Monday, 26 March 2012

The Humble Daisy and Exotic Mock Orange Blossom!

The daisy is, apparently, the Birth Month Flower for April. 

According to one website I found, so is the Sweet Pea. But April seems a bit early in the year for either of those flowers here; though when I mowed my little lawn a few days ago, hoping that my wrap-around sunglasses would protect me from the pollen, I noticed a couple of little daisies in the grass. And they inspired this April Birthday Card design.

I painted it with gouache on blue sugar paper so that I wouldn’t need to paint the blue background. Sugar paper absorbs the water rather quickly so I used the paint much thicker than usual. It almost felt like using pastels and it freed me up from the rather ‘tight’ approach I’ve had to use recently when making repeating patterns. I was almost able to revert to my ’fast and furious’ ways that I feel so at home with when I use both oil pastels and soft pastels.

But I really do enjoy making repeating patterns, in spite of all the extra stages they take, and the accuracy they demand, even though that doesn't come naturally to me. And I was really delighted that a customer ordered a phone case with my primrose repeating pattern earlier this week.

It just happened that on the same day, I was tidying up – something I have to do occasionally when I run out of flat surfaces! – and came across a whole sheaf of papers with drawings of flowering plants that I made in my Norwich garden, in the days before the pollen began to affect me.

It seems miraculous to me now that I could have taken the time to make a careful study of probably my all-time favourite flower, Philadelphus, or Mock Orange Blossom without any pollen problems. In the days before its wonderful fragrance began to have this adverse affect on me, I used to have jugs and vases of it all around my house when it was in season, but sadly, now I mostly just admire it through the window!

So this series of plant drawing was a terrific ‘find’ and it included the daffodil drawing I mentioned a few posts back. I couldn't wait to make a start on a repeating pattern with Mock Orange and Weigelia and here is the tracing:

'Can you see what it is yet?' - as Rolf Harris would say!

I seem to have a horribly busy week ahead, dentist check-up, appointment with the bank, and the newsagent wanting some of my Easter Cards, featuring our local  St Mary’s Church, with the greeting in Welsh.

All these things are extra to my normally very full schedule of uploading cards and, currently, organising my Weddings category on Zazzle – a rather huge and tedious task!

But I really hope to have the Mock Orange Blossom design ready to post next week - if only because there are so many more flowering plant drawings just begging me to make them into designs!

Monday, 19 March 2012

All Things Bright but not necessarily Beautiful!

I didn’t quite get addicted to making abstract digital designs but it came pretty close!

I was having such fun making my paintings and photos into blobs and swirls . . .

. . . and blocks of colour

 . . . that, day after day, finishing the lily-of-the-valley design kept getting put off!

I’ve had a nasty bout of conjunctivitis this week. It seems to have been brought on by the pollen from the white hyacinths in my garden – my favourites, but they affect me so badly that I no longer grow them in pots for indoors. A lot of the time I've just wanted to close my eyes rather than stare at a screen; so the fact that I continued with the digital designs, in spite of the discomfort, demonstrates how much I was enjoying myself.

I haven’t made many business cards on Zazzle. Somehow I didn’t feel very interested but I heard that they sell well so I thought I’d have a go, using my digital designs. I intended to stop when I’d made 50 but somehow that number crept up to 65 – which you can see here.

I have no idea whether such bright and bold designs will be popular as business cards - they certainly would help a person to 'stand out in a crowd', I should think! But I have to admit that I'm not too bothered about whether they sell; it was just enormous fun creating them!

I finally, reluctantly, called a halt to my 'playing with colours and shapes' at the end of Friday because of ‘Super Saturday’.

'Super Saturday' is the final Saturday of the Six Nations Rugby, when all six teams play on the same day. And this year, Wales stood poised to win, not just the tournament, or the Triple Crown, which they had already bagged by beating Ireland, Scotland and England, but the Grand Slam! Only France, with a population more than 20 times that of Wales, stood in the way of a third Grand Slam for Wales in eight years - and France are - or were! - probably the most feared team in the tournament.

Wales was buzzing with Grand Slam fever by Saturday and I was so nervous that I couldn’t bear to actually watch the game but just listened from the next room and ran in to see what was happening when the crowd started to roar! And what kept my blood pressure down was working on the Lilies!

I’ve made a few changes since last week, cut out  the ‘frame’ that I’d tried to make in the Art Nouveau style and experimented with different colours for the background. I’m torn between the beige, which is more authentic for the period and the pale yellow which looks a great deal more cheerful, I think!


There’s no reason why I can use both background colours but I feel that would be terribly indecisive! So which do you prefer?

I have such a backlog of designs to upload and make into cards and other things, that I haven’t done any painting this weekend but now that the Six Nations is over, it should be business as usual next time . . . and meanwhile you might enjoy these creative BBC Wales television adverts for the rugby:

Monday, 12 March 2012

Old-Fashioned Florals and Digital Designs

 I've been happily switching from one to the other - and back again! - this week!

The primroses design from last week turned out to be very versatile and I used it to create about 60 products, which you can see here – and more to come later.

Here are just a couple to show how different the design looks when expanded to different sizes. I really enjoy the 'playing around' aspect to creating patterns and using them on different products!

But in between times, I’ve been doing something entirely different, abandoning my paintbrushes and paper for the ‘effects’ button in my photo-editing program! I've been having great fun playing with some of my previously handpainted or screenprinted designs to make new abstract patterns.
It felt a bit like ‘cheating’ but in fact it wasn’t particularly quick or easy; some designs worked better than others and they all took a fair amount of 'trial and error'.

The addictive nature of playing with images and not having to worry about making mistakes, or wasting expensive paper, meant that I actually spent much longer than I intended.  But it wasn't time wasted - I won a Today’s Best Award on Zazzle for this iPhone case:


I haven’t abandoned my traditional tools of the trade, though, and I made a start on a Lilies-of-the-Valley May Birthday Card, part of my series of Birth Month Flower  Birthday Cards. But it wasn't all plain sailing!

One of my favourite decorating styles is Art Nouveau and I also love painting flowers. And since the Art Nouveau style has its roots in plant and flower forms, you would think that I could easily paint my lilies in that style, inspired by my lovely book of Verneuil’s Art Nouveau Floral Designs. But strangely, I found it quite challenging. I found the very formal, heavily stylised approach to flowers decidedly stiff and unnatural to me. (And, if I'm honest, probably the need to draw and paint neatly went against the grain!) But I pressed on and this is where I've got to so far –

I still need to tidy up the leaves, add the caption and choose a background colour, for which I will use the paint bucket in my photo-editing program to ensure that it’s completely even, in case I can use this design as a repeating pattern as well as a greeting card. On my laptop, this background looks like beige, quite an authentic colour for Edwardian decorations. But I emailed it to a friend and she thought it was ‘mustard’ – one of the difficulties of viewing images online!

I hope to have made some progress by my next post . . . if I haven’t completely succumbed to the addiction of generating designs digitally!


Monday, 5 March 2012

Nurses, Nests and more Spring Flowers

This is the collage greeting card I made for the hospital staff at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr, where everyone seemed to go out of their way to make me feel comfortable in what could hardly be called the most comfortable of situations!

And - spot the difference! -  I made a customizable version to upload so that customers can write the appropriate text on the ‘clipboard’ at the foot of the bed.

Once the card was winging its way to The Valleys – the brand new hospital is a replacement for the old Miners’ Hospital – I made a start on a new repeating pattern to use for creating products on Zazzle.

I had really intended to make a start on some less flowery, more masculine designs. But with blue skies, very warm sunshine and temperatures in the upper teens, it seemed as if -

'The Spring is sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where the boidies is . . .'

Well, I know where one of the ‘boidies’ is! It’s nesting on top of the little plastic greenhouse just outside the French doors of my dining room where I work!

I’ve noticed birds, sparrows and blackbirds mostly, getting in under the honeysuckle, finding some sort of food in amongst the leaves that drop onto the roof and stay there, making it sag a little, unless I get around to clearing it out.

But one morning, as I was working as usual, I heard a tremendous flapping of wings against the plastic. I went out to investigate, thinking that a bird must be trapped and unable to take off from the slippery, plastic surface.

And there was Mother Blackbird, peeping out at me and not looking particularly 'stuck'. But I thought maybe her apparently composed demeanour was a cover for sheer terror; so I went off in search of something to lift the roof gently from inside, to help her on her way. But as I did so, out she flew, no problem at all!

But then I've been hearing more flapping, at intervals throughout the days – as my bedroom is directly above the dining room, the beating of wings against the plastic woke me up a couple of mornings. Sometimes it sounds like a helicopter! And I took this photo through my kitchen window. Other birds fly away as soon as I get anywhere near a window with my camera but the blackbirds here seem to be remarkably tame - as well as singing more beautifully than in England, Wales being known as The Land of Song, of course!

When she had flown away, I was able to see the beginnings of a nest! I have no idea what all the flapping is about. It appears to be part of the nest-building process. Maybe somebody who knows about birds can tell me?

Last time I was able to take a peek, the nest had grown considerably and seemed to be dripping with mud – not very inviting, I should think!

So this long diversion has been by way of explaining why I just had to embark upon yet another floral design! 

This time it is Spring Flowers, primroses, prompted by another scruffy scrap of tracing paper I found in the treasure trove that is my Screenprinting Designs Folder from more than 20 years ago and the signs of spring that are 'bursting out all over' in my garden!

Here are four 'blocks' of the handpainted design, put together on my computer and then 'tidied up' so that the 'join' isn't too apparent -

Watch out for these primroses as they gradually appear on everything from cushions (pillows) and tea pots to phonecases and iPad sleeves, during the course of this week!