Crafty Idea for Kids | Make your own gift bags

By heather at 1:02 am on Monday, November 15, 2010

An easy craft that’s fun for kids is reusing paper bags by drawing on them and using them as gift bags. If your kids are really little, draw some fun characters on them, tape them down on a firm surface, and let them colour away. You can write a message on one side of the bag and skip buying a card altogether. Aside from being a lovely personalized giftbag, it also saves you from buying gift bags, and is also good for the environment if you reuse paper bags. It’s a great craft for toddlers, Hera loved colouring in these bags for her cousins, especially drawing pictures of them on the dinosaurs!

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Hera’s Stuff | Finger painting using Sketchbook Pro on iPad

By heather at 11:27 pm on Monday, September 27, 2010


Here’s another of my drawings for my diary of Hera’s stuff, a little Oilily top with Peruvian doll pattern. I used a completely different “medium” for colouring this illustration digitally… used my iPad! I’ve been loving my iPad (my 30th birthday present) and I use it more than my imac now due to its portability and super functional apps.

So this weekend I took the plunge, broke the bank and spent $7.95 to buy Sketchbook Pro, the acclaimed sketching app for the ipad by Autodesk… and LOVE it. I’m not much of a digital illustrator, but I do like to colour my pen/pencil drawings on occasion on the computer.

I gave it a go yesterday for the first time, and must say it’s a much nicer experience colouring on screen with my fingertips than it is using a digital pen and looking up at a monitor. Not to mention was pretty cool being able to draw on my iPad away from the computer snuggled up in bed! It’s extremely intuitive to use, and aside from a few pages showing you how to use the program I didn’t need to look up any supporting documentation to figure out how to adapt it to my illustration style. From start to finish, the app is very simple to use, I just :

  • • Dragged the scan of my “real” pen drawing into an Album in iPhoto I’ve dedicated to artwork.
  • • Plugged my iPad into the laptop to sync with iTunes.
  • • In the iTunes iPad Photo tab I set it to automatically sync all images from my iPhoto artwork album every time I connect my iPad. (Note : the Sketchbook Pro app has the ability to “Add” images to itself from iTunes, I just didn’t find it worked. The “Send To” button DID work however, which is how I later got the PSD file out of iTunes)
  • • Once the sync was done, just opened up Sketchbook Pro and clicked on “Open Image” icon to access my photos on the iPad, and found the album titled “artwork” and found my sketch.
  • • From there I found it similar to working in Photoshop, in that you have layers to work with (and can set the opacity of, or adjust to multiply or screen), a myriad of drawing tools. I found I kept wanting to do more (like cut, paste, use the magic wand…) to finish up the illustration, but found the drawing experience itself very enjoyable. Especially zooming in and moving around the image, felt much more intuitive than using keyboard shortcuts and a digital pen.  Felt a bit like finger painting… without the mess :)
  • • Once I was all finished with the colouring, I was able to “Export Layered PSD to iTunes,” and from there send it to my desktop.

So far, I really like Sketchbook Pro. My only complaint is the small canvas size (1024×682 at 72dpi)… would love to be able to work on actual hi-res sketches. For any illustrators using an ipad, it’s well worth the spare change! I’m waiting to hear from my brother with his experience using a touch screen stylus in conjunction with this program… if it’s good I might buy one as well!

Filed under: illustrations, Hera, tutorials, Diary of Hera's Stuff, ipad2 Comments »

Hera’s Stuff | Knitted by “a” grandma

By heather at 4:20 am on Thursday, September 23, 2010


Has been a while since I’ve done some illustrations for my Diary of Hera’s Stuff… was feeling like doing something creative for myself after being off sick with morning sickness, having a couple projects keep me busy (greeting cards & cheese packaging, which I’ll share once the packaging is launched!), and surviving cold & flu season! Anyway, with Aussie winter coming to an end I’m putting away clothes that don’t fit our growing girl… here’s one of the outfits I drew, was a cute little knitted sweater picked up second hand knitted by some other little girl’s grandma.

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You know your child is reading too many books when…

By heather at 5:37 pm on Sunday, August 22, 2010

We might be reading Hera too many books (just two or three a day) as she has started narrating what she is doing! The last couple weeks, Hera has been ending most things she says with “said Mommy.” She says things like: “Have a glass of water, said Horton the Elephant?” or “I go to the library, said Mommy?” Hmmm, might have to crack the playdough out more often.

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Riley’s Lost Tooth | The books arrived!

By heather at 1:21 am on Monday, March 1, 2010

heather castles riley's lost tooth illustrations

riley's lost tooth children's book cover Eeeeee! So excited, my copies of Riley’s Lost Tooth (Written by Diane Cantrell, Illustrated by moi) arrived in the post! Hera was right into them, opening up each one up, flipping through the pages, then declaring “The End.” I’m really pleased with how they’ve turned out, Brown Books did a great job. Riley’s Lost Tooth now available online at Book launch party in San Antonio is planned for March 27th… I’ll post details later!

Filed under: childrens books, Hera, Riley's Lost Tooth2 Comments »

Mumbai Waterfront Property | Part 1

By heather at 1:57 am on Friday, February 26, 2010

heather castles acrylic painting india mumbai waterfront

I’ve just started on a new painting for our living room from a photo we took in Mumbai, India three years ago (below.) I’m working with acrylic as they are safer to work with around my toddler than oils. And we can share so setup isn’t a big deal – a squirt of paint for Hera, and a squirt of paint for Mommy! The only challenge is keeping Hera from helping me paint my painting, hee hee. The lovely thing about working in acrylic is it dries so quickly, so I’m able to hang it right back up on the wall and be able to consider my next “moves” between paint sittings.

heather castles photo india mumbai waterfront slum

hera castles toddler painting

As you can see, after about 40 minutes Hera was tuckered out, so was a very short & sweet painting time!

Tip : Something I learned from Kiff Holland while in college, painting your canvas a bold colour to prime it gives you a fun surface to work on. As you paint over top, leave little flecks of the original bright colour peeking through here and there to give some zing to your painting!

heather castles acrylic painting india mumbai waterfront

Filed under: work in progress, illustrations, india, Hera2 Comments »

Alice in Wonderland Tea Party

By heather at 1:35 am on Thursday, February 18, 2010

heather castles alice in wonderland teaparty mad tea party

It’s Hera’s 2nd birthday today, and we celebrated with a Mad Hatter style Tea Party this past weekend. During the week Hera & I had fun getting ready for her party by making the decorations and games together. You forget how much fun it is being a kid, and preparing for the party together made for a fun week of baking and crafting!

(P.S. For parents out there looking for gift ideas for 2-year-old girls, tea sets are a hit!)
There are some amazing ideas out there for Alice in Wonderland themed parties… Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland site is where I got most of my ideas from, and has soooo many more ideas for Mad Tea Parties and games, it’s well worth a look through for any Alice fan! And The Long Thread has some more beautiful tea party ideas, and has downloads of old-school Alice in Wonderland graphics made into party hats, invitations and garlands.

heather castles alice in wonderland teaparty mad tea party

To share the love of Mad Tea Parties, here are the games we played and how we made them…

Deck of cards party hats : Decorate party hats by taping on cards from an old deck to the fronts. Green Tip : Save the party hats and cards and use them again!

How to make tissue paper roses : This was surprisingly easy. Simply cut out from tissue paper small hearts (about 2.5 inches tall) and larger hearts (about 4 inches tall.) Take 3 small hearts and twist them together, fluffing a little. Repeat. Then add 3 large hearts, twist together, and shape with your fingers. Repeat. When they are large enough, hold the rose and use a pipe cleaner to twist around the base of the heart. Crepe paper also works well, though the tissue paper is a little translucent so it makes them look more real. Green Tips : This is a great way to use up ripped or leftover tissue paper from gifts. And save the little trimmings for stuffing gift bags.

heather castles alice in wonderland teaparty mad tea party

Pin the Grin on the Cheshire cat : The silly grin of the cheshire cat floating around in the air is captured aptly with this blindfold game! Draw the cat on craft paper that has been taped down to a board, and let your kids colour it in before the party (or even during the party!) Then draw some silly grins on printer paper and cut them out. Make sure to make any adults at the party play a round!

heather castles alice in wonderland teaparty mad tea party

Painting the Roses Red : This game is based on the story where the Spades accidentally planted the wrong coloured roses, and the Queen likes them red… so they’re painting the roses red, or it’s off with their heads! This is a messier game, but a lot of fun. To set up and play : Draw the roses on craft paper and tape them down to a board. Then let your kids colour them in before the party. At the party, divide the kids & adults into teams, give them each a can with a little watered down red paint in the bottom, and a few paint brushes… and have fun! You can even send the finished masterpieces home with your guests. Green Tips : Wash the paintbrushes well and reuse the paintbrushes and cans again and again.

heather castles alice in wonderland teaparty mad tea party

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Camping at Bookie Cliffs, SA

By heather at 1:31 am on Friday, February 5, 2010

heather castles bookie cliffs watercolour landscape

We often go camping on the Murray River in Berri, SA at Bookie Cliffs… the water’s as brown and murky as can be, but being the only fresh water to swim in around here, not to mention the beautiful red and yellow cliff face, it’s a welcome change of scenery. Last weekend when we made the trip again, I brought along my watercolours and managed to squeeze in an hour long study of the cliffs. I don’t get many chances to study landscapes on site, was fun making the most of Hera’s naptime! After that, Hera was very keen to “paint” with mommy on the beach, and that I paint “e mama bear e baby bear” holding “hands.” I even had a bit of fun sketching her while she enthusiastically flipped through my Australian bird guide…. until she noticed that what I was doing was more interesting than what she was doing and insisted that I draw her “hand,” which I was all to happy to oblige.

heather castles hera baby camping sketch

heather castles hera baby camping sketch

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Eco Art Supplies | Honeysticks

By heather at 9:28 pm on Monday, December 21, 2009

honeysticks crayons

Hera has been thoroughly enjoying her new Honeysticks, one of the earth friendly crayons on my eco-art supply list. You can’t go wrong with crayons that smell like honey! A box of 12 Honeysticks is available for AU$12.95 over at (who, by the way, shipped surprisingly fast and provided friendly correspondence.)

What makes them environmentally friendly? “They are handmade made from New Zealand beeswax and non-toxic pigments so they are natural and safe for children. The beeswax used in Honey Sticks is a natural by-product of honey production. The sustainable process causes minimal impact on the environment and gives the crayons a wonderful scent of honey.” –


For Kids : These beeswax crayons are a joy to use… my toddler loves to smell them, stand them up in a row (they are very chubby!) and scribble to her heart’s content. The colours are bright and easily colour (i.e. obliterate) anything you have delicately drawn below. And because they are so chunky, they don’t break like regular crayons easily do… your kid would have to bash them with a hammer to do any dammage… which I think makes up for their higher price point.

For Professionals : Hmm, any pros out there who use crayons in their work? If so you may want to give these a go, their width makes them easy to hold and colour on their wide edges.

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Hera’s Stuff | Dotty, Stripey, Flowery

By heather at 9:26 pm on Thursday, October 8, 2009

hera clothes baby outfits hankie flower dress

I finished colouring a few more ink illustrations for my diary of Hera’s outfits. Enough distractions, back to drawing turtles for Spotty & Eddie!

Filed under: illustrations, Hera, Diary of Hera's Stuff1 Comment »
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