Another painting

I did another painting on Sunday.*

abstract art

I’ve been trying to work out what’s brought on the sudden painting thing over the last couple of weeks (the researcher in me trying to analyse myself, no doubt), and wonder if it’s the sunny weather – it’s been sunny both Sundays when I’ve painted, so there does seem to be a pattern so far. That and the fact that I’ve had a couple of blank canvasses doing nothing and waiting to be painted, although I’ve had those for months, so maybe it is the weather after all.

I was a bit stuck for what to do when I first decided I was actually going to paint, and sat for ages thinking about it, not having a clue where to start. Eventually I decided I just needed to paint something to get myself started, so I painted the background pale blue. From there I ended up free-styling a bit with various colours at one end of the canvas, ending up with a sort of grass effect. The ‘grass’ wasn’t particularly intentional, but it meant I could add a sky at the top, and a couple of white clouds to fill the rest of the pale blue space. I did the clouds with my fingers and there was something quite nice and free and childlike using my fingers to paint, so maybe next Sunday I’ll have another go at that. The taller grass ‘stalks’ are bits of paint I mixed with water and then blew across the canvas. I enjoyed that too, and I’m thinking next weekend might end up being messy if I have another go with a bigger canvas (I have a wall to fill upstairs)…

I’ve now run out of canvasses anyway so need to top up if this is going to become a habit. I’ve nearly run out of white paint as well; I’ve got through a couple of tubes so should invest in a big one. Might even treat myself to some new brushes…oo-er. Whether I bother might depend on how sunny it is though, if my theory’s right. Or maybe it’ll just depend on whether I can be bothered to go and buy some canvasses this weekend.

*On proofing this post, it occurred to me that putting this sentence as a statement, on its own line and everything, makes it sound like it’s a big statement. Maybe something important. Something foreboding even. It isn’t (at least, not to me, you might be afraid of painting or Sundays for all I know), it was just the first thing I wrote to get this post started today, but I decided I quite liked the dramatic effect so decided to leave it. (I like a bit of drama every now and again.)

Bank holiday artday

Rather than spend bank holiday Monday doing anything particularly productive, like cleaning or gardening (I did the front lawn over the weekend, and no-one really sees the back garden except the window cleaner, so that can wait), I thought I’d do a bit of art. I remembered I’d found a brand new set of acrylic paints a few weeks ago when I was tidying up and got quite excited about painting something, but had the same problem I usually do when deciding to paint in that I didn’t know where to start. I have some stamps from my late Granddad’s stamp collection which I’ve had a play around with art-wise before, and a bit of inspiration from Pinterest suggested I combine the paint and stamps by choosing a stamp and expanding the picture around it with paint.

Admittedly, this isn’t as intricate as the one I got the inspiration from, but  I really like the concept and think I’ll do more of these.

I also had a go at an abstract painting. I’ve decided I quite like acrylic paint, it was easier to work with than oils because it dries quicker – so if you change your mind, you can just paint over it. I used a lot of white though, so think a big tube of it would be a good investment for next time, I’ve almost run out.

3 ways to be more creative

creativity screenshot

I had a play around with PowToon a few days ago to see how easy (or not) it was to create animated PowerPoint-type presentation videos. As I’ll be running a workshop at the BIG Conference in Brighton next week about being more creative, I thought I’d use some of the initial workshop content in it, hence the video being about ways people can be more creative. Only three ways mind you, it was designed to be a short video.

Here it is on YouTube. I actually started a PowToon video on behavioural economics based on the course I’ve just done, but because I decided I needed to think for a while about the content, it didn’t work as a quick experiment, so I switched to the creativity one. Maybe I’ll get back to the BE video another day.

I reckon it took me about three hours in total, having never used it before, and I don’t think the results are too bad. I’ve over-used some of the effects (e.g. text appearing in the same way throughout) but it was pretty intuitive to use, and very similar to PPT, just with timings for all the animations.

There are some limitations to having a free account, mainly the relatively small number of icons available (you’d soon tire of using the same ones over and over) but you can upload your own images, like I did with some of my photos – or you could use icons created in Illustrator etc. and upload those. I actually forgot to look at changing the background music, but I think there are more options with the premium accounts.

You also only get 30 ‘exports’ of whatever videos you create with a free account, which are exports to YouTube but don’t allow you to download the file. Presumably once you hit 30, you have to buy a paid-for account. And obviously the PowToon branding is all over it, which it isn’t with the paid accounts.

PowToon is still in beta but given how straightforward it was to use, I think we’ll see this kind of animation software quickly becoming more and more commonplace as a communication tool, both generally online (we are visual creatures after all) but also in the business world. In my day job as a researcher, we’ll see people increasingly using this kind of software as substitutes or companions to market research outputs; short, snappy and engaging ways of getting across key messages to busy stakeholders. If you can use PowerPoint, as 95% of people in the ‘presenting’ business pretty much do, then you can use something like this, so why wouldn’t you if you want to make an impact? (Unfortunately, many people who think they can use PPT, and I don’t just mean researchers, do a pretty awful job, so maybe there’ll be some pretty awful animations to look forward to over the coming months. Although more than likely these people won’t bother as animations will be too much of an effort and they’ll stick with the bullet-point and bar chart PPT default.)

I’m planning to suss out a few similar programmes over the next few weeks (this is only the first one, so I can’t say it’s the best, but it was certainly easy to use), so if you have any tips on what to look at next, suggestions would be very welcome.

6 second video

Here’s my entry to a 6 second video competition, organised by Research Through Gaming. The competition is inspired by Vine’s 6 second videos, and the idea is to create a 6 second video (ideally in Vine, but if not, upload one via YouTube) about market research. There are a few categories/themes for the videos, like common market research problems or views on the future of research. I’m not really sure my entry actually meets any of the categories as it’s basically my parrot Kev, doing his thing. I just thought it would be funny to give it a market research slant. It’s also not made in Vine – there’s no way he does this stuff on cue so I’ve had to edit it.

Whether it’s eligible or not, it made me chuckle anyway, hope you enjoy it.


A walk in the woods

These are a few photos from a walk in the woods near my house last Saturday (I still haven’t used up the film from the walk!). I went during the afternoon and by the time I was on my way back, the light was at its best as it was getting towards the end of the day, although I’m not sure I’ve really done it  justice. (These were all taken with my DSLR.)

On the water shots below (and the one above), I used a new variable ND filter, not something I’ve used before, so that was a bit of an experiment. I’m fairly happy as the ND was easy to use and definitely made a big difference, although don’t think the focus was quite right, and next time I’d probably try to get a bit more of the background in. But not too bad for half an hour spent fiddling. The picture on the left has a 13 second exposure, while the one on the right is only 3.2, which shows how much additional time you can expose for when you vary the ND effect. This will be great for long daytime exposures in future.

fisheye camera

First foray into film (for a while)

fisheye cameraI’ve been reading a bit about Lomography recently and although I haven’t used film for years (I had various cameras for holiday snaps in my younger days),  yesterday I bought myself a Fisheye One film camera from the Lomography shop in Manchester. It was a bit of an impulse buy as I only went to have a look around, but they had 50% off any cameras without a box, so the camera itself was only £22. Felt like it would have been rude not to buy one at that price! 

It’s green, doesn’t need batteries as it’s all mechanical (there is a flash which takes a pencil battery which I haven’t tried yet), and lightweight, so easy to carry around. Here are the stats, taken from

* Weight: 0.5lb (0.23kg)
* Format: all 35mm (color negative, slide, b&w)
* Field of Vision: 170 degrees
* Approximate focal length: 10mm
* Fixed Aperture: f/8
* Fixed Speed: 1/100

I’ve been out and about today to have a play around with it, and despite buying three films with 36 exposures each, I’ve only taken about 12 pics. To be fair, I had my DSLR with me as well, so I was more focused on playing around with the ND filter I also bought yesterday, to try out some long exposures. But having film did make me much more careful about what pictures I was taking. With hindsight this was a bit of a mistake, as the whole point of playing around is to see what works and what doesn’t, so next time I need to make sure I use up the film otherwise I don’t think I’ll find out what does work! Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

Time to get on with editing the long exposures first…

learning the basics of portrait pics

Last week I went on another photography course at Manchester Photographic. It’s the fourth course I’ve been on – this was the intermediate, I’ve already done the beginner’s, a street safari course and one taking photos of Manchester at night.

We spent time in the studio, taking portraits of each other and using lighting and reflectors. Homework in between the two days (it was a Sat/Sun course) was a self-portrait – which feels pretty weird when you’re not usually the one in the photos (as you’re usually taking them). Not sure I want to brave posting one of those up yet, but it was interesting experimenting with tin foil and card as a makeshift reflector at home, although I found unless you use a mirror (which I didn’t), it can take a LOT of shots to get a decent photo, even with a remote release!

We also went down to the canal to stage some photos of each other as different characters ‘in situ’ (there was some initial panic of ‘how am I going to find a rock star and a politician in the next hour?’ from someone who didn’t hear the full instructions to start with). Here are my best attempts at a homeless person and a politician – hopefully you can tell which is which. I don’t usually shoot in black and white, so that was a bit of an experiment too.

[I was nominated to play the rock star but obviously didn’t take any pictures of myself so I can’t show you my moody Manc-rocker-with-‘tude look, what a shame…]

photo course homeless character

photo course politician