Posted in art, watercolour painting

Back to basics: Watercolouring Challenge Day 1

This week, I’m taking part in an online Beginner’s watercolour course called Show Me Your Florals. This free course comes complete with a workbook, daily demo videos and tasks to complete over a period of 1 week. For Day 1, the focus was on mixing basic colours to create a chart. I spent over 3 hours making it and now have back and neck ache so I hope it proves to be useful! I certainly enjoyed mixing the paints but wasn’t so keen on washing my small mixing palette repeatedly!

The full chart is made using 9 basic colours which are from my Daler Rowney tin. The artist who is running the challenge says it’s best to work with squeezy tubes of watercolour but I’ve already splashed out on new brushes and really couldn’t afford to buy more new paints so I’m sticking with my travel tin of little paint pans which I’m sure will be okay. I’ve also only got some of the suggested colours so I’ve chosen a few other similar ones from my palette.

The diagonal which goes from top left to bottom right shows the original colours and the other squares are the colour produced when mixing two equal amounts of the labelled paints. The chart has been done on Strathmore cold press watercolour paper 90lb weight and each square is 2 x 2 cms.

It was interesting to see how many different colours and shades could be created with the 9 basic ones. The artist also showed us how to can add more water to create a much paler version of the colours too.

A close up of the top left of my chart
The top right hand section
The bottom left section
And finally, the bottom right hand section

If you are new to watercolouring and want to try a little paint mixing, I can recommend making one of these charts to help you choose colours for your projects. However, bear in mind that it takes a while to make. Particularly if you only have a small mixing palette like I do and have to keep running bowls of soapy water to clean it.

Day 2’s task popped into my inbox just after lunchtime but I’m going to continue to stay one day behind and work on it tomorrow. Also, if each of the tasks takes in excess of 3 hours like this one did, it might end up taking me until at least the end of October but I’m sure it will be fun and I’ve learnt lots already.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share pictures of the rest of the challenge but it may take a while as the light is starting to get a bit rubbish now with the cloudy weather and limited daylight hours. Have any of you done a watercolour course before? Did you do it online or did you go to a proper class with others and have personal support from a tutor?

Posted in compassion, mental health, wellbeing

Monday Matters – Self soothing activities for emotional regulation

Photo credit: Johannes Plenio.

Today marks the beginning of my new ‘Monday Matters’ feature in which I will present different ideas on how to live a happy life and increase your general wellbeing. My first post is on managing your emotions using self soothing activities and features lots of ideas for self care and relaxation.

Recent research by Professor Paul Gilbert, a psychologist who developed Compassion Focused Therapy argues that we have three emotional regulation systems in our brain, namely:

  • The threat system – for detecting danger, based on emotions of anxiety, anger or disgust.
  • The drive system – enabling us to have the motivation to do, achieve and acquire, sparking excitement.
  • The soothing system – helping us to manage stress, creating feelings of contentment, safety, trust and connection to others.

All three of these systems are important, but issues can arise when one system dominates. If threat presides, we end up feeling constantly anxious and worried. If we spend too much time in drive mode, we can become obsessed with being better and having more and this can lead to stress, perfectionism, burn out and depression. However, If we were always in soothing mode, we would never get anything done!

Many of us find that we have very active threat and drive systems but rarely use our soothing system. By investing time on activities which sooth us, we can greatly improve our wellbeing. Of course, what is considered to be soothing, depends on the individual but here’s a list I’ve collated to give you some ideas.

  • Wrap yourself up in a cosy blanket to enjoy your favourite warm drink
  • Light some scented candles or burn some oils and turn down the dimmer switch
  • Go to the park for a gentle stroll and feed the ducks
  • In hot weather, enjoy an ice cream, in colder weather, make some warming soup
  • Look at photographs from a happy event e.g. a holiday, your wedding, a celebration day.
  • Spend some time in nature e.g. woodland or a forest and look for signs of the current season, or do some ‘forest bathing’ (to find out more about this stress busting pastime click here. Of course you don’t need to book a holiday to try this technique out but you do need somewhere dry to lie and soak up the atmosphere).
  • Flick through your favourite magazine (I love Breathe magazine which is all about making time for yourself).
  • Set aside some creative time to enjoy your favourite craft such as sewing, card making or collage
  • Watch something funny, such as a romantic comedy or your favourite sitcom.
  • Run a warm bath and add bubbles or a bath bomb (I love the ones from Lush as they change the colour of the water and smell delicious)
  • Play some upbeat music and have a sing song and a dance
  • Go out in the warm sun and feel the heat on your face
  • Play with a pet (I love having snuggles with my hamster Kikki, when she lets me!)
  • Read some inspirational quotes or some positive affirmations (I like to write these in my BuJo)
  • Engage in rhythmic activities such as doing a jigsaw, colouring on or painting
  • Take your phone or camera out on a nature walk and take lots of pretty pictures of your surroundings
  • Lie on the grass and watch the clouds float by
  • Get yourself a drink and savour the temperature and flavour
  • Go bird or squirrel spotting in your local park
  • Enjoy a massage

I hope my post has given you some ideas to try. If you could spend 10 minutes, half an hour, a morning or afternoon doing something just for yourself, what would you choose?

Posted in Blogging, Business branding

A mini audit of my brand

For Day 2 of the free WordPress ‘Branding and growth’ course, the focus is on your brand and how your blog communicates what you are all about to visitors. It invites you to consider if the presentation of your site is consistent and focused and suggests you make one update to reinforce your brand.

I chose to make changes to theme but discovered that my current choice had become obsolete and retired from service! Therefore, in the end, I looked at alternatives and decided on ‘Scratchpad’ which seemed to suit my requirements. As well as changing the theme, I also created a custom header using Canva and added a lovely brush font for the blog title. I’m quite pleased with how it looks and hopefully, it will give readers an idea of the focus of my posts.

There are lots more changes I would like to make but I need to do more reading before I start to add further customisation. I hope you like the changes I’ve made so far. I would be interested to know if you have used one of your own photographs as the image for your header or if you chose an image from a copywrite free site like I did. I’m hoping to have my own image in place at some point but it always seems to be too dark for taking indoor photographs at the moment and it’s only Autumn!

Posted in Blogging, Setting goals and intentions

Setting goals for my blog

Today, I’m starting the free WordPress course on branding and growing your blog. I’ve just set myself some new goals which I’ve recorded in my BuJo but thought I would create a post identifying what they are and how I plan to go about achieving them so that you lot can have the chance to help and support me and hopefully cheer me on!

Goal 1: Establish a new weekly feature on my blog called Monday Matters and consistently post each week until at least the end of 2019

I generally schedule a blog post at the beginning of the week anyway so I thought it made sense to create a little more consistency. Hopefully, by writing my intention here it will help to keep myself accountable.

Goal 2: Publish a post at least twice a week for the next two months

This one is pretty self explanatory and with my new Monday feature, I just have one more to plan for each week.

Goal 3: Gain 20% more followers in the next three months

With consistent posting and improved branding which the free course should bring, hopefully this will happen! People have been really supportive so far and I’ve got some lovely comments and plenty of likes so I think other bloggers are enjoying my content.

Have you set any goals for your blog this month? If you have, I’d love to hear them and you can be sure I will cheer you on too! If you’re also doing the challenge you can find my post more easily if I tag it with #bloggingbranding apparently!

Posted in art, ceramics, creativity

Ceramics for beginners: Creating a 3D clay form

My finished hedgehog ready to go in the kiln!

Last week in our ceramics for beginners class, we used a ‘forma’ as a basis for creating a 3D clay piece. I chose to make an ornamental hedgehog which I could have on display in my garden. In this blog post, I’m going to share the process and lots of photos I took illustrating this.

Hand built clay items, i.e. those where the clay is worked by hand and some simple tools, are usually made from slabs, coils, pinch pots or a combination of these three techniques. However, another technique is to use a ‘forma’ to support the making of a 3D object or sculpture.

Our forma was a sphere which we made using one or two loosely scrunched up pieces of newspaper. We then created small flat pieces of clay with our fingers and added them around the newspaper, overlapping slightly and smoothing the pieces together. The idea is that if you made the item from solid clay it would take a very long time to dry out to ‘leather hard’ which is where it is suitable for putting in the kiln. By building around newspaper, the clay work is much thinner and as long as you add a hole into your item somewhere, it has a chamber inside for the air to get in. The heat of the kiln burns the newspaper away and you can tip out the ash and be left with a wonderful 3D design which is lightweight.

To begin, you take a piece of clay and form a small, flat round. Then, holding the newspaper sphere in your hand. You mold the shape onto the ball. You then continue to add small flat pieces around the newspaper and start to create the shape required for you object. As mine was to be a hedgehog, I began to manipulate into a kind of oval shape with a flattened base and then squeezed one end to create a snout shape.

The next step was to add a round hole on the base of the form which I did using a pointed metal tool and then dug out the clay using a looped piece. This is to let the air circulate around when the item is in the kiln and is essential to prevent the work from exploding! The hole won’t be seen as it is on the base of the work but I did try to make it nice and neat.

An air hole to allow the very hot air to circulate around the piece in the kiln

After adding a hole at the base and scratching in my initials, tutor’s initials and the session number so that my work is identifiable after firing, I made the features of the hedgehog i.e. a dog’s nose shape, some small balls for the eyes and four little feet. I create two circular indentations to place the eyes and then used the score and slip technique to attach them. If you want to see how ‘score and slip’ works click here for my previous post which contains a great link.

I was a little bit scared to add some texture to my design in case I messed it up, so I did a little practise on a small ball of clay first. Then, I added long, gentle cuts randomly all over the back of the hedgehog using a plastic knife from my modelling tools box.

Texture to create the idea of spines on the hedgehog’s back

Finally, made small snips with a pair of scissors in different places to add further texture and a spiny appearance. Again, I was frightened to do this, but I was pleased with the result in the end!

Here’s a front view of the spikes which I think look quite effective. The tutor said that when I add the glaze after he has been fired, it will go into the places where I have snipped and make different intensities of colour which will add to the effect and should look quite striking. I can’t wait to get started with this but he might take a while to dry out before he can go in the kiln. I’m also looking forward to glazing my little plant pot holder from a few weeks ago too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my hedgehog taking shape and liked reading about the process. If you ever get the chance to do a beginners ceramics course, I can definitely recommend it as it’s great to try something new and both the course participants and the tutor are lovely and so helpful. I always look forward to my time at the arts centre each week and find it really therapeutic in so many different ways.