Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day, 2016

I won't have the opportunity to post on this day (February 29th) for another four years so I thought I should take advantage of it now by looking at some of the customs, traditions and superstitions that are associated with it.

According to an old Irish legend, St. Brigid struck a deal with St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every four years on February 29th.  This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in the same way that Leap Day balances the calendar.

A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day. In many European countries, the tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman's proposal on February 29th has to buy her twelve pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were even laws governing this tradition.

In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky for someone to be born on Leap Day. Greeks consider it unlucky for couples to marry any time during a leap year, and especially on Leap Day. In Russia, it is believed a leap year is likely to bring more freak weather conditions and a greater risk of death all around.

How or why some of these beliefs and traditions ever started is lost to obscurity but it was fun looking into some of them on this Leap Day, 2016.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Artwork Adventures

I thought that it was about time for me to share with you, my loyal blog readers, some of my recent artwork.  The jewellry making supplies have been set aside for now, the knitting needles lay unused in a drawer, and the inkle loom has been idol.

My art form of choice recently has been artist trading cards. I found a new group that strictly trades these little works of art. No random discussion, no confrontation, just trading. And it is a very active group, so I have a binder almost full of artwork from around the globe.

I've been experimenting with a variety of different techniques, styles and materials with varying levels of success. Even the not-so-successful efforts have taught me some important lessons, so it's all good. Here I go with a sample gallery of my recent work, along with simple explanations of the process.

I did a series of these owls for the trading group. The backgrounds are made with hexagons punched from security envelopes, the kind that you get cheques in. The accounting department at work has been saving me all the incoming envelopes and not only have I acquired a lot of used postage stamps, I've utilized some of the interesting patterned paper too.

Vintage photos seem to be quite popular with the artists making cards, so I have taken advantage of some of the old family photos that I have been scanning for my ongoing genealogy project. I simply reduce them in size and print them off for use in my creations.

Acrylic craft paint from the dollar store has been one of my favourite mediums for creating interesting backgrounds. I apply it with brushes, sponges or spray bottles and have used various stencils and tools to create one of a kind backdrops for my cards. Google has been my friend when looking for quotes and sayings to add to my cards.

I have collected a number of paper punches of various sizes and shapes and often use the punched out shapes to embellish my cards. I've printed images, such as this little monster, and fussy cut them to apply to my ATCs. I try to pick images that are not too detailed, they can be a pain in the neck to cut out.

And speaking of used postage stamps, they too have been utilized for my artistic endeavours. My postage stamp mandalas have proven to be quite popular with the trading group.

I have a variety of patterned scrapbook papers that I cut or rip, along with old book pages and magazines that I've used to create unique backgrounds for my work. This one pictured above was done on a piece of 8.5" X 11" card stock, then cut down into ATC size pieces (2.5" X 3") and embellished like the one below.

A printed phrase, punched out star and an acrylic stick-on gem was all this needed to complete it.

A friend and fellow ATC artist provided me with the die-cut windows to create a series of these cards using old Christmas cards as the outdoor scenes.

An old holiday greeting card was used for this one too. I scanned it, then reduced it in size and printed it for this series of ATCs. Mounted on card stock to frame it, with a punched out star and short phrase made these ones quick and easy to make.

I've experimented with a grunge technique using crayons and black craft paint creating a background like a scratch & win ticket. First you colour the entire surface with wax crayons. Then you cover the whole thing with black paint. Once it's dry, you take a coin and scratch away as much of the black paint as you want to get this interesting effect.

I've also used these die-cut windows to make cards that are looking to the inside, instead of the outside. Patterned scrapbook paper, along with a printed image of Mona Lisa and a phrase complete each of the cards in this series.

I've been playing around with embossing powders, rubber stamps, a heat gun and distress ink to add interest and variety to my card backgrounds.

I've even tried colouring a printed image with pencil crayons. Add a couple of punched out butterflies and letters to make the words 'BEST FRIENDS' and you are done!

That brings me to yesterday when I got the bright idea that aluminum foil, something we all have in our kitchens, might be a fun collage element on my ATCs. I was able to achieve a cool textured look by crinkling up the foil. It was fun to experiment with but I won't likely use the aluminum foil very often. As you can see, this card uses a lot of the elements I've already mentioned...vintage photo, printed word. patterned scrapbook paper and a couple different sizes of star paper punches.

So, I've been having a lot of fun with this and the adventure will continue. *smile*

Monday, February 1, 2016

Positive and Negative Impact

On the radio this morning, I heard an interview with a teacher and former student. They were discussing how a teacher could have a long lasting, positive impact on a person’s life.

The former student, now a well known international musician and entertainer, recalled how this teacher had literally pushed him onto the stage that very first time. The boy had been very shy and lacking confidence but the teacher had recognized the immense talent of the youth.

The host of the program asked others to call in who had similar experiences where a teacher had positively impacted the direction of their lives.

While it was a very uplifting and heartwarming interview and story, it got me to thinking about the negative impact that a teacher, perhaps inadvertently, can have on a student. A former creative writing teacher of mine immediately springs to mind.

Even after all these years since high school (and I’m not about to tell you how many), her words still sting. What she said actually stopped me from pursuing the education and career that I was steering towards, journalism and/or novel writing.

Picture this if you will; a naive 16 year old girl with a head full of romantic notions and fairy tale ending. I wrote a ‘love story’ for one of my class assignments. I was quite pleased with myself and thought it was pretty good.

The teacher’s one and only comment was, “You should stick to writing about topics that you know something about.” It was like a huge slap in the face! There was no constructive criticism offered on how to do better next time, no encouragement to try again.

I never took a creative writing course again and did not move forward with the continuing education that I had planned to. And for many years, I did not write ANYTHING, ever, stymied by the thoughtless comment of one person.

To be honest, this teacher probably does not even realize what affect her words had on me. I just hope that she did not dash the dreams and aspirations of any others along the way.

It's only in the last few years that I have rediscovered my love for writing. At this point in my life though, will it take me anywhere? I'm not sure, we'll have to wait and see.