Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Dream

Years ago I had a creative writing student who was a heavy dreamer. Every morning she would spend at least an hour writing her dreams down in a 3-ring binder—and she had filled dozens of them. Everyone in the class was amazed that she could remember her dreams in such detail.
Recently I was in the middle of a dream about designing a painting machine for Barack Obama when John woke me up with my morning tea. I rolled over and the dream evaporated. Yes, I know I’m spoiled with the morning tea thing, but I still wish I’d been able to find out what Obama’s painting machine really involved. Then again, maybe I was just dreaming about Photoshop…

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Moo Challenge #35

When I checked out the Make a Moo or Two blog this week and discovered this week’s theme was “pets,” I just knew I had to use this stamp of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels I’d bought in Boston years ago because they reminded me of Lily. It’s always a challenge trying to find something small enough to squeeze into the moo space, but then that’s probably why they call it a challenge!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Jolly Christmas Sale

A group of us will be hosting a Christmas bazaar, the Extra-Ordinary Jolly Christmas Sale, on Saturday, December 6th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Zion Church Cultural Centre, 1650 Finch Avenue East in Toronto. If you can make it, we’d love to see you.
There will be jewelry, cards, gift tags, tree ornaments and Christmas stockings for sale …along with prints, photographs, collage CDs, sculptural art, mixed media, and button embellishments. It’s a great opportunity to stock up on nifty stuff for Christmas, and to do some artful socializing as well.

Another sale—and one that’s coming up this week—is One of a Kind at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto. Carmi will be selling her handmade cards and assemblages there from November 27th to December 1st. Check out her blog for more details.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Looking at stuff

While I was watching Dancing with the Stars tonight, I flipped through the Lee Valley Christmas Gift Catalogue. (Since my first real job after leaving university was working as a catalogue copywriter, I’ve always had a weakness for them).
Even though Lee Valley is basically a tool company, they always have lots of other nifty stuff for sale. This time there’s an African instrument called a Kalimba you play with your thumbs, a flashlight that looks like an alien head, copper mesh ribbon, a Christmas tree removal bag, an Edwardian style glass display case and a volcanic deodorizer,
But my favorite by far was the Aquitaine Sundial Ring. It’s an adaptation of the one Eleanor of Aquitaine gave to Henry II in 1152, so that he would know when to leave the hunt for their love trysts. You suspend the ring by its cord, and the light shines through a tiny hole onto the inner surface where the times of the day are engraved. It’s like something you’d read about in a novel!

P.S. This ATC was made from Hermine’s free download of November 16th.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I’ve always thought the word twitching described what happens to the muscles underneath my right eye when I’ve been spending too much time in Photoshop. But apparently it has another meaning as well. My friend Jeanne says it’s a term birders use to describe the uncontrollable spasm of excitement they feel when they see a new—and rare—species of bird.
A couple of weeks ago, Jeanne and her husband Steve braved the elements to see this Desert Wheatear in Kent, England. Presumably they were twitching during the experience, so I couldn’t resist turning the photo she sent me into today’s ATC.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Moo Challenge #34

The theme this week at Make a Moo or Two is using a technique, stamp or material for the first time. In other words, to try something you haven’t done before. My intention was to tint some of Mary’s lace with dyes I’d bought at the Creative Festival with Daniza, but then I got all caught up in Photoshop and decided to create a digital moo tag instead. This is something I’ve been intending to do for a while because I love tags. However, since I knew it would involve work on my part, I’d just been putting it off.
Once I’d figured out the template, though, I felt I was good to go. But how “to go” was the question. This time I decided to do something abstract because I’ve been wanting to experiment with painting in Photoshop for what seems like forever, and this was the perfect opportunity to jump in by using a set of brushes I’d downloaded from Bittbox. If you’re into Photoshop like I am, you can download some of their free (and terrific) brushes right here.
To finish off my tags, I used a couple of Flourish brushes designed by Christina Lazar Schuler. All in all, this was a very satisfying project for me because I learned something new.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blogging Continued

If you’re a regular reader of Ronna’s blog like I am, you always get a kick out of the pictures she posts …everything from painted hay bales and desserts, to her drawings and painted ceramics. Ronna says she looks on her blog as an ongoing daily newsletter of her life, and that the process has sharpened her appreciation of the world around her. Instead of putting off an opportunity to photograph something interesting like she used to, Ronna shoots it on the spot so she can share the image with her readers.
Another blog I keep tabs on is Lenore’s. I really love what she does with photography, and she also has a Flickr account, which showcases her artistry with this medium. After blogging for most of this year, Lenore feels her blog has taken directions she didn't think it would take, and she wonders if others feel the same way.

Well I certainly do. I started blogging in 2006 because Carmi told me she thought I would enjoy it. In the beginning, I looked on it—in part—as a way to promote the book I’d started working on. Finishing my book has taken me a lot longer than I thought it would, but it’s been percolating away in the background and is almost done.
In the meantime, I’ve been continuing on with my ongoing ATC project. Today’s ATC is the 156th I’ve posted since January 2007. The main image I used was a free download from Hermine’s Place on November 10th, so thanks for the inspiration Hermine.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Officially a teenager

I forgot to mention that yesterday was Lily’s thirteenth birthday, or as my father pointed out to me, she’s now a 91-year-old teenager. Lily’s girlfriend Carin took this picture of her sleeping a few months ago, so I thought I’d post it to illustrate her second favorite pastime: catching 40 plus winks.
What she really likes best is eating. Because it was her birthday, Lily sampled Mr. Noodle, part of a grilled cheese sandwich, and a stir-fry of green beans, asparagus and bok choy. I know, I know, should I be feeding my dog stuff like this? Probably not. But I couldn’t help thinking about my grandmother as I was doing this.

One Christmas, Nana—who was ninety at the time—asked my uncle to make her another martini. “But Mother, is that wise at your age?” he said. My grandmother fixed him with her cold blue stare and replied: “Look Ken, I could be dead tomorrow, so I’m jolly well going to enjoy a second martini, and I’m going to do it now.”
Enough said.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More About Blogging...

Brenda, June and Leslie left comments last Sunday when I wrote a post on what to write about, and I’ve been thinking about what they said on and off all week.
Blogland is a huge community made up of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of smaller communities, so it’s really a refection of what life itself is like.
I agree with Leslie when she says that most of us are interested in specific types of blogs, ones that tend to dovetail with our interests and have a “personality” that speaks to us. I don’t know about you, but there are so many fascinating blogs online that I could be reading them 24/7—and still feel I was only scratching the surface of what’s out there. Since this is impossible, I rely on my instincts to be my guide.
For example, I read Brenda’s blog because I’m nosey and I want to know what she’s up to. She doesn’t post much and she’s comfortable with that, although she did mention the average blogger might be intimidated by the so-called professional feel of certain blogs. I know what Brenda means. I keep thinking I should tart up mine with more graphics and maybe a video, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
And I have to admit that while I’m drawn to visuals on other people’s blogs, it’s usually information, and writing style that keeps me coming back. I read June’s regularly because she has a wry sense of humor I always enjoy, and Leslie’s blog because she tells me about things I’d be really interested in if only I’d known about them! She is also responsible for reviving my long dormant interest in music. I’ve listened to J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton playing After Midnight, so many times I’m wearing out my speakers …not to mention driving John and the dog nuts. Oh yes, writing about blogs and blogging tonight makes me want to visit a whole bunch of my favorites and just forget about the dishes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Moo Challenge #33

Over the years I’ve certainly got a lot of mileage out of Mona Lisa, so when I read that this week’s challenge over at Make a Moo or Two was Paris, I immediately thought of her …oh, and the Eiffel Tower too. Much as I’d like to have been more creative with this theme, I also wanted to christen this Tim Holtz ATC stamp by using it to make my moos.
While I’m on the subject of Mona, if you have a few minutes, check out this video on YouTube that demonstrates how to render her using MS Paint. The process looks incredibly complex to me, but it’s fascinating to watch the process artist Jason Baalman goes through to reproduce her.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In My Journal

As I was flipping through my journal tonight, I realized that I don’t just use it as a place to go on and on about what’s bothering me; it’s also where I put down my ideas. Now I’ll admit that I don’t/can’t follow through on most of them, but the process of brainstorming is so pleasurable that it’s really nice to have some record of this. It gives me the feeling I’m accomplishing something worthwhile even when I’m really not. (On the other hand, I’m sure I’d thrive in an alternate universe where the only important thing would be to have ideas—and not to feel under any pressure to follow through on them).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What to write about?

John has been reading several different blogs for a few years now, and he told me today he’s noticed that not only are some bloggers posting less frequently, but also that others seem to have stopped altogether. It’s made me wonder if blogs in general have a certain life span, or if other things in life interfere with keeping one regularly as they sometimes do with me.
There are a whole host of sites out there on how to blog—over 97 million of them if you Goggle this topic—and several of them recommend you should be posting at least twice a week, or else readers will eventually drop away. I try to post more often than that, but it’s not always possible. Personally I think you should blog when you feel like it, and let the whole question of readers just take care of itself. Blogging should be enjoyable, even if it’s not always easy to know what you want to write about (or what other people might actually want to read).

Speaking of blogs, on November 2nd Hermine Koster posted this vintage image, which I turned into an ATC using Photoshop. Hermine mentions that she scanned the image—one of a group of postcards from her grandfather’s store—and that she will be offering more on her blog in the future for you to download free …as long as you don’t resell them. I think it’s worth checking out this resource because it’s always fun (at least for me) when you get a chance to work with someone else’s images. Plus you’ll enjoy her artwork too.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Moo Challenge #32

What springs to mind when you hear the word party? This is the Make a Moo or Two theme this week, and I have to admit the first word I thought of was “food” because I love sampling what other people make. The next words on my list were friends, fun and family, and I decided to celebrate this visually by using some different fonts …you know the ones—you download them because you have to have them and they’re free; then you never end up using most of them.
If you’d like to play with the ones I’ve used, here are the free links:
The food typeface is called Broken Ghost and you can download it from DailyFreeFonts.
Bleeding Cowboys (!), the friends’ font, is available from
And last but not least: fun. You can find the Turbo Ripped font at Font River.
P.S. I’d scan these with your antivirus software before installing them just to be on the safe side.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Book Worth Having

Quite honestly, I could spend all my time reading about techniques rather than applying them, especially when there are so many great books out there. A case in point is Altered Surfaces: Using Acrylic Paints With Gels, Mediums, Grounds & Pastes by Chris Cozen. Cozen, part of the Golden Acrylic Colors' Working Artists program, is a wealth of practical information. She covers Gels and Pastes to create surface texture and pattern; Fluid, Airbrush and Heavy Body acrylics; Interference and Iridescent pigments: and Grounds that give the surface of your work “tooth.” Even though the emphasis is on Golden products, if you’re a Liquitex fan, I’m sure that many of these techniques will be transferable.
Altered Surfaces is a short book—only 50 pages—but it’s crammed with all sorts of ideas to try like using different mediums with stencils and stamps, doing Glass Bead transfers, and staining crackle paste for a more dimensional look. But what I liked best about Cozen’s book is that after reading it, I finally understood the potential behind all the painting products I own, and this has given me the confidence to get more mileage out of them.To find out more about Chris Cozen, check out her website.