Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Look out, here comes tomorrow

I'm really excited at the prospect of this summer, and I'm determined to make the most of it instead of procrastinating and then wondering were the time went! Next year will be my final year of university, and so really this is my last summer break of blissful freedom. So I've compiled a little list of things I want to do over the coming months before I have to delve into writing dissertations and creating final projects. When you're a born procrastinator it can be hard to get things done when there's always tomorrow, but I'm trying not to live like that anymore. It only creates it's own stress and sense of failure as days pass you by with nothing being achieved, which then leads to anxiety which leads to further procrastination. These are fun little projects that I've had bubbling around my brain for a long time and I'd only be doing myself a disservice by not achieving them, so this is me holding myself accountable!

Pick up French again. I've been learning French on and off for the past 10 years. I've tried Michel Thomas tapes, night classes, Duolingo, Rosetta Stone. I'm OK at remembering words, it's the order they go in that trips me up, and trying to remember what's masculine and feminine and all of those grammar rules. It's something I'd really love to learn though as I'd love to be able to speak a second language and am so jealous of those who can. If anyone has any tips for learning foreign grammar, please let me know!

Learn the ukulele. This is another goal I've had for most of my life. Not the ukulele specifically, just to learn an instrument. It's something I have a lot of anxiety about though because obviously like with any learning process it's going to sound bad at the beginning and the idea of loudly making a racket terrifies me stupid. I don't hold any kind of preference for a ukulele, I just felt it'd allow me to dip my toe into learning to play music and ease me into making a noise. Then I can perhaps use it as a stepping stone to move on to something else.

Walk until my legs fall off. Not literally, but I want to go out walking every single day and honestly this will be the single easiest thing to accomplish on this list as I know it's something I do already. My parents live in the middle of the countryside surrounded by fields of sheep and cows and a huge reservoir. It's bliss to wander round, I can gladly walk a few miles without even realising. It's one of the biggest things I miss when I'm away, I get such cabin fever where I live, so I intend to make the most of my surroundings.

Go car booting at every opportunity. Another positive to country living, there are more car boot sales than you can count! There aren't many opportunities for secondhand shopping outside of charity shops where I study (and the charity shops are barely worth bothering with!). It also means I get to go with my mum, and not only is she my best shopping buddy as she knows my taste to a T, we spend most of our outings laughing together. I'm already smiling at the thought of it!

Spend as little money as possible and take pleasure in the little things. I'm really trying to save money for after uni, and also just to improve my lifestyle in general. I'm becoming very disillusioned with the idea of filling my life with stuff and how consumer driven society is. I'm already trying to buy more mindfully, but it's difficult as I know I use that little buying buzz to support my mental health and make myself temporarily feel better. It's a poor excuse and something I'm trying to fix. I want to instead find joy in the things I already own, and the little moments in life all around me. To instead save my money for exciting life experiences like travel.

Draw every single day. Make messes in my sketchbook and to stop being such a perfectionist in my work. I get far too precious about my sketchbook, as if I'm expecting someone might flip through it so it has to be perfectly presentable at all times. I want to remember that my sketchbook is for me alone, and to learn to have fun again with my art. To learn to draw quickly and unconsciously, instead of being so caught up in the idea of perfectionism and every mark being deliberate that I'm too scared to even start.

Read more books. And spend less time on social media. Social media is important to me, it allows me to connect to others, form friendships, and express myself. But I've realised I've become a little too dependant on it. I'll have every intention of reading a book, then sit and look at my phone instead, mindlessly flipping back and forth between apps. I'm already making steps towards changing this and being more selective with which platforms I spend my time on, but it still needs improvement. I used to love reading and it shames me how little I do now and how my attention span for it seems to be shrinking. I may even share the occasional book post on here, we'll see!

Do you have any goals for this summer? ❀

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Sewing a new dress

The fabric of this dress is my most favourite I've ever bought. Although I have two boxes stuffed to the brim with vintage fabric, I don't believe you can ever have too much and will sometimes have a little browse through eBay to see if there's anything going cheap. This was one such find, and for only £4! I simply adore the pastel colour scheme, and how the pattern is on the border between mod and psychedelic. It's a vintage polycotton so I knew it would make the perfect summer dress, and I didn't want to over complicate the design so the focus remained on the fab pattern. So a trusty tent dress it was!

I didn't measure how much of the fabric there was before I began chopping into it, but there was literally just enough for this dress pattern and my headscarf. The only remnants I have left are the tiny little moon shapes from the neckline.

I had a real pig of a time trying to sew this dress, and I'm still not sure why everything kept going wrong. My machine just hated the fabric for some reason and it kept messing with the thread tension, and it was also like I'd just forgotten how to construct a dress. I don't know if it's because I'd just finished sewing something complicated so was perhaps feeling cocky at such a simple pattern I thought I could blast out in a couple of hours, but I lost count of the amount of times I had to unpick the seams. It's all worth it though because this has quickly become one of my favourite dresses, and one I'm sure to get plenty of wear out of this summer. I just love a tent dress.

dress and scarf - handmade // necklace - 1960s vintage // shoes and bag - orla kiely

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Museum of Witchcraft

I'd been meaning to visit The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic ever since I knew I was moving down this way, even more so since getting my car three months ago. It's only an hour away from me, so as I'm going home for summer this weekend I knew I'd better go soon.

I really wasn't sure what to expect from the museum, but I really enjoyed it! I've been practicing witchcraft for over 15 years and was really pleased with how varied the museum is. It didn't focus on any specific religion, in fact some of the displays even showed more crude rituals performed by everyday people, and even Christian forms of magic and the sheer hypocrisy of them persecuting witches for centuries when they're blessing magic water.

The first part of the museum focused on the stereotypes of the witch figure and how she's portrayed in media, before going into the persecution, torture and murder that so many fell victim to in the 17th and 18th centuries. Although it was mostly women who were targeted, it made an important point that men were also accused and punished. I liked that it also listed all of the known people to have been killed for practicing witchcraft in the UK. Worldwide the total figure is 50,000 which is a vast amount when you consider how much smaller the population was. Knowing figures and seeing the listed names really reminds you of the human element, that this happened to actual people and isn't just morbid legend.

The mannequin is wearing punishment devices of the time period. I found the head brace the most interesting, the woman would be locked into it and there was a piece of metal that would go into her mouth to hold her tongue down so she couldn't talk. It was used to punish both witches and "nagging wives" alike.

Voodoo dolls from around the world

Some traditional remedies, which included snakeskin and ground human bones which was apparently considered good for epilepsy. I found the two headed piglet wet specimen on the far right interesting, it was either stillborn or died shortly after birth and was preserved as pigs are considered good luck, so a two headed pig had to be extra lucky. Pigs are one of my favourite animals, but I never realised they were a good luck symbol. Suddenly piggy banks make so much sense!

A "wise woman" with all of her magic tools, which are mostly items found around the home to avoid suspicion.

This section got a little bit Wicker Man in places
Divination and scrying. 
There were sections and displays for literally everything, every time I thought I was coming to end of the museum I'd turn the corner and there was another room to look at. I was really impressed with the whole thing, it wasn't too basic or niche for people with long term interest, but also wasn't too advanced to be beyond the interest of someone with no former knowledge. I definitely recommend giving it a visit if you're ever in Cornwall!

I didn't know anything about Boscastle other than it was where the museum was situated, but it's absolutely breathtaking. After I was done at the museum I climbed the cliff and sat at the top to eat my lunch with the sea breeze in my hair and both of these views on either side of me.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Art supplies

Today I wanted to share a glimpse into my favourite art supplies I use to create my illustrations as it's something I get asked about a fair bit. Also I just really love talking about art supplies, they're my favourite thing in the entire world and I confess to owning far too many.

Also I'd just like to preface this post with a reminder: the materials don't make an artist - hard work does! I've seen a lot of artists create amazing things with cheap kids supplies, and I've seen a lot of people make bad art with really expensive supplies. Having the best stuff won't make you able to draw, you need to actually practice and learn how to use it! I don't say that to try and intimidate, my intention is the opposite. There can be a lot of snobbery around art materials and it's ridiculous. Just practice with what you have and learn how to use it well. That's how I learnt, through sheer hard work. Although I have some pricey things now, they're things I've built up to and invested in as part of my career, but they're by no means things you need to have to create good art. And if you tell yourself otherwise you're just putting up excuses for not practicing!

As you can see from the above, watercolour are my paints of choice. It's funny, I'd never in a million years think to call myself a painter yet I definitely am. I guess it's because I mostly paint illustrations rather than traditional styles.

I own two Winsor & Newton watercolour sets - the one I've owned for the longest time is the little pocket sized which you can see is well loved. I recently treated myself to the huge set which contains all of the colours and as you can see I'm yet to use it, but as I've been using this brand of paint for years already I know I'll love it. I also have the 36 set of Kuretake Gansai Tambi Japanese watercolours. These are very nice, well pigmented paints that I enjoy using a lot and highly recommend, but I don't really enjoy them any more than I do the Winsor & Newton. I definitely prefer pan style watercolours to tubed or watercolour inks, but that's just personal preference.

I have an array of paintbrushes, but these are the only ones I really use and I'd recommend them to anybody. They're a great little variety, and it's just the right amount to take on the go. I like to have a big fluffy brush to do washes of colour, and the smaller two are better for detail. I really love the slanted brush as it can cover different sized areas depending on how it's held so it's really versatile. My tiny little 3/0 brush is what I use for outlining and detailed work, and I also use it with ink to outline illustrations as well as watercolours. And then the flat chisel brush right at the end has a silicone "brush" head and is what I use for masking fluid.

Next up are my essentials for my portraits! I have a tin of pencils of different softness grades, the ones I use most are 5H, 2H, HB, 2B, and 5B. I like to put different washi tapes at the ends of the pencils so I can tell which is which at a glance. Paper stumps are one of my favourite things, I own them in just about every size and I blend everything so they're incredibly important. I also have to have sandpaper to file them clean, and I like to have a clean paintbrush on hand to brush away any loose graphite. It's really important not to use your fingers to blend and wipe things off the portrait, partly because as you'll know if you draw your hands get covered in graphite fast. But also your skin has natural oils and you don't want that getting onto your work and leaving grubby marks.

Erasers are just as important as the actual pencils, half of my portrait drawing is carving light out of the darker patches of a drawing and it just really helps add depth. Putty erasers are fab because you can tear bits off and form them into the right size, and because they're tacky they lift the graphite off nicely instead of rubbing it away which creates a better texture especially for skin. But my Tombow Mono Zero eraser is the real star of the show, and I honestly don't feel like I could draw portraits without it. It's like a mechanical pencil but an eraser, and it's only 2.3mm thick so you can be incredibly precise.

I'm a marker fiend, they're my absolute favourite thing to draw with hands down. I have every colour in Copic Ciao and a selection of Copic Sketch. Having used both types of markers, I like them both the same and find little difference in them apart from the price and colour range. My favourite aspect of Copic markers is that you can buy the ink to refill them, so they never really run out. My black is what I refill the most, and that refill ink I've had for about 5 years so it lasts a long time too! The colours are just really nice with Copic, I've used a lot of different brands and the other inks just don't compare. Copic can do a true pastel, and they can do a vibrant, punchy hue and they just blend together deliciously. They also have brush tips, which is the most important thing in a marker.

I also have a large selection of Prismacolor markers, I believe I have around 100 of these and I've had them around 10 years (and they're still going strong!). You can't buy Prismacolor markers in the UK, I imported all of these from the US because it was so long ago when there was less on the market. Although they get much less use from me since I bought my Copics, I still really like these pens. They are hardcore vibrant, Prismacolor do not do pastels or gentle washes of colour, they are the original go big or go home. Whenever you see Yellow Submarine art from me, I'll of used Prismacolor markers, they're really perfect for psychedelic styles. Because both the Copics and Primacolors are alcohol based they also blend together seamlessly.

Although I'm stating how many of the markers I have, you do not need this many to use markers. They're my primary medium so of course I have a lot, but I think there's also a real freedom in only having a handful and keeping to a select colour palette. When I'm on the go I love picking out just 6 or so of my favourites and seeing what I can do with just those.

And with markers you of course need a good fine liner! For a simple black line I love Uni Pin Fine Line, they're one of the cheapest fine liners yet also one of the best. They are a true black, and I can draw over the lines with my markers and the ink won't ever bleed! I do like the Copic multi liners, but I only buy them for what I can't get in the Uni Pins, which is nibs (the Copic goes down to 0.03mm and also has a brush tip), and also the pen colour as I particularly like the grey and sepia for when black lines are too harsh or a bit boring. And my pencil case would never be complete without my Uni Ball Signo white gel pen, which is perfect for adding highlights and picking out details. It's a true opaque white ink which can't be said of many gel pens, and I use it with everything, whether drawing portraits, illustrating with markers, or painting.

As for paper, my favourite sketchbooks are Pink Pig. They're cheap, they have high quality cartridge paper that withstands a wide variety of materials, and they're spiral bound which is always my preference. For non sketchbook work I use Daler Rowney Smooth HeavyWeight. This is what I draw all of my portraits on and all of my marker work, and it takes water colour pretty well too (although not as well as actual watercolour paper, obvs)

I do not recommend Leuchtturm1917 sketchbooks as the paper seems to repel pencils and everything else bleeds through. It's been a year and I'm still not over that. If you want a Moleskine, make sure you get the sketch or watercolour versions or the paper is too flimsy.

I do hope this post helps anyone who might be wondering what tools I use and taking a little peek into my studio, and might help inspire you to try something new. Art is such a rewarding hobby, and for me personally is so therapeutic in keeping my mental health in check. You don't need to be at a certain skill level to give anything a go, and you can only ever get better at anything through practice so never be scared to try!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The door into summer

Although you wouldn't remember it looking out the window now, it's been positively balmy these past few weeks and given a true taste of summer. I finished uni for the year two weeks ago, so thankfully I've been able to get out and make the most of it. It's crazy to think in September it'll be my final year, and having to begin things like dissertation research hasn't quite sunk in yet. I've picked a question I'm passionate about though, so hopefully it won't feel too much like work.

Although it been so warm, I'm still in that winter mindset of being nervous of going out without a jacket so layering has been helping me ease into it. You may remember this skirt from a haul post back in February, and it's been my absolute go to item this Spring (and I'm amused to see from that post that I'm wearing it exactly as I predicted I might!). I'm really digging midi lengths at the moment, I usually prefer mini skirts but I love the ease of this length and it how still allows me to show off my shoes!

I own a ridiculous amount of suede vests by now, but I really couldn't resist picking up this one when I saw what beautiful condition it was in. I wouldn't be surprised if it's deadstock, it certainly has no signs of wear or any softening of the suede. When I opened it up to check the label I instantly thought of Vix from Vintage Vixen and was sure I recognised the name from her blog - I was right! Although it was in absolutely perfect condition, it also absolutely stunk of smoke and took a few weeks to air it out completely. I'm so pleased with how well it fits me though, it's my exact size.

skirt and vest - vintage // top - glamorous // sandals - asos // necklace - thrifted indian silver

Saturday, 27 May 2017

'Neath the gay illuminations all along the promenade

Just the other week I popped to Brighton. It's quite far from where I live so I stayed in a cheap and cheerful little hotel for the night and made a proper little trip out of it. I spent the majority of my childhood in Surrey and Sussex, so growing up Brighton was tediously familiar as my mum would take me there several times a year. However I hadn't been since I was probably about 12 or so, and going there as a kid you obviously don't fully appreciate whats around you - especially not beyond the pier and ice cream! Brighton has a reputation for being good if you're interested in antiques, vintage, and general quirky stuff so I was excited to visit for the nostalgia as well as seeing what it had to offer.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Their Mortal Remains

On 13th May the V&A opened Their Mortal Remains, an exhibition celebrating 50 years of Pink Floyd's career. I'd been counting down the days until it opened since I first heard of it last year, and yesterday I was lucky enough to go.

A technical drawing by Nick from when he was studying architecture; a painting by Syd from 1965 and a letter he wrote for Jenny Spires; David Gilmour's Höfner Club 60 guitar and his first fuzz pedal.
BBC apperance contracts. Notice that Syd's crossed out on one of them.
Nick's diary: "Kingston College. Really a fairly good gig, partly because the support group was so boring that everyone was glad to see us."

Letter from David to his parents: "Dear Mum & Dad, This is just to reassure you about the fact that I am playing again and will probably be playing in the States in April. I should be in New York about 20th April for a week or more. As you can see I joined the Pink Floyd, don't worry about what the cuttings say the reasons are and the spelling of Gilmur. That was a mistake by the Publisaist."
Fender Precision bass which originally belonged to Roger Waters, which he sold to David Gilmour in the 70s and he still continues to use.

Nick Mason's shirts from the late '60s and the hat he always wore.
It's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good. Syd's bike from the 1980s

Nick and Roger, drawn by Roger Waters in Washington, June 10th '75.

I'm doing my dissertation on Gerald Scarfe's artwork for The Wall so was pleased that there were a few original pieces on display.

I took so many photos it was a challenge to narrow them down! It was a pretty big exhibition, I think I heard that there are 11 rooms in total. I expected it might take me about 2 hours to walk around, but it took me 4.5. It's advertised as an "audio and visual experience" and you're given a headset to wear which automatically knows which section you're in and will play accordingly. It's quite an elegant system as you forget you're wearing it, but it's not without it's faults; several times my headset had difficulty tuning in when I was standing right in front of something, and it would sometimes loose connectivity halfway through, so trying to listen to interviews was a little frustrating. That's my only complaint of the entire thing though, I absolutely loved it. I liked that the exhibition allowed you to move at your own pace, and the headsets made it a completely immersive, individual experience.

You enter the exhibition through a model of the Bedford van, and then are immediately immersed into the UFO Club with psychedelic liquid oil effects projected onto the ceiling. The next room is where it really begins, with a section on Syd Barrett and then a display dedicated to each album from Piper at the Gates of Dawn through to Dark Side of the Moon. The section on Syd is very small, but honestly I felt it was just enough. It didn't downplay or dismiss his part in the band, and it treated him respectfully instead of like an oddball curiosity project which I appreciated. There was no speculation or psychoanalysis, it simply explained his role and that he was unable to cope with fame and left.

After the display of Dark Side of the Moon the exhibition slowed down to tell more of their history between and during each album from Dark Side of the Moon through to The Endless River. My first thought was that I wished they had placed equal emphasis on the earlier period of the band, but then again I didn't feel the exhibition lacked anything and there's obviously only so much they can focus on so I think they got the balance right.

At the end of the exhibition you removed the headphones and went into a large room where their Live 8 performance was being projected onto the walls so you could sit on the floor and watch. After Live 8, they showed the promotional video for Arnold Layne, complete with additional oil projections. I really enjoyed this as a note to finish on as it highlighted both ends of the bands career - their first ever release with Syd, up to their final reunion performance before the death of Rick.

After the end of it, I truly felt like I wanted to go straight back in and do the entire exhibition all over again. It was such a perfect day to be so deeply immersed in my favourite band, I felt almost under a spell when I left I was so happy.

Naturally you exit out into the gift shop! It's predominantly t shirts, remastered vinyl (ugh), button badges and books. I bought quite a few pins as I enjoy sticking them everywhere (I even bought duplicates of some), some postcards, a mug, a plush of Algie the pig which is probably my favourite thing for some inexplicable reason, and the official book of the exhibition which I can't wait to sit down and read. I did see a few other books I liked the look of, but they're not specific to the V&A and I didn't feel like lugging them round all day so I'll no doubt be ordering from Amazon soon.

The exhibition is open until October 1st 2017 and entry is between £18-£22 depending on if you have a concession. It's well worth every penny in my mind, I completely recommend going if you're able to!

Latest Instagrams

© Dolly Rocker. Design by FCD.