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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)

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Ukulele Strumming Tutorial

I am a complete newbie to the Ukulele, and this is the best video tutorial I have found teaching the basics of strumming, step-by-step, really slowly, so that I can pick it up without feeling like I haven't got a clue what I am doing!  I also love the warm red colour of her Ukulele!  I am going to practice this until I sound as good as her, and then I can start to learn to play some songs on the Ukulele!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Make A Green Heart and Save The Planet

Why not craft a Green Heart?  It doesn't matter what craft you're into, or if you want to try a new one, you can make a Green Heart this Valentine's Day weekend, and show your love for the planet.

As a singleton, I love the idea of being able to do something a little different to mark Valentine's Day.  I may not have a significant other to give my love to this year, but I do have love and passion I want to put to good use.  We don't just have love to share with another person, we have love for the many beautiful things around us too.

The Climate Coalition are encouraging us to #ShowTheLove for everything we care about affected by Climate Change, by making a Green Heart.  When I think of Climate Change, my first thought is the ice melting in the Arctic, and though that is pretty high up on the Climate Coalition's List, I was surprised to discover just how many things are affected by Climate Change.  Chocolate and Popcorn were two of my most surprising discoveries (and two of my foodie loves), but really small creatures like Butterflies, and our familiar woodland flowers the Bluebells, I would have thought fairly safe from Climate Change.  

As I look through the examples on the Climate Coalition's website, I realise pretty much everything on the planet is affected by it.  The land that we walk on, our cities, our countryside, the plants and animals that thrive on it, food, drink, even us: Human Beings.  Everything on our planet could be wiped out by Climate Change.  So whatever you love, isn't it worth saving?  And definitely worth representing in a fun way, by crafting a Green Heart to show off with pride on Valentine's Day, and share on social media with hashtag #ShowTheLove.

I'm taking my inspiration from the Bluebells in their beautiful woodland home, I'm going to attempt to create an embroidered Green Heart, with Trees and flowers, a beautiful image of a natural paradise that I love and want to save from climate change.  I'm not an experienced embroiderer, the only embroidery I've done in the past is Cross stitch when I was back at school, so this is going to be a big challenge for me!  I'd also like to have a dabble at drawing some green hearts, drawing is relaxing for me, I love sketching whenever I get the chance.  

Your Green Heart can be made out of anything.  Paper, pencils, paint, collage, needle, thread and a little fabric, or maybe you want to bake a cake and decorate it with a green heart, or make a batch of heart-shaped biscuits so you can share your love.  Whatever craft materials you are into, go grab them and make a Green Heart that's special to you.

If you still want some more ideas, you can download the Climate Coalition's PDF pack for inspiration and ideas, you can also check out their Gallery of Green Hearts that have already been created.

Whatever you do, have fun, and #ShowTheLove for what you really love on this planet.  

Photo Credits:  Flickr Images used with Creative Commons License:  Image 1 - Healing Heart in the Sun by Jinx!, Image 2 - Green Heart by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Image 3 - Wearing our hearts on our sleeves by Craftivist Collective, Image 4 - Crop of Wear your heart on your sleeve #fortheloveof our planet by Craftivist Collective, Image 5 - Repurposed Paper Heart - green (love) by Judy Merrill-Smith, Image 6 - Blue Heart - abstract oil pastel drawing by Nicole Resseguie-Snyder.

Monday, 1 February 2016

#MusicMonday... Halestorm - Here's To Us

This is a song I discovered a while back, it is just perfect if you have ever had a day at work (or even a whole week) where you were really stressed, really annoyed, or just basically hated everything about that day/week!  The song's lyrics sum it up, and basically says to hell with that, here's to us.  It has a real party feel to it, like you're in the pub on a Friday after work, it's been a really awful week, but hey, it's Friday, so here's to us!

Here's an acoustic version of this song that I absolutely love!  Enjoy...

WARNING - Explicit Lyrics
Do not watch this video if you are offended by bad language - this song includes the F word.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Hairstyling Tutorial - 'Peacock' Style

I would love to have the courage to style my hair any way I want to, and I really admire violinist Lindsey Stirling's 'Peacock' hairstyle.  It's fun and funky, and shows a really playful side to her personality.  She's 29 years old, which is only a few years younger than me, so I kind of figure if she can, why can't I?  It does look a little bit of effort to do, but if I were going to a party or some special occasion, then I think it would be worth it!

Here's Lindey's video where she shows you how to do it...

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Dreaming Big and Believing in Myself

“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow.”

 ~ Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut

I love these words by Chris Hadfield, after watching him talk on Stargazing Live, he strikes me as both a very calm person but also excited.  He clearly is a person who follows his passions.  Reading his quotes on, he talks about preparing yourself, just in case.  Not only as an astronaut preparing for potential disasters, but also as a person preparing yourself for what you really want to do in life.

"Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you'd be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don't let life randomly kick you into the adult you don't want to become.”

I feel so inspired by these words.  Like it doesn't matter that I might not be in a financial position to do whatever I wish I could do, that I don't have the right skills or opportunities to live the life of my dreams.  I can still learn and prepare for the time that this may happen.  And no matter what happens in my life, in preparing for what I dream about, I will be partly living the dream, by doing and learning what I love along the way.

When I allow myself to dream, when I watch movies and see people on TV doing the things I would love to do, I sometimes worry I haven't been learning to play a musical instrument from childhood, I haven't practised my art enough so my skills aren't as good as I would like.  I haven't kept my fitness up, I haven't learnt to dance from a child, how can I possibly become an elegant dancer now, surely it's much too late?

But I think there can be unexpected opportunities in your life, it is possible, even if they are only small opportunities to take part in a small local talent competition, should I pluck up the courage, if I don't prepare now, how will I ever be ready?  I think it was around this time last year I discovered a local talent competition, where you could enter now, and the competition would take place at the end of March.  I had a lovely daydream of how I could dig out my keyboard and actually learn to play it, for March.  But if I'd spent time learning how to play it before the competition arose, then I would have been prepared to take up the challenge of the competition.  I just hadn't prepared.  It is worth preparing and seeing where it leads you.

I could say well my time must be passed, I am in my early 30's now, I haven't studied these skills from an early age, I won't be good enough.  But then why not spend my time learning these skills now, having some fun, and being able to enjoy them in my life?  Why can't I follow my dreams and enjoy my life?  After all, I may not get where I dreamed of being, but I may find myself in rather a good spot after all!

Monday, 18 January 2016

#MusicMonday... Meet Violinist, Lindsey Stirling

I recently stumbled upon Lindsey Stirling's Youtube channel, and I'm so glad I did.  She is a very talented violinist, but what is most unusual about her is that she dances, whilst playing her violin, both in music videos and live on stage.  I find it captivating and absolutely beautiful.  I have seen her dance ballet as well as more funky modern stage dance style.  

I would love to be able to do what she does.  Though the violin may well be beyond me as a musical instrument (though to be honest, I've never tried it), I quite fancy trying some of the music she plays on Harmonica.  I think the sounds she makes on the violin would lend itself nicely to the sound of the Harmonica.  And I would really like to learn to play some classical music on Harmonica too.  I would no doubt struggle attempting to dance like that whilst playing Harmonica though, I very much doubt I could hold my breath steady for playing the notes whilst leaping and kicking my legs up, though it would be so much fun to try!

I think one of my favourite videos by Lindsey Stirling is the cowboy western themed Roundtable Revival, it's fun and funky, and I love Lindsey's wardrobe in this.  I would love to feel confident enough to express myself with hair, make-up and fashion choices like this.  

I love that she is quirky and fun. and really expressive in her music videos and performances, with beautifully matched dance choreography, full of personality and sass, and beautiful costumes to suit the music.  A true inspiration.  And so full of encouragement and kindness to her fans, she wishes them the best and to truly believe in themselves, believe in their dreams, and work at making their own dreams come true.  How lovely is that?

And just because I can't get over how awesome she is, here is another music video by Lindsey Stirling, where she teams up with Lzzy Hale from the rock band Halestorm, to perform Shatter Me.  An amazing video with a beautiful story and fantastic special effects, and I love the steampunk theme.  I can fast see me wanting a Lindsey Stirling album!  Enjoy.

Monday, 11 January 2016

#MusicMonday... David Bowie (Labyrinth)

It seems particularly appropriate to feature David Bowie in my #MusicMonday slot on my blog today.  I think the whole country, and possible the world, is in shock today.  No one knew David Bowie had cancer, that he'd been diagnosed with it 18 months ago, and knew he was going to die.  He was busy working on a broadway musical, and a brand new album, Blackstar, which appears to be a way for him to say goodbye to his fans.  So today's news of his death came as quite a shock.  I have spent most of today listening to radio specials celebrating the life and music of David Bowie, googling him, reading his Wikipedia page and exploring his website.  He's someone that's always been there throughout my life, and somehow I never thought of going.

I think the first time I really noticed David Bowie was as a child, when I first watched Labyrinth, the fantasy movie in which he played Jareth, the Goblin King.  He was charismatic and otherworldly, with a hauntingly beautiful voice.  I loved the songs and I loved the character.  I've heard a lot of David Bowie's well known, and some less well known songs on the radio today, but very little mention of Labyrinth, and the amazing soundtrack he did.  So today I'd like to share a music video from the movie, featuring one of David Bowie's songs, As The World Falls Down.  A beautiful ethereal scene, which somehow reminds me of the mythical story of Persephone and Hades, when Hades attempts to seduce Persephone into staying in his world forever, never to return to the world above.  As I think this video shows, it would be tempting to stay.  Enjoy.

Photo Credit:  Image cropped from the Labyrinth Movie Poster