On My Work Table Today

Studio Work Table 5 March 2015The studio was in such a mess I couldn’t use it.

Here it is, tidied and once more in operation.

Here are some eco prints on papers, fabrics, rust-printed organza, tea-dyed embroidery silk, carved Indian woodblock, barnacle-encrusted mussel shells.  Aren’t these barnacle-bejewelled shells gorgeous? Fossilised eco-systems.

Paints Pigments and Sari Silks in Jars

Paints Pigments and Sari Silks in Jars

I found, to add to my growing collection, this woodblock, in an antique shop in Hay-on-Wye last Saturday, when I ran away to the Black Mountains.

It’s made from Shaheen wood (don’t know what that is and can’t find any references to it) and the carving is of ferns and some flowers. Haven’t used it yet.

Woodblock Shasheen Wood from Hay on WyeI’m working on putting my 2015 Arthouse Co-op sketchbook together, to meet the deadline for its US tour.

And I’m finishing the editing on my illustrated trine of short stories Leaves which I will now publish as a PDF rather than as an ebook.

The making of these stories is a story in itself now.

They originated as a combo of flash fiction tales for a competition I entered last November that turned out to be a scam.  (I wrote about that here and how I got my entry fee back through PayPal).

I then decided to develop and polish them into longer stories and illustrate them and publish them, as an ebook. I used Blurb’s BookWright software but when published and despite using one of their own fonts, all my italics had been wiped out, some of which were a character’s inner dialogues and vital. After over a week trying to sort this out with customer services – exchanging emails, sending before and after screenshots – the usual – I was dumped and my fee refunded silently and without apology. It’s the second ebook they’ve refunded me for. Clearly, their ‘ware has glitches.

So look out for Leaves soon, the poor, abused thing. And if anybody can recommend some ebook software, I’d appreciate that.

What’s on your work table today?


Posted in Art, Art Journal, Botanical and Eco Printing, Mixed Media, Printmaking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Escape to the Black Mountains

Black Mountains from Hay on Wye 28 February 2015Spring is coming. The sap is rising. My sap is rising. I was born in the Year of the Rabbit, according to Chinese Astrology. There aren’t any rabbits in China, they are hares. Hares stare at the moon and in March, they go mad.

I don’t believe in astrology. It’s true, however, that I like to stare at the moon, that I wake up in spring, get stir crazy for large natural spaces, for mountains.

Black Mountains at Hay on WyeSo we decided last Friday night to have an adventure. We got up at 4.30 Saturday morning and headed off to The Black Mountains: Y Mynyddoedd Duon in Welsh.

The Black Mountains is one of the four ranges of hills that make up the Brecon Beacons National Park. The northernmost of the range is accessed via the town of Hay-on-Wye, which straddles the England/Wales border. It’s otherwise famous for its prestigious annual literary festival and is known as the National Book Town of Wales. We lunched at Hay, as it’s called, at Oscar’s Bistro, on huge wedges of quiche and servings of bean, pasta and potato salads that were so vast we couldn’t empty our plates.

A town full of bookshops and giving access to a range of mountains. What more could one ask for in life?

Well, there’s woodland and our three and a half hour drive to Herefordshire took us first to Ross-on-Wye, which is to the south of Hereford and is at the northernmost tip of Gloucestershire’s Forest of Dean, a huge terrain of ancient mixed woodland.

Tretower Castle, AbergavennyWe did a whistlestop on the way back home at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, known as the Gateway to Wales. We visited the ruins of the town’s Norman castle, now a museum.

I picked up these three pink stones that had tumbled onto the road from the wall surrounding the castle. I was reminded of the pink stones of Brittany’s Cote de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast). I have a small collection of Breton pink granite from a trip a few years back. The pink is potassium feldspar.

Granite is an igneous rock, however (solidified molten rock). The pink of the Abergavenny stone is sandstone which is a sedimentary rock, formed from the accumulating and settling of mineral and/or organic particles. They call it red sandstone. So the Black Mountains are actually red.

Our trip was a taster. It’s my first visit to the Black Mountains. It will not be the last.

You have to have adventures. Especially in March, when the sap is rising.






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Friday Fictioneers 100 Word Flash Fiction Challenge: The Somonyng

FF 27022015 Walk Railway Line Dog Dawn K LandauEvery Friday writers worldwide gather round the virtual fireside of Rochelle Wisoff and share stories of 100 words, prompted by a common photograph, and exchange constructive criticism. You don’t have to write to read. Click on the blue frog at the end of my story to access all the other stories written to this week’s prompt. Readers’ comments are welcome. I know, I’m coming in late (again).

This week’s photo prompt is courtesy Dawn Q Landau

Thanks, Dawn.

Here’s the story your photo inspired:


The Somonyng

What can I do but follow? I’m an old dog now and they’re my home. Wherever they go, I go with them.

It’s been like this, since … Ceaselessly wandering, my humans. They have no choice, but that’s long forgotten, except for cellular memories, urging.

They call it many things, the restlessness. Career move. Downsizing. Looking for a better life.

They’re looking, never seeing, never finding that perfect place that’s back of the longing – that Eden.

“Keep up, Everyman!”

Keep up? Haven’t they heard of leading from the rear?

I’m Everyman, I go with them. I’m an old god now.

Ann Isik
100 words

Posted in Christian, Consciousness, Flash Fiction, Mindfulness, Short Fiction Writing, Short Story Writing, Spiritual, Theme, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

How to Handle Writing Competition Scams

Me, Aged About Three.

Me, about three. I developed attitude at an early age, it seems

I’ve rarely entered writing contests but in the first week of  November (2014) I decided to take part in a competition through what I believed was a bona fide online organisation, offering not only competitions, but proofreading and editing services. It wasn’t bona fide and here’s how I got my money back.

I paid via PayPal my £5 entry fee and an additional £3 for feedback on my work (whether I won or not). Stupidly, I didn’t bother doing any research into the organisation and only after entering did I check out winners of past competitions. If I had, I’d not have entered, as the quality of the work of the winners was disappointing and contained spelling and grammar errors; as indeed, did the entire site and its blog. I’d never have hired them for proofreading or editing services.

Without going into a long story, in the end, I raised a complaint through PayPal.  PayPal investigated, found in my favour and I got back my £8. PayPal also directed me to a page on their site which advises on how to avoid being defrauded.

I had had a long conversation by phone with one of PayPal’s representatives who said that it had been a good idea to raise a complaint and it was regrettable that when it was a small amount of money involved, many people just let it drop. Persistent and numerous complaints enabled PayPal to build up a file on a company which might very well lead to a suspension of their account.

During the course of PayPal’s investigation, I did some research online and found to my dismay that this organisation had been listed as far back as 2008 in Writers Weekly’s Whispers and Warnings.

I had also read, during my research into the organisation, again with dismay, a comment by one writer who’d been cheated, that at least it had given them some writing practice.

I contend that you don’t need to pay people money to practice your writing and urge that you always pay entry fees via PayPal, or some other similar financial organisation, so that you can claim it back. And I urge you to do that, even if you’ve only handed over $1, or £1.Me, I hate being cheated and never let it drop! I also hate to see others being cheated and for cheaters to grow rich on the backs of other people’s creativity.

I was stupid, but I don’t mind being stupid if it helps others. Don’t be stupid, like me, but if you do get cheated, please don’t let it drop. Flushing out the scoundrels will make the World Wide Web a better and safer place for us honest arty types.

Have you had a similar experience? How did you deal with it?


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Walking into Love, a Sonnet: The Loving Quark

"Look deep, deep into nature and you will understand everything better."      Einstein

“Look deep, deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” Einstein

The Loving Quark

Said Einstein, “into nature look, look deep
and better all things will you understand.”
To look into the heart – the seat
of love – he was, it seemed, imploring man.

And understanding better everything,
lies in that Mystery of how we beat for love
and if what is below is as above, in
that indivisible is the Great Heart mirrored -

the up, down, top and bottom, strange or charmed –
the quark. If, flavoured thus, love be the single goal of nature,
then is that Mystery built-in. Impelled the quark
by love compelled in hot pursuit of life

at every fork to ask, “Which is the loving road?”
must choose the one of sacrifice. From quark
to atom to molecule, evolving through eons, adorned
with every vice, came humankind, to hate.

But triumphed then the loving quark and triumphs still
through the One whom for Love chose sacrifice, upon that hill.

(c) 2015  Ann Isik

I’ve never tried writing a sonnet before. This one comes technically fully flawed. Apart from the first verse, I could only get the first and third lines to rhyme (and even then, only sort-of).  Both Shakespeare and Petrarch will be turning in their respective graves and sonnet writer purists everywhere will be groaning and gnashing their teeth.

The poem was inspired by the Einstein quote that captions my photo. Seeking an apt image as illustration, I came across my  also technically flawed photograph, which I took during a walk in nature.

There is undoubtedly moving through nature that which inspires poetry and I suspect, particularly, the sonnet, which – as you will already know if you’re a poet – is a form of love poetry known as lyric. The word sonnet is from the Italian sonetto, from suono, a sound.  It sounds to me like songette (little song).  Maybe the act of moving through nature, the rhythm of walking, invites songs and sonnets. And lyric poetry, and lyrics are words to songs.

Make of my sonnet what you will. Me, I’ll just try to emulate the quarks in my heart and keep walking, into nature, into love. Maybe that’s why I needed to write this, as a reminder to myself of the name of the game.

Posted in Christian, Philosophy/Religion/Spirituality, Poetry Writing, Spiritual, Walking, Walks, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Mysterious Matter of the Hydden Optician

Jekyll and Hyde Filming Music Hall 17 February 2015In between eco printing and writing flash fiction, I’ve also been scribbling away at a trine of short stories (with illustrations – mine), that I’m going to publish shortly as an ebook. I put the finishing touches to Leaves, Three Short Tales yesterday morning and gave myself a couple of hours off to catch up with dreadful, and dreaded domestic affairs.

And get some fresh air.

The third of my tales, – The Shadow – is set in a theatre. It’s a quasi-gothic supernatural (maybe and maybe not) moralising (maybe and maybe not) mystery and not being a thespian, I needed to do some research on the backstage area of a theatre: the catwalk, the lighting; and on terms specific to stage acting, such as corpsing and I had this story in mind as I set off down Rochester High Street to visit my optician, having had a letter urging me to make an appointment for an eye test.

Jekyll and Hyde Filming J Kealy Tattoo Artist 17 February 2015The area of the High Street where my optician’s premises is situated was shrouded in drifting smoke. When a gap appeared, I saw that the premises had transformed into a music hall.

I coughed at the smoke in my throat and rubbed my eyes. To the right of the music hall was a shop I’d never seen before. J Kealy, Tattoo Artist it read above the door.  Next to that, a Rag, Bone and Paper Merchant had appeared overnight.

I must be hallucinating. I really ought to get out more. I spend too much time at the computer.

As a black 1930s Ford van drove past an old wooden barrow full of watermelons, the thought flashed through my mind that I’d fallen into the story I’d just written, through the sheer power of my writing. Alternatively, had I stumbled accidentally into a black hole and gone back in time?

Jekyll and Hyde Filming Car Rochester High Street 17 February 2015I breathed a sigh of relief when, another gap in the smoke appearing, I saw signs set on the pavement cautioning that filming was in progress and that the smoke amounted to special effects. (At the top end of the set, a nifty little pollution machine was being operated by one of the special effects crew).

Mystery solved, I’d not stumbled into a black hole and my writing was not powerful.

Part of the High Street (including my optician’s) had been transformed into a film set. And my contacts (fruit & veg shop, convenience store, various charity shops and chatty members of the crew) informed me they were filming a new version of Jekyll and Hyde for ITV, to be broadcast in the autumn. I was reliably (ha!) informed that actor Richard E Grant had been filmed earlier in the day tearing off his clothes off in the alley next to the greengrocer. And I recognised from TV a few of the faces of the costumed folks hanging around waiting to perform, one of which belonged to actor Tom Bateman.

Jekyll and Hyde Filming Rochester High Street 17 February 2015Now I’ve read Jekyll and Hyde (both in English and French) and there was no mention of a tattoo parlour, nor were there any horseless carriages. As for the costumed folks on the High Street waiting to perform, there was nary a bustle in sight and the men wore trilbys, apart from two sailors and I don’t recall there being any sailors in the book, either.

It was a modern update? Sort of. It’s set in the 1930s, and I was again reliably (ha!) informed, that it’s going to be about the grandson of Dr Jekyll. The  cocktail Jekyll mixed and quaffed that transformed him into the evil Mr Hyde, has resulted in a genetic alteration. This has carried forward through the male line, though skipping a generation, to his grandson. The grandson has spent his childhood being cured in India.

If he’s tearing his clothes off on Rochester High Street next to the greengrocer, it would seem that the cure hasn’t worked, I thought.

Jekyll and Hyde Filming Barrel of Melons Rochester High Street 17 February 2015So much for my High Street contacts. Here’s the truth of the matter, from the horse’s mouth (Richard E Grant’s web site):

Richard E Grant is to star as the boss of a secret government department in a new TV adaptation of the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde story.

The Withnail & I actor will play Sir Roger Bulstrode, who is head of the shadowy M10 service in ITV’s Jekyll and Hyde, which will also feature ex-Coronation Street and Strictly Come Dancing star Natalie Gumede.

The 10-part series begins filming next month with Tom Bateman, who has been seen in Da Vinci’s Demons and on the West End stage in Shakespeare In Love, playing Robert Jekyll and his dark alter ego.

The story has been written by Fast Show comic and novelist Charlie Higson, who has set the action in the 1930s.

So why was Sir Roger Bulstrode tearing his clothes off on Rochester High Street? He probably wasn’t. The plot will no doubt be a lot thicker than the smoke I swallowed, physically and metaphorically.

My little ebook (Leaves, Three Short Tales) has been put in its place.  For the record however, the tales are called, The Second Coming of Judas Iscariot, Adam and Evelyn and The Shadow.

I’m retaining film rights, just in case. Well, you never know who or what you might bump into, do you, when you set off to visit your optician.


Posted in Flash Fiction, Horror Writing, Mystery & Suspense, Short Story Writing, Supernatural Writing, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two (Salvaged) Eco Prints on Khadi Paper

Eco Print II on Khadi Paper Front 15 February 2015I had managed to ruin these two postcard-sized eco prints – which came out of a January batch of bundles – by adding too much encaustic wax. Drenched would be the appropriate verb to use.

They turned black and hard, like they had been smoked over an open fire. The leaf patterning was obliterated, except when held up to light.

Eco Print on Khadi Paper 15 February 2015I laid them aside, knowing I ought to dispose of them,but couldn’t.

I forgot about them. Then yesterday the idea came to me that I should boil them furiously in a pan of water.

I thought the wax might melt and float off.

I had nothing to lose and that’s exactly what happened. After a few minutes on the boil, I lifted each print out with tongs and laid them flat, then dabbed the water out with a kitchen towel. Lo and behold, the pattern had returned.

I then ironed them dry. Not all of the wax had lifted, but almost, and the boiling distributed more evenly what was left in the paper.  I was astonished that none of the colour had lifted. I thought it might all wash away. So the process also confirmed that the botanical dyes are permanently fixed into the paper.

I love the colours – the acid yellows, the smoky atmospheres. The pink is from the recycled sari silk yarn I used to bind the bundles. The black leaves were the last of the leaves of 2015 from my Japanese Maple.

In reality they are dark red and I had frozen a bagful, without knowing whether they’d give up their colour on defrosting.

In eco printing, the colour of the leaf or flower doesn’t necessarily print the same colour. It’s all about the chemicals that make up the colour, how they respond to what they are exposed to, including the material they are bundled into, the water they’re boiled or steamed in, the mordant added to the water, et cetera. In this case, I added vinegar to the water, increasing the acidity. When I have access to more leaves I’ll try adding alum (adding alkalinity) and see what happens.

I think I can let these go. I’ll frame them and sell them as a duo in my Etsy shop.

Anyone done the same or similar salvage work to a failure?

Posted in Art, Botanical and Eco Printing, Eco print on Khadi Paper, Encaustic Art, Flora, Monoprints, Printmaking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Friday Fictioneers 100 Word Flash Fiction Challenge: The Shadowfall Quilt

FF Photo Prompt 13 February 2015 Balcony by Rochelle Wisoff-FieldsEvery Friday writers worldwide gather round the virtual fireside of Rochelle Wisoff and share stories of 100 words, prompted by a common photograph, and exchange constructive criticism. You don’t have to write to read. Click on the blue frog at the end of my story to access all the other stories written to this week’s prompt. Readers’ comments are welcome.

This week’s photo prompt is courtesy  Rochelle Wisoff Thanks, Rochelle. Here’s the (111-word) story your photo inspired:

The Shadowfall Quilt

She’d stitched many quilts. They’d gone to the four corners. She needed now to put away her needles and decided on one final quilt, to represent her life.

In her quilting chair on the veranda, she dreamt. The house across the way was staring at her. From its long black door, a voice said, “the sun never knew how wonderful it was until it fell on the wall of a building.”

When she awoke, the sun had cast a shadow of the railings – a row of shimmering diamonds. She patched the shadow into her quilt and into the diamonds  stitched tales of times when her shadow fell upon a wall.

Ann Isik
111 words

P S  I didn’t make the 100 word limit with this one, but doesn’t my 111 look like those veranda railings? Or maybe, three quilting needles?

“The sun never knew how wonderful it was until it fell on the wall of a building,” is a quote by American architect Louis Kahn (Itze-Leib (Leiser-Itze) Schmuilowsky) and appears in Jun’ichirō Tanizaki‘s essay on aesthetics,  In Praise of Shadows.

Posted in Consciousness, Flash Fiction, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Walking Rye Harbour

Fan-Shaped Shell Rye Harbour 7 February 2015I found this shell (mollusc) while walking the beach at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve last Saturday. Look, it’s a fan and at its centre, another, smaller fan.

Below is the shell again with a group of cockle shells. The cockles have radial ribs. Bi-Valve MolluscsThe shells suggest ways of progressing my eco printed coffee filter fans towards completed works of art.

My January eco print batch turned up browns and black and greys, like the shells.  Here are two of the filters. Eco Print Coffee Filter II Fan January 2015

The black in the first shows clearly defined leaves. They were red Acer Palmatum (Japanese Maple) from my garden. I think they’ve dyed black because of the solution of rust and vinegar I soaked the filter in.

I particularly like this second one. It’s smouldering, on the brink of combustion. Black and grey, purplish smoke.

Eco Print Coffee Filter Fan I January 2015It’s also a mirror image, a blot of itself, a Rorschach test.

I did a Rorschach test online a while back. The result indicated a borderline possibility that I might not be a suitable candidate for the US military. Only borderline?

Molluscs first appeared in the fossil record 545 million years ago, in the Cambrian period, also known as the Cambrian Explosion.

Walking is always inspirational.






Posted in Art, Botanical and Eco Printing, Consciousness, Fauna, Flora, Inspiration, Mindfulness, Printmaking, Science, Walking, Walking by the Sea, Walks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Fictioneers 100 Word Story Challenge: DS Squared Et Cetera

FF Prompt 6 February 2015 Garden Maze by Melanie GreenwoodComing in very late with this entry (got stuck in a wormhole, but worth it as I’m now younger than I was last week) for Friday Fictioneers 100 word flash fiction challenge.

For those who don’t know, every Friday writers worldwide gather round the virtual fireside of Rochelle Wisoff and share stories of 100 words, prompted by a common photograph, and exchange constructive criticism. You don’t have to write to read. Click on the blue frog at the end of my story to access all the other stories written to this week’s prompt. Readers’ comments are welcome.

This week’s photo prompt is courtesy Melanie Greenwood. Thanks Melanie. Here’s the story your photo inspired:

DS Squared Et Cetera

“Lovely approach to her tomb.”
“The pathways are dead ends.”
She looked. “Meaning?”
“Legend says the maze symbolised the unbridgeable divide between the living and the dead.”
“Why have you brought me here?”
“Flamm was an alchemist. What looks like a maze was part of his search for the Philosopher’s Stone.”
“Dissolve the divide, reach his beloved.”
“He succeeded.”
She laughed.
“He discovered the Einstein-Rosen Bridge 700 years before Einstein and Rosen. This is a wormhole.”
“So this hedging conceals an Event Horizon?”
“Will you marry me; honeymoon in a parallel universe, never return?”
“Ds-squared et cetera …”

Ann Isik
100 Words

Posted in Dialogue, Flash Fiction, Romance, Sci-fi Writing, Short Fiction Writing, Short Story Writing, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments