Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Self Portrait with a Man

Lots of thoughts going through my head at the moment - not surprising I suppose. So as I was thinking of Spain I put in a photo which i took on my last trip. It's nice and arty and also shows you some of the impossibly steep and narrow streets that we have in Alhaurin. Streets that necessitate many of these funny little convex mirrors all over the place.

I am packing today - well I have more or less finished now actually, which is why I am sitting at my computer. As you know it is not in my nature to procrastinate. If a job needs doing then spit spot I do it! Of course my tongue is well and truly in my cheek!

But seriously I have finished my packing organisation. There was still quite a lot to organise even though we have already shipped out a lot of stuff (that is my stuff carried out in 20kg quotas by my poor long suffering Victor). I still had my watercolours, pencils, various bits and all my electronic stuff to sort through and decide what needs keeping and what I can let go. To be honest most of that stuff has to come with me, it was really only papers and things that have been jettisoned.

I am amazed at the amount of paper one little household can generate. Even though I have got really good at throwing out - or recycling - paper and storing things electronically rather than in hard copy I still find myself drowning beneath printouts and documents from time to time. In fact I am trying to remember how many reams of paper I have bought since being here. i think i am on my third - admittedly that is quite new, so still mainly full, but still it does give you pause for thought. But then I am an artist and there is no point keeping all those images just on the computer - they do not make sense the same way.

However, i am pretty good at recycling. When I am finished with any printouts they are turned over and put into a scratch pile. This is great for thinking with a pen and doing sketches or when you suddenly get an idea that you want to jot down. Some of the sheets are also torn into four pieces and recycled as shopping lists. And of course once the sheet of paper has been printed and/or drawn on both sides it is either used to light the fire or sent to the paper recycle bin to be turned into something else.

I do try to do my little bit for the planet!

So, Christmas is on my mind too of course - Turkey and Mistletoe, Panto and Sleighs. I do like all the blitz and bling. Here I really like the decorations to be honest - they are very low key compared to Ireland and England, but the simple stars and wreaths hung in the windows entice you to look into the cosy little houses and imagine the smell of cinnamon and apples and woodsmoke. Mmmmmm!

Things on my mind then are, in no particular order: Christmas, moving, Spain, England, Ireland, On-line check-in, paper, packing, socks, Snow, bare trees, the smell of winter, old friends, christmas cards getting places, candles, houses, tapas, children, dogs with wet noses (but i think about them all of the time) and so on and so forth.

Right now though I must nip out to the shops to get a few little bits that need to be got to keep the wheels of this household moving on!

Hope you like the photo

Friday, 11 December 2009

Getting back on the Horse and a Happy Christmas

Well, lots of things have been achieved and lots of things have been wrapped up in the past few weeks.

Unfortunately my head has gone into a complete spin since my exhibition and actually doing anything has been rather difficult. Add to that 'Party Season' and hardly a night goes by that we are not celebrating something or other - this of course involves copious amounts of wine and food! Nothing wrong with the food, but the wine does tend to take its toll.

The exhibition went very well I thought. Perhaps not in terms of sale, although there are still a couple of promises which may or may not come in over the next week, but in terms of putting myself out there and actually organising the event it was excellent. In the end it was not so difficult to do everything. I could have pushed it a little bit more by putting an announcement into the local paper but I really wanted to keep it a bit low key. I felt it was more of a practice for when we move to Spain, there I can set up a small gallery at home and have a steady stream of exhibitions throughout the year with a constantly changing display. A lot of work I know, but if I wish to sell ....

On the day all the visitors were friends and neighbours so it turned into a very nice party, both to celebrate my exhibition, but also as a sort of going away party also. I liked that, because it was much more relaxing than having to deal with strangers and massive crowds! Although I know there was never much hope of the crowds - the arts are typically low key unless you are Damien Hirst or someone like that.

So, I now need to get back on the horse. I have been a bit lazy and a bit anticlimaxed and a bit preoccupied with other things that needed to be done as we wind up our time here in Stavanger. But now I am somewhat organised I must try to write my blog again every day. It is a shame to let it lapse, but as I have tried to explain it is part of how I operate creatively too.

Therefore, I will now raise a toast to a Happy Christmas, a new start in the New Year, an intention to write my blog regularly and the start of a new body of work from my Studio also in the New Year.

And I also raise a toast to all readers of my blog and wish all of you the best for Christmas and the New Year!

P.S. by the way really Vic and myself are blissfully happy together still. I swear the above photo was staged!!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

End of year Show - and the cycle continues

Well, there is no turning back. The die has been cast and no matter what happens between now and next week I need to finish off everything and hang my exhibition.

I have decided to take it very easy - I am not going to work myself up into a terrible lather over it. I will do what i can and throw our house open on that day and then what will be will be. If one person comes or one hundred it matters not a jot. I also am not going to bank on selling all my work. If it goes it goes. If it doesn't I am already planning to approach the Casa de la Cultura when we get to Spain and see can i not organise something at that end. It would be a bit longer obviously and I would not have to host it myself which would leave me freer.

So there. All my goals and ambitions for Norway have now been met - or at least they will be after next Sunday. I can't believe that our time here is nearly at an end. And now that it is of course I start to get sentimental. I am certain that I will be crying into my beer before we leave.

Still I am so looking forward to the warm sun on my back and not having to live through another dark nordic winter. The dark does get to you actually.

So, what have i been doing over the past couple of weeks? Well obviously I have been busy organising for the show. My 'secret' project has been posted, but shock horror! It has not yet arrived at its destination which causing me a bit of consternation at the moment. If it does not arrive tomorrow I will have to reprint everything and DHL it at great expense! I could scream. In fact I think I might have let out a little shriek!

I am trying to finish off two large paintings on canvas which I started months ago now, but obviously lost interest in and put down. To pick them up again is causing me great effort and I am not certain if I can do it. But I will put one foot in front of the other this week and see what I can do. I have enough work without them so am not worried. But I do hate loose ends.

Of course I am still working away at the Spanish - which moves along, probably better than I think. There are moments when I think it is all hopeless but then I look at what I have learned over the past three months and have to be a little bit proud of my achievement. Of course that does not always satisfy me. In my head I am already reading Spanish novels in their original language. I yearn for that moment. I want to be able to go to the art college and meet other artists and be able to discuss the ideas and methods of the moment with them. I want to be able to ask neighbours how they are and what their children are doing. I want to be able to ask about the past as well as the future and most important I want to understand what the people are saying to me! I know this last will be the hardest - I can already read some headlines in newspapers etc but trying to catch the meaning of what the Spanish say as they career along at breakneck speed is going to be my greatest challenge. Add to that local dialect and .... !!!!! You catch my drift. Sure, when I moved to Ireland first - even though i spoke English and the local people spoke English - i could not understand a word that was being spoken to me. It took me ages before the strange colloquialisms and accent started to make sense to me.

Aside from all those things life does go on. I cook and clean and go shopping for vegetables and lentils (I did tell you that we are economic vegetarians at the moment did I not!). I am also making plans and arrangements for our great move. And in short and tying up the loose threads over here.

In my (blood) family my cousin got married and my nephew too, my little girl is sitting exams and my boy is working toward a new album so things are happening for everyone, new beginnings all round. On Vic's side things are relatively quiet at the moment apart from several birthdays including his own. But his children in their youth are now poised on the edge of life really with it all before them, so that is very exciting too.

You see now how everything in my work revolves around the cycle of life. Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn and then it all begins again.

I will leave you with that thought to ponder until I write again.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

On my Mind

Blogging is an art. There is no doubt about it. You have to be dedicated and you have to be organised I am both of those things but not all the time. Or at least in my life I have always been guided by obsessions. These vary from time to time as things come in and out of my life. At the moment I am obsessed with three things.
1. A little job that has come my way - which i am not at liberty to discuss here right now, but will when it is over.
2. The Spanish house, which after grinding to a bit of a halt has begun again with vigour, but now urgently needs decisions made and budgets balanced.
3. Learning Spanish for our impending move - very soon now - and I am still struggling with verbs and tenses.

There is a fourth thing which will come into play when number one is put out of the way in the next few days.

4. My exhibition. This will take quite a bit of organisation. Posters and flyers need to be made and put out and about, there is a little bit of work that needs to be completed and of course the pictures have to be hung.

I found that writing my blog was easier when I was actually working regular hours as I was when I was painting and printing. My life was more ordered and at specific times of the day i was eating meals, going for my walks, learning my Spanish, painting or blogging. It all fit in quite nicely and gave me variety in a day which, when spent and worked entirely on your own, can sometimes become tedious. I am always fascinated by artists, writers etc who work on their own - have to be on their own to work indeed - but even though driven to do whatever it is that they do they cannot work more than say 4 hours on the trot, before having to at least stretch, eat an apple or more importantly get out among people a bit, whether it is just to go shopping or meet someone for a sandwich.

I know you will say, I am just making excuses. And perhaps I am, but more importantly I am just trying to keep this blog open for the time when I will have some regularity again as a part of my working day which will include a little slot to write again.

So to all the people who used to read me regularly - please do tune in from time to time and I promise things will pick up again.

For now though - Hasta luego!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Gentle Footfall on the Forest Floor - and musings on hypochondria

Well hello there Bloggers,

sorry for the rather long absence - but there has been a sort of necessary stock-taking.

I have finished all my prints now for my exhibition. Today I even spread them out on the table and signed, titled and numbered them all. I haven't yet done a full print run. I will have to save that for when I am more settled. But have the first two or three of each edition ready to rock and roll.

This print is what I think is the best of the bunch - technically at least - and that is sort of part of the whole thrill of it isn't it. Mind you it was a real pain to handcolour. Still, I thought that I controlled the cutting well on the whole. I managed to create good tone, shade and highlight. I have come to the conclusion that the black and white prints are pretty cool too. They have that nice refreshing look about them. So I am doing a colour run and a black and white run of certain prints. Some of the prints work better in black and white too even though I had planned to colour them from the start. Oooh life! It is always a learning curve.

Anyway. The last week or so I have been doing quite a bit of stock-taking and packing and sorting stuff out. It is good too. Sometimes you have to draw your horns in and just spend some time thinking things through. Changing your habits is also refreshing and leads to new thoughts and ideas. As a matter of fact I couldn't sleep last night at all for some reason. My head was buzzing with all sorts of new ideas, especially for some new sculptures. I just haven't quite figured out how I am going to do them. I was thinking of handbuilding in a nice firm grogged clay but then you have size and weight to deal with and where will i take them to get them fired? I obviously still have to suss these things out. I also don't have a car anymore, and was not planning to get one, so how do i get my sculptures about?

There is another small issue on my mind - my body is not quite behaving the way it used to. I think it is called old age. But apart from a general weakening I have a rather serious issue with my right-hand shoulder. I know what it is, because I have self diagnosed from the internet. I also know the treatment - rather alarmingly I may need an operation - fine if it works, but it is one of those that is not always successful (because it involves the repair of torn tendons). The other thing that is on my mind is that you are supposed to seek help as soon as possible but because of our transient status here I am not going to get to a doctor until we get to Spain. In the meantime I am conscious of the irreparable damage being done.

The point is - if i don't have the strength in my arms, large scale sculpture will no longer be as possible as previously. Of course, there are still medals, paintings and other smaller and less physical media to work in so I am not too sad about it all.

By the way - did I ever tell you about my father who was a terrible hypochondriac?
Well he was. He used to come to ours for lunch on a Sunday and tell us all about his old-man ailments real and imagined - in glorious technicolour detail! And that all over the brussels sprouts and roast potatoes - really appetizing. His most thumbed text book was his ancient medical dictionary. And when I used to take him to the doctor for checkups etc he would get out his own diagnoses and thoughts on his illnesses and tell the doctor what to check for. I remember his last consultant very patiently telling him that he had checked for Diabetes, twice just to make him happy, but he really did not have it. Still, my father was not fully convinced.

I thought the grandest irony was that after he died - and he died rather suddenly so he needed to have an autopsy - it turned out that he actually had hemochromatosis! i will let you look that up yourself - but he had no idea which is such a pity as i know how much he would have enjoyed actually having something to blame for all the other bits that were falling off.

I spent years complaining about him but must admit that I too have inherited this small failing. Not the hemochromatosis but his hypochondria - so now I can have my own real and imagined ailments as I cruise gently into old age. Incidentally, I have kept his medical dictionary as a memento, but being a child of the modern age I prefer to surf the internet checking out all my symptoms as they occur.

It is very educational actually and in fact reassuring when you find out that really that particular ache is nothing to be worried about at all.

So on that positive note i will leave you now to enjoy my latest print.

talk soon

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Leaf and Fern - and dreaming of summer mmmmm!

Well, the head is a bit clearer today - inspite of a lingering hangover.

My beloved has gone home to see his family for the weekend so we had a little 'last supper' last night with a couple of bottles of wine. I know, I know, pure gluttony .... but most enjoyable.

And here is another photo taken out at the Mosvatnet (the lake) under the trees.

I love ferns - I love the fact that they are so primeval and i love the way that they look like feathers and i especially love them in the spring when they send out those spirals of shoots that unroll and unroll. They always look so tender and young when they start - covered in down to keep the little baby leaf warm.

More than any other plant - except perhaps mushrooms they have an almost animal quality about them. Perhaps because the way they fan out is reminiscent of a hand reaching out skyward.

I am probably attracted to them also because they are so mysterious, growing in the damp and dark beneath the cover of trees and other shrubbery - and yet they can often have such a lively shade of green.

There is a pattern emerging here isn't there. Favourite subjects of mine include: Ferns, moths, mushrooms, dead birds, decaying leaves and other forest floor matter. All these things that exist mysteriously in the dark and damp.

I am less attracted to sunshine and flowers or butterflies. Although in my own life - the one that I live - I do prefer sunshine, and flowers make me smile too and there is something so uplifting in the sight of a butterfly flippy flapping around the garden as they do. I do like the way butterflies fly alright - not exactly in a straight line, although to try and catch that in a picture it does not always translate. Bumble bees make me smile too for that same reason - they are adorable when you see them bumbling around from flower to flower, seemingly unhurried and unconcerned by birds or other possible predators.

Aaah! The remembered sounds of summer days and the feel of the warm sun on your back. The summer is only just gone and I am already nostalgic for it. Perhaps that has something to do with the severe lack of summer we did in fact have this year. So i close my eyes and dream. Next year ....

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

An Autumnal Ramble!

I hope some of you are still checking back on my blogsite from time to time. I did say that I would be dipping in and out for a bit. It is a shame to lose the momentum, but that is just part of the whole creative process as I keep learning and relearning.

I have been pretty inactive over the last week or so - well, at least in the art department.* That said, I am still working away, albeit slowly, on the prints which I made. I am still trying to dry them out thoroughly and am working out colour schemes for the ones that I am going to hand colour.

Thinking is also a big part of the process. I am sure that people would probably laugh to see me sitting or even lying on the couch in the morning. They would of course think that I was completely inactive and probably even think that I was lazy. But little do they know - inside my head I am hatching plans and thinking about threads of work. Words and images crowd around sometimes and combine without preamble. You might then see me leap to my feet to grab a piece of paper or a notebook where i will furiously scribble for a minute or so to write or draw down my idea.

Half of my ideas never do come to any sort of fruition, but at least I am assured that during times of artist's block I have source material on hand to jog my fumbling brain.

Why is it that i cannot write in a straight line - or event think in a straight line. Don't get me wrong, sometimes i have moments of great clarity, and of course if I am writing an essay or a proper letter I will crowd all the thoughts in first and then thin them out and organise them. But here I allow myself to write much more as I think. It does not bother me unduly, only when I cannot remember what I have said or thought only minutes or even seconds before.

What I am trying to say here is that I was planning write a post about my photography and why I take photos and what I think of them. So far in this post I have not mentioned photography once. Well actually right now I have mentioned it - twice - in one sentence.

So, the photo above. Well, obviously it is a nice picture of a forest floor in the autumn.

I use photography as a tool - not an artwork in its own right - i take photos of things that interest me and store them for the time being. When I am looking for inspiration, as well as the copious notebooks, i also have the photos to draw upon. I trawl through them and start chopping and photoshopping until something starts to take shape. Of course that is only part of it. Most of those chopped and changed photos just return to files and never rise themselves off the page again. Others work for me and these become a starting point for a work or a thread of works.

I know I am rambling - I cannot tell you how disabling the menopause can be at times. I seem to be living on the edge of life sometimes - It is like I am standing at the edge of a party and am watching it through a frosted glass wall. Sound and thoughts are muffled and especially dulled is my peripheral vision - I always prided myself on my peripheral vision, perhaps it is ebbing away with the years, but I think it is more at these times when the head is full of cotton wool and all my senses are dulled.

Oh dear, I am off again.

I wanted to tell you about the other reason I use photography.

I use it for documentation of my work. That has improved quite a bit - practice makes perfect. Although it is not perfect, especially as we do not have a suitable outside spot here for taking photos in natural light. I used to haul all my work outside when I had a garden - that helped a lot. i will be able to do it again when we finally get to Spain. Now I have to make do with large windows and photoshop.

I am thinking now that the ideal thing would be to set up a permanent photo 'studio' outside. i could devise a corner with rendered walls, painted white for a backdrop. Yes, as I think of it, that is a very good idea.

You see - i really cannot keep my ideas straight today - i do apologise - I am looking forward more that you know to life after the menopause, when my brain will settle down to more rational thought once more...not completely i am certain, because of course then i would not longer be me.

Keep watching this space :-)

*My vegetarian cookery is coming on a treat. We had gratinated Lyonnaise Potatoes last night - very tasty!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

You - and organising things

This is another of those illustrations i did for the poetry book.

It is probably one of the few drawings I have done that you could say is actually digital. Because I did the original drawing and then took it into photoshop where i airbrushed the shading in and otherwise coloured it in by computer as well as superimposing butterfly wings as a background.

I liked the theme of this - the poem itself was rather tragic, but I chose to focus on the way love bewitches you for better or worse. The subject is obviously represented here as just that - a little witch.

In general my life right now is shifting subtly to a run-down into our impending move. Right at this moment it is the one thing on my mind as i am organising things like the packing and throwing away and/or selling of all the stuff we have accumulated during our stay here. As always I am amazed at how much one or two people can collect in such a short space of time. In fairness we had been open to staying a bit longer, hence the bicycles, stereo sound system (zeppelin) and the printer (although a printer is rather an essential tool don't you think?).

Learning Spanish is rather high on my list of priorities too and i am walking around both the apartment, as well as Stavanger town centre, speaking or whispering to myself in Spanish. The phrases are based around finding somewhere to eat or how to get a doctor, not to mention how good milk is for you when you are sick. I can say that I am American (North American to be precise) which of course I am not, but as yet I do not know how to say that I am Irish, although I do understand that all I need to find out what 'Irish' is and I will be away in a hack! i do grasp the concept, but am in no hurry to start worrying unduly about those little details. I am, however, banging away at the lessons as much as I can to get some fluency before i get to Spain. if I have the tools to start with I am certain that the vocabulary will fall into place pretty quickly.

The town we are moving to is not touristy and therefore the Spanish people there speak Spanish as opposed to being geared towards English and German tourists. It will help in the long run as trying to learn Norwegian here was a huge challenge as almost everyone here not only speaks English but they speak it exceptionally well and they like using it.

But I am getting a bit sidetracked there I think. What I was really doing was making excuses for why I have slowed down on the blogging front as well as on the art creation front. That said. i did most recently have a very successful print run (as you know), which is always draining and left me feeling a bit empty and exhausted afterward, so i am also regrouping. It is great for the apartment because I tend to use the more menial tasks to unwind - as in dusting, cleaning and cooking, but not ironing! I am also, of course, waiting for the prints I made to dry out completely so that i can give some of them a colour wash. The ink is intentionally very slow drying and will take a couple of weeks to dry , although i am trying to speed up the process by using heaters and such. Still I will not rush it to be on the safe side.

I do intend to do a few more drawings/paintings for my exhibition, but also intend to have all my work finished by the time I go to Spain (to check on building) on the 24th of october. i will be back on the 1st of November and will spend the remaining couple of weeks organising for the exhibition - I hate having to rush these things at the last minute - it makes enjoyment of the evening much harder, in case you have forgotten something. But I may have mentioned this before. Such is the nature of excuses.

I hope you will still check up on my blog though - because I do not intend to give up in it. I am just more excited putting on new work rather than plundering the archives for older stuff. i think though, that once I start drawing again and my life settles back into that creative pattern I will just start blogging again naturally anyway - so please do not give up on this space!

Friday, 25 September 2009

going to pub

Great day's printing.

Going to pub

Thursday, 24 September 2009

soft footfall - a print


Everything hurts.

I think it is that fact that I get very intense when I am completing a plate and running the first test prints. And this is what this is. My test print of what will have to be my final Norwegian print as I have run out of lino. Well I actually still have a small piece (A4) but I really find for the detail that I wish to achieve in these prints the A3 size is the absolute minimum.

I am really satisfied with the development of my technical facility for cutting these printing plates. Although this one has taken me days to complete. It was extremely intricate and I did not want to rush it or be too rough hewn about it. However, the length of time was not entirely the fault of the lino as there were other things that came up in the past few days which held me up too.

I will be hand colouring this print also - like my fern frond - but that said I actually think that I may do a couple without colour too - it seems to work. I am pleased with the different gradations of shade achieved. In fact, as I think about it I may keep the colour washes very neutral, very thin washes of sepia perhaps and some green. I still think that there need to be some shadows you see. If I was considering one colour only from the start I would have cut it differently. Something to put into the back of my brain for the next one.

So, today I was running those first test prints. Rolling the ink, taking a hand rubbed print on my thin japanese paper. Then I had to check for areas that still needed work. Then I had to do a little more cutting, thankfully not very much at all. Then another print. Another look. And of course there was just a tiny bit more to cut and then I took the final test print which you now see before you. It is really intense, you find yourself all bent over the table looking for flaws and mistakes. Also as I was doing more cutting and the plate was all sticky with ink so I ended up with little flakes of lino stuck in the ink and they of course do so destroy a print - so they had to be picked off first. They have to picked off individually and you get ink all over your hands as well as squinting at the plate against the light. Are you getting the picture?

I love it though. there is something magic about printing. I cannot explain it. I think it has something to do with all that process going into it, from concept to sketch to cutting the plate and finally the whole print taking and then you peel the paper off the plate with your breath held, hoping for the perfect print. As of yet, none of them have been perfect, but I believe it is only a matter of time and I will be able to run them off one after the other until the run is complete.

Well, we have three months left now until we leave Norway, i feel myself winding down a bit I must say, losing momentum at this time as my mind turns to the usual feat of packing. Of course I still have work to do, but I will not be pushing myself as hard now. After all, my energies will now have to go into organising my exhibition at the end of November. So the work I start now has to be completed. The ink on those prints takes several weeks to dry so that is another reason why they have to printed tomorrow and put to dry. i will then turn my attention to some more painting - with a few ideas fermenting as we speak. I can paint right up to the night before the exhibition actually, so there is no urgency now for those.

There will be catologues to produce then and posters and flyers to advertise the event and then to decide what day to have it on and then just hope that everyone turns up with their wallets open and ready to buy.

That is a funny thing itself. Of course I love to sell my work. It is the reward and it is the recognition that the work is appreciated by others. But there is always a part of me that hates to say goodbye to my 'babies'. They have so much work in them, so many hours and so much thought and planning and then I sell them to strangers when I would so very much like to have them hanging on my own walls. It is an eternal problem with art and the artist.

Anyway! Enough for now! I have mused on enough about my problems and passions. I have a print room to clean and a dinner to cook and a bit more packing to attend to also.

Sometimes it is quite challenging being a multi-tasker!

Monday, 21 September 2009

How Wings Work

I thought that something a bit more gentle might make a better start to the week.

this is gentle in execution and gentle in theme I think you will agree. Also when I took the photo the sun shone a ray across the picture and I liked it so i have left it in. I think it enhances the painting - it makes the central portion look slightly translucent, don't you think?

I had a bit of a struggle painting this all the same - but when don't I struggle - but in the end it came together very satisfactorily. With nice washes of colour to build up the flesh tones and then slightly stronger paint to make the wings.

This idea came to me one morning when I was lying in bed looking up at the ceiling and out the balcony door at the blue sky. i was half dozing and half dreaming I think and I jsut started thinking about how wings are held together. I seem to have some memory - it might be a bird wing actually - that some of the feathers are latched together by organic hook and eyes. So I decided to use this system for these metamoth wings too. I thought it was just one simple thought in a painting. Not too crowded like some of my others. Sometimes that simplicity is just very relaxing.

I like thinking about how things work; wings, crests on birds, lizard feet and those great long lizard tongues that shoot out to catch insects, insect feet on water, how seeds germinate and how they get from a to b, how fingers and toes bend and point and how chestnuts open and how they protect their seeds. The list is endless and as varied as the whole world. It gives me something to do in the early hours of the morning though.

Today being Monday I thought i would ease myself in to the week on moth wings.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Hate and the inherited anger

How's this for strong feelings!

I know - a bit cliche, but that was the theme of the poem too.

Anyway I am sure that everyone reading this can close their eyes and remember feeling this way about someone who they loved or even still love.

Or maybe not. Not everyone experiences such strong feelings of anger and hate.

I used to have a terrible temper. I couldn't control it at all. I inherited it from my father. Yeah. I know, it wasn't a born in trait but a learned behaviour. My father used to fire up pretty quickly, sometimes for not real reason at all. He would go all red in the face and shout so much that he would sort of froth at the mouth. Sometimes his dinner would go all over the wall, at the other side of the room! Glasses were not safe at all. But I do not remember him slapping (really laying into us that is) me or my siblings when he was in a rage.

I know he didn't hit my mother either. But that sort of temper is still terrifying for everyone around it. I tried to be so good so that I would not draw his ire on me.

My mother on the other hand was so cool. She never lost it with him. There really would have been no point. But I don't think it diffused his temper, in fact, I think it made him all the angrier. But he really could do nothing more against her because she did not react. I know how frustrating that is - it is like hitting a pillow. Very unsatisfactory.

Well, I developed a temper like his. I used to go into my room and throw my possessions around the place and hit the wall and things like that. it was terrible. I did not know how to control it at all. In fact I didn't realise that I was supposed to control it. I thought that this was normal behaviour. We were fiery Russians after all. Temperamental and passionate. But I remember how exhausting that sort of behaviour is. It does not actually release the anger and frustration, in fact it does the opposite. The angrier you become the more you wind yourself up until you are so angry that you think you will burst and then there is nowhere to go so you just sort of collapse in tears and frustration. You remain all hot and bothered and it takes ages to cool down again.

This anger followed me for many, many years and possibly my biggest regret is that my son thinks of me as an angry person to this day - moody Mary he calls me. Ironically i have to thank my husband for eventually teaching me to control my temper. It is ironic because he was the cause of so much of my anger during our marriage. It was only as our marriage was ending that I realised if I was ever to win an argument with him I would have to control that terrible rage. And so i did. It was miraculous, like a complete catharsis. As if the scales fell from my eyes and I could control it and I could finally see clearly about the damaging nature of such a terrible anger. Damaging for yourself but also for those around you - especially your children.

I rarely get angry now - and if i do it is just not that same debilitating fury. It is wonderful. In itself it has a really calming effect on me - so I just get more and more chilled. Happy days :-)

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Hand I Held in Mine

This was an illustration i did for a book of poems. The theme of the poems (at least the ones I illustrated) was love. And as with most good love stories the love was not plain sailing. The different poems each taking a different approach and each telling a story either of love gone wrong, or love with issues that could be worked out, or love that started as total passion but ended in a desire to kill. Unfortunately I do not have the poems themselves to hand, but I am sure that you get my drift. There was no story that was about fairytale love - but then that is just that - a fairytale.

Call me cynical - but I don't think I am. I still believe in love and I believe that it can be good and that it can endure. I am a realist - I think - others are not of the same mind - but I have not been ground down by life in spite of love that has gone wrong and in spite of the curveballs that life has thrown at me. Love must be allowed to grow and develop, but change is never easy and growth can be painful, but nothing stands still so the work has to be put in. That is realism, is it not?

My father was a pessimist and I always used to say to him "can't you look on the bright side of life for a change - the worst is not always going to happen". So as long as he was alive I had to be this amazing Pollyanna type figure as i tried to win him over with my positive outlook. But somewhere along the way I realised that he did in fact have a point. If you always expect the worst then you may be pleasantly surprised when the worst does not happen. If, on the other hand, you are an optimist like I was, you can be disappointed and disillusioned time and time again - which I was.

So I did try to take a leaf out of his book although I also try to temper it with my natural joy of life. Life would be too miserable if you were always looking for that cloud. I still (secretly) really believe in happy endings although I also realise that sometimes they do not happen for everyone and not all the time. But I do believe that a positive outlook can actually help the outcome whatever it is - as Scarlett O'Hara said "After all, tomorrow is another day" (if I have quoted her correctly)

Here, I do apologise for going on about it (and I cannot remember if I have blogged about this before - it is quite likely as a father's influence cannot be underestimated!) but thinking about these poems, written incidentally by a friend of mine called Christy Parker, from Youghal in Co Cork, brings up these thoughts about life and especially love.

Regarding the illustration - i tried with this one to convey in a simple graphic way how the love in the story was in the past. The soft and gentle hand, has a little sting to it.

In addition I think you can tell from this drawing how much I like hands for their wonderful expressiveness. Think of puppeteers and what stories they can tell with the expression of their hands - or a ballet dancer or just an Italian. It has been said that I speak with my hands too by the way. Hands are so expressive!

I always liked that silly schoolgirl joke "How can you silence an Italian?" answer: "Tie his hands behind his back" Boom, boom!

Friday, 11 September 2009


Aaaah! Garlic!
I love garlic. I have drawn it before, several times, but just garlic and most people don't find it that interesting. So now I have put it into a proper drawing with a theme. The theme of this one being companion planting.

Garlic can be planted amongst roses to help keep aphids under control. Of course there are other things afoot here (hehehe! little pun), where there's a rose there is always a thorn for instance. Also you can see the cycle of life from the little rosebud in the foreground through the full blown rose flower, trampled as it is, to the ripe and fertile rosehip. Even the word, rosehip, has nice female connotations as well as a female form. Garlic is of course very female I think you will agree.

But it does not stop there!

Garlic is so delicious. I love cooking with garlic. I love the way it comes in a great big head, bulging with goodness. And then you have to peel some of the outer layers and start to see the very defined separate cloves. Only then can you start to crunch the cloves apart. I then like to give them a bit of a thumping on the chopping board before I peel the individual cloves, this helps to loosen their little jackets. I cut off the little hard end with a sharp knife and try to get the whole peel to come off in one go. Actually if the garlic is very fresh - which is naturally better - this peel does not come off quite so easily. If it is a bit older then it just falls off quite satisfyingly.

We use masses of garlic now - more and more every week if the truth be known. But we both realise that is is soooo good for you and we do care about our health - like most middle-aged slightly less springy adults. So it just goes into absolutely everything. I like it best when Vic roasts it whole in the oven for me. He always lets me have the lion's share of it. He doesn't actually peel it then at all, he leaves it in its jacket and just roasts it complete. It comes out browned and smoky and as soft as tootpaste. Gorgeous because cooking it this way gives it a wonderful melting sweet flavour.

All I can say is, it is lucky we both like it or we would have to sleep in separate bedrooms. And that wouldn't be much fun now would it?

I won't go on - but I could - about how good garlic is for you. From blood pressure, to heart, to braininess etc etc. If we keep going this way we will live forever! And the added advantage is that we would be eternally immune to vampires too and that can't be any bad thing :-)

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Jester in Print - and moving forward

Now, I will show you this print already, even though it is not yet finished. I want to hand colour it, but the ink is extremely slow drying so I will have to wait patiently for it to dry completely before I wash watercolour over it.

Even in just black and white it is not too bad I think, although i am still not completely happy with my linocuts yet. It is not easy to get the more gentle sinuous line that I like. Because of course the very character of linocut is generally more crude and immediate.

So i have to explore it further to see if I can use the nature of the medium as it is or try to bend it to suit my own needs. Of course you will probably gather that I favour the latter course of action. I love a challenge. I know it can be done, because I have seen linocuts that are far more subtle than mine so far. The act of adding hand painting to the print will of course help to soften the angular, roughcut lines. But I want to be able to control the cutting better from the outset. I suppose more practice is required.

Scale is another factor. In a very small print it is hard to cut the lines fine enough, so I have moved up a notch - this print is approximately A3 in size and has allowed me more detail, but I think I will have to perhaps invest in a professional cutting tool at some point in the not too distant future. But of course, you know what I am going to say now - it will have to wait until we get to Spain! Mañana, mañana. But in this instance I know that tomorrow will come and that all good things come to those who wait.

I have one more piece of lino with me and have the opportunity to make one more A3 sized print (also another in A4, but as I am running out of paper also that might not happen) and as we speak I am working through some sketches of ideas for this final Norwegian print. Let us hope that everything I have learned so far about linocut printing will come together for me then.

The really good news is that the scaffolding is, right this moment being taken down! I cannot wait.

It has been up for near enough two months now and I had not fully considered how it would affect our view from the windows and how much light it would block from the apartment. Not that we had any say in the matter of course, as we are only tenants here and as such have no say in decisions of that type. Anyway, even if we owned the building we would also have to endure the scaffolding if we wished to get any work done.

I think that once the scaffolding comes off we will all be fully able to appreciate how much better the apartment block will look though. So far the new paint looks pretty good and the building is starting to look very smart.

I have pulled up the blinds in the front of the house to let the sunshine stream in now as it hasn't for all these weeks. It really lifts the spirits.

Of course the summer has now really slipped away - today it is quite cool. We are definitely into Autumn now with leaves beginning to turn brown and yellow and chestnuts ripening and beginning to fall, great brown conkers ready for a fight. I have been here almost a full year - I came on the 25th of September so this was pretty much what i arrived to. What an adventure it has been, in so many ways. Finding out about a new country and a new way of living and learning how to live with my Victor as well, which has been like any relationship in the early stages; good for the most part, but with a few moments of doubts and misunderstandings too. But we have weathered the storms and we have kept moving forward, which is of course what it is all about really.

And like this year, my work has kept on moving forward and I look back and see how much I have achieved during that time and I have to be pleased with my progress. i think also that if you were to look back over the work i have done and posted on this site you will see a development and an improvement - and that is what it is all about. Moving forward

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A Bitter Nest

I am not making excuses for not posting yesterday. I just had nothing to say and nothing to show.

I spent all yesterday morning preparing paper, rolling ink and printing my array of lino cuts. By the time I had finished and cleaned up and spread all the new prints over a towel on the bed it was about two o'clock and I was absolutely happily exhausted.

I also had to get down to the harbour to take some photos, although the weather was so terrible that i really did not get such great photos at all. I was drenched and more importantly so was my camera, even though I kept slipping it back into its plastic bag whenever i was not actually in action. But you know what it is like - eventually you are putting a wet camera back into a wet bag, no real advantage in that. So I bought some provisions and got back home.

But, back to the printing. Really happy with it. The new ink is definitely the bizz. I could tell as I was rolling it out, thick and viscous. It made that lovely tacky sort of stick stick noise as I rolled it out onto the glass plate. And then, when I rolled it onto the plate, it stuck to the surface without running down into the grooves at all. I could roll it over and over, building up a nice thickness of ink without ruining the edges. What a joy.

The actual printing was a bit more problematic as i am not fully equipped. I am using an old clothes mangle to print, but do not have a large enough bed to lie the print and paper on and i was feeling my way with pressure and padding pressing down on the top. So there were quite a few spoiled prints, but also there were some almost complete successes. i won't say complete success as there was no print that did not have little areas where the ink did not take. Still I think that the prints I have made, for the equipment I have are really good and, while I will not issue them as numbered prints, I will certainly issue them as trial prints, and in that of course they are in fact unique. I can tell you that is the sort of print I would prefer myself!

I will only do a couple of each - I do not have the paper anyway to print the whole run - and keep the plates for printing after I move. In Spain I will be able to set up a dedicated print area and also work on getting a printing press with all the correct paraphernalia.

I must say though that i am really pleased with my 'printing press'. As I mentioned, it is in fact an old clothes mangle which Vic bought me for my birthday present last December - it took a long time to put it to use, but it had to be bought when it was seen, with a view to the future. The sad thing is that I will not be able to take it with me when we leave - it weighs an absolute ton! I only hope we will be able to pick up something like it in Spain too.

This print is a little, graphic style picture of that nest with a cuckoo's egg in it. I enjoyed very much letting the twigs jut, twist and jerk their way into the weaving of the nest. I used the words of the bitter herbs that were woven into the walls. The herbs of tears and despair. I allowed the character of the lino cut to describe a background. It sort of lent itself really. I suppose it could be seen as a sketch really, but at the same time it does describe quite a nice whole. i find simplicity difficult, isn't that funny!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Friday again!

I have ben very busy today. I was busy making test prints and making subsequent adjustments to my plates.

I am absolutely wrecked!

So, no blog again today - but Monday I will have a proper print to show you.

Just going to hop into the shower now, wash my hair, brush my teeth, get my glad rags on and I'll be off out down to the Martinique for a couple of drinks and a slice of Pizza!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Soft Footfall on the Forest Floor - part 2

There now. My latest drawing. The concept is obviously the same as my little two colour mezzotint, but it contains more detail.

This was a total joy for me to make. It drew and painted itself really. Every moment for me was a pleasure of making. I did not rush it at all. I did not panic at any point and everything just seemed to find its place. That said, there are some bits I would improve if I were to do it again, but that is how I always feel about every single piece of work I have ever done. "If I were to do that again I would do that bit differently" That is no bad thing I believe as I continually strive to improve on what i do. I believe that that is the guiding hand of most artists and creatives. You always want to do better.

Anyway, himself made it back safely eventually. It was so nice to catch up. he brought back all the gossip and news from home with him and he himself came back looking really well and refreshed, in spite of his gruelling airport ordeal. He enjoyed himself immensely and that seemed to glow out of him. The stories were mainly positive, sometimes they are all sad and tragic. So sitting chewing the fat was enormously enjoyable. We shared the bottle of wine and a few of the prawns and eventually called it a night, very late!

And now things are getting back to normal. Nice to have the man around again. The house is so quiet and still without him. Nice in its own way, but the positive energy of another person in the house just makes life fuller and richer.

AS well as the gossip and the duty free he also brought me back a jar of printing ink! Now I can start printing again, this time I hope with better results than before. Hopefully I have got it right this time and ordered the correct type for my needs. This awaits to be seen of course and I will have to do a few test prints to get it as right as possible.

So that pretty well plots out my work for today and tomorrow and I hope to be able to show you some results very soon.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Moth and Arch and a midnight feast

And this is the other little Mezzotint that I did. They are both only about 5 or 6 inches across, but size definitely isn't everything - I hope you agree with me.

I think you can appreciate from this print just how well mezzotint works in mono-colour. It is much harder to get the white to zing when it has to be highlighted twice, there is much more room for graininess.

I think it might also have something to do with its resemblance to an old grainy black and white film. Black therefore, or even sepia becomes the natural colour for it.

I really wasn't supposed to be working today at all. I was looking forward to doing a little bit of shopping in the morning, a few fresh prawns (ferske reker as they call them here) and a nice bottle of wine for Victor's homecoming lunch. Only then he rang to say that he would not be home on time as his first flight from Manchester was cancelled. Of course this then became compounded by the fact that there is no direct flight to Stavanger, so he has to make a connection in Amsterdam. So now I am waiting patiently to hear from him to let me know what time he will be home. I hope he makes the flight that gets in for 4.30, then at least we can have a nice leisurely supper together. Otherwise it will be after after 10.00. So fingers crossed.

The silver lining is that I have been working away on my latest drawing, which is coming along just nicely. It has been a productive weekend and I feel very satisfied.

Otherwise not much else to report. The weather continues a la Ireland! Wet, wet, wet! But it is not unbeautiful. The rain with the water of the Fjord and the boats and ships in the harbour all work together really well, albeit in a watery way!

Oh Dear. I just got a phonecall from himself. He will be on the later flight :-( never mind we will just have to have a midnight feast.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Soft Footfall on the Forest Floor

I cannot believe that I have not shown you my little Mezzotints. It just occurred to me as i am currently working on an update of this image.

However, I do believe I told you about this method of printing in an earlier blog. It is the type made on a copper plate which is all roughed up all over and then you have to rub back into it with a burnishing tool to smooth the areas that you wish to print white. Just to confuse you (and me) as a two colour print you have to make two plates you must....I am scratching my head now....I cannot intellectualise it and cannot explain how it's done right now because i cannot picture it myself. If I was doing it I could figure it out, but right now I am scratching my head.

i got it!
Plate one - the green plate - smooth out what you want to stay white.
Plate two - the black one - smooth out everything that you want to stay white and green!

But that is not the point. The point is I love the effect of these prints. You must agree they are particularly yummy. All that wonderful graininess, like an old film. And the darkness that hints of hidden corners and mysterious things lurking there.

They lend themselves beautifully to light and shade - with no beginning and no end, but done well there are gradations of black through your greys to white.

I wanted to do Mezzotint for years, every since I saw my first one. i had read about the process, so had an idea of how it worked and finally did a workshop at the Cork Printmakers (with John Aherne) just before I left Ireland. I was not aware that you could make a mezzotint with colours - i had only ever thought in black and white for this technique. It was quite laborious doing the two colour print, but very rewarding. difficult to get the plates lined up (registered) but when it worked it was very satisfying.

It was so funny at the workshop - there were about 8 artists or so and once John had told us the rules of the studio and gave us materials and tools we started to work and a silence descended over us for the next two days as we scraped and rubbed. The only time you heard voices was when one of us rolled a print through the press - then everyone gathered round and there were appreciative oohs and aahs! It was really fun. But very boring for John! We were all so keen and so attentive, therefore we had very few questions. He should have brought a good book to read.

Seriously though, I actually thought he was a very good teacher - very clear in his instruction and very encouraging, while also pointing out ways of improving the technique and which tools to use etc.

As i mentioned in the first paragraph - I have had a wonderfully productive weekend on my own here. Not lonely, but missing having my man come home in the evening - It is more fun with two! I have been working on on my two linocut plates, but me being me I got a bit excited about my next linocut - i know - so typical! I haven't even finished the first ones yet and I am already onto the next project - But that is just the way I work, famine or feast, there will come the lean times when I cannot get motivated at all so "Bring it on!" I say.

Right - back to my desk - got a drawing to finish and some cutting to do.

I hope you enjoy my little print

Friday, 28 August 2009

Sculpture proposal and gluttony

Today I am completely absorbed in cutting out, not one but two lino cuts. i know i am a complete glutton but I am lost to it.

Hence I am not even going bother blogging today! i am just too happy and productive in other circles. But do not despair, as Vic is away this weekend i may get in a replacement on Saturday or Sunday.

Oh heck! let me see if I can find a picture for you at least to brighten the afternoon!

There you go - a wildcard if ever there was one. Working title "Cow Lady" It was a proposal for one of those fruitless public sculpture commissions that I had no luck with! I would like to see that in the market square in any small town in Ireland - or anywhere else. It would give people something to think about, no?

That's it - that's all you get today

see you tomorrow!

Thursday, 27 August 2009


A very slow day. i seem to have accomplished almost nothing. I have not even made the bed!
I have had a walk and done my Spanish lesson for the day. So that is something. And I have made a big pot of soup to get me through the weekend without having to do too much cooking. I am only cooking for one this weekend as Vic is away until Tuesday.

I had planned to be very productive but for some reason i did not sleep very well and then got up to see Vic off on the 5.oo am Flybuss from the Fiskepiren. I came home as I felt it was a bit dark still for a walk and fiddled about a bit on the computer and then got absolutely starving so I made myself some breakfast. Then I did my first Spanish segment, but found my eyes were closing so at about 7.00 am i went back to bed and slept until 11.30!!!! I must have needed it. But obviously that took rather a large chunk out of my day and at this point I have not even put pencil to paper, or cutter to lino, or whatever.

Now I am just waiting for my soup to cook and am going to hang around for Bernardo - our Spanish Architect to ring at around 5.00. So when I finish writing this I will set up a work station for some lino cutting and even make a small start. With no one coming home to me for his tea I can work through the evening, or as long as I like. And I don't even have to make the bed, not even until Tuesday if i don't want to. You see how I depend on him really to keep me together! I prefer it when it is made myself.

This sculpture was an attempt to make something of a beautiful form. It is seed-like or pod-like, based in nature and growth and out of the top two little hands are growing and stretching upwards. It is not a complicated piece.

It is not a perfect piece though - I think it is too heavy for the size - the walls needed to be thinner. I liked the form and I liked the colour and I experimented with some silver leaf on it as well. I like playing around with surface decoration. Bronze is always thought of as a noble metal and most people think it should be left natural or given a traditional patination but I remember an artist I looked at while in college - his name escapes me now - he used to make female figures mainly, and quite erotic. They were cast in bronze and then he painted them! I imagine it was some sort of enamel paint or gloss, again the details are a bit hazy there. I think I need to do a little bit of research to remind myself of some of those details now. The point is, he just did what he wanted to get his result - not something to please somebody else.

Anyway - getting back to my own piece, I also experimented with the base of it, often an unconsidered afterthought. In this instance I wanted the base to be organic and in keeping with the actual sculpture I also wanted it to sort of disappear so that the sculpture would look like it was floating and the whole form could be seen, so this was one of my experimental resin castings - you remember, the ones which taught me an awful lot about the pitfalls and difficulties of this medium. this was the piece that I had to cast twice because the first one turned yellow as it overheated.

So, a good learning curve. But is it a good sculpture?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Yes indeed - you have seen this picture before. But the last time it was just a sketch, an unfinished drawing. Now I have nestled the pupa into a bed of dry oak leaves and acorns to protect her from the winter cold.

I must say I am starting to like this new way of drawing that is evolving. Yes, it is a bit darker but it gives such great texture to the image, like static or flakes of atmosphere.

Ever since my art teacher at school (who was brilliant by the way - Ted Akimoto at Munich American High School) spoke to us about the atmosphere, I have been fascinated by what it might contain. I have yet to work out a way of showing this properly and in a way that is not just literal, but may be on the other hand. He described it to explain how the distance is portrayed in paintings using more blue and grey colours as a landscape recedes. But I think i stopped paying my full attention as I started imagining all that pollen, dust, insects and water vapour floating around in the air.

I love it - it makes such a solid mass of life and stuff all around us. We do not wander round in a vacuum. Well of course it is not a vacuum because then we would all be dead. What I mean is that we do not wander around in just good clear air - there are all sorts of other things flying around as we weave our way in between them and they between us.

So perhaps these new drawings are unconsciously a way of showing that. But as it is unconscious I will never know.

Now, what was I thinking about.......

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


Another busy day.

My Spanish lessons are coming on a treat after i got hold of some new audio lessons for my Ipod. I will not try to dazzle you with my fluency in Spanish - because I am far from that, but the exciting thing about these new tapes is that they use real Spanish speakers - the other one I had - which is great in its own way - does not. At this stage I have some rudiments of the language but i really need to tap into the rhythms of Spanish as it is spoken and come to terms with the fact that real Spanish speakers do not speak slowly and clearly for you, but rattle off the words and run them together. Even at that I will still have to come to grips with the dialect spoken in Malaga, which is even less distinct, or so I am told.

So now I start the day with my bicycle ride - out to the Mostvatnet to cycle round the lake. Then it is back home for a pot of coffee and my first half hour of Spanish. I like to do it in small modules as I find my concentration starts to wane after a short time. In the evening when I take my brisk walk around the harbour I plug into the Ipod again and do my second lesson of the day. I did an extra half hour at lunchtime today with the reader, but am not sure that i will do that every day - you cover a lot of ground with that part in a short space of time so probably once or twice a week will suffice for that.

You see we only have four months left before we head out to Spain for good so I need to be regimented now. That is a deadline and i thrive on deadlines!

Obviously I then went on to finish off this drawing of Vic with that darned moth again. This one did not go so well for me - but I think I pulled it round in the end. I had to do a lot more drawing so it has become darker and denser. It is interesting learning more and more about the materials that I am currently using and getting the hang of how to use them to create the effect that i wish to achieve. Even at that there are going to be days that things will not go right for me, but those are the joys.

I actually finished another drawing today too. I will save that for you tomorrow. But you see I have been productive.

So you see how important a deadline is for me - my end of sojourn exhibition is planned for the end of November so that is less than three months away now and I still have a multitude to do!

Changing the subject slightly. There is another really cool thing that has happened to me in the last month or two. I have begun to read again. When I was a child I grew up in a very bookish family. My parents were always reading as were my brother and two sisters - I was a bit slower to pick up the book. In fact I was very slow learning how to read. I did not get the hang of it until i was 9. My mother was beside herself with worry about it. She tried me with glasses and i think it was whispered that i was a bit slow, you know, they call it a learning disability in these trendy times. And I think in fact it was - but not in the sense that I was backward. i remember just not thinking that it was very important to be able to read. Add to that the fact that I had and still have a bit of a problem conceptualising things. I can reason it out a bit better now, but when i was little i just liked looking at clouds and feathers and things - and buying umbrellas of course.

Anyway then I did read quite a lot of children's books that we had in the house - all the classics, A little Princess, Charlotte's web, Green Smoke, Five children and It etc and I absolutely adored all of the books by Alan Garner. Of course i loved the big books of fairytales that we had: The brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and the Russian Fairy tales (which book I still possess). In fact i probably did read quite a lot unbeknownst to myself. i graduated on to Agatha Christie of naturally - very enjoyable.

In my mid teens and twenties i was a really avid reader. I read everything and after moving to Ireland frequented the mobile library that came to the village every Thursday. I had my son in tow then and we spent many a happy hour picking out books to bring home. I remember being addicted to Thomas Hardy in those days and Oscar Wilde - but he was an ongoing love affair really.

Then I suddenly stopped - probably at around 30 years of age. I think my brain just died. I was a wife and mother and working at rotten jobs and i was just plain tired too. I tried to read a book every so often but found it very hard to concentrate.

When i went to college I only read textbooks for essays and so forth and that continued as I embarked on my lecturing career. I almost had an aversion to books at that point - i wanted to do other things than stick my nose in a book in my free time.

So years have gone by and now I am 49 and finally living a life again of some regularity that does not involve constant studying and homework and I really am not a great watcher of television, but you need to have some entertainment in the evening - so i borrowed a book from the library. And i read it. And then I borrowed another and read that one too. And suddenly I have read lots of books and I think of myself as a reader again. i have not trouble concentrating and if i get a book that does not enthrall me from the first few pages i just put it on the reject pile and take it back to the library unread.

It is wonderful! such a wonderful feeling of going into other worlds again and losing myself in other people's lives. One thing i will say though is that I have forgotten which are the good books to get out and I have been reading rather a lot of books with very miserable stories which do not seem to have a proper ending (but that might be a modern trend). I find that most unsatisfactory, but will probably get better at it again. I like books about people with problems, but I like them to solve them and learn something on the way. I must say I do like a happy ending but am not averse to a good cry on the way.

Oh dear I have gone on. Probably because I did not blog yesterday and so had everything all bottled up inside. Well the genie is out of the bottle now so I can leave you and go for a quick walk and a Spanish lesson - although it will be in the rain :-(

Monday, 24 August 2009

A Note:

I would like to apologise for not blogging today.

I had a real admin. morning and this afternoon a sick tummy which has rather slowed me down. It is Monday anyway so what other excuse do i need in fact :-)

I have a drawing almost complete for your perusal tomorrow, so will write then

Friday, 21 August 2009

self scanning, wind and packing

This is what I feel like today!

A bit confused, a bit hungover, a bit under pressure!

Got so much to do, but my brain (and body) is just not functioning.

We got an unexpected text last evening, just as we were noshing down on a little starter of Tortilla chips and a really garlicy, oniony dip accompanied by a nice glass of red wine. The text was an invitation to nip down to the Munken for a quick drink or two with some of Vic's mates. Little did I realise that it was Thursday - 2 for 1 in the Munken on a Thursday night! Suddenly there I was with two Vodka and Cokes in front of me! It wasn't my fault I swear!

We had already had a drink or two at home as well, thinking that it was just going to be a nice quiet evening chilling in the comfort of our own four walls.

It was a strange day yesterday - there was a peculiar, very strong wind blowing, but it was really hot like the Mistral, Sirocco, Foehn, Chinook or whatever you wish to call it. I had little rivulets of sweat running down the backs of my legs, and that was just after an easy stroll into town for some groceries. You could tell that it was going to bring something with it. Not Mary Poppins unfortunately, but rain perhaps, or thunder and lightening.

The rain did come a bit later on, luckily we were both indoors by that time, as it hammered down. It did not last too long and did nothing to dispel the electric atmosphere although I thought I did hear a small rumble of thunder.

That was while we were having the first drink at home. Then we went out and while we were in the Munken there was another torrential downpour and what I thought was a terrific clap of thunder, but it might have been someone fainting upstairs - I will never know. But again, by the time we came out it was all clear again, which makes a welcome change. I cannot tell you how many times I have stepped out of this flat after looking out the window at the sky, smiling at the sun and by the time I get down the four steps to the front door it is drizzling again!

The sun is shining today and the wind appears to have dropped. I don't really know how warm it is yet as I have the balcony door closed as the painters are outside - and in fact they have painted our own balcony now. But I think I might take a stroll into town with my camera to take a few photos. I have been eying the Icelandic poppies that grow in every nook and cranny as they have developed little elongated seed heads. These are already brown and judging by the state of the tips of them - perforated - they have already spread their seeds to the four winds. Which is great as it means that next year there will be an equally impressive show of orange and yellow in all the untended bits of Stavanger.

We were only speaking last night about the severe shortness of time we have left here now and how I really need to pack in some more photography before we are gone for good. I won't have the chance again and Stavanger really has some beautiful and very characterful things to see

I started packing yesterday. A little bit previous you might think, but actually it is the first phase of packing. Vic is going home to the UK at the end of next week and is going to take some of my stuff with him. Let me explain:

When I came over to Norway - all those months ago now - I knew I could only bring my baggage allowance with me, but of course I needed more than one pair of shoes and one jacket. I am not a man! So I started posting parcels of clothes and provisions before I left Ireland. I think there were five in all and each one weighed about 10 or 12 kilos, if I remember rightly. Now, at the other end of our sojourn here I am posed with the same problem - not to mention that of course I have bought some new clothes while here as well as art supplies etc etc - you know what it is like the way things accumulate over time.

Planning ahead, Vic has two trips home before December and I have one trip to Spain so I am packing up the first installment of my stuff for his first trip next week.

Our final trip out together on the 20th of December we may still have to look at booking an extra bag each - there is still all the electronic equipment, laptops, harddrives etc. I really wish I had a simpler more streamlined existence!

I must say we are both looking forward to having all our stuff in one place finally. The itinerant lifestyle is great in one way, but not if you accumulate stuff like I do, and in fact, even though he thinks he is so superior to me in this matter, Vic too has loads of stuff and I would venture to say even more clothes than me!

So on that note - and probably setting the tone for this evening's 'discussions' with himself I will leave you, and wish you a very lovely weekend.

Me, I will have to peel my face off the scanner and get up and down to business!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Something in His Eye

I am not sue what happened here - I will leave any interpretation up to yourselves, but I think I have given you enough clues in the past few weeks. If you want some help then you will have to email me to ask.

Obviously this is Vic again. I really am enjoying this rather anal dedication to the study of his face, as well as his neck musculature and also his lapels. Great lapels there!

Ears as well. i have always had trouble with ears, but through dedication and close study I am starting to get the hang of them. When I am brushing my teeth and applying my face cream in the morning I find myself studying the parts of my own ears very closely as well and find to my amazement that there is actually very little difference between my ears and Vic's. Although ironically this painting has no ears in it at all - which rather makes this paragraph a bit pointless!

The progress with each painting is of course the most important thing to me at the moment. If I was not looking for improvement then I would have moved on to the next thing by this time, printing or medal making, but for some reason I seem to have the bit well and truly between my teeth and working really hard at the laying on of paint. Also I am trying to whittle away the caricature look in these portraits and I am happy to say that I think this one succeeds in this where the first ones definitely did not. Progress is always so satisfying don't you think.

Other progress is in the laying on of paint - I was especially happy with the jacket in this painting. I found it very satisfying to combine the reds and blues together and create one unified whole - or so i think. i did use a bit of pen and ink at the end, just along the bottom of the picture, but that was more to create a balance of ink across the whole picture. For the colour it was not necessary.

I have just finished a book about a little girl who throughout her growing up spends a lot of her time drawing and making things and basically living in a visual world. I was impressed with the way the author managed to describe a lot of things that I describe in this blog on a regular basis and also some of the things that I have yet to speak about, but have experienced and feel. She too spoke about the development of her art, not in such an aware way as I do here - because obviously I am much older, but in the way that most of us experience life and living at the time we are doing it - much more intuitively. As I dwell on it the book impresses me more and more as I can completely identify with the girl's development as an artist. Not her life, as that was a million miles away from the life I have lived so far.

I mention this here because reading about the journey (so well articulated) of another artist validates the importance of the work that I do. I could see how important it was in her life and that helps to make me feel that my life and my work is important too.

Sometimes I do not feel so worthy - but today I do and when i write my blog it makes me think about what I am doing in my work, which must be good.

So, if this picture is called "Something in his Eye" then this entry and indeed my whole blog and my whole life really could be called "Something in my Mind's Eye"

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Landscapes of the Skin - and blessings

This is my favourite nude.

She was painted along with all those others while I was still in college. I think this drawing really encapsulates for me the theme I call "Landscapes of the Skin" I don't think the concept needs much explaining when you look at the line of 'hills and valleys silhouetted against a dark sky'.

Sometimes things just work out for you in every way which is of course terribly satisfying. I like very much the fact that the lines of her body are rhythmic and repeating. I also feel quite proud that although the lines are definitely feminine they are not too soft and have a certain angularity to them which therefore makes her a bit more interesting and edgy and not simply accommodating.

Another thing i like very much about the composition of this drawing is the fact that I have drawn a horizontal figure on a portrait format - and it works.

You know the more I look at it the more I think it would make a really good print too - nice balance of dark and light and all that.

Oh dear I am getting carried away with myself - "Self praise is no praise" as someone once said to me - probably my mother.

I have to admit to feeling quite pleased with myself at the moment though - i hope that does not sound boastful, but it is really not meant that way. I only mean that I have been working really hard and really working through an awful lot of ideas. Getting them down and painting them up and hoarding those ideas for further development. So important when there are so many times that the creative juices run completely dry and I wander round the house thinking myself such a failure. But with paintings and ideas in the bag, so to speak, i have something that I can pull out in those times of famine and tell myself that I am not such a failure after all.

And that is my sermon for the day - When things get bad, cast your mind back to some of the successes you had in your life and remind yourself of those, rather than dwelling on the failures. Or as Pongo said to Missis (or was it the other way round) in 'The Hundred and One Dalmatians" or was it "The Starlight Barking" (I think there are a couple of books I need to reread!), he said "Remember to count you blessings"

So on that note i will now go for a walk, learn some Spanish and count my blessings at the same time. Now that's what i call multitasking!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Talking up a Storm

I am really warming up to my subject now. It is fascinating how familiar you get with the curl of a particular lip or crease of an eyelid.

In addition I am enjoying the laying on of paint to create the volumes and forms of the flesh and bone structures.

i do like watercolour - it is definitely the most wonderful paint to use, stroking it on boldly in layers to build up colour depth or sometimes more timidly in little stipples or even removing colour when it goes on in the wrong place or creates the wrong colour - but that of course is not so easy to do as the colour does not always come away successfully and you are left with a shadow.

Of course, as you remember, the 'happy accident' sometimes creates an effect that is better than you could have planned in the first place.

Though I admit. Really the desired use of watercolour requires confident and first time placement of the colour in order to keep it pure. That will still take a bit more practice.

The theme:

Of course the Stavanger summer has descended into an Irish one! Each weekend seems to be rainier than the last and my tan has almost faded back to the milky pale complexion which i arrived here with last year. I think that those clouds are playing on my mind. Waking up to grey mornings really does not improve my mood - especially when it is Monday. Every weekend I want to go for a nice relaxing bike ride, but every weekend the opportunity fades pretty quickly.

So you can gather it is raining again today and now the clouds have even found their way into my paintings. Still clouds can be pretty cool - very atmospheric.

And here is Victor in full flight giving a lecture on something. He doesn't normally point when he talks but i thought the finger pointing made it more emphatic and when you are talking up storm clouds like that you need to be quite forceful.