Thursday, 28 February 2013

Gift Sets for Mother's Day

Here are a couple of images of my most recent works, one of which is a complete set that I intend to sell as a gift set for Mother's Day - the other is nearly a full set, I'm just waiting for the third item to dry!

I've also painted a couple more A5 sized notebooks, all in preparation for a craft fair this Saturday at the Marist Hall, on Cottingham Road in Hull. There is an event on Facebook for it, which you can look at it in detail by clicking here. The event will open in a new window.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Poggy days....

My sister and I often used the word "poggy" when we were growing up together - when we were feeling particularly ugly or generally not very good- those days when all you want to do is stay in bed and hide from the outside world. I always thought it was a word my sister invented to describe our feelings on such days, but I've just done a search for it online, and discovered that there are a couple of meanings similar to ours in the urban dictionary, interestingly enough both of which originate in the North of England!

Definition One:

A mute alcoholic concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

rooted in North Yorkshire 
"I saw him the other day he has turned into a right poggy"
Definition Two:
Used in the north of England meaning a muddy area.
"Don't walk over there in your new shoes it's poggy!"
I only mention this word because I'm having a particularly poggy day today and I bet my sister is, too - our poggy days often coincide. On those days, I usually care little about my appearance, sometimes I don't get dressed at all. I have little or no enthusiasm for dong anything but eating comfort food and drinking hot drinks (preferably sweet ones).
However, I then got to thinking about poggy days versus painting days, and clothes-wise, there's not much difference! When I know I'm going to spend the full day painting, I actually enjoy putting on my 17year old pair of grey "slacks" (which I used to wear for work when I went out of the house to earn my money) and a paint-smeared, glue-encrusted old sweatshirt. I even wear horrible old socks, to make the ensemble even better. There's no point in even trying to do anything with my hair on days like this, so I just leave it. This usually means I have what I've termed "sprouting fringe syndrome"  - my fringe is no longer behaving like a fringe, but is actually heading off in all directions from the front of my head, rather like a peacock's feathers, only nowhere near as delightful to look at.
I am tending to have more and more poggy days as I get older, although I do still like to put make-up on and wear my "best" clothes when we go out, it's just not as important to me as it used to be. I wonder if anyone else has a special name for days when they feel like this?
I need to get changed for tonight, as I've got to leave the house for a musical rehearsal, but as the day will be spent painting and co-writing another script, I can safely stay poggy till at least 6pm, and that suits me!
I daren't really show you a photo of me as I am on a poggy day, so instead will just post this photo of me from a play, with my hair back-combed and when I was playing an "interesting" character!:

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Latest venture

"The Mighty Jungle"

I've recently completed a new project, which was prompted after I'd made the Memory Box for my sister's 40th birthday in January. A friend of mine recommended me when someone asked her if she knew anyone who did memory/keepsake boxes for babies. Eve (the friend) immediately suggested me - and I'm really grateful to her for doing so. I think creative work is always much more interesting if it's varied and have always enjoyed the challenge of doing something a little bit different. As Eve had already created a set of 3 animal themed pieces of wall art for the new boy's bedroom, I used those as a starting point and we decided on a jungle theme for the box. I recorded the progress and sent photos to the client as I went along, so thought I'd share them with you, too.

After painting the box inside and out with a pastel/mint green, I began pencilling in the design. I knew that I wanted some grass all along the bottom edge of the box, and that I would be incorporating the 3 animals that Eve had on her canvases - it was just a case of deciding what else to include and where! This is the first photo that I sent to the client, with the lion painted and the other two animals just pencilled in.

Next, I added the elephant, and the sun. When I painted the sun, I also decided to add my well-established dots to the design and that gave me the inspiration to use the same idea in other areas.

Moving on to the turtle, and the fron tof the box is nearly complete - although I knew that the grass would not be painted on until much later, as I had more work to do on the rear of the box first! My initial sketch for the top of the box is shown here, which I made on an A5 pad early one morning - but I changed it slightly when I transferred the idea to the top as you can see from the next few photographs too.

I liked the effect of the raised dots of paint on the tree and snake, so I later added them to the giraffe spots as well and took this closer photo of it to show my client:

I didn't sketch out the design for the rear of the box, I just knew in my head what I wanted it to look like and drew straight onto the box - hoping I didn't make a mistake (pencil is sometimes hard to paint over!) and thankful that I didn't. I was a bit disappointed with the dots on the snake at the back (as can be seen in the second image) as there are two different colours, green and glittery pink - but the pink can only be seen when the light is reflecting on it.

The next job was to complete the grass all the way around the bottom of the box, then move onto something that my client asked but wasn't sure if I could fit it in - the name of the baby. I was more than happy to include this, and again, early one morning I had a go at designing the lettering on a note-pad - liked the idea of putting it inside a cloud and placing the image on the inside of the lid. I've kept my original pencil design, which I traced onto the box lid to ensure I kept the proportions.

Once I'd transferred the name, I painted the cloud in white, the letters in green and filled in everything with tiny dots of matching paint to emphasise the design.  You may be able to see the detail of this more in the second image I took.

Finally, I lined the inside base of the box with some funky foam, attached some protective pads to the base of the box and varnished it all.  I then took some photographs of the finished box alongside the 3 canvases that Eve made. Our client was over the moon with the package, as was her sister, the Mother of the newborn baby! I think they go together quite well and from feedback we've received so far, it looks like we may be producing some more together!

More of Eve's work can be seen on her Facebook page, Crafty Beggars and she is the organiser of the monthly UPMarket event at the Prospect Centre in Hull city centre, so will always be there with her range of children's wall art, cotton tote bags for children and adults, hand painted jute bags, as well as seasonal bags such as personalised Christmas sacks or Trick or Treat bags for Halloween! I've previously ordered a batch of cotton tote bags for members of Hull Musical Society - with our logo on the side and I can highly recommend her.

One thing I've learned, however, during the time it took me to paint this, is that I need to speed up if at all possible (or charge per side of the box) as I worked out a figure but didn't really think too much about how long it would take me to paint so much detail! I'm pleased with the end result and obviously very happy that our client was so pleased with it too - word of mouth is always a great way of gaining new work!

You can also see more of my other creations on my Facebook page, Arty Aitch. I am at the UPMarket event most months of this year also.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Achievements and celebrations

It seems to have been quite a week here - my best friend and husband (the same person, I might add) Keith celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday 1st February. It does sound very strange saying that number out loud, since he does not seem that old to me at all - yet I know he must be since I am now 47 and he is 23 years older than me!!! Anyway, he didn't want a party or a big fuss, so he opted instead to spend the time with our immediate family at our closest Michelin Starred restaurant, The Pipe & Glass in South Dalton. Keith's sister, Lesley,  and her husband, John travelled up from Gloucestershire on Thursday to stay with us for the long weekend and as we knew we would be having a slap-up meal on the Friday night, we settled for simpler fare on Thursday evening, and dined in with delicious steak pies from the village butchers/bakers. I gave Keith a Google Nexus 7 tablet for his birthday - he did wonder if he should take it with all his other tablets at first, then when I'd stopped laughing he apologised for the poor attempt at a joke. He was obviously pleased with the gift I gave him, since he's been using it nearly non-stop ever since. Out meal out on Friday evening was absolutely superb. The staff were very courteous, our food arrived almost as if by magic and every course was delicious. In fact, I was so full of lovely food that I had stomach pain - but I was not going to refuse the dessert was I? We had a taster of olives, bread and "sausage and mash" before the meal began, all of which I enjoyed. Then I had a starter of butter-nut squash soup with sage pesto and a slice of bread. The portions were a very healthy size, not the nouvelle cuisine I was expecting, so little wonder I was struggling at the end of the night! My main course was Chicken Coq au vin with marjoram mash and seasonal vegetables. The cinnamon infused red cabbage was gorgeous, and the chicken was so tender - it tasted divine. My dessert was a chocolate and hazelnut tart with a fruit sorbet (I've forgotten what the fruit was, but I think it may have been orange). I could not manage a coffee, but I've heard that it was as good as the rest of the meal!

Saturday, we all stayed in during the day, chatting and doing crosswords - my parents visited in the early afternoon and Keith's grand-daughters, Matheea and Evie came round as they hadn't yet seen him for his birthday. We spent the afternoon playing connect 4 and doing a bit of decoupage before I took them back home at tea-time. Saturday night we had one of our favourite Italian meals - Chicken Parmigiano. It went down well with John and Les, too - I must remember to send them the recipe! We finished the meal with cheese and biscuits, did some quizzes (we all love compiling and trying to solve quizzes) that Keith and I had prepared for Christmas, and I think I fell asleep on the settee at some point!

I hadn't had much time to think about it, but Sunday evening was looming - the time for the show I'd been preparing for with my singing teacher for months!

Sunday morning I was ill. I think my body was just reacting to all the rich food and drink I'd consumed in the past few days - my stomach was not at all settled and I was worried that I wouldn't make it to the show in the evening. John and Les went home in the morning (it always seems to pass so quickly) and I tried to have a bit of singing practice, but felt terrible and had to take some tablets before I left the house in the afternoon - didn't want to be ill for my debut solo singing, now did I?

I arrived in Barton shortly after 3pm, where I was soon met by a fellow "crafter" Debbi Bain - her hand-made dolls are beautiful. She just happens to be the mother of my singing teacher and was helping out back-stage. I did my sound-check, pinned up a few running orders back-stage and got changed before joining all the children on stage for a warm-up. There were only a couple of adults performing, since the show was initially just going to be for Steph's Showbiz Theatre students, but it also included several of her private students as well. I can honestly say that I have never been so nervous about anything in my life. It was on a par with the audition I did when I first joined Hull Musical Society 4 years ago - only that was over with quite quickly. The nerves began for me on the drive over to Barton - since I was going for a sound check in the afternoon, and the show didn't start till 5, I went on my own and Keith came to watch it with my parents. As I was driving, I was physically shaking, I could feel my heart thumping in my chest and I thought I was going to stop breathing!!!

My first piece was the solo rendition of "Maybe This Time" - made famous by Liza Minelli in "Cabaret". Singing over a microphone to a backing track was a first for me, and it sounded very odd at first. However, even though I was shaky, I didn't go wrong, sang in tune all the way through and even acted out some slight movements. I wasn't entirely happy with it, since I know I've sung it better, but I'd done it - achieved something I planned to do when I first started having singing lessons earlier last year. I was now actually looking forward to singing my duet. Unfortunately, the other Helen was taken ill with flu so couldn't make it, but Steph stepped in (not for the first time either) and sang it with me. I thoroughly enjoyed singing "I Know Him So Well" with her, and we even got a cheer at the end! I feel so much more confident about my singing ability now, and hope to audition for parts in shows this year with Hull Musical Society. My parents and Keith were all impressed too, which helped boost my confidence - they wouldn't lie and Keith said that he could tell I was really nervous in the solo, but he was really moved by the duet!

I've had my weekly singing lesson today and we are now planning another duet together, since it seemed to work so well. This time it will be in Hull, some time in July. In the mean-time, I've got my first rehearsal back at HMS tonight - so hopefully will find out when our Spring concerts are planned for - I may even be auditioning for a solo in them if I'm able to.

I now feel a great sense of achievement, and am so glad that I plucked up the courage not only to join HMS, but to have singing lessons - I would never ever have had the confidence to attempt a solo in a concert without them!