Sunday, 31 January 2010

Great Sitcom Characters - Ben & Sam

Here's a clip from one of my favourite sitcoms, Lead Balloon, featuring the brilliant scene-stealing characters Ben and Sam (Rasmus Hardiker and Antonia Campbell-Hughes). A self-indulgent post for the simple reason today is Rasmus' 25th birthday.

If you're not familiar with the show (then you're missing out), Sam is the daughter of Jack Dee's character Rick. Ben is her boyfriend (although I can't imagine them Doing It because that would require them finding some energy).

They're never in the show for more than a couple of minutes but every week they bumble in, scrounge all Rick's money and come up with half-hearted ideas for things to do. Sometimes I relate to these guys a bit TOO much!

All of this is made even funnier when delivered with Rasmus' laid-back Birmingham accent.

A 4th series has been promised and the series 3 DVD is well overdue, so I hope they hurry up. Funny BBC sitcoms are getting a bit thin on the ground, sadly.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Briefs Encounter

Those lovely people at Café Press have given us 3 gorgeous new products to play with and I've now launched them in my Heart shop (the other shops will follow during the next week).

Just in time for Valentine's Day, you have 2 new items of American Apparel underwear to treat your favourite person to (even if your favourite person's yourself!)

For the ladies, there are these comfy yet sexy Boy Briefs inspired by the classic men's style. They're made of a blend of 95% cotton and 5% elastane (Spandex).

With 3 hot colour combos to choose from (and my artwork printed on the front), these briefs are very flattering, eye-catching and still extremely comfortable.

The guys can be treated to our new range of Boxer Briefs, another new twist on an old classic. These are made of 100% Baby Rib cotton with no front opening and offer you a great look without sacrificing support. (Note, please order a size too large as they may shrink on first drying.)

These also come in 3 mean and moody colours, with my artwork printed on the front of the right leg, and are bound to get you noticed!

In other - somewhat less wearable - product news, you can now order a set of 4 stackable ceramic mugs. Each holding 14 ounces (compared to 15 ounces for the large mug already in store) their pinched bases allow them to be stacked neatly together.

The outsides are white, each printed with the same artwork (again, just on sale in the Heart shop at the time of writing). The insides are painted in a different cheerful spring-like colour, you get one of each in Avocado, Sunflower, Sky Blue and Papaya.

Safe for use in the microwave and the top rack of the dishwasher, these mugs are pretty, practical, generous in size and brilliant value for money.

To order any of these products, please click here or use the heart button on the left hand side of this page. They will be added to all other shops in the next few days, keep watching this blog or my Twitter and Facebook updates for breaking news.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Sunday Head****

This amazing painting has been in the newspapers this week, together with photos of how it was made.

If you missed out on seeing it, head on over to this page at the Mighty Optical Illusions site and you'll see exactly how it was done.

The painting is the work of Craig Tracy and here are some of his other masterpieces. Without knowing how the images were created, these will really make you question exactly what you're looking at.






If you have a look at Craig's website, you'll find fascinating insights into his motivations and technique. There are also plenty of behind-the-scenes photos and videos which will help you make sense of it all. Even then, you still might not believe what you're seeing is true.

Friday, 22 January 2010

They're Furry And They're Free

As much as I want to promote my own art on this blog wherever possible, sometimes I have to step back and wallow in someone else's genius.

That's why I've now given over my Twitter and Facebook links to the amazing icons designed by Andrea Austoni. They're so cute they'll make you want to give your screen a cuddle (don't, it won't be very comfy.)

They're available for all the major social networking sites, each in four sizes. Here are the largest versions so you can see all the gorgeous details.

The best thing of all is that they're available for anyone to download for free (yum, my favourite price!) Just visit this link to

Thursday, 21 January 2010

This Old Heart Of Mine

You've hopefully noticed that I'm in well into my Valentine's Day promotion. For this week and next, my Product Of The Day will be one of the gorgeous items featuring my heart design. How can you resist treating your special someone (or even yourself) to one of these beautiful unique gifts that just scream "I love you"?

The little thumbnails can't really do justice to the intricacy of this pattern, so here it is at a larger size. If you click on it you'll see it even larger and there you can admire it in all its glory.

You can probably work out it's based on the hearts in the "I 25.12/12.25" designs. When I first created them, I selected the six snowflakes from the Zapf Dingbats font then used a random number generator from Mrs Glosser's Math Goodies to decide which order they should go in (yes, even my randomness has to have some structure to it!) Once roughly placed, each snowflake was then rescaled to fit inside the "I " shapes so that they fitted together like a jigsaw but not sized too uniformly.

When it came to converting the pattern from Christmas to Valentine's Day, I replaced each snowflake with a heart from one of six different fonts (so snowflake A became heart A, snowflake B became heart B, etc). Again I had to manually resize them to perfectly interlock with each other.

Creating these hearts was a fiddly, time consuming process. It was all done with love though, so you can pass it on and show how much you love your special someone.

These designs are available nowhere else but through my shops, so you really will be getting something unique. Plus you'll have the lovely warm glow that can only come from helping an up and coming artist get off the dole queue. (Honestly, there really is no other feeling in the world as good as that.)

For delivery in time for Valentine's Day, I recommend ordering before Friday 29th January 2010.

To visit my Electric Hearts shop, click here or choose the button on the left hand side of this page. Of course all the other shops are still open, each with over 100 products that would make great Valentine's gifts.

So, go on, instead of those flowers or chocolates you normally buy, why not choose something extra special, not available in the High Street, which really says you've given your loved one some thought this year?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Happy Birthday To The Young Ones

Today is the 31st birthday of singer, actor, national treasure and reality talent shows' Original Gangsta Will Young.

From a country that treats its reality contestants as a bit of fluff for a Saturday night but rarely supports them long after Simon Cowell's moved off to the next incarnation of his cash cow, Will's longevity has been like a diamond in the rough. There's no doubt that if he hadn't won the very first series of Pop Idol and then taken firm control over his own career, those major stars who have come from the Idols or X Factor franchises, such as Leona Lewis, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or more recently JLS and Alexandra Burke, would not have had the chance to enjoy the massive careers they have now.

Love the reality format or hate it, there's no doubt it's one of the major cultural markers of the early 21st century. With the news that Simon Cowell is leaving American Idol to launch X Factor USA (over which he'll have more control) and that his Syco company has signed a new deal with Sony to unify its TV, music and merchandising projects, there's every chance it will continue to dominate our screens and radios well into the 2010s.

Will's 2002 debut Evergreen/Anything Is Possible achieved sales of 1.8 million, making it the biggest selling single of the decade. With the shift towards downloads, which you can get whenever you want rather than just when the CD is in the shops, this is an achievement which is very unlikely to be beaten.

Will's best loved song, though, came out in November 2003 launching his second, most successful, album Friday's Child. Leave Right Now, written by Eg White and produced by Steve Lipson, became one of those seminal love songs that struck a chord with fans, thanks to its theme of really wanting to get back with an ex but forcing yourself not to because you know it would be bad for you.

It was promoted by one of the classic pop videos of recent years, directed by 10CC's Kevin Godley. All done in one shot (and needing 19 takes), it shows Will pestering someone at an art gallery and causing chaos in his wake.

Click the still to see the video (and note the waitress' obsession with the 2005 Rear of the Year!)

Not only is it's Will's birthday, but also his twin brother Rupert. As Will learned to cope with his new found fame, he was hiding the fact the person closest to him was struggling with depression and alcohol problems. Thankfully Rupert has come out of the other end much the better and is now running his own charity. The Mood Foundation helps people with mental health problems, especially those who can't afford private treatment or who fall outside the threshold to qualify for mainstream services.

Will helping Rupert in his fundraising mission to ride a pedalo up the Thames in 2008. Also pictured is songwriter Karen Poole.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Sunday Head****

Today, a celebration of the king of the pavement head****, Julian Beever.

Since the 1990s, Julian has shifted the image of pavement drawing from being just chalk graffiti done by starving students into an amazing new artform. His photo realistic skills and ability to render distorted perspective (oblique anamorphosis, to give it its technical name) have propelled him into being one of the best-loved artists of the 21st century. His popularity has been helped no end by the power of the internet, as people emailed photos of his work to their friends, unable to believe what they were looking at or how the effect was achieved.

As it's just chalk, his work has a fleeting nature to it. He often has to erect a canopy whilst working to protect it from the rain, and once revealed it's at the mercy of the elements and pedestrians' feet (who'd want to walk over it, though?) The work can only be preserved and appreciated at its best through photography, as the perspective is designed to be viewed from just one angle and Julian can often be seen checking his progress through his viewfinder (having erected his camera on a tripod before starting work) to make sure he's getting exactly the effect he needs. Watching the artist at work, though, is like a performance in itself, and there are plenty of "How Do They Do That" videos on YouTube, including this one:

As you will have noticed if you watched that video, Julian's work lends itself brilliantly to viral marketing, and a lot of his work these days is promoting well known brands. You tend not to notice the advert in there and just want all your friends to see how amazing the art is.

So here's to Julian Beever, ****ing with your head in more ways than one.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Winter Wonderland

Being stuck at home isn't all bad, if you can gloss over how feeble you feel when you can't make your Job Seekers' Allowance cover all your bills, along with all the paranoia about how you must have written a subliminal "DIE YOU SCUM" message into all your CVs and THAT'S why no potential employers are ever getting back to you.

Ho hum.

Anyway, today is a day I can positively relish not having to go out in all that slippy-slidy snowy stuff. I'm here with my tea and biccies, wearing an unfashionable big jumper and still able to plug my shops and do my networking.

There was the unexpected surprise of the BBC changing their schedule last night, replacing football with a repeat of New Tricks. Not just ANY episode, but Father's Pride, the one with The Beautiful Rasmus Hardiker (high on my list of favourite Midlanders).

Then my artistic eye turns to the scene outside. It's not the superficial Christmas card prettiness of it, but something about the way the snow reflects the light back up and changes the whole atmosphere of the place.

In particular, I'm haunted by a sight I saw on Tuesday night. We'd had quite a heavy blanketing and there were still snowclouds covering the whole sky. I'd dozed off earlier, meaning I was bolt upright after everyone else had gone to bed. Sometime after 2.00 am I went into the kitchen and looked out into the garden. There's no artificial light covering that area so normally it's pitch black. That night though, the combination of the heavy clouds and the snow on the ground, reflecting what little light there was back and forth between each other, meant that the whole scene was almost as clear as daylight. Every little detail of the garden could be seen, but the whole thing was bathed in a strange pale orange glow.

Absolutely stunning.

I only wish I had some sort of highly expensive camera that could capture the scene and do justice to the colours, but I'll just have to draw something from memory.

So anyway, I've taken some daytime pictures for reference and here are a couple of them for you to enjoy. It also gives me a good excuse to tell you how my little feathery friends are coping.

A wide shot of the garden, taken at about 10.00 am today. The camera struggled to cope with the sheer whiteness of the scene, which makes the sky look darker and more dramatic than it really was. In the centre of the picture (between the bird table and ornamental well planter) you can see a little dark dent in the snow. This is a plastic bucket lid I've had to lay down to put extra food on. Some birds, notably the blackbirds and dunnocks, refuse to come onto the bird table so I have to have some method of putting food on the ground. They get some mixed seed, peanuts, sunflower seed hearts and - only in freezing weather because they're expensive - dried mealworms.

On the right hand side, in front of the shed, you can see the little stone birdbath with a green plant pot tray next to it. Providing water for the birds in this weather is just as important as the food but it's extremely difficult. I'm out with a kettle 3 times per day. I can normally get the big bath on the bird table clear at least once a day, but I've had to give up on the little one. It was just spilling over and freezing on the path. So I've added the plant pot tray as an alternative because some birds like the lower height and being undercover of the shed.

The bird table and the 4-part planter to its left stand on drain covers. We have the sewers running under our garden and the heat from them is keeping the covers clear!

Not much sign of the squirrels during this snowy spell. We have 3 regulars (2 of which I think are mother and child but she hasn't bothered kicking Junior too far out of the drey) but last week, on a clear but frosty morning, I actually saw 4! The regulars didn't put up with the intruder so I don't know if it'll come back. I really wish I could put little coloured tags on them to tell them apart.

Frozen birdbath, snowy bench and trees.

The pampas grass has taken a bit of a battering under the weight of the snow. About half of the stalks are broken. Still, if I tear off some of the fluffy plumes and leave them in the corner of the garden after the thaw, the birds will take them to line their nests. Something nice and cosy for their bums.

Winter. We moan about it when it's here but we kind of miss it when it's gone.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Socks Review 2009

If today was your first day back at work after the holidays... well frankly I envy you having a job to go to. Other than that, though, you probably need a bit of cheering up.

So, making no apologies for giving these "guys" another plug, here's some of the top stories of 2009 as seen through the ping-pong ball eyes of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre.