Happy mail envelopes

One of the things I love about all the mail art swaps I do is receiving the mail. Jon complained at the start about all the lovely envelopes that kept coming through the door!

My letter journal group are particularly inspiring

Here are a few of my recent sets

Mandalas and stencils …..

I decided that I needed some orange and pink this morning

And then my friend Jade posted some of hers on FB with women on and I was inspired to add some to mine

I tried biro, sharpie and uniball eye – they looked ok – but needed the messy indigo shading to stand out

I think Uniball Eye pens are my favourite – I just wish they would do a refillable one to cut down on the plastic …….. Pilot do one, but the ink is not quite the same. In the interests of the environment that is what I am swapping over to as my stash runs out.


Visiting emotional triggers

2 years ago my son was in a road accident in South Korea – this week my daughter was poorly with asthma and flu and had to go to hospital. I am doing an initial counselling course and found it very difficult to do an empathy exercise with another student.

My irritable bowel has also been playing up, so all my emotional stuff is roiling around my stomach. I wanted to see if I could work through all the rubbish visually to see if that helped

I started off having flash backs after Face book reminded me that I was in Korea 2 years ago. My son was not really in any critical danger but he did fracture his skull in 3 places. So I went to Korea. It was a difficult time as you can imagine.

I came up with this image as a starting point after searching for flash backs in google images


Thinking about PTSD – which I don’t have, but being a visual animal and sensitive to being over stimulated – I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what images came up for PTSD

I love this one but it didn’t resonate with me at the time.


Here are some more I found interesting



I decided to start messing about digitally with a couple of these to see what I came up with – this is how I usually work. I liked the scribble and the spiral

Unfortunately when I worked in my journal I didn’t do a step by step, but after a series of layers this is what I came up with.

You can’t really see the resemblance to the original images. I started off with a spiral clock doodle and then added layers of pattern, text , and a big loose scribble. I tried adding a lady in the middle but it didn’t seem to convey what I was feeling. however I liked the phrase ‘in the eye of a storm’ so an eye seemed more appropriate.

After lunch I doodled while waiting in a cafe, for a friend. Typically I forgot paper, but I had a pen. A few companies produce nice weight paper advertising leaflets which were on display at the cafe, so I decided to appropriate a diary to work on.

It helped to situate the doodle in a time frame of Feb/ March to anchor my thoughts. I like the look of asemic writing – what I use is technically not that – I write on top of my words a couple of times to hide the meaning from the reader – so I write out all my feelings but you can’t read it.

Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content,” or “without the smallest unit of meaning.” With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret’ (Wikipedia)

Lace doilies as stencils

As you know if you have been following me for any length of time I am really into circles, drawing them, printing , stencils etc.

One of my favourite found items to use are crochet and lace doilies. I am fascinated by the intricacy and tiny stitches. Since arriving in Edinburgh I have been amazed at how cheap I can buy them in charity and thrift shops.

This week I found a bundle of lace ones in three different sizes

To use them as stencils with paint you need to cover them in a layer of acrylic and let them dry. Each time you use them they need to be allowed to dry thoroughly or they start to smell and rot.

Yesterday I was playing with a friend using Brusho powdered pigment ( https://theartshopskipton.co.uk/brusho-crystal-colour-assorted-packs-of-8-12-or-24) and gesso. I wondered how the dollies would respond.

I am not sure I like the weight of the gesso on paper like this – the doilie covered in blue paint responded very well.

I added the gesso over one of my pink ink mandalas

It was taking ages to dry so I put it in my oven at 100degrees C – which is probably not very healthy because the kitchen stank of cooking gesso very quickly.

I wet the page with a thin layer of very dilute blue acrylic paint and sprinkled the crystal inks on top

The inks are very concentrated so I took a print from the sheet using another page with a red mandala on it. The paper I am using is recycled old printed letters so it is very thin

I also pulled gesso through a couple of mandala stencils

These were quite successful too , but I think I like the doily better because it is less recognisable as the commercially produced stencils.

If I use these in mixed media work. They will need sealing because the crystal inks are water soluble. Clear Gesso or Mat medium will do the trick dragged over once with a credit card. I think you should probably coat both sides of the paper.

Another application of this I think could be to make a printing block. If you pulled gesso through a doily onto a wooden / acrylic block it would be fun to print with paint – I am not sure how a commercial ink pad would work with the gesso.


Progress on my Osteopathy commission

I started working on my commission ideas this morning. I had a go at the origami shapes. I was a bit disappointed with the origami idea because the yellow pages is too fine to hold the shape and to get a section of backbone just looked odd

I also freaked out at using the originals. I seemed to have lost my confidence this week. I made a load of photocopies and went for it

I sliced up the photocopies and started playing with the text on a tea dipped and stencilled background

I photocopies one of the experiments and stencilled and doodled on top of that. I realised one of the reasons I was struggling a bit was because the colour scheme is not as bright as I usually play with. It needed more tonal contrast.

So I added more text and dancing ladies to different copies – the mojo returned

A few more layers

I added some more of the ‘yell colour printing check rainbows’ (they appear at the top of the proof page that they send you before you agree to publish your advert ) and gelato pastels because I remembered Glynis and I saying that we liked them in a meeting.


New commission, Osteopath -23Eyre Place, Edinburgh

We had a fab but tiring time in Sacramento visiting our son and his wife over Christmas and the New Year. I feel like I am emerging from jet lag and had a meeting today with my Osteopath who would like me to produce some art for her practice.

She has been advertising in the yellow pages since 2000. The paper version of the pages is stopping. I am to use her collection of adverts as a basis for some art work


I had fun using layout to make some patterns – though I think these are a bit too representational

We talked about ideas for 3 pieces

– I fancied making some origami from some of the adverts ( there are lots) to make up the shape of a spine which could be framed in a deep window box. I like the idea of the finished origami shapes breaking up the text through the folding. And the link with a spine/ osteopathy

Image from Pinterest no citation ref

I thought a frog might work because it could work like a vertebra

The Osteopath likes my dancing ladies that I produced for my last exhibition – she is happy with this concept in terms of the idea of movement links in with Osteopaths helping people to move.

The third idea is to do what ever I like with the papers …… watch this space.


Autumnal Dance and a new exhibition

Since the summer I have been layering my mandalas in response to my dance sessions. Recently Katherine led a session about autumn and trees.


I enjoyed making the paper doll cutouts and wondered if the technique would work for trees

I am still working with orange and blue. I love how the colours lift each other and the depth you can achieve with the layering some of these must have 10 or 15 layers if you include the layering on the trees to.

More simple tree on a mandala background

The repetition and circles seem to have so many possibilities. In the dance we were invited to think about roots and the earth. It’s been fun making representations of delicate shapes that have such strength.

I bought several mandala stencils and these have added another layer of pattern. I tried to cut my own. I made my index finger completely numb and the results were very clunky I need to practice to get more control with a sharp knife ( lol)

Design using Dizzy Duck stencils


I have also been using vintage crochet diollies to add structure and pattern to backgrounds

The design above shows yellow paint applied with a sponge and pink ink with a spray bottle on top of a pen and ink mandala

I have my third exhibition up in my hairdressers’Trigg’ on Dundas St in 4 years. http://www.triggstudio.com/

Slightly bashed flyer

This time it feels like I am showing work that reflects a real part of me. I am more relaxed and confident about it than I have been before (we shall have to see if it sells as well!!!)

Grid of the work in my exhibition – I tried working a bit larger so there are some A3 pieces – I will have to get a workshop if I want to do any larger than that.

Final organisation for my exhibition

Exhibition up at Trigg

I have wanted to have a picture rail in my hall since we moved into our flat in Edinburgh . We finally got around to it. Though how I am going to cope with talking to people about my art every time they come to the house ….I enjoyed looking at it , but it feels very exposing and I am not entirely sure I am comfortable with so much of it up (to be honest – it’s a relief to have it down the road ….)

My new picture rail before the exhibition


Hannah Gadsby at the fringe

The fringe is in full flow at Edinburgh. Every year I look at the size of the programme, flip through the pages and put it down. The sheer volume and variety of acts is like an assault. I do not know how people choose what to go to. I rely on family and friends suggestions. Jon always chooses a few things and I tag along. He is writing a book about how comedy and counselling are similar, so we tend to go to see people who have interesting things to say about life.

The visual assault of the city starts the last few weeks of July. The usual grey tenements and railings are decorated with large billboards. It feels like a never ending array of Faces , colours, and text – as I walk up the hill I think I must exude a scary ‘fuck of vibe ‘ because the young people have stopped offering me flyers.

Last night Jon and I went to see Hannah Gadsby – before we went I knew she was gay, Australian and thinking of giving up comedy.

I was not prepared for the physical onslaught. She is a large presence on stage. Her face grimaces, eyes pop, nudge , nudge , wink wink. Innuendo , it’s a joke.

She is very funny, but there is an unease, it’s a joke , it’s a joke

There is something about her physicality that reminds me of Trump. The throw aways don’t ring true. Am I perceiving this in hindsight?

There is back story about 10 yrs in comedy, being a lesbian, in Tasmania, where it was illegal to be gay until 1997. She is self depreciating about being large and not fitting in.

She has a degree in art history which added an interesting layer for me. She lets her anger slip out around privileged dead white males, particularly Picasso and his misogyny…..

The first 30 minutes is hilarious, but increasingly uncomfortable as she explores why she is thinking of giving up comedy.

I don’t want to give too much of her act away. I am up at 4 am writing this. I woke at 3am with a tightness in my stomach and my head ringing.

I had a need to get up and explore how I was feeling. I felt like I had been run over by a large lorry. Hannah talks about playing a room, making tension and controlling the atmosphere. The raw emotion and anger that she holds is palpable. On the bus back to outlet flat, I could hardly stay awake. I was physically exhausted. We had to catch the bus because I couldn’t face another assault by the crowds and visuals all the way home.

Her anger – it’s a joke, it’s a joke

I started doing one of my circles of bodies. I made Hannah into an ancient Venus figure and wrote in tight neat handwriting around the shapes on the page. I needed to let stuff out so I reread the Guardian article about the show and picked out words ‘lesbian’ ‘comedy’ Tasmania’ ‘1997’ ‘anger’ stood out. Writing Hannah’s reported words made it possible to step away from how I was thinking and feeling.

It’s not finished yet, I want the figures to be more 3D

But you get the idea.

I wanted the feeling of a tight female figure screaming. She has no arms to represent the tension and rage on the stage. She was magnificent in her fury and it was a powerful set – I have been thinking about white privilege and the need to find ways of of being newly accountable – may be blogging and incorporating stuff into my art is a way forward.