Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Flowery day

On the way home from the Drs yesterday, I spotted some Passion flowers - i find them both fascinating and repellant - they look alien or triffid-like to me. Obviously bees like them since while i was standing there and starting up the camera, the single honey bee was joined by two others.
I always expect these flowers to shut on their prey like venus flytraps but they don't - unless they are sneaky and only trap things when humans aren't around to watch.

passion flower 2 bees

Passion flower 3 bees

To add to yesterday's floral theme, I won a bouquet of flowers at the weekend - or rather i won a gift voucher for one so i picked it up yesterday - quite a pretty arrangement but no scent at all.
I know people have problems with scented flowers due to allergies but i have to say that personally i prefer flowers to smell since i rarely buy cut flowers to its a visiual and preferably olofactory treat for me when to do have them.
They cheer up the table anyway and it makes a change to win something nice.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

shoulder again

The update on my shoulder is that the ligaments aren't as bad as originally thought and that its actually mainly a rotator cuff injury. So i had some injections of cortisone into the painful areas and i have to go back for some more injections tomorrow.

It does seem to have helped a bit and once the acute pain has finally gone, i have physiotherapy to look forward to.

The Dr said, "you're Scottish so you won't be able to play golf for a while" - i didn't mention that i agree with Mark Twain, "Golf is a good walk spoiled. "

Friday, June 24, 2005


The new Illustration Friday topic is Heroes - which is another difficult topic, I think.
Hero is an awfully overused word these days, so many modern 'heroes' are just very good at self publicity and even better at hiding their feet of clay.
Recent 'heroes' aka celebrities seem to be getting top billing on the news- regardless of anything else thats going on in the world - wars, famine, important stuff.

As a child i had some heroes from ancient myths and legends - and i originally thought about some of the heroic tales - including the story of Hero and Leander, which isn't so heroic but is about Hero.

Then i thought about the historical stories that had inspired me: Black Agnes, Lady Agnes Randolph [A.D. 1300?-1369?] from the Scottish Borders who used her intelligence and wit to hold her castle against the besieging forces of England's earl of Salisbury for over five months. Her husband was away and she was seen as easy prey but she managed to hold out and finally win through; despite poor odds.

I also considered Horatius Cocles who held off the Etruscans at the Sublician bridge, initially fighting with two companions and then singlehanded after demanding that the woooden bridge was destroyed to prevent the Etruscans from advancing. He swam the Tiber in full armour - some say he was drowned and others that he lived and was rewarded with the land he could plough around in one day.

I prefer to think he was saved by the Tiber Himself and lived to farm his own land.
There is a really interesting webpage based on the Horatius story which was originally printed in the British Army Journal in 1953.
Quite revealing regarding modern army practises.

I also considered Marcus Curtius who flung himself, horse and all, into a chasm that appeared in the Roman Forum, after an Oracle said that it could only be closed by the most precious thing Rome possessed. I liked his self confidence apart from anything else.

Finally after deciding these were all inappropriate for some reason or another, I thought about
Medecins Sans Frontieres and how they go in to areas after disasters, wars and epidemics.

I can only think of these doctors and nurses and ancillary staff as heroes when i consider the fact that they go in to support and care for people in Ebola and Marburg virus outbreaks - the thought of people being heroic enough to tend to the sick whilst everyone is dying of mysterious diseases and bizarre and horrifying symptoms made me think of the Plague doctors with their bird-like masks.
The masks were actually useful since they prevented droplet infection and the herbs and essential oils they contained may have helped disinfect the air the doctors [apothecaries] breathed.
The robes and hoods were waxed and prevented fleas from attaching -and so may have prevented the doctors themselves from being infected.

Plague Doctor with Mask - in honour of the Medecins sans Frontiers

I painted this image in Painter 7 - the mask details are based roughly on the engraving "Doktor Schnabel von Rom" ("Doctor Beak from Rome") , Rome 1656
The skeleton and hourglass appearing from the gloom are meant to prepresent the Danse Macabre murals from the middle ages, that represent ever present Death and also the Memento mori - reminders of death that appeared on gravestones [usually skulls, bones and hourglasses to depict the transience of life].
When i was a child, i was told that these were pirate graves but i soon realised that there were a tremendous number of pirates buried inland in Scotland and did a bit of research at the local library.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

ouch part 2

The swelling has reduced a lot but it seems to make it easier for the bones to move in ways they shouldn't which is both painful and creepy.
Its very awkward trying to do things with one arm in a sling, especially since i usually use the closest arm to any task rather than always using my right.

I had to write a letter to my daughter's school last night and after laborously typing it with one finger, my daughter disapproved of the wording -she said it was too formal and long.
So she typed out another version for me to sign - however as a joke she made the ending
'merci pour ta comprehension mon petit chouchou d'amour' which translates roughly as
'Thanks for being understanding my little love pet'. Somehow i think the headmaster might have seen that as a wee bit odd - thankfully i read the letter before signing.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Last night i heard a snapping sound and had a severe pain and swelling in my collar bone area and a lot of pain when i moved my arm -so i was off to the Drs today and was prodded and x-rayed.
The good news is that my collar bone hasn't snapped , I don't have a tumour in the bone and i don't have TB.
However i have torn ligaments and its really painful - worse than labour pains.
It wasn't helped by the consultant radiologist prodding the sore part really hard and saying 'oh i know' when i collapsed screaming.
Then he invited colleagues in to see this interesting case that presented like a fracture and could be reduced to tears and screaming in an instant. ' wow, thats impressive" they said as my knees buckled under me with pain.
So now i have a sling and very serious anti-inflammatories and pain killers and have to go back and see the Dr next monday.
If i wasn't ambidextrous things would be easier since i use the nearest hand for tasks and probably favour my left over the right.
I suppose i did discover that i have particularly strong and healthy bones -which is good news

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Black and white armadillos

Armadillo Armadillo
I have been having fun with the general idea of the zebra square so i've been doing some other animals. Here is the armadillo version- i think they are cute.

Blog buttons

I'd been looking for ways of making blog buttons for a wee while and the original sites i found didn't seem very intuitive or helpful [or maybe i just needed a bit more help than most folk]
Anyway i found this Brilliant Button Maker.
You can upload images which will automatically resize and the buttons look really great IMO
I've added 3 on the sidebar for my website, my children's illustrators portfolio and for the free e-cards
Its donate ware via paypal

Friday, June 17, 2005

Illustration Friday Black and White

This week's Illustration Friday topic is Black and white.
I was in a pattern mood and although i'm sure zebras will be popular this week i still couldn't resist it =) I couldn't really decided which of these two to submit so i've put them both on the same page.

I painted the zebra head in Painter 7 with a white pen on black canvas then took it into Photoshop 5.5, made a new canvas and duplicated and flipped the original zebra.
I decided to add the zebra text and increased the canvas size to give a white border and added the text as 4 layers with the font Stencil. I adjusted the point size slightly to make the square look right.

I also played around with some stylised magpies as i've always liked them and the various bits of traditional rhyme that go with them.

My gran always used to say " Hello Mr Magpie, How's your lady wife today?" when she saw a magpie and i used to know some old folk who would tip their hat when they saw a magpie for luck.
It seems that magpies are connected with rhymes and superstitions all over the world

Back-ups 2

I discovered 3 CDs with problems - and this is despite regularly checking that the back-ups are ok.
Luckily everything is backed up more than once - though i wonder if these discs were less reliable since they had a paper cover and not a jewel case. The oldest discs [from 1998] are all fine

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I've been goping through all the cd roms and dvds that i've crerated over the years with all my saved artwork. Its a long process but worthwhile as it can be interesting to see old work that forgotten and alos its vital to make sure the discs still read correctly.

CDs and dvd don't seem to be as problematical as zip discs but even so its worthwhile checking that the discs can still be read ok

i've added another couple of images to the e-cards as well- Grannie moon and the wood wizard

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Alison's E-cards

I've added the code to allow free E-cards of some of my artwork to the sidebar. Only a few images at the moment but i'll be adding more over the next few days.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Star wars -finally

We saw Revenge of the Sith last night. We went into Nice with the additional motive of exploring a bit and getting a feel for the place, as it looks like we will be moving there later in the year.

It has a lot of advantages and access to cinemas with films in VO at a time is one of these. I like watching french films but i prefer to watch films in the original language - i find the dubbed voices weird if i know the actors speaking voice and it really detracts from the film.

Anyway, Revenge of the Sith was pretty good- it tied up a lot of loose ends though there were still a few things introduced in the film that were puzzling. Its definitely worth going to see.

*possible spoiler* Don't read on if you are intending to watch the film

One of the glaring problems IMO was the change in Padmé s character - instead of a self assured person capable of picking her own handcuffs and escaping before two Jedi had even considered their options- she became a wimp who hung around waiting for Anakin to give her a hug and make everything better.

Padmé and Anakin are supposed to be keeping their relationship secret but they live together in a palatial appartment and no one bats an eyelid.

Her pregnant 'bump' is the smallest ever seen despite it being home for two enormous babies.
Also her 'operation' seems to have been done by folk with no knowledge of surgical birth going by the bizarre hoops. Also why did the midwife droids speak a different language that only Obi Wan could understand? Why does she inexplicably lose the will to live - did she not really want the kids in the first place - feeble, feeble, feeble

In Padmé s funeral cortege , the camera lingers for ages on a little girl for no reason at all - unless its a young Han Solo in disguise. very odd

Anakin never thinks that he might be being fed the bad dreams by someone else but gives up everything he is supposed to believe in and is happy to kill a bunch of kids in order to learn how to have power over death.

Obi-wan is inept most of the time which is pretty weird for a Jedi master - and yet when on his own he excells himself

Yoda at one point flys away in a portapotti cum space ship and for no apparent reason hooks up with Chewbacca.
Yoda can feel the deaths of other jedi but seems to have real problems working out whats going on with people 2 feet away from him.

Why does Leia become a princess when she's adopted by a Senator?
why did Qui-Gon get mentioned as being available for training Obi-Wan- would Obi Wan have become the person in the later films if he had spent years in further Jedi training? It just seemed like a random weird reference to me

Thankfully Jar-Jar does not speak -so that was a major plus for this film.
All in all its a good film. I want to watch episodes 4-6 again now

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Illustration Friday - Summer

Strawberry jam

This week's Illustration Friday topic is Summer.
Growing up in Scotland's Clyde valley meant summer fruit and jam - summer started with strawberries.
Other fruits were black and red currants, gooseberries, rhubarb, raspberries and brambles [blackberries].
Many of these fruits grew wild near our house and we would spend hours collecting boxes of them to eat with cream, make pies and give to our gran to make jam.
The smell of simmering fruit and sugar is the very essence of summer to me and goes with the white nights and playing outdoors till 10 or 11pm [Scotland never gets very dark in summer]
Of course those were the days when kids were expected to be outside from morning till night, only returning for meals etc. Snacks were jeelly pieces [jam sandwiches] or pokes of sugar and raw rhubarb straight from the garden. Delicious!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Davy lamps and lies our teachers told us

Mining safety lamp
After writing about Davy lamps yesterday, i decided to have a go at drawing one from memory.
It turned out that the lamp in my memory was not actually a Davy lamp, but one that was further modified by somone called Stephenson - apparently the original Davy lamps were not very safe! So much for the Davy lamp saving the lives of thousands of miners- it seems that mine accidents increased since the metal mesh was not resistant enough. Oh well - another historical myth shattered.
The glass sheath around the mesh, added by Stephenson, increased the safety dramatically.

addendum - I've checked and it seems that the Stephenson referred to is the one famous for designing Stephenson's Rocket- a steam powered locomotive.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Saint Vallier de Thiey

My son is off to Saint Vallier de Thiey with his school to stay at a residential centre there. They will be learning about computers [though i suspect he won't learn much as he is already very computer literate and can use Photoshop and Painter etc]. However it seems that a lot of kids in the class don't get very much access to computers so it will be great for the others.
Apart from computing , the kids will be doing a project on the landscape and environment of the surrounding area and that should be wonderful. My son is a very keen on nature and geology etc so he will be in his element.

There will be also a visit to some show caves which should be interesting I like visiting caves myself - the atmosphere of being underground and seeing the stalactites, stalagmites and rock formations is always fascinating.
I found the pre-trip meeting very odd though since some of the parents had obviously never visited caves before and they were very concerend about their kids' safety. Presumably they were envisioning their bouts de choux being sent down a hole on a rope with a canary and Davy lamp.
bouts de choux -is a term of endearment for children similar to poppet or kiddiwinkie though it actually means something along the lines of 'bit of cabbage'

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Too many phone books

Bashful girl

The other day the door bell rang and my daughter went to answer it. It was a delivery of white and yellow phone books - three of each! We have 3 phone lines into the house so of course the telephone company sent us 6 phone directories. Anyway when Annis brought the books upstrairs it looked somewhat like a fancy dress costume and gave me the idea for this odd little bashful girl. Not sure if i will do anything else with her but there is something about her that appeals to me. I remember being dressed as a candle for halloween so being dressed as a pile of phone books is maybe not so weird.

Battle of the Flowers / Bataille des Fleurs

Today was Antibes' Battle of the Flowers [Bataille des Fleurs]
So there were lots of floats decorated in flowers [mainly carnations], marching bands, majorettes, different kinds of dancers and lots of drumming groups marching through the streets of the old town.
here are a few photos from today's event.

peace dove float
An olive branch was in the dove's mouth - a bit wilted but there none the less.

samba dancers
The samba dancers must have been exhausted wearing really heavy costumes . big platform sandals and huge wigs under a very hot sun [plus dancing round the streets]. You can't see in this photo but the costumes were cut away in the rear and there were a couple of wardrope malfuntions of the thong type, that required the assistance of a dresser to put right.

little drummer boy
This little boy was really drumming with the rest of the group - he wasn't just a token or mascot.

Flags and Drums

throwing flags
This group were dressed in a medieaval costume waving the flags and throwing them into the air - it was really flawlessly performed in time to their own drumming group but i expect it was really hard work

baby float
A strange float with a lot of adults dressed as babies [complete with baby bottles and dummies] who played ring games every 50 yards or so.

portugese dancers
These portugese folk dancers are a mixture of ages, from kids about 6 years old to pensioners.

Tin Tin float
This float was based on Tin Tin [On a marché sur la lune]. Destination Moon

Dupont and Dupond [Thomson and Thompson] are hidden by the gladioli and Professor Tournesol [Professor Calculus] is also in there somewhere.
I am a big fan of Hergé. When we moved to France it was an ideal opportunity to buy all the TinTin books in french and english - it really helped my french reading the books side by side and i've always admired Hergé's illustration style and the background research and art details that really add to the stories.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Cancelled- revenge of the sith

We had intended to go to Cannes today on the train to see Revenge of the Sith in VO. However, after we bought our train tickets and were waiting for the train, Martina [the Austrian exchange student] became violently sick - too much sun! So we came back home again - i tried getting the train tickets transferred to another day but since i'd thought to ask for a super-duper cheap train ticket they were non-refundable. =(

Martina and Annis had gone out this morning and although Annis is well used to the sun, it was too much for Martina. Also she had been somewhat slap-dash at putting on suncreme and was burned in patches on her arms- rotten.

Hoverver, she perked up after some painkillers for her headache, plenty of water and a lie down.
Hopefully Revenge of the Sith VO will be held over a week so we can get to see it later.
*VO is version originale- ie in english with french subtitles

Illustration Friday - Digital

The new Illustration Friday topic is Digital. Another hard one since all my art is now digital - digital media just seem to suit me better than everything else -and the fact that there is an infinite supply of 'paint' and no mess [though my family would no doubt dispute this since they can see my extremely cluttered desk lol]

I originally played around with ideas about hands and thought about doing some finger painting using some brushes i created in painter 7 from fingerprints but then decided i would do something on the ones and zeros binary theme. Its supposed to be vaguely similar to the ladybird icon on the blog site and i've added some other more realistic ladybirds that i painted in Painter 7 [and so are also digital]

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Exchange student 2

So far so good, we've survived the first meeting and meal anyway. =)
She seems like a very nice polite girl and is obviously overwhelmed at being in a strange place.
She ate a microscopic piece of meat and salad at dinner and i will have to try and remember to buy more veggies to help fill her up.

My two are now watching Dvds with her - initially trying to watch Belphegor LE FANTÔME DU LOUVRE
in french but its seems that the dvd player is on its last legs and it keeps giving disc errors for zone2 dvds. They are now watching Dr Who I'm not sure what the Austrian girl will make of it.

She is supposed to be here to learn french, however she will be brushing up on her english chez nous since she finds that easier, though she has been somewhat phased by our Scottish accents.
She will have plenty of french during the day at school, I suppose.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Exchange student

We have an exchange student from Austria arriving tomorrow. My daughter visited Austria in January and had a lot of fun going to school in deep snow. The Austrian girl will have sun and sea in the South of France to look forward to, and apparently many of the Austrian exchange kids have never seen the sea.

Tonight whilst floating around the supermarket looking for last minute odds and ends for the visit, I asked my daughter what she thought the girl would like to eat.
'Anything but meat' was the reply. I was really shocked that this little fact had gone unmentioned till the night before, as we eat a lot of meat and sea food.

However, it turned out that the girl does eat some meat but prefers to eat pasta and pizza - not something we have very often in this house since I don't eat any grains at all due to severe allergies.