A catch up on broadband, cats, life in Portpatrick and Chocolate Baroque

In my last post I was bemoaning the lack of broadband and I am delighted to say we did finally get it on December 2nd!  You’d be forgiven for thinking this would be the start of regular blogging, but it actually meant we could finally push on and get the new Chocolate Baroque website finished and launched.  Adrian and I did most of the work on the site ourselves and in those final weeks, it was occupying most of my time and all of my mental and creative capacity.

Once we got the site launched on December 18th, getting Christmas presents and cards sorted suddenly became the top priority, then in the blink of an eye both Christmas and New Year had come and gone.  I prepared to hit the ground running at the start of January, but just hit the ground instead, floored by the vicious sinus cold thing that has been going around.

That then meant I had a backlog to deal with and a bunch of deadlines I had to extend.  I have been working hard on a new 12 month long project for Chocolate Baroque and we just launched it yesterday, behind schedule but at least it is still January!!  It’s called A Year of Stamping with Chocolate Baroque and you can read all about it on the Shop Blog.

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And talking of blogs, I know this one seems to be gathering cobwebs and tumbleweeds and there’s a reason for that.  I am trying to make a distinction between my own creative stuff and the business.  I love Chocolate Baroque to bits, but always felt a little uncomfortable turning my own blog into a constant advert for it, so instead, I will be doing things like product reviews, projects and tutorials on the CB shop blog and keeping this blog for more personal stuff.

For example, I’m doing a lot of crochet lately. Fans of Chocolate Baroque stamps probably aren’t that interested, but I know many of my readers are similar to me in that they enjoy a wide range of crafts.  We still have quite a lot to do to the house, including sorting out curtains and central heating to get the place cozier, which might have something to do with my desire to make a blanket.

I am making a tunisian crochet entrelac blanket which is a lot less complicated than it sounds.  It is worked in squares, working up a diagonal path which means that it is great for space dyed yarn as you get a checkerboard effect without having to change colours.  The yarn I am using is called Amazing by Lion Brand yarns and it’s a lovely soft wool blend (the colour is Glacier Bay).

entrelac blanket

I’m also still reaping the benefits of the two classes I took in Ireland last year and doing more painting and journaling.

Sometimes the journaling is just too private to share – after all, that’s the beauty of a journal, it’s a private, sacred place to express inner thoughts, to vent, to experiment and for me, to problem solve.  I ask my journal questions an awful lot, then I write, doodle, paint and glue until the answers come through.  Other times it’s a statement of intent like this spread here.

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click on the image to see the full size version

Completion is my word of the year for 2015 – most of the clutter in my studio is unfinished work and things I’m keeping “just in case” I ever need them.  In business I’m a huge advocate of playing to your strengths and delegating your weaknesses.  (Adrian is a detail freak so he does all our proof reading – a job I don’t enjoy, but he’s brilliant at it.)  However that doesn’t work with art, I can’t delegate the completion of a card or a painting to anyone else, so my goal this year is to get over the perfectionism of not finishing (it can’t be criticised if it’s unfinished) and get on and complete things.

There are faces on this journal spread too because I just love drawing and painting faces.  I included the Boticellis as something to aspire to and the painting is a copied from a photo.  I am ok at poker faces, but I’m trying to learn how to do more expressions.  I’m fascinated by the way the shapes change when someone smiles – the eyes are flatter at the bottom, there are wrinkles at the corners, the cheekbones become more pronounced and teeth – oh boy, teeth are hard and they are definitely not white.

I’ve actually added to this spread since the photo, practising painting aliums, and experimenting with something called TAP – Transfer Artist’s Paper.  You can print onto it with an inkjet printer then iron it onto another surface and it will transfer the image.  It’s designed for fabric, but can work on other surfaces as well.

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click on the image to see the full size version

I used it here to transfer the Albert Camus quote “In the depths of Winter, I finally learned there was in me an invincible Summer” which is a quote that means a lot to me.  The TAP transfers come out rather patchy on textured surfaces such as layered paint and collage and the quote is a little smudged because I didn’t tape it down and it moved when I ironed it.

I have almost finished another painting that I started in Ireland.  Photographing a painting and looking at the photo is a great way to see what’s working and what isn’t.  After seeing this painting as a photo, I want to do just a little more tweaking, but overall I’m pretty pleased with it.

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This is acrylics and molding paste on paper with metallic gold powder and it is now on my Redbubble site, where you can buy various items with this design on.

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For those of you who are interested, this is the link to my shop – please take a look.  http://www.redbubble.com/people/glendaw/shop.

Purdy is growing up fast.

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She was spayed and microchipped just over a week ago and everything has healed up great so she’s now mastering the cat flap and learning all about the big wide world of Outside.  She had us worried at first because she mastered going out of the cat flap a lot better than coming back in, but a rustle of the treat bag did wonders for her learning curve and we’re happy she knows how to get in if it all gets too scary.  Like Trillian, she’s not impressed with our inability to control the weather so she’s staying in today staring at it all through the windows.

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You can see who’s boss in this photo can’t you.  We have had some real problems with Purdy being very aggressive towards Trillian.  We hope that being neutered will do the trick of reducing the hormones that cause very territorial behaviour in cats.  There’s playing and there’s attacking and we were seeing a lot of both, to the point where Trillian was showing real signs of stress and anxiety, trying to get away all the time.  Trillian kept trying to find quiet spots to nap, but we’ve had to start keeping doors shut after we discovered Purdy would seek out Trillians napping spots and pee right where Trillian had been sleeping.  And the day she did it on our bed it wasn’t just pee – we had to have our duvet professionally cleaned after that little incident.

We have considered having her re-homed because we don’t want her behaviour to impair Trillian’s quality of life and right now, she is one pissed off looking cat.  Adrian’s worried she’ll simply up and leave and go off to a new home, but I think she’s too timid to do that.  Purdy already seems to be less aggressive so hopefully getting rid of those hormones will do the trick.

We are still enjoying life in Portpatrick, though the weather has been pretty rough with storm force winds taking out a couple of roof tiles.  Turns out we have fancy interlocking ceramic tiles that no one locally stocks, so Lesley is being a star and coming up with a bootful this weekend.  We figured buying spares is the ultimate insurance policy – now we have plenty, they will hopefully sit in the garage for years because we won’t need them!

The storms have made some stunning seascapes and Adrian and I both enjoy getting out there and getting photos.  I’ve been playing with photo collages and can’t decide which of these two versions I like best.

The drama of the black and white.

winter storms Or the mood created by the colour version.

winter storms COLOUR

Well this has turned into a bit of an epic post so I think I better wrap it up there.  We’re having a belated Christmas weekend with Lesley and David, so I’m off to mull some wine and prepare some brussel sprouts.  Have a great weekend everyone!

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Slowing down in Ireland

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Well I had an amazing week in Ireland – it was quite a journey in both the physical and metaphorical sense.  Such a beautiful country, such warm people, so many seductive Irish voices I could listen to for the rest of my days …

The traveling was a bit grim and I arrived in a state of pain severe enough for a doctor to come to the hotel, administer a shot and give me sleeping pills.  Two days later I started my period a week early – ’nuff said.  That idea I talked about recently of getting out on the road to do workshops … well let’s just say I’m not sure how viable that is this side of menopause.  Tempting though it is to bypass my remaining few years of troublesome menstruation via drugs or surgery, I really don’t want to go down that road if I can avoid it.  I think I just need to give my body a chance to get over the months of long distance house hunting and the move itself, so I’ll just hibernate here in our little corner of Scotland for the rest of this year and put my energy into some online projects I’m cooking up.

The painting and journaling classes I took in Bantry were both incredible experiences in their own unique ways.  Orly Avineri‘s journaling class was a guided journey into an unknown world, beautifully prepared and thought out in great detail.  Her teaching is poetic and soulful and intensely personal.  I had to put aside impatience and resistance and learn to quieten down, really listen and be completely present in the moment.  To say much more could spoil it for anyone taking a similar class with Orly in the future and I want to respect the private space she created for us.  If you do ever get a chance to do a class with her, open your heart and embrace it with complete trust.

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Flora Bowley‘s class was also transformational in a different way.  I got as much from Flora’s mental preparation for painting as I did from her intuitive approach to working with layers of colour and mark making.  As a child of the seventies, I grew up with some hang-ups about anything too “New Age” or “spiritual”, but Flora’s morning group sessions helped me to open up and embrace the wisdom of starting any kind of creative endeavour with a personal ritual, whether that is quiet introspection, setting an intention, writing an affirmation or letting go of something holding you back.

 

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Right at the start, Flora encouraged us to let go of something and I chose to let go of living in the future (always planning) and commit to being present – something I identified as an issue for me in my journal recently.  None of my paintings are finished yet, but one of the other students got some photos of me on the last day with a couple of my works in progress (thanks Janet!).

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This one began life as someone else’s painting – we all handed in one of our paintings on the second day and Flora re-distributed them around us all as a lesson in not being precious about the early stages of getting down layers.  As I worked on it and looked at my sketches that I had drawn walking around the gardens, I realised I was seeing circles everywhere – drawing the gravel on the path, the cobblestone drainage channels in the garden, the dotty foliage of the lacecap hydrangeas – my sketchbook was full of circles.  So I painted circles and the moon like face emerged almost by herself.

 

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This one is definitely inspired by the hydrangea petals around Bantry House gardens and I now have a clearer vision of where I’d like to go with this one.  It could take a while to get there without destroying the parts that I love, but that’s the challenge of painting.

And that leads me neatly into the gap quotation by Ira Glass (an American author and radio presenter) which some of us discussed in the bar one evening.  If you haven’t come across this quote before, it may just help you to persevere, whatever creative path you’re on.  (Click the image to enlarge.)

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I have more to share from this very special trip and more photos once my camera and computer have had a bit of marriage guidance therapy and are talking to each other again, so stay tuned for part two!

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Explosion in a paint factory

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There’s a few reasons I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately.  We still have lots to do to sort out the house – this weekend I got the guest room to a state where we could actually have a guest to stay now.  It took a while as the bed had become a dumping ground for all curtains (the last house had 23 windows!), wardrobes, random clothes without hangers, empty hangers without clothes and teddy bears.  Adrian worked on the garage and even though you still can’t get a car in, he at least has everything in a much more organised state and knows where his tools are – something I’m sure you’ll all agree makes for a happy husband.

I’ve also been absent from the internet from time to time as the big mac (as we affectionately refer to my main computer) just would not remember the wifi settings at all after I upgraded it’s operating system.  Each time I wanted to get onto the internet, I had to remember the hideously complicated network name and password and set up the network from scratch as it would just forget all about it.  Irritating is putting it mildly, but after much Apple forum searching, I found a few ‘known issues’ and (fingers crossed) one of the fixes seems to have worked.

But probably the biggest reason I haven’t blogged much is down to paint.

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One of my Christmas presents (from me to me) was an online class.  It’s called Bloom True and the teacher is Flora Bowley, an artist I’ve admired for a while.  I just missed out on taking a real class with her a couple of years ago and I was actually gutted to realise she’d come over from the States and been teaching in the Yorkshire Dales, less than half an hour away!  [Flora, please come back and teach here again …?]

Anyway, her style of painting is very intuitive and free and from some of the comments I’ve seen from other class participants, it’s a step outside the comfort zone for a lot of people.  For me, it’s like coming home – it is everything I hoped it would be and I am absolutely loving it.

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These are all unfinished underpaintings.  The process involves many layers and things change a lot as you go.  There’s a lot of trust and letting go of control and expectation and she encourages you to work BIG.

 

 

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I have a large piece of watercolour paper which I use at the end of a painting session to use up any excess paint.  It might become a journal when I’m finished.

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This is week 3 of a five week course and I think the plastic carpet protector will just about last until then!  I love having cream carpets, but it’s not the most practical of floor coverings when painting on this scale.  I also put it over my table so I don’t worry about splashes of paint on it.

I’ve become quite adept at the quick change act from craft space to art space and back again.  Lesley and I made birthday cards for her hubby on Sunday after I spent Saturday flinging paint around.  This was my card featuring our steampunk stamps coloured with ColourSoft pencils.  I added some grey shading around it to make it pop with my imaginary light source coming straight down from the top.

Davids birthday card

If my wifi problems are finally over, then I hope to get back to a more regular blogging schedule.  We have new stamps coming out this week which I think you’re going to love.  I’ll also be picking a winner on the DT blog this Friday too, so if you missed the news about the giveaway, click here for the post.

Tangling Time

Tangle wip

It’s still very unpredictable weather here in the Highlands – you can see the weather moving across the distant hills – columns of cloud sweep over the skyline obliterating sections of the islands while the sun is shining here.  Then it flips around and the rain patters on the glass roof at the back of the house and you see the distant islands bathed in sunlight.  We’ve seen quite a few rainbows – often doubles.

We really are taking it super easy and enjoying every minute.

We found a little market in Poolewe yesterday and I fell in love with some hand thrown pottery.  I think we may invest in some to take home with us.  She had a limited range with her, so we’re hoping to pop into her studio sometime next week.  She told us it was in an out of the way little place called Logie near Ullapool and obviously didn’t expect us to have ever heard of it.  When we both said, ah yes we know where that is, she was so suprised, we explained it was the place we stayed on our honeymoon 15 years ago!

We spent most of today in the house, apart from a short walk along the beach at Melon Udrigle which is the northern headland of Gruinard Bay.  Although it was cold and slightly wet, it was lovely to just watch and listen to the surf gently pounding the rocks and the sand.

Back at the cottage, I got engrossed in some Zentangle doodling.  It’s still a work in progress, but I thought I’d show you where I’m up to.  This is an A4 sketchbook, so it’s quite big.  In the background the circles you see are textured fabric on a footstool which is what inspired me to start doodling this morning.

I’ve added subtle coloured shading using some pencils I’ve had for a while, but not used very much – Derwent Graphitint.  They are water soluble graphite pencils with a hint of colour, but because of the graphite, they are all very grey tones. They look particularly grey and pencil like before adding water, but the water brings out the colour.  I’m still getting to know them, but liking the range so far.  Then again, it’s a coloured pencil, what’s not to like?!

You might be amazed to hear that we still have half the pack of Tunnocks left – how good are we!  Yes, well before I polish the halo, I’ll just go and hide the locally baked lemon drizzle cake that we found at the market yesterday … ahem!

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos from our beach walk today.

 

Click on any of the photos for a larger view.  You can see more photos in my Flickr stream – just look for the Flickr photos in my side bar and click on any one to go look at the whole set.