Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Barred Owl visits for Sunday brunch and has the early bird special.

On Sunday we had drama at the bird feeder. It had already been "found" by a beautiful, rose-breasted grosbeak and, we later discovered, his less-colourful mate. We then added a suet-holder, filled with peanut butter-flavoured suet, which I had read on a bird photographer's blog page was attractive to a number of birds, including Baltimore Orioles. By Sunday, then, we were host to a pair of Baltimore orioles and what could have been a pair or a family of catbirds all feeding avidly on the suet holder. I was taking a few pictures through the side window which looks onto the feeder pole and was more than a little shocked to see a huge barred owl less than 20 feet from the house and only about 12 feet from the feeders. He or she was magnificent and just sat, very still, watching the small birds feed and presumably deciding which one was going to become an early lunch.
I did not manage to photograph the owl seizing his or her prey but I think that the victim was one of the catbirds - probably a young one - caught unawares and carried off onto another branch to be quickly devoured. All the while that this was going on the other birds carried on as though nothing had happened and I took these shots of Mrs and Mr Grosbeak, Mr Oriole and a surviving catbird.
The owl flew onto another branch, a little further away from the feeder and sat there for about a quarter of an hour before flying up into the trees, perhaps to make another kill or maybe just to head for home.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Odd Car Ads

Two recent ads, both for cars, have struck me as being odd. The first begins with a group of bank robbers with pink ski masks discovering that their getaway car has been stolen or towed. One of them says that they should have left someone to mind the car...they run away from the bank...another says that they aren't going to take a cab...they then steal a red Prius, well not exactly steal because they leave a bag containing some of the stolen money with a thankyou note attached....last we see them driving out of town with police in pursuit but also with crowds of people apparently cheering them on.

What is the message here? It's OK to rob banks? Priuses are great getaway cars? Priuses are easy to steal? Fashionable bank robbers wear pink ski masks? If you want to be seen as a Robin Hood-type character then steal a Prius for your getaway car?

The second ad is really sentimental, right down to country music in the background. It depicts a sympathetic-looking bearded character with a 14 year-old dog (we know the dog is 14 because his owner has bought him a birthday cake with 14 on it) going through a bucket-list for the dog which includes some kind of game involving lots of tennis balls, hanging out together, tracking down the dog's old girlfriend and going to the beach, to name but a few. All very soft and squishy and set to country song about best friends and being there till the end.

So, what are the takeaways and what on earth does it have to do with Subarus? Has the dog just been diagnosed as being terminally ill? Does he have an appointment to go to the vet's to be put down? Why else the rush to complete the bucket list? Why the Subaru? Are we saying that the owner has to have a reliable car to complete the bucket list? Is it implied that Subarus last longer than dogs? Every time I see a Subaru now I am wondering if the owner is embarked on a bucket-list treasure hunt or perhaps taking time off from working on the bucket list. I pity the poor dog whose owner comes home with a brand new Subaru - "Oh no, not the bucket-list!"

This is all very different from another current Subaru ad which shows a (female?) lab driving around at night with her puppy in a child-seat in the back, presumably being rocked to sleep by the movement of the car. It kind of makes you wonder that if Subarus can be driven by dogs perhaps the old guy (dog) should be doing his own bucket list or at least some of it but that wouldn't quite have the same emotional "pull" as the whole master/dog thing.

And for something completely different? Here's are pictures of a cute tufted titmouse and a pine warbler - both on a bird feeder here in Tillson, New York.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Some recent culinary adventures....

These are not in any particular order....just posting a few dishes, recipe links and photos. The first is a recent dinner party dish Thai pork tenderloin salad which worked out very well. Because the marinade was so rich and flavourful I cooked it and served it on the side to add to the meat or salad.
As an additional vegetable I served cauliflower, roasted with anchovies, capers and drizzled with olive oil, a delicious side-dish. Surprisingly (for me) none of my three dinner party guests had ever eaten clotted cream and so, to rectify this, I had decided to try my hand at making scones (a first for me) and serve them with a small jar of Devon clotted cream and a mixed berry jam, both purchased from Adams at Kingston. My scones were a little crumbly but everyone liked them. Following this baking success a couple of days later I decided to try savoury scones, reducing sugar, substituting yoghurt for fresh cream, adding cheese and swapping chopped sun-dried tomatoes for raisins. As a further experiment I made two of them with capers as well as the sun-dried tomatoes. The mix was a little 'sticky' and hard to work with and the scones themselves came out quite crumbly but they tasted good. The first picture is of the ones with just sun-dried tomatoes, the two in the other picture have capers also: From late 2015 here are two of my creations: the first, a quiche with bacon, cheese, red onions and yoghurt - Last, not least, is a 'light' Italian cheesecake made with Ricotta cheese which was on (very) special at Shoprite for just $2.99 for a 32 oz tub. It is topped with fresh raspberries and pomegranate seeds:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Making Kombucha in Tillson

I'm a lifelong lover of fizzy drinks - from Vimto, a blackcurrant/berry soda, in my British childhood days to Asti Spumante and then Bollinger champagne and whiskey and dry ginger in my drinking days and most recently seltzers and diet sodas. I was therefore intrigued by a new (to me) drink which I discovered in Mother Earth in Kingston which is one of our favourite shops for the staples of Sue's anti-cancer organic diet. They have a small display with four or five spigots, rather like mini beer taps, and tiny white paper cups so that one can try "classic", "ginger", "blueberry" "pumpkin spice" and other flavours and self-serve larger quantities. Sue explained to me that this drink was Kombucha which she described as a Korean concoction made with live cultures which it is claimed has all kinds of health-giving properties.

I couldn't resist trying it and loved the effervescence and light, sophisticated, dry taste. A sampling of Kombucha became a regular highlight of our visits to Mother Earth though it seemed like an extravagance to buy at around $4 for a 16 oz bottle, barely a couple of mouthfuls to an avid fizzy-drinker like me. However my curiousity was not going to be placated that easily and I began doing online research about Kombucha and its properties and how it is made and it became clear that it is not that difficult to make at home. So it was that a week ago I found myself in Bed Bath and Beyond buying a 1 1/2 gallon glass jar with a spigot and then going on to Mother Earth to buy a 16 oz jar of "Classic", unflavoured, Kombucha with which to start making my first SCOBY which means “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts”.

This is what it looked like after a few days:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Links to new sections on Fine Art of America site:

Here's one for Winslow Homer art: winslow homer art and here are some links another for Winslow Homer Seascapes, winslow homer seascape art and victorian paintings This one is specific to hiroshige art but here is another to japanese drawings in general. This one is to botanical prints and another to birds drawings and birds paintings. We have a large section devoted to owl paintings and owl painting prints. Joaquin Mir, sometimes referred to as the Van Gogh of Spain can be found using keywords spanish painting prints.

Friday, June 28, 2013

More links to artwork on the Fine Art of America site

Here are some links another for James Mallord Turner, the painter of light, a man who was definitely ahead of his time: mallord turner art and turner framed prints I even have some of my own photographic prints such as these of new york night art and cows art and angels art and butterflies art and collages like the ones I made featuring klimt art and my meditation art images. Some listings are by artist name such as rossetti art, collier art, millais art, leighton art, audubon art, mucha art, waterhouse art, morris art, munch art for sale. Others are by subject such as the serenity prayer art,stained glass art, lady of guadalupe art,virgin mary art,

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Have just posted a batch of images to a Print on Demand site that I have not used before. Here is a link to some pre-raphaelite paintings there. On the same site I have also added a small section devoted to John Singer Sargent, the iconic painter who is probably best known for his portrait painting but actually produced a much wider portfolio of work. You will find that section via this link best sellers - john singer sargent art Another new section is devoted to vintage illustrations of owls and that can be found here: best sellers - owl art and owls art and birds art

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Gateway Site Under Construction

Just discovered Wix and am in the process of building a new gateway which will link to products for sale on CafePress, Zazzle and maybe also on StainedGlassPhotography.com Trying to publicise some of the great new, fairly upscale, products now available though print on demand. Check it out at Fine Art Designs.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

For the YES campaigner who has everything....

A 2014 YES campaign laptop bag.

or a handbag that one would not find in Margaret Thatcher's wardrobe:

The 2014 YES campaign messenger bag.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Europe is becoming a pivotal issue

This is developing into a very complex and fascinating issue involving 3 or more geographical areas and different political groupings within each. It is so complex that I seriously doubt my ability to distill the whole thing into something neatly laid out in the way that blog articles usually are. However, I will try to set out some of the issues as I see them and I will let the readers (if any, LOL) judge whether I have made done justice to them.

Firstly the anti-European sentiment in the UK has recently increased to the point where serious doubts are being expressed about the government's ability to contain it. There is an excellent article in the Economist this week which sets out some of the issues and options and one of the premises is that the British Conservative Party may come under irresistible pressure to conduct an in/out referendum and if one were to be held today there seems to be a high probability that the vote would go against the status quo.

This whole situation is exacerbated by the economic crisis which has befallen the countries within the Euro zone and what many perceive as the inevitable demise of the Euro and all it entails. Already there seems to be a strong possibility that Greece may be forced out of the Euro Zone and Spain is in an economic, financial and banking crisis which may require more of a bail-out than Germany (for one) is willing to sign off on. Even if Spain turns out not to be the proverbial straw Italy and France have their own problems which could reach similar proportions if they are not there already. Clearly the possibility cannot be discounted that the Euro Zone as we know it may cease to exist. This does not necessarily entail the complete dismantling of the EEC but it would require at very least a fundamental rethink.

A further dimension is that even if the existing Euro Zone was to somehow, miraculously, survive the current crisis the potential departure, or even continued failure to join, of the UK might inofitself lead to Germany pulling out because within the EEC, if not the Euro Zone, the UK and Germany have similar views about economic policies and Britain has been an ally to Germany in countering some of the excesses of the countries along the southern fringe.

It should be pointed out, however, that some of the alternative scenarios alluded to in the Economist article are not universally viewed as being viable. A very recent article by Tony Blair dismisses, out of hand, the 'Norway' and 'Switzerland' options. Here is what Blair had to say: "Let us first demolish one delusion, namely that Britain could be like Norway or Switzerland. Norway has a population of around 4.9 million and a GDP of $485.8 billion. It also has a sovereign wealth fund currently valued at more than $600 billion and set to rise to $1 trillion by 2020, owing to vast oil and gas reserves. If the United Kingdom, with a GDP of $2.4 trillion, had a wealth fund of roughly $3 trillion, all of the arguments would change. But it doesn’t. And no serious case can be made that Britain could become like Switzerland, a unique case politically and economically. Britain outside the EU would face three major disadvantages. First, it would lose its global leadership role. There should be no illusions about this. The idea that it would then seek new relationships with the likes of China and India is fanciful. Neither country would ever subordinate its relationship with Europe to a relationship with a non-European Britain. Second, leaving the EU would exclude it from the decision-making process determining the rules of the single market. British companies know this; so do global companies that use the UK as a European base. Finally, Britain would lose the opportunity for cooperation and added strength on issues that it cares about – for example, climate change, trade negotiations, foreign policy, and bilateral disputes – at a time when others are seizing the opportunities offered by regional integration. From the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – now with roughly 600 million people and looking to get a single market underway – to the African Union and South America’s Mercosur and Unasur, countries everywhere are coming together in regional blocs. Will Britain drift away from the one on its doorstep?"

Now let's look at the situation which is developing regarding Scotland's standing in the EEC in the event of independence from the UK. At first the assumption was made that because Scotland and its citizens had been members of the EEC for 40+ years they would naturally have the continuing right to remain so, albeit under a different flag, as an independent country and under the same or similar treaties as enjoyed by the UK as a whole. Although this could yet be a tenable position and has not been fully rejected by the great legal minds within the EU bureaucracy in Brussels Jose Manuel Barroso has come out, guns blazing, with a clear and unequivocal statement that if Scotland should vote for Independence then it will be back to square 1 in terms of membership of the EEC and that all treaties would need to be renegotiated. Opponents of Scottish independence have been quick to point out that this could necessitate Scotland joining the Euro Zone and adopting the Euro plus a closed border with England. The former is almost certainly a deal-breaker in the eyes of all but the most fervent Nationalists, especially in light of the current Euro crisis, the latter might be welcomed by some, especially if the rebuilding and staffing of Hadrian's Wall led to significant job-creation. Here is a link to an article about Barroso's position .

The fact that Barroso has his own agenda here should not be overlooked. He is having to deal with the issue of growing Nationalism in several European countries, particularly in Spain where the momentum is being all the more fueled by the country's economic and banking crisis, to say nothing of 25% unemployment. Clearly giving Scotland a green light to smoothly transition to becoming an independent state and maintaining EEC membership on substantially unchanged terms may not be seen to be in the best interests of maintaining stability across the Region irrespective of the rights and wrongs or even legality of the matter.

What has yet to unfold is a good summary of the economic pros and cons of Scottish membership of the EEC - both from Scottish and European perspectives. Just how valuable to Scotland are those treaties which are in place? Does the Scottish fishing industry stand to gain or lose by membership or non-membership of the EEC on current terms? What would the EEC stand to lose if Scotland became like Norway? Will Scotland be a net positive contributor to the EEC and by how much? What would Scotland stand to lose if it ceased to be a member of the EEC?

It really is a fascinating issue and I am actually beginning to wonder if the timing of the referendum needs to be pushed back. What concerns me is that it appears unlikely that the UK's position vis a vis the EEC may not be clear within the 18-month or so time-frame within which the referendum has to happen. Similarly it may take longer than that for the economic crisis within the Euro Zone to stabilise, if indeed it ever can. Stepping back and looking at these issues one cannot help but wonder if 2015 or 2016 might not be better timing for the referendum. From the "Yes" campaign standpoint the only reason why sooner might be better is the uncertainty created by the anti-European movement in England and the rest of the UK which might be destined to take the UK out of the EEC, whether the Scots like it or not.

I am going to end this now. I did not expect to reach a conclusion and I have not reached one. Personally I still believe that Scotland should vote for self-determination and should not have to look towards Westminster for decisions about its future. Scotland's place in Europe is something that has to be worked through but it is possible that there could be very viable, perhaps even highly desirable, courses open which do not require membership either of a United Kingdom or an EEC or Euro Zone. Scotland is much more akin to Norway in terms of size, population and, hopefully, oil-prosperity and this might be a better direction to take. I certainly think that there are a lot of Scots who would welcome the opportunity to wave two fingers at BOTH Barroso AND Cameron. Perhaps I have reached a conclusion after all.....

Monday, December 03, 2012

A post or maybe an 'aide memoire'...

Today I stumbled on 2 quotations which I liked and which might find their way into designs before too long. The first is a a quote from Winnie Ewing - one of the early SNP MPs, who won a landmark by-election in Hamilton in 1967. On the night of her victory she is quoted as having said 'stop the world, Scotland wants to get on' which resonates just as much today as it did almost half a century ago.

Winnie, who sounds like a real character and someone who it would be a delight to meet, I'm sure, recently warned that the people of Scotland should not be fooled by empty promises by Westminster as happened in the 1970's. Apparently during one of her conversations with Sir Alec Douglas-Home just before an earlier referendum she delivered the second quotation which caught my attention, this one by Burns who said: 'The herts aye the pert that aye maks us richt or wrang'.

Winnie's advice to the Scottish people today is "So let's not have a repeat of history, and not be gulled by empty promises from David Cameron.

"When Alex Salmond comes forward with the referendum in autumn 2014, grab with both hands the opportunity for Scotland to become an equal and independent nation. Alec Douglas-Home offered Scotland "jam tomorrow" in 1979 - and we got 18 wasted years. Scotland has another opportunity to take a step forward - and I'd advise the people of Scotland to trust themselves, not Mr Cameron."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Getting up to speed....

Here is one of the brand new designs I came up with and which I'm actually quite pleased with, it also works quite well with the blue version of the women's raglan style pictured here. I just hope that people don't think of it as dyslexic or a typo! To be on the safe side I added "Yes in 2014".

Before going any further I have to mention an excellent blog that I highly recommend to anyone who hasn't found it already. It is Auld Acquaintance by Rod Macfarlane and I very much like his style.

Now, by way of background, let me share some of my thoughts about Scottish Nationalism. My awareness of the movement really dates from when I was in my mid teens, at school in Carlisle. What I remember about it was how the Scottish Nationalist movement won my respect over similar movements on behalf of Welsh Nationalists and the Irish Republican movement. Rightly or wrongly the impression I had was that the Cause was pursued by the SNP by political and non-violent means which was not the case with the Irish - think Tower of London and Harrods bombings - or the Welsh - "come home to a real fire, buy a holiday cottage in Wales..". Even if the Welsh campaign was a long way from being as violent and aggressive as the Irish one there was also the issue that Wales seemed to lack the critical mass and credibility to be a stand-alone nation both of which Scotland clearly had, in spades. I have therefore been pleased to watch, with much admiration, the gradual devolution which this quiet and civilised campaign has brought about.

As I mentioned in a comment I left on Rod's blog I have a strong sense that if the referendum is allowed to take its course and is a straightforward yes/no vote then there really is only one possible outcome and that is a "yes", and probably not a marginal "yes" at that. I simply cannot see how a majority of thinking (or even non-thinking) Scots could possibly decide that their best interests are served by an elected body comprised predominently of non-Scots, sitting in London. Even in England the people around the periphery in counties like Cumbria, where I grew up, do not get much of a voice in national politics and are never at the front of the queue when it comes to the allocation of resources. At risk of labouring the point Scotland's interests simply have to be better served by an Untied Kingdom.
For sure the campaign will be a real fight, there are too many vested interests at stake, both real and imagined, and the political machine in Westminster will do its utmost to derail the campaign for independence. Only yesterday I noticed a blatant piece of scare-mongering when some august body or other (I plan to do a separate post on it in the coming weeks) warned that Independence could "wreak havoc" with the pensions of people north of the border. Clearly this is just one of the issues which will be used to try to galvanise the Scottish voters into inaction.

What I have not yet got my mind around is the extent to which the process has been agreed upon. If I understand the situation correctly it has been agreed that the vote will be a simple yes/no vote. I am not totally clear what outcomes have been agreed upon - for example, if the vote is "yes" will that definitely mean that Scotland will become a free-standing country in its own right and enjoying similar status on the world stage to, say, Eire? I am aware that there has been some recent debate concerning the situation vis a vis membership of the EU and if I read it correctly the consensus is that if Scotland becomes independent there will be no problem maintaining membership of the EU separately from what remains of the UK this being despite what some anti-Nationalist scare-mongers had been contending. On a very simple, practical, level if Scotland votes "Yes" in 2014 when is independence likely to happen and is there any spanner that can be thrown into the works? Clearly one potential 'spanner' - a requirement that, even if there was a 'Yes', independence would require a positive vote by the UK as a whole before being ratified - was stopped in its tracks earlier this year.

Clearly I have much homework to do if I am to become a meaningful contributor, in however small a way, to this process but I do find the whole process fascinating and I really do care about the outcome. So, for now, "Cheers!"

Friday, November 30, 2012

Celebrate Scottish Inventiveness for St Andrew's Day

As St Andrew's Day dawns in Scotland I am proud to launch the complimentary line of apparel, household and gift items to accompany the Scotland the Bright Calendar. Please check them out via the link on the side-bar just across from here.

If anyone reading this thinks that Cafepress is just tee shirts and mugs then think again. In addition to the traditional items we now have all kinds of bags, shower curtains, duvet covers, cushions, cocktail plates, coasters and even yoga mats. The process of sizing images and creating items is still ongoing - as of today there are no badges, magnets, cards or yoga mats, to name but a few. There is, however, a rather fine set of curtains containing a collage which has over 40 major inventions with the inventors all set against a background of 12 different tartans.

I have also been doing my homework concerning the Saltire. At first I was puzzled by the different shades of blue I was encountering but Google soon came to my rescue and this is what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

The Scottish heraldic term for an X-shaped cross is a 'saltire', from the old French word saultoir or salteur (itself derived from the Latin saltatorium), a word for both a type of stile constructed from two cross pieces and a type of cross-shaped stirrup-cord. In heraldic language, it may be blazoned azure, a saltire argent. The tincture of the Saltire can appear as either silver (argent) or white, however the term azure does not refer to a particular shade of blue.

Throughout the history of fabric production natural dyes have been used to apply a form of colour, with dyes from plants, including indigo from Woad, having dozens of compounds whose proportions may vary according to soil type and climate; therefore giving rise to variations in shade. In the case of the Saltire, variations in shades of blue have resulted in the background of the flag ranging from sky blue to navy blue. When incorporated as part of the Union Flag during the 17th century, the dark blue applied to Union Flags destined for maritime use was possibly selected on the basis of the durability of darker dyes, with this dark blue shade eventually becoming standard on Union Flags both at sea and on land. Some flag manufacturers selected the same navy blue colour for the Saltire itself, leading to a variety of shades of blue being depicted on the flag of Scotland.

These variations in shade eventually led to calls to standardise the colour of Scotland's national flag, and in 2003 a committee of the Scottish Parliament met to examine a petition that the Scottish Executive adopt the Pantone 300 colour as a standard. (Note that this blue is of a lighter shade than the Pantone 280 of the Union Flag). Having taken advice from a number of sources, including the office of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, the committee recommended that the optimum shade of blue for the Saltire be Pantone 300. Recent versions of the Saltire have therefore largely converged on this official recommendation. (Pantone 300 is #0065BD as hexadecimal web colours)

The flag proportions are not fixed although the Lord Lyon King of Arms states that 5:4 is suitable. (Flag manufacturers themselves adopt a variety of ratios, including 1:2 or 2:3. The ratio of the width of the bars of the saltire in relation to the width of the field is specified in heraldry in relation to shield width rather than flag width. However, this ratio, though not rigid, is specified as one-third to one-fifth of the width of the field.

Last, not least I have also been navigating my way around the various design options that Blogger.com provides and have added links from the side-bar to my other web-pages where visitors can make purchases.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Taking up The Cause...

The title lacks the oompf that I would have liked but after staring at the screen for 5 minutes and then, out of desperation, Googling other blogs on the subject I have drawn a blank in terms of finding the right words.

To describe what? Well, for the first time in my life I think that I am actually becoming a political activist. For the 25+ years of my adult life that I spent in the UK I always thought of myself as being issue-driven rather than partisan and more often than not didn't even vote in elections much less get actively involved in the campaigning. Then, in the 16 years or so that I have lived here in the US, I have had the legitimate excuse that as a non-citizen I have no right (or obligation) to vote in elections here and no real interest in exercising my right to vote in British ones.

So, what has changed? Well, quite unexpectedly I have found myself becoming caught up in the campaign for Scottish independence.

First of all I should point out that I do have some Scottish heritage. I was born in Carlisle, just a few short miles south of Gretna Green and the border with Scotland. My father was Scottish and although his parents had both passed away long before I was born we did have fairly close ties with his sister, aunts, uncles and cousins and I can always recall having a sense of pride in my Scottish roots.

One of my regrets is that I did not spend more time visiting Scotland during my adult years in the UK but the temptation was always to go somewhere with guaranteed sunshine for vacation and that meant places like Spain, Greece, Italy and then more adventurous destinations such as Florida, California, Hawaii and the islands of the Caribbean. I did make a few trips north of the border during the years immediately before and after my move over here and actually married my 3rd wife in a historic little church in Ruthwell, just outside Dumfries.

Now, let's fast-forward to 2012. In order to make some income I am trying to come up with ideas and designs to increase my sales on Cafe Press. I decide to exploit two ideas; the first is a completely new store - FineArtDesigns - initially aimed at exploiting what I expected would be an upsurge in interest in Pre-Raphaelite art as a result of the Tate Exhibition in London and the second was to do something I had long wanted to do - a calendar and/or posters showcasing Scottish inventions and inventors.

This last idea is something I have thought of doing, in some form, for several years. It stems from an awareness (with pride) that Scotland has spawned far more than it's fair share of major inventions over the last 3 or 4 centuries. For reasons that are really not obvious this tiny country, not much bigger than South Carolina, with a population that has never been much over 5 million has given birth to a long list of inventions in medicine, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, engineering, science, electronics, communications and many more. Most were invented by Scots in Scotland, some by Scots working abroad (including England) and some by non-Scots working in Scottish institutions. What I have long thought of doing is to somehow pull together some of the most famous, most important ones and display them artistically with pictures of the inventions and/or the inventors.

I freely admit that my motive was not entirely selfless. I know that I am not alone in feeling a sense of pride in my Scottish heritage and I do believe that there is a market, among Scottish people and others with Scottish ancestory, for posters, calendars or other items which reflect Scottish achievements. However, although I had thought it through conceptually, this was not slam dunk in terms of actually creating the art and so it didn't get done. Until recently, that is, in fact until the wee hours of this morning.

What came about was a gradual realisation that there was something going on in Scotland right now which could greatly affect the saleability of artwork along these lines. The something is the movement towards nationalism. For anyone who stumbles across this blog who does not know what is happening in Scotland it has just been decided that in the autumn of 2014 there will be a referendum to decide whether Scotland will become independent or remain part of the United Kingdom. I will not go into the issue in detail here, that can wait for another day, but suffice it to say that even now, 2 years from the vote being taken, the debate is lively and set to beome even livelier. For my part, although I have no right to participate in the vote itself, I do have an interest and perhaps for the first time in my life am feeling myself being pulled into a political contest.

In the course of designing my calendar, which showcases over 40 major Scottish inventions, I hit upon a slogan which I hope may catch on; it is based on just one of those inventions - the incandescent light bulb - by James Bowman Lindsay in 1835. My slogan is "Vote Bright, vote Yes" a variation might be "Do the Bright Thing and vote Yes" I believe it translates into Scottish gaelic as "Dean toinisgeil" but I need to check that. Here is a link to the calendar

This is probably my longest blog post ever and so I will call a halt for now but it will be the first of what I hope will be many.

Friday, November 09, 2012

As a good friend of mine used to say "Only in America" This afternoon I was doing some searching online and noticed a huge spike in activity on Twitter around the name 'Petraeus' - a name I'm only vaguely familiar with. In fact it sounded very much like the name of one or more of the Roman generals I had been reading about yesterday when doing research into Queen Boadicea. In any event it transpires that General Petraeus was, until earlier today, the head of the CIA; that is to say the Central Intelligence Agency and not the, some would say more useful, Culinary Institute of America.

It really is quite amazing to watch just how quickly a story like this can spread on Twitter. Wildfire doesn't even begin to describe it. One minute there are just a few 'Tweets' and then all of a sudden the keyword, in this case Petraeus, goes into the top 10 and then we have lift-off.

Within not many minutes it became clear the Petraeus had resigned as CIA director because the he had been caught, seemingly by the FBI, having an extra-marital affair with the young ex-soldier (lady) who was 'embedded' with him when he was heading up US forces in Afghanistan and has since written his biography called (wait for it..) "All In" which is being published (and will surely sell out now) next week.

It seems that everyone, from newscasters to talk show hosts to journalists and bloggers, was all over this one. Puns abounded, comparisons and contrasts with Clinton and his affair were piled on top of simple observations such as just how come the Nation's Chief Secret-Keeper couldn't keep a secret.

It does appear that General Petraeus had difficulty distinguishing between 'Overt' and 'Covert' and there seems to have been an issue concerning access to confidential emails given to his mistress/biographer. However, one cannot help but conclude that the improved relations between agencies such as the CIA and FBI which America was striving for after 9/11 may not be as good as had been hoped.

There are also, as usual, some conspiracy theories largely around the fact that Petraeus was apparently due to give testimony next week concerning an incident involving the CIA - a duty which will now fall on the Acting Director.

On a totally different subject anyone reading this might find some items on CafePress amusing. They are based around 'Famous Last Words' - not actual sayings but what some famous historical figures might have said. My favourite (so far) is the one attributed to Marat though I also like the Edgar Allan Poe one. Here is a link.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I have been busy and so it is timely to provide an update on some of my stores on CafePress and Zazzle.

1. What started off as a showcase for gift items incorporating Pre-Raphaelite art now has a rapidly-growing section devoted to the work of some artists from the Art Nouveau Movement. What brought this about was the discovery that some Art Nouveau and Art Deco items were listed as 'best-sellers' and so I decided to create some offerings aimed at meeting the demand.

2. On Zazzle I redesigned Poe Gifts to be a little more Poe-esque rather than have the plain vanilla off-the-peg store. I still view it as a work-in-progress and may tweak it after I have finished on the current phase of the Art Nouveau project.

3. I also gave PreRaphaeliteArt its own identity and store design. There is still much to be done in terms of populating it with items but I do like the design and I hope that visitors will find it attractive and be enticed to buy from it.

See other gifts available on Zazzle.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Some Edgar Allan Poe gift items:

See other gifts available on Zazzle.
Some Pre-Raphaelite gift items:

Browse other gifts from Zazzle.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's that time of year....

....calendar time! Time to relaunch old calendars with a new year on them, time to design new ones. So far I have launched 5 brand new, never-seen-the-light-of-day-before, calendars. Three are devoted to Edgar Allan Poe - actually to illustrations of Poe stories by Harry Clarke. As well as being one of the top 3 Irish stained glass makers of all time (don't ask me who the other two are), Clarke was a superb book illustrator whose work embellishes two editions of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination. I have two wall calendars on CafePress one a large size and the other, what CafePress describe as "Oversize". last, not least, there is one on Zazzle.com which has the same artwork but is just a different size and format. If Poe's gothic horror stories are not your cup of tea perhaps I can interest you in a Pre-Raphaelite Beauties calendar. This features paintings from a selection of artists who painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style - including Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Millais and Waterhouse. The Pre-Raphaelites are enjoying a resurgence of interest as a result of the opening of a new exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London, the first major event of its kind in almost 30 years and I have decided to mark the occasion with some calendars devoted to the works of some individual artists who painted in that style. The first of these is devoted to the work of Gabriel Dante Rossetti and includes an interesting cross-section of his paintings spanning several decades.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reincarnation or rediscovery?

Posting again after a 4-year absence is daunting to say the least but the necessity of creating some links to a couple of new shops on CafePress is sufficient to twist my arm.

The first shop is based around some Victorian paintings, mostly Pre-Raphaelite but with one or two other favourites thrown for good measure. Interestingly my first sale from this venture was a King size duvet cover with a print of the Village Wedding by Luke Fildes. Oh, how CafePress has moved on from when it was just tee-shirts and a few ceramic products! The duvet was a marketplace sale and was priced at $175.

The second is something completely different - Poe Corner which contains some items based on Edgar Allan Poe, his writings and some art which has been inspired by his stories.