An Award Winning Artist and his Art Show

Friday 15 June 2018

Remember this animation that James made?

I wrote all about it in this post here, and explained how James went about writing the music, recording the music, taking the photos and then animating it. 

Well, his art teachers were so impressed with it that they entered it into the annual Paolozzi Awards. The Paolozzi awards are held every year in Edinburgh to recognise and encourage young artists. All art teachers throughout the city are invited to enter any senior pupils that they think should win the award and James' teacher entered him for his animation. He had a phone call from his teacher last Tuesday telling him that he had been shortlisted for the final, which took place the following evening in Edinburgh's National Gallery.

We were all completely over the moon when the following evening James won the overall Paolozzi Prize!

After he had had his photo taken with his dad, above, he got to chat with some of the judges. This is him with Richard Demarco, one of the biggest names in Edinburgh's Art world and also one of the founders of the Edinburgh Festival.

It was a thoroughly well deserved prize for James. He put so many, many hours of work into his animation and thought through every little detail so well. We were all so proud of him, for working so hard and so pleased for him to have his hard work and talent recognised on such a big stage.

Less than a week later, this past Tuesday, the art high continued for James as we all went along to see his A-Level Art Show.

He has put a huge amount of work into his A-Level Art this year. Not just his animation, but all the preparatory art work he had to do as he explored the whole topic of  'Journey' before he worked on the animation; his architectural component; and all the work building up to his final component, which was titled 'Limitless'.

Let me take you for a look around his area of the art show.

First of all there was the big screen showing his now officially 'award winning' animation.

Beside it hung the certificate the school art department received for James winning the Paolozzi prize. Unfortunately the date has been printed wrong on the certificate, and also on the one James himself received, as it says 2016 and not 2018!

Hopefully you can read the paragraphs underneath. These are what his Art teacher wrote along with his entry for the prize.

Surrounding the screen with the animation was all the other work James did based on the theme of 'Journey', alongside his sketchbooks that keep a record of every part of work that he has done.

He made a series of little dioramas of a man on a journey going through different terrains. These were loosely based around The Pilgrim's Progress.

You can also see a couple of pages from a little book he made about the stick man that he would eventually animate. Fraser made a guest appearance in it!

These are some of his architectural project. 

And then this is all the work leading up to his final component, 'Limitless'.

A few months ago when James first told me that he wanted to do something that was equally impressive as his animation for his second component I told him he really didn't need to. Especially when he told me that he was planning to build a full size arcade machine. Not just build and decorate the shell of the arcade machine, but also learn how to code a computer game. And do the artwork to add to the computer game. And write music for it too.

I knew that the art work and the music wouldn't be a problem for him. I thought that perhaps he could build the arcade machine, but since he's never done any coding at all before, I honestly had my doubts about whether he could manage that part of it.

But of course he did manage it.

All of it.

He had many late nights while he worked on this, but the end result is the most amazing working arcade machine!

The boys all absolutely loved getting the chance to play on it after seeing little snippets of the game as it was written over the last couple of months.

The art work, music and overall style of the game is based on the old retro games that James loves.

The art exam took place over three days and the pupils can do as much preparation work for it as they want in advance. So James bought the mdf and spent about 8 hours one Saturday cutting out all the pieces he needed with a jigsaw. He bought an old computer monitor and used that as the screen. He bought a joystick and button set on Amazon. Of course he did all the art work for the game, recorded the music and coded it all in advance too. 

On the days of his exam he had to turn all of that into the arcade machine. I have no idea how he got it all to stay together so flawlessly, as there are no screw holes anywhere. Lots of dowels and wood glue I think he said.

Originally he had planned to paint the whole thing black, but then he had a last minute change of plan and went for the sky blue colour on the sides, complete with these amazing painted mountains on the bottom, which I think looks so much more impressive than if he had gone for his original plan.

These wee clips give an idea of what the game itself was like, and if you listen carefully you can hear how perfectly the music fits it too. He even managed to tie it together with his animation by re-recording part of the music from the animation on 8-bit sounds and using that for the section of the game that has forest in it.

It wasn't just our boys who were keen to play it either. I don't think there was any time during the art show that there wasn't a crowd of people around the arcade machine having a go on it!

And that's about all of his art work.

He's taking a well earned break from all those late nights of coding now!

People at the show were asking what James' plans are now that he is finishing school this month. He plans to take a year out and work while he decides what he really wants to study. He's planning to apply to study composition next year, although I think he does still think that maybe art could be an option. He also fancies having a go at working in the Gaelic media, and so he's keeping all of his options open for now and not rushing into anything.

Whatever he decides though, if he applies himself as much as he has done this year with his art and music then I know he'll make a success of it. And I couldn't be more proud of how well he has used his talents this year either.

Recipe of the Week - Cupcakes {Gluten Free and Dairy Free}

Thursday 14 June 2018

Since today is National Cupcake Day there was only one recipe I could really share for this week's Recipe of the Week.

Cupcakes are so simple to make and I make a batch of these almost every single week. They are so handy for an after school treat.

When we want them to be a bit fancier I will make them into Butterfly Cakes, like the picture below, by slicing a little circle out of the middle and adding some jam and butter icing to the middle before adding the centre, sliced in half, back on top.

But mostly we will just have them as normal cupcakes, finished with either a swirl of butter icing, or more often than not just a layer of white water icing and some sprinkles.

Fraser (4) loves to help add the icing to the cupcakes when I make them. Just look at that concentration!

These are the cupcakes we made today and we added a little yellow colouring to the icing since that is Fraser's favourite colour.

Now for the recipe.

You will need:

5oz gluten free self raising flour
5oz sugar
5oz dairy free margarine
2 eggs
2 tbsp soya milk

- Simply add all the ingredients to a bowl and then mix thoroughly, either in a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, until the cake mix is smooth and creamy.

- Add spoonfuls of the mixture into cupcake cases in a cupcake tin, until the cases are about 2/3 full.

- Bake at 200C for between 15 and 20 minutes, until they are golden and firm to touch on the top.

- Allow the cakes to cool before icing.

- Either mix icing sugar with water to make a smooth paste for icing or beat together about 9oz icing sugar and 3oz dairy free margarine until smooth and then pipe onto the cupcakes.

If you're looking for a variation from the simple cupcakes then how about trying either my quick chocolate cupcakes

Or perhaps the more fancy looking, but no harder to make, Camo Cupcakes.

Happy National Cupcake Day!

Weekend Happenings

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Well actually it's a teeny bit more than the weekend, as I'm starting with what we did on Thursday first.

On Thursday David (12) was performing in a little drama that his S1 Gaelic Drama Club have been working on all year. It was performed at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. Since we would have had a bit of a mad rush to get home from school in Edinburgh, quickly eat some dinner and then head straight back in to Edinburgh again, the younger two boys and I decided to stick around in the city between school pick up and the show.

It was another beautiful day and so first stop was for a little run around the play park beside the school.

After this we wandered along to have a browse in some of our favourite charity shops nearby before then making our way to Princes Street Gardens for our picnic dinner.

I had packed a flask of homemade tomato soup, some oatcakes, cooked chicken and a selection of sweet treats for after. I brought some enamel mugs for us to drink out soup out of and Ally (9) absolutely loved it. He said he felt like we were really old fashioned people from the olden days!

The two of them had such fun running around playing at Super Heroes in the little spot we had chosen for our picnic.

While I watched them playing, and listened to their endless stories about Super Heroes and questions about which one I was in their current game, I also happily passed the time cutting out and sewing up some hexies. Yes, another new-found craft love of mine!

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way to the Storytelling Centre for the show.

The drama was a fun one they had written involving lots of songs that Fraser (4) and I sing when we are at Cròileagan (the Gaelic parent and toddler group) together, so he was really looking forward to it. They encouraged lots of audience participation and Fraser didn't need to be asked twice when they were looking for volunteers to go on stage! David played the part of the duck, that's him in his 'duck pond' at the bottom right!

It was a fun little show, Fraser and Ally both enjoyed watching it and David enjoyed taking part, even though he said he had been a bit nervous when he saw how full the theatre was.

On Friday we kick started our weekend with a barbecue in the sunshine. 

It had a few quirky touches thanks to some fun extras I had bought in Home Bargains.

My favourite barbecue food is a good quality burger on a soft roll, with some lettuce, a squirt of burger sauce and some pickles. Perfect!

It seems that nobody is too old, or too cool, for a twisty fruity straw.

Rounding off a simple dinner, we had ice lollies for pudding. My favourite? A mint Magnum.

Then once we were all back inside we played a new board game that Fraser had been desperate to play all day. We had picked this Disney Pixar game up in Home Bargains too, and it was a great little game to play, especially for Fraser and Ally. 

Saturday was sunny again.

Hubby was working, James was working at his Saturday job and Calum (15) was away playing shinty through in Glasgow.

I had a list of gardening jobs I desperately needed to get done and so was glad of a day at home. I had lots of seedlings to plant out from my greenhouse, as well as a fair amount of weeding in flower beds.

We ate lunch outdoors, something I don't think I could ever tire of doing.

And then later on in the afternoon when Fraser and Ally were getting too hot I let them spray the hose at each other to cool down.

Fraser particularly enjoyed being let loose with the hose. Look at his face!

Finally, David wanted to make a pretend bike shop for Ally and Fraser and set up a pretty efficient looking shop.

A pretty ordinary weekend on the whole, but if you know anything about me by now, then you know that the ordinary is just as important to me as the big things. The ordinary is as much of a gift as the extra ordinary.

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the extra ordinary, and we had a spectacular extra ordinary surprise when James won an amazing Art award earlier on last week, as you may have seen on my housefulofboys Facebook page. But I've decided to leave that for another post this week because tomorrow night we are going to his A level Art exhibition and so I'll also hopefully have some photos of his art to share too.