Weekend work in progress: Paper-cut Fox

Hi Magpies! A little bonus blog this weekend to give you a sneaky peak at one of my works in progress. It’s a paper cut art work snapped about half way through the process. After this point I normally use the white cut out as a template for coloured paper and add in some other materials like beads and cloth to enrich the image.

This particular piece is for a short story I have been writing around some of the creative prompts I have been posting every Friday. I’m not sure if I’ll finish in time for Christmas but that’s the vague plan.

If you are interested in seeing some of my finished pieces, and want to throw some Christmas shopping into the mix too, you can have a look at my work on my Redbubble shop here. For the next five days (Nov 26 – Nov 30 2021) you can get between 20 and 60% off if you use the discount code CYBER5.

I hope you are all having a great weekend 🙂.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt (neighbourhood intrigue series #1): Love Note

One of the things I find myself doing when I’m out and about is puzzling about things that I see that seem a bit odd, or intriguing. For creatives I think there can be great benefits in trying to practice a kind of mindful curiosity where ever you are, no matter how mundane or suburban that place may seem. Seeing a hint of something when you will only ever know part, or indeed nothing of the actual situation can give a creative mind free reign to invent something new.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to publish a collection of creative prompts that are based on some of the tiny neighbourhood intrigues that I have noticed over the last few months.

I saw this note on the pavement in the street outside my house. I didn’t open it or read what was inside as I felt this would be an invasion of privacy, and so I do not know who it was for, or what is said. But I was very taken with the little hand drawn heart on the folded flap. Someone had taken care when making this note.

It made me wonder how it ended up on the pavement, looking like it has been casually discarded. Had it been dropped by mistake, or thrown away? Who had written the note? What does it say? Did the person it was written for ever read it? What did they say?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt: Lost on the highway

I’m sorry this week’s prompt is late. I’ve been quite unwell recently and seem to be struggling to recover completely. I took a day yesterday to try to relax a bit.

I saw this toy pony in the road while I was on may way somewhere. It had been left right in the middle of the road and was amongst a pile of other bits of rubbish. I normally wouldn’t try to take a photo of something in the middle of the road, but it was early in the morning and there were no cars about so I darted across for a quick snap.

There is something about the shock of the coloured hair against the damp grey of the tarmac that I find interesting. When I was a child this brand of toys were chunkier and less colourful. I did not have many because I was more interested in making things than playing with the kind of toys people seemed to design for girls back then. Things haven’t changed much to be honest!

I am wondering how it got there? Is this a lost little toy, dropped by a passing child, or has it been abandoned during a clear out or house move? Maybe this brave little pony has set out on an adventure of its own?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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How do you feel about your old art? Reviewing old work and a Redbubble revamp

Do you ever think back about your old work and feel dissatisfied? Like it just wasn’t your best work and you don’t really want people seeing it?

I’ve had a collection of pieces of my work on Redbubble for several years now but was really struggling to feel any enthusiasm about promoting them at all. More than a few weeks ago now I decided to go back and have a look and try to figure out if the work was really as bad as I felt it was, or if there was something else going on.

When I opened up my account and started looking through the work I realised that I actually quite liked a lot of the individual pieces, but that it didn’t feel like it hung together as a collection very well. In the years since I started using Redbubble’s print on demand service to sell things with my art on they’ve done a lot of work to the interface, and it’s now a lot easier to go in and experiment with things like the size or arrangement of work on a particular object, or to change the background. They’ve also released a bunch of new products (like backpacks!), and I simply had not been keeping track.

So I’ve begun to experiment with changing the background on related pieces so that they ‘fit’ together a bit better, and making the same design available on different colours. I am not sure if people will like these new versions any better, but I am certainly happier. For example the design above looks so much better on a dark background than it did on the paler one that I had it on before, and now kind of fits much better with the pink version – have a look at the backpack below.

The upshot is that, while I’ve not quite finished revamping my collection, I am feeling much better at promoting my works now. I’ve even been pushing some of my designs on twitter this month as we draw close to halloween. Like this one.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Mental health and silver linings

Last week I wrote about my recent brush with anxiety and how at times like this I find that creativity can form a kind of refuge for me. During that time I made a picture of a cat that I rather liked. It’s inspired by my two cats. Both of them are black and a little eccentric, but one of them has displayed some almost saint like qualities in his tolerance of the overly enthusiastic affections of my toddler son.

Over the weekend I had a go at doing some finishing touches in photoshop, and was relatively pleased with the result. So even though I wasn’t feeling near my best in that time, I have come out with a little silver lining in the form of a piece of art.

This is the finished piece above. If you like it, and fancy treating yourself to something with this image on, it’s now available in my shop at Redbubble here.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Anxiety and creativity as a refuge

Last week I was off work with stress and anxiety. I’m back in now, but it was a bit of a shock to crash out with a panic attack on a not particularly difficult Monday morning, and find myself unable to return for a few days after that. While I’ve struggled anxiety for quite a long, I don’t normally find myself needing to take time off work with it, but that’s how things go sometimes, isn’t it?

During my time off I was feeling really tired and had that kind of brain fog that makes it a bit difficult to think things through properly. From a creative point of view, I wasn’t been able to write much either, which is my normal creative weapon of choice. When my mental health slips this way my instinct is to retreat into making pictures. I find something therapeutic in the physical activity involved in drawing, cutting paper and working out which other materials may work for that particular design.

There are a few theories about around why creative activities are helpful to mental health, including (not an exhaustive list);
1. That it provides a nice distraction from difficult feelings or circumstances
2. That it may provide a route into a state of ‘Flow’. This is a psychological term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and which describes a positive state of mind where a person is fully involved in and focused on a particular activity (for more information you can read his book on the subject here (affiliate link)).
3. A route for self expression or catharsis, allowing people to express, and more clearly understand their own feelings or thoughts on a difficult situation.

Over time I have probably found all three of these aspects of creativity helpful to my own mental health, and am grateful that it is something I feel able to do. One of the benefits of building some form of creative practice into my everyday life is that when things feel a bit difficult, I have something productive to withdraw into, like this last week.

And I made a picture of a cat that I’m pleased with too.

Thank you you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative Prompt: The missed shot

This year I’ve been experimenting with creating creative prompts for other creative folks by taking photographs of strange or quirky things that I see when I am out and about. My general format is then to post the photo along with the story of the picture, or some thoughts that the picture provokes in me. In last week’s creative prompt I briefly mentioned the sometimes transient nature of creativity, and this weeks photo is a really good example of that.

I first saw this broken pair of sunglasses on the road a day before I took the photo. My initial response was that they weren’t that interesting to me, but then when I found myself thinking about them a bit later in the evening knew that they had caught my attention after all. When I went looking for them the next day I was relieved that they were still there, but they were not arranged as I remembered.

When I first saw them one of the lenses was still in place in it’s frame. While I like this shot with the strip of yellow running through the photo, it’s not as good as that first glimpse. Basically I missed the shot because I didn’t take advantage of the moment.

I’m sure I’m not the only creative with experiences like these, and would like to hear about other similar experiences in the comments below. What was your best (worst!) ‘missed shot’?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt: Green Dragon Court

I came across this street sign when I recently went for my Covid vaccination in Central London. It is very close to borough market. In the day you can wander among the stalls smelling all the wonderful cooking smells, and buy expensive hand crafted food stuffs.

At night the market is empty, but in non covid times there area a number of local bars and the customers spill out into the space. For me though this street sign reminded me of the brilliant Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (affiliate link). If you have not read this book and you are at all interested in fantasy, I strongly suggest you give it a try.

It kind of makes me wonder if in another reality there would be a resident green dragon who holds court here.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt Mini-series: Making offerings to trees #4

I quite often see trees that people have decorated with one or more objects, and they always catch my eye. For this reason this month I have been running a mini series of creative prompts about trees and the way people appear to honour them. You can see the other three posts here, here and here.

For my final prompt in this series I wanted to offer you this photo of a tree I saw on the side of one of the Cotswold Hills near where my parents live. I was out walking with my partner, and my parents were looking after my son so we were able to get into places that were a bit too hilly or muddy for the pram.

It was a really hot day, and we mostly chose to stick to the cover of the woods, but found this tree on the side of a field on a hill near a local monument. The sun was very strong that day on my skin, and so bright that it was difficult to take this picture because of the reflection in the screen of my phone. But it seems I did manage to capture this arrangement.

There has been a strong theme of of pagan or druidic traditions in the area since long before I was born. At the time of taking this photo it was not long before the summer solstice, and I imagine that these symbols do have meaning for whoever placed them there. But it is not a meaning that I understand. Perhaps someone who sees this will understand it better and be able to explain it to me.

In my own creative writing at the moment nature plays a strong part of the belief system of the shadow world I have been trying to build. I like seeing things like this, particularly when I don’t actually understand the intention of the person who made the decoration, as it sparks my imagination. I hope that this picture of symbols on a tree may spark something for you, too.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt Mini-series: Making offerings to trees #3

I saw this tree in a street near where I live over a year ago. It’s not a great photo, as it came out a bit dark. Fiddling with an edit seems to cause more harm than good by bleaching out the image, but I’ve managed to enhance the range of woollen decorations hanging in the tree.

On the actual day the weather was quite gloomy and cool, and it was spring but not really near Easter or any other festival that I know of would explain these objects hanging in the tree. They really stood out to me as a bit special. Someone, or a group of someones had spent a chunk of their time hand making these decorations for a tree in the street.

This is the kind of thing that really sparks ideas off for me. Who would spend the time to do such a thing? What meaning might these objects hold? Are they left over from a festival, or just there because someone simply wanted to honour the tree?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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