Thursday, 30 July 2015

Baby Business: Week 30, picture perfect

First hand, foot and body painting – all cleaned up. Tick
First cornflour and water moulding – all cleaned up. Tick
First sand castle building – all cleaned up. Tick
First cornflake crunching – all cleaned up... well Timba seems to have found most the stray cornflakes!

I woke this morning full of excitement, that very special ‘proudest-mum-in-the-world’ kind of excitement, because ‘I-have-the-most-beautiful-baby-in-the-world’ and today she is going to start her modelling career! As part of a free photo-shoot to update a professional photographer’s portfolio, Little One was to be immortalised in film (well digital file anyway).

I had carefully selected a wardrobe of outfits to cover all the different types of shots that may be taken. So on went outfit number one – cute pink velvet shorts, vintage-style shirt and... nooooooooooo... Sick all down the front.

No problem . Little One’s fine – just a bit of that lovely milky regurgitation we mums are so fond of! Plenty more outfits to choose from. On goes the gorgeous polka dot dress and... noooooooooooo. Doh! I should have known better... I’ll just stick to the vest and socks for now!

Now, I like to think that (given my work) I am a fairly creative person, but what the photographer saw when he walked in to my house were photo-opportunities that I would never have thought of. I still can’t get my head around how he made a radiator such a fabulous backdrop! He got straight in to rearranging furniture and cushions, clicking left, right, from above, from below, in action, posed stills.

After an hour or so I had repeated all Little One’s favourite songs to the point of grimacing at Incy Wincey Spider, I had worked the magic off all the actions that bring out her bubaliscious smile, and had pulled Timba out of shot (and slobber-range of Little One) over a dozen times , but we had it. That perfect shot (well actually a whole host of perfect shots).

The photographer has captured the absolute essence of my little girl in a photo that actually brought a tear to my eye. A visual memory that will last forever.

I know we all think we have the most beautiful child in the world... but I really do!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Windows of transition: day to night, summer to winter

The past few days I have been doing doodles on my doodle blog (have you taken a peek? >) following inspiration from the beauty that comes from Church and Cathedral stained Glass Windows. Works of art, they are now, more and more, taking on modern twists, commissioned artists working their storytelling magic into the images and colours and use of light that each window holds.

Years ago I visited Moreton Church in Dorset and was mesmerised and transported by the eerily beautiful windows that had been installed, using simplicity and calm through single white etchings to capture the devastation and impacts of the World Wars. So moving, so thought provoking.

So I've been inspired to create my own little set of four windows to depict the transition of day to night, summer to winter. My aim is simplicity, using colour and shapes to illustrate transition, and then (if they were real windows) the movement of the natural light through the pains would bring them to life, literally moving the transition between the windows.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

My week(s)...

Ooops, another week snuck by without me realising, so on catch up again. All going weel in Creativeland, Blogland and Writerland (less so in writerland as I've been a little distracted on work projects)...

My favourite doodle from the past two weeks...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

What an earth are you reading? Looks like sci-fi porn!

That’s what I wanted to say when I saw the cover of my brother’s latest read. The sci-fi aspect was no surprise (sci-fi lover through and through is my Big Bro), but the sleazy draping of the skimpily-clad lady with dragon wings over the broken moon did make me wonder what my brother was now in to.

Turns out, she was the God of the Elation galaxy and the last defender of the moons of Zarr. She was a strong, powerful feminist with intelligence and wit, leadership and compassion. All in all, it turns out that the book is more about politics of warfare and leadership and the battle of power between races and sexes. Who knew, the cover certainly didn’t ‘shout those messages’.

So, don’t judge a book by its cover. I get it.

Now I could go off in a whole different direction now, wearing my Marketing hat. I could delve in to the ‘selling the story’ strategies that go hand-in-hand (or should do) with book and cover designs, enabling your biggest marketing tool (the book itself) to call out to the readers that love the genre and those that would love the messages, the ideals, the sentiments in the words hidden behind the cover. But I’m not. Maybe another time, another blog...

I want to talk about the short-sightedness of readers. The prejudice of readers. The comfort zone of readers. Why do we readers read just what we know and like, what is our reluctance to venture into other genres?

Rumour has it there’s been this massive explosion in young adult literature over the past decade. But I’m not a ‘young adult’, so I don’t think they’ll be my kind of thing. Soppy teenage romances and school angst... oh and I heard something about wizards and vampires. Really. Not. My. Cup. Of. Tea.

What a mistake.

Think about it. Think back to your young adult/upper teenage you, your life. This is a time of so much change - physical, emotional, intellectual. The world becomes a far bigger place and life ahead can be a fearful inevitability or an exciting adventure. Politics and religion become topics that actually start to mean something as an individual, and love death and fear become real emotions and experiences. Money doesn’t grow on trees and your parents stop holding your hand. Throw in an array of (adult) genres – romance, thriller, sci-fi, adventure, murder mystery, crime...

Wow, YA has to actually be an amazing discovery to discover.

As 2014 came to a close, I was in the process of changing a number of aspects of my life. Not because of the new year approaching, but just because needs must – financially and emotionally. With the re-jigging of a number of elements in my life, I wanted to read more again, having drifted from the literary path somewhat in the previous years. But I didn’t want to read what I’d read before, regardless of new titles and authors, I wanted to have a form of escape, a form of excitement, a form of adventure, a form of tension, that was all outside my actual life. I wanted to see what was out there.

So I followed a number of blogs by well known and respected book reviewers and I made a pact with myself to just buy every book they raved about, regardless of subject matter or genre (though I can’t quite bring myself to read horror yet though). So as January and February went by, lots of lovely packages of books arrived and I put them in a box and randomly picked one out at a time.

I have now read a number of YA books, the most amazing sci-fi book (having never read sci-fi before), a memoir, a fashion book, a book on bees and a major Hollywood hit. I have been to Mars, college and the beginning of the end of the world. I’m currently in the Netherlands in the last century before I will venture in to space and the actual life of a real astronaut. What a journey. I’ve cried, I’ve snorted with laughter and I’ve stayed up till 2am captivated by the tension. I’ve met characters I love, ones I despised and some that just bored me. I’ve read amazing wordmanship and skipped the pages of some pretty poor writing too.

But I have been on such journeys. Roads I would never have gone on if I had not just opened up my bookshelves and invited in a load of strangers.

No more assumptions. (But still no horror.)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Baby Business: Week 28, rock and roll (over!)

Went to a Royal Wedding party. Tick
Put on my best party dress. Tick
Watched the service with fascination. Tick
Decided to become a princess when I grow up. Tick

Ah the end of that wonderful run of Bank Holidays (complete with fabulous sunshine). It is now back to reality and in a big way for me.

Having slowly ‘drifted’ back in to work, dipping my toe slightly in to the marketing waters, I gave myself till May before knuckling down and picking up the work-pace... yikes, May is here! And to make matters harder, I have just had loads of extra days with just me and Little One and I don’t want them to stop.

A number of weeks back I wrote about the difficulties of going back to work – no one doubts how hard it is, but having gone back already (very part time) I have managed to achieve a lovely balanced pattern. But it is no longer enough, I need to crank up the work, especially now Little One has already started to outgrow 9-12 month clothes so another new wardrobe beckons.

It is all part of this amazing rollercoaster of a ride that motherhood is. Typically people have used this expression to depict the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of becoming a mother, but in my case there are absolutely no ‘downs’. I use the phrase ‘rollercoaster ride’ to emphasise the excitement, the thrills, the twists and the turns of being a mummy. No day is the same and just as you think you are on one track, Little One goes and puts a whole new stance on things - we are now very ‘rock and roll’...

Rock: sitting and swaying, side-to-side, back-and-forth, balancing then ‘whoooops’, up we get!

Roll: from back to tummy, ‘eeeeek’ how do I get back? Oh, that’s how... no stopping me now!

Rock and Roll: I have a xylophone, I have a tambourine, I have drums, I make NOISE!

Life is certainly never dull, and as I am lucky enough to work from home I have no doubt that I will hear ‘band practice’ from my office.

Monday, 20 July 2015

I have a story to draw.

I have a story to draw. A story to tell with no words, no punctuation, no commentary. I have a story, and only images will do. After all, a picture’s worth a thousand words...

Sometimes you get a moment, only a second in time, to get a message or information across:
An advert to tempt you to shop at a certain store; a headline photo to make you buy that newspaper; a cover of a book to tell you that you want to read it; a sign post to show you your roundabout exit; the location of your life-vest on an aeroplane.  

Images enable a huge amount of information to be portrayed in one picture, one place, one second (if necessary).

Images communicate, inform and break down communication barriers, whether language barriers or emotional ones. From early learning of the written and spoken language (a picture of a red apple, a bright coloured beach ball) to communicating international information – arrows for direction, trains for train stations, crosses for medical facilities - drawings, pictures and images are a language of their own. Even colours themselves speak – red danger, pink females and green environment.

Not all pictures are for instant use, sometimes you want someone to delve in to a picture and see more and more, wonder more and more, question more and more.

Pictures can shape our world differently, through fresh eyes. How we may have perceived something can be shown to be different, be seen differently, looked at in a different way. Opening our eyes and minds to different ideas and understanding, seeing how things are, can be and once were.

So you see a picture of a child, standing with a tear in her eye...

You could think she was sad, something bad had happened.

If we drew her thin and in rags, you may perceive her as a street urchin, poor and hungry.

If we drew her in a busy bustling street, so much shorter than the crowds around her, we might assume she was lost and looking for her mummy.

What if we changed the background and put her in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt with a pony on the front, drew fields around her, with a stable, the door open and a little white pony standing there, a big pink bow around its neck... a much wanted and dreamed for birthday present. The tear becomes one of happiness.

Through a picture, so much can be said with so little. A whole story can be told.

Last year I was introduced to The Big Draw, the world’s largest drawing festival. An international month-long event, that encourages and facilitates people from all walks of life to draw. Last year this involved over 400,000 people from 21 countries attending. Schools, museums, galleries, outdoor venues, artists and illustrators all came together to connect people from across the world through drawing.

This year, throughout October, The Big Draw festival carries the theme ‘Every Drawing Tells a Story’. So come on, what’s your story? Draw it, even if you think you can’t draw you will be amazed at what you can do. There are events all over the place for grown-ups and children, so take a look and have a go, a doodle, a scribble, a sketch, a painting... drawing is drawing, expression is expression, and we all have stories to tell.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Another moment of summer

There are so many things that conjure up 'summer' to different people, from the obvious ice creams and bikinis, the camping and BBQs, to the holidays and long light nights, the balmy evenings and toasty days.

Memories are such an influence: summers past, summers not-to-be-forgotten, those days that made us smile and those places that stay with us forever.

So what's in an image, what summer is shining through, what memory, what story, what feelings...

An image tells a thousand words. What does this say to you?

July 2015

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Baby Business: Week 26, did someone eat the Easter Bunny?

Been a ‘lady wot lunches’ lots this week. Tick
Been a ‘lady wot squeals’ lots this week. Tick
Been a ‘lady wot bangs toys’ lots this week. Tick
Been a ‘lady wot sleeps’ lots this week. Tick

Obviously this year brings a whole host of ‘firsts’ as this is Little One’s first year, so welcome to Little One’s first Easter, as described by Little One herself:

My Easter

Here comes Mummy. “Shplurrrr ga ga ga eeeeeeEEEEEE” [Hello Mummy].

Big cuddles and quick nappy change, a few wriggles and kicks, one raspberry and a lot of chat and we are good to go. Apparently something called the Easter Bunny has been...

I have a pretty flowery dress on and we are off to that church building we passed on our walk yesterday. Some strange but nice music is coming from inside and lots and lots of people keep coming up to me and saying hello and wiggling my cheeks. Oi, less of the ‘chubby cheeks’ thank you very much!

There’s this friendly looking man standing at the front with his arms stretched out talking to us... best say hello, but I’ll have to shout as we are sitting quite far back – “YEEEEEEOOOOOGA GAG A SHPLUUUUUUUUURRRRR”. Ooooo it’s all gone quiet, but I have got the attention of that nice man. I want to keep chatting to him but something has sneaked up on me... can’t stop it... “BURRRRRRRRP”. Oops everyone’s looking at me now, but it’s ok as mummy is laughing lots... 

Back home and play time, but hold on, what’s this? A pile of funny shaped things from that Easter Bunny. It’s all covered in pretty paper ... oooo what fun, paper to crunch!

Mummy and Granny look very excited. Maybe I should join in... “goo gee gee shplurrrrr eeeEEEE ga ga ga”. Yeah, this is fun! Mummy is taking that lovely crunchy paper off and... hold on Mummy... what are you doing.... don’t throw the paper away... I want it to crunch... “AAAAAAAEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRGGGHHHH”!

Ok. All calm again now. I have my paper and have now realised that behind the paper are some really fun things too, all from that Easter Bunny. I now have these funny plastic egg things that break and squeak when I grab and push them and a crocodile that whizzes across the floor... wayhay!

I am liking this Easter Bunny. He seems to have delivered a load more boxes for me with round shaped things covered in shiny colourful paper... however, mummy keeps sneaking these off saying ‘thank you Easter Bunny’ and then going ‘yum yum yum’... has Mummy just eaten the Easter Bunny?

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A moment of summer

There are so many things that conjure up 'summer' to different people, from the obvious ice creams and bikinis, the camping and BBQs, to the holidays and long light nights, the balmy evenings and toasty days.

Memories are such an influence: summers past, summers not-to-be-forgotten, those days that made us smile and those places that stay with us forever.

So what's in an image, what summer is shining through, what memory, what story, what feelings...

An image tells a thousand words. What does this say to you?

July 2014

Sunday, 12 July 2015

My weeks...

Sorry, I missed last weeks round-up... had a sneaky little break away, but back in full flow now. Lots has been happening in Creativeland, Writerland and Blogland...

New projects in i did a doodle today Blog >
- Nature's Couture
- Reflections

Baby Business Blog:
1. Baby Business: Week 25, Rhyme Time. Are you ready? >
2. Week 24, growth spurt number 154 >

The National Literacy Trust caught my attention: Words for life >
Literacy goes deep for those of us that are literate, a take-for-granted-kind-of-deep. 
Illiteracy goes even deeper, a taken-from-us-kind-of-life-line.

Pirate's Graveyard photo >

Drawings that give us a beautiful and illustrative glimpse into the past. The Art of History >

June's top blog posts were announced and it was close, so the top places all get a mention:
Stories & Stuff Blog:
1. I forgot to feed my Tamagotchi blog >
2. What's the pig idea? Pigs swill >
3. There goes some more of that money-that-I-never-actually-saw-or-touched >
i did a doodle today blog:
1. Tangerine #colour_collective Madarin Duck >
2. A pretty four poster bed fit for a princess >

Prepare for the worst and enjoy every moment of it >This was the philosophy Chris Hadfield learnt at NASA and the philosophy that he lives by.

#Colour_Collective embraced Aubergine and Corn Yellow

Favourite doodle from the past two weeks?
The cave painting above followed by this:

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Baby Business: Week 25, Rhyme Time. Are you ready?

Learnt the words to Dingle Dangle Scarecrow. Tick
Learnt the actions to Dingle Dangle Scarecrow. Tick
Made Little One chuckle with my rendition of Dingle Dangle Scarecrow. Tick
Ready to perform Dingle Dangle Scarecrow to other babies. Absolutely not!

Quick, before she starts crying... entertain her, distract her, keep her smiling... Right, on the spot, what have I got to work with? A multicoloured toy dog and... yikes, that’s it. Ok, here we go...

[in best singing voice]
“My name is Rainbow Dog,
Rainbow is my name.
I’m made of lots of colours,
And full of lots of games.”

Little One’s verdict? Yeah, the baby from the blog says ‘yes’ and with a great big smile too. Crisis diverted.

Come on mums and dads – how many times have you had to improvise on the spot? Isn’t it amazing what rhymes we can make out of a weaning spoon or a trip to the supermarket; or the games we can create from an old hankie and a woolly glove! Is this something we are born with, or is it something that just comes with parenthood? I’m not sure...

Maybe it is a gift? Maybe it is just the inner child in us just begging to be let out. The trouble is, far too many people hold back or worry about what others think. Surely the most important opinion and perception is that of your little child, does anything else really matter?

Take my brother. From the days of geeky teenager sitting in front of his ZX Spectrum (daylight was not an option) to married life and dad of two gorgeous little girls, my quiet brother has transformed in to a born children’s entertainer. No matter where he is or who he’s with, he will just sing, play, chase, tickle and generally act the clown until his children and their friends are giggling uncontrollably. Does he care what others think? NO. And he is undoubtedly one of the best and happiest dad’s I have ever come across, and his little girls think so too.

Me? Well, I have to admit that I often have to ‘check’ myself as I find myself singing whilst out shopping, humming whilst waiting to go in to a meeting and distracting myself from work by imagining the stories I can tell Little One before bed. So, if you pass a strange lady singing, “I’m going to the zoo zoo zoo, how about you you you? You can come too too too”, then don’t cross over the road, just know that I am practicing for the next time my little girl gets upset in her car seat...

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Words for life.

1 in 6 people live with poor literacy in the UK.

And so begins a downward spiral of knock-on effects. Poor literacy, poor educational development, poor chances in the job market, poor earnings opportunities, poor ability and desire to pass on learning (and literacy) to children...

Literacy provides words, words that are key to so many aspects of life.

Words for Life.

This is the strap-line of the National Literacy Trust. Founded by Sir Simon Hornby,  the former Chairman of W.H.Smiths, the National Literacy Trust  campaigns to increase the awareness and understanding of the importance and vital role of literacy. They implement literacy projects in areas with high literacy problems; they campaign for greater political  and parental awareness of the role of literacy; and they provide much needed support and resources for schools.

Now much can be learnt and communicated through visual imagery and there are many things that can only truly be learnt through experience, hands on practice. But these things are not in isolation within an individual's life. Life involves communicating across many mediums, but reading and writing is intrinsic to development and in many cases survival. It's not just about being able to get jobs, so you can earn money and contribute to the economy and provide your own acceptable standards of life. It is about the enrichment of us as individuals, our self-esteem, our well-being, our own sense of worth.

Imagine not being able to experience the world through a book, or even other-worlds taking our minds to places of wonderment, fabricated and fabulous, dark and mysterious, alive and adorned with amazement. That seems a shame, sad.

Imagine not being able to read text messages and Facebook updates, not be able to tweet or email friends and family. Imagine not being able to read a letter or birthday card. That seems a real shame, really sad.

Imagine not being able to read a menu or the cooking instructions on food. Imagine not being able to read safety warnings on medication. Imagine not being able to read a job advert or write a letter. Now that is a shame, that is sad.

Imagine being to scared to apply for jobs. Imagine feeling to stupid to ask about the medications on a shelf. Imagine feeling isolated from friends and family. Now that  is a real shame, that is very sad.

Literacy goes deep for those of us that are literate, a take-for-granted-kind-of-deep. 

Illiteracy goes even deeper, a taken-from-us-kind-of-life-line.

Organisations such as the National Literacy Trust are vital in educating those literate and illiterate. We are privileged to have had the opportunity to become fluently literate, making it second nature to us. We are lucky to have not had hurdles that have prevented our literacy development. So it is equally important to teach us about the facts and the issues of literacy development and those 'word walls' that are barriers to those less fortunate.

Take a look. Have a word. We can all help.

Find out more about the work of the National Literacy Trust >

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Pirates Graveyard

The abandoned long stretch of coast, strewn with murderous rocks and dark nights waiting to ambush.

The pirates smuggle their loot, tarnished with blood and greed, across the narrow straight, navigating in the mists of secrecy. A storm, an attack, a battle lost and black souls lost to the sea. Buried in the dunes, forever watching the ocean pound the bones of their long forgotten shipwrecks.

Pirates Graveyard, North Wales 2015

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Baby Business: Week 24, growth spurt number 154

Peeled, chopped and cooked endless fruits and vegetables. Tick
Pureed, divided into baby potions and frozen the endless fruit and vegetables. Tick
Been easier to just buy baby food. Tick
Would I have done it differently? Of course not!

“Whhooooaaa... she’s huge!”

Not quite the reaction I’d been looking for when I took Little One out of her buggy in front of family I hadn’t seen since Christmas. The thing is, they are right.

For the record, my precious little girl is not overweight, she is just exceptionally tall. Little One is now more than a third of my height, and I am 5 foot 9. Great if she wants to do the pole vault, be a basketball player or keep giraffes... or be a super-model! However, right now it means that my (ahem) little five month old girl is wearing 9 to 12 month clothes, she has outgrown her car seat and I am looking at the 1 year clothes that have been put away and wondering if I can get a refund on them?

It is a good thing that business is also growing as I will have to raid the old piggy banks again.
What’s more, as she has these continuous growth spurts (and they are continuous) the Milk Monster goes in to full force. And now we have also been joined by the Grub Guzzler, who wolfs down pureed fruit and veg at the rate of knots... apart from the bits smeared round the face, across sleeves and ‘raspberry-spayed’ over Mummy!

Does height matter? I have had this conversation many times during my life, as I was a very tall child and seemed to awkwardly tower above most of my friends. But I love my height and I think that with her larger than life personality and zest for adventure, my (not so) little girl will make the most of her height and stand proud in life. Plus I already have some beautiful dresses put away for her and I look forward to the day we can swap shoes. 

The art of history.

Costing around 55 million euros, a replica of ancient art has been recreated in Southern France. Why? To protect art. To protect history. The value of both being priceless to our ancestry and culture.

Twenty years ago caves of major beauty and historic importance were discovered, revealing some of the oldest art every found. Ancient caverns adorned with detailed cave paintings, a natural history of the time, estimated to be about 35,000 years ago, providing a glimpse into the animals that roamed the region, drawn by the people of the time.

Chauvet Cave holds history of such importance that it rightly needs to be protected and preserved, so has not been opened to the public, but it is too important and too amazing to be kept hidden from the public. This led to the building of a replica of areas of the cave, right down to the stalactites and stalagmites that decorate the caverns. The paintings themselves offer the main draw (no pun intended), so artists spent months recreating them on recreated limestone cave walls made out of resin.

So why is this all so important?

Because these pictures wordlessly tell us so much about the people of the time and the time they lived. There are different interpretations and beliefs about the pictures and what they represented: a means of communications; a form of worship, religion; or magic, hunting magic invoked through drawings of animals conjuring up more animals to hunt, or Shaman pictorially illustrating their visions and premonitions.

I think of them as a story. A story of lives past, stories of creatures that were intrinsic to life: survival from hunters of humans or survival by humans hunting, providing food, warmth, life. Rare images of humans as generations, from children to the wise and elderly, the leaders and the communities, the hunters and the gatherers.

The drawings are giving us a beautiful and illustrative glimpse into the past, into how our ancestors lived and survived. Of the nature around them, the world they lived in. Art itself is historic, but the stories and information they hold are the real history. Our history, the history of those before us.

Simple. Magnificent. Beautiful. Invaluable.

Read the BBC feature: Vast replica recreates prehistoric Chauvet cave >

My cave drawing inspired doodle: