Friday 31 October 2008

Photoshop 5 v2

So I promised you a look at what I've been doing at my Photoshop course. So here it is.
I'm afraid that its not that original, but it gives you an idea of the sort of stuff you can make with Photoshop, which is cool. I look forward to doing more.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Photoshop 5

I had hoped to put up what I worked on in the Photoshop course this week, but I haven’t had the time to finish it off yet. Maybe at the weekend?

Anyway while talking about photos in the class Kate mentioned Andy Small, whose work I recognised, when she showed us, from seeing him at the Chelsea Flower Show. I’ve actually got one of his post cards on my wall at home.
I quite like his work – more the simple photos of flowers than the ones that have obviously been photoshopped but I do still like his style. I like the bright colours and would quite happily have one of his canvas’ on my wall.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Catching Up

Mum was kind enough to let me use her camera so I can show you what I've been doing.
Most of these are covered in wallpapers, although the jellybeans are from the packaging of a sweet jar that I bought, and the orange bird is from a table cloth.

I love how each one has its own texture, whether it be the fake leather wallpapers or the slightly furry table cloth.

Monday 27 October 2008

Operation Christmas Child

Last week I made starch paste so I could make books with material covers.
One of these is a tiny A7 book covered with angel material (my old pyjamas). Mum was nice enough to lend me her camera so that I could take photos before I send it away, as this book was made for a special reason.
Every year the Samaritans run something called Operation Christmas Child, where they ask people to fill shoe boxes with things for children all over the world who won’t be receiving anything this Christmas. Each child receives a box filled with toys, educational supplies and hygiene items. My box is aimed at a little girl between 5 and 9, and I thought this note book would be perfect.
I’m hoping it will end up somewhere cold as I found the prettiest scarf, hat and gloves combo, all covered in small pink hearts.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Coptic Stitch

I’ve been really struggling with my last Perl assignment today. After a while I go so fed up with the damn thing I decided to do something else.

Now I’ve noticed while browsing on Etsy that quite a lot of the books that people sell there don’t have spines like mine but have decorative stitching instead. I’ve been intrigued by this and finally found out what it is last week.
It’s Coptic Stitch, and a quick search on goggle found me several sets of instructions. I printed off the set that seemed to make most sense and I’ve just tried them.
It seems pretty simple although I got lost when I tried to attach my back cover which I think has spoilt the whole book. The instructions were good until that last bit then seemed to just leave you to it.
My book seems pretty loose with none of the structure that my books have. I’m not sure if this is due to the problem with the back cover or not.
I shall have to find some more instructions with an ending and have another go.

Friday 24 October 2008

Greg Mosse – Plot Overview

Last night I went to the last event of the Guildford book festival that I’ll be attending this year – a plot workshop.
I really enjoyed it, even if some of the attendees where taking it a bit seriously.
Greg Mosse obviously knew what he was talking about, and best of all took tiny parts of real books to show us how plot can work.

We started by agreeing that plot is a series of imagined events.

One of his exercises was to ask us for a location, which ended up being Hadrian’s Wall at about 125AD. We then came up with characters, in this case a Pagan Witch and a Roman Centurion, and the plot grew from this. Which confirms what the Open University taught me, that Character + Conflict = Plot.
I like this as I always find that just coming up with a plot by its self is extremely hard work and probably why my longer stories fizzle out.
Another exercise was to look at a painting, Utrillo’s Notre-Dame de Clignantcourt (above), and write 70 words of action. I liked this also. He reminded us to write the story, not about the story.

My attempt went;
The boy ran along the street kicking up snow as he went. Rushing he knew he was late; the bells had stopped ringing at the start of the street. As he cornered, so close he could now see the doors, he felt his feet slide from under him and reached out for anything that might stop his fall.
Nothing was there and he fell with a clatter to the frozen cobbles. With a tear in his eye and pink cheeks from the cold he pushed up from the snow and, slower now, ran for the dark wooden doors.
He could hear the organ playing. If he could just slip in without anyone seeing he might just get away with it.

I definitely came away with ideas that I could work with, hopefully to improve my own writing.
All in all a good festival and I look forward to next years.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

How to Decide - Novel, Short Story or Poem

Last night I went to another book festival event at the Electric Theatre.
This one was a discussion between Gerard Woodward and Tessa Hadley chaired by Guy Pringle about the difference between novels, short stories and poems.
Tessa and Gerard both work together at Bath Spa University, and have attempted all 3 types, which I think added to the whole experience as they knew each other so could make comments about each others work.
It was a very intermit event as the audience wasn’t that big and we ended up joining them on the stage, which was really nice.
They were very interesting, and once again it was great to hear from real people about how they work, how they got published, how they juggle their time and what inspires them. Its defiantly tempted me to try some of their books.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

A quick update

So we had Photoshop 4 last night. We were allowed loose on the sample files to try all the different textures, effects and colour changes that we could find. On last weeks day off I played with some of my photos and Kate helped me with a few of the problems I’d encountered. I can feel a lot of ideas coming on.
We also discussed how something’s are best suited to the Illustrator programme (e.g. logos) so I’m thinking about training on that too.

And today was the writer’s group meeting. I’d chickened out of doing last months homework – I just couldn’t work out how to move forward with it. But I wasn’t the only one.
Homework this month is to take something you love and something you hate and write about them. Hum…..

Sunday 19 October 2008

Tea with Wendy Cope

I’ve just gotten back from seeing Wendy Cope at the Book festival.
I was most impressed and she is now my all time favorite poet. Of course I don’t really know many other poets except, for instance, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Wilfred Owen who were all met thought school or my Open University courses and are all very dead.
So it was really great to actually see a live poet reading out her own work. She could put the emphasis where it was meant to be and tell us a little about how the poems came to be. As someone who is trying to write, it is very nice to hear that other people get their ideas from odd places too.
And she has a lovely dry sense of humor which I think adds the life to her poems. I like that she gets right down to human emotion, without taking herself too seriously.
The fact that there was free tea and cake in the interval has nothing to do with me thinking this is the best session so far.

Ray Mears – Vanishing World

On Friday me and ‘im outdoors when to our first event for the Guildford book festival. Ray Mears in jeans and a familiar dark green shirt, sleeves rolled up, sat for an hour talking to Fred Marden (whoever he is) discussing his new book and life in the wilderness. I found it quite interesting, and it was nice to see that even in the flesh he is much as he is on TV. He comes across as very sincere and reminded us on several occasions that teaching bushcraft is his job and it just happens that he’s got a TV show too. He does at least seem very aware of the plight of the people he visits and made the very good point that we should sort our own country out before poking about with someone else’s.
The half hour or so of audience questions were made up of the normal sort of questions he’d obviously been asked a hundred times before and a few more inspired ones.
All in all I think it was a good couple of hours, even if ‘im outdoors thought he promoted his book too much. It is after all a book festival, and if he doesn’t promote his book why else would he be there?

Thursday 16 October 2008

Starch Paste

I’ve just made my self some glue or to be more precise some starch paste. It’s very easy and I’d love to make all my books using homemade starch paste instead of PVA, but the paste only lasts about 3 days in the fridge before starting to grow stuff.
Anyway there are certain things which I just can’t use PVA on, for instance material, so I’ve been saving them all up and I’m going to try and make them all this weekend.

To make starch paste you just need some plain white flour and some water.
Get a bowl and about 2 tea cups of the flour. Add water until you have a dough which, to quote the guy who taught me to make this, 'is of an ear lobe consistency’. Then you fill a small milk pan half full of water and pour that into the bowl with your dough. Knead the dough gently for about 5 minutes – it will have fallen apart by this point and all the starch will be released into the water, the glutton will be at the bottom of the bowl.
Pour your mixture into the milk pan through a sieve to get rid of all the glutton and then comes the tricksy part.
You need to gently heat the mix, while stirring constantly for 10 minutes plus. The longer you heat and stir the better the glue. You must not boil or burn the mix or you have to give up and start again. At about the 10 minute mark the watery mix should start to thicken and if you’ve got it right you end up with a pale looking custard.
Pour it into a container and keep in the fridge.

Depending on the amount of water and how long you heat it will depend on how thick and strong your glue is. And of course this glue is totally safe with children as its just starch.

To use the paste, scoop a bit out of your container and put it on a flat hard surface, a clean baking tray is good for this. Then use a paint brush and brush it out flat. When it doesn’t feel lumpy any more you can use it. Don’t worry if there is the odd lump in the paste – it will dry flat.

Good luck!

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Photoshop Part 3

Had the 3rd part of the photoshop course last night. I’m very excited as I feel I know enough tools now to start doing something with my photos!
I’ve already done the first thing which was to resize a photo for my Etsy profile. Easy! And as I’ve got the day off on Friday I hope to have a go at actually putting two photos together to make one.

Also the Guildford Book Festival starts this week. I’m really looking forward to going to hear writers speak. Ray Mears is first on Friday evening. Do you think he’ll be wearing his shorts?

Thursday 9 October 2008

Wrapping paper

Its Mum’s birthday today – Happy Birthday mum.

I think she’ll like what I’ve got her, but it means that I have to wrap it up. I have a real issue with wrapping presents. Wrapping paper is so pretty and I don’t think it deserves to be used for an hour only to be ripped off and discarded!
I’d rather keep it as something pretty to look at, or to cover my books in.
One of my friends has the right idea, keeping all wrapping paper and using it again, unlike ‘im outdoors, who insists on sticking the paper to what ever the present is and so making it impossible to gently slide it out of its wrapping.
We saw some lovely wrapping paper in waterstones last week covered in cherries. It looked good enough to eat.
The problem is deciding what to use the paper for. Once the sheet has been used its very hard to get another one so it must be used wisely, but with all this dithering I end up not using it at all.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Photoshop Part 2

I went back to South hill Park last night for the second part of the Photoshop course. We’ve now covered the whole tool box, man is there a lot in there, and just started looking at Layers.
Next week we’ll be starting on real images to see what we can do, so I’ve just bought my self a brand new 16GB memory stick to keep all my files on.
I’ve found that the 7dayshop is the perfect place to get memory sticks etc at a really good price. All my memory sticks and camera memory came for there.
So now I need to find some images that I want to play with. Think I can manage that.

Sunday 5 October 2008

A New Book

I’m really struggling with Perl at the moment. This is for my CIW Website Design qualification, and Perl is the hardest thing we’ve had to cover so far, except for JavaScript.

To take my mind off that I’ve bought my self a book on digital photography in the hope it will help me choose a new camera.
Its called ‘Understanding Digital Cameras’ by Jon Tarrant, and although I’ve only read the first couple of chapters so far it seems pretty friendly.
Just in those few pages I’ve learnt some stuff about view finders that I didn’t know, which bodes well for the rest of the book. Fingers crossed.