Monday, 31 December 2007

The End is Nigh!

So its another New Year's Eve and another night in. Technically Geoff and I were supposed to get to go out this year - we had my sister's kids last year so it was OUR TURN, dagnabit! But Daxi is 8 and a half months pregnant and not in any real condition to have our kids as well as her own so we don't get to go out. I can't even drink because I'm on labour emergency call (so if she goes into labour I get to jump in the car, drive down there and look after the evil wee girlies). Which is a shame because I'm high as a kite at the minute and partying the night away would be FUN. Although I'd be seriously at risk of inappropriate, gender irrelevant snogging. But c'est la vie.. there's always next year and she's going to bloody well get spayed this year if I have to take her to the vets hospital myself!

Otherwise I'm good. My Plan is going to... well, plan, helped along by the fact that I'm almost certainly mid mania at the minute, not sleeping, highly energetic and ultra efficient but I'm pleased I've been doing quite well at keeping a balance betweeen different things. Work, play and home are all featuring in equal amounts (even my husband doesn't appear to feel neglected... just slightly harrassed by my constant demands that he do this, that and t'other). I have set myself the possibly unrealistic target of stocktaking everything and changing all those blinkin domains by the 3rd (because thats when the shop reopens) but I'm actually getting through them OK at the minute so it should be perfectly manageable.

Both Bry's and Jans paintings have had work done on them (I say painting, they're both technically still drawings - brys is at least mapped out on watercolour paper whereas jans is still getting its rough draft done). I was waiting for masking fluid before doing any more work on Bry's (which also served as a reminder Not to Shop when manic - because a simple quest to get a couple of bottles of masking fluid turned into a £350 art materials & paper shopping spree *sigh* including masking fluid from four different retailers...). And my house is getting tidy and hoovered (another classic manic thing.... I clean when I'm manic. I don't clean any other time though...!) I've been kind of good with not eating too much rubbish which is to say I've ben eating less of it, not none, although it won't kick into full gear until all the christmas goodies are gone. And I've been home exercising dutifully. Holly likes it - slightly bemused kitty rubbing up against me when I'm on the office floor doing stretches!

So... here's to a productive, busy and highly enjoyable 2008 :o)

~loves y'all lots~


Saturday, 29 December 2007

Making my life better - creativity

"I want to find a balance between money making, personal fulfillment and my responsibilities as a wife and mother. I want to make my husband and children happier while not feeling it takes away from the money or personal side of my life."

That was written amidst some notes but probably sums up what I'm aiming for overall.

With my job, and business development plans, creative wellbeing is intrinsically tied to work. So this post is about creativity and work as two separate but interrelated topics. I'll have a separate one about money and work although again, I have a fairly holistic approach. How could work, money, creativity, relationships, health and fitness not be interlinked? They're all about the common theme of me and my sense of happiness and fulfillment.
I want to work through the points 2 and 3 in Steven Aitchison's article 'Change Your Life Part 1: Grab Your Balls'

[Taken from his post with my answers in red:]

Most people don’t know what they really want to do with their
working life. Try the following exercise:

Write down 7 things you love to do: Read, Shop, Spend time with friends, Draw, Play with Beads, Write, Receive praise

Write down your 7 best talents (be honest and don’t be shy): Design, Analysis, Seeing how things (physical or abstract concepts) work, Jewellery making, writing, ability to learn quickly, sales, animal interpretation

Write down 7 jobs you’d love to do: Jeweller, Artist, Singer, Entrepreneur, Writer (non fiction), Wildlife photographer, erm... I'm stuck

Write down 7 things other people say you’re good at: Jewellery making, art & design, making people feel better, self analysis, sales, techy web stuff, mind reading (its a combination of empathy, logic and interpretation of body language, I do it unconsciously).

Write down 7 courses you would take [cut - specified university but I think thats too limiting. Not everyone wants to learn something purely academic - personally I've done quite enough academia to know I'm damn clever, now I wanna have fun!] if you had the chance: Silversmithing, salsa classes, drama, enamelling, fantasy watercolour painting, the psychology of mental illness, circus skills

After you have down this look at all the things you’ve
written and try and find a common theme. It might be teaching, it might be
learning, it might be driving just try and find the theme.

Art, design, performance, sales. I want to be good at my arts, and I want to achieve recognition and financial recompense for them.

3. If someone gave me a million pounds

If someone gave you a million pounds to change careers what
career would you choose?

I'd take the opportunity to learn to become a bench jeweller, opal cutter and artist, and to develop a name writing about my chosen arts. All three skills would require learning and practise.

[end article text]

To an extent I know what I want to be, what I want to do and how I need to change things to get there - but I think everyone knows that about themselves really, whats important is working out the specifics.

  • I want to develop as an artist.
  • I want the development of my websites, galleries and tutorials to drive money in through the business rather than the sales side being the focus and everything else being an afterthought 'when I have time' - switching those focuses is perfectly possible but requires planning and determination.
  • I want to spend less time on the work that I dislike to free up more time for the artistic side.
  • I want to get my websites up,
  • I want to be a good artist,
  • I want to be beautiful and I want to keep in touch with the things I enjoy.
  • I want to stop procrastinating with things that mean nothing and result in me getting frustrated,

I can see all the answers are there, everything I need to change my entire life focus and I can see what's stopping me from reaching it. I need to work out how to get past those obstacles, not just now but as an ongoing thing.

So - back to the focus. Creativity is a wonderful thing and I have the good fortune to be passably good at most things I try. I also learn extremely quickly. But I do have a tendancy to be impatient and fickle. My interests can change quickly and I'm not very good at working myself through passably good and onto excellence. I'm also quite poor at doing things that require a degree of setting up - because its not instant gratification and inevitably requires the drudge work afterwards of clearning up. My strongest artistic skills are cold jewellery making, web design and written communiation - because they're the ones I've been doing the longest. They're also the ones that currently contribute to my income. I'd like to add traditional art, cgi art, bench jeweller, opal cutter, and specifically specialist jewellery making writer to that skill set that makes money. Of those four extra things, writing is the only one I currently do so it stays as its essential to my business plans. The others are all new skills that will require development over a period of time. As my current interest is traditional art (and by traditional I mean pencils, pastels and paints), that stays too. Bench jewellery and opal cutting both require additional expenditure and learning from scratch so they can be pus aside for later development. CGI art I was reasonably good at until I found a reason to stop doing it, and realistically I no longer have a computer capable of dealing with modelling software. So it stays on the shelf as well.

Creativity requires regular practise - the more you do it, the better you get. Simple and obvious but easy to overlook. Some creative things are essential to my job. Jewellery making sells my beads and components by demonstrating their potential use. Writing enables me to sell my products through clear use of words. Web design enables me to create welcoming and easy to use environments in which to shop. My fledgling tutorials project is aimed at reaching a wider jewellery-making audience to buy my products (I write the tutorials using the ebay guides feature. Whether you love it or hate it, ebay has great search engine ranking). But they all need developing. I have a jewellery gallery within my ebay shop aimed at providing design ideas but it doesn't get updated anywhere near as often as it should. I should be producing a tutorial a week, and I've only managed two since the conception of the project several months ago. Both finished jewellery and jewellery making sales websites are still in their embryonic stage. I have plans to start writing for magazines, again with the aim of promoting myself and my products to a wider audience (but need the websites finished first, realistically - eBay is a problematic venue). And I have all manner of plans for raising my internet profile to much higher levels (again, I kind of need the websites finished first). Artistically, I see no particular reason that I couldnt become a good enough artist to be saleable, but more importantly, its something I enjoy doing for ME. I don't want to spend every waking moment obsessed with whether what I'm doing makes a profit.

I believe that doing (I used 'practising' first but that suggests 'not for real' which is misleading) those artistic skills, regularly and consistantly will automatically result in a greater income. As above, I want to use my creativity to drive sales to the more mundane side of my business, by creating a reputable, well regarded presence within my fields, rather than my focus being entirely on the mundane side with anything creative being an afterthought. So my products are listed, sold and restocked with very little direct input while traffic comes from making jewellery, writing about design ideas, tutorials, magazine features etc which is a major shift from where I am now where all of my sales come through ebay and I'm constantly revising listings, and adding new products (and getting very bored and frustrated with it, and angry at myself for being bored with it).

So on a regular basis I aim to:
  • Draw or paint
  • Make Jewellery
  • Write online tutorials for publishing on both my websites and ebay
  • Write tutorials aimed at specific magazines
  • Spend some time every week looking at promoting my web presence through the use of online communities (various methods from writing book reviews to offering advise on jewellery making forums)

I should be spending some time, every day, at a creative activity that I enjoy.

To do this I need to:
  • Get my house in order - finish my websites and make sure my stock is all listed
  • Energise myself - mental energy is related to physical energy and that is related to diet and exercise
  • Create a calm environment - I hate mess and disorganisation (bit stupid really given that I'm one of the messiest people I know) - schedule in regular housework.
  • Develop a balanced life schedule. I don't mean to the exclusion of spontaneity but I dont want to be sitting round going arghhh I don't know what to do either. I'm at my best when I'm structured and busy and I operate well with lists.
  • Have welcoming artistic environments. My bead room is getting better, it feels a bit more homey now and Geoff shifted his CCG cards off my desk in there. My stock will be moving out of the office at some point in spring (to new premises - they're currently being built) at which point the office  can be optimised towards Geoff and I doing things we enjoy. Drawing is OK at my desk, painting really isn't.
My main problem here is balance and scheduling and organsation and I want help and suggestions with this.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Still reasonably content...

... although possibly slightly cranky because my shoulder has gone again - I pulled a tendon or something in my neck a week ago and I thought it had healed but stretched it a little too sharply this morning and I'm once again in agony and unable to use it without severe pain. Possibly hauling 20kg boxes of beads around yesterday didn't entirely help matters either. Sadly that limits my drawing and painting - and computer use - typing isn't a problem but using a mouse IS. Possibly I should get Geoff to swap my tower and printer round so I don't actually have to stretch for my mouse.

Either way, given pain and inability what I was drawing has been temporarily abandoned and instead I'm busy printing off all the squillions of reference photos I have and organising them into files. Which will give the advantage of not needing me to be tied to my PC when I'm drawing because there little display folders are portable :-). I was busy doing both Bry's and Jans stuff but Bry's is at the stage where I can't go any further without masking fluid (I'm working in watercolour) and Jan's needs large amounts of sketching-planning done which hurts my shoulder if I do it for more than a few minutes.

While there's numerous other things need doing I'm having real difficulty coming up with anything that isn't going to further damage me. Even reading strains is which is a total bitch because I'm kind of left with plonking my arse down in front of the TV which I rarely do and have no wish to do. Given everything, reading is possibly my best bet, especially as I'm currently at home alone with mini bratling - Geoff and the middle two kids have gone over to Andy & Alvery's to see the kids and play some games and Darren's off out with a pack of teenagers. Sleep sounds kind of tempting - I deliberately woke up at 4am to get some drawing time in undisturbed by kids or husband so I'm kinda tired, but obviously not an option with the small snotty one running around.

So yeah, enjoying the time off work even if it does make me feel guilty, but kinda bored on account of not being able to do anything. Ho hum...

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Merry Christmas

Its boxing day. I managed a WHOLE DAY without turning on my PC, a feat of which I'm reasonably proud, being me. So Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you're enjoying it.

Christmas with four hyperexcited kids was, unsurprisingly, tiring. Possibly moreso for Geoff than for me, given that he's post killer-illness and all. Mainly I sat around and read - finished my Terry Brooks novel which I started on Christmas Eve - Genesis of Shannara is really rather good. I've never read the Shannara books (and have no particular desire to do so) but am a huge fan of the Word and the Void trilogy and his newest series (beginning with Genesis) ties the two worlds together. And then sat and read a couple of fantasy art books.

This morning have just started yet another fantasy art book. I know I'm going to like an author when, within the first couple of pages, he has a diagram with corresponding descriptions of his workspace which include "2. Door. This leads to a big, scary thing called the Outside World. Most fantasy artists avoid using this unless completely neccessary" and "8. Phone. Tenuous link with the Outside World - to be used carefully and wisely.". He even writes like me (LOL - note the capitalisation!) so I think I'm rather going to like Finlay Cowan, he has a sharp, intelligent humour and unusual streak of practicality that appeals.

Other than those I had a stack of other books to get through, which doesn't concern me too much given that I read faster than anyone I know, by quite some way. It amuses me that that particular skill awes Geoff. I'd never particularly thought about it before he brought it up but he is gratifyingly amazed by it. Its not a conscious effort *shrugs* I just read quickly. Its also vaguely pleasing that there's an 'intellectual' skill in which I rate higher than he does. I have a definite tendancy to prefer significant males to be cleverer than me... rooted in, I suspect, an evolved version of base instinctual desire to have a 'strong' mate... I just value intellect over strength and speed, unlike my historic peers. But it can make me feel slightly 'lesser' at times (look, I married a nuclear physicist - I'm going to feel intellctually inferior at times!). But strength of mind - both intellectual and emotional are important (the latter possibly moreso, emotionally broken people make me VERY uncomfortable. Rather hypocritical of me, all things considered).

Eitherway, yeah, reading. Lots of it. And working up the neccessary resolve and conviction to get an entire collection of outstanding birthday and christmas presents drawn. Bryans first one has at least been sketched in rough, Georgie's and Jan's are still half-formed images in my mind. And they're all very different so should be good practise at a variety of skills (luckily going to a collection of people who will appreciate the sentiment and effort over the artistic skill!)

I also, on christmas eve, had a delivery of some 200+ kg of beads which should have arrived some six weeks previously, in time for christmas selling. So at some point I need to investigate those.

And on a lighter note, Geoff's Auntie Jean, wonderful character with a baby obsession and ability to talk, incessantly, for hours in a cigs & whickey soaked voice, about people you've never met and don't care about managed to buy one of the boys a tin of succullent, hard-boiled willies by mistake. She thought the tin looked nice, in an old-lady kind of way - a traditional tin of boiled fruit sweets but missed the modern twist of phallic amusement. Luckily she has a sense of humour, I think my grandmother would have died of embarrasment.

So I hope you're all having a good one without too much stress, arguments and bitching!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Lesson 5 - Colour Pencils

OK its not the greatest work of art ever, and I'm not quite exhibition quality but I like it :p

As mentioned in my last post, I tried drawing a castle (Conwy Castle to be precise) which was working rather well until I tried adding a girl in the forground using colour pencils. And discovered that colour pencils are not as intuitive as one might think. So I read a book on drawing with them (thanks Geoff! x) and followed a very simple exercise on getting the feel for colour, shading and hatching with coloured pencils - the suggested idea was completely abstract - just a sheet divided into different shapes and forms shades in in a variety of colours but I didn't feel like abstract to I've given them a recognisable form. The colour is more accurate on the one without the frame mount (its scanned - the mounted one is photographed)

I like colour pencils. They're bright and fun and don't need any set up or cleaning up after. So for now I'm going to continue trying with them (and watercolour pencils - which to be fair, said book concentrates on heavily).

Friday, 21 December 2007

Bah humbug!

It would appear that Christmas is not happening this year due to large amount of internet-ordered christmas pressies having not yet arrived (including darren's main present). So christmas is cancelled and its coal for the stockings.

On a lighter note, I've now STOPPED selling, today is my last day of mailing anything and as of this afternoon I'm officially On Holiday. Woohoo! Given that I haven't had a day off ( at all - I work weekends too) since June its really rather needed.

On the arty stuff side I've spent the last few days doing a coloured pencil exercise after a disastrous attempt to draw a girl in the forground of a castle with coloured pencil (the graphite castle kicks arse. The girl was incredibly poor). So I read a colour pencil techniques book and spent some time getting the 'feel' of coloured pencils with a pretty pretty picture which I shall post at some point soonish.

My mother in law took me birthday shopping to hobbycraft on wednesday which was cool. I am now the proud owner of some posh colour watercolour pencils, some very nice quality watercolour and sketch pads and a bloody great big portfolio carry thing in which to keep stuff.

On the subject of my birthday it turned out I wasn't forgotton after all. I got some cool stuff including a book on woodcarving and a miniature grinder set from my sister (plus a fluffy Tinkerbell fleece blanket!), a beautiful set of watercolour paints from Geoff, an easel from the big kids and oil paints from the wee ones among other stuff. And Jan got me the most amazing book on painting watercolour fairies which I'm desperate to try out once I get a few hours and some inspiration.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Fickle as a flutterbye!

Me that is! I've been busy for the last couple of days creating a shiny new website to showcase and sell my jewellery and provide an artsy backgroundess to it all. Artsy backgroundess including a getting to know the artist bit - which this blog will be imported into (hence locking anything I really don't want visible to potential customers to LJ friends). Its coming along nicely, Ive got the structure almost done, the design is looking good and a load of products are written and in place. Its not online yet - I need my card processing details to be resent to me before I can add them to the site but its coming along nicely.

However 10 minutes ago my birthday pressies from georgie arrived :o) So I have a shiny new how-to-draw-fairies book and the Drawing for Dummies book here and a need to sit and work through the ENTIRE drawing for dummies book with pencil and sketchpad. So at least for a while I'm going to leave my website creation in order to play. I'll probably spend the day alternating both.

Its perked me up a little though. While I've been working fine its been in a very 'normal' manner. I read something about omega three being beneficial to bipolars so I've been eating a little peppered mackeral every day and it does seem to be working. I'm not falling asleep whilst doing monotonous work and I'm not being utterly manic about my new site (or my new books - its the weekend, I'm allowed to play!)

But on Monday I reach the grand old age of 32 and I'm not a huge fan of birthdays, possibly just because having a birthday a week before Christmas really sucks. Apart from Georgie's books I have two presents to open on Monday - I know Geoff had one arive in yesterday's mail plus Jan dropped on in last night which was a welcome and very sweet surprise from him. I wanted to open it then and I think he'd have liked me too but presents being in such short supply I thought I'd save it. There will undoubtedly be more but everyone is so frantically busy organising Christmas that I tend to get forgotton until they're dropping / mailing christmas stuff. Geoff is broke so I don't blame him in the slightest for not managing my birthday but *sighs* it would be nice to have some exciting new things to play with.

The other thing that has been stressing me out is work. eBay customers are SO impatient this close to Christmas - and of course mail can be severely delayed - which adds up to a whole lot of annoyance.

I might get some sleep before doing anything - I was up early with Finn this morning and had fairly horrific nightmares through most of last night (its the stress!) and while I did try going back to bed at 9am when Geoff woke up, it lasted all of an hour before arguing children disturbed me.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

hmmmm artistic blank

I haven't been doing a whole lot of arty crafts stuff of late. Or rather I have but my entire time has been spent trying to master the drawing of realistic fur, which I've yet to accomplish. Jewellery making hasn't been happening at the minute simply because its too late to really get things hallmarked and on sale for Christmas so I've been concentrating on other things. I've also been weirdly obsessed with trying to get my house clean which I blame ENTIRELY on my sister. I ALWAYS get her pre-birth nesting instincts. Its so unfair.

Georgie did send my an amazon voucher for my birthday/christmas which I promptly spent on some artsy fairy books (and a terry brooks novel). Haven't arrived yet but amazon assure me they've been dispatched. And as I detailed in previous post I've been thinking LOTS about ways to develop the business in a way that will keep me interested. And I've done most of the geoff & older kids & family christmas shopping now. Only really my mother and some ancient relatives who need frames for their cam & finn school photos we had done to sort. Geoff will do cam & finns shopping.

I did finally get around to photographing my Vintage Lace necklace. Although it looks better 'in person'. I need to work on my necklace photography skills. Tiny things - no problem. Anything bigger than a bracelet and I start to struggle.

I can't remember if I already posted a picture but here it is.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Helping someone with depression

Please read. If you think it might help someone else you know, please pass it on (in a strictly non-spammy way of course! I wrote this, its not a forward)

At some point in your life, you will have a friend of family member suffer from a form of depression, whether it be long term chronic depression, postnatal depression or shorter term depression. Yet so many people refuse to accept its a real illness and think all a depressed person really needs is a kick up the arse.

Think about this. Just because you don't understand an illness doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Just because you feel you can't help doesn't mean you're not able to.

The key is educating yourself. Knowing about the illness and knowing how to help can all be achieved easily. You may not understand it - but you'll be aware.

Please read this and remember it. Because some day you might need it. Its a US site but very useful and very relevant.

Most of you are aware than I'm manic depressive (or bipolar if we're using the current PC term) by now I guess. This isn't about me, its about my current state of extreme anger towards someone I love who refuses point blank to accept the illness of someone else I love.

Oh and for the record I don't subscribe to the prayer-makes-everything-OK
stance. If you do, please remember more tangible gestures can be felt more easily. If you don't, do what i did and smile amusedly at the susperstition whilst taking on board the sensible stuff.


Monday, 3 December 2007

Lesson 4: A Whole Head!

Firstly... I want to explain something about how my brain works. If I think about doing things - I mean really think, do them in my mind - it has pretty much the same effect as practising. Hence my assertation that I'm pretty sure I could silversmith without too many problems - because while never having touched a soldering torch, I've read a lot, I understand the concepts, and the behaviour of metal and I've 'done it in my mind'. This always prompts looks (or types) of disbelief if I say it but its true.

The same applies to drawing. Before lesson 1 I hadn't drawn anything in over 5 years other than evil cat pic. And before that, when I was occasionally drawing I was awful. But I drew evil cat pic, thought I'd like to learn to draw, read some stuff and started *thinking* about it. Everything bar a cube and a cylinder that I've drawn in the last week has been detailed in my journal. So I'm not practising lots, but I AM thinking about it lots. Hence getting from not-very-good cat pic to quite reasonable portrait in a week.

OK portrait... this 'lesson' had a number of aims. Firstly to try and train myself to use more than two shades of grey when drawing! Secondly to get over my stupid statement that I can't draw noses or lips. If you can draw one thing OK you should be able to draw anything OK using the same basic techniques. And thirdly it was an excercise in drawing from sight - I used a googled photo of a girl to work from. And greyscaled it to help get to grips with the different shades of grey.

I think I managed aims 1 and 2 OK although because I once again couldn't be arsed to go upstairs and scan, the picture looks lighter at the bottom than the top. Aim 3 is a different matter. It is a reasonable drawing considering, but doesn't look especially like the model I drew. But that will come with time.

Its also highlighted that I could do with reading some hair tutorials. The picture was a close up of her face so there wasn't much of her hair to work from. The hairline was entirely made up because her photo cut off before the hairline. But I'm quite pleased with it.

And this is the same picture when I'd done the structure and just started filling in detail

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Lesson 3: Eyes and eyes and eyes all over....

This evening, I've tried to teach myself to draw eyes. 2 and a half pairs of.

The first one came out best overall I think but they're not aligned properly, the second pair ARE properly aligned but the irises don't match properly (plus the model was at a weird angle so one of her eyes had eyelashes pointing up and one eye had them pointing down. Which looks kind of weird without the rest of the face to explain it). And no, I can't do the rest of the face. I can do the eyes. A vague symbolic attempt at eyebrows. And thats it. Eventually I hope to have enough body parts in my repetoire to build an Entire Person however at the minute I can do a person with eyes, one finger and a thumb.

The third one was a quick 60 second attempt at 'value' drawing - ie drawing the image using tones to define rather than starting with a line drawing and shading in. Its very distinct from line drawing with shading and produces a different effect. Apparently. Either way the single eye was just to see if I'd grasped the idea properly. What I gleaned from that little exercise was that I really need toget a pencil which produces darker tones (I only have a standard HB pencil. I'm not allowed to go buy a range. Or some decent paper :p)

I did try drawing a rose this morning. It sucked. At least in part I think coz I used a fakey fabric rose as a model so didn't have the proper plant structure and texture to work from. So thats at the bottom but is a bit rubbish.

First set of eyes

Second set of eyes and single eye (underneath)

And a really awful rose