Monday, 28 May 2012

Father's Day, the Olympics and Holiday Mood!

Our weather has turned very hot indeed!

As a result my attic studio is out of bounds as the heat seems to collect up there, even with the windows open. So my collage box has come downstairs for now and I made this one at my kitchen table with the papers spread out around the worktops – just like when I made my first ever collage!

I’ve been wanting to make some more text-based card designs using cut-out painted paper letters for a while. And I’ve finally got around to it!

I find it quite difficult to get in the right frame of mind for designing Father’s Day cards, probably because they weren’t around when my parents were alive. To me it’s one of those ‘new holidays’ that I suspect were dreamed up by the greeting card manufacturers.

But the CardGnomes are talking about doing a special facebook promotion for Father’s Day so I thought I’d better try to come up with something new for the occasion. In fact, considering how hard I find getting into the spirit of it, I’ve actually created quite a selection of cards for various ages and different tastes over the past couple of years:

I really didn’t feel much like venturing out into the midday sun to see the Olympic Torch come through Abergavenny on Friday.

But once I was in the town centre, the enthusiasm of the crowds lining the route was infectious and I was glad I went – and managed to get a few photos, in spite of yellow-jacketed stewards standing in the way!

The Met Police were in charge of security, but I thought our Welsh ‘heddlu’ looked pretty impressive - if not quite 'fearsome'! - and their slow procession through the crowded streets raised hearty cheers! They weren't driving fast enough to whip up a breeze so they must have been sweltering in their leather trousers!

When the torchbearer finally arrived, I was a bit disappointed to discover that she wasn’t local to Abergavenny. But I later heard that she was a very worthy participant, from Newport, I believe, a 70 year old, recently retired Yoga teacher.

Next week we have two Bank Holidays! One, on Monday, is the usual late May Bank Holiday and the other, on Tuesday, is for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee! And then, on the Wednesday, my son will be coming down from York for my birthday at the end of the week - and to set up my new A3 scanner!

In view of all this and the fact that I feel I should make the most of truly summery weather on the rare occasions that we get it, I won’t be posting on my blog next week.

But, all being well, I’ll be back the following week!

Monday, 21 May 2012

A Snake, a Frog and Man-Flu

Another rather too busy week, trying to make up for lost time, but at least I finished the Chinese Year of the Snake cards.

The snake did look good against a pitch black background but red seems to be the traditional colour for Chinese Greeting Cards and this really dark red shows up his bright colours almost as well.

I’m amazed at how much general knowledge I’ve picked up since I’ve been designing greeting cards! I had never even thought about the Chinese Zodiac previously, in spite of having a Chinese Malaysian son-in-law. I find it difficult to find, or even design birthday cards for someone of his age and gender so I think that, from now on, some variation on his Chinese Zodiac sign will make that easier!

I still have a huge backlog of floral card designs to upload so this weekend I decided to forego my Saturday painting time to help with the catch-up.

This little poorly frog that I painted a while ago isn’t suitable for as many different cards as the floral ones so I’m hoping that getting those uploaded will give me time to upload at least some of the December Birthday Poinsettia cards as well.

                  A case of Man-Flu, do you think?


My resident blackbird parents are doing an excellent job of protecting their second brood of the season from the crows that gather on my chimney pots. This week, it seemed that whenever I heard a lot of commotion and looked out, I saw a crow in retreat! At times it was like watching old footage of war-time fighter plane dogfights, with both parents taking part and the crow invariably coming off worst!

It’s amazing how closely the pattern of events followed the first time around, with a lot of twittering coming from the nest for a couple of days, then two ‘chubbies’ huddling together on the side of the nest, followed by a day of Father Blackbird broadcasting warnings all day, from the time I opened my curtains in the morning to his solitary watch from his sentry post up high on my garage roof as the sun went down.

I haven’t seen the young ones out on my lawn yet, but I’m sure they’re down in the bushes, judging by the way the parents are keeping an eye out for them and heading off any likely danger.

It’s wonderful to have such a drama unfolding before my eyes!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Greeting Cards for Eid and Chinese New Year

Here are a couple of the Eid and Ramadan Cards I made from the mosque in the moonlight.

And I’m afraid that, despite resorting to a set-square at one point, my straight lines are still not as straight as maybe they should be! I can’t explain how they come to be a bit wobbly so there’s nothing much I can do about it, short of avoiding designs that involve buildings! I’m not too bothered, though, by the slightly upward-sloping ‘horizontals’  - who’s to say that this mosque wasn’t built on sloping ground?

Just after I published last week’s blog post, my laptop started doing all sorts of strange and worrying things. My computer-savvy neighbour ran out of ideas and gave up trying to sort it for me, suggesting I might need a new laptop. ARRRGGGGHHHH! 

But luckily, my son came to the rescue in the evening and, although he lives more than 200 miles away, he was able to sort out most of the mayhem, though he only managed to get Outlook Express working again yesterday.

Later I discovered that Monday's problems weren’t the direct result of Sunday’s ‘Daonol’ Trojan but were caused by a new piece of ‘Scare-ware’ – it certainly scared the living daylights out of me! - called ‘FakeSysdef’. I spent the rest of the week scanning and re-scanning with various antivirus and malware programs until I was completely  confident that it was out of my system!

So it’s been a very ‘interesting’ week!

Instead of uploading designs in between more phonecalls and visits from the Community Police and the real police about the graffiti, I’ve been working on new designs while the scanners were doing their work. And it has felt like luxury to take my time, in the knowledge that I couldn’t rush on to the uploading stage as I usually do! In fact, it’s pretty boring watching a scanner’s progress so I was glad to have some other work to get on with in the meantime!

Even though I tend to work quite fast, I could never have drawn and painted this Chinese New Year card design for the Year of the Snake in my usual Saturday afternoon painting slot! So it was a good opportunity to tackle something with a lot of detail - though no straight lines! - while I had time on my side.

It still needs a fair bit of tidying up and I still have to decide on a background colour and font. I’ll have a lot of computer work to catch up with this week but I’ll try to have Sammy Snake finished for my next post.

Yesterday morning a group of young lads, from the Youth Offenders Programme, I think, came and painted over the graffiti and I now have a nice bright white side wall, instead of the grey roughcast that I’d never got around to painting when my extension was built. So things are looking up!

I'm really much more comfortable painting big - the bigger, the better. So, when the council didn't appear to be dealing with it, I was sorely tempted to go out and paint some sort of graffiti of my own on this inviting expanse of wall! A view of the mountains, maybe . . . ?

Monday, 7 May 2012

Little Mice and a Mosque

I still have a huge backlog of floral greeting cards to upload and I haven’t been able to make as big an inroad into them this week as I would have liked. 

Not just because I had an overnight guest, Thurs/Fri – a rare occurrence for me and one that required a fair amount of tidying up and some food preparation; but also, on Wednesday, a builder arrived to start painting the high up woodwork on the outside of my house, and I had community police officers visiting and phoning, along with the local council and various neighbours, all because someone scrawled some graffiti along the side wall of my house. Then another Graduation 'customer request' late on Friday and today, a nasty Trojan, revealed by my anti-virus scan!

Time, then, to call a temporary halt to the floral repeat patterns and dig out a non-floral design that I painted a while back but hadn’t yet got around to making into cards –

This one has only given rise to half a dozen cards, plus a custom front one, in case customers would like to add the recipient’s name. So I hope I'll have time to attack the backlog of florals as well this week.

Surprisingly, amidst all the chaos of the past few days, I have made a start on a new Eid card for 2012, though I haven't got very far. There are a few months to go till Eid but it’s always worthwhile uploading well ahead of each special holiday or festival to give the search engines time to find them.

So here's my rather faint tracing of the famous 'Blue Mosque' - which I hope to turn into a card design for Eid by this time next week -

I haven’t yet decided whether to paint this mosque in watercolours or make a collage of it. But either way, I'll need a tracing. I think it would be a very suitable design for a collage but it would require a lot more accurate cutting than a floral design, as so many straight lines are involved and straight lines never were my strong point!

The same primary school teacher who offered to pay a shilling to any pupil who could find a tree with a brown trunk, also offered a reward to anyone who could find a straight line in Nature. Maybe it’s this absence of truly straight lines that usually steers me in the direction of ‘natural’, living things and away from anything remotely ‘architectural?  

But Eleanor Rossevelt apparently said, 'You must do the thing you think you cannot do' - so, I'll give it a try!