Category Archives: Website & Blog

Pattern Observer

For those of you interested in designing and printing wallpapers, or indeed any kind of surface design, Pattern Observer is an invaluable resource. I cannot praise it highly enough. It offers an insight into the burgeoning surface pattern design industry, you can subscribe to their regular email updates (I do), join their Textile Design Lab to enter into discussion with fellow likeminded artists, keep up to date with the latest news and trends in the industry. There are even e-courses you can sign up for to improve and hone your designing skills, learn new techniques and improve your own sales and marketing.

If you are the least bit serious about becoming a surface pattern designer, or even if you just want to investigate the ins and outs of surface design before you decide, you simply MUST join or follow Pattern Observer.

I love the layout of the blog, which can be used as a launchpad to visit other areas of the Pattern Observer microcosmos, all neatly organised and categorised for your benefit. Use the drop down menu there and you’ll see what I mean.

Pattern Observer can also be found on Facebook. So you can keep abreast of the latest news without even having to leave your favourite social media platform.

One of the many highlights of following Pattern Observer is that each week a different artist is showcased, providing insight into their processes, techniques, business practice, etc. Very useful and inspiring for aspiring designers.

Here I’m simply posting the links to bring together Parts 1 and 2 of Pattern Observer’s primers on wallpaper printing techniques through the ages. A potted history, if you will, for your enjoyment.

For those wanting to take the guesswork out of designing pattern repeats, check out Pattern Observer’s 5 week self-study e-course, The Ultimate Guide to Repeats. Be aware though, this course assumes some prior knowledge of, and experience with, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

(Photo taken from the blog’s “About” page shows Pattern Observer founder Michelle Fifis and her family.)

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I like to look at the statistics on my WordPress blog, okay maybe it’s a little narcissistic…but hey it gives me a lift everytime I’m checking the stats and the numbers jump up by one or two. I can’t boast thousands of followers (yet), so if you’re lucky enough to be one of Those bloggers, watching your stats might not appeal to you. But for me, it’s great to know that someone or some ones are actually bothering to read my ramblings, and liking them or better still, leaving a comment. Thank you kindly, folks! :-)

The USA generally tops my stats list, followed by the UK, then Australia and New Zealand. Canada gets a good look in too. The other day Saudi Arabia topped the list. I have had readers from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Laos, Viet Nam, China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Israel, even Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan once or twice, French Polynesia, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, El Salvador, Saint Martin, Latvia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg, Guernsey, Jersey, Malta, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Poland, Cyprus, Hungary, Greece, Romania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Turkey, Estonia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Sweden, Iceland, Moldova, Guadeloupe, Latvia, Russian Federation, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Bermuda, Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Suriname, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Tunisia, Kenya, Federated States of Micronesia. But not all at the same time, unfortunately… though hopefully as time goes by and word gets round, I’ll have more countries to add to the list. AND all at the same time too!

But the most surprising country, and one I must confess I’d only vaguely heard of prior to this, was New Caledonia. So I looked it up. I thought it must be one of those Polynesian islands near Hawaii. I was only a few thousand kilometres off course. :P (It’s actually not very far off the Queensland coast of Australia).

The Lonely Planet describes New Caledonia thus:
“There’s no better place to experience the Pacific with a taste of France than New Caledonia, where Melanesian tradition blends with French sophistication. This mix of the chic yet casual, très French but ultimately Pacific comes together with peerless élan in Noumea, the cosmopolitan capital. Dining out and shopping run the gamut from gourmet restaurants to humble roulottes, from Chinatown’s colourful shops to the expensively elegant, air-conditioned boutiques on rue de Sébastopol. When you leave the capital, the urban scenery gives way to a wealth of changing landscapes – the rolling plains of la brousse (the bush), lush river valleys, steep mountains coursed by tumbling waterfalls, cool rainforests and wild coastlines.

Grande Terre is the main island with rugged mountains, waterfalls and the world’s largest coral lagoon. To the Southeast, lies romantic Île des Pins with its slender pines, white-sand beaches and emerald lagoon. To the east, life proceeds at a leisurely pace in the relaxed Loyalty Islands: Maré, steeped in Kanak culture, Lifou and Ouvea.

New Caledonia is surrounded by the world’s largest enclosed lagoon, where marine treasures of all shapes and sizes lie waiting to be discovered – canyons and caves, exquisite coral, the smallest of tropical fish, turtles, sea snakes and sharks. Dolphin and whale spotting are other delights in store, or simply the luxury of total relaxation on the soft, warm sand of a deserted isle”.

Lonely Planet on New Caledonia.








I’m packing my bags already. SIGH

New Caledonia very recently made worldwide news when it officially announced that it had created the world’s largest marine protected area.

Here’s the article:

It’s wonderful that the French government, that controls New Caledonia, should take this big step towards nurturing and conserving the vast oceanic resources of the region. The creation and maintenance of this protected area means that coral, fish, sharks, dolphins, turtles and all other manner of marine life will get a chance to flourish.

(Meanwhile, on the flipside, back on the sandy shores of Western Australia, the controversial drum-baiting cull of Great White Sharks has just been called off. The Premier, Colin Barnett, hailed the cull as “a great success”…despite the glaring fact that, of the 66 sharks caught since the programme started in January 2014, not a single one of them was a Great White Shark. Who’s fooling who here? Millions of taxpayer dollars spent on a half-arsed programme that went ahead despite public protests by thousands of people…money that could be better spent on research and conservation. Okay, rant over).

I would like to thank my New Caledonian reader, whoever you are, for taking an interest in my humble blog, and for putting your country on my map, so to speak. You should be proud to live in New Caledonia, and rightly too.

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A Nice Warm Fuzzy Feeling Inside

I understand that my blog, writing style, eclecticism, range of topics, warped sense of humour and frequency of blogging may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some bloggers seem able to gain hundreds of thousands of followers within weeks of launching their blog. Some get famous overnight.

Not me. I have, at the time of writing this, 111 hard won followers. And I am eternally grateful to each and every one of you for following me on my crazy adventures. I hope you will stay and please tell your friends about me, so that they visit me here too and stay for my Madhatter’s Teaparty that goes on every day, unless I’m too ill or too lazy or have gone into a dead zone where there is no Internet reception.

This year, I set myself the target of blogging each and every day. And, apart from a couple of days missed, when I was time travelling with Doctor Who playing with different time zones, I’ve managed to keep my promise to myself. I have found that, with my Blogger’s hat on, I am more receptive to triggers that stir my imagination and make me want to write. I am more observant of the little things in life, and can get excited at the sight of a new store in town, the shape of a teacup’s handle, new technology I see online, a chance remark or quote. And so I shall continue to blog, regardless of whether I have 111 followers, or 111111.

Today I received an email that gave me a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling inside. I have in the past written about artists that inspire me in one way or another, only I don’t usually get a response from them after I’ve published my post about them. Kathe Fraga is one such artist who expressed her appreciation for my shout out by sending me 2 packs of her gorgeous artwork as greeting cards. Thank you, Kathe! I was on Cloud 9 for weeks after her generous gesture.

Here is the link to my post about Kathe.

But back to today’s email. It came from Yuko Ishii, another artist I had written about not too long ago. Here is Yuko’s email to me:

Name: Yuko Ishii
Comment: Hi Aly,

I googled my name this morning and came across your page that talks about my work. I just wanted to tell you that I am so glad to hear my work inspires you! I am also very grateful that you took the time to write about my work and share it with your readers on here. I truly appreciate you, Aly. Thank you so much!

By the way, I just started two blogs (blogger and tumblr) last month:

and also, an online store:

If you are interested in viewing some of my new work, please visit these websites.



Awww, it’s sooo nice to get positive feedback from someone that inspires you!

Here is the link to my post about Yuko Ishii, in case you missed it last time:

You know, when I said I could be inspired to write about anything and everything at the drop of a hat…oops, I did it again ;-)!

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You Need to read this! Creatives At Work

I stumbled across this blog while surfing the Net for “careers for mobile photography artists”. It’s called Creatives At Work Blog.

How the hell has this wonderful blog been able to escape my radar until now? It’s a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of resources and articles for artists, designers, photographers, writers etc. If you fancy contributing to the blog as a guest writer or have any ideas to contribute to the blog, do contact Eileen Fritsch directly, at

Eileen has thoughtfully organised her blog into categories: Artists, Designers, Photographers, Writers. She has been writing for many years now, so each category spills over with articles and resources of relevance. Sub-headings helpfully steer the reader towards more specific information. If you are any or all of the above, you NEED to read this blog. (Be aware of the dates of each post, as some of them go back a few years and the information may be outdated, especially in relation to exhibitions and competitions).

For my fellow Photographers wanting to up the ante on our game, check out this page, which contains links to numerous other useful articles (or access it via the blog under the Menu button, then click on Photographers):

I’ve only had time to skim read a few of the articles within Eileen’s blog, but already my head is buzzing with ideas and inspiration. Suddenly, there seem to be so many more opportunities for mobile photography artists and designers like myself. It’s all there, if we only knew where to look. I just hope I haven’t arrived too late to the party!

I think I will certainly tap into this motherlode of information, and expand on them in future posts. There really is A LOT of information within Eileen’s fantastic blog. I couldn’t even begin to tell you about what’s there, trust me when I say you just Have to look for yourself!

Just to whet your appetite, here’s a list of the Sub-headers under the Photography category. Each of which contains lots of links to other sites.

Career and Business
Photography Marketing
Niche Services
Changing Technology
Cross Training and Skills Development
Photo Merchandise
Trends and Forecast
Photo Printing and Display Options
Photo Exhibitions

Run, don’t walk!


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Artist Inspiration – KATHE FRAGA

I am in love with Kathe Fraga’s work, I really am.  I came across Kathe’s work on Pinterest, and was immediately drawn to her style. Several things stand out for me – the feel of a dusty wall with flaking paint, depictions of birds, trees and flowers in romantic settings, Kathe’s use of colour that evoke the feel of hand painted, time-worn walls of a grand old Parisian mansion.

Here is the link to Kathe Fraga’s official website:

Kathe’s chosen art medium is acrylic on frescoed canvas, finished with layers of lacquer.  I’m intrigued by the idea of using plaster (fresco) on canvas, but also interested to know how it would work with my own art, as for a while now I’ve been toying with the idea of giving my tissue paper transfers some dimensional texture.  Kathe’s technique is just perfect in evoking a powdery feel to her backgrounds. There are elements of Chinoiserie in her work, in her “Lovebirds” series, based on the vibrant and bold colours of 17th and 18th century vintage chinoiserie, as well as romantic Parisian boudoir style, in what she calls her “French Wallpaper Series”.  Kathe has lived in great old cities featuring fantastic old architecture and buildings (South America, Denmark, England and France), and these influences can be seen and felt in her beautifully evocative paintings.

Kathe Fraga also maintains an active WordPress blog, where readers can keep up with her creative work.  Recently her work has been featured on television as background interest, she has been written up in Luxe magazine, she even turned her hand to hand painting ceramics and wine buckets, and Kathe also has her art available as silk cushions and cards. I exhort you to read her blog entries, as they are full of descriptions of her creative process, observations, cultural and historical references.

This is how Kathe describes herself (excerpt taken from her website):

“The paintings in my “French Wallpaper Series” are intended to evoke the hand-painted, timeworn walls of a grand old Parisian mansion. Each piece resembles an aged decorative fresco panel adorned with birds and flowers, vines and leaves in a modern Chinoiserie style. I am inspired by the bright, colorful, fanciful imagery that made this unique style popular in the 17th and 18th century.

My art is influenced by the beauty and romance of old: vintage silky kimonos, hand-worked embroidery, lacquered little boxes, blocked wallpaper and panels from years ago, distressed with age, revealing a soft loveliness still…viewers see layered colors peeking out behind one another—pinks, blues, lavender—speckles of gold, a wisp of a faded blossom. Look for a small shy heart. A nestle of lovebirds. A French phrase. Each piece meant to be seen as part of a larger scene that’s been hidden away…until now.

I create a frescoed canvas and paint with acrylic and graphite. Aging and distressing are part of my process. I finish my paintings with a lacquered coating.

I live and paint on Bainbridge Island, Washington in a 100-year-old stone house by the sea.”

I guess the reason why Kathe Fraga’s work appeals so much to me is that I too am enamoured of using bird and butterfly motifs in my current body of work, as well as other nature-inspired motifs such as leaves, branches and flowers.  I love Kathe’s colour palette, and especially that extra special quality that painting on fresco gives.  I think I’m going to give painting on plaster a try myself – however, as I do not draw or paint, my medium being digital, I will instead transfer printed images of my artwork onto tissue paper, and then paste them onto wet and textured plaster, and hope I can create quasi palette-strokes on my canvas.  If that doesn’t work, I might give lacquering a go, and try for a smooth, mirrored surface instead.

Kathe Fraga is represented by Kaller Fine Arts, with locations in Washington, DC and New York City. She is represented on Bainbridge Island by Roby King Galleries, in Seattle by Pacini Lubel Gallery, and on Whidbey Island by Museo.  Her work can also be seen at Anne Irwin Fine Art, Atlanta. She is represented for publishing and licensing by Bentley Publishing Group.

I was so inspired by Kathe’s work that I went searching for sites where I could buy examples of her fantastic art. (These are only some of the site I found that feature Kathe Fraga, but do bookmark my page here, so you don’t have to go looking all over the Internet yourself!).

For prints and posters:

Original paintings (other than galleries representing Kathe already):

For iPhone/iPod covers:

Details on where to buy Kathe’s greeting cards can be found on her own website, using this link:

I’ve ordered 2 of Kathe Fraga’s works on wooden panels, “Love Birds II”  and “Love Birds III”, to go on either side of the bookcase in my living room at home.  They were from, I can’t wait for them to arrive!

I’ll leave you to drool over these examples of Kathe’s work, taken from Google Images:

Kathe Fraga
Kathe Fraga

6c66b840f2c52ee4305a3c18e09331d3 86473.0_crop 87161.0_crop 93836918d35adf3c55ce36967a43d1f7 b4902841d1726b751d33a85aaf07f369 Kathe-Fraga-Remembering_1_HR La chambre des roses rouges kathe-fraga-card-layouts-1 DSC_0014 [800x600] kathe-fraga-card-layouts-5 6a011168642488970c017c384c3386970b Kathe-Fraga-Remembering_1_HR


Calling on my heritage: making Curry Puffs

I don’t consider myself Asian. Or, if I do, then I’m a Banana…yellow on the outside, white on the inside. (Or, in Summer, I’m a Coconut!). It’s not that I aspire towards being Caucasian, it’s more to do with my personal values and outlook on culture.

One thing you will notice about “traditional” Asians is their preoccupation with the accumulation of wealth. Here’s how a normal conversation between 2 strangers, 1 an Asian, the other a Westerner, goes:

Asian: Hi, what’s your name?
Westerner: John Smith
Asian: Nice to meet you, John Smith. Where are you from?
Westerner: I’m from England.
Asian: Oh, how nice. John, what do you do and how much do you earn in a year?
Westerner: I….errrr…!

I just hate when that happens! Asian families will also think nothing of probing into the most personal aspects of your life. Asian Aunts and Uncles will join parents in giving unsolicited advice on where to buy property, what profession to be in, what car to drive, which bank to put your money in, who to marry, how many children to have, where they should go to school etc etc. Nevermind that they don’t really know what your life is like. If they see you deviate from the “Golden Path To Success and Wealth”, they feel it is their duty to advise you on how to get back on track.

I just so happened to have fallen off the bandwagon and said track many, many years ago. The Path I’m on..well, put it this way, I’m making it up as I go along. No books have been written yet about who or what I want to be. I just know I’m heading somewhere momentous, and that I am a Pioneer in my field.

That said, my relations like to point out that I have an “enormous propensity for eating”. Which is true. And, living in the Western World, albeit with easy access to many Asian food outlets, I sometimes have a hankering for the simple foods of my childhood. Sometimes these are not easily obtainable, and when the hankering gets too much, it is time to find a recipe and create the object of desire myself.

And so we come to the subject of Curry Puffs. Delicious morsels of fluffy golden puff pastry, enveloping a curried interior of potatoes and onions. Sometimes there will be meat (chicken or mutton), but in this day and age, that’s no longer economically sustainable.

I made some last weekend, and there’s enough left over to bring to work and have for my break. Yummy!

Curry Puffs

Adapted from the book “Penang Heritage Food” by Ong Jin Teong.

Ingredients (for the filling):             
200g potatoes, peeled and diced small
200g onions, peeled and diced small
2 tbsp rendang paste (I happened to have bought a few sachets of this from Cosway, but any curry paste will do)
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
Curry powder (optional)
250g minced chicken/mutton (optional)

Fry prepared potatoes and onions in oil until soft. Add rendang paste and milk. Stir fry until curry paste has coated the potatoes and onions.


To assemble:

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Prepare storebought puff pastry. Remove 1 leaf of puff pastry and let rest for 5-10 minutes. I simply left mine on its plastic divider sheet and then cut the puff pastry square into 9 equal portions. I didn’t bother rolling the puff pastry as it was already thin enough. Spoon the cooked filling onto middle of each portion. Coat near the edges of the pastry with beaten egg using a pastry brush. Fold pastry over filling and press edges together. I folded the squares into a triangle, then crimped the edges together.



Transfer to baking tray. Coat with beaten egg to glaze. Bake at 200°C for about 15 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown.



Delicious eaten hot from the oven, and equally good eaten cold.

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Tutorial: The Magic Watering Can

Early September is the best time to visit Araluen Botanical Park near Roleystone, Western Australia. That’s when the Tulips come out in force, creating beautiful, vivid, natural fields of colour that attract photo-happy visitors in their thousands every day. I was lucky enough to visit Araluen recently, and came away with 500 or more images in my Samsung Galaxy S4’s camera roll.

Here is the link to Araluen, so you can read for yourself about the fascinating history of the park, and enjoy images of the flowers within. Not just Tulips, of course – I also saw Magnolias, Camellias, Californian Poppies, Bottlebrush, Zinnias, Daisies, and many more flowering plants that I’m not familiar with.

I’m still sifting through my images of Araluen, but decided I’d share with you all how I created this one of a humble metal watering can. This was by a patch of wonderful Californian poppies, in a vegetable patch next to the Araluen Gift Shop. I only managed to get 2 shots of the watering can, as a little girl nearby took a fancy to it and toddled off with it a few seconds later.

Here is the original, unedited image:


I ran this through the app Repix, which recently became available on the Android Playstore. The effects I used were Drips and Daubs. I used Drips to obscure the background around the watering can, then Daubs for the finer parts that Drips proved too big for. I also used Repix’s other controls to tweak the vibrance, brightness, contrast, temperature etc.


Next, I used PSTouch, another universal App to blend both the original image and the Repix image. I used the Screen blend mode. I wanted a painterly look for the background, but I also wanted to further delineate the outline of the watering can.


After this, I used the App Smoothie to further enhance the image. I recently downloaded Smoothie and am currently experimenting with it and am pleased with it so far. Here is the image post-Smoothie, the effects I chose are very subtle.


After this, I decided to run the image through Repix a second time. This time, I added some glittering sparkles around the watering can’s spout, to look as if stars were coming out of it instead of water. Then, just for fun, I added some dandelions, to look like they were twirling around the magic watering can. I hope it’s as magical for you as it obviously was for that little girl who ran off with it!


Finally, I used the Android App “Add Watermark” to sign off the image.


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Unknown Artistic Insect Builds a White Picket Fence to Protect its Nest of Eggs | Colossal

I am reblogging this, in case anyone can shed some light as to what the architect of this strange construction could be. If I were Troy, I’d go back to the source, set up camp, take lots of photos and notes, and wait to see what emerges from the cocoon. If indeed that is what it is.

Isn’t Mother Nature wonderful?

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Featured Artist AlyZen Moonshadow | Artsy Shark

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So pleased to make it as a Featured Artist on Artsyshark, the best resource for artists.