Love: Daily Digital Doodle

Love - Daily Digital Doodle 8th March 2015
Love – Daily Digital Doodle 8th March 2015

Today’s (first) digital doodle is a mix of simple typography, Photoshop brushes and vintage patterns, all combined to create “LOVE”.

I really enjoyed creating this. I’ve started looking into some Photoshop techniques which most professionals couldn’t live without but I’ve been too busy/frightened to try out.

Today’s piece uses a very simple path. I’d been messing about with paths for the past few days, finally realising just how useful they can be. I found a tutorial describing how to make a brush follow a path. Particularly when used with a custom brush this is extremely useful and can give some outstanding results in a very short space of time.

I’m certainly no expert on paths, but at least I’m not scared of them any more. They’re my new buddies along with masks (yeah, I know, I didn’t use them either!)

In the end, this piece really didn’t need a path to achieve the result, but I wasn’t sure initially how much I was going to do with the text. At one point there were several different layers of the “love” text, but in the end I simply stroked a single path with a very simple brush. Lots of other ways to achieve the same result on the text, but these are baby steps in a new technique.

For the surrounding hearts I simply tweaked the brush preset of a Photoshop standard heart, modifying the rotation/positioning so that when I drew straight lines or placed individual hearts, I’d get a more random effect without the effort of rotating each shape by hand.

After this I simply blended a couple of standard flowery Photoshop brushes for filling the text (using the “difference” blending mode and reduced layer opacity which can give some pretty interesting results.

I then pasted into all the hearts a couple of vintage backgrounds which I’ve used in other projects, and then tweaked the hue/saturation with an adjustment layer to complement the overall colouring.

After that I simply washed over the background both vertically and horizontally with a red brush, pushing the opacity right down on one of those two layers and using “hard light” blending mode.

And there you have it. The piece measures 8×8-inches at 300dpi. If you like the piece, help yourself. Just click on the above picture and then download the full-size version. All I ask is that you don’t use it commercially.


How To Embrace Annoyances And Spin Them Into Positives

Angry cat

This title (or variants of it) has been in my drafts list for a little while. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on positive thinking or controlling how one responds to other people and situations, but it is something I’m actively trying to conquer.

If for no other reason than I can get annoyed quite quickly and it has the potential to knock me off balance.

As I sit here finally trying to write and publish this, the young woman next door is playing her dance music quite loud. Not as loud as it has been in the past, and not so loud that it manages to vibrate through not only our walls but also our garden fence (yes, that has happened), but still loud.

Loud to me, anyway, as a 40-something who—whilst in the right mood likes loud music that I’ve chosen to listen to—appreciates a little peace and quiet, particularly in the middle of the night.

Neighbours have often proved to be sources of irritation, usually for issues around noise but also for other actions I deem antisocial.

Yet I’ve come to realise that getting annoyed and uptight about it all makes no difference to them, doesn’t change the situation, and simply makes me mad.

In fact, what I dislike most about the situations is not the situation itself, but how I end up feeling.

There are plenty of other things which can and do annoy me—I am sure I don’t need to produce a list for you—and yet what is clear is that the same thing can be maddeningly infuriating on one day, and yet hardly bother me on another. Usually, it’s not the situation itself which has altered, but my mindset. How I am feeling and responding to external things on that particular day (or night).

So what I need is a method of taking those annoying situations — embracing them, even — and turning them to my advantage.

I’ll take noise as my example as it’s the thing that winds me up the most.

Unless music is so eardrum-splittingly loud as to be physically painful (which, thankfully, is a rare occurrence) it’s fair to say that the main reason I find it hard to sleep is that my mind is churning with frustration, even anger, at the people who are keeping me awake.

Yes, they may well be selfish, but there’s really not much I can do about it in the moment — not without getting into trouble, anyway.

Instead, I have to take a more positive attitude. If I can’t see fit to bless the perpetrators, at least I can bless myself by engaging in techniques to relax myself and tell my body that I can sleep.

The fact is, I’ve slept through hurricanes.

Although I find the sounds of nature (even forceful ones like strong winds and storms) somewhat restful, and they’re very different from manmade rumblings, I believe the main difference is my attitude towards the source.

There’s absolutely no point getting angry at the wind or the thunder. They’ll carry on regardless. So long as I’m not in any danger, I can simply let the storm rage on around me.  It will pass soon enough.

Yet I allow my negative thoughts towards those who I feel are wronging me, by living their lives in a way that clashes with me, to consume me.

Of course there are physical methods of reducing the problem of a noisy environment, too, but without a positive attitude, even those can be a source of annoyance. For example, I dislike earplugs. They make my head feel ‘full’. I also worry that I won’t hear important noises, like my children crying, so for me they’re a last resort.

I’ll even try and take things a step further and imagine that the sounds coming from a neighbour’s music are the backdrop to my own music. I can already create and ‘hear’ music in my head, even when nothing’s playing, so having an actual beat running along—which is usually all you can hear clearly though an internal wall—simply becomes part of that.

Admittedly, this can be a struggle, but I’ve found that it can be enough to jog my mind into a more positive frame and allows me to drift off.

If the annoyance happens during the day, I have more options for changing my own environment and minimising the external disruption.

It’s also fairly plain to see that having an underlying and ongoing level of stress and anxiety in life will allow frustration and anger towards others to well up far more quickly.

To this end, I need to make sure I’m looking after my general wellbeing. Without this, it’s much harder to deal with specific situations when they occur.

The hardest annoyances to deal with are the ones that are closest to home (both literally and figuratively). While I may assert that I have a right to peace, quiet and freedom from disturbances in my own territory, I also need to take a more realistic view.

Practicing gratitude and simply getting out, seeing and appreciating more of the world and its people — both friends and strangers — is also a key factor in beating my small-minded hangups.

I know I won’t always get it right, but I need to remember that I probably harm myself more by how I handle my bugbears, than the situation or person itself could ever cause.

Do you have any tips for handling the stress of situations and people you can’t control and can only live with? Share in the comments below.


My iTunes library reflected on the passing of time

Gramophone players

I fired up iTunes today and flipped through to find a Sting album which I thought was one of my favourites. I then scrolled across to see the “Last Played” date on each track was in October 2007.

Two thousand and seven.

Where on earth has that last seven-and-a-half years gone?

It seems strange to note the passing of a fairly large chunk of time by studying your iTunes collection, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Of course I have been listening to music in a variety of different ways in that time, as well as creating and ‘performing’ it. That said, it’s bizarre that an album I considered to be one of my best, had laid digitally dormant for that long.

iTunes could be lying to me of course. I’ve managed to work my way through several computers in that time, though thankfully always with a decent enough backup to keep going without loss of service, or (musically, at least) archived information.

Before iTunes and digital music players, it would be hard to know exactly when a record or track was last played. Perhaps you’d find a CD or cassette stowed away with some other items and that would jog the memory. If you weren’t organised (read, anal) enough to file CDs alphabetically, you might know roughly by the pile next to the hi-fi.

Now most things come with a time stamp.

Timestamps aren’t infallible, of course. They can be manipulated or erased. Yet they do provide useful clues.

Music, photos, videos, documents… anything ending up on a computer or some other electronic device probably has a number of times and dates associated with it, even if you can’t always see them all.

In reality, it’s more interesting to think of the significant things which have happened in the past seven-or-so years, rather than dwelling on a single album which randomly sparked the thought process.

We’ve moved countries (in the UK), have two beautiful children, are doing quite different jobs (with varying levels of success), have stepped out of some activities and are waiting on others, and are living in quite a different way — yet somehow familiar because of who we are — from 2007.


You know what? I think iTunes is lying to me. At least, it has selective amnesia. There are a number of music tracks listed which have no ‘Last Played’ date at all, suggesting I’ve never played them. Yet I know I have.

The song I apparently played longest ago was from 2nd January 2006 — “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles — yet there are 1,403 tracks with no information at all. That’s weird.

Oh well. I suppose it’s best not to trust iTunes too much. It was fun thinking back through the years though.


My expanding clothes and their shrinking labels


After a while you will think it less peculiar that I am so familiar with my family’s various clothing items.

I anticipate that you won’t be surprised that I’m taking some stereotypically male approaches to (a) long-windedness and (b) ideas for improvement.

Last week, as I was hanging out some of my clothes on the airer—probably most of my clothes, to be fair—I noticed something strange. They appeared to be getting bigger.

What could be going on?

Had the washing machine developed a mind of its own — or, perhaps more likely, lost its water temperature thermostat and programme selector  — and was now washing my clothes in bizarre ways that had stretched them to their new size?

Had one or both of my daughters been using them as a pull toy?

Had I shrunk in the wash?

Then it dawned on me… I’ve been spending so long washing, drying, ironing and filing (OK, putting away) clothes for a four- and five-year-old, that my sense of proportion has completely skewed.

Yes, I spend more time organising their clothing than I do mine. Partly because there are two of them, they have so many more clothes than I do, and they seem to get through them at such a high rate that I seem to be constantly doing something to sort them out.

And there we come neatly to the second part of my title… labels.

I’ve never really been one to pay much attention to labels. As far as I’m concerned, if I have a piece of clothing that needs any more special treatment than either (a) wash or (b) dry clean, it’s not worth owning. All the rest can go into the machine as and when required.

In fairness, I don’t pay much attention to what’s on the labels of my daughter’s clothes either. Not as far as care instructions are concerned. What I really want to know is what age the garment is designed for.

And this is where the British clothes labelling system fails me. Labels are found in multiple locations on different pieces of clothing, in different sizes, with different typefaces and varying information presented. Labels fade, tear, drop off, or provide me with no age information whatsoever.

I’m also at the mercy of having two daughters of similar age. Blessed though I am by them in nearly every other way, in organising their wardrobes… not so much.

I can sort the Peppa Pig garments — they’re the territory of youngest daughter (except when eldest daughter spies her with two seemingly identical PP tees and demands one for herself).

I can usually sort the Minnie Mouse garments — they’re generally the territory of eldest daughter, although both girls like most Disney things.

Our eldest daughter is quite tall for her age, so I have few problems finding labels with ages ranging from five up to eight.

Our youngest daughter still has a few pieces of clothing which she likes, and just about fit (which apparently depends just as much, if not more, on what mood she is in on any particular day, than whether they truly fit) labelled for age 3.

Then we have the dangerous and muddled middle ground — the place where most of the clothes live. Usually in big piles. Dirty piles don’t matter unless we have a school-uniform-not-washed-at-ten-the-night-before-needed-for-school moment. Things just get washed when our washing machine is empty and suitably tranquillised after the last batch.

It’s the clean clothes…

So, this item for a 4-5 year old. Does that belong to the older, the younger, or did it used to belong to the older and was handed down to the younger?

This jacket with a blank label… who exactly owns this? What are the chances of me guessing incorrectly, putting it in the wrong bedroom cupboard, and facing tears or an argument when it’s discovered?

How many items do I have to attempt to process before I (a) call my wife, or (b) call my children, or (c) simply put things away as best I can and wait for one or both daughters to tell me “daddy got it wrong”.

I am starting to recognise some other pieces of clothing, and who they belong to, but by the time I finally learn, the clothes are too small and new ones have been bought, starting the whole process again.

I am convinced that the people who design the clothing labels do not have children. I don’t have time for tiny fonts, faded inks and vague information. Please just stamp the intended age range of the garment on a sensibly sized garment, in at least 18-point Helvetica font, nice and black, on label material that won’t wash out. We (men) need it…


School recycling champions make announcement using dead trees


I had to groan (the first time) and chuckle (the second time) when over the course of two days I received a pair of identical pieces of paper, given to my daughters, proudly announcing that the school had won the Christmas Card recycling competition.

That’s great! Why did you have to distribute about 100 bits of paper telling me this?

The next challenge is battery recycling. I wonder if we’ll all be given an iPad to announce the result?

(Yes, I know iPads don’t use standard batteries.)

I remain slightly bemused at the amount of paper generated by the school, particularly as they are (a) an “eco school” and (b) use text messaging to announce all manner of things. Particularly as we often receive two of everything, being that our daughters are in different classes.

I can feel the inner administrator in me chomping at the bit. I’m just too busy and too introverted to make suggestions or risk getting involved…


The Wrong Teaspoon


We’re still a very low-tech household when it comes to washing up — no automatic dishwasher here, just daddy. Yes, daddy does the washing up most of the time.

Our cutlery drainer leaves a lot to be desired, though. Made of metal and circular, it features four quarter-circle sections designed to place the washed items into. However, the gaps between the dividers are big enough for items to try to sneak into other compartments when I’m not looking.

Large table knives do it — they love to poke out of the correct hole yet their handle has worked its way into the adjoining section. And don’t get me started on teaspoons.

OK, I started…

Teaspoons are ridiculously too small for this arrangement. If they go into an empty compartment, they’re almost guaranteed to squeeze through the bars into another space. Even if they have some table or dessert spoons to rest against, I swear they wriggle about in any remaining soapiness, just when I’m not looking.

Of course, you do realise that I have a correct system for placing utensils in this drier, don’t you?

One section is for knives (table knives, not proper sharp ones). Another is for forks. The third is for spoons (not wooden ones) and the fourth is for larger items such as serving ladles, wooden spoons and the like.

It makes finding and putting away similar items a doddle.

At least, it should do.

Our daughters are still using branded ‘child-friendly’ cutlery. The youngest has Peppa Pig, with the eldest enjoying Minnie Mouse (or it could be Mickey — I pick my moments for needing to pay attention to Disney characters – such as responding to questions about Frozen – and kitchen items isn’t one of those moments).

All six items are metallic but feature large plastic handles. The spoons are teaspoon-sized, but with the aforementioned appendages.

So here’s the problem. Another problem.

Every time I make a cup of tea (or two) and need a teaspoon to fish out the teabag, I almost invariably pick out one of these delightful kiddie-friendly utensils. This is most likely because they have fat plastic bodies (the cutlery, that is, not my children) and sit so snugly (smugly?) in the correct compartment. Whereas one of the teaspoons I actually want is trying to get into bed with a fork.

Now, it shouldn’t matter — I could just use the Peppa spoon and be done with it.

Except, I have my ways. Habits which are hard to break.

And I know full well that at dessert time, when I’m actually looking for one of these over-branded objects, I’ll pick out an ordinary teaspoon. A boring one. One that has the amazing capacity to make a four- or five-year-old burst into tears and have a tantrum.

Why is it always the wrong teaspoon?


8 Reasons Why You Should Buy Digital Collage / Scrapbooking Sheets

I am passionate about creating unique, eye-catching digital imagery using original photography and vintage designs. It’s a part of what I do every day at Oliopix.

As an artist/designer yourself, you may be asking why you should purchase digital collage/scrapbooking sheets from any of the myriad of talented online sellers, when it’s so easy to find free images on the Internet, buy ready-printed designs, or you don’t think your home computer/printing equipment is up to the task.

Let me attempt to convince you…

1Unique, crafted digital artwork

Digital artisans (for that is who we are) create highly unique artwork in their own right. The fact that it is marketed as a ‘supply’ does not diminish its artistic worth.

Of course you can find attractive imagery by perusing your favourite image search engine, but the majority of that work is not free for the taking.

Visiting the Internet stores of artists (whether completely independent or via marketplaces such as Etsy) lets you see their body of work in one place. Buying supports the time and talent they have invested.

2Economical purchasing

As with many other digital versus physical products, the digital product is generally cheaper than any physical equivalent. As a bonus, it’s usually available immediately rather than you having to visit a store or have it posted to you.

Of course, there are many wonderful ready-to-use collage sheets available in a huge range of styles and formats. That’s the best option when you want materials which are hard to use at home, or techniques you haven’t mastered.

But remember: digital supplies don’t run out. You have the freedom to print out your digital files (or just parts of them) again and again, rather than having to buy more paper/card packs when they’re used up.

3Control over printing

Even fairly basic computer and printer setups now have an amazing ability to manipulate digital files and to print out on a wide range of papers, cards and other material.

You can use free image software (you don’t need Photoshop) to do a number of common tasks such as resizing, recolouring and simple editing of your purchased digital sheets.

Even basic inkjet printers will produce excellent results on many types of glossy and matt papers and cards. It’s also not nearly as expensive to buy a colour laser printer any more, offering smoother printing.

Of course, once you’ve printed the images, there’s nothing to stop you applying other creative processes to them – embossing, stamping, distressing, collage, resins… the limit really is only your imagination.

4Develop custom designs with personality

Many digital collage sheets come ‘as is’, so what you purchase is not completely unique. However, a number of designers are happy to work with customers to create bespoke pieces either from scratch or based on existing designs.

5Generous licensing

We’re a pretty generous lot when it comes to letting you use our work. Personal and small business use is fine, and if you’re a larger business (selling many hundreds of items) there are often very reasonable additional licenses available.

6Find and collect work by artists you admire

Once you find artwork you like, you’ll often want to see more creations by that artist. It is possible to do that using the likes of Google, but it’s much more satisfying to visit the artist’s own web site and online store and begin building a more personal relationship with the person whose work you love.

7Support small, independent business

The majority of artists who sell digital download sheets are indy businesses. Most work for the love of what they do, and many are also fortunate enough to make money from it.

When you buy these images, you really are supporting a small business.

8Peace of mind with legal images

Finding and using images online can be a minefield. While it’s rarely a problem if you’re using them in personal projects, if you intend to sell items you may want to be assured that no copyrights or licenses have been infringed.

I can’t guarantee every seller is diligent in this respect, at Oliopix we do our utmost to ensure that any images we use or manipulate are either wholly owned by us (such as our own photography), is truly in the public domain, or we have licensed to be used.

So, have I convinced you?

If you’ve never considered buying digital supplies before, or you’re a Google Image search aficionado looking to get a bit more personal with the art you use, do take a look.

Naturally I’m biased towards Oliopix, where you’ll find a growing range of vintage and contemporary digital sheets infused with our own style, but you might also try a search like this.

Artwork used in this article:


Life Is Better At The Beach: butterfLypie

life-better-beachToday’s Creative Link is to a work in progress by butterfLypie (Facebook link) which caught my eye as it scrolled through my timeline today.

It’s a beautiful blue piece of art containing the words “Life is better at the beach”. I love the effect and colouring of this mixed media piece. I don’t have the words or knowledge to describe the piece, so I’ll quote butterfLypie:

“The salt layer has dried, I’ve dripped on some more paint and watercolour, and I’ve added some Gesso bubbles to my Mixed Media canvas. Now, time for buttons, beads, sparkles and teeny SHELLS!”

Naturally, I had to have a nosey around more work, by following the links to Big Cartel and Etsy. There are some wonderfully made jewellery pieces there – including other seafaring items – and I’d definitely recommend you take a look.

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Plan 2015


I’m not making traditional New Year Resolutions for 2015, but I am noting down a number of areas in my life which I want to nurture, improve, and see flourish.

I’m making at least the outline of these public to provide a sense of accountability – even an informal one – in the genuine hope it gives them higher importance in my mind.

They’re not exhaustive and they still include a lot of generalised statements. They do provide a foundation for me to work on – hopefully over the next couple of weeks – where I can create and set about implementing strategies to get me closer to achieving them.

So here goes…


  • To be more ‘available’ for our family. This means avoiding working at all hours, making genuine family time with undivided attention (particularly at weekends), and being actively involved in the lives and projects of each family member.
  • To take greater responsibility for the direction, health and wellbeing of our family. This includes practical provision as well as seeking wisdom and guidance for both daily and longer-term situations and decisions.


  • To achieve a regular monthly income of at least the amount I forecast a few years ago. (I won’t share the figure here, but suffice to say at present this isn’t being met regularly)
  • To produce worthwhile products that make a difference to customers’ lives. Firstly I need to see the worth in my products and believe in the value of what I have produced, and then be able to impart that to customers. While not every product may be deep and meaningful, I would like to think a significant number would mean more than ‘just another item’ to those that buy them.
  • To build up and encourage other similar businesses and enterprises. This may simply be by writing about and linking to great and inspiring works by others, or finding ways to collaborate.
  • To find new and related business ideas and to improve existing ones. That includes improving the visibility and customer base of existing projects as well as having wisdom and insight into what new projects to start.


  • Nurture spirituality. The past year has felt somewhat ‘dry’ – as much due to lethargy as anything else. My aim is to take hold of spiritual disciplines. While I don’t like religion, or structure for its own sake, I am the kind of person who needs to put some kind of system in place to at least boot me up the backside enough to take this seriously. Yes, despite some of my comfort coming from structure and routine, when it comes to spirituality I can still be found lacking. I will put some basics in place to kickstart the year and hopefully keep on track throughout the year.
  • To develop greater tolerance towards people and situations. I have noticed how intolerant I have become of a number of things which, on the grand scheme of things, really don’t matter. I need to develop ways of redirecting my frustrations and anger into positive action or thoughts. This is easier said than done, but it’s something I am actively seeking to change.
  • To practice gratitude. I started this in 2014 and then tailed off – not that I wasn’t grateful for many things that happened last year, but I spent too long looking for the ‘big things’ to be grateful for and missed the many small things that might be considered insignificant without giving them thought. For me (as many others), gratitude needs to be actively encouraged, so I hope to make at least one daily note of something I am grateful for, and store it as a visual reminder.
  • To nurture creativity. When a significant part of working/earning is considered ‘creative’, it can be hard to take time to do things ‘just because’. Creative pursuits can be squeezed because there doesn’t seem to be time or they are labelled ‘unimportant’. My aim is to try to be creative (outside of work projects) every day, and to make time for the things I really enjoy but have let slide.
  • Read more books, especially fiction. I think I say this every year. I used to be an avid reader but have let this slide. Oh, I read lots on the Internet on all manner of subjects, but I didn’t even finish a work of fiction in 2014. Although I love real books, and will continue to read them, I have just ordered a Kindle (late to the party) because of its greater versatility. I expect it to become one of my best (gadget) friends. Here’s my reading list.
  • Write at least one book. It’s said that everyone has at least one book inside them. I know I have several – the trouble is I haven’t finished even one of them yet. I want 2015 to be the year where at least one is completed to a high standard.
  • Find a significant project which makes a difference to the local community. I’m not entirely sure what this is yet – whether it exists already or needs to be created – but I feel the need to be involved in something that changes lives and neighbourhoods for the better.

There may well be other things I’ve missed, but these are the items which stand out the most to me, here and now. In any case (and looking up at what is already quite a long list) it’s futile to try to change everything as the clock passes midnight from one year into the next. Let’s see how things go.