Alan Mackenzie

We look before and after, and pine for what is not;

Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught; 

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

~ Percy Bysshe Shelly

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.

~ Aristotle

His name is Alan Mackenzie and while still living his human life he faithfully served as Quentin the Vampire Botanist’s valet and butler. Later he was promoted to Estate Manager, but regardless of title, he was always and ever Quentin’s good and true friend.

Quentin’s parents were hardly ever around and when they were, they weren’t. His mother far too busy socializing, his father much too engaged in gambling, together their parental sense combined could not fill a buttercup. The lonely, odd, and somehow lost little boy was often left in the care of Alan. He was one of the very few people that could make Quentin laugh and became the only man that Quentin ever trusted.

As many of us can attest, Life can throw us bitter curves and wrench our hearts with twisted luck. We all have regrets or sadness to bear. Quentin’s deepest grief came from the fact that Alan Mackenzie saved his mortal life and lost his own while doing so. He wasn’t even given time enough with his friend to thank him or say good-bye. Yet to have become a Vampire he could do nothing to bring Alan’s sweet and brave, funny and smart soul back to this world. Like only we mere mortals can, helpless to do otherwise, he grieved the loss of his friend.

Many years later, when Quentin began conducting his plant experiments he knew that though his plants were fierce and each had their own special defense, he needed a protector for them. Someone he could trust. Someone not a vampire. Someone who would watch over them all day and all night. Someone or…something.

He could think of no one more valiant and trustworthy than Alan. He exhumed Alan’s body and in a macabre ceremony, removed the rotted, earth-bound flesh and imbued Alan’s bones with plant and Vampire essence.

Alan is glad to once again be of service to Quentin and now sits at the garden’s gate, watching over the PlantVampings and occasionally regaling them with stories of Quentin as a boy or entertaining them with his jokes, which are always of the most moldy and cornball variety. No one cares though and everyone always laughs, because somehow Mr. Mackenzie has a special way of making a bad joke sound very humorous, indeed.

It was a true delight to sketch Mr. Mackenzie. Running an estate as vast as Quentin’s can keep one very busy. Although from what Quentin imparted to me, no matter how busy he might be, Alan always had time create laughter. He’s even more lighthearted now. As did life, death suits him. It doesn’t suit everyone, you know.
I drew Mr. Mackenzie in pen, scanned and uploaded him onto my laptop. I then printed him out on 100% recycled stock (Quentin would approve) and painted him.

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A Charm for Your Pocket

Starlight

I will be

Chasing 

Starlight

Until the end

Of my life.

~Starlight, by Muse

I’ve always considered myself an individual with a high-functioning-multiple-personality-disorder. There are a lot of us in here. A lot. How many? I keep losing count. But this is not my point, my point is each personality seems to need her/his/its own field of expression: writing, painting, drawing, chasing after dust motes that look like ghosts, etc. Keeps me busy and off the streets. I highly recommend giving in to your creative impulses. It will require some *wrangling capabilities on your part, but I do believe that the **rope burns are worth it.

This post is about my latest creative impulse: Pocket Charms. Below is a record (of sorts) of my project. Making these charms works best if you have some knowledge of symbols and their meanings.

First you need a disc. My preference is wood. For some unknown and wicked reason I chose wood discs that are a mere 1 1/2 inches in diameter. What was I thinking? Yeah. That is one of the drawbacks to following one’s impulses. Things often turn out to be more difficult than initially anticipated. In this case, the discs are very small which makes painting them a bit of a pain.

Wood disc, size 1 1/2″ in diameter by 1/8″ thickness.

Here’s a few. Aren’t they cool? Each one has a different wood pattern. By the way, these discs are scrap. So, the tree that was harmed? Wasn’t harmed again to make these discs.

A few wood discs.

You will also need one of these.

Nail file. Just like (in fact is) sandpaper. You could always use sandpaper (ho-hum). Truth is, I didn’t have any sandpaper when this particular bee flew up my butt. And if that sounds uncomfortable, believe me, it is.

Yes. You really do need the nail file (sandpaper, whatever). These wood discs come with flaws. Mind you, some flaws are cool and should be left alone. Which actually makes them quirks, rather than flaws.

What’s the difference between a flaw and quirk? Flaws are annoying and paint goops up in them. Quirks are charming and talk you out of sanding them away and you only smile when you see paint gooping up in them.

Hmm…since I have these discs and a nail file and paper…

I see faces everywhere (and if they’re not there I’ll make them up), which I suppose is better than seeing dead people everywhere.

Hang on.

Much better, don’t you think?

You’ll also need lots of these.

Paints and brushes. You can sort of see the brushes in the little skull and crossbones cup. The skull and crossbones cup is not necessary; however, a cup to hold your paint brushes helps.

And then not-magically-but-kind-of-with-magic you get a bunch of these

Pocket Charms: finished and semi-finished  (the canvas has been painted on the wood disc, but the design isn’t there, yet).

Sometimes you mess up.

Yeah, I messed up, but it kind of looks like I found it in a treasure chest that sat at the bottom of the ocean for a hundred years. Sort of cool, so I’m keeping it to remind me to avoid messing up in the future.

Messing up is part of the being-a-human deal. Try not to let it bother you. You’ll feel much better after a little…

The failures are worth it when you get one of these…

This particular charm is for feeling good about one’s physical self.

After painting, you will need to coat it with a sealant. Oh, and remember to not only read the directions, but follow them as well.

Turns out “Shake can vigorously for 2 minutes” is actually important. Not 1 minute or 1 and 3/4 of a minute. I don’t know how the contents knows whether or not you’ve shaken the can for the exact 2 minutes, but if you don’t you may get one of these

If you’re not interested in making your own charm for your pocket, purse, bedside table, night cap or egg custard cup you can always purchase one of mine here. Each Pocket Charm comes with a spell printed on 100% recycled paper, and a little 100% unbleached cotton bag.

*No personalities are harmed during the wrangling process. After they’ve been wrangled they can express their thing (whatever that “thing” may be) and then are set free to graze or run wild, whichever or whatever may suit their individual fancy. This is why we all get along and haven’t experienced a revolution in quite some time.

**The rope burns are caused by holding on to the reins too tightly. You can avoid this by giving up the reins entirely. I have not given up the reins, because I really do appreciate the illusion of order.

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How much do you love Halloween? It’s the no-pressure-just-fun-candy-and-costume holiday! Come check out the Halloween Artist Bazaar‘s Trick or Treat Giveaway. Sign up is free and painless. Click on the picture below and sign up today!

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The Wintery End of Terrence

His name is Terrence. Terrence Mackenzie. Ringing any bells? No? He’s Alan Mackenzie’s younger brother.  Alan being the faithful valet and butler to Quentin the Vampire Botanist (and sometimes Fairy Gothfather…what can we say? Quentin is the wearer of many hats).

Younger siblings seem to excel at being thorns in their older siblings’ necks (or pains in their asses, whichever body part they can reach first). In the case of Terrence? He was what is politely referred to as a ne’er-do-well. Not a bad man, just not a very good one. He fancied himself to be a musician and he went off to the great City of Lost Dreams to make his fortune. Sadly, there was no fortune made; leastways, not by Terrence and certainly not in the City of Lost Dreams. Don’t waste any sympathy on him, as you’d be more likely find him tipping back a whiskey or two than picking up his fiddle.

Life never turns out well for ne’er-do-wells (the clue is in the expression) and Terrence was no exception in this regard. He hung out with all sorts of less-than-savory characters, but it wasn’t any of them who caused his accident. Jackie the barkeep warned him not to use the back door of The Scot’s Tide (which despite the name was no where near the ocean). Jackie knew that the lights in the alleyway were busted and no one had got around to replacing them, yet.

Unlike his brother, Terrence was a poor listener at best. Attempting to skip out on his tab, he went straight out the back door, slipped on a patch of ice and landed on his head. He lay in the alley until morning. This was nothing new for Terrence. He often passed out and slept in the alley; however, this time it was winter. The coldest winter the City of Lost Dreams had ever seen, before or since. Slowly freezing until his heart stopped, Terrence never woke up to a hangover again.

Although Quentin thought little of Terrence, he knew that he was Alan’s soft spot. After they received word of his death, he traveled to the City and brought his body back with him. Once safely back home, Quentin went to work using his Vampire magic and Botanist science, melting flesh off bone and imbuing Terrence’s skull with plant and vampire essence. This is not a pleasant process, but the end result is impressive.

Off the booze, Terrence has become quite responsible. You’ll often find him patrolling the estate’s perimeter and thoroughly enjoying giving a fright to anyone foolish enough that gets too close.

It was quite difficult to get Terrence to hold still for his portrait. Perhaps he has ADD. That would explain a lot, actually. Eventually I decided to jog along with him while he patrolled. I’m proud to report that I only ran into a tree once (it wasn’t hurt).

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How much do you love Halloween? It’s the no-pressure-just-fun-candy-and-costume holiday! Come check out the Halloween Artist Bazaar‘s Trick or Treat Giveaway. Sign up is free and painless. Click on the picture below and sign up today!

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Unscaredy Cat

Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.

~Mark Twain

Penelope the Cat once lived in dread of nearly everything. Especially high on her list were: giant spiders, trees with faces, dangling Jack ‘O Lanterns, and cat-eating flowers. As illogical as her fears may have seemed to others, she spent every waking moment and many sleepless nights living with a terrible anxiety that started like a hard ball in her small belly and seemed to shoot out her paws, tail, and whiskers. The fears were so big, that she wasn’t able to enjoy the wonderful people and treats when they came her way: Colleen, the nice old lady who always gave her lovely bits of cheese or fish, Danny, the neighborhood boy who delivered the papers and made a point of scratching Penelope in just the right spot, right behind her ears, and Lopsing, the Owl who watched over her, so she could try to sleep without worry.  Colleen, Danny, and Lopsing always had a kind word or a cookie for her. And they all told her that she needed to let go of her fears. Lopsing said to her on many occasions, “Enjoy what life offers, rather than worry over what may never be.”

We can’t ever seem to learn from what others say, even when it’s your best friends who say it, though can we? Penelope stubbornly continued hold onto her fears, refusing to attend parties with neighbors or go anywhere with anyone. She even began to avoid her best friends, believing that she was right and that someday her fears would be realized. “Then they’ll believe me,” she thought to herself. “Then they’ll know I was right.”

Not-so-strangely, one day it happened. While rushing to avoid one of her neighbors (who carried yet another invitation to yet another party) Penelope was so busy stealing looks behind her that she didn’t notice where she was going. She headed straight into the Big-Bad-Forest that lurks behind the fair and fog of every neighborhood. By the time she realized where she was, of course it was far too late! Running quickly can make one clumsy and directionless and she found herself smacking into a giant spider that hung from a very large tree with a face that had Jack ‘O Lanterns dangling from her branches and was surrounded by cat-eating flowers! Except…the flowers, though they did have amazingly sharp teeth didn’t want to eat her. The Jack O’ Lanterns, only smiled while dancing and dangling. The tree’s face was quite large, but also quite friendly. And the giant spider? Well, she only wished to have a chat. After all, cats didn’t drop into her lap every day.

Now if Penelope isn’t found entertaining at home you’ll find her attending a party at one of her neighbor’s homes. Otherwise? She’ll be in the Big-Bad-Forest having a gabfest with her newly found friends.

As is often the case for every one of us, Penelope’s fears turned out to be nothing more than whispers from dark, unused corners. Although at times those whispers can get terribly loud…

Titled “Unscaredy Cat,” I hand doodled the scene, scanned to my computer then using GIMP, added one of my photos of some dark clouds as the background.

Doodle Framed!

Be still your rapidly increasing pulse. My doodles have not been set up nor are they in trouble with the law. As far as I know no one even has it in for any of my doodles. The title of this post refers to the action of placing one of my doodles in a frame. Big whoop, eh? It IS a big whoop! I’ve never framed one of my doodles…ever. I’ve framed photos that I’ve taken, but never a doodle.

I even painted the frame. Oh get me!

Without further gibberish, here’s my Step-by-Step Tutorial of Framing My Doodle:

1) Start with a frame. So far, so good.

Unfinished and very inexpensive (sounds better than cheap) wood frame. Poor little frame. It had no idea what was going to happen to it.
Note: I think calling this frame “unfinished” is misleading. What exactly is unfinished about it? It’s not like it’s in pieces and I had to put it together. I believe that undressed is a better term. Without your clothes are you “unfinished”?? I think not.

2) Beat up the frame a bit. Let out some of your aggression and it will give your frame that cool, distressed look. Distressed=beat up. I (lightly) used a butter knife and the opposite end of my artist brush. Note: Photos of this process were edited due to the graphic violence. The frame was indeed harmed, but only slightly.

3) Get some paints. In this case I chose silver, black, and dark teal. I use airbrush inks. I like their translucent quality. Plus they were on the clearance table at my local art shop. $0.99 each! Whoo-hoo!

Airbrush ink: translucent black and dark teal, and opaque silver. Part of my scattered workspace lies behind. Aren’t you glad you don’t live here?

4) Make sure you have one of these. Although, painting with one’s fingers does have its merits.

Yeah, I use airbrush inks without an actual airbrush. Why not? They’re just acrylics.

5) After removing the backing and glass insert, I generously painted the entire frame with the silver and let it dry for about an hour or so. I then lightly applied the black, some of which I used at its full inky strength and some of it I thinned with a small amount of water.

While I was painting, I imagined that the frame was actually made of silver. Pirates stole it from a lovely lady’s cabin. Originally, it held a portrait of the lady’s fiancé, who she was sailing out to meet. Of course the pirates had no use for a sentimental portrait, and after cutting the portrait from the frame they took it and the lady aboard their vessel. Their plan was to ransom the lady off to her fiancé. Only they never had a chance to do so. Ironically, these pirates were attacked by another band of pirates. After the looting and pillaging, they burned and then sank the ship. This frame is small, only 5″x7,” and it was missed during their raid. Sadly, it ended up at the bottom of the sea for over three hundred years.*

To give it that its-been-sitting-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea-for-over-three-hundred-years look, I used the teal ink thinned with a little water and a tiny amount of the black ink. Overall, I’m pleased with the results and for me that is huge.

My dressed frame. Not to be confused with a dressed salad.
I like how I managed to get that somewhat charred look about it. This whole distressed (beat up) thing is cool. It’s sort of organic and real. Even though it’s completely fake.

6) Get to doodling! Yeah, some might advise creating your art first and then framing it. I’m sort of a build-it-and-he/she/it-will-come sort of gal. So, I did the frame first and then decided on what to doodle. Did this add to the pressure while I doodled, knowing that a frame was awaiting its completion? Sure, but if we don’t challenge ourselves, where’s the fun?

7) Ta-da! Finished product.

Ta-da!

This particular framed doodle will be added to the Halloween Artist Bazaar’s Trick or Treat Giveaway, coming soon for (duh) Halloween. Now that I’ve opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box, I’ll be venturing further into my madness and dressing up more frames, filling them with doodles, and finally posting them to my Etsy Shop, Cards for a Gloomy Day.

Thanks for tuning in. You may now return to your regular program.

*But how did the frame get here when it was at the bottom of the sea? Obviously someone found it, but who? And what happened to the lady?? I’m working on it.

Our doors are open!

Finally, finally our Cards for a Gloomy Day e-stores are open. Can you believe it? Don’t answer that. I know, I know, I’ve been working on this endeavor since December 2011! Starting a business is the ultimate roller coaster. Guess it’s a good thing that I love roller coasters…roller coasters riddled with cans of worms and an assortment of other challenges.

If you have a moment, please check out our e-stores and let me know what you think (be gentle).

Our facebook store  and our Etsy store

 We’re also featured on a fabulous and fun artist website Halloween Artist Bazaar.