Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A Photo Transfer Trick...

Hi there.
Thanks for popping in.

The kids have been on my mind a lot since they were here for Dad’s birthday. It was great to see them, and I was so proud of them for making the time and effort to celebrate their grandad’s birthday with the rest of us here in England.
They certainly got their priorities right there, didn’t they?

But I hate that they live so far away.
New York and San Francisco are too far from this home here.
I know we don’t have them to keep them.
I know we give them wings so they may fly and all that.
I know I did the same and lived abroad for over 13 years.
I know they’re only doing what they were taught, 
which is to travel, explore and live life.

But all that knowing doesn’t change the fact that I miss them so much it aches. 

My way of dealing with it today is to play with a picture of them.

For Dad’s celebration dinner, I got loads of snapshot style photos printed of his childhood, him growing up, his friends, Mum, the kids, the grandkids, siblings. It was very special.
It involved a lot of scanning photos, but it was definitely worth it.
You should have seen all the family when they came into the private dining-room, and they saw the beautifully laid table and then all the pictures hung around the room.
It was quite moving to watch my nearest and dearest moving slowly around the room, soaking in all the memories and moments.
There was laughter, there were tears.
But I can tell you, it was precious.

I think I finally understand why people enjoy making photo albums and scrapbooks. It’s never really been my thing. 
But I thoroughly loved gathering the photos, and scanning them, giving them all titles, and decorating the room with them.
It was like diving back in time to when we were young, thinking about my darling nan and grandad, and Aunty Evelyn, and all those wonderful characters who have gone on ahead. Each photo reminded me of a time in the past, not just the people in it.

So today, when I woke up missing the kids even more than usual, 
I decided to play with them.
I also wanted to try out a new product, and see if it really does do what it says on the jar. 

Finding a photo of the kids was easy - I had scanned loads, remember? I printed it off on my laser printer, and cut it out. 

Grace and Mark both went to Edenbridge Primary School.
Nowadays I see the same little uniforms trundling past me on their way through the school gates every morning when I drive to work.  

Right. This is the gear.
The clue’s on the jar!

Brush some on an A6 canvas board 
and on the front of the photo copy, too.

Flip the photo copy face down onto the little canvas board.
Working from the centre outwards, flatten it slowly with a brayer, to roll out air bubbles.

On the jar, it says “now wait 24 hours”
Not a chance.
I will give it 5 minutes maximum or it’s a non starter.

Okay okay, I will help it along with a heat gun....


Spritz the whole thing with water now.
I know. Bizarre.
But see how Grace and Mark start to peep through?

Use a scoochy sponge or a kitchen scourer 
(not the scratchy side though - the spongey side)
to gently rub away the back of the copy paper. 

Gently does it. 
But look!

You can decided how grungy you want it to look. 
The more you rub, the more will come off.
Mind the faces. You don’t want to rub their little faces off!
I wanted to distress the edges a little, so more rubbing required. 

Dusted the photo canvas clean with a dry brush,

and Bob’s your uncle.
Actually, it’s Uncle Kevin, and he is wonderful.

Then I walked the brayer over another A5 canvas board 
with red paint that matched the kids’ jumpers.

I wanted that old, gritty feel to the object.
And I think it worked.

So although the kids are thousands of miles away, 
I’ve just spent 2 hours in their company, thoroughly enjoying myself. 

As for the product review, YES.
This gear works an absolute treat.
And it’s fast drying!

Canvas boards?
We stock them in many, many sizes.

Home made canvas photos make great gifts actually, don’t you think? And whilst I have just transferred the photo, wouldn’t it be cool to add stencil art and mixed media work to this too!
Laser printers aren’t anywhere near what they used to cost anymore either. £100 at Argos. I remember paying about $2,000 for a colour laser printer back in the day! And that was in a sale!

How times change, eh?

Got to go back to work.

Love & hugs,

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Unveiling the NEW Gentleman's Collection

Hi there.
Thanks for popping in.

There was a thread on Groovi Worldwide, our Parchment Facebook page a while ago, lamenting the fact that we don’t have enough Mens’ designs. Do you remember? It ended up as a very long wishlist of all sorts of lovely ideas.
Well, you spoke - we listened.
This coming Sunday, 
I shall be launching a brand new set of fab plates on TV - 
A One Day Special on Hochanda.

7 brilliant, diverse A6 plates, covering all manner of man!

We have motorbikes, tandems and bicycles;
we have boats, planes and automobiles.
There are hot air balloons and binoculars;
there are top hats and fobwatches.

There is also a cool little spacer, which reads 
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

And we thought it would be a good idea to include a selection of different skylines and backdrops on one large A4 sq. plate.
So there’s Paris and New York,
City rooftops and Monument Valley.
There’s a road for the cars,
hills, trees and bunting too.

That way, whether you are using the car, bike or even helicopter,
you can create a fitting setting to suit.

Jim designed these plates, and I think he did a grand job.
The thing about Jim is, he gets it. He knows what works.
He read the post on Facebook, 
and then got his teeth into this manly project.

Makes a change from flowers and butterflies, eh Jim!

Great plates, great introductory price.
More will be revealed here ...
watch this space.

Love & Hugs,

Monday, 29 May 2017

Upon closer Inspection...

Hi there.
Thanks for joining me.
Had a fantastic night last night.
It didn’t pan out quite as we had planned,
but nonetheless, it was a night to remember, as they say!

We went to spend an evening in the company of a few good people, a couple of extrordinary folk singers, 
and - wait for it - the nightingales. 

Magical? I’d say so!

I switched my phone off as we approached the campfire,
and so have no photographic evidence of the 8 hours that ensued.

This shard of slate welcomed us with wonderful lines of poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins -

I looked it up and discovered the poem in its entirety....

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
Praise Him.

It was an amazing and exciting evening.
We sat round the fire, ate stew, drank tea 
and listened to beautiful  folksongs.

We listened to Sam Lee - great singer and storyteller -
who - when it was pitch black at midnight - led us into the forest to sing with the nightingales.

And that’s when it all went to poop!
Just as we left the campsite, a few drops of rain began to fall.
Undeterred, we put on our Weather proofs and followed Sam into the dead of night.
About 25 of us in single file, walking through the forest.
Long story short, we walked straight into a lightning show to remember. The skies lit up, the thunder clapped and the rain started to ‘avit, as they say round these parts.

I was so glad I had worn my Glastonbury wellies! 
It was t o r r e n t i a l.
But you know what we Brits are like.
Any sane person would have turned on their heels and headed straight for the carpark.
But oh no! We still trudged through the night following Sam.
And it was BLACK DARK.
No torches, nothing. I had one in my bag, dib dib dib dob dob dob, but thought better of using it in case it scared the nightingales away.
(This is where you have to wonder at how mental I actually am).
There was an older lady who I took under my wing, a young woman with a child, whom Dave helped, and a pregnant girl.
Honestly, it was like the start of one of those scarey Friday 13th films. All lovely jubbly, but then it starts to get a bit iffy.

Sam told us that the nightingales lived along the railway track, so we stumbled around in the dark over a by now very slippery sleeper-bridge, over tree roots and through 5ft high stingy nettles. 

Are we having fun yet????

Then we stood huddled in a group, and waited in silence.
The overhead powerlines were rather disconcerting, and I couldn’t help thinking it wasn’t the best place to be standing in a serious lightening storm. 
But we were there to sing with the nightingales, so we waited.
Did the nightingales show up though?
The posh older lady under my wing whispered to me,
“No self-respecting nightingale in its right mind is going to venture out here in this storm!”

And she was right.
Nightingales weren’t up for it. Not even a peep.

But poor old Sam was desperate that we should have this unique experience, so he single-filed us poor soaking sods back the way we came to a safer spot, (away from the overhead power cables) and then  started to sing to the trees, hoping to get the birds fired up.
Did it work?
Did it heck.

The rain was coming down in torrents by now, 
and we were seriously drenched to the skin.
Groping around in the dark, 
we could just about make out who was who. 
The two reporters from the Times who had come along for the experience were huddled under a tree wondering what had hit them, and I got a serious fit of the giggles.
You know when you suddenly take stock of the hilarity of the moment. 
Standing in the pissing rain in the pitch dark with a bloke and his two friends who are singing, trying to wake the nightingales.  

But do you know what?
It was brilliant. We got home at past 2am,
soaked through. 
But laughing and happy, with the BEST memories.

Did we hear nightingales?
Of course not! No self-respecting nightingale in its right mind would have ventured out in that storm !!
Just us.

The whole purpose of the evening with Sam Lee was to become attuned to our surroundings, to listen to the silence.
We did that - and then some. 
I can’t wait till next year.

Love & hugs,

Sunday, 28 May 2017

We never stop learning...

Hi there.
Thanks for popping in.
Just finished watching Rosie’s first hour on Hochanda.
Didn’t she do well?!
I loved the way that bow came out on the tag!
It’s all in the whitework, I guess.

I also was most impressed when Rosie showed an aspect of our Colouring Book which hadn’t entered my head.

There was me thinking it was simply a colouring book, 
or a painting layout.

I’m very proud of it.
Just wish I had more time to use it to its full potential.
My owls are coming along nicely. Slowly. But nicely...

So are the nuthatches.
I have done them Postcard size, but no idea where that piece is, so want to go large now!

Then Rosie asked me a couple of weeks back if it was okay for her to show off the colouring book and postcards
as a mammoth collection of Parchment Patterns.

I had never even contemplated the artwork in that capacity, but Rosie assured me that it was absolutely perfect to be used as parchment patterns.

Now I am not good enough to trace out the image on parchment and emboss it freehand. Not yet anyway.
But I can certainly trace out the line art with a black pen.

So I decided to have a quick go and see whether it worked...

Flipped to the back and did a little whitework.
I used a selection of embossing tools, not least a shader

Magic. This idea certainly works!

And colouring in from behind is a piece of cake too.
The shader really is great for getting into tight areas and white lining.

The Perga Liners are great for adding colour from behind after the whitework is done,

And look! From the front it looks excellent!

Layed up on a sheet of Northern Lights paper, 
and Bob’s your uncle.

All I need now is about 100 hours to spare.
But we must be careful what we wish for,
so I shall just pop all my unfinished symphonies in a box 
for a rainy day. 


I for one will be glued to the TV at 2pm, (
to see what Rosie has to show us. The colouring book and the postcards should be part of everybody’s stash - parcher or not!

Speaking of feathered friends, 
Dave and I are doing something very, very special tonight.
We’ve been planning it for weeks, 
and we’ll need a lie in in the morning!
The mind boggles...

I’ll tell you about it tomorrow!

Love & Hugs,

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Eenie meenie miney mo.....

Hi there!
Thanks for popping in.
Sun’s out, and I’ve spent all day clearing up and cleaning this pit of an artroom. Still doesn’t look very different,
but it is! Has been seriously thinned out.

Remember the other day, 
I made this print with one of our new pod stencils?
special offer: 5 for 4.

And this was the copy paper scrap.

I deliberately used thin copy paper to blot, 
so I could make a canvas with it.

Cut the copy paper to fit an 8” x 8” canvas board 
- well, a teeny bit smaller.
I was keen to hang on to all the grungy stuff at the bottom of the print, so opted for a larger canvas. 

This is a piece of cake.
Cover the whole canvas with Mod Podge. 
I like Matte myself.

Lay the copy paper print onto the wet canvas board,
and use a brayer to carefully spread and flatten.
Aim of the game is to not get too many creases, 
so going slowly with the brayer is prudent.

Add a coat of the same Mod Podge to the top.
Gives a lovely finish.

So we’ve got the crisp canvas,

and the mellow print with shots of yellow.

It impresses me that both pieces come from the same art process.

Which one do you prefer?
I can’t choose.
Eenie Meenie Miney Moe....
Maybe they can sit next to one another 
and keep each other company.

I mean together, they make a whole, right?
And yet they can stand alone too. 

Velly intelesting....

Love & Hugs,

PS Don’t forget Rosie is on Hochanda tomorrow.
Bank Holiday Weekend, bless her.
11am. 2pm. 5pm.
I shall be watching and cheering her on.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Pater Noster.

Hi there!
Thanks for popping in.
Friday’s blog a private peek, right?

Well, I’ve been in Manchester in thought all week, 
as, I should imagine, have most of us.

Although just not able to tap into the news and constant updates, 
I have been there in spirit undeterred.
Don’t need to be told the details of tragic loss and travesty.
But there’s nothing like a senseless, barbaric, vicious attack on innocents to rightsize all the banalities of your own life, is there?

Quite by chance I came across this old photo of Mum, Dad, Steve and myself at my graduation from Salford. 

I didn’t get a brilliant degree, but I got one.
Spent way too much time partying and having fun.
It was a miracle I got one at all really!
But hey! I finished the course, 
and got to strut my stuff in a mortar board for a day.

See the building on the right?
That was the Maxwell Building or Tower as I recall.
Back in the day, that was where we held all the big gigs and concerts. I worked in the Union bar (of course!) and got to see loads of great bands coming through in the late 70’s.
The bar was situated below the auditorium, so we would serve drinks until the gig started, clean up, and then go watch the band for free.
I remember the night Bob Geldof was playing with the Boomtown Rats. We were still mopping up downstairs, but we could hear the very, very loud music. The audience was going nuts, pogoing in unison (as you did to punk music), and we could see the windows in the bar below literally bowing under the load. So one of the security guards went on stage and asked young Geldof
to get the crowd to stop pogoing, because it was compromising the structure of the building. So what did the young Irish prat do? Yep, he kicked off about the establishment, and about the system, and he incited them to jump even higher in unison.
The windows started popping, cracks quickly started appearing in the bar below, we ran for our lives, the concert was stopped, the building was evacuated.
And the building remained closed for the rest of my years at Salford. Maxwell Hall was deemed unsafe and required a complete rebuild. Our language faculty was at the very top of the building, and we couldn’t use it any more. We were farmed out to other engineering blocks on campus and along the Crescent for the remainder of my time there. It was a shambles.

So every time I hear or see Geldof on TV, the first thing that goes through my mind is that that stroppy little shyster caused an entire 12-storey building to close down. Do you hear about that? Nope. You hear all about Live Aid and Sir Bob, but you never hear about the chaos he caused at Salford University. 

One of the best things about the Linguistics faculty on the 11th and 12th floors was the Pater Noster lifts. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are lifts without doors, like a continuous, ever-moving chain of revolving compartments, and you just had to jump on and off at the appropriate level.  
(appropriately translated: Our Father/The Lord’s Prayer. I think it was thus named because the construct resembled a chain of rosary beads. But we used to tell visitors it was because you were well advised to say your prayers before jumping on or off!) 

Look! I found a photo from the Salford Uni archives.
Cor blimey! That brought back memories.   

At first, the Pater Nosters were pretty terrifying.
But once you got used to them, they were easy to navigate.
And the café was on the top floor, so there was a constant stream of people pouring upwards and downwards.
It really was great. I think they’ve done away with them now. Health & Safety to the rescue!

Ahh but those were the days, my friend.

Love & Hugs,

Thursday, 25 May 2017

New Seedhead Stencil

Hi there.
Thanks for popping in.
Sitting in the garden and writing to you after a little siesta,
and feeling better for it, I must say.

The birds are twittering and the sun is pouring through the trees.
Struggling to lift my spirits, but I know I am not alone.
But this too shall pass.
In the meantime, I immersed myself in paint and a brand new stencil today. A very special one, designed by Mel.

It is beautiful to look at, and wonderful to use.
Bottom left here:
(You can buy them individually, or 5 for the price of 4)
 Shall I talk you through the steps, so you know how I got there?

Use a large Gel Press Plate. An 8" x 10" 
and mount it on our large 9" x 11" Megamount 
That way you capture the whole image and get an outer edge too.
Spread a thin layer of orange acrylic paint over it with a brayer.

Dab most of it off again with a flat kitchen paper towel.
It will sometimes give you a very cool pattern.

Squirt some more acrylic paint onto the dry orange blotted paint now. I went with Man City and Man Utd: RED and BLUE.
They blend together to get a fantastic mix.

Viva Decor paints

In year 1 of Salford University, 
I lived quite close to Man Utd’s ground, Old trafford.
In year 2, I went over to the other side of Manchester, right near Man City. I lived at No. 6 Banff Road. It’s right by Curry Mile now.
Always did have lots of great Indian restaurants in that area.

I LOVED living in Manchester.
I LOVED the Mancunians.
You could sit at a bus stop and have great talks with total strangers.
You’d get on the ORANGE bus, and a whole new conversation would start with somebody else. 
I spent a lot of time waiting for buses from Rusholme to Salford...

So here we have a cool mix of red and blue, you see?
And of course, an interesting blend of purple in the middle.

While the paint is still wet, place the new stencil on it.

Blot it with punchinella, dab it lightly with scrunched up paper towel, and then let the paint dry.
Underneath the stencil, the paint will stay wet, because it hasn’t been exposed to the air. 

As soon as the paint you can see is dry, whip the stencil off and pop a sheet of copy paper down onto the Gel Press Plate.
All being well, you will pull a lovely lineart print.
You could do this on card too, but I have a plan for another day, 
and I need it on a thin piece of paper to work.

The actual print we are working towards is still on the Gel Press plate. See? If I place a sheet of white paper underneath the plate, you can see it.

Magic really, isn’t it.

But how to get the beautiful pattern print from the Gel Press Plate to card...

I came up with this technique years ago, 
when I was trying to clean up the Gelli plate after a messy session!

Just spread a layer of acrylic paint over the dry print on the plate.
In this case, I have used a mix of light blue and cream.

Too much here.
I have to roll some off, until I can see the print through the paint.
Keep rolling it off onto copy paper until you can see the image lightly.

Flip the wet, painty Gel Press Plate over on its mega Mount,
and lower down quickly onto a sheet of our large Stencil Card.
It is just ideal for pulling prints.

Flip back and rub the back of the card, to help transfer the paint.
Carefully peel back the card, and you should reveal a beautiful and original print. A one-off. 

There are a few white patches, where the print didn’t transfer.
Let’s use it to add more interest..
Smear Lime Kiss yellow Artistry ink over the whole surface.
Wow! Bit radical, I know!
I wondered what possessed me as soon as the lime yellow hit the card! But too late. Continues undeterred....

The great thing about acrylic paint is that it’s like a plastic table cloth. You can wipe it clean.
So I spritzed the whole thing with water and dabbed it dry, taking the colour right back to our lovely Man U. Man City blend, except where there was a little white card and the yellow ink had soaked in.

See here?

Mounted the print on a piece of water colour paper to finish.

Happy with that.
It’s cool because it’s NOT perfect, because it is a little rough in places. But there is a depth to it which draws you in.
Just like Manchester.

I loved life there so much, I encouraged Grace to go to University there too. Which she did, so she and I both know the Secret of that city.

I lived there during the winter of ‘79 too.
Those of you who recall, those were pretty harsh times.
Those poor firemen stood in that picket line opposite the University on the Crescent for months and months and months. 
Strikes, strikes, strikes.
But the Mancunians dealt with that, and they’ll deal with this. 
They are a tough bunch. I love ‘em.

Love & Hugs,