Wednesday, 24 August 2016

WOYWW 377–Tidying, Technology and Time for Art

I have been tidying up! After literally months of looking briefly at the far side of my studio and then quickly averting my eyes because my constitution simply wasn’t strong enough to deal with the mess and how much energy it would take to tidy it, I decided on Monday to make a start. I spent an hour, at the end of which my back was aching (always a sign I’ve done too much) and it didn’t look that much different… In serious danger of becoming demoralised, I closed the door on it and had a rest. Yesterday I spent about 2 hours in there, not just finishing that bit of tidying, but also reorganising certain things – for instance putting a tray insert into the Really Useful Box that contains my Brushos, Dylusions paints and sprays, and now my Infusions. Ahhh, the satisfaction!!

Anyway, take a gander at the far side of the room now – my textile and drawing zone. Admit it, you are impressed. If you’re not, you should be after all my hard work haha!!

05 Textile and Drawing Zone Tidied 23-8-16

This is what it looked like before:

WOYWW 364 25-5-16 Messy Further Side

That picture was taken in May, and since then it had got worse… In addition to tidying it up, I’ve also replaced the grotty cardboard boxes that used to be on top of the shelving unit with nice plastic ones.

The main motivation for this grand tidy-up was that this afternoon a friend is coming for tea. She hasn’t been before – I only met her fairly recently, on the Moving On After Cancer course – she lives just round the corner from me. She said she was very interested in what I do and said she might bring something round to do, so hopefully we’ll be spending some time in there together, in between cake guzzling (I’ve been baking again today too, for the first time for ages).

I decided that in honour of her coming, I’d get out a few of my pieces, most of which you will have seen before. You can see my ZIAs (Zentangle-Inspired Art) propped up in the corner.

Here is my display area as it is today. Some of the work is mine, and the rest is lovely stuff that different people have sent me which I continue to treasure – if you look carefully you may see something you yourself have sent me!

06 Display Area 23-8-16

The small area between the display area and my main work area has always been a muddle. I have now organised it better, and brought a couple of magazine racks through from the office. The large envelopes they contain used to be propped up (well, falling over mostly) on the floor to the left of the fireplace, and were really difficult to get at. They contain things like waxed paper, masks, instructions for doing various techniques, etc. etc.

08 Area to Right of Main Work Area

The pull-out unit on the right, which fits under where I sit, but I never keep it there because that’s where I sit, and also it provides a useful surface, has now returned to being a cutting zone. Also in evidence is one of the many boxes I have that my stoma bags come in! They are a useful size for storing small things in.

This is the main work area, as it was on Tuesday evening.

07 Main Work Area 23-8=16

You can see the 12 x 12 background pieces I made recently with my new Infusions paints. On top of them is a small bowl with the little mixed media piece I’ve been working on, concurrently with my other project which is still under wraps – literally – it’s hiding in the bowl under the piece! In the bowl on the right are some bits and pieces for that project, including some things I cut with Sheba, who you can see sitting in all her new splendour on the left, with her new support tables which are working a treat! Better cuts all round.

I had to cut another frame for the project, so I decided to cut a spare, and filled the rest of the space with more butterflies. I did these a couple of days ago.

21 Cutting More Frames and Butterflies

There will be more on this once I’ve finished the project.

On the left of the previous picture, in front of Sheba, you can see part of a new project I’m working on – a small album about our wonderful walk through the woods with our friends recently. In front of the ribbon rack you can see the pieces of card that I have cut for the bases of the pages, and printouts of some of the photos I took.

This is what the main work area looked like earlier, when I was sorting through the printouts. I’ve also got out some sheets of parchment paper which are going to be used as pages in the album too, with Zentangle drawings on them.

01 Photo Printouts and Sorting the Pages

I’ve also been playing around with some of the flowers and leaves that I cut when doing my mask-and-spray technique with the Infusions – I’m definitely going to use some of these in the project. Everything is duplicated because I am going to make a virtually identical album for our friends who introduced us to that stunning place – I thought they might like a nice memento of our visit.

I’ll try and remember to take some photos of our tea later on, with my best china!

This week, as well, I’ve been wrestling with technology and trying to get the home network set up – I’ve never got it working satisfactorily before, but now at last I’ve got all the computers talking to each other. We also had a Sky engineer out twice, setting up our new SkyQ system which I am still getting used to. So it’s been a really busy week.

Happy WOYWW everybody, and a great creative and fun week ahead for one and all.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Shoshi’s In Print Again!–and Computer News

No sooner than Jane Marbaix’s marvellous Zentangle book has come out, featuring Yours Truly, than another great Zentangle book makes its debut, also featuring Yours Truly!

This time it’s Beate Winkler, CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher) from Germany, who has written a truly inspirational book – about the time Jane approached me, so did Beate, asking if she could include my pattern Y-Ful Power in her book, and of course I said yes.

Yesterday this book arrived in the post. This time it is a hardback, beautifully illustrated with examples of Zentangle being used on the most unusual of objects, and some interesting new techniques to try, too. Here are some pictures.

01 Front Cover

Slipped inside the front cover were some leaflets from Beate – the top one is a gorgeous Zentangle on parchment paper.

02 Inside Front Cover

03 Flukes Leaflet Inside Front Cover

Signed copy! How thrilling is that?

04 Signed Copy


05 Frontispiece

List of contents.

06 Contents

Zentangles embellishing bracelets and bangles.

07 Bracelets and Bangles

After my adventures with my kitchen bin, I couldn’t resist sharing this page with you!

08 Pedal Bin

A decorated table.

09 Table

Another one featuring something very familiar to me from recent work – a wooden wine box.

10 Wine Box

How is this for astonishing – a Zentangle piano!

11 Piano

12 Piano Detail

Shoes, clocks and watches.

13 Shoes, Clocks and Watches

A VW Camper Van!! That would certainly turn some heads when out and about.

14 VW Camper Van

Is there anything that can’t be embellished with Zentangle? To my knowledge, nobody has adequately answered that question!

ZenGems. This is definitely something I’m keen to try. At first I thought they were real 3D objects embellished with Zentangle, until I looked more closely and realised that the “gems” are drawn with coloured pencils. Great representation of reflective 3D surfaces.

15 ZenGems

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for….. or not! – in the A-Z list of featured patterns at the back of the book, Y-Ful Power by Shoshi.

16 Y-Ful Power


Computer Woes and Joys

Last week, my beloved old laptop finally died. This was my first laptop, that I bought back in 2007 when I was going downhill rapidly with my health and dealing with the horrible period living in Limboland prior to my diagnosis of ME in the autumn of that year. During this period, I was finding it increasingly difficult to sit up at the desk working on my old desktop computer (the sort that a friend recently described as the “giant beige tardis” lol!

It was a 13-inch HP Pavilion laptop.

03 Laptop Open

This laptop has been through a lot with me since that time. On it I started this blog, and joined various forums, and made a lot of friends near and far. It was used to capacity and more – after its hard drive failed, I had this replaced with a 500 Gig drive (more later on this) and this made quite a difference. In about 2009 I inherited another laptop, another HP Pavilion, but this time a 17-inch one, and this gradually became the one that was used more – it lived downstairs after we moved house, and the small one took up residence on my office desk and was used mostly for the accounts, correspondence, and held my entire music library and Audible audio book downloads, sound editing software, and all my Bible studies (including sessions I devised and taught to my group over several years, and numerous downloaded articles and resources). I have done a lot of sound recording and editing on this laptop. The larger laptop was better for photo and video editing, having a bigger screen.

Some time ago, the small one started to run rather hot, so I bought a couple of laptop cooling mats with fans, one for each laptop, and these do help.

At this stage I was running Pinnacle software on the larger laptop, for my video editing. I gradually got more and more frustrated with this, as it was pretty unstable and kept crashing, and half the time it behaved somewhat unpredictably, and when I got my new HD video camera, the version I had wasn’t capable of editing in HD. So I bit the bullet and bought my iMac, because the state-of-the-art video editing software, Final Cut Pro, works only on the Mac platform. This software is awesome, and it does what it says on the tin!

The small laptop had been getting slower and slower, and occasionally wouldn’t boot at all, and running very hot, and I feared another hard drive failure. It kept going, limping along until this week when I decided it was time for it to be admitted to Computer Hospital – they told me it was running so slowly because of what they called “heat throttling” – the system running itself more slowly in order to generate less heat, but sometimes this became too much, and it would shut down to protect itself. They were able to get it running OK, but were unable to run a full HD test because it kept shutting down because of overheating, so they removed the HD and tested it on one of their bench computers.

They phoned me to say that the HD was fine, and if I wanted, they could strip the laptop right down and check for dust mats, fan failure, etc., to find the cause of the overheating, but it would be a lot of work, and since the laptop was pretty much at the end of its life expectancy of 10 years, it was likely that it would suffer motherboard or processor failure fairly soon, and I’d be better spending the money on a new laptop.

I went into a sort of bereavement for a day or two – I know it sounds silly, but I think one’s first laptop, especially if it is associated with important events in one’s life, may take on the significance of one’s first car – there’s never a subsequent one that holds the same place in your heart, or is as memorable! Also, this particular computer was a real pleasure to use – the best design HP ever came up with, in my opinion – my later HP laptop looks very cool, but the keyboard is pretty horrible, and I consider the trackpad to be virtually unusable – I use a trackball mouse with it.

I asked them to put the HD in a caddy so I could run it as an external HD. Everything was already backed up (having lost so much in my early days of computing, I’ve got quite paranoid about backing up!). The larger HP laptop is unusual in having two HDs and I was using the second one for video, but as the iMac has now taken over that role, this drive was redundant. I have therefore now transferred the data from the small laptop onto it, and am running this old laptop in virtual form on the larger one, which is now on my desk, so not much change after all! The large laptop is now really two computers in one. This computer has its problems too – the CD drive is a bit unreliable, and it’s starting to run a bit too hot as well, so I can’t expect it to keep going for much longer.

While the laptop was in hospital, I gave the situation some serious thought. I had been running 3 Windows PCs – the two original HP laptops, and the new HP laptop that I bought fairly recently, and the iMac which lives in my studio, permanently attached to my Cougar cutting machine. I have been experiencing the same problems with that, that I had with my original beige desktop PC, becoming too fatigued after sitting at it for any length of time, which has meant that I have neglected my video editing because that is so time consuming. All through last year, while I was dealing with my cancer, I didn’t do any and it had been on my mind that it would be very useful to have a second Mac to help with this, but I wasn’t prepared to spend the silly money required for the high-spec MacBook that I wanted.

Now seemed to be a good opportunity for change, and I didn’t think there was much point in replacing the dead laptop with another Windows laptop – better to end up running only 2 Windows computers, and have 2 Macs.

Ebay to the rescue! Straight away I found a MacBook Pro – OK, not in its first youth, and with some wear and tear on the case, but seriously upgraded so nice and powerful with massive capacity, and for a bargain basement price – so I bought it!

It arrived yesterday, and the man who sold it to me has been an absolute star with his correspondence, helping me with initial problems setting it up, in a very friendly and helpful manner. He sent it very promptly, with tracking details etc. – a real pleasure to deal with him, and I am more than delighted with my new toy.

If I didn’t have so much invested in Windows after many years with this system, I’d go exclusively with Mac – the build quality is superb and the design eminently strokable and fabulous to look at, and the operating system makes Windows feel distinctly clunky by comparison! I know many people who wouldn’t exchange their Macs for anything.

People ask me, “FOUR computers? Why do you need four computers?” Good question! They are all used for different things, and I’ve always used them to capacity and do a lot of different things with them – audio-visual, design, word processing, office work (accounts and corresp0ndence), and more besides. Being restricted in my activity levels with my health problems, I do spend a lot of time on my computers and can definitely justify having the total number that someone many years ago predicted would be the maximum number of computers that the entire world would require – four! – surely the most inaccurate prediction ever made!!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Through the Forest… and WOYWW

Warning – Photo-rich post!

For my WOYWW, there is nothing on my desk at the moment because I haven’t managed to do any art this week, so I thought I’d show you the photos on my (computer) desk(top) instead.

Yesterday afternoon we went with some friends on a walk through the woods near Exeter. I had never been to this place before, and yet again I counted my blessings that we live in such a beautiful corner of the country, with such places within easy reach. To have such a place on our doorstep, we are blessed indeed!

The place is called Mamhead, near Haldon Hill, just outside Exeter. The woodland has been laid out with paths, which are all accessible and easy to walk, with plenty of seats scattered about, some with tables for picnics, and discreet signs, and boards with information. The woodland is mixed deciduous and coniferous with a wide variety of trees, and there are ferns, bracken and wild flowers in the underbrush. I can imagine that in the early spring there would be snowdrops, and later, a carpet of bluebells.

It was a perfect day for an outing in the woods. There was quite a cold wind, so we were largely sheltered by the trees, but the sun was shining, and dappling through the foliage, and providing perfect conditions for photography. I couldn’t believe how many lovely shots I managed to get, and later on in the evening I had some fun manipulating some of them. I am intending to make a video slideshow, and am inspired to translate some of them into Zentangle designs.


01 Walking Down the Path

02 Bee on Thistle

03 Ivy Root on Tree Trunk

04 Uprooted Tree

05a Spaced Trunks

06 Ivy on Tree Trunk

07 Yellow Flowers

08a Bramble Festoon

09a Dense Trunks

10 Walking Further Down the Path

11a Tall Trees

12 Butterfly

13 Rowan Tree

14a Sunlit Leaves

15a Trees Against the Sky

16a Filtered Beech Leaves

17 Tree Branch Fronds

18 Arrow Sculpture

19 Carved Seat

21a Fern Fronds

22a Fern Frond

23a Fir Cone

24a Fairy House Tree Roots

25 A View Through the Trees

On the further side of the circuit, we were in for a surprise. As the light got brighter, we emerged out of the trees and were confronted with the most stunning and unexpected view…

26 Approaching the View through the Trees

Right over the sea – as far as Exmouth.

27 The View Through the Trees

28 Sea View

29 Viewing Position

31 Slatted Seats 2

32 The Return Path

33 Approaching the Obilisk

34 The Obilisk

Quite amazing where plants can find a foothold, isn’t it.

35 Plants Growing on the Obilisk

36 Textured Tree Bark

37 A Stand of Tall Trees

38 Heather

39 Sawn Tree Trunk

40 The Ancient Wall

The beech has to be the most elegant of trees. Where the oak is the king of the forest, the beech is the queen.

41 Elegent Beech

42 Ivy Stems on Small Tree Trunk

Now for the photos that I manipulated, using a variety of effects – desaturating, posterising, creating negative images, desaturating and replacing selected areas of colour, selecting edges, etc.

02a Bee on Thistle Part Desat, Focal Pt

05b Spaced Trunks BW Posterised

09b Dense Trunks BW Posterised

11d Tall Trees Monochrome Posterised

14b Sunlit Leaves BW Film Default Settings

15c Trees Against the Sky Monochrome Posterised

16b Filtered Beech Leaves Outline Colorised

21b Ferm Fronds Posterised Monochrome

22c Ferm Frond Monochrone Posterised

23b Fir Cone Monochrome

24c Fairy House Tree Roots Monochrome Leaves Coloured

I hope you have enjoyed your virtual tour through the woods.

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