Category Archives: Techniques

The Making of the “Moonshadow Lenormand”: Part III

In Part I of this mini-series, I talked about how I created my Palimpsest templates. In Part II, I explained about the archetypal images used in the Lenormand cartomancy system and how I sourced my images. Now that I had both my Palimpsest templates and my photos/images ready, I was ready to start working on my Lenormand cards.

These are the Apps I used:
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PicsArt – my main go-to App, has loads of clipart
Photo Editor – for filters and resizing
Litho – has a wealth of texture filters and lovely antiquarian clipart
Pixlr Express – lots of filters, including nifty inky borders
Photo Studio Pro – great clipart
Smoothie – great filters and effects
Snapseed – good for textures and grunge
Repix – I like this for the special effects
iMagic Pro Image – has useful clipart and filters
Photo Editor – has lots of full colour clipart, however resolution is low
AThumbCut – great for cutting out images to make your own clipart
Touch Retouch – indispensible for cleaning up unwanted areas of images

Here then is the secret of how I created my images:

THERE IS NO SECRET FORMULA

You just have to experiment with effects and filters, bounce from one App to another, try this and that, until you arrive at a result you’re happy with. It really is that simple. Mobile photography art isn’t something that can be taught. Anyone can show you Apps, but it’s up to you to learn how each one works, and decide which ones you want to keep in your stable of Go To Apps. Everyone has their own style, and therefore their own favourite filters and effects. These just happen to be my personal palette.

Enjoy! Here are just a few of my favourite images from my Project:

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In the next 2 posts, I will show you the full deck, with explanations. So, watch out for Part IV and Part V, coming up next!

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The Making of the “Moonshadow Lenormand”: Part II

And so, following on from Part I of “The Making Of the Moonshadow Lenormand” yesterday, here is Part II.

For those unfamiliar with Lenormand cartomancy, it’s basically a set of 36 cards, with or without playing card inserts. Some readers use the playing card inserts for further depth in their readings, for example to add nuance or to signify people other than the querent. Others regard the pips as a leftover and unneccesary effect from when the first Lenormand decks were created using actual piquet playing cards. Some modern decks do not even have the playing card pips.

The 36 cards, regardless of which artist or publisher, always contain the same archetypes. There are modern, whimsical artist decks with Halloween or Christmas themes, where the imagery is dark and spooky, or bright and festive, and where substitutions might occur…for example in a Halloween themed Lenormand deck, the 1st card, which is the Rider, might instead be The Headless Horseman. And for a Christmas themed Lenormand deck, the Rider may well be Father Christmas on his reindeer sleigh.

Here are the 36 cards in any traditional Lenormand deck, and their corresponding Archetypes:

1 Rider
2 Clover
3 Ship
4 House
5 Tree
6 Clouds
7 Snake
8 Coffin
9 Bouquet
10 Scythe
11 Whip
12 Birds
13 Child
14 Fox
15 Bear
16 Stars
17 Stork
18 Dog
19 Tower
20 Garden
21 Mountain
22 Crossroads
23 Mice
24 Heart
25 Ring
26 Book
27 Letter
28 Man
29 Woman
30 Lily
31 Sun
32 Moon
33 Key
34 Fish
35 Anchor
36 Cross

Here’s an image showing Titania Hardie’s Fortune Cards (Lenormand style) and the 36 cards arranged in a Grand Tableau.

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When I first embarked on this Project or Journey, I knew I would encounter a few snags along the way. One of them was finding the archetypal images to go with the cards. Some of the more mundane images, e.g house, tree, clouds, birds etc were easy enough to source via my Samsung Galaxy S4’s camera i.e by taking actual photos. Others were not so easy…you just don’t come across foxes, bears or storks in your everyday meanderings. Or scythes and whips either. And I’d have to travel far to get a snapshot of a real maritime tallship or a mountain.

That’s where Google, Wikimedia and the beautiful term “Public Domain” come into play. I set up folders on my S4 camera roll to house archetypal images that I found online that were in the public domain. This means that I can then utilise these images in my work, without fear of stealing someone else’s copyright to them, as the original copyright owners have already voluntarily relinquished their rights to the image, i.e gifted it to the world, or the copyright has expired, 70 years after the death of the original artist/photographer/copyright holder. For example, I found that the copyright to Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit illustrations expired in January this year, 2014. Similarly, John Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice in Wonderland and others of the same era, expired years ago.

Anyhow, I managed to cobble together my 36 archetypal images, and so began the real work – using my S4 and Apps to create the imagery for each card.

Of which more in Part III. ;)

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The Making of the “Moonshadow Lenormand”: Part I

Okay, folks have been asking me how I created my first Lenormand cartomancy deck.

This Project had me using a technique I had never even considered before. And it’s such an old technique, by today’s standards. By this I mean the use of a Scanner.

I’d been intrigued by seeing pictures of the Palimpsest Lenormand, by Bertrand Saint Guillain.

Palimpsest : masc. noun, A palimpsest (/ˈpælɪmpsɛst/) is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped off and which can be used again. The word “palimpsest” comes through Latin palimpsēstus from Ancient Greek παλίμψηστος (palímpsestos, “scratched or scraped again”) originally compounded from πάλιν (palin, “again”) and ψάω (psao, “I scrape”) literally meaning “scraped clean and used again”.
Source: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palimpsest)

Here’s a photo of some of Bertrand’s cards:

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Here’s an explanation of how and why Bertrand created the Palimpsest Lenormand, taken from his site:

From realisation to the final picture
The drawing is made by hand on standard cards whose original picture has been partially or entirely covered (hence the name). The result is then photographed and slightly adjusted with an image manipulation program to harmonize the whole deck.

Instead of having an insert in the middle of the card, the standard card association is given by the corner indices.

I was strongly intrigued by the whole idea of using the Palimpsest method for my deck. I decided I would use it as a springboard for my own deck. Not copying Bertrand’s deck, but distilling the idea of Palimpsest and giving it my own creative twist.

I already had 2 decks of cheap playing cards, so I sacrificed one. And set to desecrating obliterating altering (hehehe) the central images of the cards with white gesso. I had no Tippex like Bertrand, but I had lots of Gesso to hand. Needs must.

I was coming from a mobile photographer’s point of view, so instead of following Bertrand’s technique of photographing the finished product, like he did, I knew I wanted a digital version I could then work on. So I simply gessoed the 36 cards I needed (reducing the playing cards deck from 52 to 36 by removing the cards numbered 2-5 from each suit) and then I scanned each card, one by one, on my trusty old workhorse, the Canon Pixma MX870 printer-scanner-copier-fax.

I then transferred the scans to my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, which is essentially my studio. To do this, I first had to save the scans to a USB stick, then transfer them to my Mac, then from the Mac I used an App called Photo Transfer (funnily enough) to move them to the S4. Convoluted, but worth it.

Et voila! A Palimpsest deck of playing cards that can be used time and time again, as the template or background to my first Lenormand deck. Or any subsequent Lenormand deck, for that matter. I wasn’t too concerned about whether I’d completely covered the central images on each card or not, or whether I’d gessoed over parts of the side indices, as I like a bit of randomness. Besides, most of the central part of each card would be covered by digital imagery that I would superimpose on them.

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The gessoed cards
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Close-up of some of the gessoed cards.

Please bookmark this and check out Part II, coming up next, where I will explain how I then used my Palimpsest templates to create my Moonshadow Lenormand cards.

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All Done With Mirrors

I’m in the midst of not one but two concurrent projects creating Oracle cards and Lenormand cards. For my Oracle card shenanigans, read here. I haven’t blogged about Lenormand cards yet, or indeed about my Lenormand cards project, as I’m still learning about that divination system myself. Rest assured all will be revealed in due course.

So, my idea is to create a deck of Oracle cards, which I will then either 1) approach a publisher to license or 2) self-publish through a Print-on-Demand site. Still having a think about how to get a package together consisting of the deck of cards, a box and what those in the trade call the LWB or the “little white book”.

My Oracle Cards project has passed the 40th mark, out of a potential 52 cards, so it is well on the way.

As for my Lenormand Cards project, I’ve done 12 out of the 36 cards that make up a Lenormand deck. I’m taking my time with this project, as I’m learning about the symbols and meanings as I go along. Fascinating subject, which I will blog about soon enough.

All playing cards have a front and back, right? My digital mixed media photography art will go on the front of the cards, and now I need to create some designs for the back too. Here are some potential card back designs that I created using the App PicsArt, mainly playing with its “Distort” filter which offers image mirroring on X and Y axes, easily creating symmetrical designs.

PicsArt for Android

PicsArt for iOS

Enjoy! (All images copyright AlyZen Moonshadow)

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Aboriginal Black & White Paintings

I am a lover of all things colourful, however some of my favourite Australian Aboriginal paintings are black and white. There’s something almost spiritual about black and white art, almost as if the restrictions imposed by the limitations of colour have brought about another kind of depth or way of seeing.  Australian Aboriginal Art Dot paintings (both the colourful ones and the black and white ones) are steeped in tradition and carry historical meanings and even contain encrypted secrets, however they are also very abstract and modern in their own right.  For me, the beauty of these paintings lies in their ability to straddle the Past, Present and Future.

(The following is quoted from Source: http://www.aboriginalartstore.com.au/aboriginal-art-culture/aboriginal-art/aboriginal-dot-paintings/)

Dot paintings today are recognised globally as unique and integral to Australian Aboriginal art. On the surface the dot is simply a style of Aboriginal painting, like the use of cross-hatching or stencil art. Exploring deeper into the history of the Aboriginal dot painting a world of camouflage, secrecy and ritual is discovered.

The term ‘dot painting’ stems from what the Western eye sees when faced with contemporary Aboriginal acrylic paintings. This painting style arose from the Papunya art movement in the 1970s. Papunya Tula artists used a process which originally mirrored traditional spiritual ceremonies. In such rituals the soil would be cleared and smoothed over as a canvas (much like the dark, earthy boards used by the Papunya Tula) for the inscription of sacred designs, replicating movements of ancestral beings upon earth. These Dreaming designs were outlined with dancing circles and often surrounded with a mass of dots. Afterward the imprinted earth would be smoothed over, painted bodies rubbed away, masking the sacred-secrets which had taken place.

This ritual was shifted from ground to canvas by the Papunya Tula who eventually added an array of naturally produced colours to the restricted palette of red, yellow, black and white produced from ochre, charcoal and pipe clay.Such pieces reveal a map of circles, spirals, lines, dashes and dots, the traditional visual language of the Western Desert Aboriginal People. However these marks were permanent and due to arising interest made public, creating internal political uproar. Consequently representations of sacred objects were forbidden or concealed through the dotting technique.

Whether a concealer of deeper, spiritual meaning or simply symbols of fruits, rain or feathers the acrylic dot paintings of the Aboriginal People become increasingly complex and innovative artistically. The paintings of Johnny Warrangula Tjupurrula implement techniques of overlaying dots and superimposing patterns causing objects and shapes to merge in and out of one another. Acrylic Aboriginal paintings are highly emotive incorporating an innovative balance of traditional and modern. The dot technique, whether as a concealer or a signifier offers a sense of movement and rhythm causing the flat canvas to sing, jump and dance with energy and life, much like the rituals which inspired them.

Bear in mind that although they may be collectively called Dot Paintings, it’s not just dots that make up the fabric of this painting style. Some artists merge their dots into lines, or paint lines and add dots to either side of them afterwards. Others go to the other extreme and use dots only to emphasise or accentuate circles or shapes. Each Aboriginal Artist has his or her own innate style, no two are alike, and each has his or her own palette of colour and set of symbols that makes his or her trademark. For example, one artist may be known for his Bush Medicine leaves, another for her Witchetty Grubs, and another for her Snakes, another for his Lines.

Here are just some black and white Aboriginal paintings that I have curated from Google Images. Just to show you how diverse they can be.

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Emu Feathers close up

I know the question on your mind now is: are these painted using white paint on a black background? Or using black paint on a white background? It’s kind of like how you’d ask “Is a Zebra black with white stripes, or white with black stripes?” :-)

Watch these YouTube videos and find out for yourself!

(Source: Desert Arts Centre)

Australian Aboriginal Art Symbols – A Primer

I am fascinated by Australian Aboriginal Art. And I confess that until recently I had no idea what the various symbols meant; to me, they were simply beautiful swirls, circles, squiggly worm shapes and dots. However, after visiting my 11-year-old son’s school on an Open Day recently and looking at his Aboriginal Art assignment and seeing charts showing the meanings of various symbols, I’m happy to report that I now know a little bit more about Aboriginal symbols. So, the next time I see a piece of Aboriginal art, it won’t be just beautiful swirls, circles, squiggly worm shapes and dots, it would mean a group of men and women gathered around a fire in a campsite, tracks to waterholes, digging sticks, even mountains, the Sun, Moon and Stars. Here are some examples of Aboriginal symbols I found on Google Images. Because these were drawn by different people, some of them students, there is a fair amount of overlap in the symbols. But it gives you a good idea of what to look out for the next time you see a piece of Aboriginal Art. symbols symbols_page33 7fcc7f8e803473c0c07698064dad3f3b aboriginal text Ab-symbol-31 Ab-symbol-21 And here is my son’s very own attempt at creating Aboriginal Art:
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And from the school’s Art noticeboard:
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Australian Aboriginal Artist : Janet Golder Kngwarreye

Contemporary Australian Aboriginal artist Janet Golder Kngwarreye (born 15 November 1973) is from Boundary Bore in the Utopia region in the Central Australia, approximately 270kms north west of Alice Springs. Utopia is renowned for its development and nurturing of extremely talented contemporary Aboriginal artists.

Janet is married to Ronnie Bird Jungala, son of famous Utopia artist Lindsay Bird Mpetyane. They have 4 children. Janet’s mother Margaret Golder and father Sammy Petyarre are also established artists. Emily Kame Kngwarreye, a famous artist, was Janet’s grandmother. Janet would have been taught to paint by her family and has been active since 1997. Her painting style is even, fine dot work, creating linear patterns and the major subject she paints is “Awelye” or ceremonial body paint using fine dot work and linear patterns. She is well known for her depictions of Bush Medicine, where she depicts the leaves of particular plants found in Central Australia which contain medicinal properties. Traditionally women would gather the leaves, boil them and add a resin and use this paste to treat a variety of ailments. Both men and women have important roles to play within the Aboriginal community as healers. Janet also has the appropriate cultural knowledge and permission from the Aboriginal Elders to depict the Dreamtime stories of the Mountain Devil Lizard and Emu.

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Watch Janet at work here on YouTube:

 

Artist Inspiration : Rogan Brown

I admit that when I first cast eyes on Rogan Brown’s intricate paper sculptures, I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at. Here were strange objects with filaments, strange orifices and tendrils that crawled across and out of the page, minuscule hydra-like creatures or maybe not-creatures. Some of them looked almost familiar, and then I realised that yes, I HAD seen them before – they were reminiscent of the Darwinian drawings of natural forms by  Ernst Haeckel that I’d purchased from DoverPictura.

And then I came across Rogan’s own website, and the excerpt below is taken directly from it:

My work is an exploration and re-presentation of natural organic forms both mineral and vegetal. I look for patterns and repeated motifs that run through natural phenomena at different scales, from the microscopic to the macroscopic, from individual cells to large scale geological formations.
I am inspired in part by the tradition of scientific drawing and model making, and particularly the work of artist-scientists such as Ernst Haeckel. But although my approach involves careful observation and detailed “scientific” preparatory drawings these are always superseded by the work of the imagination; everything has to be refracted through the prism of the imagination, estranged and in some way transformed.
I want to communicate my fascination with the immense complexity and intricacy of natural forms and this is why the process behind my work is so important. Each sculpture is hugely time consuming and labour-intensive and this work is an essential element not only in the construction but also in the meaning of each piece. The finished artefact is really only the ghostly fossilized vestige of this slow, long process of realisation. I have chosen paper as a medium because it captures perfectly that mixture of delicacy and durability that for me characterizes the natural world.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity…and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of a man of Imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.” William Blake

Yay, turns out my hunch about Haeckel had been correct. Feast your eyes on some of Rogan Brown’s mesmerising, meticulously cut-out and extremely detailed paper sculptures here (you can see more on his website):

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Wow, right?!

 

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Let’s go LEGO!

Here’s a name that needs no introduction. You’ve played with it, your children will play with it, and all being well, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will play with it too.

LEGO. (Yes, I know it should have the copyright symbol after every iteration of it). Yes, we all have fond memories of playing with these little coloured bricks. And one Maths teacher from Cleveland, Ohio, has taken LEGO to dizzying heights by using his mathematical prowess to design programmes that enable him to create domes and spheres etc.

Here are the facts, in a nutshell:

Arthur Gugick, 54, from Cleveland, has built hundreds of scale miniatures using just the colored bricks

Each model contains 5,000 to 20,000 pieces and Mr Gugick owns more than one million overall

The father-of-two has never used glue to hold pieces together and avoids using shop-bought models

He balances the hobby with his day job as a maths teacher at Beachwood High School in Cleveland, Ohio

(Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2782102/Maths-teacher-recreates-famous-artworks-portraits-iconic-buildings-using-LEGO.html?ito=social-facebook)

I’ve pulled together some of Arthur Gugick‘s creations from Google Images, so we can all goggle at them together.

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My soon-to-be 12-year-old son is a LEGO addict. You can never have enough LEGO bricks, it seems. No matter how many bucketloads you buy of the stuff, it’s always just a drop in the ocean.

If you’re at all interested in LEGO, there have been several books published about it recently, some of them showcasing Arthur Gugick’s creations. Mind you, there are dozens of books on LEGO aimed at a younger audience; the ones mentioned here are intended for a more serious and mature practitioner:

Beautiful LEGO https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1593275080/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_MLonub1MEFP0R

Brick City: LEGO® for Grown Ups https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/184533812X/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_kPonub17KF92E

Brick Wonders: Ancient, natural & modern marvels in LEGO® https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1845338871/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_7Qonub19YVBBK

The Art of LEGO Design: Creative Ways to Build Amazing Models https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1593275536/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_BUonub02JTJPW

The LEGO Neighborhood Book: Build a LEGO Town! https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1593275714/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_OVonub13YC8MQ

Build Your Own City: The Big Unofficial Lego Builders Book https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/3868526587/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_.Xonub0HGW4GW

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My Favourite Terrariums

I’ve written about, and mentioned, Terrariums quite in bit in previous posts. (You can find those posts by typing in “terrarium” in the Search field towards the top of my page).

My experiments in creating my own terrariums have been rather hit and miss. A couple of them flourished for a while, then the plants wilted or died. One only lasted a week. Moss is incredibly hard to find in Nature here in Western Australia. You need to beg a florist and then be prepared to pay through the nose to get some.

My best efforts so far in creating terrariums have been the simplest ones – glass orbs with some white aquarium gravel, 2 airplants, and posed with a token plastic toy animal inside.

So, all in all not much to shout about from this end. But, in the course of my research into Terrariums, I did end up with quite a collection of curated images for my Pinterest board. Here then I present to you the terrariums that in my fantasy world were created by me, and lovingly housed in my vast conservatory dedicated solely to terrariums 😄. (For further information about where to buy these, who created them, how to make them, simply go to my Pinterest board “Terrariums” and click on the pictures. You will be whisked away to a terrarium wonderland, where you will emerge a committed terrarium addict).

As for me, I think I’m off to buy a few more airplants or succulents…

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