29 January 2014

Paper Moths

I had been thinking, a while back, about combining letterpress printing and die-cutting to create some paper moth specimens. Something like the ones I made from leftover proofs of my book moths intaglio prints (sorry, no photos of those to hand at the moment), but more three-dimensional. I'm still planning to do that, but it occurred to me the other day that I could also make three dimensional moth specimens out of my handmade paper.

So I tried it. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (@anagramforink on both), or are a friend on my personal Facebook account, you may have seen a photo of the first attempt. For the past couple of days, I've been making a cheap dollar store shadow box look nice to put it in, staining, adding a hanging wire, and lining it. I still have to find a small brass latch, but today I've been trying to decide what colour paper to line the box with.

I've narrowed it down to five more-or-less neutral papers. Royal blue looked nice, as did burgundy, but the rich colours, I thought, drew too much attention to themselves. Here are the five finalists (apologies for the less than stellar photos -- I took these with my iPad in poor lighting). Any opinions are welcome.



Grey faux parchment:

Deep grey:

Deep brown:

Some of the papers aren't lying flat, but they will once they're pasted in, so please ignore that. I won't mention which one(s) I'm most inclined towards yet, as if like to see what people think.

And I will be making more of these, and they will be for sale. This is, I hope, just the beginning. Which means I'm going to need to make more paper...

23 January 2014

More Snow

I remembered to photograph the snow this morning. It doesn't look that much worse than the photos from yesterday, but the snow is actually considerably deeper. It was up to the top of my snow boots when I fed the birds earlier.

22 January 2014

Snow Day

We've had quite a bit of snow here in a Colchester Co, NS. A few days ago, I woke to find the yard looked like this:

Quite a lot of that snow fell off the trees and roofs and car, and it was just warm enough that some of it even melted. But it's blizzarding here today, so there will be more snow yet.

Here's how it looked early this afternoon, after some light snow overnight and somewhat less light snow this morning:

There's a lot more out there now, but it's too dark to photograph. If I think of it, I'll take a picture in the morning and post it.

15 January 2014

Snowy Owl

Some folks have expressed interest in the processes I use for various things that I make, so I thought this week I'd go through how I made my latest die-cut card, step by step. If you follow me on Twitter (@anagramforink), or have friended me on Facebook, you may have already seen some of what's in this post.

Everything starts with an idea, naturally, and the snowy owl popped into my head as a result of the stories I keep seeing about how this winter snowy owls have been migrating farther south than usual, showing up even as far down as New Jersey. We have snowy owls here in Nova Scotia, but I've never seen one (nor even heard one, as they are not very vocal, unlike our other local owls).

So, with images of owls popping up in my social media feeds, I started to get ideas about how I could make an owl card. First, I looked at lots of pictures, trying to figure out pose and angle. Then, once I'd decided I wanted a flying bird, I found some more specific reference images, and started to draw. Since I knew I wanted the card to be more or less symmetrical, I concentrated on one half of the owl, because I could use Photoshop to create the other half. 

When I had a sketch I was happy with, I firmed up the lines with a black pen, and then erased most of the pencil lines.

Next, I scanned the image, copied, pasted and reversed the half I'd drawn to make a complete owl, and cleaned up the lines. I used the fill tool to fill in the outline, creating a solid black shape. This makes it easier for my cutter software to create a file to cut from.

I saved the image as a tiff, and imported it into the cutter software, traced, resized, and started test cuts. Sometimes I get a usable design on the first go -- usually if it's something simple. More complex designs require more tests, especially if there are lots of small pieces to cut out, as there are on this owl. Once something gets too small, the cutting blade can't pivot quickly enough. In the case of the owl, I had to make the bars on the feathers larger.

I also wanted to try a simple silhouette version.

None of the initial designs was quite right, so I tried again. I'd already decided on the black background, though I used the blue and green again in my tests, since I had already folded the card. The moon was a whim, added as a way to bring out the eyes by having something else yellow in the image.

A few more tweaks, and I have the final design. I could play with it some more, but I know myself well enough to know that sometimes I have to say "good enough" or I'll just keep fiddling forever.

In a day or so, I'll cut out a whole bunch of these, and then start assembly. They're sized to fit a standard (#10) business sized envelope, and I'm out of plastic sleeves that size, so I'll have to order more before I can sell these. I'll have to get more envelopes, too.

(Apologies for the terrible photos. The first and last were shot just now, with my iPad, and the Blogger app doesn't work very well with the iPad's camera. Some really weird things happening with framing. The other two images I took earlier, still using the iPad camera, but from within the native camera app, so at least they're framed better.)

08 January 2014

Things Accomplished This Week

I'm afraid this week's post isn't going to be very exciting. Just a list of stuff I wrote and published this week. I'll probably, eventually, do a separate weekly update post at the end of the week and put up something more interesting on Wednesdays. But I'm lacking in sleep this week, so this is all you get.

I've also thumbnailed and pencilled the next four pages of Fey, but haven't quite managed to get them inked yet.

I've also been reading a lot, and I'm thinking of keeping track of what I've read again in a new 50 Books challenge. Except since I know I'm going to read more than 50 YA books this year, on account of work, I'll aim for 50 YA books, 50 adult fiction, 50 non-fiction, and 50 graphic novels. That's only a little more than I've managed in previous years. Sure, maybe it will be too much, but I'm more curious about how many I'll get to than in actually hitting the goal.

So, here's what I've read so far:

YA Books

  1. See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne
  2. Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton


  1. Artists on Comics Art edited by Mark Salisbury
  2. Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe by John Bell
Graphic Novels

  1. The Tomorrow Girl and Other Stories by Aaron Diaz (aka Dresden Codak)
  2. The Replacement God by Zander Cannon
Hunh. Six books in one week. That's kind of a lot.

And that's it for now. I'll try for something more exciting next week.

01 January 2014

Goals and Such

I don't really like New Year's resolutions. I always figure if you want to do something, resolve to do it right there and then. Don't save up all your promises-of-things-you'll-do for one big day. That seems like a recipe for failure to me (though there can be success in failure, too). However, this arbitrary counting of time we call a year (OK, not entirely arbitrary, but how many people really think about what it is we base the length of a year on?) can be useful for stopping to take stock.

Last year, I didn't do as well as I hoped with my goals. I had planned to have a lot more writing done and available for people to read, but I got derailed pretty early on, and I'm not even sure why. I did manage to write (or finish) three novels (two shortish YAs and one somewhat longer adult novel), so really that's not so bad. And I drew some dragons, made some books, got a die-cutter and expanded my card-making repertoire.

But this year, I'm not going to focus on what I didn't get done last year. Well, I am, sort of, but not really. Actually, I'm going to work on some much older things in addition to trying to write more new things.

Old Things to Work On

(Note that I didn't say "Old Things to Finish." I hope to finish them, but if I don't, that's OK. At least I will have more done than I did before).

This Blog. I'm going to aim for a regular weekly post again this year. This is the first one. I won't give myself any soft of word count goal. Just one post a week, even if it's just a picture or a favourite quote.

My Comic. A million years ago, I started an urban fantasy comic -- a webcomic in the sense that I intended to first make it available on the web, though except for lettering, it's all drawn the old-fashioned way and ultimately I want it in print. I worked on it off and on over the years, a little here, a little there. It takes me a really really long time to draw.

Then, in 2004, just before I moved to Nova Scotia, I decided to re-draw everything I had already done to fix it. And I did. Every week a new page, and I even kept going after I finished re-drawing. I made it to the middle of issue 3 (around 50-something pages) and then, for reasons I no longer recall, I stopped. I even still had a few more pages planned out.

So now, ten years later, I'm going to have another go at it. I still love my characters, and it's still a story I want to get to the end of. But I'm not going to re-draw it again, even though it's old art and I might be able to draw it better (and looking back, I really shouldn't have bothered re-drawing it last time; I should have put the energy into making new pages). If I still have all my old files, and I can figure out WordPress well enough to make it do what I need, I might even have the first page up today. I'm going to start from the very beginning, one page a week to start, and while old pages are going up, I'll work on new ones. We'll see how far I get this time. I'd like to at least get to the end of the current storyline.

My Serials. I've have two serial novels on JukePop Serials, both of which have been neglected, due to the mysterious derailment of 2013. One of them -- the one I write as Calliope Strange -- is actually finished. I just haven't posted it all. For that one, I'll put up at least one chapter a week until it's done. The other one, Reindeer Girl, is not finished, but it will be. It was meant to be a way of finishing a book I started a while back, and a way to get me writing regularly. It can still be those things. Maybe I'll manage once a week, but if I can at least get going on it again, however slowly, I'll be pleased.

Other. I'm sure there are other old things I'll revisit through the year, but for now, these will do.

New Things Ahead

Dragons. This isn't entirely new, of course, as it's something I started working on on 2013, but this year I want to make it a major focus. A couple of days ago, I made a Scrivener file for it so I can start working on the text, and yesterday I had another stab at a dragon illustration that's been kicking my butt. I still didn't get it, but I got closer. This is my fun thing, the thing I'm making entirely for myself, but I'll share it, and maybe others will like it, too.

Fiction. There are always too many novels in my head, but this year I'd like to see if I can write one or two more Others novels (as Nic Silver). There are two more I know I need to write for sure. One is what happens to Evgeny while Su is in Germany, and the other is the continuation of Su's quest to find out what happened to her little sister. Also, I'd like to get working on the next Kentaurs novel, which I had intended to write over the summer. And eventually, though perhaps not this year, we'll have to find out what the heck is going to happen to Dubhghall and Maddy after the events of Dark Stranger.

Publishing. I need to get White Raven Press back on track, starting with a new website. I have a handful of novels and collections to get into print, and one to put up digital. Maybe two, but Deer Mouse is an experiment in submitting to a traditional publisher, so I'll have to wait till I hear back.

Painting. Last year I bought some exciting new art supplies, and promptly had no time to play with them. So this year, that's what I'll do. Play. Learn some things. I have a selection of casein paints, and I've already prepped a whole pile of boards to paint on. Maybe something will come of it, or maybe I'll just have fun. Either is good.

Craft. My goals here are just to keep on making stuff, and make more of an effort to market and get work into stores. I hope to do more hand-papermaking, so likely I'll have more cards printed on my own paper, and probably more linocuts rather than polymer letterpress. But again, we'll see how it goes. Also, I plan to play around with more 3D sculptures using die-cut elements. My first batch of dragons came out well, and were well-received. Also, they were great fun to design.

Photography. Some of you may know I studied photography (as well as printmaking, design, and book arts) in art school. I haven't done a lot of photo recently, asked from snaps to sort of visually journal things I see. I have some ideas for projects tumbling around in my head, but I just upgraded my iPhone, and I got a set of Olloclip macro lenses for Christmas (I had their 3-in-1 macro/wide angle/fish eye for my old phone, and will probably pick up the one for my current phone eventually), so I think I'm going to focus on shooting iPhone pictures. No pressure on myself to make great pictures, just something fun. And if they start turning out well, maybe I'll get more serious.


I'm sure there were more things I was going to say, but I've gone on way longer than I meant to, so I'll stop. Basically, I plan to have fun this year, and finish more things -- some old, some new. The only way I can fail is if I stop writing/drawing/crafting completely, and that's pretty unlikely.