When you finally hit export on a film you’ve been working on for seven years…

As some readers of this blog will know I’ve been working on a part animated documentary for quite some time now. Today I finally pressed export.

More to follow on when and where it will be available to view, once I work out the details.

It feels good Magpies.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, 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.

Not sorted for Valentines Day? I can help you out

As regular readers of this blog may know, I’m not a huge fan of promoting things, but I’m trying to get better at that. So this is a quick post to say that if you haven’t sorted yourself out for Valentines Day (if you need to!) yet, I have a small selection of couple related designs, like the one above, available at my shop on Redbubble. The designs are printed on a range of different things, so there is lots to choose from. And if my designs aren’t your kind of thing, there are thousand of designs from thousands of other independent artists on the site, so it’s well worth a look.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, 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.

Meatloaf died and I’m sad about that

This wasn’t the post I was planning to publish this week, but sometimes plans need to change. I’m also a bit later than I planned, but it was a bit of a struggle to gather my thoughts as this isn’t the kind of post I normally write. I’m sure by now you’ll have heard the news that the singer and actor Meatloaf has died. I’m not generally the kind of person who get’s very upset when celebrities die. These are people I’ve never met so the loss feels intangible somehow. But I this week have found myself drifting back repeatedly to listen to the series of “Bat out of hell” records he made with Jim Stienman, who also passed away recently. Another song, Not a Dry Eye in the House, plays like an earworm in my mind.

It’s got me thinking a bit about the artists who have influenced me. My list is pretty long and not at all coherent. One of the reasons I called this blog “Magpie at Midnight” is because I’m interested in, and influenced by a lot of different things and people. But I don’t often write about all the different things and people that influence my art, and I probably should. Having worked in the sciences and social sciences most of my working life, it was apparent to me that people like me, who indulge in multiple interests, rather than specialising in one, were going out of fashion (I think the tide may be turning on that now though). It’s taken a bit of time to get comfortable with the Magpie side of my nature, but I feel like I’m there now. I’m not sure many people who know me in person now would have me for a Meatloaf fan, or someone who loves the David Suchet adaptations of Poirot, but I am both of these things, as well as loving open water swimming, and cake

If I try to trace the thread between my work and the influence of some of these people, the web becomes tangled pretty quickly. But I can identify what I love about Meatloaf, and the Bat Out of Hell albums. I love the theatre and the drama of them, the fusion of gothic influences, storytelling, themes of declining small town america and rock and roll. If you go back and watch the video of “I would do anything for love”, they manage to channel the Hunchback of Notre Dam, Dracula, and Beauty and the Beast all in one seven minute music video. Some of the song writing on those albums, composed by Jim Stienman, also got a grip on my teenage imagination. Objects in the Rear View Mirror still ticks all of the nostalgic heartbreaking boxes for me.

Beyond the art, we know that Meatloaf was a complex character, who had is own trouble with mental health. While he was a robust a energetic performer, there was also something a little fragile about him too. You got the sense of someone who held their emotions close to the surface of things. I really admire that combination of energy and vulnerability in an artist, that complexity is something that works very well for me.

Now he is gone, and I’m sad about that, which is probably how it should be.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, 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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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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