A Lot Can Improve in Half a Year

Night Crone

I started this piece on May 15, 2017, as a part of my Oracle Deck. I ended up with the image on the right which didn’t fit in well with the deck. This is partly because it feels less grounded than the other cards and partly because it was really poorly done. Creatively, I sometimes find myself painted into a corner (metaphorically or otherwise). When this happens I find that the best solution is to set the entire piece down. This one had to sit for six months, but the end result is a finished work which feels like it belongs in the mystical world which I am creating.

Creating a Witches & Wizards Fantasy Oracle Deck

I’ve been working on a series of fantasy pieces for a potential oracle deck. Each piece is created in Photoshop using photo manipulation and free-use imagery from Google. My goal for each card is to create an image which is rich in magick and meditative mysticism. Creating each character and their surrounding environments is an essential part of that process. I want each card to convey its themes without the use of any outside material. The Regent, for example, looks somewhat melancholic despite her material wealth and majestic backdrop. I have had to discard several pieces which I dearly like because the art simply did not have the meditative quality I was trying to achieve. Perhaps those pieces will find a home in some other project.

I made a video talking about the personal process of creating one’s own oracle cards. At the end of that video, there is a quick slideshow where I flip through the various photoshop layers of several cards. I also created a time-lapse of the entire two-hour process of creating The Sage card.

Tree Frog Tattoo by Sylvie le Sylvie

pacific tree frog tattoo by sylvie le sylvie

My first tattoo. Inked and finalized by Sylvie le Sylvie.

Pacific tree frogs (Pseudacris regilla) are the most commonly heard frogs in British Columbia. They can change their colour in a matter of minutes. As amphibians, they live their lives in two worlds: the submarine life of a tadpole and the semi-terrestrial life of a grown frog. They embrace the elements of Earth and Water, making their homes in each.

The hind legs of my frog are represented by a feather and a leaf of the broadleaf plantain (Plantago major). The feather is a representation of elemental Air. Broadleaf plantain leaves are used to soothe stings and small cuts. They are like natural bandaids!

The square together with the intangible circle represents the altar, a sacred space, with its magickal circle of power.

Surrounding the altar are four offerings. In the upper left is the flower of the bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), an edible, if bitter, taproot. Following clockwise is a representation of solar Fire: the sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani). An ammonite fossil (Ammonoidea) resides in the lower right corner. As the remains of an extinct mollusc, ammonites represents the element of Water and mortality.  Elemental Stone (or Earth if one prefers) is represented as a quartz cluster (SiO2).

These were not the original symbols and meanings, though the central image of a frog and its connection to the four elements has remained consistent throughout the three year revision process.

From the beginning I was keen to design the tattoo myself and have that design translated by a tattoo artist to better fit the medium of skin and ink. I wanted to have the tattoo inked in my home town of Nelson, BC. After careful consideration, I found the work of Sylvie le Sylvie, of the Timber Tattoo Co. Animals and plants are plentiful in her work, which has a rich, black and white, aesthetic. After a consultation, she made several changes to the design, arriving at the finished product a week later. The tattoo was inked on a drizzly morning on the day after the vernal equinox.

This is my first tattoo. It may not be my last, but for now I could not ask for a more magickal connection to nature, the elements, and the mineral, floral, & animal kingdoms.

Turning Paperbacks into Beautiful Hardback Tomes 

Recently, I decided to revisit my long standing project of re-covering the books in my library. I’ve been using a new more versatile technique which allows the artist to create many different styles of books. The covers are made from card stock much as the ones made in this blog post. The covers are then decorated with raised designs and covered in a fine paper mâché. The mâché technique ends up looking a lot more impressive in person than I had at first imagined.

For more information on the building of these books, you can watch the video I made documenting the process. I used several other articles for the inspiration and technique behind the creation of these books: For the Love of Books: A Guide to Knocking Together Your Own Journals’08 Halloween #12: Making Creepy Books, Altered Halloween Books Tutorial, new and improved!, and Crafty Mommy & Me.

Title – No, Literally

Last August, I rebound the covers of several books. Unfortunately, I rather slacked off forgot to add titles. I’m home sick today so I decided to kill some time by inking in a title or two. I still can’t think of a way to do titles for the cloth bound books, but my copy of Animals as Teachers and Healers by Susan Chernak McElroy was done in thick paper.

To do the actual title, I first penciled in the font, then traced that over with a fountain pen. When the ink was dry, I erased the pencil, et voilà!

IMG_0246 copy

Foam Board Dragonbone Dagger

Recently I came across Will from stormthecastle.com‘s youtube channel epicfantasy. He has many, many video tutorials on making props, usually swords and other weapons, with foam board. I was fascinated by the level of quality he was able to achieve with such a cheap material. I wanted to try using foam board as a material for myself and I knew that I wanted make another Skyrim prop to go along with my Windhelm guard’s shield. Because I had never worked with foam board before, I chose a small project, the dragonbone dagger. I didn’t take the same number of progress photos as I usually do for my props because Will’s tutorial is excellent and shows in detail all the various steps.

IMG_0931

Smoothed and sealed foam board.

I knew going in that foam board is a flimsy material which cuts easily, but cannot be refined (smoothed out or sanded) to any great degree. One thing which I disliked about Will’s prop was that the seams between the layers of foam were raw. In order to blend the layers of foam board and to fill in the gaps, I used extra hot glue which I smoothed out with my finger, ouchie ouchie! This didn’t quite give me the effect which I wanted so I used silicon to get a more accurate effect. Silicon isn’t really a good choice, but it was what I had available. I would have preferred to use some sort of putty or clay for this. To stop the silicon from peeling and to even out the seams even more, I coated the entire dagger in 5 coats of modge podge. I followed Will’s tutorial for the paint job, then sealed the project with 2 more layers of modge podge.

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DIY Skyrim Windhelm Shield: Finished

Read part one here.

Day Three: I started painting the rim to look like aged metal by mixing black and silver acrylic and painting two base coats on top of the Plasti-Dip coated craft foam. I then dry-brushed on a thin layer of silver, highlighting the raised parts of the rim. After the paint was entirely dry, I mixed orange, brown, and a small amount of red paint to create a rust colour. I watered down the paint and with a wet brush, I created pools of paint wherever I wanted there to be rust. I tuck to the burnt in depressions in the foam, and places where the Plast-Dip had bubbled. After a minute of soaking, I used a paper towel to remove most of the paint.Once this had dried I noticed a few spots which needed a touch up, so I used the appropriate colour paint to apply small fixes. Then, I sealed the rim with two thin layers of modge podge. By this point, I had decided that I wanted to finish the back side of the shield as well, so I removed the bag and tape from the back side of the shield and stained the exposed wood.

Day Four: I started by removing the bag and masking tape from the front of the shield. I noticed that the blue paint needed another coat so I added one before moving on. With the chisel tip on my wood burner, I added the planked look to the back of the shield. I made the decision not to use the single, dead centre handle that is seen in game. Instead, I created a double strap hand out of double layered foam. This turned out to be a horrible idea since the first time I used it, the foam broke. Instead, I lay two pieces of foam down where I wanted the handles to be to serve as padding against the hard wood, then I cut two pieces from an old belt to fit on top. I secured the belts in place with screws and washers which passed through the belt and foam into the wood of the shield.

As usual, I learned I great deal on how not to do things. Doing, this project again (cough* Solitude) I would stain the project last, since I found that paint which overlapped with the stain required several extra coats. I wouldn’t carve out the rim in wood, since the foam rim looks much better than that would have. That was a good chunk of time which ended up being wasted. I’d also burn planks into both sides to begin with and go straight for propper strapping.

The shield was finally complete! I’m really happy with the way the shield turned out. It’s a sturdy build, and the bright logo (while note game accurate) really stands out against the battle worn look of the shield. You gotta to keep up that Stormcloak pride, am I right?


DIY Skyrim Windhelm Shield: Day 1&2

downloadSo I’ve started working on yet another new project. I wanted to create a shield to hang on my wall, and after some consideration, decided on the Windhelm Guards’ shield from Skyrim. Yes I know, I might be a wee bit obsessed with Skyrim at the moment. From looking at the in game graphics and some quick online research, I was able to come up with a design.

Day One: I started with a sheet of plywood which I had been using to stop arrows which missed my target during archery practice. It was full of arrow holes which I thought appropriate. I cut out a 24″ wide circle and proceeded to sand it until my hand hurt to much to keep going. I carved a rim around the edge and using a wood burner, created the illusion of 5 planks of wood. I then stained the perimeter of the shield a dark wood colour.

File 2016-02-28, 8 49 02 PMDeciding that I didn’t like the look of the carved rim, I cut out 2.5″ wide strips of black craft foam and used a heat gun to mould them over the edge of the shield. To give the new rim, a hammered, battered look, I again used the heat gun and the handle of a dinner knife. I accentuated this with the wood burner and a round tip.

Day Two: I printed out an image of the Windhelm bear emblem on several sheets of paper so that they could be taped together to form a stencil. I transferred the bear onto the shield in light pencil marks. Very carefully, I traced the image in blue acrylic paint and fleshed out the full circle. I went back in afterwards and painted the bear outline in cream paint. I used the stencil itself to add the blue eye afterwards. When the paint was dry, I went back over, adding finishing touches. Then, I used blue masking tape to carefully seal the edges of the shield next to the foam rim. I taped one half of a plastic bag over the face of the shield. I did this on both sides. Then, I applied several layers of black Plasti-Dip to the foam and waited overnight.

See finished project.

Making a Medivial Arming Cap or Biggins


Biggins were a type of undercap worn by all classes, ages, and sexes during the sixteenth century. They kept hair in place and sweat from staining hats.

“Peasants and children almost always wore the biggins alone, as they had no other cap. Working classes would frequently wear the biggins alone, but perhaps made from nicer fabric or they might add a touch of embroidery to show a higher standing.”

A padded version of the biggins, the arming cap, was worn beneath the a coif or helmet. It served much the same purpose, but with the added benefit of reducing shock to the head and keeping one’s hair from being caught in mail.

When making my own, I used a pair of old pants which did not fit me for the fabric. I drew out the pattern on newspaper and taped the pieces together to ensure a good fit. After that, I cut out my pieces and sewed everything together on the sewing machine.

If you want to make one, this is the design which I followed when making this piece: https://youtu.be/MimPxme2KAQ

Source: http://www.mistythicket.com/accessories/caps/biggins.html