Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas countdown

With just a short time left until Christmas day I thought I should post my pics from Tim Holtz' 12 Tags of Christmas before it's next Christmas. As for many people who play along, there was a lot of improvising from hand cutting my own shapes instead of using dies to creating my own vintage paper from copyright free images. But the fun is in the playing along with hundreds, if not thousands, of people all over the world. After all, the gift of giving comes in a million different guises and you can't get better than that during the holiday season. Wishing all my readers a wonderful festive season.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Challenge Gillian - November

The finish line is in sight now. One more month of drawings to do and I will have completed my challenge for the year. Phew! It's has been a slog. Although I enjoy painting and drawing very much, when you put yourself in the position of having to produce new works without a brief it is exhausting. never knew how much life got in the way either. So much pops up when you least suspect it. The question is whether I will do it again next year. There is a new blog that has been started to encourage people to use their sketchbooks more. You can find out more about The Sketchbook Challenge here but participants basically follow a theme in their sketchbooks for a month and they have the option to post their work in a Flickr album. It's not just for fine art though. Anyone who wants to have a sketchbook, even if it is just for doodles, can take part.

Anyway, last month's paintings were done in a flurry of activity. I was trying to produce work for the exhibition but due to heavy snow I couldn't get to the drop off and had to withdraw. I was very disappointed as it means more exposure and usually money in my bank account. Still, at least I got some painting time in. The first is my neighbour's cat enjoying the scenery through a Gothic window. He looks nice and cozy.

Then we have the nuthatch that comes to visit my garden.

The snail visits too.

And finally a little snowy cottage - just because it was so snowy here. This was actually taken for a painting exercise in a book but I changed it a little.

So, one more month to go. I already have a picture of a rottweiler to work on and I suspect snowy paintings might figure strongly too if the weather reports are anything to go by.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Catch up

I hadn't realised that it had been so long since I posted anything to my blog. With 20 inches of snow to deal with over the last two weeks I guess things got away from me - again.

So what's been happening? Well, lots of Christmas card making so I have added some photos of them here. Then I signed up for an online class with Carla Sonheim. It has been brilliant fun. We are making journals and purses from fabric scraps and I have re-discovered my love of my sewing machine. If you want to find out more you can read about it here. There will be a second presentation of the class in the New Year and I can heartily recommend it. So far I have made two scrap journals and am in the process of making my scrap purse. The final lesson arrived yesterday so pictures of the purse will follow soon but here are a couple of pics of my journals. I have adjusted Carla's instructions just a little when it came to binding them. I used a binding technique using cotton perle thread and beads instead of stitching the page in. That way I can add new pages later if I want to.

I also mastered basic crochet. Now, this has been an issue for me for a long time. I learned to knit when I was little but never really took to it. Crochet, however, was a mysterious hobby. One hook and magnificent forms could be created. Could I figure out how to crochet? Nope! The illustrations in books were always useless but by chance I came across a tip from someone who crochets - the internet. This will sound very obvious to most of us. I use the internet to research nearly everything but it never occurred to me that it would be of any more help than the books I had used. Wrong! I had forgotten we are in the age of video classes. NexStitch is a crochet site that had a number of videos for beginner and it revolutionised the way people learn crochet. Me included. So far I have just played around but I have embarked on what I hope will be a scarf. The plan is to have grey ends that will be embellished and a coloured central panel. So far it is slow going. I might be 60 before I get this finished but I am having fun learning new techniques.

And marbling! I bought a couple of bottles of a marbling paint by Marabu called Easy marble and it actually works! In the past I have bought all the alum, size and inks and produced the ultimate in ugliness. So it was a lovely surprise when this stuff actually worked. It is a solvent based ink that floats on water (if you are using something smaller than A5 paper or wallpaper paste if it's bigger than that. So far I only have the blue and yellow so my colour will be limited but I feel a shopping spree coming on next week.

And, of course, there has been Tim Holtz's 12 Tags of Christmas and I have been taking part but I will post the photos of those later.

Other than that, there has been little drawing going on. I had an essay to write for my mythology course which took me longer than I expected. The snow meant much snow shovelling and Christmas shopping has been keeping me away from more productive work. But I hope you have enjoyed this catch up on my creativity. My Challenge Gillian images will be up soon too.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Pure silk

These are two of my silk scarves that I have recently started to make and sell in my Etsy store. I am always looking for new crafts to try and the silk scarves are the latest. I have to say they are great fun to make, if a little time consuming to steam set the silk dyes. But what great gifts they make. I have already sold one of the husky scarves and have a couple of commissions for more. The fox scarf is stamped using a hand carved rubber stamp that I made a couple of years ago and never used. The beauty of it is that the foxes are discretely placed on the fabric so they look like they are merging into the fabric - just like a real fox merging with the undergrowth. It's like a puzzle - you have to search for the foxes among the colours. If you want to see more pictures of them you can find them in my Etsy store.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Much to do

This is the time of year when we all have loads of things to do so what better way to remind oneself about those important little (and large) jobs than with a 'To do' list. I saw some on Etsy for sale but thought how easy it would be to make one for myself. So I made this page using the Gimp image processing programme and printed out a few sheets. It has lines for writing what needs to be done and a separate line for ticking off the jobs. It certainly serves it's purpose so I thought I would share it with anyone else who wanted to use it. You can find a PDF of four printable sheets on one page here or you can use the single sheet jpeg image below in your own desktop publishing software (just click on it to open it full size, right click then click 'Save as' or Save image as'). You can use it for personal use or make it into a small pad of 'To do' sheets, clip them together with a fancy paper clip and give it to a friend or relative who needs a helping hand. Please don't sell them though. Each sheet is designed to be A6 in size (approximately 6x4 inches) so four sheets will fit on a standard sheet of printing paper and it is very handy to slip in a handbag or to sit by the phone.

If you have any trouble downloading the PDF then do drop me a line at gsmcmurray(at) and I'll send it to you by e-mail.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Challenge Gillian - October

Last month I actually managed to do four watercolour paintings. I even surprised myself. This coming month I have to have three pieces done for a winter exhibition so I know that I will manage to get next month's quota done too. Looks like things are looking up in the inspiration department too. This month I took a look at other things I like to paint - like architecture - instead of just animals. The window here is taken from an Irish church though the view from it just from my imagination.

The penguin is a bit of fun. I was trying out my new paint brushes and decided a penguin was a simple subject for testing out the shading capacity of them. Of course, the one I drew had it's head down and I wondered what it was looking at. Was it saying to itself, 'I really must polish my shoes'? Then I remembered that it is getting close to Christmas so it must have been looking at a gift. I think he's saying, 'Who left this present for me?'

Insects intrigue me. Their design is amazing and they are really tiny works of art in their own right. Of course a ladybird is the ultimate in British summertime insects. Everyone seems to love them.

And finally, as it's autumn, I had to draw a pumpkin. This one is listed in my Etsy store and is called Hide and Seek. I just thought that the mouse looked like it was hiding from the damselfly during a game. So now it is onwards to come up with some ideas for the exhibition. Considering the hand in is on the 25th November I'd better get my skates on.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween!

Yes! It's finally here! I thought I would round things up with some photos of Halloween things I have been playing with over the last few weeks. First off is the Halloween banner I made using Tim Holtz die cuts and some messy paint techniques. I am quite pleased with the way it turned out but trying to store it will be fun. Hopefully there won't be too many tangles by next year.

Then we have some paper envelopes inspired by some Sue Roddis made.

Some very basic zombies that didn't quite trun out the way I imagined. I was lucky to get away with all my fingers intact though. You can see from the photo that they have already been feeding.

A pumpkin tag with some pretty foiling. I bought the foiling kit at the beginning of the month and just about everything has had a coat of foil - including myself at one point. I looked in the mirror to find silver foil stuck to my skin. Pretty!

And finally there are some matchbook notepads. I came across this idea while surfing Etsy and wanted to give them a go. Very simple and very practical.

And while I am too old to go trick or treating, I do have a pumpkin carved and ready to be lit later along with some peanut butter fudge, chocolate fridge cake, various spooky jelly sweet mixes and some 'witches fingers' and cheese and chive pretzels to nibble on while reading The Golem and watching horror movies tonight. First stop is The new version of The Wolf Man with Benicio Del Toro with lots of screams and scares - hopefully. Whatever you are all up to this evening, I hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween. Mwahahaha!

Thursday, 28 October 2010


Here are the results of this week's productivity. A handful of notebooks, two of which were inspired by the Commonwealth Games in India. I just love those colours, so warm and yummy. They are all laminated too so they will last and can be refilled using a Bind-It-All. They are now available in my Etsy store and make ideal gifts.

Monday, 25 October 2010

An Octopode Factory

I'm just popping by quickly to let you know about a great source of digital stamps and collage sheets. The Octopode Factory is full of quirky and whimsical images from spooky Halloween treats to Christmas infused ones, Alice in Wonderland to Peter Pan. They are the brain children of Lily Chilvers, a young lady with a huge amount of talent (I believe she is only 17), and are just ideal for some last minute Halloween crafting - or even crafting at any other time of year. I have just received her Raven digistamp and can't wait to play with him. You can find her blog here and her Etsy store here. Now, who's for a shopping spree?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Challenge Gillian - September

Yes, once again, I failed to get four pieces painted in one month. If one thing has become clear it's that it isn't that easy to stick to a challenge like this. For along time I have had difficulty sitting down, getting on and drawing or painting. I really have to be bashed round the head with inspiration before I sit down. Or, alternatively, I'm get paid for what I am producing. That's always a good motivator ;o) However, I did manage to get this guy finished in September and several other pieces started. The other pieces will be finished up this month (hopefully), one is actually listed in my Etsy store (Hide and Seek), but considering I have signed up for another ancient history course with the Open University I feel that my time is going to be spent studying more that drawing. Still, it's nearly the end of the year. Can you believe it? Just three more months of Challenge Gillian left.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Mini gift cards for Halloween

I am in love with Stampotique Originals' stamps. In particular the ones by Daniel Torrente with their scruffy, detailed, gothic style images. Last week I treated myself to some of the new release Halloween stamps including Halloween Cube 2 and Puss, Puss to go with Mr Stripes, whom I bought last year. They are just so cute and have a slightly forlorn look that is hard to resist. But then I'm a sucker for a sad pumpkin. However, I also came across Sue Roddis' fabulous bookmarks using the same stamps and had to try them myself. These are the results but instead of making them into bookmarks (I couldn't find mini magnets to use as closures) I have kept them as little gift cards. The two little squares at the bottom are made with offcuts of decorated paper, using shiny foils and texture plates. They are yet to find their destiny but would fit on little cards as toppers. They actually came about as I had a couple of stamped images left over and they just demanded to be used - and who am I to refuse a pumpkin!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Tag! You're it!

I received my new Tim Holtz Alterations dies this week. The halloween dies are being released in a short burst and then, once sold out, won't reappear until after the turn of the year. I was worried that I was not going to be able to get hold of any but luckily one British company had them on pre-order. Yippee! So, when they arrived on Tuesday devoted the day to playing with them. I only ordered the Witching Hour and Raven/ Scaredy Cat dies (along with Reindeer Flight which I have to wait a little longer for) but guess who is regretting it now? I have already decided that I need the row of houses, the Once Upon a Time alphabet die and at least one of the Texture Fade embossing folders. It's just as well my birthday isn't too far away.

These are some of the tags I made this week. Lots of distress ink and alcohol ink - not to mention plenty of mess. But that's the fun of playing.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Challenge Gillian - August experiments

I'm very late posting my challenge efforts this month. It has been so busy that I kept forgetting. But while my challenge has been about producing a finished piece of work every week for a year (with the exception of the mid summer bust) this month has been about experimenting with new techniques I have read about. Each is a finished piece but to mind hideously ugly. But as they are experiments I'm not going to beat myself up about it - they are entitled to be ugly as a first time effort.

The first piece, of the robin, was to try and mix coloured pencil to produce realistic colours for birds. Birds often have multi tone feathers, e.g. those which look greenish or brownish. The British robin is one such bird so it was an idea subject.

The next piece is of a dog rose rosehip and was done using markers and coloured pencils. I read about a technique where you lay down a coating of solvent based marker (in my case, Promarkers) then shade over the top of it with the coloured pencil. While the colours are fantastic and vibrant the coloured pencil can lead to rubbing through the surface of the paper and spoiling the image. I think the paper I used might have something to do with it though. The article I read mentioned that it was done on smooth watercolour paper and I was using heavy drawing paper. There is also the problem of the markers bleeding outside the drawn outline. While you have the option to not draw right up to the outline with the marker it is still a bit hit and miss. Which is a pity as I LOVE the vibrancy of the technique. The brown outline was added at the end to disguise the bleeding of the edges.

The final piece is of a sprig of olive and began as a detailed pencil drawing. I wanted to see if I could add a watercolour wash to a detailed drawing and still have it look like I wanted it to. It didn't work too good so I added some black ink to the outline. Unfortunately it didn't improve things too much either. It seems that the watercolour just washes out the pencil even though the pencil was quite dark in places. However, I won't give up on that technique yet. I will try again with an animal drawing. The problem I have is that I love drawing in graphite and feel that it is a stronger point of mine that watercolour. Unfortunately, graphite drawings do not sell as well as watercolour so I am looking for a compromise.

However, I am one piece short. With all the buzz around the house finding time was not easy. Hopefully I will have the full four pieces to show next month.

Sunday, 19 September 2010


Polymer clay has been playing a big part in my creativity over the last week. Last weekend I made the beds shown below. The photo doesn't do them justice. They are sparkly and partially see through so you can see layers of clay through the translucent polymer clay. This weekend I made more beads, this time in the shape of birds, cakes and acorns. They still need an acrylic wash to pick out the details but I'm quite pleased with the shapes. Now I just have to decide what kind of project to use them on.