Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mills & Boon

When I was a young girl, probably in that awkward preteen period, my grand aunt came over to the house with a shopping bag full of books. They were for her sister. 

My grandmother and grand aunt were voracious readers. My grandmother had stacks of books on the floor of her bedroom. She had several book cases as well, all filled, sometimes two books deep where possible.

Most of the books I'd see were religious books. I'm pretty sure there was more than one bible around. There were books on catechism, saints, lives of the Blessed Mother, Jesus, you get the idea. Whenever I had an assignment on anything that had to do with our Catholic faith, my number one resource was my grandmother.

The day her sister came with the shopping bag full of books, I thought they were more of the same kind. I generally had a tendency to hang around when people came over unless shooed away. No one shooed me away so I stayed and asked if I could see what books were inside.

The bag was handed over. In the meantime, the sisters proceeded to talk about sisterly things over coffee. Coffee wasn't of any interest to me at the time. In my opinion, it never tasted as good as it smelled. 

I pulled out one book, then another, and another, until I  had a whole pile of them on the table.

"These are all romance books!" 

I don't think I'd ever seen so many except maybe in a bookstore. There were quite a number of the Mills & Boon paperbacks, several Barbara Cartlands, a Victoria Holt or two, and a few others that I can't call to mind now. 

My grand aunt looked at me, amused. "I've finished reading them so I'm leaving them here for your grandmother to read."

"That reminds me," my grandmother said. "I have the other bag ready for you."

The other bag was also full of romance novels.

"Why do you read so many of them?" I just had to ask.

"Because, Ramona, WE ALL NEED SOME FANTASY IN OUR LIVES!!! And she follows this with a loud, from-the-belly laugh.

I loved my grand aunt and her kind of laughter. I even gave Mills & Boon a shot. After the third one, I gave up. Too predictable. Victoria Holt was much better, I thought. At least her stories had the kind of Jane Eyre mysterious and even suspenseful atmosphere to them.

By the way, my real name is Ramonita, which I hardly ever used because I didn't like it, and I really didn't relish her version of it. I remember cringing inwardly at the time. This must also be the reason why I can recall this particular episode in my life but I thought I'd write about it because I'd forgotten all about those Mills & Boon paperbacks.

Meanwhile, if anyone's interested in a good read, I highly recommend Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and Wonder by RJ Palacio. Big Little Lies is now a limited TV series on HBO and Wonder is coming soon as a movie with Julia Roberts, I think. 

On the creative front, I've been learning how to make GIFs using Photoshop. I'm still trying to get the hang of it. This is what I've come up with that's pretty much on the fly. 

That's it for this post. How about you? Any book recommendations? Or GIFs you've made? Share them in the comments space so I can share them for others to enjoy as well!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Here's a confession: I have an automated reminder that lets me know it's time for me to write a blog post. Every week, a male voice from my computer says, "Excuse me, Painting Words Blog ..." and ends there. I think there is a default length that doesn't let it finish the sentence but I'll probably never know. The first few words are usually enough since I tend to ignore it anyway.

My reluctance to get a post written is by no means because I have nothing to write about. I have lots to write about--the words are always swimming around in my head. I even have photos lined up for sharing. In fact, whenever I'm working on a project that's not digital (like the bag I just finished or the chest of drawers I painted on), I take pictures because I have every intention of immortalizing them on the blog. 

So where's the glitch? In my ears! Whenever I work or putter around, I find that the first thing I do is to plug in so that I can listen to whatever audiobook I happen to have in my phone. It started with Audible years ago and then when I discovered that the town library had a digital service that allowed me to borrow and download audiobooks from an app, I was hooked. It was a great way for me to work with my hands and still get my "reading" done.

Of course the one thing that's impossible to do is to write and listen at the same time. And so it happens that for the most part, I'm always reluctant to let go of the the audiobook. Today, though, I am not too thrilled about the audiobook I have on hand. So here I am.

I did have a bit of a busy time for a while working on illustrations for a health enrollment program. In the past, a lot of the illustrations I've had to do were all kinds of health related items. Nothing too exciting. I mean there are only so many versions of pill bottles, stethoscopes, and hearts can one make specially if they're meant to be on a corporate website or publication. 

Then there was the PowerPoint job that I actually had fun doing. Other than the illustrations, this was all about syncing audio and slides. Considering the number of times I've had to listen to explanations of HSA and health benefits, you'd think I'd be a pro when it comes to understanding our own health benefit plans. Um, no. I just sync and work on timing while thinking I should be paying attention but it didn't happen.

Then finally, when those were all done and invoiced, I started work on a bag for a very special person who ordered one for herself. I've posted a photo or two of the work in progress on Instagram, hoping she didn't have an Instagram account. I held off sharing them on Facebook. Today, though, I brought the finished bag to the post office and I know it should be at her doorstep by Saturday!

I'd taken a painting class with Este Macleod some time ago and largely influenced by her process, I began by loosely writing "love" across the bag surface. Then I started doodling along the lines and came up with this bird.

Most of the background prints were made using my Gelli printing plate.

Then I filled in some spaces with freehand painting. I also stamped on dots with the end of a dowel. I usually surround myself with all sorts of paraphernalia that I can use to create texture and movement.

Front and back pieces almost ready for sewing up. At this point, I tend to walk away from the work so that when I come back, I can look at things with fresh eyes. I also sign the bags and put the year it was made just as I would with a regular painting.

Bag and lining sewn! I like making sure the linings of the bag I make have a few pockets. I like organized bags but I also avoid putting in so many pockets because I tend to forget what I've put in them. I figure it must be the same for other women.

The finished bag! The handles are leather. I've gotten to the point where I didn't want to paint and sew handles anymore. I hand sew them on because I'm afraid of ruining the whole thing if I try attaching them with the sewing machine.

I always put on a coat of polyurethane just to protect the bag from nasty spills and such. I also make sure to enclose a note that explains this and how in time, the painting may crack and look like an old painting. I have a bag that I've used for more than 10 years and each time I use it, cracks and all, I get compliments!

Whenever I finish a bag, I make sure to send good thoughts and intentions with it. I don't really make bags to have on hand for selling. It doesn't seem to work quite as well if I don't know who the bag will be going out to. They're also not cheap because I treat each one the way I would a painting. But I do get quite a bit of satisfaction that I've made something that's unique to the person who receives it and that it's useful as well. 

Oh, and the audiobook that was playing was The Seeker by R.B. Chesterton which led me to research on where Walden Pond actually is now that I'm a resident of Massachusetts!