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My first set of prints!

First set of prints – Exciting!

After my pontifications in https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-3/. I made some minor changes to the orangutan painting, but then stopped, thinking that I wasn’t really adding anything, just playing around. Maybe you get more confident with knowing that as time progresses?

Anyway, I did look into how to get a set of prints and had some lovely advice from https://www.sarahkingart.co.uk/ on first steps. Essentially there’s something called Giclée, which is an unofficial standard for prints and seems to comprise of the resolution of the image, the paper and the quality of the print. You could do the required standard of printing yourself but its not for the faint hearted due to the costs of the ink etc.

After some playing around with the scanner that’s built into my existing printer, I realised that I could get a good scan resolution on it which was a bonus. I then just did a quick google of printing companies and went with http://www.printed.com for my first toe dip in getting prints (they had an offer on!). A few days later they arrived – really pleased with how they look. They’re Giclée standard at A4 size on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Pearl 320gsm with a 2mm card backing (for anyone who cares!). Its satisfying to be developing this hobby, and continuing to learn.

I plan to try and sell the prints for https://www.orangutans-sos.org/. Hopefully someone will be interested!

(Update – they all went via Facebook/Instagram links and I donated the money raised – woohoo!).

For other painting blogs see:

Playroom – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/wall-art-for-the-playroom-a-tribute-to-roald-dahl-and-quentin-blake/

Painting part 1 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-one/

Painting part 2 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-fur/

Painting part 3 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-3/

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Blog My own art and craft

Painting part 3. How do you make a print? – and the dread of overworking.

So, although Covid-19 continues to be a concern, the overall lockdown has eased and some of the drivers that were there for doing all the craft (namely, keeping my sanity and entertaining the kids when we’re all in the house together 24/7) are not quite as intense.

Couple that with the fact that my son has become obsessed with going out to hunt Pokémon on Pokémon Go, and we seem to have spent more time outdoors chasing Pikachu through the park and less arts/craft. I definitely don’t want to stop consciously doing creative things with the kids but it’s been good to be outside more. That said, I’ve been continuing to draw and paint once they’re in bed, and it remains satisfying that I’m getting slowly better.

This week, I started working on this painting of an orangutan. Random, I know, but its world orangutan day on the 19th August (bet you didn’t know that) and in the back of my mind I thought maybe I could ask for a donation to charity from anyone who might want it when its finished.

It’s not yet finished but you get the idea…

I contacted the Sumatran Orangutan Society https://www.orangutans-sos.org/ to see whether they have a forum for selling paintings etc. They can try and sell things for you, but it’s easier if you do it yourself and then donate the profits so I will try and do that as even if it only gets £20 then that’s still something good for charity!

However, it also got me wondering about how prints are made from paintings, what’s the cost involved etc etc. I’m going to look into this and write about it for whoever’s interested in knowing about that sort of thing. As with most things I suspect that its only complicated until you know what to do.

Something else that’s been on my mind when practising painting, is when to stop with something you’re working on. I’ve never studied art or have any awareness of different styles etc, but it strikes me that as you do start to know your own preferences and skills, you have to make the decision on when is enough, enough. I know for example, that I’m not aiming for photo-type realism, so what am I aiming for?

As an example, take the orangutan painting. You can see that picture 2 is better than picture 1, but would a picture 3 be better than picture 2?

Picture 2 is where I’ve got to with it at the moment. It was never intended to be the final thing, but when I got up this morning I was actually pretty happy with it. Only thing is that I just bish, bash, boshed (technical term) the fur as I know I find it difficult (see https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-fur/) and the fingers are only suggested, both of which I was aiming to go back and work on. I’m not now sure whether to do that or not though, so I thought to myself ‘am I starting to find my style?’, or ‘am I just scared of messing it up?’ (or can I just not do the detail?).

The answer I came to is that I need to keep going with it, and prove to myself how much is too much. I’m hoping that I’ll naturally find a point to stop where it looks its best, but I’m guessing I might go past that before I realise it!

I’ll put the finished thing on here so you can judge for yourselves. in the meantime don’t forget about world orangutan day, and if you’d like to make a donation to SOS, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

For other painting blogs see:

Playroom – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/wall-art-for-the-playroom-a-tribute-to-roald-dahl-and-quentin-blake/

Painting part 1 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-one/

Painting part 2 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-fur/)

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Blog My own art and craft

Painting..part 2 – fur

This week I’ve tried to keep practicing painting when the kids are in bed. I’ve continued the dog theme (see https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-one/) but chose to try and paint a friend’s Cavapoo; who is adorable but has really thick teddy bear like fur.

Here’s what the end products looked like:

You can see they’re pretty different. The larger one I was working on a lot and getting very frustrated that I couldn’t get it how I wanted it. The fur is really tricky to do, and although I wasn’t aiming for an exact replica of a photo, I did want something that at least looked like it had some texture. In the end I had to take a break from it as I was getting my hair off. Teaching yourself to paint has its limitations!

I then chose to do a much simpler one, building up the fur from the start by painting simple, thick strands on a dark background. I was pleased with that one, and felt it had a nice style to it that deliberately wasn’t aiming for realism. It encouraged me to go back to the bigger one.

Long story short is that I’m still not sure exactly how to make fur look realistic. I plan to look into this and try and develop. I don’t have the patience for really detailed work, I just can’t see that being my style even when I’m a lot better. So, I need to find a way of making it look good without having to spend hours on it – if you know any tips, let me know!

In the meantime I’ll just keep practicing and see how it goes.

For other painting blogs see:

Playroom – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/wall-art-for-the-playroom-a-tribute-to-roald-dahl-and-quentin-blake/

Painting part 1 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-one/

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Blog My own art and craft

Pyrography Part 2.

My pyrography hobby seems to have been short lived. The very quick lesson from this blog is don’t buy cheap pyrography pens – they will snap!

My daughter leaves nursery soon to go to school, and so I’d planned to make her keyworker a present. She’s been there for years so I thought it’d be a nice thing to do.

My first pyrography project was good (after some teething problems), and I learnt quite a lot on how to use the pen. For more info see: https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/pyrography/

So, I sat down last night and actually things went well to start, I’ve learnt how to use the different tips a lot better, and found I was much quicker.

Within an hour or so, I’d almost finished and it look like this.

Pretty nice really, the aim is to put it in a box frame and give it to them on her last day. The only thing in terms of making it, was the tip snapped off in the barrel of the pen, so it’s now unusable. Luckily I’d pretty much finished but it was annoying when I was just starting to get the hang of it.

I’ve now looked at the reviews (maybe should have done that beforehand) and this seems to be a fairly common issue. Shame really as I was enjoying it, but need to have a think about whether I’ll get enough use out of it if I buy a more expensive one. My plans to save a small fortune by making a load of presents for Christmas have been thwarted for now!

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Pokémon drawing

This week has seen my son get into the Pokémon Go app. Yeah, I know we’re about 5 years later than everyone else but better late than never! The whole thing confuses me to be honest but this post is just a reflection on getting different ideas out of an interest, rather than Pokémon itself.

I started doing this blog during lockdown as a way of finding some space for something creative and to force myself to think of things to do with the kids. I genuinely think it has helped us put a bit of energy back into doing things, and what I’m pleased about is that kids have become more proactive about sitting down and coming up with ideas themselves. The bird box on Sunday was one (see https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/with-the-kids/birdbox/), but I’ve noticed that quite often lately they’ll sit down and pick up a pencil and paper. Don’t get me wrong, the telly is on in the background – but one step at a time eh!

Last week for example, my son sat down to make his own Superman comic. He put loads of effort into it, and then showed his sister how to do it. I thought that was great.

He spent ages coming up with a cover and storyline for this.

This week its been Pokémon, and rather than just sitting watching the cartoon, on Tuesday we went out with the Pokémon Go app and walked almost 10 miles together. To be fair, I was really impressed with both the app itself and his ability to walk that far – he didn’t moan once.

In terms of the craft/creative side of things – tonight I sat and started drawing Pikachu. The kids sat next to me, and it was great to see them pick up a crayon and start to copy me, without prompting. My son took ages trying to copy the pictures from his comic book as accurately as he can. He did really well. I found that at age 7, he can get a bit frustrated when what ends up on the page doesn’t look like how he pictures it in his mind, but he’s getting more patient as he improves, which is a small victory in terms of lockdown home schooling.

My daughter coloured mine in and went her own way with the colour scheme; but again, took her time and tried to do it properly.

My son took it upon himself to cut them out with scissors and then asked if it was possible to scan them in the computer and resize them so Pikachu was sitting on Ash. I do genuinely feel that sort of thinking has come since we’ve been doing more art based stuff together. One idea leads to another and all that.

After he’d gone to bed, I did just that using Paint 3D (free on Windows). I’ll print that for him as a surprise, he’ll love it.

I’m going to try and think of what else we can do to keep running with the idea. Hopefully we’ll come up with something!

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Blog

A fling with a Sewing Machine

Or how I threw a wobbly when my daughter didn’t like the trousers I’d made.

About a year ago I decided it was about time I knew how to use a sewing machine. Random I know, but when I get a thought like that I tend to usually see it through. I’d got a book out the library (library and sewing machine, how cool am I?) and a lot of the craft ideas I was looking at could be made faster and better with the use of a sewing machine. I thought on that basis maybe it would expand what I could do, and on some level I thought as a life skill maybe it was good for my son to see me using one, mending things, challenging stereotypes etc. (He actually showed very little interest apart from pressing the pedal, but the thought was there).

I had a look on the internet. I nearly had a heart attack at how expensive a new one might be and realised perhaps I wasn’t as committed to this idea as I thought I was. I then had a look on ebay, and lo and behold a woman a couple of miles away was selling one. Excellent news! She’d badged it as pretty new on the basis that she’d bought it and not really used it. Ha ha, I thought, what a bargain, and what a fool buying one and not using it; that would never happen to me! (you can probably see where this is going).

I’m not saying that woman was lying about whether she had used it very much or not, I’m sure she probably hadn’t. However, what I suspect was also true, is that it was a rubbish machine in the first place, and she’d neglected to mention that.

Anyway, I got it home and between You Tube clips, my library book and phone calls to my mum/sister, I managed to get it going. I darted down to Hobbycraft and bought whatever material was on sale in order to practice. Judge for yourself whether the material was a wise purchase from the pictures!

I completed two projects in the time I used it:

A pillowcase:

This was relatively successful, and to be fair, my daughter still has it now. Essentially you just cut large rectangles and sew each edge, leaving a gap on one side to shove the cushion in. Maybe one day I’ll try another one and do a visual on how to do it.

Trousers:

Emboldened by making the pillowcase relatively easily, I then thought I would use the same enthusiasm to make my daughter some trousers. I only had the same material as the pillowcase, but that’s cool in a kooky kind of way, yeah? Anyway, she was too young to notice, I thought.

So, I cut two trouser shaped pieces (one front and one back), sewed them together and put some elastic in. I was really chuffed. Problem was, she absolutely hated them (even at two years old!) and I basically had to beg her to put them on so I could take photo. I haven’t included her face below, but rest assured, you would be in no doubt that she was not happy!

Pretty cool? Or not?

That put me off a bit, and ruined any thoughts I might have of never having to buy clothes for the kids again (worked okay for the Von Trapps?).

Since then, something has happened to the machine, and if you do know how to fix it I’d be keen for you to let me know in the comments. Basically, the top and the bottom threads get knotted up literally every time I press the pedal. I’ve googled it, asked family etc, but I have come to the conclusion that the machine is just rubbish. That, combined with my shattered dreams of making clothes, meant that I threw a wobbly and shoved it in the attic. At least I didn’t sell it to some other unsuspecting ebay buyer!

So that was my brief fling with a sewing machine. I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to buy another one, but I still think that its a good skill to have so, if you can identify the problem based on my fairly minimal description then let me know how to sort it!

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Blog My own art and craft

Sketching

Sketching a face – what I’ve learnt so far…

I’m not trying to present as having any particular expertise in drawing or painting, just a renewed interest in it. I only really started about 18 months ago, when I did a short online course with Vitruvian Art Studio (check them out for demonstrations of ace drawings, and also access their free materials guide https://vitruvianstudio.com/). Through that course and some reading, I have learnt a bit about portrait drawing that I thought a few people might find interesting.

You can find many many places with much better insights that I can give. The reason I’m keen to throw my two pence in though is because I think a lot of people tend to just see drawing/painting as something you can either do or not do; like it’s an innate gift that’s bestowed on some and not others. I’m sure that for some people, that is true and as soon as they were old enough to hold a pencil they had a natural knack for capturing what they see or imagine. For most of us though, it’s good to remember that you can improve if you put effort in. Practice may not make perfect, but it does make better. Go on, grab a pencil and have a go (even if that’s in secret!)

Getting started:

I guess anyone who draws has their own way of doing things, so here’s just one of many methods – aimed at people like me, who want to develop confidence and so need to see something half way decent to make sure they don’t throw the towel in after the first attempt.

I’m not going to go into the equipment you need as basically you can get a much better explanation than I could give on the Vitruvian website, but as a little tip regarding paper, if you can, get something that’s not bright white. The thing about bright white paper is that you’re always making things darker against a really bright background, so literally everything you do has to have some level of shading. If you get a slightly darker tone of paper, you can go darker where you need to, but you can rely on the paper to do some of the work for you, and even get lighter using a white crayon (which is pretty impossible on a bright white). A darker toned paper isn’t really that much more expensive, and you can find it in high street shops without any issue.

Anyway, whatever paper you’ve got, you need to start drawing somewhere. For portraits, I tend to do them about a handspan’s height so they don’t look too big on the paper. To start then, I just make a quick mark where I want the top and the bottom of the head to go.

Mark out rough idea of the overall size.

Obviously, you then need the head shape, which you’ll intuitively know is roughly an oval, but don’t get too focused on that as it will vary depending on what you’re looking at. Get the rough shape with some straight/blocky lines and just refine it into curves until you’re happy. It probably won’t be exactly right but you can play with that later as long as its roughly there.

If you want your face to have more than a passing resemblance to the person you are drawing, then I think the most important thing is to get the eyes, nose and mouth in the right place. There are some basic, loose ‘rules’:

  • the eyes are about half way down the head;
  • the space between the eyes is about the same width as one eye
  • the edge of the mouth is roughly in line with the pupils
  • the side of the nose is roughly in line with the inside corner of the eyes

BUT…it really does depend on what the face is doing and what angle you are looking from. A smile changes things, and people’s faces aren’t symmetrical a lot of the time so be guided by what you see. By the way, if you’re a beginner; avoid teeth at all costs – I absolutely guarantee your picture will end up looking like Alan Carr or Mr Ed.

From what I’ve read the human brain is so good at recognising the difference between people (consider how even a young baby can tell its mum from someone else) that even if you draw a fantastic nose, if you get it in slightly the wrong positioning it will throw everything out and you’ll know its not quite right.

This bit isn’t very glamourous but if you’re prepared to admit to yourself that you might not yet be able to do this just by having a go at it, then I’d recommend working out the angles to some key points on the face properly at this point. It’s admittedly a bit deflating to think that there’s a bit more science to drawing than just grabbing paper and getting on with it, but I think the satisfaction that comes from a half decent picture is worth it. Over time you will get a feel for where to put them just by looking (you’re not committing yourself to this method forever), but I’d genuinely say that if you’re just starting out, have a go at doing it like this, and then without, and see which turns out best.

You can see below that for this portrait of my friend’s daughter, I’ve drawn lines to mark out the eyes and the bottom of the ears. I did this by literally just putting a protractor on the photo I was copying, reading the angle from a point on the top of the head and the replicating that angle on the paper. You could go further and mark out the corners of the nose or mouth as well. I did this just to show you how to find points that can anchor your features (for example, its easier to get the mouth in the right place if you know the eyes are in the right place).

After this, basically forget about actually drawing anything for a while and just work out ‘where are your darkest darks and your lightest lights’ (this is a mantra on the Vitruvian course).

For this picture, the light source on the actual photo has really darkened the eyes, the slight opening of the mouth, and has created patches of shade on certain areas of the face. The lightest parts are on the cheeks (particularly the left side) and the chin. My initial shading looks something like the picture below and I use a blending stump (readily available from Amazon or any art shop like the Works) to smooth it out.

I can be a bit heavy handed with shading, and I’m still learning, but you can see below how it starts to build up:

The point about getting your darks and lights in the right place is that all the rest of your tones hinge on those colours. If you don’t make your darks, dark enough, then you’re not going to have enough contrast with other parts to make them stand out. Its worth spending a bit of time on this stage as if you do then darken parts later on, you’ll probably have to readjust all the rest of your tones too or it’ll look out of sync (which is a hassle).

You can then start to get into the detail. I haven’t got space or the expertise to go through every feature in its own right (and I imagine that if you were that interested you probably will be doing a proper course and not just listening to me!) but there’s a couple of things I’d suggest might help you if you’re starting out:

The first is to draw what you see, not what you think should be there. If you draw a nose as you think it looks in your mind, I pretty much guarantee you’ll end up with something that looks a bit daft; for example there is rarely a hard line at the side of the nose. Instead try and suggest the shape of the nose through the shading.

The second is not to forget that the face is a three dimensional object. This might sound obvious but your eye is not a 2-D almond shape – it protrudes from your eye socket, and your eye lid comes over the top of that, so it really isn’t a flat surface – you therefore need to try and show that on the page. Similarly, the nostrils are not just two dark lines, they are essentially a hole – so create the shape of a nostril by the lines you draw around the nostril, which creates the hole i.e. you’re not really trying to draw the hole itself. I maybe haven’t explained that particularly well, but if you approach each feature trying to bear in mind that its 3D, it should help.

This is getting there, but the jawline is too big on the right so I took that in a little afterwards.

The final thing is hair – it really isn’t worth trying to draw individual strands unless there is a particularly unique strand showing or hanging down. Instead, to give a sense of a block of hair, just take that same approach of darkest dark/lightest light and blend if you need to.

This was a relatively quick sketch, but basically just continue to refine until you are happy. Remember to go easy on yourself, chances are you’re probably not aiming for an exact replica of the photo, so if something has a likeness and you know you’re improving, then just enjoy the journey.

So there you have it! My portrait doesn’t do my friend’s daughter justice, but there’s a likeness and hopefully she will appreciate the effort.

In terms of the advice in this blog, I’ll probably look back at this in years to come and think ‘what was I on about?’ but this is where I’m at at the moment and I wish someone had have told me some of this earlier. On that basis, hopefully it was useful to at least someone!

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Blog Ideas for art/craft to make for kids

Some simple ideas

Last blog of the week as I need time to actually do things. Thanks to all those who have stayed with this over the course of its first week!

There’s a second instalment of the Sad Rock stories towards the end of the blog. Today we find out how ‘East’ got sad. I feel like these should build into a kind of ‘Sad Rocks Assemble’ where in the last one they all meet up and are just sad together, but unfortunately I’m not in charge of the script (or yesterday’s reindeer would definitely have got his comeuppance today.)

For now, let’s turn to a couple of nice simple ideas for projects. You could take the inspiration and turn them into Father’s day gifts – make a quick ‘dad’s shed’ plaque and a bead card, wrap them up and then…. watch his face as he smiles whilst wishing you had bought him some beer!

A door plaque:

Who doesn’t love a door plaque? Surely we all had one with MY ROOM – KEEP OUT! hung on the door at some point. I did one as a present for a someone recently. He’s 45 so thought it was a bit strange when he opened it, but he did put it on his door so he must have liked it.

Not really, it was a 5 year old, who was pleased.

Spare floorboard cut into blocks.

To make it I cut some left over floorboards into blocks. Nothing would initially stick well to the shiny surface so I gave it a coat of paint; just some matt wall paint we had left over in the shed.

The paint we’d got was a deep purple, so I chose to paint the lettering in white as a contrast. For this one (see below) I cut out block lettering from some card and then used that as a stencil, dabbing the white paint to try and keep neat lines but if you wanted to paint straight on freehand, you could do. I did the ‘room’ bit freehand and just tried to make sure it wasn’t too wobbly.

To bring it to life a bit, I added a couple of dinosaurs. I copied these off a picture on google images (need to try harder to remember to make a note of the websites). I drew mine straight on and then painted them, but if you had a decent printer, you could print the picture and trace an outline.

To finish it off I then just added something to hang it with, a green bootlace out of one of the kid’s craft boxes as I didn’t have any wire.

Door plaque

There was a double power tool alert. I had to use the jigsaw to cut in to pieces and then the drill to put some holes in the top. This felt very manly and I had a strong cuppa to mark the occasion.

Bead birthday cards:

Going to the shop to buy birthday cards in lockdown didn’t feel like essential travel so we took to making our own when it was my wife’s birthday recently (some people might call it tight, but let’s stick with it being creative for the purposes of this blog!). I guess loads of people with kids have those bead sets, and it was quite quick and effective to put them on a card.

The kids chose a design from their sets, and once they’d made them and they’d set, we just glued them on to some card. They stuck on surprisingly well just using Pritt stick. We went with ‘I love you to the moon and back’ from my daughter, and my son wrote ‘I hope your birthday is a piece of cake’ – a tagline that he thought of himself and was pretty pleased with.

The Sad Rock stories – number 2

Finally, for all those of you who only visited the site to get the next instalment of the Sad Rocks Stories, here it is in all its genre busting glory. Still no happy ending but I look forward to the prequel where hopefully we learn how the human parents managed to have a rock as a son.

Such a shame. What did the haunted house have to do with anything though?

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Blog Ideas for arts/craft to make with kids

The Sad Rocks

Today’s blog revolves around rock painting and story telling; not entirely successful but an interesting insight into the mind of a 4 year old.

My daughter’s story – don’t judge a book by its cover. No, literally don’t, as the story has nothing to do with a desert.

Around our local area, there’s a fairly well established Facebook group in which people paint stones/rocks and hide them for other people to find. For the kids, it brightens up a walk to stumble across them or hide our own, and we’ve been enjoying doing that from time to time. If you don’t know about it, have a quick look and find your local group, there’s bound to be one nearby (or why not start one if there isn’t!).

There’s loads of websites about rock painting, but today I thought I would take that idea a bit further to explore how the kids were feeling given that they’ve been in lockdown for months now, with very little contact apart from us as their parents. Generally my wife and I are in some state of mania about balancing our new part time jobs as school and nursery teachers whilst also working full time, and so I thought a quick check to explore their emotional wellbeing might be a good idea. Turns out they couldn’t care less about my efforts at amateur psychology, but I’ll get to that later.

Anyway, the plan was to paint a bunch of rocks with sad faces on one side, and happy faces on the other. We’d then use this as a tool for talking to the kids about what makes people happy or sad, and for any of the rocks they identified as being sad, we could explore why and what we can do to make them happier. Unwittingly the kids would forget they were talking about rocks and reveal through their answers what was actually on their minds. Slightly manipulative but clever ‘eh?

The first part of the plan went okay as a quick bit of art, and using kid’s paints within a few minutes we managed to get 7 rocks painted with sad faces on. Meet the Sad Rocks below.

Unfortunately, once this was done neither of them was the slightest bit interested in why the rocks were sad, and all I could get was a variation on ‘he’s sad because he’s pooed, or he’s pooed his pants, or that one’s wee’d her pants’. We never got around to doing the happy faces on the other side and so now just have a series of rocks looking sad. Keep an eye out in your local walks, you might find one of them.

The Sad Rock stories…

Not one for giving up, I thought of a different idea. Now we’d got the Sad Rocks, we could create stories around them! My father in law used to do stuff like this with my wife when she was a child and she remembers it – who knows, this could actually become a thing! #sadrockstories.

Mystorybook.com is a free to use, fun website for kids to turn their ideas into stories. You have to register but after that can create a library of stories which you can either just save online or ‘publish’ via a .pdf for $5.

I love it, its really easy to use, you just take each page and add text, pictures and choose backgrounds. You can also introduce your own images or even draw directly onto the page using the ‘brushes’. There’s a variety of appealing fonts, and I thought it was a good way to develop some computer and design skills plus use imagination for the story themselves. I’d done one with my son last week and he’d got into it.

I used paint 3D (free on Windows) to make a sticker of the rock to use in the story. Only thing that frustrated me was I couldn’t get rid of the white behind it in the actual book.

Unfortunately today was not the day for getting any sense out of either of them. My son was busy with something else by now and so I sat down with my 4 year old daughter and started to come up with ideas.

We started with her thinking of a title – ‘Hev and the birds’ she said. Great! I thought. I’ve no idea where the name Hev came from but it was an intriguing title. She then chose the background of a desert. Hmmm, okay, maybe its a Western – not sure about that but lets go with it.

After discounting anything to do with Hev having a poo, we finally got the bones of a story. The full version is below but spoiler alert, there’s no happy ending and your opinion of reindeer may change when you know how selfish they can be. There is also no mention of a desert (so don’t just a book by its cover). Maybe she’s destined for a career in French avant-garde cinema.

That was my daughter’s book. I typed but but she told me the words, chose the font, backgrounds and pictures. I still plan on trying to make this into a series of 7 books with them, hopefully they’ll get into it, and fingers crossed Hev will at some point see those birds.

So, to summarise, the plan didn’t go as intended, but they did find it hilarious creating a bonkers story. The moral of it all? – don’t try amateur psychology on a 4 year old, they will outsmart you at every turn. Oh, and don’t trust reindeer.

Why not have a go yourself? www.mystorybook.com

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Blog My own art and craft

Wall art for the playroom – a tribute to Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake

No time today for craft, but thought I’d capture a retrospective on some wall art I did for the kid’s playroom in the hope that it might encourage others. The point of this blog is that I genuinely didn’t know what I was doing, but if you just have a go, you might surprise yourself, and your kids will love it.

Like many people reading this, the books I loved as a child were mainly those by Roald Dahl. Who didn’t secretly try at least once to move things with their eyes like Matilda, or desperately want to go visit the chocolate factory and eat everything in sight?

I also have a really clear memory of me and my sister being engrossed in Rik Mayall reading George’s Marvellous Medicine on Jackanory. Forget Bottom, the Young Ones, Blackadder or Drop Dead Fred, this is his finest hour! I think you can still access that on You Tube if you’ve never seen it.

Fond memories of watching Rik Mayall reading George’s Marvellous Medicine (picture from curiousbritishtelly.co.uk)

I don’t think I gave much attention to the pictures by Quentin Blake at the time, but have become really fond of them as an adult. They seem so simple but capture the sense of the books brilliantly, and have this enormous sense of fun. For anyone who does want to practice drawing, copying them is a good place to start (try it!).

Anyway, when we moved a couple of years ago, we were lucky enough to have a playroom and I wanted to do something to spruce it up, without actually having to decorate it.

I found a massive old piece of board (about 4ft by 3ft) in the shed, and the idea of using it for a painting came to me, which was quickly followed by a thought to do something Roald Dahl related. Matilda the film is admittedly pretty good, but I’d really love for the kids to have the same connection to the actual books as I did, so felt like bringing the illustrations into their world might help with that.

A board found in the shed

I genuinely hadn’t tried anything this size before, and presumed it would be rubbish by the time I’d finished, but knew that the kids at this point were too young to be anything other than wowed, no matter what it looked like!

I didn’t really know where to start, but gave it a lick of white paint as a base.

Base of white paint

I wanted it to be bright so I then added colour by literally just squeezing the paints (I had some acrylics) onto the board and brushing them out, blurring them into each other a little but not too much.

The actual positioning of the colours was an accident really, and I’d intended on just doing one big picture of e.g. the BFG, but at this point I started to realise that certain books might fit with certain colours, and that this could actually work as a series of smaller images that work as part of an overall scene. Using any pictures I could get my hands on from the actual books, google etc, I hand copied in pencil on to the board then used a paint pen to give an outline.

I was proud of the drawings, and thought about leaving them as outlines as I was a bit worried about spoiling them with paint (I’d tried to do a small Gruffalo before, and just couldn’t get the brown to look right). I’m much better now at knowing how to make colour tones etc, but in the main these were just straight out of the tube. Luckily, it worked as the boldness of the colours stood out.

It took all week, starting once the kids went to bed for a few hours each night. I put on Spotify playlists, and I realised this was actually fun.

The finished product. Measures about 4ft by 3ft.

I’m not ashamed to say that I was really proud of this when I finished it, not because I thought it was of any particular standard but the whole process from start to finish felt good. Its genuinely nice to realise you can surprise yourself sometimes. A hobby is born.