Sunday, October 31, 2010

London Journal - A Year ago....

A piece of public art in Cambridge

It's the 31st of October. A day for wee ones to don costumes of all shapes and sizes, a day of carved pumpkins, a day of crisp fallen leaves and a touch of frost.

It also marks the day a year ago when I first boarded a plan to the UK. I was a bit mad with my scheduling for that trip. I rose at 6:00am, dressed in my Halloween garb and headed to work. I worked a full eight hour shift before coming home to a well decorated house. Loads of people came over for a party, during which too much candy and other sugary things were consumed. I was bubbling with excitement and a sense of anticipation.

At midnight my parents arrived, there to provide transport to the airport. I bid the party-goers farewell, loaded my suitcase into the car and was whisked away.

At the airport I said my goodbyes, gave my kisses and headed for security. Once through on the other side the fact that I'd been up since 6:00am began to hit me full force. I was exhausted and my flight wasn't going to board for an hour and a half. I found a quiet corner near my gate, set my backpack down as a pillow, and tried to get some sleep.

It's amazing how much can happen in a year.

That first trip was a test to see if London was really the place for me. It was a gauge of where I'd be living, how I'd be able to find a job, what sort of stuff I could explore. I knew then that I loved it here. It was new and exciting for me. It was fizzing, bubbling potential. I was bursting with ideas and hopeful for what would come.

I've not actually been living here for an entire year yet. This just marks that first step into the life I'm now leading. I shan't review my year until January 7th, but today I did feel like reflecting on that initial discovery.

This year my Halloween celebrations have been far more subdued. I think this is largely due to Halloween just not being a big deal in the UK, but it's also difficult to replicate that anticipation that was an undercurrent last year.

Change is good. I do like that this year has been more relaxed and involved far more sleep. There was still a fabulous new costume to unveil and a party to attend. Some things never really seem to change, even when everything about them is truly different.

Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


This is what a Pixie King looks like.

As a child the year was not divided by months nor seasons but by holidays. Summer was a significant one, obviously, followed closely by Christmas. But one of the holidays I looked forward to most was Hallowe’en. I’m not a huge fan of candy and if I never saw a single horror film in my life I wouldn’t see it as a loss. For me the appeal of Hallowe’en is rooted in the making of my costume.

Each year I would seek to create something unique. As all of my friends would prepare to be de

ad brides, zombies, devils and ghosts, I would plot and plan and often agonise over the perfect costume. Instead of a black cat I’d be a white one. Instead of buying a mask from a shop I would build my own from papier mache. I would choose characters from books like Harriet the Spy or Gollum (Long before Lord of the Rings was made into a film, when none of my classmates knew who I was or had heard of The Hobbit.) or I would make characters up, like a Killer Marshmallow or a personification of the night sky.

This year my costume is actually still in progress. I made the top and bottoms myself and put together a crown of ivy. I used my prosthetic mouth and ears and grease paint for the face. It's not done but it was done enough to suit me for this Halloween. I need to make wings yet, and perhaps some nice Pixie feet, but I like it as a working project as I want it to be wearable again and again. To tweak it each time I wear it out will involve unveiling another bit. Perhaps this is a costume that will never quite be done, especially as Pixies really do come in great variations.

The Pixie King and the Devil

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A brief entry...

I was standing in line at Tesco waiting to purchase some bananas and raspberries. The bloke behind me exclaimed and I realised it was my shoes which had delighted him so.
"Those are amazing trainers! Where did you buy them?"
"Oh, I made them myself."
"They're incredible!"
"Thank you."
"Do you have a site?"
But just then two tills became free and the two of us shuffled forward to the counters. We made our purchases and he came at me, receipt in hand, "Write your site down on here."
"Did she do those herself?" asked the clerk who has just served him.
"She did."
"Here," I said, swinging my bag from my shoulder and pulling out my business cards, "I have cards."
They each took one, nodding and smiling. It was a lovely way to start what has been a very full day in a week of very full days.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

201 posts!!!

It just occurred to me that yesterday's entry was my 200th. I think it was a pretty dismal entry for such a monumentous number so I'm remedying that with my 201st entry.

This is titled:
What I did on the weekend vs. What the cats did on weekend

I am taking the first steps into writing, illustrating and ultimately publishing a children's book. I first considered the idea when I got my dear sweet little Delirium, who came into my life two years ago this month. She's a bit silly and quite cute so she lends herself well to a character for children to learn from. At first I thought she could be fun to animate, and I still do, but coming to England and bringing her with has helped solidify the idea. My partner suggested I write a series about all three of the fur-babies we are so lucky to have I agreed that it was a brilliant plan.

I had begun my character sketches in the last few weeks and on Saturday I
wanted to work on my rotations. I got out my new sketchpad and set to work whilst the three little critters that are the source of the inspiration did what they do best.

First I copied the three original character sketches to a new sheet of paper and marked out the lines to measure their proportions for the rotation.
Gertrude slept through this.
I began working on Gertrude's character first.
Delirium and Mabel slept.

I finished the pencil sketches of Gertrude and began drawing Mabel and Delirium.
More sleeping ensued.
I picked up my pen and started filling in the lines.
After about two hours I wasn't quite done the full rotation of all three critters, but I'm quite pleased with the result.

Today I spent several hours painting. I don't have any pictures of that to show you because I'm keeping it a secret until it's done.

As for the cats...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

These things I'm learning

I'm officially finished the tutorial part of my course. I've had two classes each in how to use InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. Illustrator has been, as I suspected, my favourite bit to play with. I especially enjoyed piecing together a 3D still-life.
I also feel I've picked up how to use the Pen Tool quite easily. As the instructor said:
"The Pen tool is so, so, so difficult, until you know how to use it. And then it's incredible!"

Next week we start on our assignment. The brief? Design our own magazine on any subject we like. Today I put as many images as I could onto a data stick. Last night I purchased a new sketchpad so I can do some more character sketches which can be scanned and vectorised.

My project plan isn't quite solid yet, but I know what I want to create. The ideas keep cropping up, forming a clear image. We shall have to see what Tuesday brings.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spread Thin

An old Title Page from a 'Cartoon Journal' I kept on and off for a few years

I've started another Tarot Card. Actually, I've started two. I also started on those character sketches. Yesterday I started learning Illustrator. On top of all of this I'm working full-time, trying to keep up with my blog, taking driving lessons here and there so I can get my license and fitting in important things like eating and sleeping.

The other day I woke up with a sore throat. I managed to keep it from getting worse, attacking it with lozenges.

I do believe that it is extremely important for us to listen to our bodies. With so much firing off around is, so much being absorbed into our minds, listening to our body can become a great challenge.

This is the third time in two months where I've felt run down and susceptible to illness. I have a wicked immune system so very little gets through, but the frequency of the battles only increases the risks. My greatest challenge is that I want to be able o do more than I have time for. Finding balance is key.

*deep breath*

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Character Sketches

I haven't done any character sketches in a super long time. Two years ago, when I was doing my animation, I got really into them. Even though I was doing a claymation and even though I never need to draw my 3D characters, I took the opportunity to do so because there was something so mindful about creating a character and then rotating it in proportion along fine pencil lines. I actually started sketching characters I had no intention of using in my animation and at one point the only drawing I did were of character sketches because it was therapeutic.

After I finished my animation and my employment at YAP was over I put my creative energy into painting, largely ignoring my sketch book. I had begun an attempt at a graphic novel, which I have every intention of continuing with at some point, but once again, drawing it had been a form of therapy I needed at the time. The repetition of my pencil lines was reflective of the personal mayhem I was working through. It felt like my life was going through the same pattern of frustration, hurt and loss. As I went through the motions of my life, learning a little bit each time and slowly getting stronger, so too did I see my art improving.

As I began to feel more stable I began stretching what I was doing with my life into other aspects of creativity. I also decided it was time to really work on my tarot cards in earnest. The character sketches and the sketchbook I'd used to do them were put to one side. My work has become about single pieces, single static characters.

My graphic design course has re-awakened my interest in animation and it's also pushing me in another direction. Time and again people have asked me if I would consider doing children's book or providing illustrations for their own writing. I've been daunted by the idea of doing either because I honestly haven't felt I've got the skill to create illustrations nor do I have the discipline to write a story for children. I've been daunted, but that doesn't mean it's not something I really, really want to do.

Next week I'm learning Illustrator, the last of the three programs covered in the course I'm currently doing. This is the program I've been waiting for because it could be just the tool I've been looking for to finally jump into the world of children's literature. I feel enough in touch with my inner child that I believe I can write stories captivating for children to read. I also remember my childhood quite vividly including the books and stories I most enjoyed. All of this should built a solid foundation for the makings of what I hope to be a well written, lovable and fun series of books/animations.

But before I vectorise anything and before I make the very expensive but desirable purchase of CS5, I am returning to my sketchbook and those simple pencil drawings. I have to say, I do feel my character sketches have gotten a bit rusty. I'm not quite so quick to rotate a character all the around across the length of a page. But I can feel it coming back and along with that I'm finding ideas for story lines becoming more solid in my mind.

We shall have to see what comes of this.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I love music. I can't compose it, write it or perform it, but I am a great consumer. I appreciate lyrics. I am thrilled by the skill that it takes to master an instrument. I love how a really good song can get right under my skin and send crackling ideas through my brain.

I've listed some of the music that has had such an effect on me on this blog before. My Mix Tape entries are a taste of some of those songs I can listen to daily without tiring of them. But my mix tape needs to grow and it can only do that if I find new music.

I'm inviting you to share your favourite songs. I want to know about the music that lifts your heart, raises your spirits, puts a smile on your face and makes you feel invincible.

Post your own mix tape contributions below or on my Facebook page or send me a tweet @faunawolf on twitter.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I am a pixie king!

For those of you who don't know, I'm a Pixie King. Always have been, but until this weekend I've not had the outfit.

It's not complete yet as I still need to make my crown, but for now I'm quite chuffed with what I've done in just a few hours. I'm especially pleased given the fact that I didn't have access to a sewing machine and I had to do the tail by hand.

Yesterday I went shopping for paint, make-up and the perfect top and bottoms. I did quite well, sticking to a budget of 20 quid*.

*Sometimes I really wish I had a UK Keyboard so I could type the pound symbol instead of writing 'quid' all the time.

Today I painted the stripes...

...hand sewed the tail...
...and assembled the trousers.
Next weekend I'll do the crown and if I have time and can find the right supplies, I may do wings as well.

Friday, October 8, 2010

London Journal - Tweed, tattoos and tasty treats

The Victoria line was absolutely heaving for three in the afternoon. Of course it's a Friday so everyone is taking off early if they can. I leaned against the back of the car, resigned to the fact that I'd not get a seat. An old gent boarded at Pimlico. He wore a tweed jacket and a matching tweed bow-tie. A woman seated in the priority seats offered to get up.
"Oh no, quite alright," he said in exactly the sort of voice I'd imagine him to have. It was throaty, rich and strong with only the slightest quaver. He came over to stand by me and after a moment I realised he was speaking to me. A first I thought he wanted to stand where I was but as I moved over he peered at the map I had been obscuring.
"We're on this line, are we not?" he gazed at me with watery, red-rimmed old eyes. His smile was kind and sweet, his finger pointing to the black line that signifies Northern. At first I forgot we were on the Victoria line and I nodded. I doubted myself a moment later and looked at the poles of the train. Their lovely blue reminded me of the fact that I was on a very different route than I normally took after work.
"No, we're on this one," I pointed to Victoria's path on the colourful map. He asked me which stop he needed for a hotel I'd not heard of. I shook my head, shrugging and apologising for not being able to help.
"I'll get off at Green Park then," he said, pointing to Warren Street. I smiled softly but didn't correct him as he was already turning away from me and because I knew Green Park was next so I could just tell him to get off when the train stopped. As it turned out he saw where we were himself, sending another thankful nod in my direction before disembarking.
I travelled the next three stops to King's Cross St. Pancras (Which always makes me think 'pancreas' no matter how much I try not to.) where I caught the bus up to Farringdon. My destination was The Family Business, a tattoo parlour owned by Mo Coppoletta. I learned of it only very recently when my partner booked in for a piece of work about a month ago. I'd come to meet her there and whilst waiting I perused the work of the many artists that are both based or guest in the establishment. This was when I discovered the work of Noon, and instantly fell in love. After several emails with the aforementioned artist, confirming that he would be in London in January and again in July, I confirmed a date with him. My trip today was to confirm my July appointment.
As soon as my deposit was down I found myself with a significant chunk of time with which to play. The day was warm, the sun an autumnal gold. I wandered the streets, taking in the still stunning architecture as I made my way to Holburn.
When I met up with my partner, the architectural tour continued. We decided to board a bus to Liverpool Street and we managed to secure the front seats on the top deck. This is the ideal seat in London for anyone who likes to catch the details of the elaborate stone and iron-work that adorns so many of the city's buildings. Together we scanned the archways and windows, pointing out the Green Men, strong stone oak branches and elaborate iron gates.
I was almost disappointed when we reached our destination, especially as a wind was kicking up and the warmth from earlier in the day was a memory and nothing more. Fourtunately we didn't have long outside and after a small wander around Bishop's Gate we went to our destination, the stunning Steak House of Marco Pierre White. We were served the marvellous sirloins accompanied by a roasted mushroom, roasted tomato, Bearnaise sauce and a simple salad with blue cheese dressing.
Needless to say, I'm feeling quite content at the moment.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

London Journal - It's not so big

When I first came to London I spent my days job hunting, painting and exploring. I tried to visit at least one museum a week, if only to get myself out of the house. One of the first museums I went to was the Tate Britain, which is actually extremely close to the office where I now work. I also discovered that, walking just up the Thames no more than fifteen minutes, I can reach Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. From there it's another fifteen or so minutes to Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. They're walking distance to Leicester Square, Soho, China Town, Covent Garden and the shopping districts of Piccadilly and Oxford Circus.

When people told me London was the same square footage of Calgary I didn't really believe it at first. Once you start walking it, however, you begin to see how connected everything really is.

When I signed up for my course at Chelsea College I had no clue where the college was. I had the expectation that it would be similar to getting to post-secondary establishments in Calgary. Mount Royal and the University of Calgary have never been particularly convenient to me, even by car.

Imagine my absolute delight when my course confirmation comes through with a map to Chelsea and I realise it's just across the river from the Vauxhall Tube station, next to Tate Britain and therefore about seven minutes from my office. This is ideal as it's an evening course, conducted from six until eight-thirty.

I was happy enough to wander around the scenic roads that surround the college, popping into the museum for a light dinner at their cafe before I had to go check in. As is usual for me, I was early for the class. I walked through the small clumps of young adults that were collected outside the entrance. It instantly reminded me of my mandatory school years and how such groupings made me uncomfortable even then. They puffed their cigarettes, trying to look as angsty and brooding as they could.

Inside the corridors smelled of chalk dust, clay and paint. It was a mix of stark white walls, fresh for displaying the work of the new year, and old brick-work, full of character. I took a seat in the foyer and waited. At exactly six the instructor for the Digital Design course strode in and rounded us up. There are ten of us on the course and after we'd selected seats in our classroom we went around and explained a bit about why we were there and what we were hoping to achieve. Some wanted the skills for work, other were looking for the creative side of it.

I'm there for both. I want to be able to have creative jobs and have skills that are desirable to employers. I'd also like to be able to use what I learn for my own projects so I can improve my self-marketing skills and create more opportunities. The instructor told us we were all on the ball with our reasons for being there but I had my affirmation as soon as the brief came out.

As it's only a six week course there's a limitation to how much we can learn. This is a taster and in order to get a good taste of InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator we will be making our own magazine. It can be about anything we want.

How exciting!

More exciting was the initial experimentation with InDesign, the first program on the roster. I found myself picking everything up extremely quickly. Whilst this was frustrating in that I felt I spent a lot of time waiting for everyone else to get some one-on-one explanations and support, it did mean I have extra time to discover some things on my own. I began to muse about the possibilities for designing promotional materials, graphic novels and maybe even a book. I was buzzing by the time the class was finished and that buzz hasn't really gone away. My next class is on Thursday and already I'm mulling over just what my magazine will look like, what it's purpose will be and what might be the next course in the coming months.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Tower

I finished the text today.

I definitely feel that my foundations have been shaken up, a few knocked down and better ones are being built in their place.

The biggest development in my life at the moment has been the move from temp to full-time. I haven't really mentioned on my blog what pays the bills because it's not really me and of little importance. It has been a job, there to provide a pay cheque and little else. I think I've come to expect working for anyone else to always mean that I'm going to be no more than a body filling a role, performing a function. Any ideas or initiative I've had have gone unnoticed or actively squashed. Other than my role at the Youth Animation Project and my first job out of High School I have not been in a work environment that cared to foster my skills, my passions and my goals.

The big shift that has occurred with this job is that it no longer feels like it doesn't tie in with my creative side. My role is shifting and with it comes a strong sense of freedom. I may be working for someone else but they actually recognise me for who I am. They recognise what I can offer as an artist and a writer, not just as someone with strong organisational skills and a decent work ethic.

It's a nice feeling, being appreciated in this way. I don't feel like this is just a pay cheque anymore. It's starting to feel like an opportunity, a place for me to try new skills and strengthen the old. And if anything, it's becoming something that is tearing down a lot of ideas I had about myself. I once told my partner that I feel unemployable because I always have an opinion and even if I go to great lengths to express it in an open and honest way, it's been met with resistance. It has gotten me into trouble and made me feel as if I was wrong for suggesting improved or different ways of doing things for the sake of productivity. I'd given up on ever being given a chance to grow within the confines of a corporation or business, accepting that the only way I was going to do what I love would be to do it all on my own.

I like surprises. I like having someone tell me they have confidence in me and that they want to see what I'm going to do. I like hearing that what I'm going to learn at Chelsea can be applied in a professional setting right away. I like hearing that it's in the interest of my employer to encourage my skills and talents for my benefit as much as theirs.

The best part is knowing that my creative expression won't just be limited to painting and writing on my evenings and weekends. I'm even more excited about this course now as a result of this new recognition and encouragement.