Tuesday 24 February 2015

A visit to Kingston Maurward, Part 1

For the past two weeks, I've been spending most of my time not in my studio, but at my computer. I bought Lightroom (a photo editing and organising programme) one and a half years ago, started learning the basics halfway, and then left it at that. The keywording was incomplete, and during the last year, I just downloaded my photos into Lightroom, and left it at that. I didn't even really do any editing. I've always meant to go through my photos and delete the bad ones immediately after downloading them, but of course I never really did. I've spent hours and hours over two weekends to go through all the photos from the past 4 years, adding keywords, and generously deleting all those wonky, blurry, nearly similar and plain boring photos. Although it was a lot of work, it was also great to go through all those photos, remembering trips and places, and also realising which aspects of my photography really need some working (as well as seeing some improvement since 2010). And thanks to all the indexing work, I'll be able to find photos again easily now. And I'm taking my time to go deeper into all the possibilities of Lightroom (it really is a fantastic programme!). And of course to start doing more editing again, and share photos, instead of just leaving them sleeping on my hard disc.

I took these photos last September, during a lovely afternoon spent at Kingston Maurward. It was the last day before the end of my holiday and we were looking for something to do close to home. Kingston Maurward, just a half hour walk across the fields away, seemed perfect. The large Georgian country house houses an agricultural college these days, but the grounds, with its animal park and gardens, are open to the public. We had a terrific time visiting all the animals, and of course they made perfect photo subjects. We were particularly smitten by the cute guinea pigs. I just wished I had had a lens with a bigger zoom.

I explored the Print module over the weekend, which allows you to quickly make collages. So much easier than to do it Photoshop.

I've got loads more photos to share, so many cute animals there, but I'll have to post them in another post. Photo editing can be very time consuming, especially if you do it when your main focus is learning the programme. Once I worked my way through all the modules, and created a few templates, my work flow will, hopefully, become much more efficient and productive.

Friday 13 February 2015

Some art journal tips - Part 2

Here's Part 2 of my little art journal tips series, with some more pages and techniques.

Paint markers

Paint (or gel) markers are great for adding details on top of a background, whether it's an elaborate drawing or just a simple pattern. I especially like to use light coloured markers on dark backgrounds.

Gelli printing

I really love my Gelli plates (even if I don't use them often enough). They are so versatile, allowing you to create all kinds of wonderful effects, whether you're just using colour, or adding stencils, stamps etc. You can print single sheets of paper that can be glued into your art journal (or bound into a journal). With a ring bound journal, it is also very easy to print directly on to the journal page to create a great background.


I found an old, and as it seems unused, Polaroid camera in a second hand shop some time last year, and, as far too many of my art supplies, it has been sitting ignored in the book shelf for far too long. But they're such fun to use. Capture a meaningful place or event (like your studio, where all the magic happens) or record a special moment (like the arrival of my new and impatiently awaited reading chair) and stick it on to a background to turn it into a special memory. Of course any other photo will work perfectly too.

Paper etc.

Of course you can stick all kinds of things on to your journal pages. Patterned papers, little drawings made on index cards, a piece of scrap paper that you used to try out some new pens or markers etc.

I love these Japanese (book binding) papers, the colours and patterns are so beautiful. I like to use them to cover a whole page to create a background, and also to glue them on to the covers of an art journal. And last but not least, a simple cardboard tube makes a great stamp for adding circles or bubbles, either to add on to a background, or to create a background. Those little plastic caps that protect your newly bought brushes also make great stamps for small circles in different sizes, so remember to keep them.

I had so much fun creating these pages, and I can't wait to fill the remaining two or three pages. I've re-discovered so many tools and techniques that I haven't used in ages, and it I enjoyed finding so much inspiration within my studio. But now I really have to tidy up my studio. And this time it's not an excuse for putting off making art, but to make space to get to all my art supplies more easily.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Some art journal tips - Part 1

I've been feeling a bit uninspired lately. Or maybe over-inspired, rather. There's so much inspiration to be found online, that it can easily become a bit overwhelming. Especially when you're in a "phase" where you're feeling a bit unsure about where to go artistically. How to develop your style. What you want your art, your style to be. How you think it should be (that is definitely the point where you need to switch off the computer for a bit).

Two weekends ago, I found myself "tidying up my studio" (i.e. finding an excuse for once again putting off doing something arty) again. I looked at shelves filled with all kinds of art materials. And I decided that it was time to play. To just slap some paint on some pages, without thinking too much about colour mixing, composition, subject matter... Actually not thinking at all. Instead, getting out some of the materials I haven't used in ages, and see what I can do with them. Over that weekend, I filled more than half of the sketchbook. I just couldn't stop. I kept coming back again and again til late into the night, adding a bit here and there, covering another page with a colour, that I suddenly felt was missing. It felt great. And I would like to share some of the pages and techniques with you.

Some of the supplies used
  • a square sketchbook with very thick watercolour paper (that I've been saving for about three years for some really serious watercolour painting)
  • Thalens acrylic paints, which I hadn't used since I stopped going to a painting class I had been going to for years over 1 1/2 years ago
  • watercolours
  • patterned papers
  • washi tape
  • brayer
  • Gelli printing plate (it's been a while since I used one of those, and I've actually never even used my square one)
  •  acrylic and oil-based paint markers, various pens, ink
  • polaroids
  • index cards with some drawings made with ballpoint pen and felt tip pen
And here's a few of the pages. Some are finished, some are half finished, and some are just a background that I can come back to later.

Watercolour and stencils

I like using alphabet stencils to add text, and they work well with watercolours too.

Or use a stencil with a nice pattern or subject, and add more layers of watercolours afterwards, and bring out details with pen and ink.


Applying the paint with a brayer gives great and interesting results. You can fill the whole page, creating a page of richly textured layers and vibrant colours. Or apply it loosely, layering colours and leaving lots of white space.

You can use the brayer to deliberately add colour to your page, or you can create an interesting background by using the page to roll clean your brayer when you're using it for some Gelli printing.

Playing with different colour combinations (here: yellow ochre, burnt sienna, manganese/cyan blue and Payne's grey) in different ways and mediums (watercolour and acrylics). If the page turns out too dull because of the (too) many layers, a pattern applied with a light medium, such as a white paint marker, lightens it up.

There's some more techniques and pages, which I'll share in another post later this week, otherwise this post would just be far too long.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Finding inspiration

I was hoping to finally post some art stuff again today. I've actually been busy playing with paints all weekend, and I was looking forward to put it all into a happy, colourful blog post to share. But while I really love winter, the snow, the long, cozy dark nights, there's one problem: light. I just couldn't get a decent photo. And it wasn't only the light. The angles, the compositions, the colours. Nothing worked. Not even Photoshop could help me fix it.

I have neglected my camera a lot during the last year, and I feel completely out of touch with photography and photo editing. So I decided it was time to find some inspiration and went out during one of my lunch breaks to take some photos in the park on the campus. Which is not really a very inspiring park, especially in winter (which in turn is probably why it's a good place to try and find some inspiration). And I totally enjoyed taking these photos with my Iphone and the Hipstamatic app.

I'll try to take some photos of my art journal again at the weekend, and hopefully I'll be sharing them soon here.

I've also made some changes to the design of my blog. I've wanted a simpler design for ages, but just couldn't figure out how to remove that light frame around the photos with the simplest of the Blogger templates. Until now. And I'm much happier with the new design (although it might still need some tweaking). Except for the header, which is just temporary until I've come up with something more inspiring. A complete re-design (and possibly move) has actually been on my to do list already at the beginning of last year, but I'm just not ready for that right now.