Sunday, 28 March 2010

Easter Baking

Sure, it's a little early for Easter, and sure, I don't really celebrate it anyway, but I wanted to bake something and I landed on Tsoureki - Greek Easter Bread.

I used this recipe. I just put all the ingredients in the bread maker and it was quite easy. Here they are:

The hard-boiled coloured eggs are supposed to be red, but the cochineal was on the blink (?!: it just didn't work) so Boy added some blue and that did the trick.
Well, the bread was delicious! It's sweet and soft with a citrus taste. The only thing I would do differently is add the boiled eggs after the rising stage - as you can see, the blue stained the dough as it was rising.
The recipe didn't give any indication as to what to do with the boiled eggs. Hmm! So Boy and I broke the bread open, pried the eggs out and ate them before eating the bread. It was like a two course meal!

I've just discovered Asemic Writing. Basically, it's a doodle or scribble that bears a resemblance to writing but doesn't 'say' anything. Here's a sample from Flickr:

Page from a book of asemic writing by Mirtha Dermisache, 1970.

Symbols from pre-literate cultures, children's symbolic drawings, languages invented by artists or writers, and manuscripts that cannot be read or de-ciphered all come under the umbrella of asemic writing. I'm fascinated by this. It could have some really interesting applications in my art journal.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

A Trip to the Library, Part 1

I think I'd like to talk about some art & craft books I borrowed from the library over the last few months. Firstly, I borrowed The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery by Karen Michel.

I'd heard quite a bit about this book from other journal artists, and I have to say, I was a bit disappointed. Perhaps it was just because most of the techniques didn't fire anything up in me. Maybe it was because some of the materials are quite hard to come by. Perhaps it was because I don't like the author's style of art - which is completely a personal thing and has nothing to do with the content of the book. I put it aside for a couple of weeks, and when I picked it up again, I started to see it in a different light. I started thinking about which techniques were more 'me', and how I could apply them to my art journal.

The first section deals with altering photographs. There is some amazing stuff to be done with rubbing, scratching, colouring and bleaching original photographs. Unfortunately they're a lot harder to come by than they used to be, especially since the Polaroid camera was discontinued. All of my photos these days are taken with a digital camera and then printed out with my mini photo printer (I love it! <3 ) However, Boy has informed me that techniques involving chemically altering the image emulsion are not going to work with photos printed in this way, which was a bit disappointing. The last part of this section has some interesting examples of how to incorporate the altered photographs into a collaged and painted artwork.

The second section looks at altering images digitally using photo-editing software. It has some interesting techniques, some of which I hadn't thought of before. It doesn't go into the nitty-gritty of how to use particular programmes - there are so many out there, it would just be impossible. There's some food for thought here, though.

The third section covers altering found images (from magazines, etc) and incorporating them into artworks. I've seen all of these techniques before in collage books dating back to the 1970s, but it's nice to see them presented in a new way - and in colour!

The fourth and last section is a gallery of pieces by artists working in the altered and/or mixed media genre. Some of these got me really excited. I started to think about which particular artists, both in this book and online, I like the most. And looking at their styles got me thinking about what my style might be when it eventually emerges. I haven't come to any firm conclusions yet, but there are certain techniques and juxtapositions of elements that I seem to be using more than others. I'll do some scans soon and show you what I mean. I know I've only just scratched the surface when it comes to using different materials and techniques, and I know I'm a long way off from being able to define my style, but I feel I'm inching closer and closer.

In other news, I've been writing away furiously at my new zine - and I've started a second one! Busy busy writing time.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Manky, Skanky and Dangerous to Know

I've been struck down with an early-autumn flu and haven't felt like doing anything except lying weakly on the couch. For once I've been a sensible girl and taken all the medications that one's supposed to at time like these. It's been an interesting ride. I don't know what's in that stuff, but it's made me feel a bit giddy. I've been saying things like, "that department is a bloated cash cow, floating serenely through the sky sucking up money like the cream off the top of the taxpayer's crop". My workmates thought it was a little odd.
I've managed to make headway on my journal cover though. My first writing journal was a normal, ordinary, spiral-bound exercise book of the sort you get at bog-standard, boring office supply shops. Normal and boring! After months of scribbling away, it was still only half full. I was so sick of it. I need colour and variety! So recently I decided to rip out the rest of the pages and declare it full, even though that's cheating horribly. I decided to make a nice, crocheted cover for it though, to make it more appealing to flip through in future.

I was experimenting here: I put my finger over the flash
and then tweaked up the colour in Photo Studio.

It doesn't look like much now, but I'm imagining flowers and dangly things later on. Possibly.

The Wish Journal project is on hold right now, as I decided that I needed to order some pretty paper for the cover. And of course some other pretty papers as well from the same Etsy shop - it's better value if you buy more! Right? I hope they come soon!

P.S. I'm very excited because I've just become an official Textile Designer! According to Ravelry, anyway. You know how I have trouble reading knitting and crochet patterns so I tend to make up stuff myself? Well, apparently that's designing! The site admin asked me to create a profile and get things up to scratch so that people have access to my patterns. Erm, some of them aren't actually written yet. But I'll work hard to fix that up over the next couple of days. You have to have a Ravelry account to access my profile, but I'll post it here anyway.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

A Few Things

This is where I'm up to at the moment on Journal Girl's Wish Journal project. The inner pages have been cut and folded:

I used an old children's book I bought from the Salvos for the cover. I cut the covers off using a craft knife and joined them together:

The kiddie images will be all covered up in the finished journal. Unless I like any of them! =) And here is Bec's Hat, all finished.

See my new golden-brown nail polish as I model the hat!
Also, I have done quite a good job at removing the red-eye from the photo.

Bec shaved her head for the World's Greatest Shave for cancer, and I'm so proud of her! And kinda glad that a) I got the hat finished on time and b) I didn't screw it up. I'd forgotten how much of a pain in the butt working with double-pointed needles is. Next I'm gonna be doing some good, simple mindless crochet for a while!

Tonight I'm making Chicken Tortilla Soup. I've changed the recipe so much there's no point in linking to it. I tasted it just before, and I've put way too much chilli in. If it hasn't killed me, I'll post photos next time!

Monday, 8 March 2010


I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I have about 15 pages in progress in my art journal. Sometimes they lurk there for weeks or months before the inspiration to add something hits. I'm at work, or I'm lying in bed at night and ... wham!
"I know! I'll cut a decorative border on that page with the gel transfer face on it! Yeah, that'll be great!"
Other times, I'll just grab a Sharpie or deco tape and flip through the whole journal, adding a little bit to the pages where it seems 'right'. And yes, it can take what seems like forever to finish a page. But I guess that's just the way I roll.

With that in mind, I thought I'd take you on a short tour of Pages in Progress at Casa de la Apartmentcat. Also, the sun came out this morning at just the perfect time for taking art photos, so I took as much advantage of it as I could.

[Below] I hated this page when I first started it. I couldn't stand it and was baffled by what to do with it. Adding the blue paint really helped a lot, and those stamps with the dark postmark on them were such a lucky find! That paper on the right-hand side wouldn't stick down no matter what glue I used, so I got out some embroidery thread and sewed it down. That fixed it! Most recently I added some art marker doodles. I still have no idea how or when the page will be finished. It only needs a little more, but what?

[Below] These are really two separate pages. On the left is a background I made with yellow acrylic paint, nail polish and coloured liquid paper that I scored from work. They'd been storing hundreds of bottle of the stuff in the basement for the last, what, twenty years? Crazy! But good for me! On the right is a gel medium transfer of a girl with a cat. I got the image from Flickr. Recently I've discovered lots of groups offering vintage photos and other copyright-free images that can be used for all sorts of stuff. Yay! I don't really like how this transfer has turned out though. I think I printed it out using the wrong type of printer. No matter how much I rub with sandpaper, there's still a thin layer of paper over the top obscuring the image.

[Below] This is a collaged page from a fashion magazine. Yesterday I added some thinned-down acrylic that I had left over from working on the Wish Journal Workshop. I love how the paint has collected where the paper has wrinkled, especially on the model's face. I'm sure I can tease something profound from that.

[Below] When I first started this art journal, I used a couple of the pages for practising calligraphy. Later on when I wanted to do some actual art journalling on the page, I thought - why not incorporate it instead of just painting over it? So I used some acrylic paint thinned with glaze medium over it. The calligraphy ink ran and made the green paint darker than I intended, but I'm going with it. On the left is a short piece of writing. I didn't want it to get lost in the bowels of my laptop (euw, sorry for that visual) so I printed it out and glued it on a blank page. I didn't really think too much beyond that at the time! I've also added some doodles across the top and deco tape at the bottom. The purple band is my Fat marker from Smiggle. It's a wedge-shaped marker 5cms (2 inches) wide. *gurgle* Most of the work I've done in my journal so far has been with brushes and paint. I'm only just starting to branch out to using pens and other drawing tools. I'll certainly be using that marker more, methinks!

[Below] Finally! A page with a clue! On the left is a background done with Sharpies and the white gesso. Actually, for the sake of full disclosure, they're not Sharpies, they're 'Shoupies' from China. This is the 'Sharpie Ghosting' technique from Comfortable Shoes Studio. I love it! On the right is a cut-away page with pure black acrylic on it. I don't usually use dark colours in my journal, but the sharp triangular shape of the page just seemed to call for something with a dramatic contrast. And I think I know what I want to do with this page! I was originally planning to jazz it up with my new set of brightly coloured Sakura Gelly Roll gel pens, but then I found a wonderful quote which would fit here perfectly. It's quite wintry and reflective, and it requires a more sombre colour of gel pen. Lucky I have the silver Pilot Choose. Quotes? Long blocks of text? Large swathes of black? My own handwriting?? (gasp!) Not normally my style, but again, I'm really trying to branch out.

There are a whole bunch more new techniques I want to try with my art journal. But in the last few days, I've caught myself having thoughts like, "is it OK to use bought stencils in my journal? Are they artistic enough?" What a silly thing to think! Negative Nancy (aka my inner critic) can be so devious sometimes. I'll try them out, and if they don't feel right, I'll just turn the page. That's what art journalling is all about!

In knitting news, I have just under a week to finish Bec's hat. I'll have to work steadily, but I think I can do it. The weather's getting cool enough now that I'm thinking of making some kind of shawl or capelet to wear at home while I'm indulging in mammoth internet sessions. My shoulders get kinda chilly. Keywords I'm looking for are 'chunky' and 'cozy', not 'lacy' or 'delicate'. 'Poncho' isn't high on the list, either.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Wish Journal Online Workshop

I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but I joined Journal Girl's Wish Journal-Making Workshop a few weeks ago. I've been working steadily on it every day. My progress has been pretty slow though because the only flat surface large enough to lay out the sheets to dry just happens to be my art desk! So I had to wait for each stack of sheets to dry before I could move on to the next one.

Painting in Progress

First, I collaged papers onto each sheet. This was a lot of fun! I spent some time beforehand going through all my art supplies and ferreting out all my images and papers from the various places that I'd stashed them. I've also bought a display book from an office supplies shop so I can have them all organised. I can just flip through the book and find the perfect scrap of paper for what I want! Theoretically, anyway. I even broke out my special piece of washi that I'd been saving for 'something special'. Well, if this isn't special, I don't know what is!

After the collage, I laid down washes of paint in my favourite colours. In the beginning, I was pretty much just laying down blocks of solid colours:

Earlier sheet

Then after a while I started experimented with watering down the paint more, and sponging, dabbing and wiping techniques. So much fun!

later sheet

[Later:] I was cleaning out the boot of my car and I found an obsolete street directory. Woooohooooo! Maps aplenty!