting about different artists or designers every time. For that type of blog, all you need to do is regularly spend some time searching the web for new artists to promote – and my guess is that the supply is endless!

A blog that charts your progress as an artist, with updates on your work is fascinating to read but could be more difficult as there may be times when your work isn’t producing anything to write about!

When I started my blog I had very little idea of where it was going.
I vaguely thought that taking the various stages of my life as an artist might provide some structure but beyond that I had no plan at all. In fact, I decided to allow my blog to be a bit of a ‘hotch-potch’, at least until I discovered what my ‘followers’ were most interested in reading about.

So I have blogged about:

 1.   My own artistic endeavours, going back to my schooldays: When Icicles Hang by the Wall:  My Soft Pastel Tree Paintings

2.    Tips for artists and designers – and others, such as impecunious gardeners! Ways to Make Money from your Greeting Cards:  Six Useful Art Tips - part 1: Gardening on a Shoe-string

3.    Seasonal posts to do with the weather (snow paintings, photos of autumn trees, first flowers of     spring etc) and seasonal 'Holidays'. Autumn in the Park:  Painting Snow:  Recipe for a St Valentine's Feast  Harvest/Thanksgiving - my Naughty Pencil

 4.   Progress reports on my attempts to ‘monetise’ my artwork. Red Dragons for Sale!  The Traffic Wardens of Style   Coffee and Cards

  5.  The progress of individual pieces of my own artwork and sometimes instructions for a specific technique. Collage Greeting Cards:   My attempts to make Repeating Patterns by hand

 6.   Musings on the life of an artist, the questions that occur to me in relation to it and occasionally even the solutions I’ve found
. Is Rejection always a Bad Thing? If Van Gogh had a blog . . .  Do you know what you're doing?

7.    Interviews and Guest Posts with other artists, illustrators and designers. Author of 'Be your own Guru, Olivia Stephanino on how to be Wealthy AND Spiritual: Guest Post by Susan Alison, author/illustrator

  8.  Art-related and other ‘Funnies’ – including YouTube clips: Something from Wales for your entertainment  Nothing to do with Art and Design

   10.  The occasional rant!
Recycling - is it always the best way?  Celebrating the Book as Contemporary Art

Three years on I don’t have a clear idea which of the ten types of blog post is the most popular.

So I'm afraid I can’t advise anyone who is just thinking of starting out. All I can say with confidence is that my readership and daily page-views have increased steadily over time.

And I’ve been really appreciative of all the comments that reassure me that I’m not just talking to myself!

The thought that what I write can be read by anyone in the whole wide world with access to a computer is enough to make an introvert like me go and hide under the covers. But I’ve made some wonderful friends through my blog and although it was scary to start with, I would say to anyone who is hesitating, go ahead and do it, ‘feel the fear and do it anyway!’

Sometimes it will seem like a drag, just another claim on our all too precious time. But even though I do sometimes feel like that, such feelings evaporate instantly when someone writes in the comments that my post was just what they needed to hear at that moment! That, for me, is the ultimate reward from blogging!

So, on the third ‘blogiversary’ of my Art & Design blog, I’d like to say a very big THANK YOU to all my faithful followers and especially to those who have braved the challenge of the dreaded captcha and left their comments!


PS - And an extra big THANK YOU to all who voted for my Lovesick Bunnies Valentine's card - thanks to your votes, they won the contest!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

E-Interview with Nicola Jones, Designer of Pretty Paper Goods

This month’s e-interview is with Nicola Jones, a very talented, self-taught designer from North Wales. 

Nicola runs a small but successful company called ‘gooseberrymoon’, designing pretty paper goods for weddings and everyday which you can explore here and here.

Artists often have interesting stories about how their talent first emerged. So I began by asking Nicky when she first realised that she was an artist. I’m sure many of us will identify with her reply:

'I’ve always enjoyed creating and I come from a very artistic family but never really considered myself an artist. I’m trying to get used to calling myself a designer.'

Have you had formal art/design/illustration training?
'I’ve had no formal art training. I’m completely self-taught, hence the reason I find it difficult to refer to myself
as designer or artist I think.'

Do you consider that your lack of training has held you back at all?
Only that I may have gotten to the stage I’m at now a little quicker!

What is the most important thing you have learnt on your journey as an artist and from whom did
you learnt it?
Never give up and believe in what you’re doing. It’s been said by so many people along my journey.

Which artists/designers/illustrators inspire you?
This changes as I discover new artists and designers. At the moment I’m loving the work of Lotta Jansdotter and Skinny Laminx.

How long has your business been up and running?
I had my first paid order at the end of 2008 and have been lucky enough to have a consistent flow of orders ever since, which enabled me to give up my day job in September this year to run gooseberrymoon full time.

Are there any particular pitfalls that have caused difficulties for your business that you would like to warn others about?
I’ve had a few learning curves along the way. The one I’ve learnt from most recently is always request a deposit before starting work on a time consuming project!

Do you enjoy the business side of things?
Not particularly! I’d much prefer to be designing. I’m pretty bad at leaving the paperwork ‘til last minute and I’ve not looked at my online statistics for months.

Have you had any training in the art business?
I’ve been studying Rachael Taylors’ The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design ecourse and have learnt so much.

Do you paint/draw regularly?
Not as much as I’d like to, but since starting the pattern course I’ve filled a couple of sketchbooks.

How many hours per week do you work?
I work anything between 30 and 40 hours. I do have the odd week where I’ve taken on too much and just have to work as many hours as it takes.

Do you have regular contact with other artists?
I connect with other artists mainly through twitter and Instagram.  I’ve also met lots of lovely designers and
artists (including you Judy!) on the art and business of surface pattern course.

What is your biggest achievement – or the one that pleases you most – so far?
It has to be making the break from my day job to run gooseberrymoon full time.

Do you have a favourite quote, art-related or otherwise?
I’ve got a Pinterest board with a few inspirational quotes and this one is something I should remind myself of more often “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today”. You’ll see from my work that I’m also a big fan of  the quote “less is more”.

What are your plans for the future?
This year I’m planning on taking a screen printing course at a local college in the hope that I’ll be able to apply my motifs and patterns on all sorts of surfaces. I love designing wedding stationery so I’ll be adding new designs to my existing collection in the spring.

Nicky, I'm sure all our readers will join me in wishing you joy and success in all your endeavours and in thanking you for taking the time and trouble to answer my questions. I'm sure your replies will provide someone, somewhere with just the information or inspiration (or both!) that they need!

If you have enjoyed this interview and would like to get to know Nicky and her work better, here are the links to her website, blog and social networking sites -

'Have a Heart' Contest

My two Valentine's Bunnies (#19) would be eternally grateful for your vote in this contest -

The link below will take you to the page where you can


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Decorations - Christmas and New Year's Honours!

Since my last post, I’ve done something that I really don't enjoy - I've taken down my Christmas decorations! 

The house looks so bare without them!

But they have to come down sometime so it might just as well be on Twelfth Night as on any other day. My mother was really superstitious about that one!

But before we stow Christmas away in its boxes for another year, I want to share a tip that I just happened upon -

If you run out of places to stand your Christmas cards - or if those 'tent'-shaped ones keep collapsing once they've been up for a few days - a bookcase can be a great solution!

You can slide the back of the card in between the books to anchor it - or, if it's a 'tent-fold' card, tuck the back underneath some books. It works a treat!

And while I'm on the subject of 'decorations' -

It was great to read about the stars of the Olympics and Paralympics being decorated by the Queen in her New Year Honours List.

But I was even more pleased to find that one of my favourite illustrators, Quentin Blake, was also knighted!

It made me smile because it reminded me of when I was at boarding school, aged 11 – 18, where pupils who excelled at sport were treated like celebrities, especially if they were the shining stars of individual sporting events, such as swimming and tennis, rather than the team games.

I had been pretty good at netball at my junior school, and was even in my school team in my final year. But somewhere in the transition from local junior school to a faraway boarding school, all my enthusiasm for ‘games’ got lost, and with it, any small ability I may have possessed! Always true to my ‘Awkward Squad’ nickname, the adulation of sporting stars really irked me.

So when, in the Sixth Form, I was appointed Secretary of the Sketch Club, I went on a one-girl crusade to increase the popularity of making Art. I actually succeeded in getting quite a few of the younger pupils doodling away in their spare time and some discovered an aptitude of which they were previously unaware. And, although the stars of the school Sketch Club never enjoyed the dizzy heights of fame that the swimmers and athletes achieved, the membership of the Sketch Club did increase quite dramatically, much to the delight of our elderly Art teacher!

But back to Quentin Blake – now Sir Quentin! His illustrations are universally loved but that apart, I have a particularly soft spot for him.

When I first started designing greeting cards, nearly four years ago now, my confidence was quite low. I was keenly aware that I hadn’t had any formal Art training and I had got it into my head that artists who had been to Art College would know how to do things ‘properly’. My own, largely self-taught methods, weren’t too bad but I firmly believed that a 'properly' trained artist would have done things differently and that anyone seeing my work would shake their head and mutter something not too complimentary about ‘obviously not been to Art School’!

And then I discovered Quentin Blake’s website where I was able to watch a video of the great illustrator at work. What a difference that made! 

Here was a world-famous artist dipping his paintbrush in water that was far from clean, mixing his colours rather haphazardly on a piece of paper and even at times admitting to ‘hoping for the best’ when painting stripes over another, possibly still wet, colour on the jumper worn by one of his unmistakable little characters! He wasn't at all bothered about whether he was doing things 'properly', in fact he wasn't - and yet he has become a household name when it comes to children's book illustration and more recently, greeting cards too!

Here's one of his unmistakable New Year's Cards -

So – if ever your confidence takes a dip, or you just need a ‘shot in the arm’ of inspiration, just spend 10 minutes watching Sir Quentin; his enthusiasm, his playfulness and his sheer down-to-earth attitude towards his art will surely be just the pick-me-up you need!