Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Shopping for January Birthday Gifts - Snowdrops!

It can be tough having your birthday in January! And tough, too, for those who are racking their brains to think of a birthday present so soon after Christmas.

Not only is it the time when the credit card bills from our Christmas shopping start arriving but often a kind of 'gift-shopping fatigue' has set in, a reaction to all the frantic hunt for Christmas gifts. 

It's too easy to resort to rolling the Christmas and January Birthday gifts into one - sometimes a sensible solution but often disappointing for the person on the receiving end! Whatever we may say about not wanting a fuss on our birthdays, deep down most of us want to feel that our birthday is important, that our birthday is our special day.

So here are some ideas for making a January Birthday Girl - of any age! - feel very special!

Did you know that each month has a couple of flowers assigned to it - the Birth Month Flowers? You can read all about the Birth Month Flowers here:

For those of us who live in the temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere, the Snowdrop is probably the more familiar of the January Birth Month flowers - in winter and early spring, the only Carnations available would be hot-house grown. ('Snowflakes' grow better in the Southern Hemisphere - eg in Australia)

The tiny, pure white Snowdrop bells with their spiky green leaves are usually the first of the spring flowers to push their way up through the soil and open to let us know that winter is on its way out, even though there may well still be some freezing weather to follow. I have sometimes even spotted the first Snowdrops in my little garden while the snow is still on the ground! Sometimes Snowdrops don't even put in an appearance until February and certainly the poet who named them 'February Fair Maid' associated them with February. 

(an earlier blog post about Snowdrops)

But, officially, the Snowdrop is the January Birth Month Flower - so I have created a collection of January Birthday Cards and Gifts that will show anyone with a January birthday that you have taken the trouble to find something really special for their birthday.

The 'Snowdrops' in my collection were originally silkscreen-printed, based on a drawing of a bunch of Snowdrops from my garden. Years later, I painted them again in watercolour and used the motif to make a repeating pattern as well as keeping the 'bunch' intact so that there's plenty of variety in my 'Snowdrops' collection.

The Birthday Cards in this collection are ready for you to personalize with your own message. And because the elements of some of them are presented as templates, they can easily be customized, as can most of the gifts. 

In many cases you can change the background colour and re-size the pattern or even rotate if for a totally different look! And the monograms and the 'shields' that enclose them, can all be removed if you prefer to leave the gift with just the pattern or floral motif. Playing around with the design elements is all part of the fun and is the way to make sure that your gift is truly unique!

Click on the image to see the full 'Snowdrops' collection  

If you've ever shopped at Zazzle, you'll be aware that the number of products on offer is constantly growing! Due to lack of space, I've only presented you with eighty "Snowdrop" products in this collection but if you'd like me to create a different "Snowdrop" gift, please contact me through my Posh & Painterly store and I'll normally have it ready for you in a couple of days, at no extra charge.

David Dimbleby,
chairman on BBC Question Time

Because my 'Snowdrops' collection features flowers, it is unashamedly focused on 'Gifts for Girls' (of all ages!). So what about the boys and men whose birthdays fall in January?

That's definitely more tricky, though I think we probably make false assumptions about flowery patterns when it comes to men - I've noticed that TV presenters and newsreaders often wear beautifully floral neck-ties and in the past, I've blogged about 'men and floral greeting cards' HERE.

'Snowdrops' Tie

So I've used my ever-growing stash of floral patterns to put together a collection of Floral Neckties - some may even appeal to the 'gals' as well as the 'guys'!

Click on the image to see the full 'Floral Ties' collection

And here's an article I came across with some useful tips on different ways to tie a tie -

However, gifts for the men and the boys can cause us females headaches for a variety of reasons and deserve a blog post all to themselves. 

So next time, I'll be focusing on some of the reasons that buying gifts for men, whether they're friends, relatives or colleagues, can be so perplexing - and offering some tips that I hope will make it easier.

I'll also be including a collection of Gifts or Cards for Men in nearly every subsequent blog post - so make sure you pop back often!

And in the meantime, if you have any particular gift-buying questions or tips - or even stories of a gift that went wrong, or a surprise gift that went down especially well! - we'd love to hear about them in the comments.

So till next time, good luck with your January Birthday gift-buying!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Shopping for the Perfect Christmas Gift

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the next major gift-giving holiday is Christmas, less than a month away.

It's often said, by Christians and non-Christians alike, that Christmas is a time for giving. It is usually thought to be following the tradition of the Three Wise Men (or Three Kings) who brought gifts of Gold, Frankincence and Myrrh to the infant Jesus  - a kind of Christening Present or even a forerunner of the Baby Shower!

But it seems to be true that we all like to give - and receive! - gifts to celebrate any kind of High Day or Holiday; birthdays, of course, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and all the other feasts and festivals celebrated by religious and non-religious folk alike.

For instance, the Jewish festival, Hanukkah, comes before Christmas, in early December. 

So, as I've been so busy, making Collections for my Zazzle stores that I haven't had time for any new artwork, here are just a few ideas for Hanukkah Gifts and Greeting Cards:

Click on the image below to see the full Collection


As you get older,
Your Christmas List gets shorter.
Not because you want less,
But because the things you want
Can't be bought.

At my time of life, I'm in a position to confirm that!

My perfect Christmas List would start with 'more time with my family' and continue with things like: a more equal society, where everyone's voice is heard, politicians who behave like grown-ups, an end to global poverty and pollution, a cure for cancer, a world free of the fear of terrorist attacks and the ravages of war . . . I could go on and on!

But while none of those things can be expected in my Christmas stocking, I continue to try to assemble a little list of material things I'd like to receive. My aim is to make the Christmas present-buying decisions a little easier for my nearest and dearest and to avoid a situation where unwanted gifts are either returned to the store or donated to a charity shop!

Looked at from a purely logical point of view, maybe we should all give one another gift vouchers or money to choose our own gifts - and sometimes that is the best solution. 

But imagine how our Christmas Trees would look, without their intriguingly-shaped, festively-wrapped packages and parcels! And if we've all stuck faithfully to the 'Christmas List', there's far less temptation to prod and poke the parcels, to try and guess what's inside - surely part of the excited anticipation of Christmas for children of all ages!

So while the Christmas List may have its advantages, it's always nice to add some little unexpected gift, as long as you choose it carefully - it doesn't need to cost a lot of money as long as it's something to make the recipient's face light up as they unwrap it, something to show you really know what will make them smile.

With that in mind, I've put together some Collections of gift ideas in a wide range of prices and to suit all ages, gifts that you won't find in the High Street! 

Many of them can be personalized with a name, initials or monogram. Some of them are ready for you to choose your own background colour and customize by changing the scale of the pattern or rotating it for a completely different 'look'.

Go ahead, experiment with the 'Customize' button and create a truly unique and personalized Christmas gift!

Click on the images below to see the full Collections.

Gifts for Kids -
'Skating Penguins' Gifts 

'Fish in the Sea' Gifts

Gifts for the 'girliest' Girl -

'Candy Floss' Fashion and Accessories

Gifts for Lads - 

'Faux Snakeskin' Fashion and Accessories 

Gifts for the Home -

'Indigo' Gifts for the Bedroom and Bathroom 

Fashion Gifts 'for Her' - Accessories and Apparel

'For the Love of Lilies' Fashion and Accessories

Gifts 'for Him'

Plaid and Check T-shirts and Footwear for Men

'Heffalumps' Gifts for Men

Gifts for Grandma -

'Rosy Posy' Home Decor Gifts 

Gifts for Grandpa -

Coffee Mugs for Men

In my experience, buying gifts for men of all ages - once they get into double figures - is the most challenging of all!

So I very much hope you found something here to fit the bill! 

And next month, I shall be looking at some of the reasons why it's so hard to choose a gift for a man - and offering tips and suggestions to make it a little easier! 

So be sure to pop back after Christmas - and in the meantime, why not pay a visit to my other Posh & Painterly blog, where I post a brand new Collection every day of the week!

Till then -

- and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous
 New Year!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

October Work in Progress

The only real signs of Autumn in my little back garden!

When I started selling my greeting cards online, a 'marketing guru' friend warned me that I would spend 80% of my time promoting and only 20% creating.

She was just about right, except for the fact that the 20% has turned out to necessarily include a lot of other tedious tasks in order to get my designs on products for sale! In recent months, this has been particularly true of Zazzle, where my sales are greatest. There have been changes to the 'rules' and changes to the website that all entail hours of work for the designers. All part and parcel of selling online but it means that time in my attic studio has been very limited again.

Thankfully though, there is some creative work that I can carry on with in spite of spending so much of my time on my laptop doing necessary 'house-keeping' jobs!

I've just finished reading Andrew Marr's 'A Short Book About Drawing'.  In fact, although it certainly is a 'short' book, it covers a lot more than drawing. I suppose that's inevitable because of the blurred line between drawing and painting. 

For instance, even in a 'painterly' soft pastel like this one of Hereford Cathedral in the Autumn, I feel I am drawing rather than painting throughout the whole process:

The most important thing I took from this very interesting book was the reminder to draw something every day! 

And because my drawing doesn't always consist of trying to make an accurate representation, but often it's something more like doodling, as long as I have plenty of paper and pencils to hand, that is something I can happily catch up with while I'm watching tv - especially if it's the World Cup Rugby as it helps to relieve the tension!

Here's one of my recent 'doodles'! 

Of course, if I'd set out to draw a village, I'd have gone about it totally differently. 

For one thing, I wouldn't have started with the church. I'd have begun with the school in the foreground and built up everything else behind it. That would at least have helped me get the perspective right and avoid paths and roads that go nowhere! And what on earth is that bush doing, growing out over the pavement (top right) and into the road?! 

But it's in the nature of a 'doodle' that it isn't planned, it kind of grows organically and takes on a life of its own, ignoring constraints of things like perspective and practicalities. That bush - or is it a pile of manure? - could become the starting point for a story about village life! 

My 'village' will get filed away with all my other doodles and maybe one day it'll be the starting point for a design - maybe not! The main thing is that I enjoyed it - and it lowered my stress levels during a nail-biting rugby match on tv!

Meanwhile, it's still incredibly mild for the time of year and the trees are late changing their colours. 

Trees across the road from my house changing colour at last
We had a very wet August and September and now, in October, there's hardly been any frost so I expect that has something to do with it.

My walk to the shops through Bailey Park is lined with beech and oak trees and in other years, the oaks have begun to change in late August, the magnificent beeches in September. 

This year they've only just got going!

If you click on the 'Thanksgiving' collection below, you'll see some of the cards and invitations I made from photos of those trees in previous years -

One of the very positive changes this year has been Zazzle's introduction of 'Collections'. 

I tend to design patterns in 'collections' in any case. But it's great to be able to break down my collections even further, grouping them according to products or occasions! I still haven't finished my 'Periwinkles' collection - greeting cards still to be added - but here are all the coordinating periwinkle patterns on 'Periwinkle Gifts for a Bathroom and Bedroom' -

It's impossible to walk through the shopping areas of Abergavenny this Autumn without noticing that plaids and checks are still filling the windows of the clothing shops and boutiques. 

On a sunny day, it's hard to get a photo of a shop window without reflections but here are a couple that didn't do too badly -

Inspired by this continuing trend, I've gathered together all my fashion products with plaids and checks in this 'collection'. (Zazzle have just introduced canvas shoes for us to decorate with our designs so I hope to add some of them - as soon as I find the time!)

Although I haven't had time to create much new art this month, I have been busy creating 'Collections' and building up my other blog, now called 'Posh & Painterly' to avoid any confusion. 

Each day, I'm posting a new Zazzle Collection in the hope that the blog can become a useful shopping resource for anyone who likes my style of Art and Design. Six days a week I'm hoping to provice a new 'Collection' to browse! 

- it's all about style!

So please pop over and take a look - you might even find some ideas for Christmas presents amongst them (even though the flowers in my back garden make it seem as if Christmas is still a long way off!). 

Annual Godetias and Pot Marigolds, grown from seed
- nearly November and still in bloom!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

September Work in Progress

September Anemones and Montbretia in my garden
August was wet and decidedly chilly and most of September has been wet and even chillier! But finally, we have the warm, sunny days we expect in September and no sign of rain all week - though the nights have become decidedly autumnal.

At last my little tomatoes are ripening and the flavour is worth the wait!

And finally, too, Zazzle have agreed to refund the tax that they withheld incorrectly, so life is gradually returning to something approaching normal. 

However, in the meantime, Zazzle have completely reorganised their website and this has involved us all in mountains of extra work, getting our online Zazzle stores up to scratch and simply finding our way around the site, when I really wanted to get back to some designing.

But I have managed to get my new 'Little Mice' Christmas Card finished and uploaded to Greeting Card Universe and Zazzle. 

Here's the custom front version -

(It's also available with the greeting in Non-English languages)

What with the Rugby World Cup and spring bulbs and home-grown wallflowers urgently needing planting, time has been at a premium. 

So I decided to use the Periwinkle design I made a while back to create a new collection on Zazzle. I still need to find time to work on a border pattern and phone case templates for personalization, but here are the fifteen coordinating patterns I've worked with so far - on the new all-over print Tank Tops that Zazzle have recently introduced.

Click on the image to see them all -

But what about the new pattern I wanted to make from the photos of the pretty little Phlox plants in the photo I shared last month? 

I have actually made a start!

I find it really helpful to make a lot of little drawings of plants and flowers I'm going to use for a pattern - I need to draw them over and over to get to know them. It feels almost like getting to know a new friend! And I almost always find that drawing throws up some surprises. At first glance, the petals of all these pretty little flowers appear to be the same shape.

But once I start to draw them, I realise there are several different petal shapes.

As the plants have matured, more of them have started to 'trail'. And the curve of their stems has made me wonder whether they would be a suitable candidate for an 'ogee' pattern, like the periwinkle pattern that I used to illustrate how to make an Ogee Repeat pattern. Not sure yet and I'll probably try out several arrangements before I decide.

Planting out the 160+ seedlings in the spring was a bit of a chore but they've been worth it. They've flowered for months and they are still going strong when most of the other flowers in my garden are well past their best. 

And now the Marigolds and Godetias I sowed in pots are really coming into their own now and brightening up the shadowy corners of the garden.

Pot Marigold and Godetias
Not a very good photo - a quick snap with my phone camera - but perfectly adequate as inspiration for a future pattern. I love the combination of pink and orange and I made a pattern of Pot Marigolds and bright pink Busy Lizzies a couple of years ago.

The humble Marigold is one of the birth month flowers for October so I've put together a collection of October Birthday Cards and Gifts -

With so much going on these past few months, a lot of things have had to be put on hold! 

My decorating ground to a halt in July, I'm having to tie my hair back because I haven't had time to get it cut and as for cleaning the house, it's had to be reduced to the bare essentials! But it's a question of priorities and if there has to be a choice, housework will always give way to making patterns!

And anyway, I don't know whether this is true or not but I choose to believe it is!

(Also available as a Fridge Magnet and a T-Shirt)

Tuesday, 29 September 2015