Monday, 24 February 2014

The Merry Dancers and the Frame solution...

Photo taken by S - the Northern Lights last night.

I finally saw the Northern Lights last night! S has become what is known in photography circles as a 'light chaser' so he has umpteen apps on his phone which alert him if there is any aurora activity (some are more accurate then others as I discovered after one too many nights of standing in the cold going through the following emotions - excitement at the thought of seeing one of nature's most amazing sights, wonder at the millions of stars in the sky and how insignificant we really are, frustration as clouds begin to roll in just in the northern part of the sky blocking any possible sighting, boredom when the lights don't instantly appear and can can their way across the night sky). However, all thoughts of sacking it and going home would be followed with images of that old Kit Kat advert where the guy stands for hours to photograph the pandas and as soon as he turns his back to eat his Kit Kat they rollerskate all around their enclosure before disappearing again when he turns back round) 

It got to the point where I just didn't believe those alerts any more and so S would go off on his own with all his fancy camera equipment and I'd stay home cosy and warm sure that it would be yet another wild goose chase. Then one night, I got a call from an exhilarated S telling me to come out now, they were there and they were amazing. I raced to the car, raced to the beach (all of 3 minutes drive away from the house) but by the time I got there the last little glow of green was fading from the sky and despite staying out for another two hours in case they came back, the most I saw of the northern lights that night was when S showed me the time lapse video he made later on. Grrr.

So, when his phone apps were telling him it was going to be a doozie last night, I admit all I felt was annoyance at a cosy night in ruined because I knew that I'd be really pissed off if I didn't go out with S and the Merry Dancers were there in all their green and pink finery flinging themselves all over the Highland skies.

Photo taken by S: The Merry Dancers

Suffice to say, after two hours of standing staring up at the sky going through the usual emotions (as detailed above) with only the faintest of glows to be seen,  I had just about reached my boredom threshold when suddenly they started to move and dance, a shimmering curtain of green light filling up the northern skies. It was so beautiful.  I'd seen them before in Norway but not as strong as this and I was definitely very glad that I went out last night. That's not to say that I'll be turning into a 'light chaser' like S any time soon - I think there's a different kind of buzz to capturing that perfect aurora shot on your camera than there is to just standing there for hours wondering at what point will you lose all feeling in your feet while simultaneously developing a crick in your neck. But still, it's another thing to tick off the old bucket list!

Here's a wee time lapse video he made (the lights in the foreground are when a couple with torches came past on the way down to the shore to see the Northern Lights!)


In art related news, thank you to everyone who offered advice and suggestions about framing art in my last post.

Frame and mount from The Frame Company

I've got a few options depending on what the piece is intended for and how much it is likely to sell for - I mean I'm not about to pay £40 to frame a piece that will only sell for £50 - now that would be daft.

S has been planning to start making frames so that is one option. He's been making all sorts of things from old pallets recently - a gorgeous island for our kitchen, a bird nesting box, a planter for outside our front door - so I've no doubt he could make me some great frames as well.

If it's a particularly special piece, for example if I'm lucky enough to have my orang-utan short listed for the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition then I'll definitely push the boat out and get it professionally framed.

The seal painting framed.
In the meantime however, I think I may have struck gold with a company I discovered via Amazon, called the Frame Company. I took a chance and ordered a frame from them for the seal painting and I'm really pleased with it. It's a decent size (18 x 12 inches and comes with an ivory mount for an A4 size painting 11.75 x 8.25 inches) and it wasn't too expensive in the grand scheme of things (£21.60 plus £5.95 shipping). 

It arrived today by courier and it was really carefully packaged in bubble wrap and shredded paper inside a large cardboard box - which will be perfect for me to re-use if I send it down to the Association of Animal Artist's Exhibition in Frodsham in April. I've ordered some framing tape to give it that finished professional look and then it's good to go.  

I'll definitely order more from them as they do a vast range of sizes and can custom make the mount to your own requirements as well.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Look into my eyes...

wildlife art seal cub painting in gouache
'Look into my eyes' - Baby Seal in Gouache  21.5 cm x 30cm

I saw the most beautiful photo of a baby seal on the Caithness Photos Facebook page back in January and, as soon as I saw those soulful eyes, I knew I just had to have a go at painting this beautiful creature. I contacted the photographer, Ve Young, and she kindly gave me permission to use her photo as reference. I started it a couple of weeks ago and just finished it today.

Oh, and after feeling all professional soaking my watercolour paper, for the orang-utan painting, and using the gum strip to stretch it, I should also have checked how to remove it from the drawing board. I stupidly thought the gum strip would peel off nicely revealing a crisp white border but actually, no, it doesn't peel off at all. Instead I had to get S to carefully cut through it with a stanley knife (I was too scared of slicing through my painting to do it myself!) and now I have an attractive brown border all the way round my painting that won't come off. I know it'll be covered by mounting card but still, it put me off using it again.  Plus it's all stuck to my drawing board and I couldn't face having to soak it off then wait for the board to dry before I could use it again.

So, I didn't bother soaking or stretching the paper at all for this painting and while it buckled ever so slightly I don't think it'll be noticeable once it's been framed 

Here are the stages the seal painting went through:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5 - final piece

I'm looking for some advice from fellow artists as well please. Until now I've always worked on canvas or else on commission pieces on watercolour paper that I didn't have to frame but, now that I've fallen in love with gouache, I plan to use it most all of the time and that will mean having to frame artwork for exhibitions and what not.  

As I haven't yet made my fortune from my art I've got that catch 22 of not wanting to fork out a lot for expensive framing in case the piece doesn't sell but having to frame the pieces in advance or else I can't hang them at the exhibitions. I've seen some frames on Amazon that are for wall hanging only so they don't have that stand that shop bought frames tend to have so possibly they might work but I'd love to hear what other folk do in this case. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Gratitude & Crochet. ..

My Gratitude Stone

I recently read a book called 'The Secret' which is all about the law of attraction and how your positive attitude can bring good things into your life. It's worth a read with an open mind if you need a positivity overhaul.

Another book by the same author is called 'The Magic' and is a follow on from The Secret,  all to do with gratitude and how being more grateful for everything in your life can change your outlook and bring more good things your way. The book is a 28 day exercise on how to be more grateful (perhaps it ought to be compulsory in the school curriculum).

So, Christine and Audrey, who work at the animal rescue shelter asked me if I wanted to join them on the 28 day exercise to see if we could all be more grateful and bring more positivity our way - I absolutely did so I downloaded The Magic to my kindle app and am now on day 10 of being more grateful.

You start each day with one of the daily exercises so that it sets you up to be grateful for the whole day (it really works because as soon as I find a negative thought crossing my mind I immediately counter it with something positive!). 

One of the daily exercises suggests we get a 'gratitude stone' which is just a smooth round pebble that we can set by our beds so last thing at night we hold it in our hands and remember the best thing that happened that day. I had several perfect pebbles that I'd collected from the beach and, after selecting one, I decided I wanted to decorate mine and make it a little bit special seeing as it would be taking up residence on my bedside table.

I discovered that there's a gratitude symbol (a small g in a circle). So I decided to do my own version of it and several coats of paint and corrections with tiny paint brushes later (turns out painting symbols on stones isn't as easy as it looks!) I'm very grateful to have finished mine! I painted it white with a green symbol (green being the colour of the heart chakra which seemed appropriate for gratitude). I decorated 2 more and gave them to Christine and Audrey in gratitude for telling me about The Magic!

I'm toying with the idea of painting more and selling them in my Etsy shop with the proceeds of any sales going to the animal shelter (after all mother nature provides the stones for free). I also thought it might be fun to leave some in random places locally for people to find and it might pique their curiosity to find out what they mean and spread the gratitude!

So, something that I am especially grateful for right now - my mum made me this crochet granny square patchwork throw for my birthday (as I'd requested!). 

Isn't it beautiful? I love it so much and have already asked her to make me another for the back of the sofa!!

I'm also grateful to everyone who stops by here to read my inane ramblings (even when I don't have any art to show you!) By the way, I am probably the last to know but I recently discovered Bloglovin' and the app on my phone is such a great way to keep up with all the blogs that I follow as sometimes I miss new posts and this means I never have to again.  I've added the button to my sidebar so if you wanted to follow me that way, I'd be very grateful!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Bands, Exhibitions and Rabbits...

Wildlife animal art Rabbit in gouache NicseARTh
'Salad for One' - Ink and gouache on recycled card 13.5 x 13.5cm

Well, so far this year I've not been very good at blogging - one post for the whole of January!

Hopefully this won't be my only post for the month of February.  My excuses are as follows:

1) I've decided to focus more on gouache animal portraits and less on little illustrations and so I've not been producing a whole lot of art so far as each piece takes that bit longer to complete; and

2) I've been very distracted (in a good way) with my Reiki stage 2 because although I completed the course over two days in January, I have 3 different case studies to complete before I get my certificate which means I am then officially a Reiki Practitioner (if I decided I wanted to make a career of it).

Also, we went to Glasgow on Friday 24 January to see one of our favourite bands from the early 90s (although S and I didn't know each other then it turns out we shared a love for Del Amitri, a band that really should've had much more success than they did). It was in the Hydro - a new purpose built venue - and it was brilliant. We had a fabulous meal in one of the several vegan restaurants in Glasgow as well beforehand so it was like a proper night out which S and I rarely have these days preferring the comfort of a sofa, an open fire and a good movie instead!

On the Saturday we went to the Jack Vettriano retrospective - a collection of over 100 pieces that are all normally in private collections all over the world.  I love his work - to me it's like the flip side to Norman Rockwell - that same wonderful 1950s era but instead of just the innocent bright side, Vettriano's work is more about the dark and dangerous 'film noir' side to that era. S bought me a book on his work and one of the writers described his work as making you feel nostalgic for an era you didn't even live through and that's exactly it.

What I love most is that he is hugely successful despite being self taught and even though the Scottish art world criticised his work (probably because he wasn't classically trained and his subject matter was inspired by actual things such as a song title or a scene from a movie rather than pretentious nonsense).

Anyway, he inspired me to try a little homage to one of his most famous pieces 'The Singing Butler' but with my own favourite subject matter.  It's a work in progress and it may or may not work but I'm looking forward to giving it a go.

In the meantime, you're probably wondering what all this has to do with a little bunny rabbit having a quiet veggie lunch?  I came across this photo on my favourite photo reference site - Paint my Photo - when I was looking for reference photos for the piece I mentioned above and because I'm in love with the several rabbits who are currently living at the rescue centre I wanted to paint it. I take them in carrots or curly kale every time I volunteer there and I swear their little eyes light up when they see me now as they know I come bearing veggie gifts!!


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