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An Update

[originally posted on iris-impressions.com]

If I wait until I have something interesting to say I don't think I'll ever write another blog post. I should really set aside some time every week to write something.

Jupiter


He is now about 10.5 months and a real delight! Don't all parents say that though? I'm not a big fan of other kids (lol I actually feel much more comfortable saying this now than I did in the past) but I absolutely adore Jupiter and could talk about him 24/7.

I'm glad I'm not a full-time mum though (it's a mixed blessing). Being with a baby all the time is really tough and working full-time (from home though, so I see him a lot, which is great) allows me to have a much better mental balance.

We're currently introducing a bit more of a routine for him. Mostly focussed around his sleeping at night and napping. He's really at that point where he needs it (and so do we!).

He's very chatty, although doesn't say any specific words yet with any consistency (he may have said 'dad' a few times and 'byebye'). He's crawling like a trooper, SO FAST. He loves chasing the cat. He's also pulling himself up to standing along the furniture and 'cruising'. He can stand by himself for a couple of seconds at a time, so I think he's well on his way to walking soon!

Violin


My violin playing has really gone up a gear. My friends and I had a little performance before Christmas where we played a few pieces we'd been working on and loads of Christmas carols to which the audience sang along. I was very nervous but it was lots of fun!

We're currently aiming towards another concert during the Easter weekend and we're playing Pachelbel's Canon in D. It's bloody hard! Having two lessons a week currently, plus trying to get in 30 minutes of practice a day. I'm really excited as I love this piece but also totally feel I don't have enough time to really get it into shape.

It's so nice to have a goal to work towards though, it really helps with the motivation.

Misc

Taking Jupiter to visit my aunt in Holland in a few weeks. Very excited about this!

Signed up for horse riding lessons again (I had to stop when I got pregnant). I'm on a waiting list though, so I have no clue when I'll be able to start.

Playing a bit of Star Wars online. The single player aspect of it is very strong and immersive, which is good as I only have about 2-3 hours a week to play so it's pretty much a single-player experience for me at the moment. I miss grouping up and raiding from back in the day when I played World of Warcraft a lot but I just don't feel I have the time needed to invest in this, nor the desire to be honest. The biggest thing I miss is the people I used to play with. My WoW subscription expired a month ago or so and I don't see myself renewing it. *small tear*

I am learning to drive!! Been taking lessons since September. I passed my theory test the other month and have my practical booked in about a month's time. I'm nervous, but still have quite a few lessons booked to really brush up on everything and practice lots.
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Jupiter

[Originally posted on iris-impressions.com]

My son Jupiter was born on 8 May 2011! I was induced 2 weeks early due to a pregnancy related medical condition. Apart from the induction I had a natural labour & birth which lasted all of 1.5 hours (I know you're jealous. Or if you've never given birth you probably have no idea what this means).

He is absolutely amazing and I am loving it! I know you're kind of supposed to say that, and sure there are things that aren't easy (breastfeeding for one) but overall it's just so enjoyable. I really feel very fulfilled and like I have a new purpose.

Between taking care of Jupiter and working part time and THE LAUNDRY I have very little time, so rather than writing more I will just say it with pictures!









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New Art Pieces in February and March 2011

[Originally posted on iris-impressions.com]

I have been busy busy for a change! Usually I am just lazy lazy. I have been cutting down on my World of Warcraft time lately (and unfortunately also violin time, I'd like to play more but am feeling hugely unmotivated currently), not really as a conscious choice but I just find I am busy with other things that I enjoy more.

Saturday just gone marked 30 weeks of my pregnancy! So over the past few months and the coming few weeks I'm seeing a lot of friends to catch up before 'my life is over' (as I've patronisingly been told by some people). It's both scary and exciting to think that it's not much longer to wait now. We're doing a lot of preparations at the moment, mostly in the form of buying stuff. We still need to get a car seat and the carrycot attachment for our pushchair. Other than that it's just a ton of small stuff we need. We're also starting antenatal classes at the end of this month. We've signed up for the NCT courses and I look forward to meeting other couples in our area.

I've been fairly productive with art lately. I don't know if it's the pregnancy that's inspiring me or maybe the feeling of spring which is always a positive time of year. When it comes to creating art it's the mental obstacles that stand in my way the most (I am not good enough, my art is not pretty enough, it doesn't look as good as x/y/z artist's work, I don't create as much as others so mine isn't 'valid' somehow etc, the list goes on for a looooong time!). I can't say I have found a specific way of battling these demons, but I am feeling slightly more confident lately and am really trying to tell myself that doing ANY art is all part of the process, whether I like the piece I end up with or not.



Pregnant Princess - I'd had the idea for doing a whimsy pregnancy painting floating around in my head for a while. After doing Bird in a Cage which had very dark colours, I wanted to do something with light and cheery colours. We've been working on our baby's room and I wanted to make something that could possibly go up on the wall in there. I am quite pleased with how the piece turned out overall. I always find it scary to paint a face because I never feel like I have a lot of fine control over the expression, but it turned out OK (although quite different from the sketch I was working from!). I also like the colours and the textures.



Walking My Elephant - I actually don't like this one particularly. I felt good about it when it was still a sketch, but then I started with the colour and stuff went wrong (the black outlines smudged around her mouth and I didn't end up being able to fix it properly). Ironically I've had some comments from people that they like it and they think it's cute. That just goes to show! I guess I like the concept but too much went wrong with the execution so it just left me with a bad feeling that I can't seem to shake.



I Am Already Authentic - This one I like, both because of what it looks like and what it represents. This is an art journal spread that is the week 1 assignment of Tam's free Art, Heart & Healing course. The aim of the assignment was to listen to my inner critical voice and write down all my self-criticisms and doubts. Then I gessoed over the words as a symbolic letting go. The next part was to paint a 'self portrait' and turn the criticisms into one positive statement (coming from the point of view that the critical self is only trying to protect us, albeit going about it in a negative and self-destructive way!).

For me the main theme that came out of this exercise is around not feeling authentic or special as I am, and always feeling like I have to be more like other people in order to be liked or loved or noticed. It's a constant struggle as intellectually I know I am authentic and special and have my own unique message to impart, but I find it very hard to really feel and believe that as well. It is one of the many reasons I find it hard to create art and update my blog regularly as well! I often can't imagine why anyone could possibly be interested in me or what I have to say. I am not saying that in a self-deprecating 'pity me' way by the way, I am just trying to illustrate some of my personal struggles around self-worth and authenticity.



Hint Of A Smile - A while back I did a workshop at Blade Rubber Stamps to learn how to make your own Japanese Stab Bound Journal. It was a fun class and at the end we took home our own album that we made during the class. I think it has about 15 pages in it with nice high quality paper (not watercolour paper but it's fairly thick and very nice for art journalling on). This piece is on the first page of the album. It's so nice to work in an album I created myself from scratch! Really adds to the feeling of ownership and pride. I am also very pleased with this page. I felt confident and in control about the face and I like the colours and level of complexity in the background.
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Iris' Life Update ca Feb 2011

[Originally posted on iris-impressions.com]

I find it hard to update regularly. Part of it is laziness, part of it is not knowing what to write about, but I think the biggest part is feeling like I don't have anything interesting to say, or that people won't be interested in what I have to say. I guess that's a problem of self-confidence. So what I'll do is I'll make this an Iris' Life Update ca Feb 2011, because that easily solves the problem of not knowing what to write about. The other ones I'll have to work on solving.

Pregnancy/Baby

Obviously this is the most dominant feature in my life at the moment. You know how once people get pregnant or have kids that's the only thing they'll talk about anymore? Well, it's true. It completely takes over your life. Especially in the first few months it was all I could think about all day. I would obsessively check how many weeks along I was and how the foetus was developing, not to mention worry about all the things that could go wrong. The obsession is abating a bit now (I am nearly 26 weeks, or 6 months, or roughly two-thirds of the way through) but it gets replaced with more practical concerns like what do we need, how much does it cost, where do we buy it, where do we put it.

So far I would say pregnancy has been a mixed experience. On the positive side, I love being pregnant and knowing that there is a baby growing inside me. I love feeling the baby move, it's really funny and touching. It's like I always have company. I also think that because the baby is inside me and moving, I tend to regard it as more mature than an actual baby, it's kind of hard to explain what I mean. I really like sharing the experience with Andrew and whenever he can feel the baby move it's so special. I also love it when Andrew talks to my belly! It's so funny and touching, makes me feel really loved.

The negative aspects of pregnancy are pretty much all physical at this stage and they fluctuate a lot from day to day. In the beginning (first trimester) there was the nausea and the tiredness. They went away around 3 months into the pregnancy and since then until about early January things had been quite comfortable. For the past month or so I've been experiencing quite bad back aches and I'm starting to get tired again. The tiredness isn't so much from the pregnancy itself, but rather because I wake up about every 2 hours during the night, so even if I sleep for a long time, the quality of sleep I'm getting isn't great. The back aches I'm doing some exercises for and taking paracetamol. The combination of the two seems to help although it fluctuates from day to day. I also asked my midwife to refer me to a physio, for which the waiting list is 6 weeks.... alright then.

From an emotional point of view there are a few things I've struggled with. Firstly, my growing belly and weight gain. It's something I find incredibly hard to reconcile and know how to feel about it. On the one hand it's awesome and a great source of pride. On the other hand it triggers a lot of negative feelings about my self-image. I've always been a fairly slim person (although I had a bit of a pudgy phase when I was a teenager) with stable weight, but at the same time that doesn't mean I didn't worry about being fat/gaining weight/the way I looked. Although I have never been either anorexic or overweight physically, emotionally weight has always been an issue for me. So gaining weight due to the pregnancy affects the way I feel about myself and I guess I feel less in control. Currently I eat whatever I want and whenever I'm hungry, and my weight gain is about on par with what is normal. That doesn't stop me worrying about it though =p

Secondly, the sex of the baby. Andrew and I were in agreement from the beginning that we wanted to know the sex and I never made a secret of the fact that I really wanted a girl, no matter how 'politically incorrect' that may sound. As an aside: sure you're supposed to say 'as long as it's healthy', but I find that a bit of a ruse, because it's not like there is anyone out there actively hoping their baby isn't healthy. I think it's much more healthy from an emotional point of view to be honest about what you're feeling, because whether you announce them to the world or not, the feelings are there and need to be dealt with.

So, I wanted a girl, which made me quite sure that I was going to have a boy (because that is how the universe works n'est-ce pas?). Andrew was really convinced we were having a girl. Turns out I was right =p So we're having a boy, which is something I have really had to get used to. I still really want a girl, but I don't wish this baby was a girl. Having a boy is emotionally complicated for me. Girls are much more firmly in my own comfort zone: I am a girl, I was raised by a single mother, I didn't have a father figure or much exposure to boys/men. On some level I have probably always been intimidated by boys/men, because they were so very other. And I probably also passively got the message that women don't need men, and that boys don't need their mother. Having a boy triggers many more feelings of discomfort and insecurity in me. It is funny, but also reassuring, that all my friends who have had babies in the past 1.5 years (or are expecting now) also had boys.

Thirdly, going through this huge life changing experience without my mother. This is a difficult one, because as of yet I don't actually really feel the impact of this. Of course it sucks in an ongoing way, but what I am most worried about is the labour and that is a big unknown. Although I'm sure the labour isn't going to be a picnic physically, that is not what I am worried about (ironically, before I got pregnant it always seemed the biggest obstacle, why would anyone willingly push out a baby through their vagina? Insane - whereas now I'm worried about NOT being able to have a natural birth and needing a caesarean). As of yet, and I imagine until I actually go through it, I do not know what my emotional needs are going to be during labour. Of course I will have Andrew, which is hugely important to me, but he is not a woman, nor is he my mother. I have read Hope Edelman's Motherless Mothers (a few years back I read Motherless Daughters) which has already been hugely helpful and actually made me more aware of the emotional issues that could come up during the birth (and afterwards, but that's a whole 'nother chapter for later).

Art/Craft

Art has taken a little bit of a backseat the past few months. I think I go through phases, ebbs and flows of inspiration and creativity. It’s something I used to berate myself for, like I wasn’t allowed to feel good about the art I create (or wasn’t allowed to create at all) just because I’m not consistent and do it every day. I’m trying to let go of that feeling and just create when I feel like it, and not when I don’t.

I had the idea for Bird in Cage for a while, I did a quick sketch last year in a notebook, but hadn’t sat down to actually create it until this year. I used bits of greeting cards and letters that family & friends sent to me over the years as the background. Then I went over it with gesso and paint until I got the grungy textured background I was aiming for. The bird itself was done with watersoluble oil pastels. The cage was done with gold embossing powder. I love the effect of embossing, but it’s such a time consuming and fiddly job.

I’m currently working on a whimsy portrait on watercolour paper. I’d like to improve my shading techniques and generally get more comfortable at creating faces. I also recently worked a bit on the digital portrait I started last year, but I paid dearly for it the next day as it made the RSI in my elbow very bad.

I’m also working on a soft toy for the baby. It will be crocheted. The colours I picked are grassy green, bright purple and navy. It’s going to be some type of caterpillar-like animal. The yarn I’m using is quite thin and I’m using a 2.5mm hook, but nevertheless progress is quite quick. I just have to be careful I don’t overdo it with my elbow. I have until May to finish it anyway!

Violin

Still enjoying & taking lessons! I meet up with a couple of friends every Wednesday (they come to my place, lucky me!) and we practice together. It’s great, because if we didn’t do that I would probably get very behind. I don’t practice a lot by myself, due to laziness and tiredness. I definitely do want to continue with it though, as far as possible throughout pregnancy and after the baby is born. I think it will be nice (not to mention important) to have a few evenings a week to do stuff just for me. The baby enjoys music too! He tends to move around when I play, or listen to music or when we go to a concert.

World of Warcraft

Ahh the time sink and reason for all my laziness! I’m mostly kidding, I haven’t actually been able to play that much lately, but I have to say I am enjoying the game a lot more again since Cataclysm came out. I first levelled my resto druid who used to be my main during TBC and at the beginning of Wrath. I lost interest in the class during Wrath as the challenge was just gone. It’s slightly more challenging again, but once I hit 85 and was faced with the grind for gear and rep I just didn’t feel like it.

Instead I dusted off my holy priest. Holy priesting is SO MUCH FUN right now! The class really has a lot of abilities to play with. She’s about 20% away from lv85 and I actually look forward to getting geared up for heroics. On the side I’m also playing my prot pally a bit. It’s verrry different from what it was like in Wrath, but nice to have new toys to play with and re-learn things. It keeps things interesting.
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Baby!!!!!!!

[Originally posted on iris-impressions.com]

Yes that's mine!! And Andrew's. We're so incredibly super excited and happy! I'm currently 13 weeks and 5 days pregnant and my due date is 21 May 2011.

It's actually starting to get good now. From week 5 to week 10 I was quite nauseous and incredibly tired all the time. Now I feel fine (although still needing slightly more sleep than usual) apart from feeling RAVENOUSLY hungry pretty much all the time! But it's definitely preferable to not fancying food at all. Other people probably won't notice yet but I'm starting to get a bit of a belly, my trousers are getting a bit tight. So are my bras, which I am SO not complaining about =p

It was also really nice and special to get a scan. Before my scan I was just so worried and anxious all the time because there wasn't really any way of knowing whether everything was alright. I'm not sure what it's like in other countries but when you get pregnant in the UK you get a LOT of information which include a lot of scary statistics. I'm one of those people who prefers knowledge over ignorance, but it's very hard to keep positive in the face of so many statistics about stuff that can go wrong (especially in the first trimester).

We went on holiday to Holland for two weeks at the end of October to visit family & friends. Everyone was really happy and supportive. We went by car and actually managed to fit my old changing table (which was also my aunt's changing table and possibly my mum's) AND playpen in the boot. It's like family freecycle haha. I love the idea of using the same furniture that my mum used for me when I was a baby.

On a completely different note, one of my art journal pages is featured in this month's Art Journalling It's All Good e-zine. I was really surprised and flattered when they asked. Getting a copy is only $5 and it's filled with useful and interesting articles about art journalling, I really recommend it. Profits from the sales go to a good cause.
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Journal Pages and a Thank You

[Originally posted on iris-impressions.com]

I am working on a blog post listing my 10 favourite art supplies. I need to take some pics to jazz it up a bit and then I'll post it, hopefully within a couple of days.

In the meantime I wanted to share these two journal pages I did this past week. Although I usually don't plan my journal pages before starting, I do tend to work in a deliberate way where I think about something before I do it. With these pages, especially the second one I tried to 'switch off' that part of my brain that over-thinks things and makes conscious decisions. I literally just kept moving and grabbing the supplies that spoke to me.

You can click the images for full size.





It was actually quite an enlightening process. It wasn't just a different way of creating, but I also felt very different about what I created. Afterwards I felt very.. I don't know exactly, like the process had been cathartic. Usually I'm very critical of what I create: if I create something pretty that I like I'll feel very proud, if I create something ugly or badly executed I'll feel badly about myself. In this case neither positive nor negative judgements about the work came to mind, I just felt like I had expressed something that needed expressing but which I didn't necessarily know consciously or verbally. That might also be a reason why the second page is much darker and more gloomy than I would ordinarily create if I were working 'deliberately'.

I dunno, I hope this all makes sense and doesn't sound like some kind of mumbo jumbo! If you've had any similar experiences I'd love to know about it. I really feel like art isn't just about creativity and expression, but also about self-discovery and accessing the subconscious.

On another note, I just wanted to thank the handful of people who have left comments on my blog the past week or so (and also those people who visit but don't comment). I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and interact, it's very motivating and encouraging!
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Art Supply Shops in London

[Originally posted on iris-impressions.com]

I love going into art shops and nosing around for new supplies (or stocking up on basics). I can't imagine how they must struggle against competitive online suppliers. Nothing beats actually going into an art shop though, I'm addicted! So I thought I would compile a list of shops I frequent that sell art supplies in London. Most of these ones are in Central London. I hope you find this helpful!

AtlantisAldgate, E1
http://www.atlantisart.co.uk
A huge shop (biggest in the UK according to their website) with pretty much any art supplies you can think of. Lots of supplies for fine art, but also things for kids, plenty of materials for mixed media artists (they do both natural and bleached beeswax). Huge range of Golden & Liquitex products. Best thing about Atlantis is that their prices are very very good.

Blade RubberBloomsbury, WC1
http://www.bladerubberstamps.co.uk
This shop is a must for art journalers. They don't just do rubber stamps but a ton of papercrafting accessories and more. They do a lot of mixed media & art journaling essentials. It's the only shop I've found that actually stocks things like Stewart Gill paints, mica flakes and specialist magazines. They are unfortunately quite expensive but you do have the advantage of seeing the supplies in the flesh rather than guessing what something is like when you buy online. They also do classes.

Cass ArtCharing Cross, WC2 - Soho, W1 - Hampstead, NW3 - Kensington, W8
http://www.cassart.co.uk
They have a few branches and do great deals on quite a lot of their stock. Paper, sketchbooks, Promarkers (sets) and Caran d'Ache watersolubles (sets) are really competitively priced. I haven't been to their flagship store, but their smaller store on Charing Cross road is great for picking up a few essentials.

CornelissenBloomsbury, WC1
http://www.cornelissen.com
Quite fine art focussed, but I would recommend going in here even if you're not interested in what they sell: the inside of the shop is amazing! It's what you'd imagine stepping into a 19th century art shop would be like. Apart from the obvious they sell some interesting stuff (I found some type of gold coloured powder in there, never seen that anywhere else) and tucked away at the back you can find discounted supplies.

Cowling & Wilcox LtdSoho, W1 - Shoreditch, E1 - Camberwell, SE5
http://www.cowlingandwilcox.com
It's been a few years since I went into this shop but I think they're quite similar in terms of stock to Cass Art.

HobbycraftCroydon, CR0 - Greenford, UB6 - Romford, RM1 - Watford, WD17
http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk
You have to travel a bit further out of town, but the size of the store makes up for it. Prices aren't as low as you might expect, but the shop is great for browsing because they have so much. They cover almost every area of art and craft. I especially like going into the aisle with art supplies for kids, you can pick up some nice things for mixed media projects for a lot less money than the stuff that's specifically targetted at art journaling.

John LewisOxford Street, W1
http://www.johnlewis.com
The haberdashery department in John Lewis has some nice bits & bobs. I've only been there for my knitting/crocheting needs, but they also do lots of little accessories (embellishments, ribbons etc) and I think they're picking up on crafters' needs a bit more over the past couple of years.

London Graphic CentreCovent Garden, WC2
http://www.londongraphics.co.uk
I love this shop because it's got a lot and is so central. They are a bit pricey though. In the ranges of drawing/watercolour pencils, (watersoluble) oil pastels, conte crayons etc they sell single colours of almost everything which can be very handy. They sell an adequate range of paints & mediums although if you really want to go to town on those I'd still recommend Atlantis.
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I'll Just Wait Here - Art Journal Video

[Originally posted on iris-impressions.com]

After many many years (2, pretty much) of not creating any art videos, I finally made one again!

When I moved house (the first time, and the second time as well), I finally got an art desk. I'd wanted this for a long time: a dedicated space to do my art and leave all my supplies out rather than having to tidy everything away after doing art (which was very inhibiting). That did mean though that I couldn't do any art videos anymore as I recorded them with my webcam which has to be attached to my computer (which is at my regular desk) to function.

I decided to get myself an 'entry level' camcorder. I didn't want to spend too much money as I was not sure (and still am not, given my propensity to have fleeting intererests) if I'd stick with it. So I went with the Toshiba Camileo S20. The reviews were very good (for the price & size) and it does pretty much everything I need (although it doesn't have an optical zoom which is the only real downside).

I'm still trying to figure out how to get the best angle on the art work. I have a small desk tripod (it came with the camera) which I used for this video. It came out alright but next time I would like to have the point of view a little more 'face on', so you can really see the details of what I'm doing. I'll have to see if I can figure something out. Maybe a more sophisticated desk tripod would work. My art desk is in what is currently the storage room (we're hoping to convert part of our house, so haven't unpacked lots of boxes yet) so there isn't enough room for a proper tripod. If you have any suggestions or tips I'd love to hear them!

Anyway, in the video below you can see me create this page in my art journal (you may need to go to the actual post page to see the video, I can't see vids on my friends list, it might be the same on yours). I hope this is the start of more regular art video updates you'll see from me!





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Art Journalling - A Safe Place

[Originally posted on iris-impressions.com]

After creating Hetty & Dimitri's painting I wanted to do art more regularly, but found doing paintings quite intimidating (especially if they're just 'for me', rather than a present). So I decided to get back into my art journal. I neglected art journalling for over a year due to judgements swirling around in my head. Thoughts about not feeling good enough, or not creating 'pretty' pages, or other people out there being better than me.

Then I thought to myself that I should really try to work through those negative thoughts, and not let them control me. An art journal (in theory) is the best place to do that. It's much more of a 'safe' place than for example a canvas which leads me to pressure myself into having to create something 'good' (whatever that means, I am hyper critical of my own work, I'm sure other artists can relate). I am definitely learning to be more accepting of what I create and to take pleasure and satisfaction from creating in the first place rather than judging myself for creating something that looks rubbish and then punishing myself by feeling badly and not doing more art.

I especially like the whole 'creating & moving on' style of working. It's all about the process and expressing yourself, not about a perfect finished product with not a hair out of place. It's such a great platform for experimenting with technique, composition, materials, colours etc. Love!


Permission To Be Me
Aesthetically I don't love this piece, but it is important to me because I was able to accept it and move on from it. The whole theme of the page is about giving myself permission to do and be, and not punishing myself for whatever arbitrary reason. It's funny, because I am always so scared of negative comments or feedback, but the most negative and critical person to evaluate my art is me!


Worthy
I started this page back in 2008 (I think 'worthy' was a prompt from SuziBlu) when I painted the mice and the house with the girl. There were lots of words scribbled in the empty space and I hated the whole thing! Then the other week I decided to go back to it. I added the background and the stamped words and now I actually really like it. Such a simple addition but it made all the difference to me.


Princess and Her Castle
Not much of a story behind this one. I wanted to draw a whimsical girl and already had the idea in my head for a castle in the background. I initially had a sticker of a rose in the entrance of the castle but I got rid of it because I preferred the darkness/scariness of the black hole. I bought this amazing butterfly stamp which you can see in the background, it's so pretty.


Doodles
Just some doodles I did for fun while on the train (which is why some of the lines are anything but smooth!). If you want to learn how to doodle I would highly recommend this video by Marieke Blokland. It's awesome!


Growing, Learning, Loving
I had been thinking of doing a pencil sketch. I wanted to try a 3/4 face according to the things I had learned in Tam's portrait class. It's my first attempt at doing a non-front facing portrait and I found it quite difficult. Also I think I got confused and switched light sources about 4 times throughout drawing so the shading doesn't necessarily make sense lol. Nevertheless I really do love this page as it was fun, good practice and I can see progress in my technique and I also like the composition.
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Digital Painting with a Wacom Bamboo

[Originally posted on http://iris-impressions.com]

I recently got myself a Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch tablet. It had nothing to do with art, but more with the tennis elbow that I've been suffering from since about March this year. Nothing to do with playing tennis, but more with overusing the computer/mouse and using it in the wrong way. It's a long story really and not too interesting to go into in great detail. I'm still suffering from it, have done and am doing a lot to combat it but it's a very persistent problem (I use the computer for work, so there's no easy alternative). Aaanyway, one of the things I thought might help would be to use a tablet instead of a mouse. Indeed it's a lot nicer (much more neutral & natural way of holding and moving my hand, and less cramped).

Obviously tablets are more traditionally known for allowing you to use the mouse like a pen/pencil/brush and creating art with it, so I thought I'd give it a go too. As you may know I like to do some mixed media art here and there, but haven't done any digital painting. I did some Googling and came up with this Introduction to Painting by Jeff Priest. The premise is very simple, sketch something, then colour it using one colour and it's highlight & shadow counterparts.

I decided to start with an apple, picked a reference picture and started a sketch (I use Photoshop CS2 in case you were wondering). I find sketching with the tablet quite difficult compared to sketching with a pencil. I find I don't have as much control, sometimes my lines go completely all over the place. When sketching with a pencil I always find it difficult to sketch the right side of things (like the right side of a face, or indeed, the right side of an apple) and with the tablet I find that problem magnified even further. However, working with a computer does mean it's very easy to undo or erase stray lines.

Then I started to add the colour. It took me a few minutes to get to grips with the brushes and especially fiddling with the opacity to add shadows/highlights and blend the colours. But then my brain just 'clicked' and it became quite a fun and therapeutic process of going over the sections and refining the painting. It was only a quick exercise (as an aside, I am terrible when it comes to practicing or doing exercises. It's like some sort of mental block for me. I somehow have this notion that I need to be good at something without practice, otherwise it's not worth doing or I am not worthy of doing it. Intellectually (and indeed, logically) I know that's complete bullshit, but I can't help but feel badly when I'm not magically good at something but *gasp* need practice), it probably took about an hour, but very satisfying to see something take shape like that. I'd say that using the tablet in conjunction with the brushes in photoshop made the colouring/shading very easy and pleasurable. However, I found it quite difficult to make nice smooth curves. Overall I found it easier than 'real' painting. I find it hard to know how to create realistic shading, but working digitally gives you a big margin for error because of the ease with which you can go over something again and refine it without having to wait for something to dry, or worrying you're going to ruin your work so far.

After doing the apple, which was fun but a bit boring, I thought I'd try a portrait. A while back I did an online portrait course run by my friend Tam (she runs a lot of courses, I really recommend them!), so I applied the theory I learned then on how to create a front facing portrait. I've worked on it a few hours and you can see the work in progress below. I'm pleased with it so far. I'm also blown away by how comparatively easy it is because of it's flexibility. I love little 'cheating' tricks like.. sketch the left side of the face, and then just copy it, flip horizontally and place it to create a whole face that is symmetrical.. mwahaha. Working digitally really helps guide you to create something halfway decent much quicker than with regular painting (I find, anyway). Of course it does lack the 'realness' of actual painting. One of the things I love about working with mixed media is the textures and smells of real paint, wood, paper etc and digital art doesn't have that.



Unfortunately using the tablet for hours on end in such a concentrated way isn't great for my elbow... so I really have to be responsible and not do it too much (or probably at all.. but doing what's good for yourself isn't always easy or fun).