Monday, 14 September 2015

Lino and doublers

It's all official, my course has made it into the Art Centre's autumn brochure! To book call Newcastle Arts Centre on 0191 2615618 and we'll look forward to seeing you in December.

I'm busy planning and plotting what we'll do and doing plenty of visual research so I'll have loads of images laid out to inspire the class. Here's a couple to get the creative juices flowing.

Buttercups and Daisies linocut by Helen Roddie

Happiness on the underground linocut by Pedro Demetriou

The workshop will be relaxed and fun, so don't worry if you've never done a linocut before there will be plenty of help and time. It can be a simple or as complicated as you like. Once we get printing you can print on almost any surface and I will bring in some interesting papers for you to try.

As well as printing I've also been enjoying making wet felted flowers that I have then made into brooches. I was really pleased that I managed to teach myself how to make double petals too! All brooches are hand stitched and beaded and will be on sale in the Craftshop very soon. 

Some of the brooches are inspired by the ever changing sky in Scotland that we watched every day from our holiday cottage in Ardnamurchan. A couple are my take on hot house flowers in the exotic section at Kew gardens, with their layered petals and interestingly shaped petals. Others, well you'll just have to pop into the shop and read the back of the card to find what inspired them.

Currently reading: Sonic Wonderland by Trevor Cox (all about sounds and science)
What I'm up to at the minute: still working on my art journal when I get time and designing linocuts.

Friday, 14 August 2015

A chip off the block - Lino printing

Exciting news, I'm leading a one day workshop at Newcastle Arts Centre on the 12th December!

I'm really excited (and a little nervous) about doing this workshop as I love lino printing and it will be great to spread the word about this lovely print technique. It will be a fun and relaxed workshop,where we will look at the design of your plate, as well as cutting and inking techniques. We will also explore how you will be able to use your new skill at home and other surfaces you can print on. 

The workshop is well timed for Christmas so you could come and make a gift or card, alternatively you could make a plate for any occasion so you can enjoy using it at home.

For details on how to book your place please visit

A selection of my lino plates.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Art journals and getting creative or a few of my favourite things

Have you ever thought about making or creating an art journal? I have been doing a little bit of research about it both online via Pinterest and blogs, but also by flicking through a few book dedicated to art journalling techniques and hints. I love to experiment and try new stuff out, but have never thought about putting it all in a book. Some things that I've tried have worked and I've squirrelled them away for another day and stuff that hasn't worked, has found it's way into the bin.

Lately I've found that I have wanted to make and design things but feel that I have a lack of recent artwork to use. That has led to a bit of a creative blockage and some frustration. I've felt the need to get back into drawing again, but finding a topic to inspire has sometimes proved uninviting or a case of "that old nutshell again". I have thousands of my own photos stored on my ever faithful but slow computer and always think that would be good for a project, just for them to sit there gathering digital dust!

So I bit the bullet and after digging around for ideas on how to kick start myself again I decided to try journalling. I may not stick to 1 page a day, it may be more like a page or 2 a week as I juggle it around work and other commitments. But I'm going to give it a bash.

My theme then......A few of my favourite things. Here is my list to prompt my lovely new creative journal.
The list is in no particular order, just what popped into my head at the time. It is by no means the limit of my favourite things either as I have many and the word FEW means just that.

Armed with my list it was time to get on and start.......I picked my first topic Marek and decided to use a picture of him that I really love and have lovely memories of a day out drinking coffee and chilling out.
 Marek, he calls it the "on the dodgems."

 First outlines. I coloured the page so I wouldn't be working straight onto white and as I sometimes struggle with proportions I traced a few lines from the photograph. I then drew in a couple of outlines and dark strokes in his hair.
 Adding skin tones can be a little bit tricky, but I tried to look for the colours in the photograph and keep note of highlights and shadows.
 Hair done, but his eyes need a little more work and softening.
I decided to tackle the eyes later and moved onto his jacket and shirt.
After some thought and asking a work colleague about the eyes and background, I managed to soften the eyes and add a little more detail to them and then added the dodgem (sofa he was sitting on) too.

I drew the picture with a mixture of media to help reflect the textures in the photo, Polychromos pencil crayons are great and add loads of colour and are easy to blend and shade. If you use a burnisher it smooths out some of those crayon marks.

So now I feel I have the creative juices flowing, well almost and will endeavour to complete my whole list of favourite things and enjoy experimenting along the way.

All images Copyright to Tracy Bidwell @Ballistic Owl

Friday, 5 June 2015

Busy bee and coin purses

Wow I've just realised how time has flown since my last blog! Hope I still have a few loyal followers out there :-)

I've been pretty busy at the art shop and also have a spot or two in the Craft Shop selling my brooches, cards and my new little project below coin purses. The lovely ladies in the shop have been keeping me quite busy with requests for hand made bits and bobs, so on my days at home I've been creating all sorts of lovely stuff. To see some of the things I've been making and to keep up with my studio life check out my Facebook page.

The Craft Shop is a great place for those unusual gifts for birthdays, weddings and Christmas or just because you want to treat yourself or a loved one. They stock handmade pottery, jewellery, cards, bags and have a lovely selection of cards and wrap too.

My gorgeous little coin purses are on sale £13.99 for the small (approx 10cm x 10cm) one and £15 for the larger ones (approx 15cm x 12cm). They are printed on 100% cotton, lined and with a good quality zip.

Layout idea and prep for screens.

Coin purses in progress all hand screen printed and machine stitched.

Little collection all complete and ready to deliver to the Craft Shop.

Thank you for stopping by and hopefully it won't be as long for my next post.

Reading: Girl gone by Gillian Flynn
Next project: felt card toppers and more printing.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Fuzzy felt and hot wax

Oh it's been all go in the Ballistic Owl studio since my last blog post! I approached the Craft shop at Newcastle Arts Centre to see if they would consider taking some of my work and they said yes :-) big smiles all round. 

So I've had all my felting things out and have been producing some gorgeous brooches, cuffs and necklaces for the shop. It's been great fun and I've loved sitting stitching, inventing new designs and finding my collection of beads and bits. Each brooch is unique and although I may use the same shape the finished product is different. They will make a great gift for a loved one or a fabulous treat for yourself, pop in store and take a look at the whole range.

This weekend I was really pleased to have the opportunity to go on a Batik course with the lovely Heather Gatt, who is a highly recognised artist and lives in the wonderful Whitby. Heather's course was great as she started us off with a demo of how we could use all the tools and how to set up our frames and also an alternative way to use the wax resist for a more painterly image. After a busy week in the art shop this was a fantastic was to unwind and get messy!

 This one and the one below were made using wire shapes and the canting pen. The top piece I decided to crackle to produce the fine veining.
This next one was done using the more painterly method of drawing onto the cotton and then building the colour layers up one at a time, blocking each colour off with wax as you went along. I really liked this technique and enjoyed making my echinacea, although now I've removed all the wax I would have preferred my background to have been a little darker.
 Heather also had lots of stamps and I loved this delicate rose one. It was made of tiny metal wires and similar to a printing block. It took some practise to get it to leave the right amount of wax behind, but in a way I liked the imperfect ones too.
 First attempt with the stamp above and several goes later below. I might now stitch into the not so good ones and see what I can make with them.

So what fun I've had and guess what's going to be on my Christmas list this year :-)

Reading- Still making my way through "S" which is like 3 books in one. Also making a start on Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Brancepeth, leaded glass and cloud watching.

Thanks to a tip off from Stitch in Tyne we visited the fascinating Brancepeth Castle on Sunday to see the craft fair and an interesting building and surroundings. Stitch in Tyne's stall was gorgeous and her bookwarmers and prints seemed to catch many a persons eye. We are now the proud owners of one of her paper cut prints which has pride of place on our mantle piece.

Besides looking round the craft fair, were explored the castle and the surrounding area. The castle has an interesting history due to it having several owners, two of which had the castle confiscated by the crown one for planning to depose Queen Elizabeth 1 and the second for a poisoning scandal. In the 19th century it was restored  and some Victorian Gothic elements were introduced into the structure. It was also a hospital for recovering soldiers from the first world war. It also has a connection with the well known local ditty about Bobby Shafto as Bridget Belsayse who's family lived in the castle in 1701, whose heart was said to have been broken by Bobby.

Here are some photos taken from our little exploration of the grounds.

 Lovely windows set in lovely Gothic inspired stone work. Even the windows for the basement are pretty.
 I just loved the font on this no parking sign, and the fact that there was a motorised wheel chair parked underneath it!
 The delicate web adds an intriguing pattern to this old door bell surround.
 The church next to the castle had some amazing leaded windows all along one side no two were the same. For more pictures of these gorgeous windows pop over to Ballistic Owl 

 On the way home we decided to drive over the moors and go the long way rather than up the A1. The clouds were fantastic and we just had to stop and watch them for a while. 
I've quite got into cloud watching and have taken a few photos of ones that have caught my imagination, these hot summer days sometimes seem to produce the best cloud formations.

Reading at the moment: S by J J Abrams and Awakening by Sharon Bolton

See you next time thanks for stopping by :-)

Monday, 7 July 2014

The land of green beauty

I've been struck this last week at the beauty of and the many shades of green nature has to display. We've just spent a lovely week in the Southern Lake District, in a log cabin surrounded by big trees in full leaf and peace and quiet, no phone or data connections! So the mobile was switched off and the pad and time was spent enjoying a book, walking and taking lots of photos. 

 Bunnies were abundant around the site and it was lovely to take a photo of this little fella having his bedtime wash.
I was struck by the gorgeousness of the greenery and the reflections in Loughrigg Tarn that was a short walk from where we were staying. Perfectly still bar a few ducks floating around and the light was just right to create this complete reflection below.

I thought the pattern potential in this insect house was great and took pictures of the different styles of bug house within this box.

The fabulous owl sanctuary at Muncater Castle, I must say I could have stayed all day just in that one bit. This shy looking owl posing in this lovely setting will fight most things off and away from it's nest including humans, so don't get too close.

Below is a close up of the beautiful markings on the Fishing owl, he sat very patiently on his perch, casting a glance to passers by.

I'm still building up my collection of old and worn images and some day I will do something with them. I loved this old bench, reminded me of ones we used to see when we were small in parks everywhere. This one a little tired looking and covered in lush green moss was near the waterfall up the hill from Ambleside.

This sign, which I'm determined to decipher caught my eye at Muncaster, another shade of green blue against the vibrant green of the beech leaves of the ancient tree.

Everywhere we looked despite there being reports of the lack of rain in the Lake District was alive, blooming, lush and vibrantly green. The rolling hills and forests were such a refreshing change of scene and hoofing up to the top of some of those hills was definitely worth it!

Currently reading as part of our book group: Instructions for a heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell, brilliant so far.