Friday, 29 November 2013

Artful Readers Club - November Read

Up until last weekend, I hadn't read so much as a bus ticket  this month and thought that I would have to call it a day on this year's challenge.  I find reading a huge effort these days, unless it is a subject that really takes my interest.
John and I went on a pre-anniversary mini-break to Ballater in the Scottish Highlands for two nights.  It is about 90 minutes drive from where we live and is right on the doorstep of the Cairngorm mountains.  As usual, I had a poke around the second-hand shops that abound in these touristy places and found Shakespeare Cats by Susan Herbert.

  It is a beautifully illustrated book, of 32 colour plates of  feline paintings depicting famous scenes from a variety of Shakespeare's plays.  I love this type of illustration and was highly delighted that she had also included a pen and ink drawing of some of the minor characters on each double page spread.  As we were in Scotland, I felt it only right and proper that I should attempt a character from "that Scottish play", Macbeth.

Here is my depiction of Macduff.  He, of course,  had to be a ginger tom.  Macduff is the archetype of the avenging hero, not simply out for revenge but with a good and holy purpose.  "I have no words, my voice is my sword".

I sketched him in pencil and then watercoloured him with  Caran d'Ache Neocolours.  I thoroughly enjoyed making this month's painting and know I will re-visit the literary cats for more drawing practice.  The lovely Darcy's Artful Readers Club has certainly got a lot to answer for!

Thank you for stopping by and do feel free to leave a comment, I appreciate them all very much.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

October Journal Page

I am very lucky.  We live in a very beautiful part of the country (Scotland)  and each month I have tried to depict the changes I have seen in the fields and woods surrounding our house.  The idea is to make a memory book of the changing seasons.  The month of October is a big card in the annual change.  We see the foliage on the native broad-leaf woodland change colour and, in some cases disappear altogether, and due to the reducing canopy, we  notice the abundance of roe deer in the wood - all preparing for the annual rut.  Fungi has been very common this year due to the damp, warm autumn.

This is an A4 spread on two A5 pages, hence the centre fold.  I have used stamps from Impression Obsession and Chocolate Baroque (trees), Stampin' USA (leaves), Lavinia Stamps (shrubs), roe deer (Penny Black), fungi (Chocolate Baroque).  I have used various Distress Inks and dye based inks from Stampin' Up.

I should like to enter this layout in the Craft a Scene challenge "Trees".  Thank you for visiting my blog and for your encouraging comments.  I do appreciate them all.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Artful Readers Club - October Read

I have again strayed from the list I nominated at the beginning of the year.  This month I have chosen a short story (160 pages) "The Clothes They Stood Up In" by Alan Bennett.

This story was first heard when Alan Bennett read it on BBC Radio 4 at Christmas 1997.  It was so popular that it was published almost straight away and was a runaway success.

We meet Maurice and Rosemary Ransome, a childless couple who have been married for almost thirty years.  He is a solicitor, she a housewife and they live in an Edwardian mansion block of apartments in a good part of North London.  They are both Mozart lovers (in fact it is only the mutual appreciation of Mozart that has kept them together) and they have just returned home from a performance of Cose Fan Tutte at Covent Garden.  When they let themselves into their flat, they notice immediately that every piece of what they considered home has vanished - even down to the toilet roll.  "We've been robbed" says Mrs Ransome.  "No, we have been burgled" says her husband, correcting her.  He was ever the stickler for the correct terminology.

My sketch is of Mr. Mrs. Ransome sitting on the floor of their flat, looking rather bemused, in their opera clothes and wondering where all their stuff has gone to.  It is coloured with pencils.

Bennett's narrative sharply observes the relationship between the snobbish and narrow-minded husband, Maurice and that of his down trodden wife Rosemary and how she quietly blossoms after the liberating affect of the burglary.  Things would never be the same again.

Thank you for visiting and I do hope you will have a look at the other reviews and artwork over at the Artful Readers Club on Darcy's Art and Sole Blog.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Artful Readers Club - September Read

This month's book is a departure from my original list and what a good decision!  I thoroughly enjoyed Enigma by Robert Harris, so much so, I couldn't put it down and read it in two days - a record for me.  You may have seen the excellent  film Enigma starring Dougray Scott, Saffron Burrows and Kate Winslet and this is the book the film was based on.  As always, the book is better than the movie version which I also found exciting and very entertaining.

Enigma is the name of the German code machine used by all Nazi military during World War II.  The fact based story is about the mathematicians and scientists employed at Bletchley Park Intelligence Gathering and Decoding Centre. Their  battle  was to break into the German Navy's  Enigma code 'Shark' before the submarine wolf-packs could sink the convoys of supply ships making their slow and ponderous way across the North Atlantic  to the UK from America.  A nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat read wonderfully wrapped up in intrigue and betrayal.  Thoroughly recommended!

Here is my pastel drawing of a cargo ship on the North Atlantic at night in 1942 having been spotted by a German U-boat.  The 4 character codes were transmitted to other U-boats and they took up positions in line, as much as 20 miles apart, and then set about blowing the convoys out of the water with great success and huge loss of life.

Thank you for stopping by and do feel free to leave a comment, all are much appreciated.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Get Real Challenge #17 - Bold

This is the first time I have ever entered a digital scrapbooking challenge.  I loved the inspirational freebie mini kit by CBD  that went with this challenge and thought I should have a go!  The challenge over at Real Life Scrapped is open until the 10th September.  I have only used  items in the mini kit apart from a CBD Journal Junk Border.

Thank you for stopping by and please feel free to leave a comment, I appreciate them all.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


My blogging friend Faye asked me to paint a face of Inspector Rebus - the main character of the book review I did in my last blog post.  Here he is

He has a well lived- in face, lopsided, big nose and puffy from all the late nights and  booze.  His hair needs cutting and combing, he probably needs a shave and he can see right through all those lies he is told.  He doesn't smile much either.  A typical old-school detective!
I have used watercolours with a water brush.  I have only recently started to try to paint and would love to take part in the 29 Faces challenge  as it is for people of all abilities, but I will be away from home  for a good part of this month.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Artful Readers Club - August Read

This month's book is the last in the Inspector Rebus series, Exit Music by Ian Rankin.

It is late autumn in Edinburgh and the final days of police service for Inspector Rebus.  Nothing to look forward to and many loose ends to tie up before he retires, Rebus and his sergeant Siobhan attempt to solve the murder of a dissident Russian poet.

I am delighted to tell you that Inspector John Rebus is not killed off but the prospect of his retirement is not a happy one.  The man is a very flawed character, so wonderfully depicted by Ian Rankin throughout the series - each book lets you in to another secret about his life - and he faces a lonely retirement.  As usual, the story is a cracking yarn that fairly speeds along recounting the events of one week in the investigation.

My artwork is an attempt at a  watercolour evoked by the description of Rebus returning at night to his flat.

"Rebus had driven through the silent pre-dawn streets to Marchmont, an eventual parking space, and his second-floor tenement flat.  The living room had a bay window, and that was where his chair was.  He was promising himself  he'd make it as far as the bedroom, but there was a spare duvet behind the sofa just in case.  He had a bottle of whisky, too - eighteen- year- old Highland Park, bought the previous weekend with a couple of good hits left in it.  Ciggies and booze and a little night music.  At one time they would have provided enough consolation, but he wondered if they would sustain him once the job was behind him.  What else did he have?"

A jolly good read.

Thank you for stopping by and do feel free to leave a comment - I appreciate them all.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Artful Readers Club - July Read

My book for July is  Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin.  A crime thriller and thirteenth in the Detective Inspector John Rebus series, and, as expected, is set in and around Edinburgh, Scotland.  This genre of Scottish detective crime thriller is often referred to as 'tartan noir'.

What can I say?  Ian Rankin is a genius crime writer and I was hooked from beginning to end in a very plausible and complicated plot - all played out against the wonderful backdrop of Edinburgh.  DI Rebus, a man of mature years, is sent undercover, to join other unorthodox officers who have been returned to  police bootcamp (training college)  in a final attempt to modify their behaviour.  They work in syndicates and are given the unsolved murder case of an Edinburgh low-life criminal to review and follow up.  Their subsequent investigations turn up much more than they ever anticipated, the repercussions of which would be far reaching.  I shan't tell you any more of the plot except to say that it involves art theft, police corruption and of course murder.  The title of the book is a reference to the body snatchers of the 19th Century who were known as 'resurrectionists' or 'resurrection men'.

I found it extremely difficult to come up with a single theme for the  artwork so went with an art journal page.

I have attempted to show the duplicity, violence. fear and complexity of the plot all on the chequered band of the police. The blood droplets are a stamp from Designs by Ryn. The eyes by Stampscape.

Thanks for stopping by and do feel free to leave a comment, I appreciate them all.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Artful Readers Club - June Read

As a follow on from last month's military history book, this month, my chosen book was the Life of the Duke of Wellington by Rosamond Waite.  The Duke of Wellington  referred to is Arthur Wesley, later Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington b.1769 - d. 1852) most famously remembered for his victory over Emperor Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

I have owned this lovely little book, the 1878 edition,  since the mid 1970's having initially been drawn to it as it contains some wonderful little fold out maps of the Duke's military campaigns.  As a child living in Surrey, England I was always curious as to why our London central railway station was called Waterloo and why so many of the streets near our home were called Waterloo Place or Road etc.  This curiosity introduced me to life long interest in military history, and in particular the Napoleonic wars.

This book is very readable and informative and fairly bounces along.  Most of the Duke's life is well documented but it was interesting to read assessments of his character  by his contemporaries.

As to his immense success, he was described as having "an iron hardihood of body, a quick and sure vision, a grasping mind, untiring power of thought and the habit of laborious, minute investigation and arrangement ... and that most rare faculty of coming to prompt and sure conclusions on sudden emergencies".

In addition to his success as a military figure, he was also twice Prime Minister of Great Britain.  We could do with someone of his calibre now!

For my artwork, I ventured into uncharted territory with white Indian ink, acrylic paints and a Gelli Plate.

The profile of the Duke is based on an 1822 sketch made at a dinner party he was attending.  The background represents the colours of the armies, the explosions during battle and the regimented ranks of soldiers forming square (top left).

Thank you for stopping by and do feel free to leave a comment.  I do appreciate them all.  I state in advance that my next book will NOT be military history!

Friday, 31 May 2013

Artful Readers Club May Read - The Military Experience in the Age of Reason by Christopher Duffy

This month's Artful Readers Club book is a factual book describing the state of the military during the years 1650 - 1790.
An odd choice you may think but I have to confess to being a bit of an anorak concerning military matters, especially during the Napoleonic Wars.  This book, however, introduced me to a period of history I knew very little about and one that was left untouched by my school education.  In short, I learned something new!

The Age of Reason was a cultural movement of intellectuals in 17th and 18th centuries which began first in Europe and later in the American colonies.  Its purpose was to reform society using reason; challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith and advance knowledge by scientific method.
Unfortunately, apart from the Prussians, almost none of this philosophy applied to the military during this period.  The armies of Europe were structured almost exclusively on wealth, privilege and noblesse oblige rather than ability, experience and knowledge.  In fact, if you were high born, wealthy and well connected you could purchase the highest rank in the best regiment - experience in matters military not necessary.  A good upbringing involving hunting, shooting and fox hunting was all that was considered necessary to become a high ranking army officer. Lower born or poorer officers were constantly passed over for promotion and consequently stagnated in the ranks causing great resentment.  The experienced soldiers were generally the NCO's (non commissioned officers) and, particularly in the French army, were left to run things on a practical level in time of crisis. This had an impact when the French Revolution of 1789 took place as many of the very experienced battle-hardy NCO's took charge of civilian armies and rounded on their military grandees.  Score:  Peasants 1  -  Fops 0.
The Prussians took a much more sensible approach to their armed forces by equipping them well, training them constantly and valuing their service.  They also permitted personnel to be promoted by merit shown on the battlefield.

For my art piece this month,  I have gone well out of my comfort zone,  and painted a scene showing a Prussian Army regiment being directed into battle by a mounted officer wielding his sword.  It is painted with acrylic paints onto acrylic paper.

In summary, I found this book extremely interesting, informative and easy to read.  Well worth a look at if you are interested in military history.

Thank you for visiting and I do hope you will have a look at the lovely Darcy's blog and the other book reviews and wonderful artwork.  Your kind comments are encouraging and much appreciated.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Last Enchantment Altered Book Page - The Oak Tree Roots

This page came about as I came across a delightful German fairy tale book called The Story of the Root Children by Sybille Von Olfers.  The Root Children live underground in the roots of tall trees and are woken up each Spring by Mother Earth. They set about making new clothes for the flowers and painting the beetles and ladybirds in their bright colours.  They spend all summer dancing and playing in the fields before returning to their underground homes at the onset of winter.

The oak tree is a new stamp from Sheena Douglass, as is the word stamp and saying on the bottom of the page.  The tree roots are a texture stamp from Lavinia Stamps.  The page has been coloured with Derwent Inktense pencils and the oak tree foliage is Aged Green embossing enamel by Stampendous.  The two smiling children in their earth bed were drawn by yours truly.

Thank you for visiting and do feel free to leave a comment.  I appreciate every one.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Artful Readers Club - April Read

My book for April was The Brethren by John Grisham published in 2000.

I was totally sucked in to the narrative from the first page and found it difficult to put the book down!  For me, it contained all the elements of an expertly fashioned and totally believable crime story with a political sub-plot. In no way spoiling the plot, the main characters are two ex-high court judges and a disgraced Justice of the Peace who are serving lengthy sentences in a federal prison in Florida.  With the help of a bent lawyer, they place advertisements in a contact magazine and pose as young men wishing to become 'pen pals'  with older men.
At the same time they are busy writing their letters, a country is going to the polls to elect a new President.

A piece of American junk mail arrived fortuitously in the post box this week so I thought a collage would best depict this very enjoyable book.  The fingerprints, letter (written in block capitals), SWM (single white male) and postage stamps with election badges set the scene for a great read.

Thanks for stopping by and I do hope you will check out all the other reviews at Darcy's Art-and-Sole and thank you for your lovely comments.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Last Enchantment Altered Book Page - Dancing Unicorns

These pages are dedicated to the legend of the Moon Dancing unicorns as told by Meredith Ann Pierce in Birth of the Firebringer.  Each month the unicorns gathered at dusk to dance in a Circle under the full, dusky moon.

The unicorns are from Chocolate Baroque stamps and have been stamped in Black Archival Ink and then covered with Glossy Accents and glitter.  The foliage stamps are from Clarity and Lavinia Stamps.  The background has been made by masking and sponging with various Distress Inks.

Thanks for stopping by and do feel free to leave a comment, I appreciate them all.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

"Last Enchantment" Altered Book Page - Jack Frost

I think we have all seen enough of Jack Frost just lately and he also inhabits the enchanted forest.  As a child I found Jack Frost to be a bit of a scary character and yet, at the same time, very appealing.  The image of Jack is from Google and has been coloured with pencils.  The poem by C.E. Pike is the one most of us are familiar with "Look out! Look out! Jack Frost is about!"

I have white gessoed the pages and then sprinkled Stampin Up's Dazzling Diamonds powder on whilst the pages were still wet.  The snow flakes have been stamped with Cobalt Blue Archival Ink.  The images have been attached with Golden Matt Gel and brushed over to seal them.  Snow crystals have been punched out of silver holographic card to add some shine.

Thank you for stopping by and do feel free to leave a comment.  I appreciate every one.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Last Enchantment Altered Book Page - The Green Man

The image of the Green Man is a freebie from the very talented artist Jay's blog as drawing this would be way beyond my capabilities.  I have coloured the image with Derwent Inktense pencils and then used a crackle stamp from Sheena Douglass and a border stamp from Clarity Stamps to complete the design.  The poem on the opposite page is suitably creepy and called Green Man in the Garden by Charles Causley and has been coloured with Pan Pastels.  The pages have been coloured with Distress Stains and overstamped with green Archival ink with a flourish stamp from Fiskars.

Thank you for looking and do feel free to leave a comment, I appreciate every one.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

"Last Enchantment" Altered Book Page - Fox

This has been a work in progress, altering  "The Last Enchantment" ex-library book for over 12 months now, only working on pages as and when the mood has taken me.  I am almost at the end of my imaginary journey within an enchanted wood.  I have recorded all the animals and fantasy creatures encountered, together with a snippet of information, mainly in the form of poetry, about each one.

This is the first page I have drawn and coloured from scratch.  Usually, I have relied on rubber stamping or print outs for the images. The inspiration for this layout was from a painting by Patrick Latimer, a South African artist.  I was impressed by the simplicity of his fox drawing and felt confident that I could draw one too.  The picture has been coloured with water soluble Caran D'Ache Neo II crayons and blended with a damp brush.  I am very impressed with these crayons, with their ease of use and the rich pigmentation.  Not having to use a wet brush to blend means that the page does not get wet and wrinkled when drying.

Thanks for stopping by and do feel free to leave a comment, they are all very much appreciated.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Artful Readers Club - March Read

My March read for the Artful Readers Club over at Art-and-Sole is Small World by David Lodge.

I originally bought this book from a charity stand at our local health centre.  I chose it for the quality of the paper and, because it was a long book, I thought it was ideal for altering!  What I did not appreciate at the time was  by reading it, I was going to be introduced to the world of the professional literary academic conference goer and all their 'sad' little lives.

Small World is a satirical look at the pomposity and egocentric world of  professional jet-setting literary  academics who spend most of their working lives either delivering their high brow literary criticisms to their peers or being part of the vast audience of conference goers.  Their world is indeed small in more ways than one.  Attending conferences all over the world, usually meeting up with the same crowd of people at every venue, professional jealousy and marital infidelity are high on the agenda.  Small World was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1984 and serialized for TV by Granada.

I enjoyed reading about Professors Morris Zapp and  Phillip Swallow but my favourite character was
Persse McGarrigle MA. University College, Limerick.  I painted him in watercolours.

He saw a white, round, freckled face, snub nose, pale blue eyes, and a mop of red curly hair. "I wouldn't say you were handsome, exactly," he murmured, "But I've seen uglier mugs."

Thanks for stopping by and I do hope you will pop over to Art-and-Sole and see all the other book reviews and wonderful artwork.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Finished At Last!

Last year I had the pleasure of taking part in the lovely Darcy's Postcard Challenge .  It was a big  commitment  for me as it required me doing something regularly EVERY week (something I usually try to avoid!).  After 52 postcards and 52 double page book spreads and making up a story, I completed the challenge.  Phew!

Two same sized hardback books bought at charity shops were used to make the weekly double page spreads.  When completed, the books were glued together with Ranger Glossy Accents.  Despite removing about a third of each book to allow for inserts etc.  I have still ended up with a huge volume. With hindsight, I should have removed about a half of each book for it to close without gaping.  I have, however, found a snap together  belt that keeps it shut quite nicely.

The two glued together books were covered in some stiff handmade paper.  This was a long and difficult job and required lots of glue and bulldog clips and couldn't be rushed. I then covered the inside of the covers with more thick paper to tidy up the edges.

The title plaque was cut from chipboard using a Tim Holtz die and the letters from his Inside Out border die. The plaque was painted in antique gold acrylic paint and the letters cut in two colours.  I used Crackle Accents on the letters and around the edge of the plaque to add interest. Some of the colour from the card used for the letters has bled into the Crackle Accents but I think it adds to the interest.

This is one of the introduction pages, made in Craft Artist.  I was delighted to recently discover the All Aboard! range of washi tape from Papermania.  These have been used with gay abandon all around the edges of some of the scruffier pages to tidy them up. I love washi tape!
The globe in a frame on the cover of the book is also by Papermania from their Chronology range and was a free stamp with their Creative magazine.

I have learned a lot from taking part in this  Postcard Challenge.  I can now use Craft Artist2 in a reasonably competent way and have had a dabble at altering books.  Best of all, I have actually COMPLETED SOMETHING!!!

Thank you for visiting.  Your comments are most appreciated.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Artful Readers Club - White Fang by Jack London

My January read was the Call of the Wild by Jack London, first published in 1903.  My book for February is another story by Jack London - White Fang.

 This book was published in 1906 and I have to ask myself, Why have I never come across this book before?  It is a wonderful read, full of insight, descriptive narrative and understanding of the canine, natural and human worlds  at their roughest.   It follows the life of  the wolf cub White Fang until his old age.   A real page-turner in places and at times it had me in tears and at others got me really angry - a real roller coaster of a book.  Cannot recommend it enough.

Here is my attempt at capturing White Fang.  I have spent days trying and this was the only thing that even looked like what I was attempting to portray.  Clearly drawing is not one of my skills!  It is a white pencil sketch on black paper.

I also made a digital page in Craft Artist

The quote that inspired me was

"Then the she-wolf sat down, pointed her nose at a star, and began to howl.  One by one the wolves joined her, till the whole pack, on haunches, with noses pointed skyward, was howling its hunger cry."

Thank you so much for stopping by and for all your much appreciated comments.  I do hope you will give White Fang a try and that you will visit the other participants in the Artful Readers Club.

My read for March is Small World by David Lodge.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

For a Farmer

This card is for a very dear neighbour who was 85 years young on Monday.   He owns a vintage tractor just like this so it seemed just right to create a scene for it.  Apart from the tractor stamp and greeting, the rest of the card was done freehand and coloured in using Distress Inks.

I am having a rest from making cards, unless they are special ones, so I  do thank you for stopping by and for all your lovely comments.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Artful Readers Club - January Read

This is the first monthly post for the Artful Readers Club, run and organized by the very talented Darcy of Art N' Sole .  Each month we read a book (see bookshelf in sidebar) and then do a short review and some artwork that was inspired by our read.  I am well out of my comfort zone here as I am no longer a regular reader and I am going to try to draw and paint as much as I can for the artwork.  I normally rely on rubber stamping for my artistic release but for this challenge I am trying to extend my horizons.

My book for January is The Call of the Wild by Jack London. This book was first published in 1903 and came into my possession,  via  a sale at our local health centre, as I wanted to alter it to make a photo album of our two German Shepherd bitches Heidi and Lottie whom we bought as 13 week old pups in October 2011.

I loved this story.   It is about a dog called Buck who is stolen  from his comfortable southern home and sent north to Canada/Alaska, during the gold rush, to work as a sledge dog.  Jack London truly understood the hierarchical structure of a canine pack and how they fitted in to the different environments in which they found themselves.  I could relate my dogs' behaviour to the descriptions he gave in his narrative and it has helped me to appreciate the complexity of their interaction with humans. I chose this story for my first read as it is really only a long short story but I found myself page turning to find out what was going to happen next.  If you like nature, the outdoors and dogs then this is a story for you.

"Here a yellow stream flows from rotted moose-hide sacks and sinks into the ground, with long grasses growing through it and vegetable mould over running it and hiding its yellow from the sun."

My painting, in acrylics, is of the gold panners' river.  I have used gold leaf in between the boulders.  Apologies for the large crease in the mixed media paper I used.  It wasn't there when I started but appeared later when I had applied the paint.  Does anyone know why this should happen?

Thank you for stopping by and do feel free to leave a comment - I appreciate them all.

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