Monday, 29 February 2016

Happy Leap Day!

Yes, today is 29th February. It only comes around once every four years.
Being a bit of a calendar nerd, I feel like I should celebrate today in some way, but I'm not sure how! According to the Intertubes, there are several traditions and superstitions surrounding Leap Years. The most common one is that women are allowed to propose to men during a leap year, or sometimes only on the actual day itself. Apparently it helps if you wear a scarlet petticoat as well. That's a bit old-fashioned! Besides, it's too late -- I'm already married. And yes, I proposed to him! By email. It was about as new-fashioned as you can get.

Thankfully Husband accepted my proposal, otherwise he would have had to pay a fine: a rose, 12 pairs of gloves, fabric to make a skirt, one pound stirling, or a kiss, depending on the tradition you follow.

Continuing the theme of gender reversals, a seventeenth-century play asserted that women wear breeches in a leap year, which is a little more progressive at least.

In Greece, it's considered unlucky to get married in a Leap Year, so you'd have to wait a while before following through with the proposal. A recent survey found that one in five Greek couples plan their weddings around this superstition.

The Summer Olympic Games is held every leap year, though apparently this is a coincidence. The campaign to revive the almost 3,000-year-old tradition began in 1894, with the Games themselves being held in 1896. Back then, I guess two years was a reasonable amount of time to allow, to organise such an event. As much as I love the Olympics, they're usually held later in the year due to Northern Hemisphere Summer, so there's not much point in celebrating them in February!

In the early- to mid-20th-century, it was a common tradition for bars and hotels in the U.S. to create a signature cocktail that was only served on 29th February. The most famous was invented by Harry Craddock, the legendary American barman who transferred his trade to the Savoy Hotel in London during the Prohibition era. Here is the Leap Year:

2 oz gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1 dash fresh lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass. Serve with a twist of lemon peel on top.
It's a shame I don't have any Grand Marnier in my liquor cabinet right now!

Of course, the Gregorian calendar isn't the only one in existence, and the concept of a leap year appears in most systems to make sure the years run smoothly. This includes the Islamic calendar, Hebrew calendar, Hindi calendar, and the Chinese lunisolar calendar. This year, the Year of the Fire Monkey, is coincidentally also a leap year.

To me, because 29th February comes around so rarely, it seems like a good day for doing something I wouldn't normally do often. I might need to do a brainstorming session to think of what some of those things might be! I'll write about it next time. Meanwhile: Happy Leap Day!


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Recent Online Inspiration

I've been heavily inspired by three online sources in particular at the moment, which has led me to work on lots of drawing and writing projects:

Journal Girl has released some of her older art-journalling courses free of charge, so I signed up for the Friendly Faces course to give me some practice. (You do need to be a member of the Art Journalling Ning group to access them, however.) The course covers the fundamentals in finding your personal style in drawing faces. Here's my effort at lesson one: drawing different types of eyes:

I only discovered Figment's 29 Day Writing Challenge a few days ago, unfortunately. In order to win the badge you need to write all 29 prompts and post them on the site before the end of the month. At this stage it would be impossible for me! I still want to participate though, and finished the first one today. I don't think I'll write a piece every day as I have other projects I want to concentrate on as well -- figuring out how to even post pieces to Figment for example, as my profile is still empty!

I discovered Drawception just today, and I wish I'd found it earlier! It's an incredibly fun game that works a bit like Pass the Message. When I was a kid we used to call it Chinese Whispers, but that's way too un-PC now! 12 or more players are involved. One draws a picture, the next has to describe it in a few words. The next has to draw a second picture from that description. The fourth player describes that picture, etc etc. Each turn is timed to 10 minutes, so speed-drawing is essential, and the subject matter could be anything under the sun, so it's challenging. There are some amazing artists on the site, and some not so good, like me! I have a graphics tablet, but unfortunately it's not compatible with my new laptop, so I can't use it. Until I can save up to buy a new one, I'm confined to using the mouse. I'm suddenly excited by digital drawing though, and I can't wait til I'm a few levels up so I can play more games.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

No. 9 : Walk the Golden Mile

Yesterday I completed No. 9 on my list of 101 Things in 1,001 Days -- walk the Golden Mile! (Actually, it's a misnomer, in reality it's over 2.5 miles, so I'm even prouder of myself.) The Golden "Mile" Heritage Trail is a walk designed to showcase Melbourne's historical features. It starts at the Royal Exhibition Building (the single World Heritage-listed feature in the state of Victoria) and ends at the Immigration Museum at Old Customs House, just over the road from where the first port was founded on the Yarra River.

As I walked, I took photos here and there, though I have to admit I wasn't quite as enthusiastic when passing the landmarks I've already seen hundreds of times on the way to work! As it turns out, it was also a tour through Melbourne's four seasons in one day, as it started out misty and raining, and ended up sunny (and windy!).

I'm not in a writing mood today, so I'll just caption the photos briefly.

1. The pond in Carlton Gardens, not far from the Exhibition Building.

2. An old warehouse behind the Princess Theatre. This used to be the dodgy end of town!

3. Council's growshow vertical garden, with Government buildings in the background.

4. Collins Street near Russell Street. I like the contrast between old and new architecture.

5. The Capitol Arcade. I've never been in here before. This cafe looks interesting!

6. Mosaic floor in the Block Arcade. I come here often as my favourite spice shop is here.

7. Golden medallions set into the footpath guide walkers along the trail.

8. More old vs. new on Collins Street. This is a popular photostop for tourists!

9. King Street. This vintage brewery is now a strip club.

10. Another old building near the original port. I think it's been turned into apartments. I'd love to see the inside!

11. Outside the Immigration Museum, new vs. old, the transport edition! The skyscrapers of Southbank are in the background.

I made it!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Art Practice Moon Magic: February

The new moon, and the new theme for Art Practice Moon Magic is here already! This month there's a double theme: Feeling What You Feel and Freedom. At first it was a little overwhelming, not only having multiple concepts, but having such profound words as feeling and freedom... I needed a few days to let it percolate in my mind.

A few days later, I was watching one of Suzi Blu's Paint Plan and Chronicle with Me youtube videos, and one of the affirmations she had in her planner was "I do the work I love." It resonated with me, and I wrote "Paint what you love" several times throughout my art journal.

It made me realise that the faces I'd been painting recently weren't really speaking to me. So I grabbed one of my sketchbooks and started mucking around making faces with bigger noses, wonkier mouths, more stylised hair. Part of me thinks, oh these are awful! But part of me likes them more because they're less like attempts to be perfect. (P.S. The ones in black are older sketches.)

Then on Thursday I took a trip into the city to have lunch with a friend who's a photographer, and we talked about creativity. Afterwards I wandered the city looking for inspiration and happened to wander into ACMI (the Australian Centre for the Moving Image). I just happened to come across the Mediatheque, a free area set aside for viewing the Centre's film collections. I watched a couple of films in a series on artists and craftspeople in regional Victoria, as well as many other things. It's an amazing, free way to kill an afternoon if you're in Melbourne, I recommend it! After all that inspo, I was dying to break out my paints!

At the end of all this creative percolation, I decided to spend all of yesterday painting. Not only that, but painting what I love. Handily, I'd made a list about 6 months ago of things I was inspired by, for a blog post that never eventuated. I checked the list and yes, I'm still inspired by those things!

I want to embellish my paintings with patterns, but I decided to start creating my own instead of using collage papers. Hence these loose sheets:

I'm planning on either cutting them up to use as hair or garments, or as backgrounds. I also tried incorporating pattern into a sketch of a figure. I wasn't that happy with it, but it's only a first go:


Here is a portrait of Yallo. In the last year, I've had several dreams where I'm either drawing or painting him, and now I'm bringing them to life. Over the last few weeks, I've done large circles like this in my journals in preparation for paintings such as this. This is the first one I've finished. It's also an early attempt to embellish with a patterned background. I didn't really like trying to fill in the pattern after the fact, which is why I started pre-preparing the patterned backgrounds above.

These ghost-like creatures emerged randomly from some sketches I did one day. The bizarre horse-like creature, I have no idea where that came from! And there's Yallo flying overhead. Even though this page is much more minimalist than what I normally do, I consider it finished. I'm quite proud of it because normally I have an urge to add more and more until my head is spinning and I'm thinking, geez, will this ever be finished?? But there you are. Finished.

I also did a lot of work on my second painting on canvas. I think it's nearly finished, too! It's Yallo again.

The materials I used for these paintings included acrylic paint, house paint, nail polish, Sakura Gelly Roll Pens, and textas.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Magica Herbae Subscription Box

Lately I've been interested in learning more about herbs -- growing them, cooking with them, and herbal remedies. I remember when I was at Uni, experimenting with making rosemary tea when I had a cold, or mixed honey and garlic for a sore throat. I bought the ingredients from the supermarket back then, but this time round I'd like a more personal touch. My track record for growing herbs is pretty dismal so far though, so when I saw the Magica Herbae subscription box from Belladonna and Bones, it seemed just the sort of thing to get me started.

I've actually received three boxes so far, but today I'll concentrate on the Yarrow box. Each box focuses on one herb, and usually comes with some dried herb, an ointment, a tincture, and one or two more items. There is also an informative booklet and a letter with updates on the garden. I enjoy the letter because the maker of the box, Raheli, also lives in Melbourne and so it gives me information and insights about gardening in my local area.

The Yarrow box contains:
dried yarrow, which can be used in a tea or incense
single note yarrow ointment, for application on the skin
yarrow tincture, which is yarrow essence in alcohol, to be ingested in a glass of water, etc
Yarrow 'Love Potion', which also contains damiana, honey and whiskey. It can be taken by the spoonful or mixed into an alcoholic drink

According to the booklet, Yarrow applied topically is good for bruises, cuts, grazes and rashes. It is a blood clotter when applied to wounds. When taken internally as a tea or tincture, it aids digestion, and is a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine, decongestant, analgesic, sedative and anti-spasmodic. The dried herb can be burned as an insect repellant. And, if you're so inclined, it increases psychic awareness, especially during divination, and attracts helpful people when held in the hand. In previous times, girls would use it to see if their love was true. In China, the stems were used to make I-Ching sets.

There is so much information here and so much that Yarrow can be used for, I'm a little overwhelmed! I have a small cut on my finger that I got when cutting up some vegetables, so perhaps I'll use the ointment on that instead of my normal Germoline, and see if it works. And of course, Valentine's Day is coming up -- perhaps I might be able to convince Husband to taste the Love Potion with me!

The Magica Herbae box is released every two months, with the subscription renewing after the third box. I've already signed up for the next set, I'm enjoying them so much. I'll write about the other boxes I've already received soon.

Monday, 1 February 2016

My January

My biggest news is -- in case no-one has noticed the hints I've dropped over the last month -- I've quit my job. I won't go into why: I want to focus on taking some time for myself and deciding what to do next, not on the past. So the first three weeks of January were a hectic time of handovers and clearouts, while the last week has been a complete contrast, adjusting to being at home. It's been many years since I had so much free time, and it's a little overwhelming. So many things I want to do!

500km Walking Challenge Update
KMs walked January: 28.4 This year: 28.4
% to go: 94.5%
I didn't get off to the best start, but I have more time now, and I'm sure my endurance will improve over the course of the year. I've been enjoying some other forms of exercise as well, like dancing, which has been fun.

What I've been painting ...
Yesterday I was thinking more on the theme of dedication. I've been dissatisfied for a long time about the lack of creative activities in my life. When was the last time I finished something? Had an idea? Or even worked on a project? I don't know. Even when I've taken time off work to give myself some space and time to welcome inspiration in, it still didn't come. ... Or playing The Sims seemed more appealing ... Now, even with plenty of spare time on my hands, still, nothing. I'm starting to feel like I need to push myself, to change the way I do things. To dedicate myself. That's why yesterday I decided to do Creative 365. And I started off bravely, with painting more faces!

To me, being creative covers many different activities -- painting, drawing, crocheting and knitting, embroidery and weaving crafts, writing, even cooking with a new recipe. Perhaps gardening? And writing blog posts, of course!

What I've been harvesting ...
We had so much fruit from our trees this year, it's incredible! This is only about half of the nectarine harvest. I didn't have enough jars to make more jam, so I just stewed them and froze them in containers. I need to plan ahead next year!

What I've been trying out...
I downloaded an app called Insight Timer for meditation. It includes a timer mode (with a selection of gentle noises to end the countdown), as well as over 700 guided meditations. The statistics section tracks various stats, which I like. I have tried it a couple of times and found it very useful. I used to instantly go into a tailspin of I can't do that! on just hearing the word meditation. Now I'm to looking forward to my next session!

What else I've been doing ...
Trying to get some half-decent photos of Sharick to show off to family and friends. He's the absolute centre of our household already. He has the eating habits of a Hobbit (well, he would if we let him!) and he's completely obsessed with the laser pointer. And very handsome, don't you think?