Friday, March 29, 2013

Artful Readers Club March - Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

It's the last Friday of the month again - and that means it's book club time :)

This month I read Heart Shaped Box by Stephen King's son (although I didn't know that when I bought it), Joe Hill:

I'll start my review with a question - if a horror book doesn't leave you utterly terrified, has it failed?

Because if so, then I'm afraid this book didn't quite hit the mark.

It started off deliciously creepy - to the extent that I couldn't read it in bed at night just before sleep for fear of nightmares - but then there came a point, less than half way in to the story, where it just stopped being scary.

It was still an entertaining read though, and I really enjoyed it, but was just a teensy bit disappointed it didn't leave me a gibbering wreck :)

Author Joe Hill
So - what's it about?  It's a good old fashioned ghost story - revolving around Ozzy-style ageing rock star Judas Coyne, and the spirit of an old man that he bought on an internet auction site.

The bulk of the story sees Coyne, his young goth girlfriend, and his two dogs fleeing across country from the vengeful spook, who has some personal scores to settle from beyond the grave.

That just about sums it up really - it's nothing ground breaking or complex - but it's an enjoyable romp of a read and despite being over 400 pages long (and me being scared to read it in bed at first :) which is where I generally do 99% of my reading ...) I got through it in no time.

And it really does remind me of early Stephen King, it took me right back to my teenage years when his books were all I read, I guess the writing style must be hereditary!

My journal page this month is based on the ghost of the old man in the book - he is described as having black scribbles dancing in front of his eyes, like someone was crossing them out with a Sharpie ..... spooooooky....

(tintype image by Michael Shindler)
In the book, the lead character first finds the ghost sitting quietly in a chair on the landing outside his bedroom.  This bit of the book really did give me the shivers, and for a few days I was scared every time I emerged from my bedroom in case I found him sat there, with his scribbles for eyes.

Shudder :)

I'll hopefully see you back here next month, when I'll be reviewing and "arting up" Pursuit of Liberty by Glenn Petrucci

PS I actually scheduled this post yonks ago, and in the meantime Rhomany, a fellow ARC-er, has read and reviewed the same book, so for an another opinion on it - see here

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Isn't it good....Norwegian wood....

It's Desert Island Discs CJ time again and this month I have Pat's absolutely gorgeous book to play in

I chose the song Norwegian Wood as when I was little, the Beatles were constantly played in my house as my big sister loved them - and this song (and the Rubber Soul album as a whole) was my favourite

I never realised though until I really read the lyrics in preparation for this page that it was about a jilted arsonist! :D

But instead of portraying our John burning the poor girl's furniture, I decided to illustrate the line about sleeping in the bath tub...

The background was spray painted through the same stencil twice, but moved a bit the second time...  I was kind of trying to go for something reminiscent of the Norwegian flag:

Not sure it quite worked, ah well, at least the colours are right....ish

Then I blocked out the shape for bathtime Lennon with white paint pen, and started to colour him in:

I liked the way the background showed through his towel so I made sure to keep a bit of that in the final thing.

Lots of shading with oil pastels and a Stabilo All pencil later, and he was done.

All that was left to do was type up the relevant bit of the song lyrics:

You can see where I was a bit heavy handed with the typewriter on the "o" in "crawled off" and the middle fell out - oops!  But I had already stuck it down before I noticed :)

So that's it for my own page, quite plain, so lots of scope for the other participants to fiddle with it as it does the rest of its rounds :D  (this is a collaborative circle journal)

And talking of fiddling:

I added some shadow stamping to echo the lovely pressed flower on Pam's page

And some light colour to the gorgeous sketched girl on Sherry's page

Meanwhile Donna's amazing Parisian page was the perfect home for my Paris washi tape (up top)

and I finished up by giving Virginia's page a blush of colour round the edges

As ever, this has been a lot of fun!

Sian's book next month, and I'm going to give a bit of an advanced warning, my page might have a few swear words on it!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An impossible-to-photograph CJ page

I know people always say "trust me, it looks a lot better in real life" - but trust me, it really does!

Anyway, enough excuses, this is my entry in Mistyrat's art journal CJ - her theme is "quotes to live by" .....

I've always loved this Einstein quote, it rings so true for so many of us, feeling like failures because of the things we can't do, instead of successes for all the things we can.

So, a fish up a tree it had to be :)

Here's a close up of my fishy friend:

He was drawn with a micron pen onto watercolour paper that already had the red numbers stamped on it, and coloured with watercolours and oil pastels

The page background was printed on a gelli plate and overstamped with the little stars in a pale pearlescent ink - they are over the whole page but they come and go depending on the light and the angle you hold the paper.  So you can see the stars clearly in bright light (the left hand side of the page in the top photo) and they almost disappear in shadow (the right hand side of the page).  And the trees were drawn freehand with a black Sharpie.

I enjoyed pulling this page together, I just wish I could get a half decent photo of it before it goes off in the post....

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mail comes in.....mail goes out.....

.... and thus is the balance of the world restored :)

First of all - mail came in

You might remember, a few months ago, my Rock CJ came home - the one with all the little record sleeve makeovers.

When I blogged it back then, I had a couple of spare record sleeves left over, and asked if anyone out in blogland fancied doing me a favour and completing my CJ for me.  And Donna and Bex (fellow Collabor-ARTists both) were kind enough to volunteer.

And here are the fantastic results!

Donna chose Kraftwerk's The Model for her makeover:

And Bex went with Faith no More's brilliant Angel Dust, one of my favourite albums of all time - love the screaming Mike P on the front :)

I LOVE them both, thank you ladies!!

And then some mail art went out

The first one, coincidentally, was for Donna - yes that Donna up there :)

I happen to know that her mis-spent youth was very similar to my own, and that she shares a love both for the punk rock sensibility, and for those crazy old anarcho-space-rockers Hawkwind.  So I chose the most punk rock song Hawkwind ever wrote as the basis for my mail art offering.

First of all I got my Banksy on with some spray paint and a hand cut stencil:

And this is the end result:

I realised once it was finished that the song lyrics I included on the card ("I'm an urban guerrilla, I make bombs in my cellar"....etc....) could possibly be taken the wrong way lol

So I wrote a little note on the back to the postman assuring him that it was just a song and there really was no need to alert the authorities ;)

And it must have worked as the postcard arrived at Donna's safe and sound the next day

The eye in the pyramid on the back is another logo used by Hawkwind along the way, and was drawn using Posca paint pens

And the faux postage stamp is one from this sheet, still going strong

Next up, a postcard for my good friend Virginia

It started off like this (gelli-plate background onto corrugated cardboard - I love the how the texture shows through - and drawings on top with Posca paint pens) - can you tell what it is yet?? :D

How about now?

Yes, it's a zombie bunny - or will be when it's finished.  This subject matter is a bit of an in joke for Virginia harking back to a previous conversation.  I hope she remembered the conversation as otherwise she probably thinks I'm a little peculiar right now! :)

And here he is all done and ready to pop in the post:

cute isn't he .... in an undead kinda way :)

(finished off with a combination of Fresco chalk paints and oil pastels - bunny adapted from a digital illustration by Patione)

Rock hands for the Queen of the Rockettes :)

Virginia expressed some surprise that the postcard had travelled through the mail unhindered given the Biohazard stamp - but that's nothing compared to Donna's bomb threats :D

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rocking February - plus Year of Firsts update

So here we are again with a roundup of what rocked my world last month, and also how I'm getting along with my Year of Firsts:

Blimey it was a rubbish month weather-wise, wasn't it?  Either freezing cold, or raining, or both.  Ugh.  But we tried not to let that get in the way of having fun.

For a start we've been doing a lot of hockeying - when you are stuck inside an ice rink anyway you don't really care what the weather is like outside :)

We have done our usual thing of realising that the season is nearly over and that we are going to miss it loads, so we have gone to a couple of away games this month as well as our regular home games, in a last minute frenzy :)

And as one of those away games was in Manchester, I have now completed my goal of seeing a game at every rink in our league, which is kind of cool - I think I deserve a badge for that.

And in other sporting news - the lovely ladies of Wiltshire Roller Derby had their first ever public home bout this month, and I was lucky enough to be invited along to take photos for the team.

They played really well, vs the Kernow Rollers, and were leading for most of the game, but right near the end our Cornish foes got a late boost of energy and managed to JUST pip us at the post.  The final score was 178 to 173.

The following weekend we had a very short holiday - otherwise known as one night in a cheap Travelodge in Manchester :) We had a brilliant time - who needs a fortnight in the Caribbean??

On the Saturday we were up bright and early and on the road by 8, arriving in central Manchester at 11-ish.  First stop was the Manchester Art Gallery.

Saw lots of incredibly inspiring art there, including a major exhibition by Raqib Shaw, plus the kids had fun recreating some old masters:

After lunch in the gallery (lush!) and a mooch around Chinatown, we drove out to Old Trafford for the Manchester United stadium tour.  I'm not even particularly interested in football but I found the tour really interesting, and the boys (old and young) loved it

We topped off the Saturday night with a walk into town and dinner at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen by the canal.  Manchester city centre on a Saturday night was a real eye opener for the boys - I don't think they had ever seen so many loud drunks and scantily dressed girls before :)

Next morning we had a yummy buffet breakfast at the hotel, and then headed to the Trafford Centre to go to the indoor Legoland there.  My my, that's one posh shopping centre!  It's like a slightly obscene and very over the top temple to opulence and excessive consumption:

Legoland was fun but probably more suited to younger children, as our big strapping lads were too big and old for some of the rides.  We did enjoy making our own cars to race though, and the 4D movie, and the miniland with scale models of lots of Northern landmarks we have visited, like Blackpool Tower and Alton Towers, and of course Old Trafford.

After Legoland we wandered over to the food court (if you have never seen the food court at the Trafford Centre, you HAVE to go, I've never seen anything like it, it's what I imagine Las Vegas is like, but with more Mancunians :) )

And there at Nandos we met up with my best friend from school, Sarah (yes another Sarah, there were 5 Sarahs in our class at one point!  common as muck name!) and her two lovely kiddies.  It was SO good to see her for the first time in over 20 years.  I was so excited that I forgot to take a photo of us together.  Doh!

Next we were going to go to MOSI (the Museum of Science and Industry) but we had left it too late to really do it justice, so instead we went to have a nose at Manchester City's stadium (just for the sake of balance) (and because Connor supports them  )

And then it was on to Altrincham for the ice hockey.  Which we lost.  Oops. But never mind, I was just happy to have finally ticked off the full set of EPL rinks.

We got home late Sunday night tired but happy after a brilliant weekend.

And our final adventure for February happened the following day.  The kids were back at school but Jay and I had a day off work, so we went out to Corsham near Chippenham to the derelict Naval site that is there, abandoned and now covered in graffiti.

It was amazing, and huge!  we were there over three hours and still didn't see it all.

Thankfully we didn't get apprehended and evicted by any MOD patrols....

There are over 100 more photos here if you fancy a proper look

Other Fab Feb happenings:
  • I got to see my friends' little boy play in goal (hockey again) for the first time, as his under-10s team did a short demo game at our local rink - he's going to be a star in years to come, watch this space
  • The week before their first home bout mentioned above, my Wiltshire Roller Derby girls got their first ever win in Milton Keynes - and with a short team of only 8 skaters too - well done ladies!!
  • Baltimore won the Superbowl - go Ravens!
(February seems to have been sporty month!)
  • I'm getting back into reading in a big way thanks to the Artful Readers Club.  I'm even finding myself wanting to make artwork to accompany the other books I'm reading outside of the challenge!  (watch this space)
  • Connor had a brilliant day out at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London with his school.  I don't remember school trips being that fab when I was a kid...
  • Visiting friends - I had a CJ to pick up from my pal Pam and as she only lives about 40 minutes away I went over to collect it one Saturday morning, it was fab to sit in her craft room and look at all the lovely art on her walls and have a good old natter.  The internet is great and everything but you can't beat a good old fashioned real life catch up.
  • An impromptu trip to the Stamp Attic in Wantage and resulting major spend up suggested by Jay one day when I was feeling a bit fed up.  Retail therapy makes everything better :)  Especially when it includes a Gelli Plate!  Yes, I've finally climbed on that particular bandwagon and am pleased I did - gelli-printing is so much fun!  
  • Eventually got my Pure Evil print in a frame after finding a perfectly sized (and perfectly priced!) frame at the Range.  It still hasn't actually made it onto the wall yet, but I'm getting there....

  • Connor and I took a punt on the Qwertee random t-shirt sale.  It's really good fun waiting for your shirts to turn up with no idea what you're going to get.  I got a nice art nouveau type design and Connor got this brilliant Monty Python one:   I think we'll play again next time.
  • Good telly - this month I particularly enjoyed Utopia,  Black Mirror and Ripper Street.  And I also finally got to the end of Season 3 of Fringe (which is the point at which a lot of people apparently went right off it but I still think it's fab).  Only two more seasons to go.
  • Talking of Fringe - I got mine back!  After attempting to grow my hair out to one length for a year, I finally had had enough of it blowing in my face on windy days and generally being all rat-tailed and horrid, so I had my hair cut and had my fringe cut back in.  I can seeeeeeee!!!!  Hooray :D

  • Connor got a shout out online from his favourite artist - El Pez - it made his day:

This month's firsts - big and small, they all count:

10) After last month's 'trying a different type of bread roll' triumph, I tried ANOTHER new type of roll.  This time, it wasn't very nice :( ah well, you win some you lose some.

11) Used my airbrush machine for the first time, it's awesome, I need to practice with it more though to really get the hang of it

12) Photographed my first open-to-the-public roller derby bout.  It's harder with people in the way!

13) I ALWAYS get exactly the same dinner whenever we have a Chinese takeaway.  This time I chose something different.  It was almost but crucially not quite as nice as what I usually have.  This experiment isn't working as well as I hoped :)

14) First time partaking in the Qwertee random t-shirt lottery

15) First time using the gelli-plate for monoprinting - SO MUCH FUN

16) First visit to Manchester Legoland 

17) First time doing a behind-the-scenes football stadium tour

18) First time visiting the home rink of the Manchester Phoenix in Altrincham

19) First visit to the Manchester Art Gallery

20) First time eating in Nandos.  Yum!!!

21) First time trespassing on MOD property!

So that's 21 of my 100 firsts already achieved and we are only 2 months into the year - slightly ahead of the pace - good stuff!