Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hag Seed

I don't buy or read many "book" books any more. I am more of a Kindle woman. I don't read half as much as I used to. Too many distractions. Social Media. Netflix. Time flies. But every Christmas, we go into Dubray book shop on Grafton street, and buy a couple of books. I know it's probably not enough, but I feel like we do our bit to keep bookshops open.

That's where I got Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood. It was a while since I read any of her stuff. I used to be a big fan, but I kind-of lost interest somewhere along the way.

Hag Seed is a re-interpretation of Shakespeare's The Tempest. And what a trip it was! I've never read The Tempest. I've never even read  any Shakespeare! But I had seen The Tempest as an opera. So the story of a theatre director who has been sacked and finds work in a prison worked for me. Just as in the play, a big injustice, plotting for revenge, lots of villains. And a daughter called Miranda. I loved it. I must go back and see what else Atwood has written in recent years!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Inisheer Photographs

Inis Oírr (it used to be called Inisheer, or is that the other way round?) is a magical island. Particularly in February, when there are no tourists!

Drunk on fresh air, I would rave about the skies and the seas and the walls. At least I have some photographic evidence for my madness. And for those crazy paintings I did.

Small as it is, Inis Oírr boasts a lighthouse, a shipwreck, a castle in ruin, a buried church, a beautiful beach, an airport, two pubs, a hotel, a hostel and countless B&Bs. But all I cared about was the sky and the ocean. And the light, the light, the light!

Glad I packed my thermals and waterproof gear!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Inisheer paintings

3 nights. 2 days. 6 paintings. And tons of watercolour sketches. This was my first time trying plein air painting. And you can guess. I loved it. So much energy battling with the elements. Crouching against a wall, yellow rain poncho on, umbrella open, thermals, rain trousers, woollen mittens. Waiting for the rain to stop, so I could start painting the moment the shower passed, and be done before the next band of rain made land. These are not fine-tuned paintings. But I think they reflect the energy of the Atlantic Ocean, and my sense of euphoria as I mixed my colours and painted as if my life depended on it! I had a ball!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Venice - Panoramas

And to finish with Venice, here are a few panoramic views (some are slightly distorted).

View of St Giorgio Maggiore from San Marco

Procuratie building, San Mark's Square

View of San Marco from the campanile on St Giorgio Maggiore

View from the campanile on St Giorgio Maggiore

View across the Grand Canal from the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation

Grand Canal from the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation

Grand Canal from the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation

Inside the courtyard, the Doges Palace

Big room inside the Doges Palace

Friday, February 17, 2017

Venice Videos

My head is still full of pictures from Venice, now mixed with sensations and feelings from Inis Oírr.

But I will leave you today with a couple of videos that sum up the Venice dream for me. Just imagine this was mid-summer, rather than mid-January!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Map of Venice

While reading about Venice, I came across this map from 1500, by Jacopo de Barbari! What is amazing about this map is that it records in detail every canal, every street, every palace, with great accuracy. And what's even more amazing is that Venice has not changed much since.

For me, this map is the perfect explanation of why I got lost so many times through this most beautiful city. You think you're going North, and then you hit a canal without a bridge, and you have to take a turn, and then, you have no idea which direction you're facing. You know the Grand Canal was behind you when you started off. But by now, the Grand Canal has twisted 180 degrees, and all of a sudden, it's right in front of you. How is that even possible? And it's getting dark, so there is even less hope of finding your way back to your hotel... Well, that's when your iPhone Maps comes in handy. How did anyone ever manage before the iPhone? But the trick is to only use your tricorder, sorry, your iPhone, when you absolutely need it. Otherwise, you'll miss all the beauty around you, and you might even end up walking into a canal!

Jacopo de Barbari's map of Venice

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Venice Food 2

Completist that I am, I have to show you the rest of our food photos from Venice. Some of them are a little dark as one of the restaurants had more of a romantic, candle-lit, theme going.

Ciabatta at Bar da Gino in Dorsoduro. We didn't feel up to a big meal that evening. But we found that portions were more than generous in this lovely little place, which is open from 6 am to midnight, so you can start with coffee and a croissant, have lunch, say a ciabatta, a hot chocolate in the afternoon, then an early evening glass of wine before you have your pizza for dinner!

The rest of the photos are all from a restaurant called La Calcina. It's also a hotel. And most of the patrons appeared to be French. None of the pictures below do justice to the food, which was absolutely gorgeous. A combination of low light and hunger meant that by the time we'd remember to take a photo, we had already taken a bite or two of our food! In the summer, they have a big terrace on the Guidecca canal, La Piscina - a lovely cool spot on a hot summer's day, I'd imagine. In the winter, the dining room was cosy and the service impeccable!

Porcini soup with croutons

Venician liver and onion, with polenta on top

Osso buco (half eaten) 

Spaghetti vongole

Milanese veal

Fritto Misto

Powerscourt and Dublin Castle

Sometimes, you have to take the opportunities when you can. I was early for a meeting. So I sketched!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Glenveagh National Park

Sometimes, you have an image in mind, and you can't shake it. No matter how many other beautiful scenes you see in the meantime. This was the case for this mountain view in Glenveagh National Park in Donegal. A majestic mountain sweeping down to the lake. From the moment I saw it (in 2013?), I knew I would paint it some day. I just had to wait until I became more experienced in my watercolour practise to feel able to tackle it. Particularly so as I wanted to render it in an abstract way.

The question now is "is it out of my system?". We'll have to see. But I have many other images rumbling in my head right now. So let's tackle them first.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Venice Food 1

Impossible to go to Italy and not put on a little bit of weight! Every meal was a feast. We didn't even have pizza once. And dessert only twice (1 panacotta and 1 tiramisu, and we even forgot to photograph them!). We had a special request for photographs of our food. We did our best!

Barely arrived, and eating like queens already. Cantinone Storico.

A mixed starter, with polenta, octopus salad, cod purée and sardines, onion and pine nut salad (sarde in saor). With the bread, that would have done me for lunch! But I had already ordered a main course. Ah well!

Seafood Soup - messy to eat but delicious

Spaghetti vongole

Breakfast buffet - I became addicted to croissants with ham and cheese! Great breakfast at our hotel, American Dinesen

Aperitif - and that was only lunchtime. Great menu del giorno at Antica Sacrestia!

The lightest lasagna I've ever eaten

Spaghetti pomodoro - yes that was a starter portion!

Main course of Fritto Misto (fish, calamari, prawns). It came with the mixed vegetables too.

At €20 a glass, we didn't do this everyday. But you have to try Harry's Bar's Bellinis once in your life!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Venice Photos

Where to start? The light? The reflections? The blue green colour of the water in the canals (PG50 should do the trick, I think)? The architecture? The art? The food?

All stunning! For once, I'm speechless. Except I want to paint them all. Enjoy the photos.

Basilica San Marco - My favourite

The Doges' Palace - Imposing

Bridge of Sighs - I didn't know it was a bridge to bring convicts to the prison, where they most likely would die of the cold, if not by drowning if they were unlucky enough to be in the lower cells

Canals everywhere. Water reflections everywhere.

Santa Maria della Salute, Dorsoduro. Beautiful at sunset.

More canals. Light and Dark. A painter's dream. Unless you're a watercolourist.

San Giorgio Maggiore. A five minute boat trip. Fantastic views of San Marco and Dorsoduro from across the lagoon.

Domes, Statues. So much to sketch.

View from the San Giorgio Maggiore Campanile. Shimmering.

I like the composition of this one better

More canals. More reflections.

Light and Dark.

Didn't take a gondola tour. But they are beautiful.

Santa Maria della Salute, again.