Welcome to the art of curiosity; my personal amble through the worlds of art, crafts, books & all manner of other curiosities. You'll find examples of my jewellery & art work plus an account of how I'm attempting to confound depression & my bipolarity by pursuing my creativity. There's a lot of whimsy too; my mind set is distinctly frivolous at times!

So, Dear Reader, won't you join me on my journey?

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Book Review: 'Digital Expressions: Creating Digital Art With Photoshop Elements' by Susan Tuttle

I'm an old fashioned photographer in that I know a fair amount as to how to manipulate a camera shot, but place me in front of Photoshop & I'm sunk even with the aid of the doorstop of a manual that I bought to help me negotiate the programme. I get a pain in the neck just lifting the manual up so Photoshop & I have remained strangers up until now. With the arrival of 'Digital Expressions: Creating Digital Art With Photoshop Elements' by the highly talented Susan Tuttle, all this has changed.

Susan's intention is to teach us how to create beautiful digital art, something I've yearned to learn about as I want to incorporate such images into the art journals I keep. But hold on for one tiny second. In her introduction, in a lovely, lucid format, she has taught me what I've been looking for a long time - how to start working with Photoshop Elements! My days of a pain in the neck are over. She then proceeds to take you deeper and in thoughtful, step by step detail & with clear, luscious illustrations, shows you how to create digital art with chapters devoted to manipulating images, painting & drawing, layering elements to create digital collages, merging images to create montage art and incorporating traditional art into digital works. There are 25 projects to follow and a bonus CD with goodies for you to play with.

This book is lavish - information, inspiration, techniques & ideas abound. This is the perfect introduction & springboard for those of you who want to learn how to create digital art. Read this book and then run with it. Susan is giving you the key to the door and is the perfect companion to usher you into the world of digital art. I'm enjoying playing with this book so much & would heartily recommend it.

Friday, 28 May 2010

May I offer you a delicious serving of eccentricity?

Courtesy of the BBC, a televisual offering can be found here: 'Behind The Scenes at the Museum'

This film is the epitome of all that beautiful BBC2 & BBC4 do best. It's one man's look at the community who oversee the running of the Freud Museum in London. It may sound dull, but I can assure you it isn't! From the developing 'atmosphere' between upstairs & downstairs to the organisation of the dating evenings - yes, you really could meet the partner of your, ahem, dreams ( joke? get it?) and the delightful Freudian slip-pers in the museum's gift shop, this is an hour full of gentle delights.

Fancy making friends with the museum's official dog? Or does finding a lost painting by Lucien Freud appeal? If so, please watch and enjoy. Because you're worth it :-)

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Perennial Question?

I'm a person of extremes and much as I adore succulent colour & a clashing contrast, I'm also a sucker for the pretty nudes & blush pink dresses that are currently walking down a High Street near you. And here is my solution to the 'What Should I Wear With That?' question; one that I hope would stand out in a crowd.

My fingers tiptoed through my bead trays until I alighted upon this set of beads by Dora Schubert. 'Parfait' as the French say, and then I went scurrying off to sift through my collection of pearls because nothing enhances skin tone better than the oyster's greatest gift to the world.

So here is 'Neutrality'. Could this be an answer to the question?


Jean Yates kindly reviewed this necklace in this post from her blog.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Laura Sparling's Lonelies Prize Draw

Would you like to win these beautiful, top quality 'lonelies' by the renowned UK art glass beadmaker, Laura Sparling? Then head on over to her blog, read this post & add a comment in order to enter her prize draw.

As they say, you've got to be in it to win it, so off you trot and may I wish you 'Good Luck!'

'The Faces' Jewellery Challenge: so what would you make for...

I'm reminded of the 'Faces' jewellery challenge that I referred to earlier this month. My impetus is eluding me at present and my sketchbook of ideas for Ellen Terry ( please see this entry) is a staccato mess. Nevertheless, I have another face for you; a photograph of Virginia Woolf whom I mentioned yesterday.

Both this photograph and that of Ellen capture them before the originality & true colours of their lives had unfolded. Perhaps this is why I find it difficult to pluck out inspiration from these youthful photographs; I know what is to come and it is not yet a highly visible seed in these innocent portraits. Methinks I must bear in mind the character & experience of these extraordinary women and celebrate the beauty of maturity. Perhaps I should challenge myself with a photograph of the poet, Dame Edith Sitwell instead.

But ah me no; Dame Edith had more style in an elegant finger tip than I would ever dream of addressing. I dare not presume!

My search for a face continues...

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Art Journal & Creativity Bookshelf: The Long List!

Our house groans with books. Literally. Walls have been scaled by carpenters & cabinet makers ( being married to someone in the antiques trade has its perks - Bushwood Antiques, I thank you) and shelves have been adhered to any wall not suitable for paintings. I love peering into books & sniffing out their treasures. And my books are more informatively interactive than Kindle. All book lovers should look away right now because I hereby confess to the sin of writing in the margins of my paperbacks. Indeed I have paperback copies of some of my hardbacks purely so that I can carry on a written conversation with the author. Remember the quote from my last blog entry,

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You, too? Thought I was the only one."

Well this is just one of the reasons why I write in my books; the magic spell of recognition.

My little addenda add an extra dimension to re-reading old favourites. 'Did I really think that? Oh shallow youth!' ( I rather enjoy feeling pompous about my younger self; it shows I may have actually learnt something as I've travelled through life and that all is not necessarily lost!) In fact my long standing loves which I refer to again & again, such as Virginia Woolf's diaries or Carrington's 'Letters & Extracts from Her Diaries', have special journals devoted to them which stand by their sides on the bookshelves. Carrington's paintings have always beguiled me, but when I read her enthralling letters & saw the illustrations which she added to them, I fell under her thrall & have remained her slave ever since.

Indeed, many, many years ago, it was Virginia & Carrington who first inspired me to keep a journal of my own. At first it was just a diary, but this one volume has blossomed into many. I now keep a diary, a reading record ( for thoughts I dare not expose in the books themselves!), an art journal, as well as a multiplicity of sketchbooks ( which, to my mind, are another form of journal). The latest addition is a more formal illustrated journal whose shape still hasn't comfortably settled in my mind.

But I digress. The reason for this post is that I've been 'editing' my art journal resource shelves. Not because I'm divesting myself of any of the books which have helped me along the journalling path, but because some seem more pertinent to the shelves in the Shack where I paint & make a mess whilst others seem more suited to the calmer climate of my study.

Now that I've finally finished dusting off & restating the bookshelves, I thought I'd list a selection of favourites books which I've referred to as I've mined my way through my own particular seam of journalling life. They are of particular help in the bad times, but also nourish me in the good. In other words, they are Battle Books!

Here goes...

Firstly the greats. You can treat yourself to books by any of the following authors and each & all will hold your hand and delight, inspire & inform you. Make space for:

Lynne Perella, Gwen Diehn, Danny Gregory, Maggie Grey, L.K.Ludwig, Ricë Freeman Zachary & her wonderful interviewees, Sark, Alan Fletcher, Dan Price & any of the volumes of 'Illustration Now'.

And now, in no particular order, here comes a lengthy selection of my favourites. I've added links to Amazon, not because I'm on commission ( because I'm not) but purely so that you can read a little more about each particular book.

'Kaleidoscope' by Suzanne Simanaitis
'Exhibition 36' & 'Digital Expressions' by Susan Tuttle
'Celebrate Your Creative Self' & 'The Creative Edge' by Mary Todd Beam
'Art Escapes' by Dory Kanter
'Collage Sourcebook' by Holly Harrison, Jennifer Atkinson & Paula Grasdal
'Mixed Media Collage' by Holly Harrison
'Journal Spilling' by Diana Trout
'Life is a Verb' by Patti Digh
'1000 Art Journal Pages' edited by Dawn DeVries Sokol
'1000 Journals Project'
'Complete Guide to Altered Imagery' by Karen Michel
'Exploring Colour' by the late Julie Caprara
'Handmade Prints' by Anne Desmet & Jim Anderson
'Drawing & Painting People: A Fresh Approach' by Emily Ball
'Painted Paper' by Alisa Golden
'The Artist's Sketchbook' by Lucy Watson
'Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art Of Designers, Illustrators & Creatives' by Richard Brereton
'Mixed Media Self Portraits' by Cate Coulacos Prato
'The Nature Diary of an Artist' by Jennie Hale
'Art Stamping Workshop' by Gloria Page
'Printmaking + Mixed Media' by Dorit Elisha
'Drawing From Life:The Journal as Art' by Jennifer New
'Journal Bliss' by Violette
'Drawing, Seeing & Observation' by Ian Simpson
'Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I Am' by Sara Fanelli
'Experimental Drawing' by Robert Kaupelis
'Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers & Textile Artists' by Kay Greenlees
'Making Journals by Hand' by Jason Thompson
'Artist Trading Card Workshop' by Bernie Berlin
'Mixed Emulsions' by Angela Cartwright
'Practical Printmaking' by Colin Gale
'Creative Awakenings: Envisioning The Life of Your Dreams Through Art' by Sheri Gaynor
'Taking Flight' by Kelly Rae Roberts
'Collage Unleashed' by Traci Bautista
'The New Creative Artist' by Nita Leland
'Keys To Drawing With Imagination' by Bert Dodson
'Creative Paint Workshop' by Ann Baldwin
'Drawing Matters' by Jane Stobart
Jim Krause's Colour Index Volumes I and II
'Sources of Inspiration' and 'Pattern, Colour & Form' by Carolyn Genders
'Connecting Art to Stitch' by Sandra Meech
'Acrylic Revolution' by Nancy Reyner

There are more, but I fear I may have exhausted you and that, dear Reader, will never do.

PS, I'm avidly awaiting the arrival of 'The Journal Junkies Workshop' by Eric M.Scott & David R. Modler which is available in the States, but not here in the UK as of today. Help! I'm not known for my patience! I have discovered Eric's blog though for which I shout 'Hurrah!'

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

On friendship...

My sweet friend, Jean Yates, the Rock CHICk™ shared a lovely quote with me about friendship.

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You, too? Thought I was the only one."

At this point in my life, as I emerge out of a bipolar exile and meet up with old friends and exchange smiles with new ones, it seems entirely pertinent to share C.S. Lewis' fine words with you.

I also liked his quote about the soul; it's delightfully loud & proud! We are each of us so much more that can readily be perceived, but do we always remember that about each other?

Shine your light, dear Reader! And shine bright!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Today's happiness comes courtesy of...

This choker featuring beautiful beads by Laura Sparling,

Catherine Witherell's blog posts,

Jafabrit's über-coolness,

Katherine Treffinger's Flickr Gallery,

Jennifer Sanchez' website,

Roz Wound Up's archive,

and Kelly Kilmer's journal pages.

Kelly's Pen List thrills me & she has kindly given me permission to share her pen video on Facebook. If you're a pen-head or stationary-drooler like me, I guarantee that you will feel the love!

Before you go, here's how today's happiness crept up on me:

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Creating an illustrated journal - but how to start?

Let me state my case clearly; I'm on the lookout for advice. I've kept private therapeutic art journals for years, my written journal is my best friend & alongside my dogs, my constant companion is a sketchbook. But now I want to take what seems to be the next logical step and start an illustrated journal. Maybe it's because I've got another birthday on the immediate horizon, but I have a fancy to leave something behind me & an illustrated journal seems to fill this archival need.


This won't be my first attempt - not by the longest chalk imaginable. Time & time again, I've fallen over the twin hurdles of layout & my calligraphic inabilities. How do I produce a legible text? And how do I stop myself from committing drawing-squeeze or over-elaboration? Now the latter is a major problem. The art teacher who successfully sapped my self-belief & enthusiam for art at the end of 13, told me that my work was 'too detailed'. Since returning to the art fold after years in academe, I've strived to stay true to the line ( hence my love of unwinding with blind contour drawings) but my darned meddling brain gets in the way & before I know it, I'm restating until my page is a whirling mess. This isn't a problem in a sketchbook because leaves can be detached. In my art journals, gesso, paint & collage sort this problem out for me. But how to stay the hand in a journal? I'm seeking to display a clarity that I don't find in life itself; I want to sift my life & get the essence of it on to a page. So how to do this without getting in a mess?

If any of you have tales of discoveries you made when you first began your own illustrated journals or have tips about layouts, I would deeply & gratefully appreciate your advice. You never know; you might one day be doing my great-grandchildren a favour! How's that for an example of running before I can walk ;-)

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The things I sweep under my carpet!

Speck of Speck's Sketch Blog has reminded me of something else that didn't go to plan. I looked under the carpet under which I sweep these things and lo, I've found a few of the sketches which I drew for the Everyday Matters Challenge. I followed the Challenge from a distance as I don't possess the necessary talent to be a formal participant, but then my big, bad, bipolar blip got in the way & my plans went completely awry! However, I've still got the list so I can always start again.

Here are a couple more, 'What on earth was she thinking of' sketches, namely:

Number 1 - my espadrille

and Number 24 - an apple

Now, aren't you glad I shared these ;-) I do like to make a fool of myself of a weekend!!

I think the challenge has ended now, but to view the drawings submitted by the group, why don't you pay a visit to the Everyday Matters Group on Flickr. I promise you'll be enthralled!

Friday, 14 May 2010

A challenge! What would you make for...

This portrait was taken by Julia Margaret Cameron whose work I'm quite mad for at the moment. It's of Ellen Terry, one of our most revered English actresses, taken when she was a free-spirited 16 year old, already married to the painter, George Frederick Watts.

To read more about Ellen, may I recommend Michael Holroyd's excellent , 'A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families' which I enjoyed immensely last summer.

I have a fancy to display some more photographs from time to time so this may become an occasional series. Now, I wonder, what could or would I make for Ellen?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Sketchbook scenes: some days just aren't meant to be...

Lost interest...

Eye went wrong...

So then I copied - after Van Gogh.

If days are going wrong, I know I can always turn to Vincent! The original is on page 30 of 'Van Gogh: The Master Draughtsman' by Sjraar van Heugten or can be viewed here.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Looking for 'it'!


This is the first necklace that I've completed in nearly two years, hence the title 'Celebrate'. I'm not sure I like it, but I guess it's a start. I've forgotten so much; from wire wrapping to how to set up a photo & handle the Nikon! It's rather disturbing & I feel like I've made a clumsy hash of climbing what is a relatively small hill.

One thing is certain though. My tastes have changed and I don't have the techniques to produce what I want to make. So, deep breath, I've got to work out what 'it' is and how I can arrive at & attain this nebulous concept. Ah, the 'it-ness' of things; isn't that what all creatives are chasing?

'Celebrate' features cube beads by Melanie Moertel and Ice beads & ceramic charms by Emma Ralph.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A recipe for happiness? 5 journals + 2 vanity cases + 2 rolls of pens + 1 watercolour box = a distinct possibility!

I owe Ricë Freeman-Zachery a debt of gratitude for introducing me to the enchanting film above via her scintilating blog, Notes from the Voodoo Cafe. Ken Carbone has me itching to open up my pen & pencil rolls and work in one of the Moleskines which I keep by my bed in a vanity case from Cath Kidston. In another case, I've got all manner of journal goodies such as glue, papers, photo corners, ink pads, pens, masking tape, etc, etc.

I'm a portable gal, so why on earth do I have agoraphobia? Still, where there's life, there's hope which is something to hold on to. Oooh, I'm being positive :-)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Day Two of 'Project Getting Back to Normal' - but what is normal?

'Normal' indeed! This last bipolar 'vacancy' lasted for so long that I've forgotten what normal is. So what do I mean by normal? Recovery entails accomplishing things over a period of time; doing a little more each day. 'Getting back to normal' refers more to pulling together the elements of your life that you've managed to regain & knitting them into a day or a week; forming a routine, if you will.

This week, to matters domestica, I'm adding a more formal attitude to 'work' into the mix. Up until now, I've just been doing things as & when I feel able. The time has come for a push though, so using the well known 20 minute technique and by staying SMART, yesterday I managed to lay out a necklace, started work on getting my wire-wrapping eye in tune again & sorted out my journal jungle! I failed on the daily drawing challenge though, but I'm not going to be hard on myself. If I can fit things in on a two/three day rota, I shall be happy. With the confidence these activites generated, I even managed to tackle my overdue pension correspondence which was a bonus. To do things I don't want to do, I have to back myself into a stall as if I were an unwilling horse. I don't look the thing in the face; I just gently lever myself into a position in which I can do the thing required.

Again, the twenty minute technique is invaluable. Set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes and stop work as soon as the alarm sounds - this breaks a task up into small managable bites and your task becomes SMART by which I mean:

S Specific
M Measurable
A Achievable
R Realistic
T Time Bound

I must confess that I'm a tad frightened though & feeling a little overwhelmed. Can I make this breakthrough & get 'back to normal'? I found a comforting response to this when reading the wonderful Judy Wilkenfeld's Red Velvet blog in which she wrote, 'Challenging one-self can be gratifying but scary at the same time too.' Moving out of one's comfort zone is not an easy experience, but with luck the benefits will outweigh the fear, nerves & trepidation. Sometimes feeling frightened is a good thing!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

If you want to listen to something smoothly intelligent, may I recommend this programme about Richard Buckminster Fuller. What a mind! And what a story! This is the type of broadcast that BBC Radio 4 excels at. A little treat!

Apologies that the image has been cropped so drastically. I can't make the file any smaller, so please click on it to see the full stamp. Coolsville IMHO!

Some favourite 'Bucky' quotes coming up:

'Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.'

'I'm not a genius. I'm just a tremendous bundle of experience.'

'How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.'

'Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.'

'Faith is much better than belief. Belief is when someone else does the thinking.'

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Who did what, why & what for?

'Vision of the Sermon' by Paul Gauguin

'Breton Women in the Meadow' by Emile Bernard

Don't listen to Mother; red & green should always be seen ;-) Here's another in a short series of posts inspired by the red & greeness of my blog which I hope to overhaul as soon as I've finished drawing up my list of excuses not to do things.

Allow me to show you another pair of favourite paintings which happen to be linked by an argument about development. Gauguin's masterpiece has stimulated my thoughts ever since I first came across it as a teenager, back in the mists of time, annals of history, etc, etc. It's not only the move towards an abstract form ( if someone I know is struggling with abstract art, I always refer them to these two paintings as a starter) that fascinates me. It's such an arresting puzzle; what is this painting about? I won't pontificate about my thoughts because I believe it's what a painting says to YOU, dear reader, that's important. Don't let other people's opinions get in the way of your own, she says offering an opinion!! I like a bit of hypocrisy on the side ;-)

On to the argument of which, of course, Gauguin had many. It's to do with those age old combatants, inspiration and plagiarism. I suppose that this one has a slightly more positive slant, in that it could be argued that someone 'borrowed' an idea and truly ran with it? But as I said before, I offer no personal opinion myself. To read more about this particular argument, why not take a squint at this article from 2005.

PS. Whilst you're here, let us not forget the influenence of Japanese prints ( please see my earlier post below) upon such artists as Gauguin, Bernard & Van Gogh...