Monday, June 29, 2009

Big Art Adventure: Dragonflies

Digital collage 12ins x 12ins

click here for larger image

This month's Big Art Adventure challenge is Dragonflies.

The two girls are from an English Provincial School painting of three children, dated circa 1730.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Thank God It's Friday: Alphabet

Digital collage 9ins x 9ins
click here for larger image

This week's Thank God It's Friday challenge has an alphabet theme and I've chosen to work with just one letter: D. Here's a challenge for you: all SEVEN items incorporated into this image have a connection with the letter D. Can you identify them all? Don't look further down yet if you want to have a go before reading the answers...

1. The portrait of a lady, aged 35 is DUTCH SCHOOL circa 1620
2. The lady is holding a foxglove, the Latin name for which is DIGITALIS
3. The overlaid print extract on the right of the image is from Henrique Brunswick's DICCIONARIO Illustrado da Lingua Portugueza (award yourself an extra point for guessing correctly that the language is Portuguese!)
4. The wings are an illustration from this dictionary, of a small moth-like insect labeled DERBE (I have not found an English translation of this word. Can anyone help?)
5. The background is a photograph that I took at the Oxford Museum of Science, of the blackboard that Albert Einstein used for a lecture at Oxford University in 1931. The handwritten lines establish an equation for "D", the measure of expansion in the universe
6. The background photograph is overlaid with a DAMASK pattern
7. The large letter D font is DIDOT

How many did you get?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Larry's Papers: Our Day Out


digital scrapbook layout 12ins x 12ins

Some of you may remember reading about my Uncle Larry. He was my Mum's only cousin on her father's side and about 21 years her senior. My mother was removed from her family at the age of eight years old. Growing up in an orphange and then a boarding school for physically disabled children, she lost contact with most of her family including five of her nine siblings. When I discovered Larry, about ten years ago, he was living in a nursing home and hadn't seen a relative for over twenty years. After his death, all that was left of him was a tatty cardboard suitcase containing the remnants of his life: several pocket diaries unwritten in, save for a few addresses and phone numbers; old bills and rent books; pay slips; invoice books that recorded just about every job Larry had carried out as a painter and decorator; hotel and B&B cards; unwritten and unsent postcards; a few letters (none from anyone that I know of); instruction manuals for household equipment; receipts for meals and rounds of drinks in hotels. Then there are the photographs of people who I never knew and whose names I will never know, none of them family and probably all long-gone. I found Larry's suitcase incredibly depressing and for a quite a while, could not bring myself to spend too much time looking at its contents. Seth Apter's Disintegration Collaboration inspired me to bundle up some of the utility bills and hang them out on my shed where, way past the finish date of May 1st, the elements are still working on them.
Last week, I took a deep breath and opened the suitcase once more. The people in the photographs are nameless and forgotten and yet, there they are: full of life and smiling for the camera; shouting "cheers!" at a Christmas party; posing in a jolly group next to their holiday coach; out of focus, walking and falling out of the viewfinder frame, in black and white and faded colour. Perhaps I can recover their stories by piecing together the remnants in Larry's suitcase? Of course, we will never know the real stories, the real connections between the items, but does that really matter? Surely what matters is that these people live and love and laugh again. The layout posted here is my first story and below are some of the items from Larry's papers that I have used to "discover" it:

Why should Larry save the top of a nasal spray box? Perhaps to remind himself of the name on his next visit to the chemist? I'm sure that my final box of papers will contain a few items like this. There are several unused paper handkerchieves in Larry's suitcase, along with the nasal spray box top, and with these items, I "found" my story. The photographs were clearly taken on different occasions but in this imaginary history, the flyaway tie and the fish and chip dinner happened on the same day. is Marjorie, emptying the contents her handbag onto the kitchen table, putting on the kettle and telling her friend Ethel all about her day trip to Conway...I'm hoping that your imaginations will enjoy filling in the gaps between the clues.

The handkerchief is from Larry's suitcase; pre-Decilimisation coins are scanned from my own collection; pill from Everyday Heros a freebie kit; background paper and sweeties are CU items; the postcard back is...the postcard back!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Acquired Collective: Lost

digital scrapbook layout 12ins x 12ins

view larger image here

Eternal father, strong to save
Whose arms hath bound the restless waves
Oh hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea!

Several weeks ago, an item came through on the Arts Council mailing list that announced:
"the formation of a brand new collective. Based predominantly on the scavenging of found object... collaboration... communication... and fundamentally the creation of publications showcasing contemporary illustrators and artists in new mediums. Online plus paper based archive of results. Get involved." How could I resist? I emailed to register my interest and in due course, received a photograph and instructions.

Instructions: Use this photograph in an artwork. The content and media are entirely up to you. Take your time with it, but please take no longer than a month. Then please send the creation to Acquired Collective.

The little photograph looks to be a copy that has been mounted on thin card and the original was clearly a cheap print, badly retouched. The simple backdrop and lack of props, suggest that it may have been taken in a makeshift travelling booth by an itinerant photographer. Closer inspection has led me to believe that the child was a young lad who had not yet graduated to wearing trousers as the hands are quite large. The woman's left hand appears to be deformed in some way. Who were these strangers? What was their story? I needed to live with this little group for a while, to get a sense of them before deciding what their imaginary fate should be. They were clearly poor. The couple (whom I assume to have been the child's parents) look pensive, possibly nervous and preoccupied; the child looks straight ahead, clear-eyed and determined. Perhaps this image was captured as a last momento before they embarked upon a long and perilous journey to a new life on the other side of the world: a risk worth taking for a family with little or nothing to loose. What happened next? Did they make it safely to their new land? As they have been put into my hands, I feel some responsibility for their fate, but I cannot promise that this story has a happy ending.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Digi Dares #138: Low


This weeks Digi Dare has been set by Sandra and she is encouraging us to explore something that has happened to us, a "low" point in life, how it made us feel at the time and how it has impacted upon our lives. She's also asked us to incorporate blending into our imagery and to select colours that reflect our feelings. I have made this layout a little darker than I would ideally wish, so that it can be viewed on-screen. The text and image should be very pale so that the viewer has to really look closely to read and see what's going on.

Witness believes that counselling, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, psychology, hypnotherapy and other variations of ‘talking treatments’ are vulnerable to abusive practice.

Credits: Background papers: Orchid Dreams Reawakening papers by Phuong Ton, faded into paper from Bisontine's Litte Treasures kit; Rorschach test pattern made with Vinnie Pearce's Grunge Swirls; glitter flourish from Cecile's Magic Spark kit and wings from Vera Lim's Altered Wings. Spider is from Jen Ulasiewicz's Creepy Crawlies; font is Eclectic by Creating Keepsakes. Overlay: one of Ninian's texture freebies available Flickr

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Three Muses challenge: Doors


Pierre Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, MMVI

I was never a Goth but in my ceaseless pursuit of ancestral forebears, I've been wandering around graveyards and cemeteries since the age of 15. It's probably not the healthiest of pursuits, psychologically speaking, and a friend of my sister's once asked me: "so what do you do when you've found these dead people you're looking for? Say "ha ha! You're dead, I'm not?" Notwithstanding unhealthy obsessions with the past, the resting places of the departed provide wonderful source material for art works. Those in major cities are especially rich in imagery. and my holiday snaps always include a fair smattering of tombstones and mausoleums (and dodgy-looking electrical wiring, but that's another story)
This layout began life as a photograph taken in the Pierre Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are buried. Many of the monuments there have become three-dimensional scrapbooks or visitor books. Jacob Epstein's tomb for Oscar Wilde is smothered with thousands of lipsick kiss-prints left by adoring acolytes. Other graves display touching and lyrical collections of devotional offerings from those who have made pilgrimages to the final resting places of their heroes and heroines: ornaments and statuary, rotting or desiccated floral tributes; photographs, poems and messages on scraps of paper, dolls and teddies; little pebbles that mark a visit with still, silent dignity, and in the case of Jean Paul Sartre (buried in the Paris Montparnasse Cemetery) cigarettes and a bottle of beer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Think Monday Think ATC: Summer Solstice


Digital collage 8ins x 8 ins

June has been a fallow month for me digitally as I've been concentrating on my garden and other outdoor jobs. To kick start me into action once more, I thought I'd do a challenge. This little layout began life as a response to this week's Think Monday Think ATC challenge title: Summer Solstice. The subject matter attracted me because it reminded me of my wonderful friends in Lithuania, where they know how to celebrate the Solstice, being one of the last countries in Europe to convert to from Paganism to Christianity.
The photograph, although purchased from a street market in Kaunas, Lithuania, was actually taken in the studio 0f S.Antonoff, Grecia 312, Montevideo, Uruguay. There is some very feint, almost illegible writing on the back. If you look carefully, you'll see that they have a little mascot dog with them on the table!
Like I said, it was going to be an ATC... but it grew. I could chop the edges off to fit the challenge, but it wouldn't look so jolly.

Credits: Background paper (modified), word art and green flower in woman's hair from the Saturday Night Fever kit by Moonscraps; photo background from Midsummer Day and Eve Sun and Star foil Elements pack available from Miss Crow's Magickal Emporium.
The photograph from my personal collection.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Digi Dare 136

Digital Scrapbook page 12cm x 12cm

On first glance of this layout, those who know me may be persuaded that I am now in La-La land, but let me remind you that the Devil is in the detail. This week's Digi-Dares Challange is to journal a conversation; to include a word from that conversation in the title and to incorporate quotation marks somewhere in the layout. This layout is my response to that challenge with the exception of one possibly important factor: I did not actually witness the conversation, it was related to me by my mother and father, on a number of occasions during my childhood and adolescence. No doubt, if I were to remind them of it now, I'm sure that they could relate events to me as if it were yesterday, The story that this layout alludes to has haunted all our lives.

The title on the plaque is: Charity begins at home, and the text on the postcard reads: Uncle Wal stood in front of the fire and said: "well Maree, don't expect charity from us, you've made your bed and now you'll have to lie on it."

The people in the photograph are my mother, my paternal grandparents, my Godfather and his wife (friends of the family whom I knew as Uncle George and Auntie Maureen) and my aunt. My father took the photograph but as he is not here to verify the date, I'm hazarding a guess at mid 1959 because all the ladies are wearing pretty summer frocks and posing with grand dad in the sitting room of the house to which my family moved in 1959. Up until then, my grandmother had run a small ladies and children's clothing and haberdashery shop on the High Street, but just after I was born, she went bankrupt. Nan's generosity was legend. Dad once told me "your grannie was so kind, if a kid came into the shop without a coat on his back, she'd give him one." The sum of money that ruined Nan was really quite small and Grandad could have asked the bank for help but he was a proud man and felt humiliated by the consequences of his wife's kindness: He told me "H.P. (Hire Purchase) was new and all the rage then. If a customer couldn't pay, your grannie would take pity and let them have it on tick." Grandad would have walk the streets to collect overdue repayments, knocking on doors that never opened. One by one, their so-called friends, the beneficiaries of Nan's good nature, all disappeared.

My grandmother was a proud woman who through hard work and determination, had risen from humble beginnings to middle-class respectability. She never recovered from the shame of financial ruin but tried to keep up appearances, working long punishing hours as a waitress at the Council House in Birmingham. I grew up in the shadow of her failure and even as a small child was painfully aware and resentful of the condescension other family members displayed towards my lovely Nan and never grew fond of Uncle Wal who reputedly lectured his sister upon her financial "bed-making".

Should any of you be charmed by the bouquet of pressed flowers in this layout, I must inform you that they are all poisonous. Here's a list of side effects:
Sweet Pea: Upon ingestion, causes permanent paralysis, slow and weak pulse, shallow breathing, pain, weakness, tremors, excitement, and convulsions.
Buttercup: Blistering and ulceration of the mouth when eaten
Larkspur: burning sensation of the mouth and skin, nervousness, headache, weakness, prickling of the skin, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, depression, weak pulse, and convulsions. If eaten in large quantities, death may occur in less than 6 hours.
Foxglove: Pain in the oral cavity, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea.
Crocus: Skin irritant and vesicant. Ingestion causes ulceration of the mouth and severe gastroenteritis.
Morning Glory: Hallucinations, panic, detachment, incoherent speech, cold hands and feet, nausea, vomiting, laughing and crying jags, strong body odor, mental disorder, and suicidal attempts.