Wednesday, January 18, 2017

National Gallery - Turner exhibition

A friend had recommended the Turner exhibition at the National Gallery, and I'm delighted I went. I can't believe I've lived in Dublin all these years and I didn't know about this - every January, the gallery shows a collection of Turner watercolours that were bequeathed to it in 1900 by Henry Vaughan, with the stipulation that the works only be shown in January, to protect the watercolours from strong light.

There are a few gems in this collections. Plus it was really interesting to look at the paintings up close and get a sense of Turner's techniques - and yes, there were even some paintings where he used gouache for highlights!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

At the hairdresser's

Another attempt at fitting sketching into my life. The hairdresser's. I've started colouring my own hair again, because they could not get the exact vibrant colour I wanted, but also because it all takes sooooo long. 

Mind you, I was waiting nearly half an hour before the stylist was ready for me, even just for a cut. But I didn't mind. I had my sketchbook with me, and I drew what I could see in the mirror: me, my cup of green tea, another customer, and my hairdresser, both from the back and his reflection in the mirror.

I haven't taken a picture since my hair was cut, but here is the new colour. It makes me feel young again (don't look too closely)!

Monday, January 16, 2017

On the sofa

He thinks I made him look like a Ross O'Carroll Kelly book cover! Maybe. Still, it's all part of my effort to fit more sketching into my life. So, rather than watch television, I picked up a big A3 sketchbook I've had for 12 years, and I drew the perfect subject, sitting right beside me, while he was absorbed somewhere on the web.

Maybe it's the new year. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's looking at a video from Sketchbook Skool . I'm trying to finish a course, Storytelling, that I started ages ago - some of the instructors didn't inspire me much, but rather than doggedly completing every module, I jumped to the module taught by Veronica Lawlor, and I felt a sense of renewed energy for drawing the human form. What she may have lacked in didactic skills, she more than made up in passion and enthusiasm. In art, it's not so much about teaching you how to draw the perfect hand, but more about encouraging you to try it again and again, until you succeed. In a video I watched, Danny Gregory compared it to young boys playing video games, where they "die" many times before they figure out how to get past a particular obstacle or get to the next level. The same thing applies to your art practice. If you "die" the first time and never pick up your pencil again, well, you'll never move beyond that point. A philosophy best summarised as "Just do it!" Which I'm embracing this year so far!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Preparing dinner

I did a few more sketches while he was preparing dinner. I will get better at this, I'm determined!
Lips and hands will require some attention!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Hugh Lane Gallery - Dublin Sketchers

First Sketchers session of the year! It's nice to be getting back into a regular routine. As Hugh Lane was the location that was picked for today, I dropped over to the Olivier Cornet Gallery on my way to look at their current show, Élévation, a wonderful group show. A great way to get a feel for the gallery artists' works.

It took me a while to get settled - I started with a new sketchbook, a small square Derwent Grafik book, so that always takes a little while. The good news is that the paper is very easy to draw on. But it doesn't really allow for drawing across the whole spread, as the paper is different on the verso, and there is an easy-tear line. I tried a couple of room sketches with people, using a technique I had just read about in one of my Christmas presents (I always get art books for Christmas) - the tip was to anchor the scene by drawing the walls and floors before starting on people. And if people move, to go back to the anchor, and do a bit of work on the ceiling or the paintings on the walls until someone else moves into place.

Then I went upstairs to have a look at the Michael Kane exhibition, and I found a lovely quiet little room with a beautiful fireplace, and I knew that was my drawing for the day! And I even used what I've learned from Liz Steel's Foundations course: I actually did a quick measurement with a watercolour pencil, to make sure the proportions were right. And that was my assignment for Lesson 7, so I can now progress on to the next lesson!

Body Language

A few attempts at sketching my husband and my dog. Hands are hard.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Bags - Minimal Setup

I had hit a block in Liz Steel's Foundations course at Lesson 5, Measured Setup. I guess I discovered what I knew already: I don't like measuring. I really don't get this pencil thing. And when I use it, the resulting drawing always looks wrong. Of course, that might just mean I need more practise. But life is too short to practise something I don't enjoy! So I was glad that Lesson 6 was all about finding the minimum amount of measuring that works for you! In my case, very little, it turns out.

And I also discovered something else I already knew about myself. I love bags!!

Quick gestural drawing with a light watercolour pencil, just to get a feel for the proportions.
Carefully drawing in ink. Ignore the pencil lines if they are wrong. They're just there as a foundation.
Add watercolour and shading.
Another method, which is the best for me: no pencil, straight to ink, starting with important edges, and working from edge to edge, carefully feeling your way around.
Add watercolour. Done!
I couldn't resist giving you a larger version of the same. The little clutch bag in front worked out well, I think. It was a complete impulse buy, that I will probably never use, as I have no matching dress. But it wasn't a waste, as it found its way into this drawing!

And a final method, which I didn't like as much: no ink, just watercolour pencils and watercolour.
And a larger version of the same. Just because it's one of my favourite bags!

Onsen etiquette

There will be no nudie pictures in this post, don't worry!

Onsens are Japanese hot springs or spas - the big difference from what we're used to in this part of the world is that you are required not to wear any clothes. No bikinis, no knickers, no bra. No need even to modestly hold a towel in front of you!

I thought it would take a little getting used to. But after one session, I was an expert! Thanks to my good friend Shinobu who thought it was the most natural thing in the world to go to an onsen with a friend! So that's the best advice I can give you: bring a friend who knows the ropes with you the first time you try an onsen (even if the idea is a bit scary). And also, remember to wash and rinse thoroughly before entering the hot baths.

Japanese onsens are said to be good for you, a bit like taking the waters, as the hot waters are of volcanic origin and contain a variety of minerals. I didn't feel different. I didn't glow. But it was fun, and very relaxing. Although, careful if you suffer from high blood pressure. Don't stay in the hot water for too long.

One of the best things about onsens is that they often have both an indoor pool and outdoor baths. So you can experience the coolness of the air and the heat of the water at the same time.

Onsens nowadays are segregated, so you can't go in with your husband, unless the place you go to has private baths. Which our ryokan in Hida-Furukawa, Yatsusankan, did. So, now that I was an expert, I got BB to try it out too.

And I even went to the onsen in our ryokan on my own the following morning. Now that I knew the ropes, it was no big deal. It wasn't busy. And the ladies who were there already had a few words of English to make me feel welcome. And an elderly lady even started chatting to me in the changing rooms, engaging me in full conversation in Japanese. Not that I understood much of what she said. But enough to get by and keep everyone happy. Remember, smile a lot. And don't stare.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ink portraits

I'm practising sketching people. From photographs until I build up the confidence and techniques to achieve a likeness. Here are two I drew recently!

The wording on the back of this photo is: "Le jour où MaLouise était passée dire à MonRené qu'elle ne voulait pas se marier! - 1944"

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sourdough bread

You wouldn't think of me as a bread maker, now, would you? I wouldn't think of me as a bread maker!

But a food program on Netflix, called Cooked, that I saw months ago, had put the idea in my head. Did you know that home-made bread requires three ingredients? Shop-bought bread: 30+. So maybe it's not gluten that so many people have an intolerance to.

When a dear friend offered me 100g of her sourdough starter, I jumped at the opportunity. I had to keep it in the fridge over Christmas, as I wasn't going to embark on this adventure with an audience. But as soon as our guests were gone and my cough was manageable, on the 27th, I got started.

My friend had also sent me a link to the perfect recipe/schedule for making sourdough bread, so I was all set. This recipe has 4 ingredients: flour, water, salt and olive oil. 5 if you count the "starter", i.e. the bubbling dough that is the essential starting point for making bread.

And I was so lucky! The first time I tried it, everything worked out perfectly and the dough felt and looked good. It felt alive and springy. The second time, I think something went wrong with my weighing scales and I had to add a good bit of flour (or maybe it was just a different flour?), but I knew how it should look and feel and I was able to adjust my ingredients accordingly. Both times, perfect bread. Best eaten an hour or two after it comes out of the oven of course. If you want some starter, let me know. As it needs to be "fed" once a week when it's kept in the fridge, I have plenty on offer!

The water test! If the fed starter floats in a glass of water, it's time to make the dough. If it sinks, it needs to be fed again (equal weight starter, wholemeal flour and water) and it needs another few hours to rise.

Dough - before adding the salt

Dough is starting to expand. Ready for the oven.

Using a LeCreuset dish (I don't have a Dutch oven!). I should have sprinkled more flour on the bottom of the dish. The first bread stuck to the bottom a bit.

Just out of the oven.

Ready to eat!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Christmas TV

As I ended up with that dreadful cold on the 26th, I watched a good bit of Netflix over the following week. Not a bad way to end the Christmas holidays

  • The Crown: we'd already started watching this series about Queen Elizabeth II's early years as the monarch, but we binge-watched the final episodes. I read somewhere that this TV series is the best PR the British Royal family could get. It was fascinating. And very sympathetic towards Elizabeth - how she had to let go of her normal life to become an institution, how everyone seemed to have their own agenda that they wanted to force on her: the prime minister and the government, her private secretary, her grand-mother, her mother, the Church, her husband, her sister. A really interesting period in history. And the dresses are gorgeous too! Excellent performance by Claire Foy, who played Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall!

  • The OA: I don't know why The OA has been compared to Stranger Things? No cute kids. No monster from another dimension. Just a young woman who disappeared seven years ago. And she reappears. And she's no longer blind. And she won't tell her parents or the FBI what happened. But she comes across 5 misfits from the local school, and she starts telling them her strange story. And what a story it is. I love Brit Marling. She always comes up with interesting projects, like Another Earth. And of course, a perfect cliff hanger at the end of Season 1!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Early evening

I often find that the paintings I do as "just a quick sketch" work out the best. For this one, I grabbed a sheet of cheap watercolour paper (I've got a block of 100 pages - no excuses!), didn't even bother to stretch it, and I started working quickly from a photograph I dug up from my collection. The view is just off the main road between Montséret and Saint André de Roquelongue in the Corbières.

I'm still exploring a technique I learned on Marc Taro Holmes's class on Craftsy.

And on this occasion, the brush pen I used for my darks is a gorgeous pen I bought in Japan. The only branding I found on it is "akashiya", and all I knew when I bought it was that it was a brush pen, and that I really wanted it because it was so pretty! What I didn't realise of course is that the ink is water-soluble, so it's to be used with caution if applying watercolour on top of it. I thought my little painting was going to be ruined when the black of my trees started to bleed into the pink sky. But we survived. And I'll know for again.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Gerhard Richter

I had never heard of Gerhard Richter until I saw some of his pieces in the Museum of 21st Century Art in Kanazawa. And yet, he is apparently an artist who has sold some of his pieces for millions of euros. I am clearly not in the inner circle of art lovers.

The pieces I saw were from his overpainted photographs series. And I loved them. It gave me ideas about how I can push my Gelli printing further!

Lots of beautiful art on his website, thankfully, and no problem about downloading them. They were strict about the no-photography rule in the museum, so I wasn't able to capture any of specific ones I liked!

I took downloaded these ones from his website too. Such yummy colours!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Our Little Sister

Even if you don't speak Japanese or you're not into Japanese culture, Our Little Sister is a lovely movie. A simple story, aren't all the best ones simple? Three sisters go to their estranged father's funeral, and meet their little sister. As she is not happy with her father's new wife/widow, she agrees to come and live with her three sisters. It sounds like the father wasn't the most reliable husband/partner, doesn't it? And the three older sisters's mother isn't much better. But the four sisters have got each other. And that's all that matters. And don't you love the feeling of the heat of a Japanese summer? And how a traditional Japanese house is perfect to let in the cooling breezes. And it was wonderful to see the making of umeshū (plum wine)! I'll be watching this one again and again!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Christmas movies

It's not easy, finding movies that will please everyone. Mother will leave the room and play on her iPad rather than watch science fiction. Father will go to bed early if the movie is too romantic. Then there is the question of French or English, sub-titles or simultaneous translation by yours truly?
Deafness doesn't help.
But a little bit of advance research is always good. And Netflix do carry a small range of French movies. And Google Play was available for the movies that Papa was interested in (although they were not available for rent, just for sale).
  • Attila Marcel: a very sweet movie; sad and funny; funny and sad; if you like Amélie, you will probably love this story of a young man whose parents died when he was two and who's been brought up by his two eccentric, doting and overbearing aunts since.
  • Emotifs Anonymes: Romantics Anonymous in English. Another quirky story. Romantic, yes, but my father watched it to the end. Probably because a famous actor from our hometown was in it, Benoît Poelvoorde. A love story - and how suffering from social anxiety disorder should not stop anyone from finding true love. And no, I didn't know him when I was young, although we are the same age. He went to boarding school, and clearly didn't mix with us riff raff kids.
  • Saving Mr Banks: we had taped this one, so it was in English only. My mother showed no interest, whereas my dad found it really interesting (I translated the occasional bit, throwing an explanation here and there when I thought the plot needed it). Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are fantastic as Walt Disney and P.L. Travers negotiating the film rights for Mary Poppins. I loved it.
  • The Martian: this was a special request from my Dad. We had to buy it on Google Play, as it wasn't available to rent. But that's OK. I enjoyed it. And I'll probably watch it again. Needless to say, my mother showed no interest in this movie whatsoever.
  • Interstellar: another request from my Dad. We'd already seen it before. It's OK. But too long. And too clever.

After my parents were gone back home and I was feeling better, we also watched Our Little Sister, a gift from a friend. A wonderful Japanese movie. I'll have to tell you more about it in a separate post!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Christmas Sketches

Remember last Christmas, when all I managed to draw was my foot? Well, I didn't want a repeat this year. So I kept a little sketchbook to hand on the sofa. If close relatives were too elusive or fidgety, TV programs proved a good source of inspiration. With one evening on TV5 proving to be particularly productive!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Chinese Black dress - What I'm wearing today

Well, not strictly today. But that's what I wore on New Year's Eve. And it is now officially my favourite dress. Ever. It was a complete impulse buy - a site advertised on Facebook. I didn't know if it was Japanese, Korean or Chinese. Chinese it turns out. Buykud. I'm not even sure how to pronounce it. But I love their dresses - big and flowy. And just what I wanted. Good quality too. And reasonably priced. And they came via DHL (no extra cost) all the way from China. I've also bought three summer dresses that I can't wait to wear (yes, Cathy, that's what I bought with my art sale!). I've never felt more me in a dress!

L'amour de loin

A beautiful opera, fantastic music, great production. I loved the Met HD's production of Kaija Saariaho's L'amour de loin.
Susanna Phillips, as Clémence, was particularly striking! Beautiful voice. Beautiful presence.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

National Museum (Archeology) Kildare Street

Well, I thought that there wouldn't be too many of us at the National Museum for the last Dublin Sketchers meet of the year, the Sunday before Christmas. But I was wrong. At least 20 sketchers showed up! Which is fantastic. The National Museum has a lot of interesting objects to draw. The only problem is that the light level is very low. So not ideal. Still, it was fun, and I look forward to many interesting outings in 2017!

How do you draw a decapitated torso and arms from a body preserved in a bog?

Detail from the beautiful architecture inside the building

Inspired by a piece in the Olivier Cornet Gallery, I found the shape of these bronze bells fascinating