Saturday, February 26, 2011

and now for something completely different...

The  ol' sewing machine has had a bit of a break for the last couple of weeks, but the monitor and mouse have been taking up the slack.  I have been busy doing some collaborating with my husband, John (and one other project that is almost ready to be revealed....focus...focus....).  I have been using Photoshop CS to color black line work for several years now.  This is an example of my "usual" work.  It is from an alphabet series that I have been working on for over a year now...more about that another day...

John and I have been discussing the possibilities of collaborating artwork for some time now.   His current focus has been making artwork for the Old School Gaming Community ....dragons, demons, monsters, and the likes.  So far the overwhelming majority of John's work has been in black and white.   Over a year ago he did some kid friendly monsters that I just adore.  The original collaboration idea was that I would color the monsters.  Well... I still haven't gotten around to that....BUT....He did another piece a few months ago that I thought was some of his best work. One day while putting off doing household chores I decided I would color it, just to see how it would go, and surprise him with it if things worked out well.  We were both pleased with what turned out to be our first collaboration.
"Iron League Salamander"
The Black and White version of the Iron League Salamander will be in Weird Adventures by Trey Causey.  
 I think John has really progressed in his artistic style over the years and I really like the work he has been producing.  However, in doing color work for another artist you get to know someone else's work intimately....the way they use line and light and shadow, their choices in composition.  It truly is a whole new experience, and a whole new level of appreciation. Let's face it, left to my own devices I would, with almost certainly, never have the opportunity to color attacking bears or smokin' hot iron salamanders ...and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

This will be on the front cover of the latest Advanced Adventures by Expeditious Retreat Press.  Check out a picture of the cover on Joe Brownings blog.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Tail" Me Something New

The Tale of Two Tails

No New Tail to Tell

The Tale of Tails

Tail it like it is

The puns seem endless...

I am strongly advocating the wearing of a tail. Feeling a little goofy? how about a monkey tail. Feeling a little sassy? how about a cat tail. Feeling mighty? perhaps a tiger tail. I feel as strongly about the whole tail thing as I do about my husband and his "team" wearing capes to work. What, you can tie a piece of brightly colored cloth around you neck, but you can't sport a Monkey's Tail or a Super Cape? Break free of your oppressive rags and have a little fun. I suppose it's a good thing I had children. They care not about style and fashion, only about the character.

Make your own Tail:

  • Cut a strip of polar fleece 4” wide and to the desired length. The pictured Monkey Tail is 22” long.

  • Fold the strip in half (so it is now only 2” wide) with wrong sides together and stitch at ½”.

  • Cut a piece of 3/8” elastic 7” long, or shorter for less curling.

  • Using a zigzag stitch, stitch the elastic to the seam allowance (between the raw edge and the line of stitching), stretching the elastic as you sew. You will see the tail begin to curl as it passes through the machine.

  • Stitch the curled end closed. I made a curved seam, as to not have a squared off tail.

  • Turn the Tail right side out.

  • The tail will look way too curly at this point, don’t worry….

  • Stuff the tail, I used scraps of fabric, but you could also use stuffing.

  • Attach the tail to a fleece covered piece of elastic, a ribbon, or create a Velcro “loop” at the top of the tail and attach it to a belt.

  • Wear your tail with pride….or at least make one for a child you love.
Tails go great with Animal Hats!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fairy Wings

Perhaps it's my costume designer background, perhaps it's my own love of flowers, perhaps it's my admiration of the illustrations of Cicely Mary Barker...whatever the reason, I love to make fairy costumes...

My daughter's first Halloween, I made her a Campanula (Blue Bell) Fairy Costume.  The same year I even managed to talk my son into a Leaf "Elf" costume.  My daughter was wingless this year, but my son had what he called "dragon wings."  They both loved my Monarch wings.  I made the Monarch wings several years ago.  They are the standard wire and pantyhose wings with a layer of Mod Podge for durability and some paint for the orange spots.  

Everyone Loves a Fairy's Wings

Chubby Baby Campanula Fairy
My daughter's second Halloween I made a Burgmansia (Angels Trumpet) Fairy Costume.  Her wings were made of floral tape covered wire and pantyhose.  They were very cute, but did not hold up well.
Brugmansia Fairy and Binkies
Brugmansia Fairy and Flower

For her third Halloween the family all went as Super Heroes.  She was "Fairy Tale."  This was the first year I made wings from craft foam.  The technique worked great and two years later she is still playing with the wings.    
Fairy Tale with Fire Bull
Fairy Tale

Last Halloween, not only did I get to make her a another fairy costume, I taught a class on how to make Fairy Wings and tutus.  There many little girls who experienced the joy of a handmade Fairy Costume. 
This is the Beautiful work of one of my students
Created by one of my students this Fall!
The sample I made during the class was sent to my niece, so we got to spread a little more fairy love around.  
My daughter modeling her cousin's Halloween costume!
Ready to Trick-or-Treat!
The directions and pattern for the fairy wings can be found on my Etsy site.  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Finishing is the Hardest Part

My Monkeys, Sock Monkey, and Lisa
In the beginning of December I had a strong start. Sure I had created a L-O-N-G list of projects for myself to finish, but I could do it, I was Energized! Mid-December rolled around and though I was making progress a little bit of reality was beginning to sink in and I crossed some of the more outrageous stuff like, building a puppet theater for the children and puppets to go with, off the list. Unfortunately by the time Winter Solstice hit I realized some things, even on the priority list had to be postponed. This was the point where mailing packages fell from the list. Oh, I had good intentions...I'll just get through Christmas Day and then get right back to work...I'll just wait until the kids are back in school and then get right back to work...I'll just wait until the end of January when I've rested a bit and then get right back to work.

When the first of February hit I began to feel guilty. One of the things I had put off finishing was a present for my 4 year old niece. For both of my children I actually finished robes and pajamas and matching things for their beloved "Monkey" and "Baby Lisa." I started the same for my niece, but when the mailing packages fell off the priority list her Christmas present went into the ominous "Pile."
Chirstmas Ornament Robe

Baby Sized
I am quite pleased to announce that yesterday I FINALLY finished! AND not only did I finish I also mailed the package! Hopefully my niece will be too distracted by the candy I included in the package to wonder why she is getting a Christmas robe for Valentines Day. (and I also mailed all the calendars I made...oops, guess those should have gone from March to March instead of January to January) I would like to think that I have learned my lesson and next year I will set more realistic goals for myself and start a lot earlier, but I know won't. Such is the life of a Creative Compulsive Procrastinator.

In the end I even finished a pair of Fairy Slippers to put in her box as well!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

DSM IV Diagnostic Criteria for Creative Compulsive Disorder

300.3A Creative-Compulsive Disorder

Diagnostic Features
The essential features of Creative-Compulsive Disorder are recurrent obsessions or compulsions to Create just about anything, severe enough to be time consuming (i.e.,they take more than 1 hour a day) or cause marked distress or significant impairment when they can not be carried out to satisfaction. At some point during the course of the disorder, the person has recognized that the compulsions are excessive or unreasonable, but can not be stopped.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors (e.g., painting, knitting, baking, photography, sewing, drawing, printmaking, writing) or mental acts (e.g., planning, daydreaming, thinking of new projects) the goal of which is to prevent or reduce anxiety or stress and provide pleasure or gratification. In most cases, the person feels driven to perform the compulsion to prevent or postpone some dreaded event or situation (e.g., dishwashing, clothes washing, sweeping, personal hygiene, gainful employment).

Community studies have estimated a life time prevalence of 45% in adults. However, methodological problems with the assessment tool used raise the possibility that the true prevalence rates are much higher. In most cases the persons with Creative-Compulsive Disorder tend to aggregate in clusters disguised as knitting circles, craft groups, critic groups, or art school.

Creative-Compulsive Disorder often begins in childhood, showing a dark and twisted spike in teen years. In the majority of adults there is an exacerbation of symptoms related to life changing events such as marriage, a new residence, and the birth of children. About 35% show progressive deterioration in occupational and social functioning. About 1% have an episodic course with minimal or no symptoms between episodes.

Diagnostic criteria for
300.3A Creative-Compulsive Disorder

A. Either Obsessions or compulsions:

Obsessions as defined by (1), (2), (3) and (4):

(1) recurrent and persistent creative thoughts, impulses or images that are experienced that must be written down, sketched out, or in the most severe cases brought to fruition to prevent marked anxiety or distress from occurring

(2) the thoughts, impulses, or images are not satisfied by remaining simple fleeting fantasies but must have at least some material beginning, though completions is often not achieved. .

(3) attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses or images are futile.

(4) The person recognizes that there are not enough hours in a life time to complete all obsessive thoughts, impulses or images but supplies must be purchased anyway.

Compulsions as defined by (1) and (2):

(1) repetitive behaviors (e.g., painting, knitting, baking, photography, sewing, drawing, printmaking, writing) or mental acts (e.g., planning, daydreaming, thinking of new projects) that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, are carried out regardless of realistic time constraints, hours in a day, or in extreme cases needs of family members.

(2) the behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing some dreaded event or situation (e.g., dishwashing, clothes washing, sweeping, personal hygiene, gainful employment); however, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive.

B. The person has experienced Nocturnal Creations, being aroused from a deep sleep with a seemingly brilliant idea that must be written down, sketched, or in the most severe cases brought to fruition.

C. Number of thoughts, impulses or images is extremely disproportionate to projects completed.

D. At some point during the course of the disorder, the person has recognized that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable, but has no desire to stop.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jedi in the Making

In the middle of icing a Light Saber cake for one of my little buddies, my husband said to me, “You know, the final stage of becoming a Jedi Master is to make your own Light Saber.” I laughed at him, and told him to step away from the icing, but deep down I took it as a compliment. One of my Best Friends is in the middle of a move and without a working kitchen, and her son wanted an orange Light Saber cake for his birthday party. I offered to make the cake, and was flattered that she took me up on the offer.

I love making cakes. My cakes I know aren’t extremely fancy, as I am a food snob and will sacrifice flavor over “building” materials. At the request of the 6 year old, I made a favorite of mine, a carrot cake. Sticking to tradition I used cream cheese frosting….OK, I admit, I always use cream cheese frosting no matter what kind of cake I make because it’s really the only kind of frosting I think is not too sweet.

Like any creative endeavor you must know the strengths and limitations of your materials and set parameters. Parameters for this project included the need for the cake to be transported and for the size of the finished cake to fit onto a 14 x 17” tray. This is where the background entered the design. I needed a solution would encompass making a light saber that was not too short and squat in its proportions, but also not to thin, and use whole 9 x 13” cake need to be used. The back ground square helped fill all of these requirements! The other limitation that I am accustom to working with is the nature of the cream cheese icing. I learned a really great trick for icing cakes from another friend of mine. If you put the icing in one of those handy little icing bags and squeeze it onto the cake before spreading you end up with only minimal crumbs in the finished icing layer. Dark colors and food coloring are always a challenge. I know I could use the fancy paste color, but I just don’t. So to help with the darkness of the Light Saber’s handle I used some melted chocolate chips in that portion of the icing. (Guess which piece of cake my children asked for!) When working with cream cheese icing you do not have to compensate for the more fluid nature. Details become more of “impressions.” For this reason I tend to raid the candy stash in search of “details.” I used gummy candy for the buttons because I thought there translucence made them look like they glowed.

In the end, I was proud of the cake, but the true glory of the project was helping make my 6 year old friend a very happy birthday boy!