Basic Books

I love books. All kinds, any kind. I find them to be the one constant in life - everything else changes, but a favourite book is always a wonderful source of comfort and pleasure.

I will be adding a new folder to my gallery website, dedicated to art books we like and recommend. Meanwhile, here are some basic technique or reference books and book series I find reliable and a better read than others.

Lorraine Harrison's Artist's Materials: All the Materials You Will Ever Need to Make Art : a good basic presentation of all kinds of different art materials. It's not all-encompassing, since no one can reasonably do an exposé of every single use and/or availability of every single art tool, but this book does give you a good basic list to help you make some decisions at the art store.

The Encyclopedia of Colored Pencil Techniques is part of a series of art technique books. The series itself is mostly hit or miss (mostly miss), but I kind of like this one for a younger reader. It explains clearly and visually some basic ways of using coloured pencils, and gives some ideas on how to work on pencil techniques. Since I haven't yet found a book I love unconditionally for this medium, this is the one I would recommend borrowing from the library.

Another series is the Teach Yourself Visually: this one, I highly recommend, whatever your interest may be. I really like their basic Photoshop manuals as well as the ones in other fields of interest (like the TYV Knitting, it's great).

On the fundamentals of art and painting, Charles Dunn's Conversations in Paint is a terrific addition to any library. This is more than just a basic tome, it really is a pleasurable read - a keeper.

Stay tuned for more in the new year.


Not Too Late for DIY Redux

This one's for all you skeptics out there, who do not believe that something can be home-made (or home-assembled) and compete with store-bought "stuff".

Here is one of my small gifts, comprising of:
  • A cute mug (from Michaels- cost: around $3 with coupon and tax)
  • A cellophane bag with a silver twisty and filled with my Chai concoction (cost: around $0.50)
  • A printed recipe (no real cost)
  • Assorted gift-wrap trimmings (cost: around $0.10)
Grand total: $3.60. It did take me a while to get it done - the tea prep, the wrapping, etc..., but I think it looks nicer than a lot of similar things I've seen around the stores. So? Not too bad, eh?


It's Not Too Late For Dee Iye whY Presents

"Dear Santa, I am so happy that Christmas is almost here. Are you?" Pencil and marker and a bit of photoshop - © Y.Barrage, 2007

There are people out there who have everything ready for the holidays by now. Every single present has been purchased, wrapped and tagged; all invitations have been sent out and been replied to; festive meal menus are not only printed on parchment paper, but the food itself has been cooked and frozen in anticipation of the big day. I'm sure there are people out there like that.

Well, not me. This is when I start my shopping and/or scramble to come up with home-made stuff. So if you're like me, fear not, here are some really fun ideas that won't break the bank and won't take 3 days to prepare. And if you're snowed in like we are today, chances are you might even have what you need to come up with personalized presents already somewhere around your home. Bonus: most of these ideas are environmentally responsible, frugal and easy as pie. Or tea.

Lots of interesting ideas can be found on the Buy Nothing Christmas site. But I've also found a number of hilarious offerings online, including an exploding frog, a soda-lightful bath fizz, bath bombs and jellies. They are fun, quick and easily tailored to your recipient's tastes (and sense of humour), and your own creativity.

The Family Fun website has a long list of suggestions that can be made with or for children, but I found the following most adaptable: a Velvet Notebook, a project that can also be made by wrapping a blank notebook, a small sketchbook, or even a photo album or two in coordinated paper or fabric.
Home-made clay for both kids and grown ups, safer to use that store-bought play dough or modeling clay. For children, you can include some plastic cookie cutters that can be found for pennies almost anywhere. For a hobbyist, you can include clay sculpting tools, and a printed recipe for baked clay.
Another cute idea is called Bandages for the soul, a collection of quotes and sayings. A grown-up version of this might be creating a wall decoration with some favourite inspirational words - an inexpensive stetched canvas painted in a favourite colour, and the words carefully painted out. If that's too hard, then use a beautiful hand-made paper and ink or an art marker.
How about some Emoticon magnets, similar to projects I've already shown how to do here. Now these are really easy and not two can be alike.

Another really inexpensive idea, although not very quick, only requires your time and your printer. Why not research a particular topic that your gift recipient might be interested in, and compile a folder with all the printed information? Or even varied articles on current health news, political analysis, book and movie reviews - I know that I hardly have time to keep up and miss being able to browse magazines or newspapers for more than just functional information. Other ideas could include how-tos, free crochet and knitting patterns (Lion Brand Yarns and Bernat are great for that), easy recipes (check out Bobbie's other blog and a bunch of others I'll think of in a bit; or Canadian Living Magazine's Make-it-tonight collection). You can pretty up easily.

Finally, if you know how to bake - even if it's only plain oatmeal cookies or no-bake-rice-krispie-squares - why not bake a batch of goodies and wrap it up nicely? My kids love those kinds of presents - and so do their mum and dad.

Remember also that a lot of the pleasure of giving is that it comes from the heart. It's not how much you spent, or how many mall crowds you had to battle that counts, it's that you were thinking of that person when you were creating your gift. And hopefully, the good feelings you had in your heart became part of the present too.


Half-Tone Anyone?

I like playing around with the Color-Halftone feature in Photoshop to create mock comic book frames with a 50s feel to them. Here are two illustrations I’m quite happy with using this fun technique.

Albatros, Digital - © R. Koleilat, 2007

Bathing Beauty, Digital - © R. Koleilat, 2007

To give you an idea of how I get to my final results, here’s a quick demonstration.

To alter your picture, first select Pixelate/Color Halftone from the Filters menu.

Using an illustration (1) I made for a corporate client a while ago (extra points if you can guess what the theme of the conference was), this is what it would look like in Normal mode with 100% Opacity (2), with the minimum number of pixels available (4 pixels).

By selecting Fade Color Halftone from the Edit menu, you can tweak it by choosing Screen Mode with 55% Opacity (3), or Overlay Mode with 35% Opacity (4) or any other Mode you like.

I have so much fun with this – the resulting images remind me of the old comic books I used to memorize at my even older cousins’ creaky apartment.


Chai This Instead

Teacup, Digitized Photograph - ©R. Koleilat, 2007

Another idea for a simple, friendly present for the holiday - something you can prepare quickly, but will show that you care. And what is better than a warm cup of tea to share with a friend? How about a cup of Chai, this sweet and fragrant tea specialty from India? You definitely don't want to buy that from a store. For one, prepackaged tea bags are ridiculously overpriced, and they don't hold a candle to freshly made and brewed Chai. I know that because my dear friend Sonia taught me how to make the real thing - and I have been addicted ever since.

Here's what you need - you can get most or all of it from the bulk food store, any Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern food store, or even a good supermarket:

- Pick your gift container first, to determine how much tea you need to fill it with. A plain old glass jar, decorated with a personalized label and some raffia is usually my choice, but you can also fill a bag with the Chai mixture and pop it inside a pretty mug or teapot (2 gifts in one, yay!)

- Loose tea leaves, like Orange Pekoe, or Ceylon, enough to fill your chosen container.

- Loose Earl Grey tea leaves, about 1/4 of the amount of the tea above (you don't have to, since this is not authentic but I found it enhances the taste)

- Spices: I choose to add one stick of cinnamon, 5-6 cardamom pods, 4-5 cloves, a sprinkling of allspice berries and about 1/8 spoon of ginger (this is a very mild-tasting variation enough for about an 12-ounce jar of tea, you can add more spices to your taste)

Mix all of the above in the jar, and add this tea-making how-to:

Fill small pot with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Spoon in one heaping tablespoon of Chai mixture, and turn off the heat. Let it steep for at least five minutes, and strain into teapot. Add lots of sugar and hot milk, find a comfy spot and enjoy.

Now this is definitely not the authentic method of making Chai - but I'm trying to save you from a caffeine attack! Here's how you can come close to the real deal - a lot more delicious, but too much for me to handle.

Fill small pot with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat, add a heaping tablespoon of tea, 1/4 stick cinnamon, two cardamom pods, 2 cloves, ginger and allspice to taste (optional), a lot more sugar than you would normally have in one day, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Add very hot milk and simmer a couple of minutes more. Strain and serve. But if you don't sleep for two days after that, don't come knockin' - I did warn you!

(The above quantities assume you are sharing this lovely cuppa with a friend)


Laughter Being the Best Medicine

If you've been around this blog long enough, you've probably read about my friend and niece-in-law Hala's latest bout with leukemia. Since she never does anything half-a**ly, like her fantastic catering service Cocoa & Co, Hala launched a hilarious, witty, poignant and inspiring blog entitled "Halakemia" - a lebano-franco-english diary of her journey to recovery.
Inspired by Barb's last fun portrait of Hala, this is my take on Hala's latest baldie-portrait challenge. There's still time to join in the fun, and you can send Hala* or me your fun creations, you have until Sunday. Next week, all the portraits will be displayed on a "wall" in my gallery.
Love and laughter, faith and strength: This is what I think of when I think of you, darling Hala, you tough cookie you.
*Hala's email address is on her blog


Early Christmas Present For All Of You

Peace Doves, Digitized Drawing -
Copyright-free, Rima Koleilat-Barrage, 2007

This is my Christmas present for all my friends, bloggers and others. This is one present we're allowed to unwrap and use early, yay!
I drew this peace dove to illustrate my new motto, which you can see on the upper right hand corner on this page. I am offering these 3 different versions of the same image to anyone who would like to use them - on a blog, for non-commercial holiday cards, for artwork, or any other (non-commercial) good use. So feel free to copy it and use it well!

How's that for another DYI?... well, except that you have to come up with the "dyi" part yourself, hehe...


Cool Glass Beads

Here's my first idea for small DYI presents for this holiday season*: Another glass bead project. I love these little glass beads that are found in craft stores or dollar stores, usually with the floral supplies. And I love micro-glass beads even more - I actually found my little collection at a very good dollar store that has a wicked craft/scrapbooking section (don't tell anyone, but I even buy tiny canvases from there too - and funky paper and plain frames and boxes).

It's a lot of fun to create personalized magnets with them (I had a post about the how-to a few months ago, so I won't go over too much technical detail). This time, instead of just using pictures to glue on the underside, I decided to try some more dimensional designs on the surface.

I used Tacky Glue to make swirls or lines on the surface of the glass bead, then dipped it in the micro-glass bead container - easy peasy! You can also use ModPodge or plain white glue - they all dry clear and give an excellent result.

I also used dimensional paint with a few micro-beads on top (Pébéo makes lovely multi-surface puff paints with different textures - I used Pearl (in Pearl) and Crystal (in Turquoise) here).

Once the glue or the paint is totally dry, the micro-beads stay put - pretty much. You can try to cover them with ModPodge or some other finishing product that dries clear - but I don't think it's worth the bother myself. If you do try this project, let me know what your experience with that is.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Create a grouping of those with a theme - anything: different hues of the same colour, or use the same colour with different geometric shapes, 3 or 4 contrasting colours...
  • If you have the patience, create a magnetic alphabet set for an small child - or just the letters in their namem, they'll get a kick out of it.
  • Pack them in a pretty box with shredded paper for a unique present.
Hubby suggested we also try to string them up to create tree ornaments. I think I'll give it a try, they are so shimmery and delightful - they'd make lovely little presents. I'll show you if I succeed.
* Look at that, it's only the second day of December and I actually managed a post on this subject - yay me!