Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Theme: Halloween!

Just a short one this week.  I did work on stuff this week, but it's all just started and I haven't taken any pictures yet.  But for this week I did want to do a particular theme.  Halloween!  Normally, Halloween is my second-favorite holiday (behind Christmas).  However, this Fall is not normal for me, and for various reasons I just haven't been all that into it.  But while I was feeling pretty okay, I did do a few Halloween tags anyway.

First off, Mom and I were both quite taken by this collection of papers this year:

There was a sheet of stickers available too.  Really cool ones!

So I wanted to use the papers, but I also wanted to play with my Michelle Ward stencils, and the new embossing ink dabber from Ranger.  so I did a background kind of like this:

This is not the one I started with, but it's the same technique:  Ripe Persimmon and Black Soot Distress Ink directly on my non-stick sheet, sprayed with water and Perfect Pearls mist in Heirloom Gold, and I soaked up the resulting puddle with the tag.  It's a Tim Holtz technique that I've now seen elsewhere as well.

Then I laid down the stencil I wanted to use, dabbed through it with the embossing dabber, and embossed with clear powder.  With that done, I scudged black Distress Ink onto the tag, letting the embossing act as a resist.  Then I went ahead and played with papers, Martha Stewart and Authentique stickers, and feathers to embellish.  And I ended up with these:

The owl one wasn't as successful a background.  I like the other two, though.

Then also, Mom got me this awesome stamp.  I used it on a similar background, but then haven't done anything else with the tag.  So here's what it looks like:

That's right.  That raven is wearing a witch hat.

Sadly, that's kind of all I did for Halloween this year.  I haven't even put out any Halloween decorations, just my Fall ones.  It's okay, though.  Next year maybe I'll have the mojo back.  I'm still going to enjoy tomorrow night's Halloween episode of Haven :)

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday Theme: Autumn, take 2

Festive Fall Wreath!

I'll be honest, I didn't really plan much for this week's theme, and I'm still focusing on Autumn anyway.  On top of that, I've been down again and thus haven't done much art in the past week, but I did start a couple of tools yesterday.  So there's not much to show, but here's what I've got, still celebrating Autumn!

Mom and I have been positively gaga (not Gaga) over the Halloween papers from Authentique, including their sheet of stickers.  We almost never use stickers, but these were an exception.  Well, they've also released papers and stickers for Autumn in general and Thanksgiving.  So Mom got some of them, and let me take some of the stickers.  Naturally, I chose the acorn ones:

Mmm... squirrel food!

Don't know what I'm going to use them for yet, but I've been wanting to play with acorns in art, so these just give me something else to play with :)

There are a couple of other things I've had planned for a while but never really sat down to work on.  The first is a border stencil and mask set.  I ended up cutting it from a sheet of acetate that I nabbed from reports I had to discard at work.  I probably should've used my stencil burner, because cutting it out with the scissors drove me bonkers, but eh, too late.  Here's how it came out:

A whole little forest of mushrooms...

The other plan is for a stamp, and I spent a while trying to get it just right.  I still need to tweak the design a bit, and then scale it down to a size I'm likely to use.  But here's a sneak peek:

So revealing, I know...

I'll keep the full design a surprise.  You'll see it when I start using it.... muahaha.

So that's it for this week.  A bit short, I know, but like I said, I didn't have much, but I wanted to keep up the routine.  I'll do better next week.  As a consolation, here's a squirrel:

He's digging, so all you can see is his tail.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday Theme: Autumn!

I love Fall.  Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons, which is ironic because generally I hate change, but the transition is exactly what I like about Spring and Fall.  Fall in particular does something wonderful for me.  I don't know if it's the welcome break from the Summer heat, or the sight of squirrels frantically stashing acorns, or the abundance of said acorns, or finally getting to wear some of the stuff I've knitted and crocheted again, or the apple cider and pumpkin recipes and harvest flavors and colors and beautiful foliage and all of that wonderful richness of color and scent and flavor and beauty just before Winter comes along and kills it all... I don't know.  But there's something wonderful about Fall. 
So, being such a big fan of Fall, imagine how psyched I was last year when Tim Holtz announced his first set of limited edition seasonal colors of Distress Ink (now they're part of the regular range of Distress colors).  They were a fabulous set of orange, purple, and brown.  Fantastic shades.  And Fall is the only time of year that orange becomes one of my favorite colors.  Seriously.  So, naturally, most of my Fall work from last year and this year has been done in those colors, with sometimes some green mixed in.  Like these backgrounds I did last year:
Sorry, blurry pic, I know.

The purple and brown one didn't have leaves on it originally.
I added the leaves with an Inkadinkado stamp and copper embossing powder just the other day.  Maybe next year I'll finish the tag...
I even did one whole tag that I considered finished.  I was really loving on some clear Inkadinkado stamps I got last year, and with Archival Ink they worked really well, but with Distress they are hit and miss.  This was a hit:
Notice how the ink and the embossing powder coverage are actually pretty even?
But perhaps some of you will remember the catastrophe that I blogged about here.  Those squares are now finished.  Well, mostly finished.  I finished one last year and I'm almost done the other two, I just need more stuff.
Each one features two of the three seasonal Distress colors.  All three will be mounted on canvases, not just that one in the corner.
Oh yeah, Tim Holtz "Foliage" accents, with Ornate Frames, and thesaurus pages.

I inked the thesaurus pages and then painted over them with clear Distress Crackle Paint to get that cracked glass look.
Overall I'm pretty happy with how they've turned out, in spite of the embossing and clear stamp challenges.  Incidentally, none of the stamps that I ended up using were from the clear sets.  They were all red rubber, from Stamper's Anonymous Tim Holtz Collection, some old stamp I don't know where it's from, and a set of Graphic 45 cling stamps.  It was just too much trouble getting the clear stamps to take the Distress Ink.
Anyway, this year I've been a busy bee too.  Squirrel.  Busy squirrel. That fits better.  Anyway, I made a new cover for my iPhone (it fits in a clear case, woohoo!), and a new tag, and some ATCs.  All of this at art nights that Mom and Running Wave and I have been getting together for, to force ourselves to carve out time to focus on art.
The backgrounds for these were both done using a "watercolor" technique that I've now seen from a couple of different artists, but first learned from Tim Holtz.  Naturally.  But I got to use my Blackbird stencil again!
The ATCs are a bit different for me.  The one on the left is stamped and then watercolored, like with brushes and everything!  And the one on the right I sort of carefully controlled where I scudged the ink.  Still want to do more with both of these.
Fortunately, there's still plenty of Fall left, because I'm not done with it yet.  There's more I want to play with.  Different color palettes, different tools, more dimensions.  I got these cool doilies at the dollar store:
Hellooooo cheap stencil/masks!

And I picked this up off the ground outside of work, wanting to use it in some kind of dimensional collage typey thing:

I love acorns.  I like to think of these as leftovers.

Meanwhile, I've been enjoying my Fall decorations, crisp hard apple cider, new tea flavors (found a pumpkin spice rooibos that's fantastic), the local Renaissance festival, and having lunch outside at work, watching my squirrel friends find and bury precious acorns.  I've noticed they do this funny little thing where once they've buried one, they cover it over and then really quickly pat the dirt with their paws like a little kid drumming on something, I guess to pat it into place and hide the fact that something was buried there.  It's adorable.  Those little guys are so clever.

One of my lunchtime companions.

Fall decor in the Pocket household.  Notice the burgeoning collections of squirrels and garden gnomes.

Thanks for joining me again for Thursday Themes.  What's your favorite thing about Fall?  Or do you not like Fall at all?  What's your favorite season instead? 


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Introducing: Thursday Themes

In the interest of getting a routine going with my blog and also hopefully motivating me to keep up with my art, I've decided to try something new.  A weekly feature.  I've seen Tag Tuesday, and What's On Your Workdesk Wednesday, and WiP Wednesday and Yarn Pr0n Friday, but I'm starting something new.  Years back I tried starting Handspun Monday but I didn't spin enough to really keep it going.  This time I'm challenging myself to Thursday Themes.  Every week, or every other week, or as often as I can (because let's be honest, it's ME), I'm going to post all the art and all the stuff I have (or a reasonable amount thereof) on a particular theme.  And you, my few but loyal Pocketeers, are welcome to join me in this modest attempt at a routine.  Maybe you'll want to start posting Thursday Themes.  Or maybe one of my themes might inspire you, and you can riff on it and post your work on your blog.  But feel free to simply observe if that's all you feel like doing. 

For my first Thursday Theme, I'm posting mushrooms.  I have been super into mushrooms as a motif as well as a food for a couple of years, and especially right now.  You might say I have a Hobbit-like love of mushrooms.  I've always liked them as food, but I think I developed this affinity for this motif because I'm into faeries and gnomes, and mushrooms tend to figure into depictions of those tiny  supernatural beings.  You've seen a couple of things I've done with these delicious little cuties in the previous two posts, and I'll touch on them here, but there is so much more. 

Last year, I carved this set of stamps for myself: 

I also cut a set of masks, most of which I have lost, in these shapes so I could do a positive/negative thing.  With the masks, acrylic paint, and some tissue paper, I started this (still unfinished) canvas panel:

Still want to add the stamps, and some dimensional stuff like moss and twigs, and I'm undecided about whether to use that tissue paper that I stamped "faery ring" on, chillin' up there in the corner of the photo. 

Around the same time, I found a frame I really liked at Target or Michael's or someplace, and it was cheap, so I decided to do something with it.  This is what I came up with, using Tim Holtz Distress Inks, die cut letters, Fragments, and Foliage.  And my stamps, plus an acorn one from Inkadinkado. 

Lately I've been playing with my mushroom stamps again.  You saw my Deutschroom spread in my Debris Journal from Create, and some of the stencils I used in my Frond Chronicles book:

And in my last post one of my featured items was a medieval mushroom ATC.  Well, it actually has a companion, and I've been thinking about doing a whole series:


And since then, I've scaled up.  I saw this great color combination at Crate & Barrel, and decided that it's what I've been trying to come up with for our dining room.  So I cut some REALLY BIG mushrooms out of a file folder, got out my paints and my Michelle Ward stencils, and attacked this canvas background I had sitting around:

And ended up with this:

I've also been playing around with trying to incorporate my old medium, sketching, into stamping and mixed media.  So here's a test sheet that I did, featuring, of course, mainly mushrooms.
There's a lot I still want to do featuring mushrooms, but meanwhile I pay attention to where I find them, in town near my job, in the manga I'm reading, in things I see in stores and everywhere.  Where have you seen mushrooms lately?  Do they ever make their way into your art or onto your dining room table?
Mushrooms near work.

Look at that huge multi-shroom back there!

Cute tiny shroom.
How adorable are these little guys?

Reason #523 I should not be allowed in Crate & Barrel with my debit card - tea towels.


Monday, October 1, 2012

In Which I Review "Blood Lance" - A Medieval Noir

I promised something different on the blog, and here it is, just for you, Pocketeers!  (All five of you...)  This Summer I entered a drawing to be one of a few, a happy few, lucky bloggers who would receive an advance copy of Blood Lance, the fifth and newest Crispin Guest medieval noir novel by the fantastic Jeri Westerson.  And I got it!  An e-galley of the book I've been waiting for all year!  I read it right away, and had every intention of reviewing it just as soon, but, as stated in my previous post, life had different ideas.  So now, two weeks before the book is released, I am finally posting my review of my new favorite book, Blood Lance, due for release on October 16, 2012.  And since this is an art blog, I will intersperse photos of stuff I've made recently that has been medieval-inspired.

Like this :)

Some background first.  The Crispin Guest novels are a series of historical mysteries, but not your usual cozy stuff.  These are set in the 14th Century but written in the noir style, so think "gritty."  Crispin Guest is the sleuth, and he used to be a knight.  Unfortunately he plotted against the young King Richard II, hoping to replace the child with his mentor and father figure the Duke of Lancaster, and was found out.  Lancaster persuaded the young king to spare Crispin's life, but Crispin was stripped of his title, his lands, his fortune, everything, and cast out on the street.  Finding himself suddenly poor, he eventually began making a living by solving mysteries for people.  Along the way he has impressed sheriffs, made some important connections, and gained a loyal pickpocket-turned-servant/apprentice named Jack Tucker (more on him later).

In each novel, the mystery involves a holy relic - anything from the Crown of Thorns to the remains of martyr St. Thomas a Becket.  Now we have the Spear of Longinus (which pierced the side of Christ on the cross) that has apparently gone missing, and several men would do quite a lot to get their hands on it.  Each of these relics and sacred objects bears divine power, but Crispin is a skeptic.  He never really believes that what's happening has anything to do with the power of God working through the relic.  But we, fellow readers, know better (and so does Jack, who freaks out pretty much every time).

Blood Lance opens with Crispin trudging home on a chilly night, miserable with a head cold, and then having the misfortune of seeing a man plummet from a house on London Bridge into the Thames.  Because he always does the right (and foolish) thing, Crispin dives in to save the man, but it is too late - he was dead before he left the window.  Naturally, Crispin must investigate.  That's when the real fun starts...

The dead man was an armorer, with some interesting neighbors and clients.  There's the tailor next door, with a beautiful daughter who says she was betrothed to the victim but doesn't seem too broken up about his death.  She was a fun - and sometimes aggravating - character.  There is the knight who was once Crispin's friend and comrade, but now is desperate to find what the armorer had promised him - the tip of the Spear of Longinus, rumored to make the bearer invincible in battle.  This knight was definitely a favorite character for me, because he was unpredictable.  And then we have several other knights trying to find the Spear, knights who are really thugs.  Sort of like my college history professor described knights to us.  They're the kind of knights who inspired writers to come up with the concept of chivalry... not because they were chivalrous but because the writers wanted them to learn from their literary example.  Also in the mix, we have some real historical figures, like Abbot Nicholas of Westminster Abbey and my personal favorite, Geoffrey Chaucer.  I love the way these historical figures are written.  Because honestly, it's easy to forget that they were people with lives beyond what's written about them in history books, and why not give them personalities?  Chaucer in particular is one who keeps you guessing.  Never quite sure what he's up to, and whether to trust him. 

The regular characters are, of course, a delight.  I love Crispin because he's so human.  Normally I like my heroes to be heroic and nearly impossibly perfect, but while Crispin is pretty heroic - remember what I said about always doing the right thing? - he's also very flawed and very relatable.  Crispin is clearly a bit of a rogue.  He loves a good wine, a good fight, and a good wench (in no particular order).  He is so bitter about his past, about how far he has fallen, about everything he doesn't have.  It drives him to drink, and it causes him to keep people at arm's length.  Well, to try to keep people at arm's length.  He has a few very stubborn and very loving friends.  Gilbert and Eleanor, the owners of the Boar's Tusk Tavern, are loyal and they're a great foil for Crispin when he needs to talk through what's going on.  And of course, there's my favorite, Jack Tucker.  Jack is a young teenager, not quite thirteen when we meet him in the first book, but now that it's been a few years since he attached himself to Crispin, he's getting older, more confident, and more... teenaged.  The relationship that he and Crispin have is deepening into something more familial than hierarchical, though Crispin is quick to put Jack in his place when he gets too big for his britches (which is often).  Some of my favorite scenes are the ones at home with Crispin and Jack.

I have enjoyed all of the stories in the series, but I particularly enjoyed this one.  I think the books are getting better as they go along.  I don't want to say too much about the plot beyond what I said above, because I don't want to give anything away, but this story was twisty.  She throws a lot at you in this one, and it keeps you guessing all the way through.  At the same time, there are things that are, shall we say, familiar.  It wouldn't be a Crispin Guest book without:  Jack getting mouthy; Crispin getting out of sorts while drinking a bowl (or jug) of wine at the Boar's Tusk; sexy times with a comely maiden (sometimes not such a maiden); and of course, a fight that starts (or is accelerated) because Crispin just can't help but be a smartass.  But hey, all of that sounds like fun to me, so I never mind.  The only thing that didn't quite fit for me in this one was Crispin suddenly brooding over a lost love who I don't recall hearing much about since the first book.  But maybe I just forgot.

The writing, in my opinion, is very enjoyable.  It's easy to read but not dumbed down to be so.  Jeri Westerson is very descriptive, and her scenes always make me feel like I'm really slogging through medieval London with Crispin and Jack.  She uses medieval terms for things pretty seamlessly, and if you get lost, there's a glossary at the back of the book.  As far as total historical accuracy... it's been too long since I studied any history and I'm too lazy to fact-check her, but Jeri sure is convincing.  She does include notes on the history at the back of the book, too, which are always fascinating.  I read for entertainment, so if I'm also getting a little bit of real history, that's pretty awesome. 

Overall, this post has been a very long and wordy way of saying this:  Please check out the Crispin books, especially Blood Lance.  You can read Blood Lance without having read the first 4 books, but I hope you will go back and start at the beginning with Veil of Lies as well.  Check your local library, ask your favorite book store to stock it, or just do what most people will probably do anyway and order it from Amazon.  When you're done, lend it to a friend.  Keep the Crispin love flowing, so Jeri can keep the books coming. 

The art in this post features stamps by Michelle Ward, Tim Holtz, and Stampendous!, stencils by Michelle Ward, and stencils/masks hand-cut by me, PocketSize.