Veggie garden: wrap up.

Those of you who read this blog somewhat regularly will remember I started a balcony garden earlier this year. But now we’re moving state and it’s kind of hard to take a garden with you, so I thought I’d do a little summary of what’s happened and what I’ve learnt.

My biggest successes were the herbs. I used basil in salad, mint in iced tea, and oregano in pasta sauce.

But how about everything else?

The carrots and radish kind of go together. They grew. I ate them. There weren’t enough to make it feel worthwhile. (That’s the whole crop of carrots in that picture there. See how they’re all different shapes? That’s kind of cool.)

carrots

The buk choy went to seed. They never grew big enough for me to think it was time to eat them. I’m not sure if they needed more sun, more space, or both. A bit disappointing, but it’s kind of nice to have flowers on the balcony!

small

The strawberry struggled along as a teeny tiny plant for a long time before eventually dying off.

And, finally, the nasturtiums. I didn’t think they were going to grow at the start. They seemed so weak and sickly. But they seem to be doing okay now, and one of them flowered.

nasturtium

What have I learnt?

I think I want bigger pots next time, and preferably access to a space with more sunlight. I’m definitely going to get herbs straight away, regardless. As for the veggies? I want to try tomatoes this year and, if I have a bigger space, I’ll definitely grow the others too.

Young Writers Prize 2013

Last year I got really excited about The Young Writers Prize by HotKey Books. It was perfect timing, really. I was writing a book, aimed at middle grade, that I had not finished, but I had enough done to write the synopsis and submit the beginning.

I eagerly awaited the statistics and was pleased to note that my category had far fewer entries than the teen category. In other words, I cared a lot. When I discovered that I didn’t make it through to Round 2, it didn’t bother me as much as I’d thought it might. I was in Europe, having a wonderful time, and I knew that it was okay to fail before you succeed.

Last year I learnt a lot about dreams and what it means to follow them. And the Young Writers Prize was part of that. Now, as soon as I heard that I hadn’t got through, I planned to enter the next year. Ie this year. I wrote a story for NaNo, and have been working on three other stories on and off. But I sort of forgot about the competition what with starting to do art, deciding to quit-my-PhD-and-move-states…. and all those other life things.

When HKB announced the competition I had a minor panic then put off thinking about it. I figured I’d just submit something from one of the stories I’d started and I hadn’t decided which. All of them needed changes made to be appropriate. Then I forgot  until five days before it was due.

So, this year, the story I entered is from NaNoWriMo. I’m enjoying re-reading it. I still don’t know which age category it belongs in. I’m not entirely sure what it is. I don’t have the same lofty ambitions I had last year. I mean, I still have them, because I always do but they’re a little tamer than the excitement of last year.

the trials of digital illustration

In the last post I talked a bit about learning to draw faces. Which is obviously important if you want to illustrate a children’s book. But, even once you’ve achieved the magical state of sketching the same character twice, that’s not quite enough. You’ve still got to turn the sketches into pictures. Which, for me, meant returning to Gimp and my wacom tablet whom I had temporarily abandoned for the sake of learning to pencil sketch. First, I outlined my sketch and coloured it in:

windowworkingI was really happy with this until I flipped it horizontally and realised something was off kilter. I became more frustrated when I came back to it because it just didn’t look… good? I didn’t like the style. But I didn’t know how to do any other style. I remembered that I like lineless art and decided to give that a go, along with fixing up her posture so she looks less smushed.

linelessOkay so her posture seems better but that only serves to highlight all the things I didn’t like about this picture. The edges are jagged and uneven where they should be smooth. The shading on her face seems unnatural. I went hunting for inspiration. I found it with Kali Ciesemier. And it became clear to me that one of the things causing me trouble was an inability to use pen pressure to control the size of my brush. I spent ages and ages trying to work out why GIMP wasn’t working with my tablet until I stumbled across:

One reason this can happen is if you plug in your tablet AFTER opening GIMP.

For real. That was my problem. Once it was fixed I set about messing with settings to create a drawing line I was happy with. In the non-smooth brushes I made my angle random, to create a more natural line, in the smooth brushes it was all about the pressure curve. And, taking inspiration from Kali Ciesemier’s blog, I started with a greyscale:

greysIt was obvious to me that this was a vast improvement. Finally, I felt this was approaching a style that seemed deliberate and complete, rather than messy and awkward. Although I liked it in greyscale, I did want to add some colour.

colourThe primary difficulty I had in this part (and it’s still a thing I don’t know how to fix) was that I’d used rough edged brushes. So then, when I select a section of the drawing to colour, it doesn’t select the edges and I get weird little patches of colour like at the bottom of her chin and along the collar line. I guess you could just colour the edges you want to get the inbetween colour first: so I could have started with the neck, rather than shirt and then gone shirt rather than chin? I don’t know. Anyway, I was just going to leave it like this but when I came back to it the next day, I wondered if, with all the other things I’ve been learning recently, I could learn to do some texture too. So I messed with my brushes again, setting the flow rate way down low, and had a go. I like it:

colour2

I added the glass marks and the border around the window because I thought it looked a little too empty. There are a few stray marks that could/will be cleaned up, but overall I’m really happy with this. I think it’s come a long way from the first attempt at colouring just a few days ago.

Now, onto the remaining seven pages 🙂

drawing faces

I took a little break from digital art to focus on drawing with pencil and paper. Mostly what happened was this:

  • I tried to create a character to carry across several drawings in different poses and expressions
  • I discovered I couldn’t draw the same face twice.

history

So I set myself the task of just drawing faces. Every night (okay, most nights) I picked a person and drew them from several angles and/or with different expressions. Here are some things I learnt:

  • Warming up is essential: my last picture was almost always the best.
  • Sketch lines for eyes and nose and mouth help.
  • Drawing quickly and with harsh lines can be better than drawing slowly and constantly erasing anything slightly wrong.

For example:
21stjun 21stjun2

The other day I returned to my illustration project and was please to discover I can draw the same (invented) face twice in a row now. Approximately.

P7200113 windowbetter

Stay tuned for my adventures in turning the right hand sketch into a digitally coloured illustration…

my favourite salad ever

Image

One of the best things about having a garden is the excitement of getting to eat the food from it. So the other day I picked a whole lot of basil and made a super delicious salad.

2-3 tomatoes

1 lebanese cucumber

1 spring onion

1 avocado

150g danish feta

BASIL

The only real preparation I did (other than cutting up all the things) was to mash up the big basil leaves with olive oil and a little bit of salt.

For seasoning I just used olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Also, here’s a picture I made of my balcony today.

25thmay

book of the (few) month(s)

So I know I planned to do a book of the month type deal on here. But that was after January when I read tons of books. And then in the following months my reading pace slowed as I discovered art and found myself trying to write up a thesis.

But now I think I’ve read enough books that I can pick my next favourite. And honestly, it is very (very) easy. I enjoyed The Night Circus, and Neverwhere was fascinating (in both book and radio form), but the winner is…

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…i don’t own a copy of the book and didn’t take a picture but i wanted you to scroll down…

 

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How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly.

It is a huge non-fiction collection of lyrics and anecdotes and I loved it. It took up all my free time for three days. Here are some things I learned about: Australian history, modern Australian music, Aboriginal cultures, Italian art, and Catholicism. The stories snuck into my thoughts and have been popping up regularly ever since. Paul Kelly is one of my favourite musicians/songwriters and the book felt like a monstrous extension of that. The point is that the guy knows how to tell stories and now I know he can do it in prose form too.

The above song is one of my favourites and the title song of the book. Other songs I highly recommend are: Careless, Dumb Things and From St Kilda to Kings Cross. 

 

project complete.

gettingthere withclouds three finalmaybe done six seven withsig nine maybefinal editing different

Well here they all are. I’m really happy that I made them, happy that I started it and finished it, and happy with how they turned out.

And while I knew they were going to be used, and that some were used even before they were finished, the realisation that they are useful really only hit me when my Mum sent me this picture:

photo

 

She’s printed and laminated them at playing card size!

on the maths front

I’ve changed my PhD to a Masters. Not officially, yet, but that is now the plan. And there was a thing I realised just the other day.

I think I’m getting better at distinguishing between the things I am good at and the things I enjoy. Sometimes they overlap, but not always, and it’s kind of freeing to realise that just because I can do something, it doesn’t mean I have to. (EDIT: I still like maths. In case anyone was taking the wrong message away from that.)

So anyway, just thought I’d let you know. It seemed the sort of thing to blog about. Here, have a picture of me from Berlin.

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i’ve been drawing more than writing.

I am sitting at my desk with a cup of peppermint tea to my left and the rain drizzling outside. It feels like summer is over and we have returned to Perth’s other season: the AutumNotReallyWinterSpring that’s made up of a smattering of rainy days spaced out by plenty of sunshine days with cool mornings and warm afternoons. I don’t mind it. The rain is comforting.

finalsmall

I’ve been drawing more than writing in the last few weeks. After a furious foray into making art for Neil Gaiman’s Calendar of Tales (including the picture above), I had been wondering what to use as inspiration next when my Mum suggested a bunch of projects she could use while tutoring primary school kids.

First up I decided to take on the task of creating a (very) different piece of art for each of numbers 1-12. I’m not halfway yet but I’m having a lot of fun. My main aim, in art at the moment, is to learn as many styles as possible. This project is definitely helping by forcing me to look away from the techniques I used in the Calendar of Tales and find new ones.

withclouds                     waitingonideaslayers                       starting2

I’m feeling a little hampered by only using GIMP and Inkscape though. Does anyone have any suggestions of their favourite (preferably free) digital art programs?

art

I’ve never thought of myself as a person who could create worthwhile visual art. Sure, I would have admitted that, given some training, I could probably produce something that wasn’t disastrous. But I didn’t really believe it and it’s not like it bothered me so I never took any steps to become a better artist, or become a visual artist at all (beyond photography).

But I think we all know that I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman and this week he inspired me to create art. He’s doing a thing with Blackberry, a calender thing, and here is how it’s working.

A few weeks ago he took to twitter to get inspiration by asking questions. He then chose an answer for each month and used that as a basis/starting point/inspiration for a short story. Now, the world at large is being asked to participate again, this time in the form of contributing an art piece inspired by one of his short stories.

For example, the question for October was: “What mythical creature would you most want to meet in October? (& why?)”  and the answer he chose to inspire his story was: “A djinn. Not to make a wish. But for the very best advice on how to be happy w/ what you already have.” (@elainelowe). You can read all the stories here.

And I made this,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Her face is based loosely on Rihanna and I sketched from a bunch of different pictures (thank you google images). The lamp was basically out of my head and, if I’m honest, I don’t like it as much as the woman’s face.

But I made it, it’s mine. And it turns out that art is fun, totally unlike the stressful panic I remember from art classes at school. Then I thought, people are always colouring pencil sketches in using their computers, maybe I could do that. So I did. This was a little more stressful (mostly just the step of transferring the sketch to a black-transparent layer) and I think I still like the pencil sketch better but it was also SO MUCH FUN. Who knew?

octcoloured

 

Art submissions for the calender are open til March 4th and, even if you’re not interested in that, I highly recommend checking out the stories.