My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Project: Step-By-Step Halloween Cards 1

This one of the styles of Halloween cards I will be making this year. I don't see many Halloween (and certainly no Samhain) cards for sale in the high-street card shops in the UK. I know it is possible to buy some very lovely cards online, and have custom cards printed, but I quite enjoy paper-crafts of various sorts, so I will be making my own.

Components for card making:
Card blank, sprayed card blank, black paper, "lightning bolts",
marbled paper, drawing of a Devil-skull.
To save a bit of time, I have bought some plain black card blanks and matching envelopes (from The Works for £1.49). I would have had to have bought sheets of black card and black paper anyway and this actually worked out cheaper than buying the card and paper! The first thing I did was mist the cards and envelopes with Magical Shimmer Mist, which is a suspension of shimmery metallic particles in an adhesive spray. It comes in a variety of colours, but for this project I have used silver. You can get similar effects with water-based silver paint and splattering, but it is more time-consuming to achieve. 

Shimmery shimmery shimmery...
As the card blanks were drying, I set about drawing the pictures for the front of the cards. Each person will be receiving a different image on their card. For the purposes of this blog, I have photographed the making of a particular card  with a Devil-skull as the image. I drew it in cheap black biro on ordinary utility white paper - no fancy materials. 

Close-up of fanged skull
I cut the drawing out, then traced around the drawing onto marbled paper (HobbyCraft, less than 50p per sheet) and drew a slightly larger rectangle around that, and cut out the piece of marbled paper. I then took a sheet of black paper and drew around the marbled paper onto it with a white pencil, and then drew a larger rectangle around that. I put the drawing, rectangle of marbled paper, and the rectangle of black paper aside (into my crafting tray). 

Lightning bolts
The next step was to cut out the jagged lightning-bolts. I cut these out of more white utility paper, laying them out on the now-dry card blank to see what size they needed to be, using the two paper rectangles as a guide, and how many I wanted, and also to get a better idea on design. They are quite finicky to cut out, and easy to tear, so once each was cut out, it went straight into the crafting tray for safe keeping.

Layered papers
The last step was gluing it all together in order. I started with gluing on the black rectangle, then arranging all the lightning bolts, then the marbled paper, and finally the drawing.

Finished card
I decorated the envelope in the same way, with the same layers, papers and materials, and with a similar design (with lightning) except with an address label instead of a drawing, but because it is an address label, I am not posting a picture of it up on the internet. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Arthurian Legend, Medieval History and Gothic Architecture

Or how I came to fall in love with anachronism...

This is in response to Jess, who suggested the topic on the Domesticated Goth Facebook Page.


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I have always had a broad appreciation of history. My father is involved in archaeology as a geophysicist and archaeological surveyor, and I was therefore brought up saturated in local history and British history. This, however, can only partially explain why I like history in general, and not really explain why I have a fascination for the medieval in particular, or how this ties in with my other historical interests (we're heading over to Pre-Raphaelite territory...)


My attempts to be a real-life Pre-Rpahaelite depiction of Morgan LaFey

⚜ Childhood Fascination
It all started with an illustrated book of fairy tales from when I was a very, very small child. In it were children's versions of some Arthurian tales. I really, really wish I still had the book, but sadly it is long gone. I can't even remember what the book was called, but I remember that it had lavish, beautiful illustrations in full colour and great detail. There was this fabulous image of a knight in armour on a horse, with the horse adorned in barding and caparison and the knight with a very sharp and shiny looking sword. Then there was a book ordered from the back of a packet of Weetabix (::this:: book - I'm showing my age! ) which I read avidly and repeatedly and with great enthusiasm. It was the first book on history I ever owned, and my favourite section was that from the Norman Conquest on to Henry VIII - just a bit broader than the time-span  referred to as the 'High Middle Ages' and 'Late Middle Ages'.

This interest was picked up, and I was given a French language (I was brought up bilingual, my first language is actually French) history book with a few transparent pages called ::Le Château Fort:: which just fed this interest. I even got taken on some trips to some real-life castles, such as Rochester Castle in Kent, which probably sealed it for me. 

I can't really place what it is that drew me to these things, but  it was partially a confusion between what was myth and reality (probably on account of being a child with a broad imagination). There was something wonderful and exciting about believing that all these knights and maidens and brave chivalrous warriors and fierce monsters and witches and wizards had been real, just centuries and centuries ago. For some time, as a small child, my career ambitions were "knight"... 

As I read more I quickly learnt that no, dragons were not real (dinosaurs, on the other hand...) and neither was the Green Knight, and that chivalry and courtly love were not as later poets would have us believe. I also learnt, over time, that the "shining armour" of knights was often actually depictions things such as 1480s Gothic plate armour from what is now Germany and other parts of the Holy Roman Empire, that there are an awful lot of types of "pointy arches" buildings, and recorders are fabulous musical instruments with a long, long history. Basically, I learnt that a lot of the things I found really interesting came from between the mid 11thC and very beginning of the 16thC. 

⚜ Art History And Gothic Architecture
The more I got to know of art and architecture from that period, the more I realised that it was rich aesthetics that I adored, and still adore. 

I gained an interest in calligraphy and illuminated manuscripts when I was about 12 or 13, after being introduced to them in an English lesson focused on Arthurian myths. I began my first pseudo-'illuminated' Book of Shadows, the precursor to my current book of Shadows, which is all written in uncial calligraphy, richly decorated with a mixture of foliate, spiral and knot-work designs, a lot of silver and gold embellishments (albeit via more modern techniques) and even has a few illustrations. 

I also fell in love with Gothic architecture (no surprise to my regular readers). I like most styles of highly decorative architecture on grand scales, from the temples at Angkor Wat to Christopher Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral, but I have a special fondness for the Gothic and Gothic-Revival. I especially like buildings in the later Gothic styles, especially the Perpendicular Gothic, with their emphasis on verticality and arrays of stained glass windows. I can't explain why I prefer a pointed Gothic arch or fan-vaulted ceiling to a round Romanesque arch or barrel-vaulted ceiling, nor what it is about tracery designs that appeal to me, but that is the way I am, and I could spend all day looking at them. 

It is not enough for me to merely find interest in the appearance of buildings, I am always led to their function, and that then draws me back into the history - old abbeys, cathedrals, grand houses etc. always have rich histories, and it fascinates me how the uses of buildings change over centuries, and boggles me to think of all the thousands of people from so many periods and places that have visited these places and looked at them with their own unique perspectives. 

What also amazes me is the size and complexity of the buildings designed considering the limited understanding of physics and mathematics at the time. People sometimes think that because people in the past were illiterate and superstitious with a limited grasp of science and mathematics that they were stupid but education and intelligence are different things, as can be shown by ::this:: article, where it describes how a string and a weight could show if the vast spire of Salisbury Cathedral was straight or not (it wasn't, it was leaning, and Christopher Wren figured out how to straighten it in 1668) in an age long before optical surveying equipment, let alone laser levels! These cathedrals were built by a largely illiterate work force. People had to be creative and use their initiative to overcome the lack of technology and get things done by other means. 

This does not just apply to great cathedrals across Europe, or even to medieval times alone, of course, but it is one of the things about the medieval period that does intrigue me. 

Also, as an enthusiastic archer, and a person with an interest in historical arms and armour, Medieval European weaponry is very interesting to me, and to understand the weapons, one has to understand the conflicts that were their context, and how they became visual symbols in later periods, which necessitates some understanding of medieval life. 

(Those interested in medieval weaponry may be excited to know that I have asked a friend who is more knowledgeable than me in this area to write a guest post on such things!).

Understanding Where I live
As my readers already know, I live in the UK, currently in Scotland and previously down in the Thames Valley. I am the sort of person that likes to know the history of the places where I live; they make up part of the culture, and inform present day attitudes (like someone I know here, with a tattoo of the Declaration of Arbroath, which was originally made in 1320). The history of the UK stretches back millennia and millennia before the Middle Ages, but much of its best recorded  history is that recorded by the monasteries and onwards, i.e Saxon through to Medieval and onwards. 

Earlier history interest me too, especially the pre-Roman 'Celtic' history of the various Iron Age, Bronze Age and earlier peoples of Britain, but much of these cultures is lost to time, and what we know is pieced together from artefacts and remains, and the writings of later Roman authors writing as outsiders. The very early history is full of mysteries, and these mysteries intrigue me, but they are mysteries, not things we know. 

Medieval history, on the other hand, includes quite a body of knowledge about what life was like then, and is quite accessible - it is not that expensive to go on a tour of Oxford castle and get quite good account of the castle's history, starting with its ecclesiastical history and moving forwards, and I certainly studied the Norman Invasion, the Charter of Liberties, the Magna Carter and the Peasant's Revolt at school, and am sure that various aspects of Medieval history are fairly widespread in history teaching at various levels. I guess it was something I could easily get into, and unlike Roman history, I wasn't faced with my Dad's near-obsession (he spent several years working at a Roman pottery manufacture site with several kilns and a processing works for clay) with the subject. 


The Victorians Have A Lot To Answer for
Another thing my readers may well know is that I have an interest in Victorian things, and as all the Victorian-era Gothic Revival and Scottish Baronial architecture I photograph show, and the subject matter of many Pre-Raphaelite paintings also, there was a definite interest in a fairy-tale and Arthurian Medievalism in that period (as well as an interest in legitimate history). My interests become recursive at this point. To elaborate on the previous examples, I look at a Victorian Gothic Revival buildings, and see in them their stylistic ancestors (and giggle at the Victorian tendency to turn practical medieval things into nonsensical decorative devices.), I look at Pre-Raphaelite depictions of Arthurian legends, and wonder which suits of armour were used as costume references, and how many details are flights of fancy.  

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Hopefully I have managed to detail from where my interest stems in a helpful manner to those curious, and have not been too boring and introspective. Personally, I find the history far more interesting than my appreciation of it! I don't think this explanation is exhaustive, and in racking my brains I wonder if I am overlaying too much of who I am now onto my past self, but hopefully it is at least a bit helpful. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

♫ Music Showcase: Dead Can Dance ♫

Band Name: Dead Can Dance
Genre: 
Initially Post-Punk/Goth then Neo-Folk and World Fusion
Language: English
Active: 1980-1996, 2005-Present
Origin: Australia

Page: ::Dead Can Dance::
Wiki: ::Dead Can Dance Wikipedia Article::

Dead Can Dance are my first love, when it comes to 'Goth' music. I was working on a school production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and we were looking for suitable background music. Somewhere in the library of CDs was a copy of The Serpent's Egg. From the start I was hooked. I borrowed the CD, put it on repeat and listened to it through the headphones with my eyes shut, letting the music lead me off on wild imaginings. I was living in the city of Bristol, in England, at the time, and had access to a variety of record and CD shops, and started my mission to track down more music by this band and by similar. 

I was only flirting with the idea of joining the Goth subculture at the time, but was more of a bohemian, and it did not occur to me that the band were at all associated with anything Goth. Their early music actually did not really appeal to me at that time; I was looking for music that was ethereal, ancient in feel, that would take me away to a believable fantasy of a 'former Golden Age'. Unlike a lot of the Neo-Folk, New Age and World Fusion music I had listened to at the time, the music of Dead Can Dance did not seem like pastiche or a parody. It was not trying to be fantasy music; to me it was as the difference between the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas and the real Pyramids and Sphinx. 

My record and CD collection is largely still at my father's house, so I can't take a photo, but I have pretty much all of their discography, except for the live releases, and both in vinyl and CD. If I had the money, I would order Anastasis, but sadly I don't. I have always found their cover art intriguing, and the booklet art in terms of CDs. It has always made me curious to see what images were used to accompany the music. 

Severance: The Winds of Change

Dead Can Dance formed in Melbourne, in 1981, originally as a quartet, with Lisa Gerrard, Paul Erickson, and Brendan Perry and Simon Monroe. Previously, Brendan Perry (who performed under the stage name "Ronnie Recent") and Simon Monroe had been in the Australian punk band 'Marching Girls' (which became The Scavengers) and Lisa Gerrard had previously been with New Wave band 'Microfilm'. Gerrard, Perry and Monroe all moved to London in 1982. Peter Ulrich joined the band in London, in 1982, and was one of the original band members signed to 4AD records, alongside James Pinker, and continued playing live with them until 1990. 

Dead Can Dance's first album (self-titled) was released in 1984, with 4AD records, followed by 'Garden of the Arcane Delights'. Some of their early work was more in a more 'Goth' style with tracks like 'The Trial' and 'The Arcane' but also included tracks in a very different style such as 'Frontier' that were early indications of where the band was to go musically. They still ended up playing support to the likes of Xmal Deutschland (1883, Brixton Ace, London), The March Violets (March 1984, London) and The Cocteau Twins (February 1984, Victoria Palace Theatre, London) in concert. 

Allmusic's reviewer, Ned Raggett felt their early work had been "as goth as it gets", and while I would definitely say that they started off a Goth band, I think they rapidly became a Gothic band instead; their music conjures up images of ancient ruins, vast cathedrals, eerie landscapes and strange rituals. Their music is constructed of vast soundscapes, statuesque and mesmerising in their grandeur and global scope. They are so eclectic and unique that they are genuinely hard to classify into any genre; I have gone with 'world fusion' simply because I feel I need to write something, but even that does not seem truly accurate. You can find references to a wide variety of cultures, mythologies and time periods, and yet it is all brought together so harmoniously. Despite, or maybe because of, the broad scope, their music is more Gothic than even the lyrical content and imagery of And Also The Trees, and their world fusion stylings with a distinct choral element certainly seem many miles from the sounds of Bauhaus or Siouxsie and The Banshees. There are a couple of Joy Division quotes in their lyrics - in 'The Carnival Is Over', the line "Procession moves on, the shouting is over" is a quote from Joy Division song 'The Eternal' and in 'Tell Me About The Forest You Once Called Home' there is an adaptation of part of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'. 

Primarily, Dead Can Dance are and were a duo; Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry. The band's music has had a plethora of contributors. A lot of their tracks involve both instrumental and vocal multi-tracking, so the lineup for stage sets is often much broader than for studio line-ups, as they have a variety of backing musicians play the layered parts. Both Lisa and Brendan have incredibly powerful and mesmerising voices, with Lisa Gerrard often singing in her own idiosyncratic 'language' or glossolalia. As a contralto myself, Lisa's singing is something of an inspiration to me. Lisa Gerrard also plays the Yangquin, or Chinese Hammered Dulcimer, one of the instruments that gives the band its characteristic sound. 

They are a band with decidedly poetical lyrics and not always the sort where the meaning is immediately apparent. The content often seems spiritual, and I have noticed a tendency to more Pagan philosophy in the songs sung by Brendan and his own solo work and do wonder if he is quietly Pagan, although that could be my own inference as a Pagan myself. I've read that he's an Agnostic and that he's an Atheist, and that he's Wiccan, and as he can't be all three, where he actually stands I do not know. There are people who say Lisa's voice channels the Divine, and that she has the voice of an angel in a more literal sense than when that phrase is applied to the likes of Charlotte Church. Whether there is any inherent spiritual intent behind the music or not, I always find that it in response, I feel in a more spiritual frame of mind. 

Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard split up as a couple in the 1990s, and it seemed like 1996 album 'Spirit Chaser' was going to be their final album of new material. Their next album was titled 'Wake', and was a retrospective - to me   the title seemed like "wake" was intended as something that came after; a wake for the dead, the wake of a boat (especially with the ripples on the album cover). For a long time it seemed that Dead Can Dance had parted ways for good, Brendan and Lisa were following successful solo careers and that was the way it would stay. 

Dawn of the Iconoclasts


Back when I was at college, I did an art project on the band, cause it meant I could spend a whole term illustrating Dead Can Dance songs. It's from this project that the art I have used to illustrate this post has come.  

Lisa Gerrard had the more successful of the solo careers, mostly through collaborating with Hans Zimmer on the immensely popular soundtrack to Ridley Scott's 'Gladiator'. She has produced quite a body of work away from Dead Can Dance, and has released several albums of her own. Brendan Perry also produced solo work ('Eye of the Hunter' and 'Ark')

Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard finally toured again (As 'Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard') in 2005 - I didn't get a chance to see them then, nor will I get to seem them on October 26th, when they perform in London, as it is now a sold out performance and there would be no way of me affording to go to London or taking time off work to travel. Their latest album is 'Anastasis', named after the Greek word for resurrection, a fitting name for an album that is the band's first recording of new work in 16 years. I haven't got a copy of it yet (too poor for buying albums, even Dead Can Dance albums), but expect a review as soon as I get it. (Dear Raven, you could hurry this up by buying me the album... ) Oh, to one day hear them live! 

In my opinion they are an amazing and unique musical force, well worth listening to, even if they are somewhat away from the 'Goth' niche. Even my Dad, who is rarely in accordance with any of my musical tastes, liked what he heard when I put 'Host of the Seraphim' on the CD player, and Raven, a definite Rivethead and Metalhead, lets me put Dead Can Dance in the in-car CD thingy-whatsit. They are really, really good, with solid compositions, an amazing synthesis of widely varying styles and techniques, and with lyrics that are beautiful poetry, and albums that are one amazing song followed by the next. I can't think of any Dead Can Dance song that I don't actually like (but that might be because I'm a very biased fan!). 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Inverness Town House

It's Friday and that means it's photo time!    


This is was the quietest moment for photographing...

The focus this week is the Town House in Inverness. I've been avoiding it for a while because it's not exactly in the quietest part of town, being at a busy intersection, off the high street, and always full of people, and I'm not exactly a 'people-person' or the sort of person that is happy standing around on the high street with a camera. That and I was considering clambering up the street furniture to get a reasonable angle.


The front of the Town House.

There's two sets of lights outside the townhouse - big cast iron things. I can't figure out if they quite fit the aesthetic. I know the chunky design is supposed to compliment, and I am sure they are purpose made, but maybe it's the fact that I know that real castles would not have had electric (or gas) lights outside the front door like that. Still, they serve a function, and they are quite fabulous in their own right, and they look far better than the brackets for the flowers. 


Turrets, tourelles, something...
The Town House in Inverness is one of those over-the top Scottish Baronial buildings - Scottish Baronial architecture being a combination of Gothic Revival extravagance and inspiration from the old Scottish defensive tower houses. Basically, it's pretending it's a castle, which is quite surprising considering it is next to the actual castle (now the Sheriff court - I had to do jury duty there) and really does not compete when it comes to size and location. The current castle in Inverness is also 19thC, built in 1836 (a year too old to be Victorian) but not quite as overtly Gothic. Inside the castle there's a good few Gothic Revival details, but on the outside it's actually rather plain with lots of rounded arched windows. Anyway, the Town House was one of those Victorian buildings where it seems no expense was spared and all architectural exuberance was permitted. It is one of those buildings designed to impress, and it does that very well indeed. 


Fancy windows.

Apparently the Highland Council run guided tours of the building twice a week, and apparently it is rather fancy inside (and has swords), but I haven't actually been in it yet. I'm hoping to go on one of the guided tours during half term, as it is a historically interesting building with a lot of items within it relating to the broader history of the city. I'm still trying to work out what the difference between a turret and a tourelle is. I think a tourelle is a specific sort of turret which has to be round, corbeled, with a conical roof and on a corner (as opposed to rectangular or starting on the flat plane of a wall.) Anybody who knows the answer to this is encouraged to elucidate me on the matter. The decorative ironwork on the roofs, and the dormer windows, show a Parisian influence. 


The top of Mercant Cross

A lot of my photographic ventures have been based in Inverness, and I think it is about time I addressed the Cathedral, seeing as I've showcased Eden Court (directly next to it) and a few other ecclesiastical buildings of various denominations already - leaving out the Cathedral, of all buildings, seems odd! I wanted to hear the Merlewood ensemble there yesterday - there was a free concert with a charity retiring collection (I think in aid of the building's restoration, not entirely sure), and I like a bit of chamber music, but unfortunately I had somehow got convinced it was tonight rather than last night. Oops. Anyway, I have been out to photograph the cathedral, but my efforts have been less than satisfactory, so far. The Cathedral shall be next week, if I haven't been to Cromarty church in the meanwhile. 


Sometimes I'm just lucky...

When out photographing things in any city, it is always a good idea to look upwards as even a lot of boring shops are part of more interesting. I originally wanted to take a photo of this Scottish Baronial style façade over a shop, then I saw the seagull and waited... 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Vanity, Vignettes and my Glasses

Black Lips
This still isn't a fashion blog, I'm just proud of today's make-up.

I'm not usually a fan of black lipstick, but I was talking to my adopted little sister today, and she's been a bit down, and so I gave her the option of picking out my lipstick colour, and she chose black. I don't think that black lipstick is inherently 'babybat', I think that it's just often done badly. All it takes to do it properly is for it to be worn with even foundation, lined carefully and for a good quality lipstick with even coverage and good level of opacity and a reasonable finish to be used. Mostly a case of avoiding the nasty Halloween stuff. Personally, I think that that the contrast is often too harsh for everyday use, and is best for photo-shoots  and clubbing.

*Ponders*
I'm wearing what is currently my favourite wig (the red wavy one Raven bought me), but I'm thinking of getting a few more wigs, mostly in black. I started getting an itchy scalp after dying my hair black, an issue that I think may have had something to do with me switching to a cheaper brand, but the problem didn't go away when switching back to my original brand. I changed colours (to a variety of purples) and for a while I had no reaction to the purple, but on touching up the roots recently I had a scratchy scalp for two days afterwards. I'm worried about developing a more severe allergic reaction. Previously I have tried henna and indigo, but never managed a colour much darker than my naturally rather dark brown hair. I'm thinking of keeping my natural hair cut reasonably short and just wearing a variety of wigs. I'd get to have more variety in hair-styles, too, as I could match my wig to whatever outfit I have planned for the day, instead of trying to match outfits to a static hair style. 

"You're all going to die down here"

I generally need my glasses to work the computer, and heck, happen to rather like my glasses, with their swirly frames, but in order to get a good view of my eye-makeup, they had they had to come off. As you can see in the picture above, I added silver to the inner corners of my eyes, and wore white eyeliner in the lower waterline. You might be able to make out the sparkles in the glittery eye-liner drawn over my regular eyeliner. Sparkles are also something that I don't usually wear. 

I am plotting... 
I pencilled my brows in for a tad more definition, but didn't expand or alter their shape. I'm quite happy with how they've grown recently. Previously they were a bit too thin for me not to pencil them in daily, but I think now they are reasonably wide and noticeable. I am not wearing contacts; dark grey is my natural eye-colour and this is heightened by the effects I added in Photobooth/iPhoto (yep, more internal camera pictures! Raven was working all day and I am awful at taking selfies with my point and shoot camera, and even worse at taking them with the fancy Canon.) so it looks like they are almost black. 

...the perfect crime! 
I'm not actually terribly grumpy; I was finding it hard to get a good picture on Photobooth, and it left me with a frustrated expression! Must remember to smile in photographs... It looks like I'm plotting to do terrible, terrible things to people. Don't worry, the only thing I was plotting to do terrible things to was the laptop if it kept making my wig look unnecessarily shiny. Anyway, I need to cook dinner (and spend less time browsing the internet looking for baby-things for my future niece! I finally get to be someone's mad aunt! Hurrah! That's one of my life-ambitions fulfilled.) and suchlike, so I shall be off. Hopefully you're not all too bored of my vanity! I shall be back with more interesting posts as soon as my writer's block clears up. In the meanwhile all suggestion and questions are welcome at the Domesticated Goth ::Facebook Page::, where I am also going to pick (out of a hat, literally) one of the first 100 people to like the page and send them an artistic prize!