Sunday, 30 September 2018

Art Elements Fairy Challenge reveal.

September's Art Element challenge was set by Caroline of Blueberribeads and she choose 'Fairies' as the theme.

I grew up with The Flower Fairies and the delightful drawings of Cicely M Barker.  I also love the work of Brian Froud and Alan Lee.  There are so many artists out there who specialize in art works of fae, Jasmine Beckett-Griffith, Amy Brown, Linda Ravenscroft as well as less modern artists, Edmund Dulac and of course the Cottingley Fairies by Elsie Wight and her cousin Frances Griffiths, these of course caught the imagination of none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who weaved a tale so believable that the public were divided as to whether or not fairies did exist.

Once the challenge was set I started to doodle and let my imagination loose, using stories from my childhood to guide me in my fairy quest.  Of all the fairies from the stories of my youth they were mainly in human form.  The Flower Fairies, Victoria Plum  and others.  But my muse doesn't really work with people.  My illustrative doodle above came about after a lovely walk with my dogs watching as Autumn takes over from Summer and the fruits of the hedgerows and orchards swell and colour the landscape.  I may have had a glass of something cold whilst doodling, even fairies like a tipple ..right? 

I researched a bit for animal fairies and was sadly disappointed in their lack.  They are there of course but writers of stories tend to humanize their fae.  I decided to change that!  I also discovered that the words 'fairy' and 'faerie' are a little different in interpretation.  

“Fairy” is a word that has been derived from Latin word “fatum,” which can mean “fate.” “Faerie” is a word that has been derived from Gaelic “fear shidhe,” which means “’man of the shee.”

Read more: Difference Between Fairy and Faerie | Difference Between
So I doodled a little more and soon a scene emerged in my sketchbook. 

I decided to have an animal fairy, after all fairy are small 'folk' and in my world (art) animals are dominant.  After doodling some more in my sketchbook, my little scene developed and then to make it 'real'.

I have been exploring (read that as looking and drooling at lots of very talented artists on the web!) paper diaormas.  I really want to experiment much more than I have been doing.  I found in my cupboard a green 'thing' that was given to me by a member of the team (Niky Sayers).  She found it last Christmas and liked it so brought a few of them and gave them to the members of the team who met up in London back in January.  Suddenly I saw this green 'thing' as a mound in my world.  A few little glass toadstools, some paper grass, a wooden plinth and some trees - which in hindsight I would have done differently - with some of my own hand made gold watercolour paint and some 'found' acorns on a beautiful Autumn day walk with my dogs completed my vision... oh and a sprinkling of fairy dust (glitter), completed the look.

I got rather attached to my little mouse and decided to create her in glass too, then she got a name and now my sketchbook is full of little mice hoola hooping, running, playing and having wings! 

Thanks to Caroline for setting the challenge.  I nearly gave up as I really wasn't feeling the 'human' fairy but I am glad I stuck with the muse because I think Esme might go on to be a staple character in my stories and illustrations.

Others who have joined in on this month's themed challenge are below, I hope you enjoy reading their magical journeys this month. 


Art Elements Team

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Art Elements Swirl Challenge Reveal.

This month the themed challenge over at the Art Elements blog was hosted by Marsha.  The theme was 'Swirl' and I almost didn't manage it!

All month I 'ummed and 'ahhed over what to do. I came up with nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  I will admit that with less than a week to go I was seriously considering opting out and that made me a little miffed.  I felt I had let myself down.  

This month I have been busy, not just with the last few days of the wonderful heat wave - we are now back to traditional British Summer weather and as I look out of my window on this Bank Holiday Monday in August I see grey clouds and the dull greens of the trees and hedges.  It is a little depressing, even if Autumn (Fall) is coming and the leaves are slowly turning their glorious russet reds and golden browns, the glorious sunshine seems a thing of the past.    Other than lamenting about the weather, another traditional British past-time, I have been moving all my art 'stuff' into my newly decorated studio room and sorting out my new space.  The boy person isn't coming back now, his place has been taken by a fabulous antique oak desk I found on eBay and LOTS of books, paper, paints and pencils.  This is my room!  So I haven't had an awful lot of time in between organizing my studio room and being in my glass studio creating beads to think of challenges but this one was always at the back of my mind. 

I thought about getting out my yarn - now moved into my new room - and practising some free form crochet.  I used to love doing that last winter, but I wasn't inspired.  I thought about getting out my wire, again now in my new room and playing with twisting metals into shapes but that isn't something I have a passion for.  I thought about creating a 'normal' bead with swirls for decoration but was bored just thinking about that as my beads are not my beads unless they have a funny face and tail.


I was reading Jill's blog Kiln Fired Art  (she is taking part in this challenge too) and reading about her new frame and of course seeing her art work.  It was then I thought to myself, stop trying to create something that isn't you! 

 I have three passions in art, one is writing, one is glass and illustration.  I had discounted the glass for this challenge so it was either writing or illustration... off topic muse I wonder who would be interested in reading a challenge that I devoted to writing... ummm....


I decided that I would take inspiration from Jill and do some small illustrations of swirls.  Just shapes and random ideas, then I looked up and out of my window and watched the wind bending the dull green trees and whipping up the dried and dead grass and leaves and wondered if Miss 'Mudge my only cat that was outside at the time, was still anchored on the ground!  The wind was rather fierce that afternoon.  I conjured up, in my imagination, Miss 'Mudge - this is her...

...hanging onto an umbrella, Mary Poppins style, and flying through the wind.  Then I thought an umbrella would be too heavy for her paws - it is no wonder my family worry about me and my weird imagination - so she would be better holding a balloon.  


I thought, VOILA!!!  my challenge piece will be an illustration of the wind, all swirly on the page.

And so, here it is!  I am not sure if it is finished yet.  I may yet add some more illustrative lines to the wind, maybe darken a few areas?.... I am not quite so sure but what I do know that is that when faced with a themed challenge work to your strengths!  

Hope you like my 'not quite' finished' piece and now I am looking forward to next months challenge, as long as I use the skills I have passion for!

Please come and hop the blogs and see what others have done with this challenging challenge, Swirl, was not an easy one, for me at least.  

Until next time....

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Seed Pod, Art Elements Blog Hop Challenge

Welcome to the Seed Pod Challenge blog hop hosted this month by Jennifer of the Art Elements Team.  You can find the original link to the Seed Pod Challenge introduction blog HERE 

I started off experimenting with wet felting something I had never done before.  After watching various YouTube videos and digging out my limited stash of fibre materials and ordering a few more I made my felted piece that I wanted to turn into a 'sort of' sculptural piece.  

As I am sharing my blog post with the very talented Paulette who is joining the challenge (and you will not be disappointed her entry is just stunning!) .. I realized that between us we had A LOT of photos so not to bore all the visitors to the blog if you want to read about my wet felting process I did write it up the other week for Art Elements blog, only I didn't share the finished piece you only get to see that here.  CLICK HERE  for the blog post in which I describe how my first piece of wet felting went.. don't forget to come back ;)  

 Sorting out what I wanted to use - the brown fibres are 'natural' fibres and they are so soft! 

What will be the inside of my finished piece.

..and... the photos above and below is the outside of my finished piece. 

Getting wet and soapy....

Left to dry in the sun. 

The finished piece.  My imagination took over with my seed pod challenge and 'sort of  evolved'.  I had this idea in my head that magic folk (I am a repressed children's author so bare with me....) live in the woods and they build their homes in the natural materials around them.  Seed pods.

Just before I allowed my finished piece (photo above) to dry, I sat in the sun in the garden with soapy hands and sculpted and moulded the piece of felt into a shape I was happy with.  In my imagination (story) my magic people wove threads of twine with seed pods and branches to create hanging 'pods' in which to live.  I added some beautiful natural curls of wool (I name the sheep this wool comes from in the Art Elements post), to 'decorate' the opening of the 'door' to the home.  

Now, if you have read the Art Elements blog piece  in which I show and explain my working of the fibres you will know that my husband (a very un-arty man!) likened my 'pod' to a dead squirrel.

I added lots of seed beads and sequins in shiny silver to give the illusion of rain drops and the dangle at the bottom has a blue shell bead.  Blue is the colour associated with the sea and the sky and also for wisdom and loyalty.  These are very important to my  magic people who live in the woods.

 The Green Man is a beautiful ceramic cab from Jenny in the team and with my limited seed beading skills I beaded around him and added some bead leaves... every magic person has to decorate their pod house... right?  

My husband still said it looked like a dead squirrel but I enjoyed the process and creating the story in my head (this is the abbreviated version for the blog!) whilst I wondered around the ancient woods with my dogs.  Yes we really have ancient woods near us, we are very lucky.  

I also did another seed pod piece, which sort of evolved from a video I posted in a sketch group I belong to on FB.  You might have seen the video it has gone viral.  It is of an artist filling a plastic up with various acrylic coloured paint and pouring it onto a canvas.  I wanted to have a go but using my acrylic inks.

It is messy!!  but fun.  I did find I had to put 'glazing medium'  on the surface of the canvas to allow the inks to move freely.  I also didn't use a cup I just splodged it on and moved the canvas to allow the colours to blend.

I had no real plan in mind when I started.  I just wanted to make a mess and have fun!!  

When it dried - much lighter although the camera has washed out the colours a bit in the photo below - I left it on the side in the dinning room and 'umm'ed and ahhh'ed' over it for a few days, then I grabbed my Posca pens (I only have black and white) and added my favourite dried 'flower' heads that I see in the ancient woods.  These plants start off as a cluster of white flowers in spring and when the flowers die off they are just as beautiful in their skeleton form.  Each flower leaves behind a seed head.  It is a bit abstract and not the 'norm' for me but I enjoyed the experiment.  Not sure I would do it again though, it was super messy.  

Thank you for reading my ramble and please enjoy Paulette's wonderful design with her very dangerous looking seed pods.  Paulette did send me all the photos and words all done and ready to load but unfortunately they were too small to upload directly so I copied each piece out and hopefully have married it up correctly with it's right photo. 

Introducing Paulette Scott who is taking part in the Seed Pod Challenge too.  

Well to start off I go out on a nature walk looking for Devil Claw seed pods (Proboscidea  Athaeifolia)  walk all along the Arroyo - dried up stream bed in the South of Texas, none to be found down here, I suppose we don't get enough rain in the Spring for them to grow, so I got on Etsy and ordered some.  They came in on the 11th and they are much nastier than I remembered. 

Those little curved points are very sharp and hurt!  I have cleaned them and dipped them in polyurethane to seal them.

I sat there trying to decide what to do with the pods.  I decided to create Dream Catchers with them, but I want them prettier than the regular 'Tourist Trap' ones (perfect circle metal hoops, artificial sinew and fake eagle feathers).  I asked myself 'what is the prettiest inspiration I have around the house??'  

Our little girl Ruby, a Rose Breasted Cockatoo.

 Inspiration found, now to get all the rest of the supplies, a trip to the bead store for beads and the very thin rat tail cording.  For the feathers, I am using all of Ruby's own feathers, she moults once, sometimes twice a year and I collect them.  A quick trip out to Hobby Lobby for some cord crimps.  
Now I have everything so time to start.  

 After poking myself a dozen times I put on a small drop  of E6000 glue on those nasty little hooks and once again start the webbing.

 Next up was to embellish the individual hoops.  Beads and feathers next.   

After much sewing and fixing feathers I think I have them.  I hope you like them as much as I liked making them.  

I tie on the rat tail cording and start the webbing. 

 I need to stop now, or they will never be finished.  Here there are hanging up.

Thank you for reading and hope you can hop over to the others that took part in this challenge.

Guest Artists:
Art Elements Team: 

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Art Elements Themed Challenge Reveal - Sunflowers hosted by Susan Kennedy

This month's challenge was set by Sue from SueBeads from the team and was for Sunflowers.  
You can see the original blog post on Art Elements blog here.  With the introduction to the challenge, on the post, Sue posted some wonderful inspirational photos but these caught my eye...

I was bemused even at myself because I can't even sew a button on straight and I hate sewing.  When my son was still at school I used to patch his school trouser knees up with special fabric glue and patches - he was one of those kids that was never clean and always lost a jumper and ripped his trousers, I am quite glad he has 'grown up' and now provides his own clothes!  My daughter is a wonderful seamstress, when she is motivated and does all her own alterations.  Being 5ft and petite nothing fits her right so she has learnt to be quite proficient, even taking one of her high school exams in Textiles and gaining A* in her exam.  She didn't get her skills from me.  

So you can see I was bemused.... and interested.

So I hit Pinterest and collected together an enormous amount of pins that I liked with sunflower themes, here is just two of them, you can link to the original owner of the photo with the caption link beneath. 

crochet sunflowers

Felted Mouse
OK so the mouse is holding a daffodil but it is yellow and I liked it! 

So I decided that seeing as some time ago I was gifted some felt for felting I would have a play.  I wanted to create a mouse that was sit in his own sunflower.  I did doodle the original idea but it was on a scrap of paper and it is obviously in a safe place... I can't find it!

I first did a mouse with the felt I had.

He really wasn't successful.  I didn't have the right pink.  He was too bright.  The only other pieces I have ever done was when I was first gifted this felt and I made a cats head, which after watching lots of Youtube videos on needle felting turned out I had done it wrong and it was over 'stabbed' and quite hard.  I don't have a photo and he is buried at the bottom of a drawer somewhere.

So there was nothing for it.. I had to order supplies and whilst I was at it, a few more needles and a new stabbing surface as mine was secondhand and well loved which, according to Youtube meant I needed a new one.  Whilst I was watching videos on needle felting I stumbled across wet felting and seeing as I now had quite a bit of felting materials being delivered by my patient postman (my daughter does a lot of on line shopping!) I thought, 'I like that' ... and promptly went off to get some bubble wrap as told to by the video.

VOILA!!  my first ever wet felted piece.  The sunflower, which I 'stabbed' onto the wet felted background I did using yet another Youtube inspired technique in which I wanted to make a 'picture' so used shop brought felt as a base, I drew my shape on and 'painted' with the felt.  I rather enjoyed both processes.  The wet felted piece did make me be more abstract, which when I am illustrating I like to be a little more controlled so that was out of my comfort zone but I have to say I really did enjoy it.  It is very 'zen' like to roll soggy wool into a shape, to squeeze it to rinse when it is created and to see all the fibres all matted together to create something out of wispy threads.  

But I still wanted a mouse!

Meet Edgar,  the pink I ordered was so much more fitting for ears and tails.  I rather enjoyed making Edgar but have to admit the process of the wet felting did intrigue me more.  Maybe it is the placing of the fine threads to create a texture and movement in a piece and letting myself be a bit freer with how the method works was extremely relaxing.  I will be doing more wet felting... I probably didn't need those new needles as Edgar was fun but he didn't inspire me to create more creatures unlike the glass which I can go from creature to creature.

Although my finished piece isn't the sculptural piece I set out to do I did end up with my sunflower and my mouse in a fashion, just not together exactly....  the only problem I have now is what do you do with the finished felted pieces?  This piece isn't huge, I thought about using it to cover a sketch book, my daughter suggested hanging it.  Part of my inspiration came from the gift from Jenny of the team, hers hangs in my studio and I see it every day, which is probably why I was taken with the textile inspiration that Sue put up when she announced the challenge.

For now I will just look at it on my pile of arty stuff that sits next to the laptop.

I hope you can join me in the blog hop to visit the blogs that took part in this months challenge.


AE Team

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Art Element Tidepool Theme Reveal Blog Challenge

Last month Lesley from the Art Elements team posted the challenge of Tidepool and today, 31st May is the reveal.  (click on the link to read the original blog post).  

May has been a busy month for me as I am getting ready for the Flame Off  which is a glass fair in Uttoexter.  I am both exhibiting and teaching a small class of 12 on Saturday 2nd June getting people hooked on the art of whimsy beads in glass making.  My little cat Gordy has been recovering from last months set back so I have been spending a lot of time with him getting him active and 'fattened' back up. We have had lots of lovely sunshine which has been great for getting Gordy into the garden but not so great for glass bead making as it has been too hot by 11 in the morning to light the torch and cook in the studio.

I was however inspired by the theme of Tidepools.  I remember as a little girl we lived in Cornwall near the beach and I loved walking on the sand after a good storm - I do love a good storm.  The waves would be crashing to the ground splattering foam and sea weed across the beach.  The smell of salt and fish, of damp sand and mildewy rocks that are seeing the sunlight after the dark of the storm, assaulted your nose.  The skies would be coloured in pink and purple with fading grey on the horizon and the tidepools, or rock pools as we call them here in the UK would be teeming with life.  You could see starfish, anemone, sea weeds in all shapes and colours, small fish and limpets that had been trapped as the sea receded.

These memories sent me into the studio very early in the morning to create glass fish, in my style...  

 ..and every good tide pool has to have a shark.. right!

I had fun creating my tide pool fish in glass, obviously they are not your normal visitors to these little rock pools nestled by the cliffs here in the UK but you just never know they might just live there if you look hard enough.

On a rummage through my cupboards of art supplies and beads I came across this beautiful cabochon by Jenny , one of the members of the team, she had gifted me this piece when I first joined the team.  I love the colours and the swirls, it just reminds me of water and Pisces.  I am a Piscean.  So using it as my muse I painted some goldfish (I am still learning my watercolours but loving the journey, I am finding painting so restful and relaxing... which after years of hating them and being so frustrated by my efforts I am finding using them something of an enigma!  

This finished doodle illustration is not perfect, far from it and the fish are not as whimsy as I imagined nor are they realistic enough to pass scrutiny in the art circle BUT I rather like it!  I love the colours and of course the 'doing' was something that gave me much pleasure.  I stuck this on the front cover of my new sketchbook so I get to touch it and see it every day. 

As with the 'sketchbook' piece I have found I am quite taken with creating mixed media flat illustrative work at the moment.  I like creating levels of depth and combining cut out pieces to give a more 3D but yet still flat look.  The other thing I have found is that when creating a 'full sized' finished piece of work I get easily bored and distracted.  This is quite a revelation for me as I have never really understood or 'been into' mixed media pieces but I have found, I think through creating small glass sculpture animal beads and then dreaming up silly stories for them, that that is my niche.  Small but lots of it!  

I have been reading a lot of fantasy stories on my Kindle - another move from the norm for me.  It wasn't until my ....ahem...  40s ....that I realized I love these stories of magic and folklore, before I read widely but it was biographies and classics like Little Women, Where Angels Fear to Tread as well as more modern works like The Colour Purple,  and the likes of Joanne Harris, Lollipop Shoes and Chocolat.. but I digress...

My latest, reading, passion has been for stories of Selkies and the sea which has set my imagination off for this challenge.  
I wondered what you would see if you gazed into a rock pool and there amongst the star fish and the shells was a Selkie in seal form.....

I used very rough watercolour paper for the 'base' or background, tinted in shades of yellow ochre, light violet for shadows and maybe a touch of grey.  On this I painted star fish, shells, rocks and sea weed as well as the Selkie himself.  I cut these out and arranged them how I wanted using a raised mount to give me depth.  On the mount I put my person looking in and some more shells and rocks.  I wanted to give the illusion of ripples on the water, another level and for this I used some clear film cut into ripply shapes.  I rather like the over all effect and have plans to create more like this.  This way I can indulge in my love of quick, immediate and 'movement' in designs, small pieces and link them all together.

I hope you will hop around the other blogs that took part in this themed challenge and I will try and do the same over the weekend, although as this weekend I will be melting glass in Uttoexter I suspect it will be early next week before I am able to do that.


AE Team Members: