Friday, May 31, 2013

Artful Readers Club May - Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

It's reading club time again, and I have a glowing review for you this time around as I loved this month's book!

I've actually had this one - and its sequel Moon Over Soho - on my bedside table for well over a year, waiting to be read.  I'm glad I finally got around to it :)

The blurb on the cover would have you believe that this is a kind of "Harry Potter for grown ups", but it really isn't.  Yes, there's a trainee wizard in the mix, but other than that, there's very little similarity.

It's much funnier, for a start, and much more gritty and real - which is impressive for a book chock full of magical creatures and gods.  Sometimes you almost forget about all the spooks and spells as you enjoy the solid police procedural elements of the story.

The characters are likeable, the intertwining stories are entertaining, it's very well written, and it really is just plain fun.  What more could you ask for?

And one of the things I loved most about the book is that it feels almost like a love letter to London in parts, and I love London too, it's where I grew up, and even though I have now moved away, we go back to visit often.  So I enjoyed reading such fond words about my old stomping grounds :)

For my artwork, I have chosen to illustrate my favourite minor character from the books, Molly, the maid servant of indeterminate age and species......  here's her introduction from the opening stages of the story:

"How many people live here?" I asked.
"Just the two of us.  And Molly" said Nightingale.
Toby suddenly crouched down at my feet and growled, a proper rat-in-the-kitchen growl that was all business.  I looked over and saw a woman gliding towards us across the polished marble.  She was slender and dressed like an Edwardian maid, complete with a starched white bib apron over a full black skirt and white cotton blouse.  Her face didn't fit her outfit, being too long and sharp-boned with black, almond-shaped eyes.
Despite her mob cap she wore her hair loose, a black curtain that fell to her waist.  She instantly gave me the creeps, and not just because I've seen too many Japanese horror films.
"This is Molly," said Nightingale.  "She does for us".
"Does what?"
"Whatever needs doing" said Nightingale.
Molly lowered her eyes and did an awkward little dip that might have been a curtsey or a bow.  When Toby growled again Molly snarled back, showing disturbingly sharp teeth.
"Molly" said Nightingale sharply.
Molly demurely covered her mouth with her hand, turned and went gliding back the way she came.  Toby gave a little self-satisfied snort that didn't fool anyone but himself.
"And she is....?" I asked.
"Indispensable" said Nightingale.

And here's my painting of her:

Everything on here is acrylic paints - the background and the city skyline were monoprinted using a gelli-plate, the Thames was drawn on with a Molotow paint pen, and Miss Molly from the Folly was painted freehand, loosely based on that spooky girl from the Ring movie....

I've just realised she was supposed to be wearing a white blouse.  Oh well, close enough :)

Next month I will be reading The Toyminator by Robert Rankin, which I have just realised is a sequel and I haven't read the first book yet.  Oops.  Maybe I should get the first book and read that instead.....would that be allowed in the rules, Darcy?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spacey-wacey Timey-wimey

Well, OK, not so much on the timey-wimey.  But recently I have re-discovered the fun of making space art with spray paints.

It really is super easy, and quick, and almost magical in the way it works

^ That one up there was my very first attempt last year after watching some "how to" videos on You Tube.  The kids made their own too and got equally ace results, you can't mess it up even if you try.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I made a CJ page based on Shakespeare's Sister's "Stay" - such a great song and brilliant video too - which was positively crying out for a space art background

Here's the end result:

(blogged in full at Collabor-ART here:

And then today I was working on another CJ page - this one had movie/TV show quotes as its theme, and I happen to know that the journal's originator is a big fan of Star Trek, especially the original series - so I couldn't resist attempting a portrait of Mr Spock:

And of course he absolutely NEEDED a space background:

So here's how it works.....

First of all you spray a colour, then black then white spray paints in quick succession (without letting the paint dry) roughly where you want your planets to be.

Then you take a slightly crumpled bit of thin paper (a magazine page works well), and put it down over the paint then peel it straight back off.  This is what leaves that fantastic "planet surface" texture:

Spray in a little shadow with black paint on the "dark side of the moon" and then pop round objects (that you don't mind ruining!) in place to make the planets.

Spray all over with black, then add a little bright blue and yellow space dust, and white stars (shaking the can about while only partially depressing the nozzle will give that nice splattery effect)

When the paint is dry, lift off your round thingamajigs, and ta-da:

It's as easy as that!

If you have spray paints handy (the graffiti-style paints in aerosol cans, not spray inks) then I totally urge you to have a go at this, it really is so much fun!

Live Long and Prosper, guys....

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

My first attempt at Steampunk

I'm always late to the party, me, in fact sometimes the party is almost over by the time I get there!

And so here I am, having a go at Steampunk for the first time, when for everyone else I think it's pretty much yesterday's news... :)

The reason?  This month's "Having A Laugh" CJ has the theme of Steampunk/Ladies/Grunge

Now, I was tempted to go with Grunge and do a page on Pearl Jam and another on Nirvana, but I didn't think this was quite what the book's owner had in mind, so I went with Steampunk and Ladies:

First of all, we were asked to make an ATC as our sign in ..... mine is above.  The little propeller spins :)  Trouble is I wonder if it still actually looks much like an eye .... I think I preferred it before I added the hardware:

Ah well, never mind.

Next up, we could do either one or two 7"x5" pages for the book,  I'm greedy so of course I took two!

First up, my steampunk girlie.

I cheated a little with this one, and used an online doll dress-up programme to design my lady - it's a lot of fun if you want to try it yourself:

(NB when you first go in it loads up an advert, you have to click the "play game" button in the bottom right hand corner which activates after the ad has been running for a few seconds)

This is the "doll" I ended up with

I printed her out and traced her onto some watercolour paper, and then coloured her in with watercolours, in a slightly more subdued palette than the original

Half coloured in:

Fully coloured in and cut out with my trusty X-Acto:

And here is the finished page - I used a gelli print for the background, with stencilled cogs - and typed up the wording on Erika, my beloved 1980s typewriter:

For my second page, I dropped the steampunk angle and just went with "ladies" - well, one lady anyway:

That's another metallic gelli-plate background, with a face painted with acrylics straight onto the page this time rather than cut out and stuck on

I took some step by step photos as I was painting the face, so I could refer back to them to remember how I had tackled the shading in the underpainting, here they are in case they are of any use to anyone else wanting to try the same technique:

Face sketched straight onto the page, firstly in pencil then with a black POSCA paint pen
Colour in the whole face apart from the hair with a very pale skintone colour - then referring to the reference photo, use a white paint pen to shade the areas with the lightest highlights (side and tip of nose, above top lip, whites of eyes....)
Block in the hair with a mid-brown paint, and then with the same brown paint mixed 50:50 with glazing medium,  shade in the parts of the face that are mid toned in the reference photo
With a darker shade of brown, start adding some texture into the hair , and  also block in the darkest shadows (top of the nose, under her chin etc) - don't panic that all the shading looks really harsh at the moment
Add some pinky red to her cheeks and  lips
And this is where all that work with the shading starts to pay off -  you need to mix up a semi-opaque skin toned glaze (I use a touch of the brown I used for her facial shading, a tiny touch of white, a touch of red and a fair bit of glazing medium -  you can see the resulting glaze in the tub at the top of the picture), and paint over everything except the whites of her eyes and her hair - there, that looks better doesn't it :)
All that's left to do are the finishing touches - some colour in her eye and on her lips, some wisps of hair around the hairline (and some little highlights in the hair too), add her eyelashes and darken her brows.  Plus I added a little more glaze under the chin as I thought the shadow there was still a tad too dark.  And I defined her outline with a watersoluble graphite pencil to make her "pop" a tad more against the background
Th-th-th-that's all folks!

Until my next blog post anyway (which really ought to be a Rocking Your World Monthly post as I haven't done one since March!)

Please avert your eyes if bad language might offend....

I've just realised that I blogged this CJ entry over at Collabor-ART but not on here....

So it's Desert Island Discs time again and this month I have Sian's CJ to work in.

Right from the very beginning when Sian first published her list of songs, I was hoping that one particular song would still be available when the CJ reached me - and it was - woohoo!

Like Sian, I have certain songs that I love to play at volume when I am in a baaaaaaad mood, my angry songs, and this track by Korn is very much one of them.  In particular, shouting along to the chorus is a great stress reliever!

Trouble is, there's a rather rude word in there, but I checked on the Collabor-ART Facebook group to see if anyone would be offended by me posting it uncensored, and nobody said not to, so here goes, brace yourselves :) :

The main image on this page was a real labour of love - it's a hand cut, 4 layer stencil of the band's lead singer, Jonathan Davis.  I am beyond chuffed at how well it turned out and how much it looks like him.

(original photo by user Cliseu on deviantART)
For comparison, as I expect that most of you probably wouldn't know him from Adam, here's the reference photo I used:

Now I am trying to think what else I can use that stencil for as it was a lot of work for a single use!  I thoroughly enjoyed making it though.

On the reverse side of the flappy bit is an image from one of the band's live album covers that fit the space rather nicely:

It wasn't until I'd finished all this bit that I realised I was supposed to use that area for my sign in and thoughts about why I had picked this song etc, oops!  So instead I wrote all that stuff on the reverse of a tag decorated to match everything else, and I tucked it in behind my main page:

So that's my own page done, I hope Sian likes it as much as I enjoyed making it

Next stop - tweaking the previous entries

I didn't do something to all of the previous pages this time, only the ones where I had an immediate idea of what I wanted to add

To Pat's entry - the Wonder of You by Elvis - I added a quick sketch of a someone extending a helping hand, inspired by the lyrics "you touch my hand and I'm a king":

On Sian's own entry for the love song Butterfly by Lenny Kravitz, I gave her girl a heart.  Well for a love song she needs one, right?

And to Virginia's entry, for Snow White Queen by Evanescence, I added a coat of arms to her warrior queen's shield:

Roll on next month, I am enjoying this CJ so much!