Friday, 24 December 2010

Snow joke this Christmas Malarkey!




As I have been very lazy recently and haven't done any artwork to speak off I thought I would illustrate my last post of the year with some of the photos S has taken recently when out walking the pups in their lovely new jackets all the way from New York (they have the best stuff for dogs ever!) I wish I could take credit for these but they were pretty much all taken by S.  However, in my defence, as he is a tree surgeon and the trees are all under a deep layer of snow, he hasn't had much work on in the last week or two and therefore has had all the time in the world to walk the pups along with their dog pal, Oscar! Unfortunately, my work computer, being in a warm office building, was not under a deep layer of snow and therefore I was still able to work every day and not therefore available for dog walking and/or beautiful snowy landscape photo-taking!


Reuben, with the sad serious face!

Anyway, yesterday was the last day in work until 4 January 2011 - yay!  Last night I was home alone as S was having a 'few' drinks with a friend.  I was curled up on the sofa with the pups and, despite the heating being on, I was freezing.  Checked the radiators and they were stone cold.  Oh joy, our boiler decided that it too wanted a Christmas vacation and stopped working!  The three of us spent the evening huddled under my slanket!

Brodie, with the cheeky 'so what' face!
Anyway, suffice to say, S was feeling a little delicate today and remembered why he doesn't go out to the pub for hours at a time anymore! Ah the joys of a hangover when you're in your 40s!! Anyway, he was feeling miserable and the house was freezing and it was altogether not a very merry start to the festive season.  He phoned the insurance emergency helpline and they later phoned back to advise an engineer would be with us on 'Tuesday or Wednesday' - Seriously? So, determined not to let the boiler beat him, he went and tapped it with a screwdriver in the place where the engineer had told him the last time it went on the blink (pretty much around Christmas last year, if I remember correctly).  Lo and behold, it fired up!! Hopefully it will keep going until the engineer gets here to sort the fault properly.


I actually did take this one and quite like it
even if I do say so myself!!

We took the pups for a nice brisk walk to tire them out and blow the hangover from S's brain and by the time we got back the house was all toasty warm.  Hot showers and pyjamas on, the fire lit and two wee exhausted pups sleeping in front of it, we are now ready to enjoy one of my favourite Christmas Eve traditions - Polar Express and mulled wine!


Brodie, still looking cheeky.



I love this - it looks like Reuben is balancing a tiny
Brodie on his head who in turn has an even tinier
Oscar perched on her tail!

Reuben, the explorer.




So, that's us almost at the end of another year.   I wish you all a magical Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  I look forward to more blogging in 2011. xx

Reuben posing for our Christmas card last year
He wasn't impressed!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Sketch #22 - One weekend in Geneva...

For the second anniversary of the day we met S took me to Geneva, Switzerland fo a long weekend. It was bitterly cold during our weekend there but the lovely crisp kind of cold with clear blue skies and frosty air not the miserable wet mushy cold of Ireland which just varies by degrees from summer through winter! (Apart from this winter which has seen the most snowfall in 25 years and its all proper and crunchy and really Christmassy!)

Anyway, this was a gorgeous wee street we discovered and I loved how the grey buildings were brought to life with the different coloured shutters on all the windows and strangely, even though at that point I wasn't doing much in the way of art, I took the photo thinking that someday I'd like to paint it. 




I love the old style architecture is so many European cities and I absolutely loathe and detest the modern steel and glass buildings that are being thrown up all over Belfast these days.  Belfast has some lovely old gems such as Bittles Bar and the Crown Bar and instead of making new builds so that they blend in with the old they have them all shiny and pointy and sticking out like sore thumbs. Grrr.  If I was in charge I'd insist that all buildings from this point forward be built in the style of Gaudi - all melty and gingerbread house quirky.



Anyway, rant over, I did this scene of Geneva as yet another sketch in this interminable project.  I'd just like to say the paper in the sketchbooks really isn't suitable for watercolours - probably why it's called a sketchbook project and not a watercolour project but as that is my weapon of choice alongside ink, then I just carry on regardless even though it makes the paper buckle when it dries. It was quite challenging to get the perspective of the windows right so apologies if they are going off in all different directions!

I did this one before we went away and haven't actually done anything more with the sketchbook since so I'm off now to print off some New York skylines to see if I can fill a few more pages with them!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

List It Tuesday - The Bucket List


After writing about our swim with dolphins on our honeymoon, it got me thinking about what other things are on my bucket list - the things I've managed to do and put a strike through and those that I still hope to do sometime in my lifetime. So, in no particular order, here is my to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil list!

  1. Sky Dive (I did this to raise money for a charity I worked for several year ago - it was the most amazing natural high ever!)
  2. Swim with dolphins - so glad we did this in Mexico, it was the highlight of the trip.
  3. Sleep in the desert with a billion stars all around (a la Eagles "Peaceful Easy Feeling")!
  4. Visit Graceland.
  5. See the Northern Lights - We did this on a Norwegian cruise in the Arctic Circle and it was brilliant but...
  6. Stay in a log cabin in Alaska and see the Northern Lights again!
  7. Visit James Dean's final resting place in Indiana.
  8. Drive Route 66 with all the time in the world to stop off en route.
  9. Tour South America.
  10. Tour Australia.
  11. Emigrate before we're too old (and Britain totally sucks us dry) preferably to Canada or America.
  12. Make a living as an artist (stage 1 being blogging about it incessantly!)
  13. Complete a marathon (who am I kidding, I barely walk farther than from the sofa to the fridge these days!)
  14. Meet Robert De Niro - my favourite actor still alive.
  15. Go on a ski holiday.
  16. Visit Berlin.
  17. Visit New England in the autumn.
  18. Stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona!
Seems there is a bit of a travelling theme to my bucket list so I really need to start buying lottery tickets that actually work!!

Don't forget to check out the other lists on Aimee's Artsyville site.


Sunday, 12 December 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Actually, it's been looking like Christmas since Halloween but it's only now that I am starting to think about it!  I'm very behind this year. I am every year, truth to tell, but this year I had high hopes of having created a whole range of Christmas cards.  I managed one. I know I've got a good excuse this year what with the wedding trip (I promise that's the last time I'll mention it until at least our 1st anniversary!). However, I had already stocked up on blank white cards and envelopes so, in the interests of thriftness, I will be sending homemade cards to friends and family this year!

I spent this afternoon creating two new designs - one in the Quirky range and one in the Wee'uns range.  I've now spent the last hour and a half trying to print them - our printer is being very temperamental and the cards are just flying through without being printed.  I'm sure I've probably just got it on the wrong setting or something but, regardless, I shall be asking Santa or perhaps the birthday fairy for a new printer specifically for printing cards on!



Wednesday, 8 December 2010

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... and then it was the best of times again!

It was the best of times

Well,  where to start?  So we landed in New York on Monday 15 November and spent a crazy three days sightseeing, visiting City Hall to get our marriage licence, shopping for cheesy but absolutely necessary I heart New York souvenirs, eating pretzels from the street vendors, taking photographs of ourselves in front of every famous New York building or landscape, walking along looking skyward in awe at the size of all the amazingly tall buildings in Manhattan and therefore clearly standing out as the tourists we were, as all the New Yorkers walked along looking down or straight ahead!

My sister arrived on Tuesday and joined us on Wednesday for more sightseeing, eating, drinking and all round New York fabulousness.  My brother-in-law was meant to have been our only other wedding guest but something cropped up at work which prevented him from coming in the end up which was a shame but ultimately it actually turned out to be handy there were only 3 of us as on the wedding day we all fit in one yellow cab along with our amazing photographer Brian Friedman!

On Wednesday morning we walked down to the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park to scope it out for the wedding on Thursday. It was the only thing in New York that actually looked smaller than it did in the photos. Plus there was a homeless guy just packing away his bedding when we arrived at 11.00a.m - the exact time we were getting married at the next day!!

We ended up going to the Gershwin Theatre on Wednesday night to see Wicked - and it was brilliant!! I'm so pleased we saw a show on Broadway as it is another of those things you really should do when in New York. 



Thursday morning arrived and as our hotel was so close to Central Park we walked to Central Park West and West 77th Street to meet our officiant before going to the Ladies Pavilion.  We couldn't have asked for a better day - the colours in the park were amazing, the sky was blue, no wind, no rain - just ideal.  Which was just as well as when we arrived at the park the homeless guy was having a lie in and was still fast asleep!  We figured his needs were greater than ours and chose a different location at Hernshead rather than wake him up!
 
The Ladies Pavilion was occupied when we arrived!

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook an old friend of mine who I hadn't seen since 1998 but who also happened to be having a trip to New York was there waiting for us as she'd seen my Facebook status about the wedding location!! It was so amazing to see her and she and her friends stayed for the ceremony!




  

Central Park

 After the ceremony we walked through the park a bit while Brian snapped away - we even had a lady ask us if it was a real wedding or were we shooting a commercial!  We went to Times Square and even though I am not normally fond of getting my photo taken as I'm not especially photogenic Brian is a genius who is totally unobtrusive and once we got over the initial self-consciousness we were totally loving feeling like celebrities as we strutted all over Times Square and Grand Central Station getting our photos taken.  We loved that people in New York are so genuinely pleased for other people and so many folk came up to congratulate us or shake our hands and wish us well as we were walking around.


Times Square

Grand Central Station
  

We finished the photos and had some champagne in the bar in Grand Central Station and going for lunch to Planet Hollywood with Brian before he had to head off for another engagement.  He managed to get us whisked in past the queue like proper VIPs! We had such a laid back, relaxed day with only ourselves to please and after lunch headed to an Irish bar for a couple of drinks before going to the River Cafe for dinner. The view is amazing which is why we chose it and the food was outstanding.  We did our best to capture the view but the photos aren't quite up to Brian's standard.

My chocolate Brooklyn Bridge

 
The view from the River Cafe, Brooklyn
 It was the worst of times

Anyway, after an amazing wedding day we were looking forward to an amazing honeymoon in Acapulco.  We arrived at JFK Airport at 10pm only to be told that Mexicana, the airline we booked with, had gone bust in September only our online travel agent had 'forgotten' to tell us!  We spent hours on the phone to an Indian call centre trying to get someone to help us.  They suggested we 'go home' and they would sort it out on Monday!! Er, we're 4,000 miles from home stranded in an American airport, you idiot!

 As it was so late at night the airport was deserted, we couldn't get wifi and needed somewhere to go.  We ended up checking into a hotel with free wifi near the airport.  Believe me when I tell you this place was more like somewhere you would rent a room by the hour or wake up in the bath with your kidney missing - urgh.  After a total of 3 hours on the phone to the travel agent over the 13 hour period they finally agreed they had massively stuffed up and gave us a full refund.  We then had about an hour to decide on another holiday online before we had to check out of the hotel and would be denied internt access once again!  We couldn't get to Acapulco so we settled on Cancun.  Initially I was gutted as you can fly to Cancun from Ireland and I really wanted somewhere unusal that you could only get to via America.  But by then we just needed to book something. So Cancun it was.

It was the best of times again!

Cancun is very much a manmade resort of highrise hotels and shopping malls and in my opinion is pretty soul-less as a result.  However, we made the most of it.  The sun shone most days, we had a lovely hotel with a room overlooking the white sand and turquoise waters of the Caribbean and we visited Chichen Itza to try to get a little bit of culture!  Best of all we went over to Isla Mujeres and swam with dolphins!  It was amazing! We boogie boarded, belly pulled, kissed, hugged, played ball  - we loved every minute of it and it totally made our honeymoon a trip to remember for the right reasons!  Now we have something else to tick off the bucket list!





The most amazing experience with
the most beautiful, intelligent creatures ever!

So that was our trip.  After Cancun we had one more full day in New York where we bought a load more souvenirs and little brown bags from Bloomingdales!  Sorry this is sooooo long but honestly, it is impossible to condense this any further as it was possibly the most eventful trip of my life so far!

By the time it was over we were so looking forward to getting back to the pups as we missed them so much.  So much so that we've decided any future holidays we take, the pups will be coming with us!

But for now, I am left with amazing photos taken by a fabulous photographer, a bit of a suntan and a lot of prickly heat, some jet lag and, most importantly, a very lovely husband!

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Middle of Nowhere

Hello, I'm back!! I'll be blogging later in the week about the amazing 3 weeks we just had - the highs, the lows, the dolphins!! But for now, here's a wee post I put together before we went away and which seems mighty appropriate now that there's been so much snow falling in the UK over the last week or so!


I didn't have anything to say about this painting really.  I made it up.  The scene is something that I've found myself doodling on work note pads for the last while and this was another of the 3 sketches I drew on the ferry crossing a few weeks ago.  I think it appeals to me because in an ideal world where there wasn't a recession and people were buying houses again so that we could sell up and move, then this is where we would like to live - somewhere old and cute and in the middle of absolutely nowhere with no youffs in hoodies hanging around leaving the detritus of their youffy pastimes on our street and emanating serious attitude at every adult who dares to catch their eye, innit?  Le sigh - we just want to be alone! Oh turns out I did have something to say about it after all!
Anyway, this took 5 minutes to sketch and not much longer to paint in (as is no doubt obvious) but truth to tell I just want to fill the sketchbook already!  Now that I've had 3 weeks off from painting and blogging I've really got to get a march on to get it finished by January 15th!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

New York or Bust




Well,  the time has finally come and tomorrow morning we are flying to New York for our wedding on Thursday 18 November (on what will be the 5th anniversary of the day we met!).

It seems like it's been a long time coming but yet this year has absolutely flown by.  I designed my own dress and found a wonderful dressmaker to bring it to life.  I bought a wedding dress travel box the right size for hand luggage as I'm not letting that baby out of my sight! 

I've managed to get all my accessories from jewellery crafters I've found on Etsy and Folksy , a gorgeous retro bag and a faux fur jacket the exact shade of champagne as my dress on Ebay and the practical boring side of me even managed to find some shoes that totally go with the style of my dress whilst being suitable to wear to work once the big day is over (well, there IS a recession on - make do and mend and all that!) I did make some shoe decorations out of a toilet roll tube and some sticky back plastic (I jest - it was actually some material flowers and sticky clip on earring backs!) the idea being to clip them on for the day to jazz the shoes up a bit.  It seemed like a good idea  and I was all chuffed with my ingenuity however once I tried them on with the dress they looked less wedding shoe and more clown shoe so I'll just leave them at home I think!

I've written my vows which I am determined to read without blubbing (although I've invested in waterproof mascara just in case). 

I lost 10lbs over the summer and then promptly put most of it back on again as a result of, well, chocolate mostly.  At this point it doesn't matter and I don't care.

We've chased the wedding planning company for documentation to prove we paid them several hundred pounds to organise our big day - seriously, we paid them for a gold package to include location of our choice (see below), flowers (which if you want anything but roses you have to then pay extra for), pre-wedding consultations (non-existent), an officiant who provides a money order for the wedding licence (she knew nothing about that!) - Aggh - they promise to organise everything so you don't have to worry but they caused us more stress (and proved much more expensive) than if we'd just organised it ourselves!

Ultimately we discovered the location wasn't actually booked with the Parks Department at all ('but at that time in the morning, I'm sure it won't be a problem just turning up and getting wed there' - OMG!), the wedding licence isn't actually included in the price we paid any more but we'll get that refunded (am guessing the cheque got lost in the post the same as all the letters they claim they previously sent, as we're still waiting).  In the end up we just filled in our details online ourselves to speed up the process when we go to collect the licence from City Hall a couple of days before our wedding.  We've spoken to our officiant by email (she signs them 'peace' and is a reiki master as well as an officiant) and are looking forward to meeting this lady in the flesh (even though she referred to our wedding location as 'a bit of a wedding factory'- Gulp.)

Anyway, at this point we are past all the stressing out and panicking - one way or another we WILL be getting married on our anniversary and we will get some fabulous photos taken by Brian Friedman, our photographer, all around Central Park and Times Square and we will have an amazing meal in the River Cafe looking at the Manhattan skyline through the big picture window.

S collected his made to measure kilt suit in Glasgow last weekend and he is going to look gorgeous in it. The biggest dilemma facing him right now is whether to wear grey socks (to match his jacket and waistcoat) or cream socks to match his shirt - I'll have to wait til the big day to see which he chooses!

Being from Ireland and used to it always raining, I've even bought an umbrella with burgundy and cream hearts on a grey background which will totally match our colour scheme should the New York weather be unkind!

Anyway, all that's left to do now is look forward to visiting the most exciting city in the world and parade around in my 50s prom style dress acting like I'm Carrie Bradshaw with my very own Mr Big!

See you when we get back from New York (by way of Acapulco!)

Friday, 12 November 2010

Feeling Blue

Those of you who read the odd post of mine might recall a couple of quirky imaginary scenes I created as sketches for the never ending sketchbook project which I called Patchwork Orange and Somewhere Beachy.  Well, this is another one that I came up with the other day during the ferry crossing back to Belfast from Glasgow.  I managed to draw the outlines for 3 sketches during that crossing and then finished them off in colour over the next few evenings.  I think this is sketch 20 (at this point I'm no longer sure of anything other than there are still far too many blank pages staring back at me!)



This is another completely imaginary scene based on the same twisty houses and this time, as you can see, I decided to do it all shades of blue to hopefully reflect the fact that it is night time!  There will probably be a few more of these cropping up in the sketchbook and I'll also maybe get some good photos in New York which I can use for inspiration for actual real places too.

I know I've said it before but I will be so glad when the sketchbook project is completed. I am looking forward to knowing my sketchbook will be touring American cities with the other 25,000 (at last count) but at the same time it's taken over my life and I miss doing pointy portraits in ink - I am hoping to start one of our two dogs soon - not sure how their fur will lend itself to pointillism but it'll be a challenge finding out!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

List It Tuesday - Things that make me happy!

Last week was all about the irritations in life so to keep on the good side of the karma police I thought this week I should list the things in this world, both natural and man-made that make me feel all warm and fuzzy! In no particular order:-
                                                                                                                
1.     When the pups snuggle in beside me on the sofa.

Brodie & Reuben
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2.      When S surprises me with an amazing trip away somewhere and the thoughtful way he tells me about it by cooking me a meal in the style of the country we're going to visit!


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3.       Fireworks - really good public displays and not the immensely annoying whee...plop ones that people let off in their back yard!

Glasgow Guy Fawkes - Fireworks. 
Photos credit: Alan McLean
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4.      A beautiful sunset/sunrise.

Sunrise - Norway

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 5.     Hillwalking to the top of Slieve Bernagh - not necessarily the actual climb but the feeling I get when we finally make it to the top and know that I totally deserve the bars of chocolate we brought for energy!

Slieve Bernagh back in the days
when I was fit and had long hair!
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6.     A random act of kindness by a stranger.

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7.     Travelling to another city/country/continent that I've not been to before.

 
Vittoriano, Rome
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8.     Getting tickets to see my favourite comedian/musician


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9.    Watching Polar Express on Christmas Eve with S & the pups, a mug of mulled wine, the fairy lights twinkling and the log fire blazing.


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10.     A rainy day, no particular place to go, a really good book & a cup of coffee !



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I keep thinking of more stuff that makes me happy which I suppose is no bad thing, but in the interests of keeping the list readable, I'll keep it to 10!

What makes you happy?  Don't forget to pop over to Artsyville to check out Aimee's list and see what other bloggers are listing this week.

This is my last list for a few weeks being as next week I'll be in New York (I know, I'm boring you now but I'm soooo excited!!)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Turns out I can't count!

I finished this sketch last Saturday and counted through the sketchbook to see how many I'd done in total including the front cover.  I got to 19.  I counted again.  I got 19 again.  How can this be possible, I thought to myself, when my last sketch post was titled 'Sketch 19 Oh la la  etc' (which I have subsequently re-named)?? I logged on and counted through the sketches I've previously posted and realised I skipped a number along the way.  So here I am, simultaneously pleased to have finished another sketch and  disappointed to discover it's one less than I thought I'd done.

There isn't a specific photo that I drew this from.  Just a whole collection of Amsterdam source photos from which I construted a street scene and coloured the houses whatever shade I fancied. 

I did actually go to Amsterdam for my sister's hen (bachelorette) weekend several years ago. However I'd like to go back and experience it without a hangover so I could appreciate the city and what it has to offer on a more cultural level (We didn't even make it into Anne Frank's house, for shame!)  I love the architecture though - the houses look doll-like and quirky and I drew this in keeping with that idea (i.e wonky and tilty!)


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Crafty Shout Out - Betsy Jarvis


What with one thing and another I haven't done a crafty shout out for quite some time but when I discovered this gorgeous little gem of a shop on Folksy recently, I absolutely had to contact Steff the designer and owner and ask if I could tell anyone who would listen all about the delightful stuff she makes!




WHO

Steff, the mastermind behind Betsy Jarvis qualified in textile design some years ago but, as is a very familiar story, ended up working in the drudgery of the rat race as that was the way to pay the bills - as she says herself  she couldn’t face being an impoverished artist whilst she built up a name!



WHAT

However,  after deciding to take a leap of faith and do what she loves to do, Steff has now been making and selling Betsy Jarvis products for 2 years and introduced her range to cyberspace in July this year and it is now happily Steff's full time occupation.

The gorgeous items in Betsy Jarvis' shop are very much inspired by vintage French style.  Steff favours utilitarian fabrics such as hessian and canvas and isn't a fan of pink, fluffy, girly things.  However she believes (and I agree) that vintage can be and is quite often pretty in a sort of bygone, no frills sort of way. 

I know exactly what she means by this as when I looked at the cushions initially it immediately brought to mind the image of land girls making do and mending and keeping calm and carrying on! There is nothing kitsch about Betsy Jarvis products - they are simply beautiful and I can definitely imagine a couple of those cushions scattered around my bedroom!



WHERE

Betsy Jarvis is stocked in a few shops within the Lincolnshire area where Steff is based and she is currently discussing a possibility of supplying to a shop in France which Steff jokes is like selling ice to the Eskimos given the French influence in her designs, but generally she is focusing more on online shops and stockists - which is good news for us as it means we can avail of these lovely items at the click of a button!




This one can be personalised with
the date for an anniversary present - I heart it!!

Currently you can find Betsy Jarvis products on the official website, in the Folksy online shop and read more about the trials and tribulations of Betsy Jarvis on the Betsy Jarvis blog! The products have also just been accepted on Not Mass Produced and will be listed for purchase there shortly.


HOW

As I am always intrigued to know how a name is chosen, I asked Steff where the name for her company came from and she told me that Betsy Jarvis was her husband's Grandmother, and although they never met, she is told she was a very sweet lady......and she had a really cute name (which I think totally fits in with the era and the images that the products evoke in my mind.)


WHY



“Success isn't about achieving something in the future, but about doing something now that you love” Zen habits

This is a solid piece of advice which brings to mind Carpe Diem (seize the day) which is a motto that S & I aim to live by and my own motto which I hope to make true someday - Life is too short to make photocopies - make art instead!! (I may just have made that up but it is true nevertheless!)



These are just a few of the many gorgeous things stocked by Betsy Jarvis - hop on over to the links above to check out the rest of the items - I know what I have in mind for Christmas pressies anyway!!

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