Friday, 29 November 2013

A Pheasant Day Out! -Challenge Response Journal Page

Iiiiiiiiiit's Friday!!

Another weekend peeking just around the corner AND the first day of December nearly here too!  I guess it's time to haul out those decorations and make our houses twinkly again!

Speaking of twinkly (awesome segue there), I had the awesome opportunity for a lovely day out with mum this week. What with her being poorly and me STILL trying to beat my agoraphobia it's not an everyday occurrence that we both get outside the house for long. We had a fabulous day at a local garden centre (which is ENORMOUS) looking at all the shiny decorations and festive displays. We had a yummy meal in their restaurant, and bought some homemade jam and treats from their farm shop. It was dark when we left, and the centre have decorated ALL the trees thereabouts with flickering lights - so pretty! Stupid me hadn't taken my camera - I will next time though!

The roads to the garden centre are surrounded by beautiful English countryside, which was blazing with the colours of autumn. Incredible shades of orange, yellow and red against a turquoise sky and bright greens of lasting leaves fluttering in the breeze. Driving along the lanes, it struck me just how lucky I am to be able to enjoy this view, these colours ... the brightness of the sun and the chill of the pre-winter winds and the variety of wildlife, out finding food to help them survive the worst of the winter to come, all in the company of my mum competely and epically awesome.

The challenge this week on Inspiration Avenue is to express 'gratitude' through art. It's hard sometimes, when life sends constant avalanches of lemons to remember how good lemonade really is... There's so much I'm grateful for - family, friends, my kitty cat, music, colour, art and life - it's hard to choose just one image to express it all. But traveling down those roads, surrounded by the colours and bounty of nature...well, that's a feeling that sums it all up for me, so I chose to represent the view as my answer to the challenge.

This time around I remembered to take some process pictures to show you - I hope you find them useful!

I wanted to draw a pheasant standing in bracken - an image that encapsulates the colours and the overall feel of this time of year in the place where I live. Because I wanted the colours to be extra bold, I selected my Derwent Inktense pencils for the task as they're so heavily pigmented with bright, bright inks that they really POP when water's added. I sketched the rough shapes of the pheasant and the surrounding bracken and added some colours roughly just to block the areas in nicely:

There's very little pencil used. Inktense are inCREDible - they're available as pencils or just bars of pigment, and both are exceptional. I added a few layers of colour, but didn't blend them as the water would do that for me.

Ta-dah!  You can see how, by just adding water the colours become incredibly bold and dramatic.  I used the pencil tips like a paint palette (just dabbing them with the brush to transfer colour) to add a little depth in areas and just alter colours here and there to achieve the strong image I had in mind.

Inktense colour sets fast once it dries so it's important to work quickly. It does, however, allow the artist to add colour in layers, which I like a lot. Now, to add some more colour detail, I broke out the Neocolor II solluble wax pastels. They combine BEAUTIFULLY with practically ANY medium and are gorgeous to use with Inktense. Again, I used them like a palette, transferring colour using my brush, rather than using the pastels directly on the paper. This allows for greater precision and also stops drawing lines from marking the paper. I also added some layers of bracken, working in light colours first, then incrementally darker - representations of the leaf shapes rather than detailed botanical illustration, because I want the pheasant to stand out more than the surroundings.

To add more colour and texture I used my Tattered Angels Glimmer Glaze, both by painting it onto the green/blue areas around the bird (colours:Waterfall & Wicked), then by splattering it over the bracken surround (colours: Mellow Yellow & Orange Crush). I heat dried the glaze to make it bubble as I wanted to really build up a texture that would represent the rough look and feel of the foliage.

Once that was done I wanted to add some definition and detail with my gel pens. Because Neocolor II's are wax-based pastels, they're a little tough to draw over, so I added a layer of satin lacquer as a fixitive, which had the added bonus of making the colours slightly brighter. Also - it's handy if I mess up or change my mind as the pen can be wiped off easily with a baby wipe without affecting the image beneath. It's a personal preference, but I really like the feel of the page once the lacquer's added as well. Yummy.

I added detail first with a Uni Ball 0.38 gel pen, then a 1.0 white gel pen, then when I was done I highlighted the lumps and bumps in the glaze with Treasure Gold gilding wax, adding more at the edges of the page to reflect light as the sun had done when we'd driven down that country road.  I also added a couple of lines of poetry which I felt were ideal for the page. You can see the wonderful texture of the bubbles -

You can also see the BEAUTIFUL depth of colour that Inktense pencils and Neocolors can provide:

I'm really happy with the finished page - it will always remind me of a really lovely day out - I really enjoyed painting it too:

I'm linking this post to the challenge at Inspiration Avenue. The people there are both talented AND lovely - very welcoming and encouraging. Head on over and have a look at some of the amazing art that's linked to the challenges - you'll LOVE the blogs you find as a result, I promise!

As always - thank you so much for visiting! Please leave a comment if you would like to, and if there's anything you'd like me to blog about - techniques, products, inspirations...- just let me know.  Thank you to all the lovely people who send encouraging and supportive comments - you're all just completely gorgeous! Here's to a great weekend for all of us! Love and hugs - Shroo :) xxx


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Inspiration Fairy - A Journal Page

Hi and....... it's nearly DECEMBER!

Holy cow! Where's this year gone? Wasn't it LAST year just yesterday? Pff... Time flies - ain't that the truth?

Have we all had a good week? Have we all been arty? THERE'S something that it can be tough to find time for in a busy day - art. With the best will in the world, there are just some days where life takes over and by the time I sit down to paint or draw, I'm so tired I fall asleep and wake up with pens and pencils randomly stuck to my face...or the imprint of a computer keyboard in my forehead!

It struck me that when time's tight, it can be just as hard to find INSPIRATION for art... It's not that I don't have ideas and images cycling round my brain all the time, it's just that when I plonk my butt in the chair and stare at a blank page, my mind becomes one with that papery void .... which is incredibly frustrating! Thinking about this actually inspired this blog post, as I have a few techniques to help re-boot my awkward muse which I thought I'd share with you - just in case they're useful!

First one is to take a photo. If I have my camera with me I'll take an ACTUAL piccy of something that interests me - a view, a texture, a moment in time. However, that's not always possible, so when I'm sans camera I'll take a mental photograph. I learned a weird (but effective) trick YEARS ago from somewhere - a movie or tv programme probably - which works wonders: when I want to record a memory moment I stop, focus then when I've got it just right in my head I blink my eyes slowly and deliberately - like a camera lens. Sounds mental, right? Yeah - I thought so too, but it DOES really work. When I think back on the day I can recall that moment in almost perfect detail. Cool. Give it a try - and enjoy the looks of bafflement on the faces of anyone watching you :-)

Second one is to journal - like, properly journal... with actual writing and everything! I include little sketches and doodles, thoughts and lists of ideas - whatever springs to mind. Aside from the whole 'recording my life' thing, it's a handy reference for when I'm staring blankly at that page, drooling slightly as my brain leaks out of my ear. (I'm sometimes sure it's actually doing that!)

Lastly, but not by any means least - use pictorial reference. My poor computer is chock-full of images... I haunt historical and nature websites where images are public domain, and also have an unhealthy addiction to Pinterest (dammit) which is a marvellous source for images of, well, pretty much anything. Don't forget books, either - they still exist!  I pick either three files, or three books, then pick one picture randomly from each one. It's easier to show you I think....

I chose three files from my pooter - 'Vintage ladies', 'flowering plants' and 'insects'.  Iclosed my eyes and clicked on a random image from each file - this is what I selected:

Because I don't like copying an image that I didn't take myself, I use aspects of three separate images, combine them and make something original that's uniquely mine. In this case, partly inspired my the weekly challenge at Inspiration Avenue, titled 'Myths', I decided that I'd combine elements of these images to paint a fairy. Here she is:

She's painted using my current favourites - Derwent watercolour pencils and Neocolor II soluble wax pastels, with swirls painted using Tattered Angels Glimmer Glaze (Waterfall, Wicked, Mellow Yellow, Paradise Pink), heated to achieve a raised, bubbled effect then highlighted with Treasure Gold (Classic) gilding wax. Details were added with Uni Ball Impact gel pens. A handy tip for adding detail: I spray the finished coloured page with Satin Acrylic Lacquer (by Chestnut) which means that if for some reason I screw up or change my mind, I can quickly remove the black or white ink with a baby wipe without damaging the original design in any way.

Whether you're having a blank day or not, it's worth trying this technique to challenge yourself. It's a pretty common inspiration tool used in art schools and studios, as well as in gallery tutorials and classes, basically as a more interesting and imaginative alternative to still life displays.  If you don't already have photo files, you may want to start keeping some. They're used by artists in every field  - have been for EVER - and are an invaluable resource.

Okee - I hope that's useful? If you like this post you might like to have a wander through the other posts or pages on my blog, or join up so that I can send you updates and stuff. As always, you're so very welcome to leave your comments and thoughts and I'll do my best to reply as soon as I can. Look forward to hearing from you -big smooshy hugs - Shroo :) xxx

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Free-Fall vs Ebb & Flow - Mermaid Journal Pages

Hello again!

Are we all ok? We had a maHOOsive hailstorm in the early hours of this morning which let me know in no uncertain way that winter's just around the corner. Out with the extra blankets and the hot water bottles! ...and six BILLION hot, steaming cups of tea to keep my insides from freezing!

So - I have a couple of blog posts set up for you in response to an awesome new prompt/challenge over at
I've not entered one of their challenges before so I hope they like my offering. So many talented artists answer these challenges that sometimes I get that wobbly feeling know the one... I was thinking about this, letting my rambling mind spiral this way and that, in the labyrinth of uncertainty where it scrabbles and scampers, and it struck me that often, I feel like I'm falling - a kind of free-fall descent that tends to tempt out the frighteners ....wobbly, wobbly... But if I take a step back... change perspective a bit... I see it's not so much a fall - it's a kind of a flow. The ebb and flow of life's powerful tides, I suppose. It's all very well to fight them, but sometimes that just leaves me exhausted, whereas if I trust the flow, let myself drift with them occasionally, I find that life takes me to new, exciting shores. Scary? Oh yeah! But full of adventure and opportunity. Sometimes, I figure that the Universe knows best. how do I journal these slightly self-indulgent abstractions? Hmm? HA! - that'd be a MERMAID OPPORTUNITY!! WOO! NEVER turn down the chance to paint a mermaid. That's...a law...probably! I wanted to represent the sense of falling, the change of perspective, and the acceptance of 'going with the flow' in one page and a single image. You be the judge of whether I achieved it, k?

First - the free-fall:

Change perspective...and...going with the flow -

Hmm? Either way, your back's to the future - who can ever really say what will happen? But one way you've lost control to Fear, and with the other you give control to Trust. One seems preferable...

The other thought is that generally, if you're falling, the only thing that can happen is that you collide with things. Usually that's less than awesome. On the other hand, if you're trusting to the flow of life, you stand the chance of CONNECTING with things  - and that can bring happiness? Ok, not EVERY time, but SOME of the time, and that's worth the journey if you ask me.  How to illustrate that then... Well, in clearing my mum's junk room out of all the years of collected rubbish, I found the hobby-horse that she bought me when I was a child. He's hand-made from carefully shaped and polished wood, with real horse hair mane and leather bridle. I loved him - STILL love him so much! Finding him brought back a stream of good memories. The link? Well, life's led me on one hell of a journey, some free-falls, a lot of collisions, some ebb and flow, there and back again, but it's brought me back - at least in part - to the house I grew up in, full of memories and it's strangely reassuring. No collision this time, just a string of connections, fitting like jig-saw pieces to help mend the broken picture that is my adult past.  I might not like the way it's all happened, but if I choose to accept this destination then I can handle the journey.  Prompted by finding my horse (his name is 'Guy'), here's the journal page that grew from these thinky particles of brain dust:

If you're interested in 'stuff wot I used' on these pages, I've stuck to the Derwent watercolour pencils, and Caran D'Ache Neocolor II soluble wax pastels as a base, with Tattered Angels Glimmer Glaze, Treasure Gold (Classic) gilding wax, and Uni Ball Impact gel pens (white and black). The only new 'stuff' added - some yummy gold Winsor & Newton ink, and I used a Tsukineko Brilliance Dew Drop ink pad (BD-63 Pearl Poppy) ink pad as a paint for the red of the bridle and the mermaid's hair decoration. These pads are awesome to use as paints, with the soft, squishy sponge and shimmery finish. Lovely.

I hope you like these journal pages. How would you represent 'free-falling' or 'ebb and flow'? If you like my posts, please save me as a favourite or add me to your Circles (if you're on G+) so I can send you updates, and as always you know I love to read your comments and suggestions. Thank you for reading - Love and hugs - Shroo :) xxx

Family is..... - Journal Page


Back again! I've been staying with my mum for a few days to keep her company and to celebrate my birthday with her. She's so completely epic...she made me a wonderful garland -

and filled her house with fairy lights. We've always 'themed' our birthday celebrations in our weird little family, just for fun, and this one was 'colour and light'.  I also received this mental e-card that she drew with her newfound technological genius on her 'Paint' programme -

Awww - my mum's awesome!

Anyway - I noticed that in the blogosphere and on Youtube, many people are journaling pages about 'family'. Let's face it, families aren't always easy...but when I think about my own, small bunch of misfit relatives, I find that I mostly have very warm and happy feelings, no matter how many disagreements there've been over the years. My family have always made me feel safe and loved and forgiven me when I've been dumb or stroppy, supported me when I stepped out into life and been there to catch me when I stumbled. Now there's just me and mum, but strangely, the memories that I have still bring me the same feelings of support and comfort - and I wouldn't swap that for anything in the universe! I wanted to illustrate these things in my current journal and this is the page I ended up with:

I'd already decided to use birds for my image, so I found a picture I'd saved on Pinterest that fitted the bill and used it as a handy reference - 

I really love this picture and it just makes me smile every time I look at so I thought it was apt for the page I had in mind. I didn't particularly aim to have the journal page look exactly like the photo, I just wanted some pose reference. I used my Derwent watercolour pencils, shading basic colour blocks directly onto the paper, blending the colours with my handy Kuretake water brushes, then adding further colour while the page was wet, blending and bringing some depth to the shading by using the brush and pencils like a watercolour paint palette.

I used the same technique on the background, then added swirls with Tattered Angels Glimmer Glaze once the page had dried. I added detail to the birds with black and white Uni Ball Impact gel pens, splattered some more glaze to bring a more random, haphazard look to the image as a whole. Last touch was a helping of Treasure Gold (in 'Classic Gold' shade) and the words 'The love of a family is life's greatest blessing'. 

I had real fun working on this page - I think, partly because it's a while since I simply painted wildlife from reference: I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy that. I also enjoy taking an image and altering it to make it mine - my style, my techniques, my finished piece.

I hope you like my picture. I hope you can find a way to journal the love you have in your life, from family and friends - and pets too! It's really good to acknowledge the people who are important to us - even if they're not here to hug any more, we can still feel their love around us all the time.

Thanks for visiting! I'll be back with a new post REALLY soon so please keep coming back, and if you like my posts please follow my blog or add me to circles so that I can send you details of my latest work. As always, please feel free to comment or tell me what you'd like to see more of here - I value your opinion! See you soon - love and hugs, Shroo :) xxx

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

On The Nature Of Friendship - Journal Page

Sometimes in life you find real treasure. Usually, you're not looking for it, then suddenly the brightest sparkle sends a dazzle of light into your life.

So it is with people. When you've been hurt (often) and you lose faith in humanity you don't go looking for wall yourself in, refusing to trust, to give anyone a chance. I think it happens to most people at least once in life.

Then, somehow, you find treasure: you find people who have the kindest of hearts, an honesty and generosity that rocks you to your core, and makes you re-evaluate life, the universe and pretty much everything. It's almost impossible to put into the words the profound effect that friendship can have...but I'll do my best. When your heart is full of turmoil and your emotions are a raging storm, grown from past experience and nurtured by the resulting lack of self-confidence, a true friend transports you from the maelstrom to a place of peace. Your heart is calm, your strength and confidence slowly return, bolstered by the support that frienship brings. It is beyond measure and of the greatest worth.

Kindness should not be a rare commodity, yet it is elusive in this superficial world of ours. Honesty is a lost art and kindness of spirit is often forgotten in the scramble to fit in, to join the rat race. When we find someone who embodies what is best in humanity, we should hold them in the highest esteem and value them and repay them in kind. They are the greatest treasure of all and proof that the universe might teach harsh lessons, but she delivers immeasurable rewards.

In trying to find the best way to illustrate my gratitude I let my muse dictate,  and this is the result:

I know it's weird, but this is how good friendship makes me feel - free and at peace with no walls or boundaries. Open skies and cleansing white snow to muffle the noise of my mind and soften the world's sharp edges.

Thank you, my friend. You are the best of people, the kindest of hearts and a kick-ass Spider-Man hero. This is for you.

I send love and hugs to all the good, kind, honest people out there - never change, you're perfect as you are - Shroo :) xxx

Monday, 11 November 2013

In Remembrance

Hello you scrumptious lovely!

This post MAY be [technically] a tad late for Monday, but as I'm still awake I'm ignoring the standard concept of linear time and I hereby name today - STILL Monday! Yup. Deal.

First of all, let me share with you this latest piece of digital genius from my mum:

Now she's discovered the world of computer art programmes there's no stopping her! We should all prepare for imminent armageddon as she'll no doubt be hacking into MI6 and the Pentagon by the end of the week, fuzzing up their systems with cheery insanity!

I love you mum - you nutter!

So this Monday 11th November has been Armistice Day, always profoundly emotional, and a day not only to remember those who have fought and given their lives for our freedom, but also ALL those people who are no longer here with us, but loved deeply just the same.  I wanted to record the day with poppies - as is the tradition - a flower of the greatest, delicate beauty that grows in even the meanest soil.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them".


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Poetry For The Soul - Journal Page


It's time for a Sunday blog post. Aaaah....Sundays.... Coffee, some Youtube, then some tidying.

I've been trying to clear some space recently - which needs to be done. I'm an inveterate collector, so my shelves are stacked with STUFF; ornaments, crystals, sea shells, fossils, action figures, and other assorted collectables. Then there are OH so many DVDs, graphic novels, books... It's a lifetime's collection, added to which are inherited items and ALLmy art supplies. Well, obviously, the art supplies are going NOwhere, but it seems it's harder than I imagined to choose what to part with and what to keep.

I think I can be hard-hearted with a lot of things, but my BIG problem is MY BOOKS! Trying to separate them into 'save' and 'sell' is like Sophie's Choice! I've managed to re-home only 6 small paperbacks - and that's only because they were duplicate purchases...I'm useless, basically. I've identified two book categories that will remain untouched - my art reference books (which are just too beautiful to give up) and, the biggie - my poetry books! I do love poetry, and just looking at them wasted half a day when they tempted me into reading page after page,allowing the words to swirl and spin in my head and my heart.

My love of poetry inspired my journal page today. Sitting with my books around me and their beautiful verses spiralling around me I felt truly peaceful, transported to a calmer place, serene and safe. Hopefully my page illustrates that feeling:

 I added verses from some of my favourite poems and poets, words that have had significance at various points in my life.

Inspiration Avenue have recently hosted a challenge to produce artwork that reflects the things you find in your Grandmother's attic, with some truly stunning entries from VERY talented people.  I've been so busy that I've not had a chance to enter the challenge in time, but in working on this page I was reminded of summer holidays and weekends at my grandparents' house, sitting at the table with an open poetry book, copying the verses and illustrating them, for hour after hour after hour. Such a happy memory, and working on this page brought that all back wondefully.

If you are interested in any of the poems used in the page above, here's a list for you to Google! -

'From A Full Heart' - A. A. Milne
'Kubla Khan' - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
'The Tiger' - William Blake
'The Highwayman' - Alfred Noyes
'Ozymandias' - Percy Bysshe Shelley
'Autumn Journal' - Louise MacNeice
'The Quangle Wangle's Hat' - Edward Lear
'Sonnet XXIX' - William Shakespeare
'Gus, The Theatre Cat' - T. S. Eliot
'The Lady Of Shalott' - Lord Alfred Tennyson
'Invictus' - William Ernest Henley

All of these should be read at least once by everyone - they're beautiful. I hope you DO read and enjoy them...maybe they'll inspire some art for you?

I leave you with the poem 'Invictus'. I was moved by this when I read it aged nine years, and it has more impact every time I re-read it. Thank you for visting - hope you liked the post. If you like what you see, please join my blog, and leave a comment if you like, as I LOVE to hear what you say. Love and hugs -there's a Monday a-comin'! Here's to a good one! - Shroo :) xxx


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

My Mum Sent Me This Today....

Hello again!

Just a quick little post for you today. I woke up this morning and, as always, reached over to switch on the pooter and check emails and stuff... *sleepy yawn*.... *stretch* emails...... and then - I found THIS :

This is my mum's arty doodle that she did after having a YUCKY fly buzzing round the house for a whole day! This is AWESOME a/ because my mum did it, b/ because she can still make me laugh even when she's feeling poorly (she's epic!) and c/ because, if you knew my mum, you'd know that she and computers are like tigers and small children - REALLY not compatible!

WELL DONE MUM on your bid to become the next Bill Gates! And thank you for this fabulous cartoon - now my screensaver! Love you! xxxxx

To my lovely readers - please check out my recent posts and feel free to comment and, if you like what you see, please join my blog to receive updates regularly (as well as my undying gratitude and e-hugs!) Bestest - Shroo :) xxx

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Making The Most Of Your Crafting Budget - Hints and Tips!

Hello Lovely!

It's THE WEEKEND! You know - I DO love the idea that everything stops for the weekend! Most of us are JUST as busy.... one way or another! I'm looking forward to my lovely Sunday morning though....*sigh*

First of all, you may notice that I've changed my blog banner again! You'll see this now when you visit me:

This is my kelpie - when you love horses AND mermaids, you just GOTTA love a kelpie! He's painted with my Derwent watercolour pencils, but I gave him a lovely shiny tail and mane using Glimmer Glazes  (Waterfall, Wicked and Mellow Yellow). One of the things I love about these glazes is the lovely bubble effect they can give. Combine that with a little gilding wax and it's a gorgeous textured effect -

Anyhoo - I hope you like him! On another note, I was browsing Pinterest (addictive, dammit!) and found this VERY TRUE little pin:

Oh you know that's SO true! All those pretty new releases have expanded my wish list so it's just plain scary! But the life of a starving artist isn't exactly compatible with spending on such things, and it got me thinking again about ways to enjoy arts and crafts on a shoe-string budget. If you've read my earlier posts you'll know that I'm all for finding affordable - or free - options, which I believe actually promote creativity! I thought it was about time that I did another 'hints and tips' post for anyone out there who might find it useful. So here goes!

Ok. First tip seems obvious, but when you have your eyes on the prize it's easy to forget:

SHOP AROUND! Don't dismiss your local shops - have a good root around. Local bargain stores, interior design dpeartments and even book stores often have craft departments selling all kinds of goodies which are EXCELLENT for mixed media art and any number of crafts. Often, they'll be in the office supplies or kids sections, but don't let that put you off. Remember that brands like Berol, Sharpie and Crayola are all experts in their fields and they make quality product ready for you to use. You can find excellent deals by searching the 'end of line' sections, sales and dump bins.

BE OPEN MINDED! It's always helpful to make a list of things you want, but that can blinker you and stop you finding great alternatives. Don't be afraid to pick up new brands to try out - and remember, you don't need to buy ALL of them.... pick up a couple to test. You can always come back for more. If you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, or getting out is difficult -

SHOP ONLINE - If there's no one near you with awesome, cool supplies, go rooting round the internet and see what you can find. It's best to take recommendations and place small orders at first so that you can test customer service, packing quality, product availability etc. Look for sites that have a blog attached - that way you can stalk them for a while and read customer comments before you spend your hard-earned cash. Check out whether they have Youtube videos, or demo days. Look out for post offers, for example "free shipping when you spend £20 or more". You can save a LOT that way. There's a list of links that you might like to browse through just to the left of this blog screen. I use all of these stores and can personally vouch for the superior standards of service, range of product, good prices and swift dispatch.

DON'T FORGET EBAY AND ETSY!  There are still bargains to be had on these sites and they're still WAY more reliable that Amazon. Have a regular search for branded products and don't pay over the odds - if you lose an auction or miss a sale you can pretty much guarantee that the things you want will show up again soon, so try not to be tempted into over-bidding at the last minute. I pick up some awesome stuff on ebay - check out this blog post for an example: "Tattered Angels Glimmer Glaze Mermaid". Remember - losing an auction isn't the end of the world!

USE YOUR AWESOME IMAGINATION-  Why spend a LOT of money on designer papers with map prints, book text or vintage images when you can shop wise in your local charity or thrift store? Car-boot sales, jumble sales or yard sales are also a GREAT place to pick up ephemera, and you won't be using mass produced product - your work will be truly unique. Now THAT'S pretty cool! Look for old travel maps, vintage magazines - the tatty ones are always cheap as chips, and you're gonna chop 'em up anyway.... And children's books provide EXCEPTIONAL art pages for collage or scrapping, and often lovely hard covers that you can re-purpose for albums or journals:

I paid between 10p and 50p for each of these books and magazines - a complete bargain!

COLLECT FREE EPHEMERA -  Yep....FREE! All those tourist places, theatres, cinemas, libraries and museums that you have all around you - you all have them - they all have leaflets and booklets. Even your local town hall or visitor centre will have booklets with images that you can use, not to mention text for backgrounds. Check out your local superstores and supermarkets for free catalogues. Our Asda and Morrison's stores produce a monthly glossy booklet full of recipes and interior design ideas which are great for smash books, junk journals and collage. Tea-dye order forms for a vintage look that will rival anything the big companies can release!

You'll be building up a collection already! Not much of a spend, if you're careful, but a GREAT collection of paper and supplies that you won't have to hide or make excuses for!

But what about those pretty background papers? Oh they're lovely, right? OOOOO yeah! We ALL want ALL of them - in multiples, but as very few of us are a Rockerfeller, we have to budget. So why not ....

MAKE YOUR OWN BACKING PAPERS! I use up ANY paper I can find, cover it with excess paint and squiggles and doodles. You can paint them, zentangle them, stamp them, spray them - whatever you like that suits your style. Store them up and very soon you'll have quite a collection that you can use as a base for your designs, whether you're a journaler, artist, scrap-booker, crafter....anything! Here are a few of my scrappy odds and ends papers...

....and here's a blog post about what I do with some of them: "Arts & Crafts For Free"

When buying designer papers it's worth checking sales first. It's so much more beneficial for your bank balance if you ignore the PUSH that happens with each new release... MOST of them only stay on sale at full price for a single season, then they get marked down to a fraction of that cost. Crafting and artifying your life isn't about competition - if we resist the pushy marketing, use up some of our stash and wait for sales and offers then WE'RE the winners, not the big companies... When it comes to actually buying that designer paper - 

CHOOSE WISELY - With some careful selection, you can make a very little paper go a very long way. Designs from companies like Graphic 45, DCWV, 7 Gypsies and K&Co. - amongst others - are versatile and varied, which is really great for the thrifty crafter.  I think the phrase I hear most on Youtube is "a lot of bang for your buck!" Love it. They're worth their weight in gold - even at full price as they're jam-packed with possibilities.

Look out for designs that you can cut out in order to make the most of them. With a little patience and a good pair of scissors you can build up an ephemera collection second to none in a VERY short time - and with very little outlay, moneywise... Here's a selection of vintage-look ephemera that I cut from a few sheets of 12"x12" paper. It took me an afternoon and an evening to cut and ink them, but it was well worth it...

Yuh-huh. There are about 300 individual pieces there, all cut from printed papers. They're perfect for any number of projects, and as free time is often a barrier to craft time, it's handy to have these pieces all ready there when I need them. Here's the rest of what I cut out at the same time-

At least another 300 pieces. I LOVE the packs that K&Co, October Afternoon, Bo Bunny and other companies release, but the PRICE! When I think of how much it would cost to BUY 600+ pre-cut pieces of brand-name ephemera it makes me shudder! It's also worth noting that I STILL have LOADS of this paper left over to use for backgrounds or anything I like.

This is such an economical option for boosting your collection and works whether you're a scrapbooker or journaler, or if you work with collage, altered art - pretty much ANYthing. 

It's worth mentioning that I managed to pick up most of these papers at LEASt half-price - some of them even less. That makes me VERY happy indeed!

While I'm on the subject of using paper wisely... don't throw away offcuts! Save, save, save the bits and pieces - you'd be surprised what you can make out of nothing. The best way that I can demonstrate what I mean is to show you the crazy amount of bits and pieces I cut from some Steampunk Debutante G45 images - waste not, want not! Here's the original sheet design:

And here is the result once I attacked just ONE of the images with scissors -

 ...over 20 collagable pieces. Cutting borders, hearts, pennants, banners and such will leave you with a selection comparable to anything My Mind's Eye or Bo Bunny can provide. If you want dimensional embellishments, just break out the foam pads and get creative! I chose this paper as it was the best way to illustrate my point, but you can do the same with almost any design.

Even the smallest image can provide a number of possibilities. It's worth thinking beyond the design your given, so that you can add your own uniqueness to your work.

Lastly in this big long list of listy stuff -

UTILISE YOUR COMPUTER - There are PLENTY of sites now that offer free digital prints and downloads. They're GORGEOUS and, frankly, WAY prettier than many of the commercially sold designs. With wonderful sites such as The Graphics Fairy, you can download and print stunning images ideal for ANY project, and all it will cost you is a sheet of paper and some printer ink. Look around blogs for site advertisements - we all love to share these things so the information is there if you root about a bit.

Ok! That was a LOT of blog post! There are so many ways that you can increase your stash effectively for little outlay. I REALLY hope that some or all of the suggestions here have been helpful

Thank you squillions for visiting! As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions and I look forward to reading some more of your amazing art blogs - you're epic! Love and hugs - Shroo :) xxx

Ps - Have fun - you deserve it! 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Mr Fluffpants Life Of Pi! - Journal Page

Hello again!

Ooooooooo - it's been a lovely crisp, bright Thursday. The sun has been shining and the sky has been as blue as can be, which makes a pleasant change from the grey skies and rainy clouds that we've had of late!

Look at that, would you..... oooo...  Almost summery!

That's how bright the sun is! Good job my little camera has a sun filter setting!

It's been such a lovely day and I have a little journal page to share with you. My kitty has been on a few holidays lately, accompanying me when I stay with my mum after her treatments. He's such a very good boy and behaves himself impeccably! He has a little routine there now, and is very happy with all the duvets and blankets he can snuggle into when he keeps mum company on her bed. In fact - last week I had a devil of a job making him let go of his cushion pile so that I could bring him home again! There was a LOT of defiant meowing! I wonder what he dreams about? I imagine it's all a little bit 'Life of Pi' in his little kitty head, an amazing adventure - he's very creative! Yes, I am a mad cat woman... just go along with it will you eh?  So here's my journal page for my kitty, who would very much like to be known by his full title (brace yourself) The Illustrious Count Harvelstein Cuddlesome Fluffpants III. He made all that up. He has delusions of grandeur!

To go a little bit 'Big Bang Theory'....."...Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr!" My lovely boy - I just got to imagining him on a flying carpet, drifting over magical seas to his adventures in his little kitty dreams!

This is MOSTLY done with Derwent watercolour pencils which are a permanent favourite.... I prefer Faber coloured pencils if I'm working with dry media, but these Derwents are just GORGEOUS for watercolour - really high pigment content so they're uber bright when I want them to be, and they only need the tiniest, lightest shading to transform into rich paint when wet - much like Derwent's inktense pencils. Also lovely. Dammit.

I used a thick gel pen for the carpet design and it has a slightly embossed feel when it dries, which is nice. Although these piccies don't show it MASSIVELY well, I used Tattered Angels Glimmer Glaze (Waterfall and Mellow Yellow) for the swirls that represent the dreamy-land ocean. (I'm happy living inside my mind - the colours are pretty! Ha! )  Honestly, if you've never had a play with these glazes I'd wholeheartedly recommend giving them a go. They really add some GORGEOUS scrummy yummy texture to a picture and I like the mix of gloss and matte finish.

 Just for fun, and because I'm imagining what my kitty is dreaming, I've had another play with digital faffing programmes - this is what happened:

 I really like this - and I am having fun with this VERY basic computer arty faffyness! I can see the attraction now!

Yep, so, that's it for now! I'll be back with another page very soon. Thank you SO SO MUCH for your lovely and helpful comments! You're awesome! Thank you too to the wonderful people at the 'Try It On Tuesdays' blog for your encouragement and fabulous art challenges! Epic stuff! If you've not visited them, please click on the pic below and join in the fun!

Hope you all have an excellent Friday - the weekend's just around the corner! Love and hugs as always - and some purrs from Fluffpants kitty! See you soon - Shroo :) xxx