Thursday, 30 April 2015

More Journal Doodles - Holiday Memories

Is it REALLY the end of April already? Wowzers.....A third of the way through 2015, can you believe it? Blimey!

I thought I'd share a few more of the memory doodles with you (see previous post for the introduction). Thank you for your lovely comments and feedback on the last lot - is it something you'd try for yourself? I'd be interested to know whether you do have a go...

Childhood summer holidays were always spent in Wales. Every summer for three years, mum and I spent a week in a caravan on a Welsh farm. The farmer and his wife were lovely - and VERY tolerant of an annoying overly eager child! One year I was thrilled to find some 'weeds' with odd roots which I dutifully pulled up and took to them in a big bag. That was the end of that particular potato crop!

I helped to feed chickens, ducks and sheep and milk cows. It was awesome fun! There were two sheep dogs who were very friendly, the oldest of whom had my mum convinced that he was a suffering waif forced to live under the caravan, cold and damp. She fed him every day for the first week we stayed and eventually questioned the farmer's wife about his welfare. The lady laughed and said that he not only had a warm kennel, but also slept inside the kitchen in front of the log fire on a warm woolly bed....he just had learned over the years to con visitors by looking pathetic!

 Another year, we drove to Aberaeron in Wales (again) in a Volkswagon Camper Van and stayed on a campsite. Mum's boyfriend drove us there and he snored like Godzilla in attack mode so there wasn't much sleep! Because we had the van we could drive around every day and visit awesome places, including Portmeirion which is a spectacular and quirky town - where the tv series 'The Prisoner' was filmed. Aberaeron itself is a delightful place, as far as I remember....a fishing village with rows of pretty cottages. One day we were visiting a wool mill, then wandering around enjoying the scenery when an enormous flock of bats flew up into the night sky. To this day it was the single largest flock I've ever seen and was amazing to see.

 When I wasn't away with mum, I'd spend the summers with my grandparents, who raised me as much as my mum did ( I was lucky that way!)  Every day, after chores and shopping and cooking and bills were all sorted and done, we'd head out for some fresh air, either to the beach or to one of the many parks. Every day, my Grandpa would stride off into the distance leaving Grandma and me trailing behind. I'd hold things up even more for Grandpa by stopping to feed every bird and squirrel in sight! Grandma would teach me about nature and we'd collect leaves and flowers to draw when I got home.
 I LOVED being at the beach...especially when there were rocks to climb! My Grandpa would very nearly have a coronary every time as he was convinced I'd kill myself. He was a worrier and would provide cautions and warnings with almost monotonous regularity! "Don't climb the rocks - you'll slip and get trapped and we'll have to saw off a leg or you'll drown when the tide comes in!"  Isn't it a good job I lived in my own little fantasy world and didn't listen? HAH!
 That's all for today. I hope the sun is shining for you and loveliness abounds! Sending hugs from Shroo :) xxx

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Memory Journaling - Happy Thoughts!

Hello little peach blossoms!!

Hang on.....what day is it again?.... Oh yeah, Wednesday. Thank the powers for the little computer clock thingy that replaces the need for a memory!

Aaaaaaand SPEAKING of memories (smoooooooth segue there....), I've been having some difficulties accessing family memories without being reduced to a splooshy puddle of snot so I decided to use the whole 'draw my life' thing as a journal exercise. So, grabbing my trusty pen and some paper offcuts I started doodling some snapshots from my childhood.

This is a great journaling tool - very cathartic, at least it was for me. Instead of a memory being immediately overwhelming and emotional, everything was reduced to bite-sized manageable little chunks that made me smile. Thought I'd share a few so you can see what I'm yattering on about, and maybe have a go for yourself.

This is me with my lovely Grandpa in my grandparents' garden when I was a very little girl. It's cartoony because it's meant to be an exercise in rediscovering fun, not producing a masterpiece. Instead of remembering the garden that I miss so much and being overwhelmed, I focussed on each small thing individually...the begonias,lavender, peonies and marigolds...The honeysuckle trellis with scented English roses ( I can still smell them now), the greenhouse, lawn and magnolia tree....Sunflowers, primulas and star of Bethlehem. I remembered my Grandad in his gardening jumper, darned at the elbows (and STILL full of holes) - my Grandma tried to throw it away, but he'd rescue it every time! Just like his scruffy knitted hat. And there's his workshop with all his jars of bits and bobs, and the outdoor loo! I can smile at all these things - not be drowned in that emotional tsunami.

Twice a year the circus would come and pitch their bright tents on the fields by the river. Less politically correct times, when the circus would bring exotic animals and parade through the streets. We would go and see them - the flurry of colour, smells and sounds... Although I am a sucker for a carnival, I've never much liked the circus...I'm not a fan of caged or performing animals, and clowns - quite rightly - give me the heebie-jeebies (evil things). But the PARADES ....somehow they were magical, and EVERYONE would line the streets to cheer them as they passed by.

Christmas in the little flat - me, mum and our cat (Cat-Friday). We'd make paper-chains to decorate the rooms and the hall, and every year there would be a couple of new decorations for the tree. The fairy would appear at the top magically during my reluctant sleep through Christmas Eve night and be there to greet me on Christmas morning, with a bowl of cornflakes on the table next to which would be a special present from The Christmas Fairy.

Every night mum would tuck me in to my bed with my cuddly toys and she'd read a book with me then play a cassette - usually Black Beauty or Winnie-The-Pooh (my favourites) - which would send me happily to sleep. The little ceramic house nightlight would gently glow and I'd drift off to the Land Of Nod. When I had bad dreams, she'd come in and sing quietly and stroke my hair until I went back to sleep.

It's been such a happy thing to make these little journal-style drawings and they're there now as a record of special moments. I have a feeling I'll be adding to them over time.  I'd hugely recommend giving this style of journaling a go - it's a valuable process and wonderful result. Hope you like these.

As always, thank you for stopping by! I love to read your comments and if you have any relevant questions please leave them in the comment section so that I can reply. Thank you for your recent thoughts and lovely sentiments ALL of which are very much appreciated. Sending out love and hugs from Shroo :) xxx

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Sharing the Smiles xxx

Hello Sunshine!

I hope your day's been a good one? We've had weird weather here today - everything from hailstones and gusty winds, to cracking sunshine and almost summer heat! It's like the Earth is playing 'weather roulette' and having a whale of a time while she's at it!

Soooooo..I've managed to get Gertie (my little scanner) to follow the scanning instructions, but she's a tad on the over enthusiastic side....I think she's making up for her few temperamental days, and who can blame her?! I have, regardless, scanned in the lovely cards that my mum made for me when I was a little girl,rediscovered the other day while clearing her house. The scans are a bit over-bleached out so the actual cards look a LOT nicer and brighter in real life, but this is the best I can manage for now. Mum worked a long time as a commercial artist and had a lot of work published in newspapers and magazines, but would never ever send her wonderful little people off to a publisher -  she only made them for family and friends. So I'm sharing them with you - my blogging family and friends. I hope you like them.

That's little cartoon me in the piccies! I'm so incredibly glad that I found these. For the moment they're safe in a portfolio, but at some point I may go ahead and frame them so that I can see them every day, smiling at me!

Anyhoo - that's my offering for today! May tomorrow bring you sunshine and sparkles - love and hugs from Shroo :) xxx

Monday, 27 April 2015

A Work In Progress...

Monday....another one done with!

Ugh....STILL not a Monday fan - BUT, I made a little discovery in one of the MANY boxes hidden away in my mum's - two Paperchase books, one 11"x11" hardcover filled with heavy black cardstock pages and another 12"x8" hardcover with smooth mediumweight kraft paper.

 I'm not sure what she had planned for them...maybe they would have been gifts someday, or maybe they were meant for one of the many projects we'd planned before she left to dance in her celestial meadow of stars.

I sat and thought about them for a while, then I put them away. Then I made a decision to start a new project with my mum - one that would turn blackness to colour, and I took out the book with the deep velvet-black cardstock and opened the cover, touched the paper....and began

Then I added a little part of my soul

It's now a work in am I. We have our project, mum and I...and I think it will be a good journey.

Love from me to you -  from Shroo :) xxx

Additional (7th May 2015)

I finished this little fellow by adding a little detail with my Uni Ball white gel pen. I opted not to colour in the leaves and berries, adding a little brass coloured gilding wax instead. I was happy with the result so opted not to mess about any further! Anyhoo - here's the finished page -


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Greetings From The Colonel!

Hello Lovely!

It's just coming to the close of a surprisingly busy Sunday, working on a commission and losing track of time AGAIN! So just a quick hello from me and a VERY sleepy Colonel, who's had a LOT of sun soaking today and is a sleepy boy. Here's a picture of him fast aleep -

...and here's his fluffy self just BRIMMING with energy -


I actually took these pics the other day but he looks just the same today! And yesterday....and the day before! And more fluff than is surely normal for any single creature...if I brush him I'd get a whole extra cat!

Anyway - we send you love and hugs from both of us, and some kitty drool from Colonel Snore-Face! xxxxx

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Product Review: Derwent Graphik Line Painters


Have we all had an epic weekend so far? Hopefully we're all looking forward to either a fun night out or an equally enjoyable relaxing night in. For today's post I have a product review for you. It's been a while - I've been neglectful! The product under scrutiny is the Derwent Graphik Line Painter range of watercolour medium pens -

This range is a fairly new release from one of my favourite manufacturers so it was fairy inevitable that I'd buy some. The pens ship in sets of five pens tucked into a fancy wallet.

I got quite excited and bid on four sets on ebay - and won two of them, which was cool. 

 I only bid low and teeny amounts - money's not exactly an abundant commodity - so I was very lucky to pick these up for less than a quarter of the suggested retail price. They seem to sell between £12.95 and £15.95 per set here in the UK, which is pricey, but I think they've used the gimmicky nature of the design to pile on the £££s.

Before I do the pros and cons, you might find it useful to watch the promo video on Youtube -
 ...and here's a link to the Derwent site and the relevant product information :

So.... Firstly, although these are called 'paint pens' they contain a water soluble acrylic type ink, VERY similar to the Magic Color acrylic inks.

They're fairly quick drying, and once they're completely dry, they won't dissolve if you then add water or another wet medium, so you can layer them easily and with a good result, given that the ink is quite sticky and thick and holds its colour well.

The pigment also stays true when diluted - however it does dry slightly darker than the initial brighter application  in common with many other acrylic or watercolour products. When water is added, the ink changes from opaque to translucent to virtually transparent depending on how much it's diluted. The colours stay true even when applied in layers (as long as you allow the ink to dry between colour applications) and when used as a blendable wet medium, the colours also mix as well as any other acrylic ink.

Like I said, these are marketed in a very gimmicky way....they're cool 'trick' pens. They're designed to produce a good number of impressive effects - and they do. HOWEVER - for the first time EVER, I'm not 100% happy with a Derwent product! Sorry, Derwent! These pens collect a number of excellent ideas, attractive to really any artist, but I feel like, somewhere along the line, quality has almost taken a back seat in order to push the product out before the niggly problems have been effectively ironed out. And I'm not even being picky here... it's just practicality.

Firstly, in order to get the ink to pool around the nib in order to achieve the blobby and spattery effects it's essential to press down on the nib and hold it until the ink collects. This DOES work, BUT it seems that some pens need to be angled very slightly to achieve the desired pooling and the nibs, though sturdy, WILL bend as a result. Once bent, they can't be fixed and it affects the ink flow and control and puts paid to using them as advertised. This doesn't happen to EVERY pen, but two out of ten of mine have done this and I know I'm a careful person with things like this. Not awesome.

Nextlyness, once the ink is flowing well, some pens seem to lose the facility to moderate the flow which means that those pens can no longer be used for fine lines or small designs as the ink will basically just 'blob' randomly onto the page. That really shouldn't happen. Four out of my ten pens have been like this right from the first use and two others are following suit. That's not good odds.

Lastly, there's not a massive amount of ink in the pen and SO far there's no indication of whether they can be refilled. This would not be an issue if the pens were cheaper BUT the price to content ratio seems disproportionate in my opinion. I can pick up a bottle of Magic Color ink for between £3 and £4....and there's a LOT of ink in those things. They go a looooong way. If Derwent brought out similarly priced refill bottles then THAT would make the pens a better investment, so long as they sort out the nib glitches and flow control.

To sum up, I do like these pens AND the ink. The colours are vibrant and they do produce cool effects. BUT - they're VERY expensive for a flawed product, and the number of glitches make the price even more unrealistic. I picked my sets up cheaply - and if I had a few pennies spare and won a cheap auction I'd probably take a punt and pick them up again, just for fun, but as an investment at full price they're simply not worth it as the design stands.

I have loved using inks for years and the idea of having them in convenient pen form is still tempting, but in all honesty there's nothing I can do with these pens that I can't do equally well - or better - using my bottled inks, brushes and nib pens.....more reliable and more cost effective. Actually - probably more versatile if I think about it.

I like to end a review on a positive note, so what I WILL say is that this particular ink formula is super when creating attractive layered backgrounds. There's a distinct difference in the dried surface of undiluted ink and the diluted. One is slightly shiny and looks almost dimensional and the watery effect produces a more matte finish. The combinatiom does give the illusion of depth and is a definite plus! The fact that the ink dries permanently means that it accepts the application of other layers exceptionally well, and the bright colours can be a boon when working with translucent media.

I had a play - I couldn't do a review without having a play now, could I? Huh? VOILA!

The background is entirely done using the Graphik pens - with a few black indian ink splatters. The birds are drawn with my Deleter nib pen -

and Jacksons indian ink -

The birds are coloured with my Caran D'Ache Neocolor II crayons -

It was fun just to play with the colours. I did a couple of these sketchy colourful testers in my sketchbook and thoroughly enjoyed it despite the pens being a little unreliable. The translucent effect of both the inks and the Neocolor IIs is more apparent in the next one -

 I did make use of my Uni Ball gel pen here but again the background is all Graphik pen and the bird is Neocolor IIs. Watering both mediums down allowed the text to peek through, which I like lots!

This is my third and final play with these colourful things of loveliness -

Same combination again, but I used my white Magic Color acrylic ink to add the highlights and featheryness. ( I do apologise for the iffy balance on some of the scans - tech issues persist!)

I think that the effects the pens produce are excellent - as long as the pens work properly - but I stick to my statement that these are a great product IF you can pick them up at a BARGAIN price and IF you can work WITH the flaws. Keep an eye out on ebay or Amazon and hopefully the art fairies will work their magic.

I hope that was helpful? I've added links to the pics where relevant so that you can possibly source some of the listed products. If you have any questions just leave them in the comment section and I'll reply asap - or just stop by to say 'hi!'  Thank you for visiting and being awesomely YOU! Sending love and hugs from Shroo :) xxx

Friday, 24 April 2015

My Heart Goes 'BOOM!' - A Scrappy Journal Page


I like a leads to weekendy time and I do like a weekend. Are you well? Have you had a good week? I hope so - I hope it's been FABULOUS!

Sooooo, it had been my plan to scan in some of my mum's pics for you to enjoy, but I'm having a few tech issues so I think that might have to wait 'til next week. Hey-ho. Instead, I have a little journal page process again, using some hand-painted backing papers.

I love making my own patterned sheets. Most of them are the result of cleaning brushes and stencils or using up excess paint from a project. The addition of a bit of doodling over a page filled with colour turns a sheet of scrappy mess into something fun and very useable. 

For this page I chose the scrappiest of the stack I had - ta-daaah!

Scrappy. I want to prove that you can make something arty from something scruffy you might be tempted to otherwise throw away.  I also used the cheapest paints I had, some craft acrylics and some paint testers from the local hardware store.

I prepared a page in my journal, gessoed the surface (just a thin layer) and then added a warmer colour of acrylic paint as a more even base coat. I cut some rough heart shapes out of the backing paper, choosing sections which would look arty and interesting. Once the hearts were cut out, I was left with a lot of scraps which I tore up (torn edges collage better that cut ones) and stuck down to make a colourful background -

I blended the elements into the background by finger-painting some bright colours around them. To make the hearts 'pop' I used a black Inktense pencil and a litte water to add an outline, then used matte medium gel to adhere them to the page in a way that kind of makes them look like they're exploding out from a centre point -

I also added some of the offcut strips to make it look a bit more animated, then some more pencil around the elements to define them and make them stand out. I used a black gelato crayon to add a border to the page - it smudges beautifully!

I wanted to add a quote...something....but nothing comes to mind at the moment. The good thing about art journal pages is that there's no pressure, and as I like the way the page turned out I've left it for now..I can add text any time I like.

 This is only a small journal and it's not full BUT it's amazing how easy it is to fill one like this with your art. I know that art journaling can seem daunting, but it's really cool when you can flip through a book that YOU have filled with YOUR art, I promise. I use this journal when I want to do a 'process page' so you may have seen some of the pages in earlier posts but I'll collect them all in one place for an easy browse! Here they be:

There are a couple of pages not included above as I can't scan them tonight and have filed the originals....SOMEwhere.....told you I'm having tech issues! I just wanted to prove that it doesn't take much to make a few pages look like a book that will be something REALLY special for you and the people with whom you share it.

I hope you have some fun making your own papers and collage elements - it's so easy and a LOT of fun! And I hope this has been helpful. Thank you for visiting - thank you to everyone who leaves a comment! It's such a motivation and I send you all loads of love and big hugs from Shroo :) xxx