Thursday, 19 February 2015

Why I Journal: That Special Day...

Hello Gorgeous!

I hope the weather is bright and clear for you today... if it's not, then you just snuggle in and treat yourself to something yummy and just be AWESOME!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I've had a bit of a break from splishy-splashy art supplies for a couple of weeks. It does me good to remind myself that there are other aspects of creativity that bring me joy and allow them some time. I did manage a couple of scribbly pen & ink doodles in my journal, but lost interest when the textiles and yarns made a colourful appearance....and that's ok. Playing with all that lovely STUFF made me happy!

I doodle when I can't sleep - the pen strokes quiet my mind. Every journal I keep is distinctly different - individual. It's not planned, rather it just happens. This one is full of these scratchy doodles all of which feature fairy folk, fantasy creatures, stars and light. It seemed natural that I should celebrate Imbolc with some doodles that represent my happiness at welcoming the arrival of longer daylight hours and the renewal of Spring! I didn't feel like writing so this was a happy and mind-calming option, with my candles aglow and crocuses sprouting in the plant pots outside my front door.

Calendar events and special celebrations are a good reason to journal. You can write - your thoughts, a record of the day's events, feelings, comparisons with other years past, your hopes for the coming weeks and months... or you can be a little more abstract, recording the day with a quote, song lyrics or a poem. You can save special items, ephemera, keepsakes or photographs. You can paint, sketch or draw, or collage - anything, as long as it records the day. It's a good EXCUSE to journal and a great PROMPT. Don't be afraid to use sources like Google, Pinterest, Flickr or Instagram to find inspiration, or words to copy that can speak for you if your tongue (or pen-)tied.

It doesn't matter if your journaling is a bit 'out there' or abstract - it's not intended for anyone else, really, is it? It's there so that next week, next month, next year, you can look at that page and remember the moment, the day, the place and the people. Record your smiles - they'll never be lost and be there when you need them the most, stored safely just for you.

Sometimes when I want to make a pretty page, I draw a loose and loopy spiral shape and I write poetry - favourite cherished lines - around the curls and curves. It bonds you with your page as you turn it round and round, following the lines and taking time to finish what, upon completion, is a work of art in itself. You don't have to be the next Rembrandt to make something beautiful!

My black and white doodles are useful when I need a reboot - they're an excellent colouring book!

Sometimes it's fun to just play!  Is there a day that you can journal about? How about remembering what you were doing this time last month, or year? Have a think - I bet there's something there.....

Hope you liked this post - and I hope you're enjoying your own journaling, whatever style you follow. I'll see you soon with a process tutorial journaly pagey type thingummy doo-dah (do forgive the use of such technical terms! ) In the meantime, stay awesome and show the world you much you totally rock! Love and hugs all round from Shroo :) xxx

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Additional add-on bit! - 

 I'm so honoured to be invited to link to ART JOURNAL JOURNEY and MOO-MANIA AND MORE ! Thank you so much to Valerie with her beautiful blog at BASTELMANIA and Susi with her bundle of loveliness at FROEBELSTERNCHEN for your invitations!

I always look with longing at link up sites but rarely seem to have a post that fits a challenge. I am completely missing the point of a challenge of course, which is to actively CREATE something that answers it! Useless woman I am!!  I should kick myself up the backside and pay more attention! I'd recommend visiting these exceptional sites - they're jam-packed with beauty and inspiration.

I've also been THRILLED to link up to the amazing INSPIRATION AVENUE - a site I haunt regularly and am always impressed by the wonderful artists who post there. Lou Anne from MISPLACED MERMAID allowed for it by hosting a 'Show & Tell' - awesome! Thank you, fellow mermaid-obsessive!

Sending out mahoosive hugs to you all for making my day bright and wonderful! I'm off now to gaze at your blogs for a while and marvel at the lovely! See you soon - Shroo :) xxx

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

For You, Just Because....

Well hello again you gorgeous lovely!!

I have just returned from another fruitless visit to my therapist. I've waited 9 months for these appointments...... NINE FREAKIN' MONTHS!!! NINE!!! And surprise, surprise, I return feeling even MORE of a failure, MORE worthless and totally screwed up. I returned wanting to cut holes in every aspect of my being and shrink into nothingnes........... And then - I log on here and I have wonderful comments from lovely, lovely people and while I'm reading them and replying, the monsters in my mind start to slink back into the shadows, allowing my mind to function and the light to start shining through again.


Which prompts this, to each and every AWESOME one of you  -

* You are GORGEOUS! Shush now with your arguements, look at you- you're bloody gorgeous! WOW! The world is more fabulous with your fine ass in it!

* You are talented - your skills and colours light the sky with whole new levels of awesome.

* You're funny - laugh like you see the joke even when no one else joins in. You're a perfect spirit in a world of judgemental cynicism. Your smile shines like the sun!

* You're unique - and that's PERFECT! There's enough of everyone else - the world needs a YOU! you add the sprinkles to the cupcake of life.

Sod everyone else who doesn't get you, doesn't laugh at your jokes, doesn't see your bright colours - they're missing out on something magical, but we all know here how EPIC you are - you're a LEGEND in your own time and time to come and THANK YOU for being YOU!

You are light, you are brightness, you are wonder and heart. Be the person that you are and let the world thank you for just showing up and making everything ok. You ALL have my gratitude and my love. Oh - and The Colonel thanks you too 'cos he's had extra nippits (biscuits) for tea!

I am now gonna sit with a glass of red wine, some cinder toffee and a series of '24' and just breathe.
See you soon, lovely - Shroo:)xxx

Monday, 16 February 2015

Woolly Bags, Pouches and Journals, Oh My!


*Leaps from behind a curtain with jazz hands*

Yes I'm still in one piece. Plans may have gone a little awry over the past couple of weeks but The Colonel and I have made it through alive and mostly in one piece. My wibbly brain did its thing again at the beginning of the month and, as a consequence of its impishness I spent the greater part of a week under a blanket in that freaked-out world that only my mental pathways can create! To illustrate, I shall harness the powers of The Colonel and his photo journal -

Where's the kitty?

Surely that's just a big old pile of wubbie blankies? Surely? Unless........

THERE'S the kitty! Under the blankets - out of it all. Yep. Solidarity, my little feline compadre, solidarity. Mmmmmmm.....blankies.....

So anyway. Fortunately, a couple of gorgeously lovely people had given me inspiration for a couple of projects so I dragged myself back to the realms of (tenuous) reality, raided the craft cupboards and got crackin' with some arty fartyness, which eventually helped me to find some momentum....a controllable tempo. My inner metronome has a wanton arrhythmia which plays havoc with my focus, but working with repetitive tasks is a control and valuable measure. Avoiding more random, unfocused arty pursuits, I rooted out my needles, threads and fabrics and began stitching. Wow did it help..... Hell yeah! I can't show you too much of my efforts as I know that they're winging their way to recipients as surprises from lovely fellow bloggers, but one item has arrived safely at its destination so I can at least post a few piccies to give you an idea of what I've been up to:

.....iiiiiiiiiiiit's a journal bag!! It's red plooshy squooshy velvet with pretty butterfly fabric lining and, oh, a LOT of yarn, sari silk and cord tassely goodness! I love colour. So shoot me. And yarn. And fabric. I am weak and have no self control. *sigh* .....but it's so FLUFFY!

It was delivered to its new lovely owner along with the red 'key' journal. It is very cuddly! I mean, not entirely PRACTICAL, but it's full of luscious colour and lovely woolly goodness!

I have made a journal pouch for myself as well, but it IS practical, I'm afraid! It fits in my bag without getting tangled on stuff and holds my journal and pens - it'll do nicely...

I know, I know, but it's still cuddly! My lovely blog buddy Kathy from Kathyinozarks has nudged me into embellishing so I think what I'll do is wait 'til I'm finished with this journal, THEN foof-up the bag, pimp it out with yummy yarns and beads and such so that it stands out on the shelf amidst the rest of the journaly chaos! Whaddaya think? And if you love the idea of scrumptious hand-spun, hand-dyed bespoke yarns, go give Kathy a visit and say hi!


Actually - that brings me around to something that's been on my mind for a while. In this world of disassociated, disembodied anti-social media, the BLOG seems to stand alone as a place where intelligent, kind, generous, talented and friendly people can find a genuine meeting of the minds with fellow bloggers. The people I have met through blogging are all - without exception - inspiring and welcoming. I've had such dreadful and life-shattering experiences with people in my life that it left me broken and devoid of trust. I want to take the opportunity to thank you, my fellow bloggers for helping me to begin to rebuild my faith in humanity. You are a true gift. I've asked some of you if I can feature one or two of your photos in my blog posts and THANK YOU for saying yes!  Over the next few weeks I'll be highlighting as many amazing blogs as possible and I hope that you'll go visit and let them enrich your lives as they have mine.

And now, schmaltz over, moooooooving on....I have three new journals up on Etsy. They're roughly 8"x4.25" and are ideal for art journals! Here's a sneak peek:

Happiness journal:

Oriental Splendour journal:
Collected Treasures journal

Uk post prices are still as cheap as chips, however I've noticed that fees to ship overseas are not quite such a bargain. I've priced by the best weight option including very basic shipping insurance and I've decided that I'd rather play safe with selecting shipping weights as reducing packaging can result in damaged goods, which is not acceptable. What I CAN promise is that I'll fill each and every parcel sent with treats and goodies right up to the shipping limit, so that the cost of shipping will be offset by having a box full of awesomeness to open and enjoy. Post fees will effectively be offset with fun and useful goods. It's scary that it costs the same amount to ship just one book as it does to ship a box filled with extra stuff. I can't help feeling that post services are simply out to diddle us out of our hard earned cash. What do you think of post charges? Do they stand in the way of your sales? I'd be interested to know how you handle the problem so let me know if you'd like to by leaving a comment below. 

I have a week full of posts for you. As promised, I have some journaling ideas, tutorials and exercises which I hope are helpful. I have a look at a couple of my canvases and more besides. Better late than never, eh?! I'll leave you today with a colourful journal page and a big hug of thanks for visiting me and being epically patient with me and my useless temperamental (emphasis on the 'mental'!) brain! See you soon - Shroo :) xxx

Monday, 2 February 2015

The Gelato/Neocolor II War!

Hello Gorgeous!

PHEW! Well - better late than never, eh? A hectic but fulfilling weekend with much to do - including some lovely conversations with fellow bloggers and arty people, which was a welcome diversion. I'm working on some new projects, completing others and I've FINALLY figured out how to go about blogging 'art supplies'. Probably.

Yes, I know there's always a lot of interest in what art and craft supplies people use and how we all store them. I'm one of many who, when a new product comes to my attention heads straight to Youtube to see what reviews are posted, and often I find them invaluable. Initially, I'd planned a quick 'top ten' of my favourite art supplies, and sat down with a cuppa, pen and paper to make a list - oooo I love a list - and realised I was in trouble when I reached number thirty -five with no sign of stopping. Allow to to demonstrate the problem with pretty pictures...(I'd offer up some interpretive dance but I feel that there's a largely redundant element to that...also it would distress my cat). There's paper:

That's a small selection. Notice how I've subtly added only three sheets of designer papers, thereby inferring that I have some level of hoarding restraint. This is a clever misdirection! Don't, whatever you do, look at the enormous brooding collection just slowly taking over the world from a very full bookshelf. Or two. And a drawer unit. And a few extra storage files and folders....Shhhh.....tell no one! LOOK IN THE COMPLETELY OPPOSITE DIRECTION - A BIG BEAR ON A UNICYCLE!  Excellent. That could NOT have gone better.....

Then there's a representative selection of art supplies and yummy smooshy stuff....

Hmmmmmm....... yeeeeaaaaahh......... Err. Here I set about to choose one of each brand or...thing... (my word-brain-face is on strike, bear with me....BEAR!) to represent a set, collection, hoard, whatever.... I got this far and ran out of space in the photo. The bear is now juggling.....look at the bear, look at the bear...

Then there's the textiles stuff, and felting supplies and lovely:

In fairness - I de-stashed magnificently when I had to move house. And some more since. But still....and now I feel that there's a de-stashed void....that could be filled with lovely fabrics...... But then if I did that I would have to consider perhaps balancing things out by thinning the herd of beads and jewellery supplies...

...which would be blatantly insane because these are soooooooooo pprrreeeeeeettttyyyyyyy!

Hmmmmm... It was at this point, having spent some time setting up the photos....teaching the Distraction-Bear to unicycle....and juggle.... that I figured I should maybe slow the whole thing down, breathe and possibly seek therapy..!  (The bear is wearing a Sombrero. Look at the bear. Dammit). It has to be said that my supplies have taken YEARS to collect and I'm VERY good at rooting out a bargain! Otherwise by now, I'd not only have sold my own kidneys, but would have been forced to go out, lurk in dark alleyways and harvest other peoples' as well!

So. Yes. SO, I've decided to break the 'favourite supplies' thing down to something -hopefully- more useful, starting with a comparison of soluble wax crayons. I can't possibly make comparisons all-inclusive as I don't own EVERY brand of everything, rather it'll be an honest opinion of brands I use and why I use them, giving little demonstrations or tutorials along the way. Is that good? I hope so! Here goes then!

Soluble Wax Crayons - Gelatos vs Neocolor II


There're a LOT of comparisons of Gelatos (from Faber Castell) and Neocolor II soluble wax pastels (from Caran D'Ache) - this is my take on the whole thing! When using them direct to the page they are two quite different mediums, for one simple reason: Gelatos, with their soft, creamy texture blend very well as a dry medium product whereas Neocolor IIs don't - they only blend when water is added. HOWEVER - once you use them BOTH as a wet medium, then similarities become apparent. I actually love them both. I use the two brands ALL the time and enjoy different properties and effects from each of them. It's worth noting that both products are ideal for mixed media work as they combine beautifully with pretty much any wet medium.

As with all mediums, you need to play and get to know them (girl-chat, Pictionary, watch a box-set, that sort of thing). They behave entirely differently on porous and non-porous surfaces (as you'd expect) and on a non-porous surface they will stay soluble until a fixative is added, something which is necessary if you want to add pen, or other detail medium on top of them.

Neocolor IIs are probably the biggest initial financial investment if you're buying a tin assortment. However, they're incredibly long-lasting, and their versatility means that they're a true asset to mixed media work:

This is my set. I've had them for over two years or so and use them regularly - as you can see, they last pretty well! More colours are available, which is fabulous, and they CAN be purchased individually from art shops. They're heavily pigmented so the colour stays true even when water is added. They have a high opacity and good coverage, blend easily and are lightfast. And gorgeous, don't forget gorgeous!

Gelatos, from Faber Castell are ALSO highly pigmented and are an equally superb product - it's Faber, they don't do crap. This is my collection, in various stages of use -

Again, more colours ARE available, shipping in sets only. The larger sized crayons are called 'Double Scoops' (aaawww) and can be purchased individually. I suspect that these are so popular because the sets are far cheaper than a big tin of Neocolors. However - crayon-to-crayon, the Gelatos ARE more expensive and although they do stand up to a LOT of use, they have nothing near the longevity of Neocolor IIs. They blend well directly onto the page without water. They have a lipstick-like consistency, whereas Neocolors are far more like a traditional but quite creamy wax crayon to use. When water's added to Gelatos, they become quite transparent, especially on a non-porous surface. The colours can be altered, blended and moved until fixative is added although they take a little more work than Neocolors, (which can actually be quite useful).

Other brands are available - the ones I have are Staedtler Gel Crayons and Pilot Gel Pens. The Staedtlers are VERY buttery and have good opacity, but have quite a muted tone once water's added.

Equally, the Pilots are very VERY creamy - slightly greasy looking - and again become muted when watered down. Here's a quick comparison of all four brands -

Gelatos and Neocolor IIs both transfer smoothly (the others leave lumpy bits which have to be smooshed down) and hold their bright pigmented colours best when diluted.  Note that only the Neocolor IIs DON'T allow dry blending.

When it comes to wet-blending any of them, the value of a quality, highly pigmented crayon becomes apparent. I chose two colours that clash horribly, but I had them in all four brands and it shows pretty well that again, the Gelatos and the Neocolor IIs hold the colours, retaing elements of orange and green when diluted, unlike the more muddly Staedtlers and the fairly raw Pilots.

The Gelatos and the Neocolors ARE an investment, but although the other cheaper brands can be fun, the quality of these two products makes them well worth every penny. If you like the look of them then I'd recommend buying maybe just a small set of each until you know which you prefer. I love them both and I'm glad I have them. So far, the Neocolor IIs at least are in my top 10 arty products!

To compare the two brands a little better - I think - here's a quick little project: a double-page spread using Gelatos on the LEFT page and Neocolor IIs on the Right page so that you can see the similarity in results. I chose a useful art journal, some old scrappy book pages, and a sheet of that designer paper, which I crumpled because I love that texture and adhered to the page using matte gel medium paste (Claudine Hellmuth 'Studio')

A bit of rippy-teary paperness....I like it! I cut some wibbly easy, slightly random shapes out of the book pages and went glue-crazy with the matte medium again, pasting the pieces down then sealing them over the top with a thin layer of the same gel.....a quick and easy collage:

Speeding up the drying with my trusty hairdryer. Just look at the STATE of it! I still use that to dry my hair with! Ah well.....farewell, shreds of dignity..... I chose colours from both brands that matched each other as closely as possible:

One of them's a bit stumpy - doesn't bother me as the other half's still in the tin! I coloured each side in crayony scribbles - nice quick, messy fun!

The left, Gelato side is more buttery looking whereas the right Neocolor II side is more like a traditional wax crayon. I added a little (just a little) water and dried the pages. I then used my fingers and a small brush to gently move around the areas of colour until I was happy with the result:

It was a lot easier to remove the Neocolor II colour from the page surface, which was made non-porous by using the gel medium. It took only the tinest amount of water and a light brush touch to almost completely remove colour from selected areas, whereas the Gelatos required a little more effort.

Once this was done, I added more colour. This isn't always possible to do by using the crayons directly onto the page. The previous layer acts like a slippery resist so it's better to either make a little 'palette' by colouring a small amount of crayon onto a spare piece of paper, or your craft sheet...

...or alternatively simply taking colour straight from the crayon -

I added brighter colour and some more definition, also removing excess colour in some areas as I went along to allow for contrast and to allow book text and paper patterns to show through.

When I was happy with the colour detail, I made more palette squares to my spare paper and added a little more water which created an ideal constituency for the making of splatterage....heh heh heh....

This is the Gelato page:

aaaaand this is the Neocolor II page-

There's not a great deal of diffence is there? I think the Gelatos are actually slightly more vivid, but not a lot. To add further detail, I needed to add a good layer of fixitive, as pens and such simply skid across - or through! - the waxy colour. My 'fixatif de choix', as it very much were, is Chestnut 'satin acrylic lacquer' -

- it's just my preference. It has a good, clean finish and doesn't dissolve water-based/soluble media. A good spray of that and I could add text and detail using my Uni Ball gel pens....  Left Gelato side:

and right Neocolor II side-

"Life doesn't always offer up calm moments...
sometimes you need to close your eyes and make your own"

So that's that then. A quick and easy journal page using Faber Castell Gelatos and Caran D'Ache Neocolor II soluble wax pastels. They are very different mediums to work with but the result when adding water is a remarkable similarity in appearance.There's a better colour coverage with the Neocolor IIs thanks to their opacity, but visually, that's about it I think. I reckon the Neocolor IIs are generally more versatile and better value for money in the long run, but the Gelatos are excellent fun - I find I tend to grab them first when my arty muse is off on a wander. Quick, easy, blendable, soluble - top notch stuff!  If you have a few spare pennies or have a birthday coming up, I'd recommend that these products hit your wishlist - I think you'll enjoy them.

Ok- that's it for this post. I need to clear away all the stuff I photographed - I've made a mess again! - and pay the juggling Distraction-Bear his wages or he'll get grumpy and eat me. Has this been helpful? Let me know and say hi in the comments - it's AWESOME to hear from you! It's 1:30 am on Monday (ugh) here as I type this and head off to proof-read my ramblings and I'll be back in no time with journal-type stuff for you. May your day be fabulous, may the sun shine, your feet be warm and may something beautiful and wonderful bring an unexpected smile to your face! See you soon - big hugs from Shroo :) xxx

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My Grandparents and li'l baby me with stripey socks on asunny day at the park. My poor Grandmother looks juuuust a little uncomfortable perched up on that tree stump!