an ode to fremantle.

It seems wrong to have left Perth without making a few posts about the things I liked best about living there.

Number one on that list is Fremantle. We were only 10 minutes away from Fremantle on a coastal train and we went there a lot.  Often we went for shopping: Target, Oxfam, Dick Smith’s, Dymocks. But mostly we went just to hang around in a place that liked us. Everything about Fremantle felt a little more welcoming than the rest of Perth. It has footpaths on both sides of the road, clearly despises cars, and a lot of the shops don’t give away plastic bags. Our favourite place was a little coffeeshop called Hush. They make the best iced and hot chocolate/mocha/chai. So light and delicious and incredible. And the staff are all super friendly. Fremantle also lays claim to our favourite breakfast spot: The Wild Poppy. They always have a huge selection of cakes and crumbles, their omelette is incredible and their iced tea is the best I’ve ever tasted.

So, here’s to Fremantle.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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:
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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.

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

bits and bobs

I read, somewhere, that you should keep blog posts to one topic. Focus on one thing for each post. But in trying to do that, I didn’t post anything at all. So let me just tell you about my life lately.

Firstly, I’m moving back to Adelaide. Well, almost certainly. I mean I don’t have a job there and neither does my husband. But at least now we’ve started looking. If I’m honest I’ll be really surprised if we end up going somewhere else. (If we do go somewhere else we’re only going to go as far as Melbourne so there’s that.)

It’s weird living like this. I hated it, when I knew I was going to be moving to Perth, but had to finish honours first. And I hate it now. I hate that my life feels like it’s in the future and that the now is just something to get through. I sometimes think that this feeling is the only thing that was difficult about year 12. We know that this stage of life is almost over, so we want to start dealing with the new problems now. 

In happier news, I had a birthday and went to the zoo and got some really cool presents that have encouraged me to keep working on my art. So I’ve mostly laid aside digital art for the time being and focused on learning to draw. I really love it. I can see my improvement and I’m also learning to draw more quickly. Plus, it’s just fun. Here are some of my favourites. (Is it weird to have favourites of your own work? I don’t care.)ImageImageImage

On the topic of Achieving This Year’s Goals:

 

 – Hot Key books announced their Young Writers Prize for this year so I’m about to get stuck into editing my NaNo novel for real this time.

 

 – My garden is growing nicely. I don’t know what I’m gonna do when we leave though. Have a picture of a delicious carrot.

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(Reference photos for Taylor Swift and Doc Martin.)

my favourite salad ever

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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.

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