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Monday, 13 February 2017

Imagine... A World Without Trees

On a planet ravaged by intense heat and drought, trees starved of water, dried to a crisp, others burned in forest fires that long ago tore through the ancient woods of this land.  

The lungs of the planet decimated, the few remaining human survivors would struggle to breathe the vastly reduced oxygen in the air, now heavily polluted with the smog of long ago burned coal, oil, plastic and petrol, gas masks would be the choice of attire outdoors.  Perhaps in a better world we would not have to layer up with thin torn rags, trying to protect our skin from the scorching midday sun, without the dappled green shade of the cooling woodland to soothe us.  Mosquitoes would be plentiful too, now the climate is hot enough to sustain them.  The creatures and insects from tropical lands would be able to survive all year round in this arid baked world. 

But the struggle must go on to find clean drinking water, unable to water the failing crops, old shops and supermarkets would have to be scavenged for tinned goods.  But watch out for the wild animals, with meat being so scarce, even a human could make for a tasty meal. 

The threat of disease from water would be amplified when the annual floods would come in.  People would be forced to build and maintain raised flood shelters, for a more turbulent sky would roil with thunder and lightning, stormforce winds would threaten to destroy what little grip they had left on this world, and the floods would wash everything away, and bring with it fresh diseases, new ones evolving every year, sometimes alligators and sharks too. 

If only the trees were still here, with their carbon absorbing properties, they would gradually reduce the greenhouse gases, helping to restore a natural balance, their vast roots would have absorbed excess water when the floods came, they would have helped hold the land together and prevent the devastating landslides.  We would have fresh fruit from the trees, nuts we could toast over a small campfire, with plentiful wood to build simple shelters.  If only the trees were here.

A Very Different World
This is the world I imagine when I think of what our planet might be like if we allow Climate Change to continue unchecked.  It very much looks and feels like a post-apocalyptic dystopian future.  

A world without colour, certainly one without the cool summers I remember from childhood.  The sun would shine and I would love to play out, with no fear of burning my skin.  I could run around freely, with no risk of heat stroke.  And certainly no mosquitoes!

If the world were like this, I would miss all the wondrous colour, the bright yellow dandelions, with their honey sweet scent that attracted the busy bumblebee, the soft and delicate carpet of bright green mosses, and the daisies I remember crafting into pretty little chains around my wrist and neck.  And the creatures I often see and take for granted?  

I would miss the grey squirrels, with their cute and inquisitive personalities as they bob along the forest floor, the ever wise black and white magpie, boldly seeking to pinch a tasty morsel or something shiny that catches it’s eye, the gorgeously cute hedgehog, as it proudly gathers the weeds and plants from your garden to build a new home, trotting happily along.  Sometimes I forget how blessed this world is, and how blessed my life is.

What would you miss?
The Climate Coalition are asking people to craft green hearts to show what they love and would miss to Climate Change.  Why not craft, knit, sew, papercraft, sketch or even digitally craft a green heart, illustrating or writing about what you would miss if you lost it to Climate Change.  Then you can hang it on a tree, someone in your home or office, or wear it, and take a photo of it.  Share on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, wherever you like, with the hashtag #ShowTheLove.

Want some ideas?
The Climate Coalition have put together a beautiful video showing what some other people would miss if they lost their favourite things to Climate Change.

So get crafting and make something fun to #ShowTheLove for our planet.

Happy Crafting!

Photo Credits:  All images in this post from Pixabay used with Creative Commons license

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Studying Art - GCSE Art Journal Inspiration

I feel inspired after discovering this video of a GCSE Art Book.  I never studied GCSE Art, and kind of wish I did.  Although I have a feeling my school would have told me what artists (probably abstract) to study, and I imagine there would have been a fair amount of clay and pottery sculpture.  Not really what I wanted to study.

I've always been attracted to graphite pencil and colour pencil art, I don't consider myself to be particularly skilled with a paintbrush.  I love what this young Grade A student has produced in an Art Book, she's made illustrations she's proud of, emulated the work of artists she admires, and even experimented with drawing using colour Biro pens - something I wouldn't have thought of.

Here's what she created:

I like the idea of creating an Art Journal, or a kind of Scrapbook Junk Journal / Smash Book idea.  But I hadn't thought of creating an Art Book / Art Journal merely for working on and improving my art skills.  I really like the idea of exploring the work of artists I admire, and experimenting with styles and genres of art I might not have thought of before.  

When I first started to be inspired to create art of my own and aspire to become an artist, I was inspired by the Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Science Fiction Art Techniques, a book by John Grant and Ron Tiner, where I discovered the works of Chris Achilleos and David A. Hardy, amongst many others.  I was also inspired by the Fantasy Art Calendars of Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, and later Luis Royo too.  Since then I discovered the works of Clyde Caldwell, Greg Horn, Amy Brown, and Anne Stokes.

Sketching to recreate the artwork of the artists I admire could be fun, especially as a way of trying out different styles and techniques.  Learning from the masters, only I get to choose who the masters are that I wish to study.  For example, Chris Achilleos work is highly detailed and colourful, whereas Luis Royo's work is usually kept to just a few colours, and he does beautiful pencil illustrations I could learn from.  Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell produce hyper-realistic work, which would be very difficult to recreate, certainly a challenge for me.

What Artists inspired you to create art?

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Solo Gaming Appreciation Month

I accidentally stumbled across Solo Gaming Appreication Month towards the end of November last year, when I just started to get into solo gaming.  It looked awesome fun and I was so gutted not to have the time left to get involved before it was all over.  But this year I am ready at the start, and with I hope, a greater knowledge of solo gaming.

So What is Solo Gaming?

Solo Gaming is literally playing a game by yourself, either a board game, a card game, dice game, wargame, or my favourite choice, a tabletop roleplaying game.  Now at first this thought was strange to me.  Why play a game by yourself?  Isn't that a little sad?  And then I remember reading somewhere, a comment made by someone who worked in a board game shop, that as soon as you relate this activity to being no different than sitting down and playing a video game by yourself, people's perceptions change.  And mine did too.  

It's considered perfectly acceptable to spend time by yourself playing your favourite video game, but somehow we fear the idea of sitting alone at a table and playing a favourite board game.  Why?  The only difference I see is no electricity is involved in bringing your game to life.  You still have the narrative of the game written down, the images of the game through the artwork, your imagination in devising strategies and ideas as to how to win, and game mechanics such as dice and cards to see if you succeed.  It's a whole new experience, that's actually really refreshing, and highly addictive - because it's so much fun!

Solo gaming also has some advantages.  You can play any game you feel like, pretty much whenever you want to.  No compromising and going along with other people's choices, you can make your own choice.  You also don't have to wait for someone else to play with, anytime you have spare time and want to play, nothing is stopping you.  You also get to try out new games no else you know wants to play, or just don't fancy.  Such as tabletop roleplaying games like Shadowrun or Dungeons and Dragons.  I have found a great deal of help and advice in solo roleplaying from Ken Lau's The Lone Crusader blog.  Part of the fun can sometimes be figuring out how to play solo, the joy of discovering a new way to play, and finding your options are wide open to doing anything you want, in a virtual world of your imagination (often helped along by inspiring artwork and writing in published adventures and sourcebooks).  

I have also learnt so much from the wonderful folks over at the Lone Wolf Roleplaying Google+ Community, and can now proudly take part in the Solo Gaming Appreciation Month Google+ Community!

So What is Solo Gaming Appreciation Month?

Well, the man who made the logo above, the awesomely cool +Steven Lincoln, author of the Solo Heroes blog, made a really cool video which in my opinion, sums it up perfectly...

Now all I have to do is pick some fun ideas for what I'm going to to for my very first Solo Gaming Appreciation Month, November 2016.  Will you join me on a brand new adventure and a voyage of discovery?  What games will you try?  What will your favourite be?  Can you guess before the month begins, and will your guess be accurate?  Or will it be something entirely unexpected?

Happy Gaming!

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Learning Graphic Design - And My Very First Photo Composite!

This blog is all about exploring new adventures, trying out Big, Fun, Scary things to do.  Well, now I'm trying out a Big, Fun, Scary and Exciting New Career!  Well I am at least dipping my toes in!  I have started a brand new course with Shaw Academy, a Diploma in Graphic Design.  I'm going to be learning how to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

I've previously worked in traditional art mediums, Pencil and Colour Pencil being my favourite go-to mediums, and I still want to continue that.  But I've had my curiosity peaked by seeing some of the beautiful art, and photo composites, created in Photoshop.  I've dabbled in the past with other photo editing suites, and always ended up with very jagged lines, and not quite what I wanted.  I think this was more down to my lack of knowledge than the software though.  Now I have had a little teaching, with video demonstrations, and getting to recreate what I have seen step-by-step, and I am loving it!  

In my first week of the Graphic Design course I really got to grips with Photoshop.  Here is the first piece I created from Lesson 1:

I recreated our first Photoshop demonstration, finding a similar background photo online, I followed through step-by-step, and although the lessons are using the latest version of Adobe Creative Cloud, Shaw Academy told us about Adobe Creative Suite 2 (CS2), an older version of the same software, containing Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.  You just need to create a free Adobe ID to be able to download and use the software free.  If you want to play with the latest Adobe Creative Cloud, I am told you can also download a free 30 day trial.  It's great that you can learn how to use this software without having to commit to buying it, and find out what it's like to be a graphic designer.

I really got excited when I got the chance to create my own photo composite, stitching various images together so they look like they were always meant to be together.  Being a big fan of Steampunk and Science Fiction, this seemed like a great opportunity to create a fun piece of digital art!  (It still seems strange to think that I created digital art!).  So I followed one of the links Shaw Academy suggested for getting free Creative Commons licence images that we are allowed to modify and distribute, and I discovered Pixabay.  Here I found these fun images to piece together to create a scene:

A squad car, this seemed to fit the setting of a possibly post-apocalyptic setting, possibly with zombies, aliens, or monsters.  I could picture it easily in a Resident Evil setting.

This Abandoned Factory also seems perfect for a post-apocalyptic setting.  I have a thing for urban abandoned places, I love searching for images of eerie desolate places, I just feel they are full of atmosphere.  I also love the graffiti on this particular setting, and seems right for urban warfare.

I found this fella shooting some kind of Steampunk / Sci-fi heavy duty gun.  And it seemed perfect for blasting aliens / monsters.  He looks pretty Steampunk, which really appeals to me, perhaps he's a time traveller from another dimension come to save us?

I put them all together using some masks, but for me, although the cop's squad car blended in really well, I didn't feel my Steampunk guy did, nor did his weapon's blaster fire.  Take a look:

The scene also seemed overly bright, like it needed to look darker, possibly taking place at night.  After darkening the image, cutting back on the purple glow, and adding a little light reflection on the nearby pillar, I am very happy with the results.  Not bad for my very first photo composite!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Blogging Inspiration - Exploring New Hobbies & Living An Adventurous Life!

I stumbled across a blog today called Sphere of Annihilation, a blog about Tabletop Gaming, Comics, and other nerdy stuff the blog's author, +Ned Leffingwell, likes.  I was first drawn by his post about a new Shadowrun Anarchy product coming out soon - I am loving exploring Tabletop Roleplaying Games, especially Dungeons & Dragons (D&D 3.5e) and Shadowrun (Fourth Edition).  So far I have been enjoying learning to play D&D, and have so far only collecting books on Shadowrun, and hope to learn to play it soon.  

I am enjoying exploring new hobbies, and hope to share what I try on this blog.  Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed with everything I want to try, and everything I want to blog about, that sometimes I don't try or blog about anything.  Which brings me to another lovely blog post Ned Leffingwell wrote, on a Blogging A to Z Challenge he took part in.  I don't know much about the challenge, though it seems to be a challenge where you write something related to each letter of the alphabet, which sounds a fun challenge to me!  But what I really liked about this post, was that it was a personal post of reflection on the challenge, what he liked blogging about, and what he got from blogging.  He says, "I like writing about my hobbies."  It "helps me to gauge how much time and interest I put into them."  "By writing about them I make sure that I am appreciating the things that I collect.  I look at them, read them, play them, and think critically about them."  This is a lovely way to think about hobbies and why to write a blog about them.  

I originally chose to write this blog as a way to explore new hobbies, discover more about what I love, and share an interest for some perhaps unique hobbies that people wouldn't otherwise thought of trying.  I want my life to be more adventurous.  I don't imagine myself travelling the world be doing amazing feats (I'm not sure that is what I would want, even if I had the means to do so), but I do believe you can live a more adventurous life from your armchair.  Even if you are tied down by a career, responsibilities, or even ill health.  There are many fun, unique and exciting hobbies for to discover, attempt and challenge yourself with.  Why not achieve amazing feats in a hobby you can do at home?  Why can't every day of your life be fun, exciting, and filled with a sense of achievement and time well spent, in overcoming a personal challenge of your own choosing, in your own life, right here, right now.  That's how I want to spend my life, always discovering and exploring something new, and having fun in my an adventure playground of my own creation.

Whatever you do, this morning, afternoon, evening, or weekend, have fun and enjoy your life.  

Monday, 9 May 2016

#MusicMonday... Aiden N Evelyn

I recently discovered Aiden N Evelyn, an award winning harmonica duo from Malaysia.  Comprised of Aiden Soon and Evelyn Choong, founders of Fresco Harmonica, a world-class harmonica performing group, they  have successfully won Double World Harmonica Champion twice in Germany's World Harmonica Festival.

Both being educated to degree level in contemporary music, they can play a range of harmonicas, as well as piano, which they put to good use in their amazing harmonica covers on their Youtube channel.

I love that they cover contemporary numbers, like Bruno Mars' Just The Way You Are (the first video of theirs I discovered), Jessie J's Price Tag, and John Legend's All of Me, which is a beautiful ballad.

Somehow they manage to convey emotion and meaning through their playing of the harmonica, a musical instrument often assumed to be a small, insignificant child's toy.  But these two artists show it is a beautiful instrument, with great versatility, able to perform a whole range of tunes and emotions.  Their music inspires me to want to pick up my harmonica again and relearn how to play it.  Something so small that it could fit in your back pocket, can bring so much joy.

Here are Aiden N Evelyn performing another favourite of mine, a cover of Train's Hey Soul Sister.  Such a happy and upbeat song, definitely one to enjoy with the summer sun we're suddenly experiencing here in England.  Enjoy!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Which Woodland Mammal Are You?

I got my favourite - I'm a Red Squirrel!
"I'm a shy person with a great sense of style and I like to be healthy.
The rare red squirrel finds refuge in pockets of mixed species, coniferous woodland.  
A solitary and agile creature, it spends most of its time living in trees.  It relies on trees for shelter and as a varied and reliable source of seeds and nuts."
My favourite colour is red, and from a very early age I have always loved red squirrels and foxes for their red fur colour.  My two favourite woodland creatures.  I have only once seen a red fox in real life, in the dark rummaging around some bins on it's nightly walk.  Only round the corner from where I live, amazing to think such beautiful woodland creatures can live amongst us and we have no idea they are there.

I've never seen a red squirrel in the flesh, though I do have plenty of grey squirrels in my town, both in the park, and happily living amongst the trees down the side of the local supermarket.  They always strike me as cute and happy creatures.  I think the phrase 'bright-eyed and bushy tailed' probably comes from them, and I am happy to say I have been called that before, indicating a bubbly happy-go-lucky personality.  I always get a little thrill whenever I see these happy little creatures.  I hope you do too.

What's your favourite Woodland Creature?  Why not take the Woodland Trust's quick test, to see Which Woodland Mammal Are You?

Photo Credit:  Both images courtesy of the Woodland Trust Media Library (WT/ML)