Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Japanese Film Festival

I got to see two movies at the Japanese Film Festival this year. I enjoyed both and gave them both an 'excellent' rating (as part of the festival, you can give each movie a rating). I would have liked to see a few more, but there was only so much time in the day!

Her Sketchbook (sekai wa kyo kara kimi no mono)

A lovely story about a young woman who has withdrawn from the world, only working in a factory because she doesn't have to talk to anyone. When she loses her job, her father finds her work as a tester for video games.
A beautiful story, and also an interesting insight into the hikikomori in Japan, a phenomenon I had never heard of before, but something quite widespread in Japan, when young people gradually withdraw from society and don't interact with the outside world.
The movie manages to be both tender and humorous.

Dear Etranger (osanago warera ni umare, which literally means 'a young child was born to us', so I really don't know where they got the English title from!!)

Life is not easy when you have a daughter from a first marriage, your wife has two daughters from her first marriage (one of which is young and doesn't realise that you're not her real dad, and the other is a teenager, full of angst and anger, mostly targeted at you), and your wife tells you she is pregnant, more or less at the same time as you're told by your boss that your job is not secure and you will be transferred from being a middle manager to working on the factory floor. But this man, Manoko Tanaka, loves his family, and keeps on giving his best, no matter how far he is pushed. A beautiful story, showing that Japanese men can express their love for their family and don't spend all their time at work. He's not perfect mind you. He does occasionally lose his temper, and he doesn't tell his wife about his demotion for a few months, continuing to go to work in his suit as if nothing happened! An interesting look at real life for many restructured families!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mulligan & Haines

One of those pages that I should have left alone. I had a nice black ink drawing. And then I added watercolour wet in wet, and I think I preferred the original. Well, at least I took a photo of it!!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Grattan Bridge

So, I settled in a warm café overlooking the Liffey, just South of Grattan Bridge, the Dwarf Jar. It's not as fancy as Dollard&Co, but somehow I doubt that posher establishment would be happy to welcome a bunch of sketchers taking over window tables for an hour or two! That said, the menu doesn't look that fancy, so maybe if we ordered pizza, we might be able to grab those prized seats. One thing I'm wondering about is if this is the location for the "Dollard big red printing house" mentioned in Wandering Rocks? Maybe worth a try after all!!

So, I settled at a window overlooking the bridge in the Dwarf Jar, picked up my watercolours and had fun for an hour! Although the Ormond hotel across the bridge is associated with the Sirens Chapter, I was inspired by Wandering Rocks, with people criss-crossing the city like pawns on a game of chess with the King and Bishop represented by the viceroy in his carriage and Father Conmee. Although some of my characters probably look more like the onelegged sailor that pops up now and then!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Court House

Fantastic sketch crawl with Dublin Sketchers last Sunday. On the Bloomsday theme. With a synopsis of the action for each location and a reading of excerpts.

The morning had been beautiful, with sunshine and light breezes. We were hopeful. But the first shower hit within half an hour. I just had enough time to deploy an umbrella to protect my sketch - waterproof ink will smudge if water hits it within the first few minutes of drawing. I donned my super-elegant rain poncho and moved directly to the next location, where I found a coffee shop and stayed warm for about an hour. (More about that in the next post).

Anyway, the location for this sketch is near the corner of Little Britain Street and Green Street, at the back of Capel Street, just North of the markets. It's not the most salubrious part of town, and I was glad to have other sketchers nearby. The looks from passersby were not the friendliest. Not hostile, but not "what are you doing here, it looks really interesting" either. So, for me anyway, a location where I would not be comfortable sketching on my own. Which is a shame, as there are some really interesting buildings around.

I didn't get very far in the sketch on location. But I was glad of what I had learned in Liz Steel's Buildings online course. In the time I had, I had managed to measure and draw the big shapes and proportions, plus the pillars that give the building, an old courthouse, its rhythm, plus some of the details in pencil. And start my pen work. Enough to be able to finish it at home, with the help of a quick photo.

"And they beheld Him in the chariot, clothed upon in the glory of the brightness, having raiment as of the sun, fair as the moon and terrible that for awe they durst not look upon Him. "

Friday, April 13, 2018

Rainy morning in South Dublin

Spring is finally starting to appear. But the Easter weekend was so drab. So I had to resort to sketching from the car before and after our morning doggie walk on Easter Monday. I wasn't able for much anyway, crippled by back pain again. So sketching from the car, and a hot chocolate, was the only option for me!

The houses are on Redesdale Road, Mount Merrion, seen from the car park where our favourite little coffee shop is situated. Café Divino. Ida's coffee is the best in town, according to my husband! Me, I like the Suki teas and the hot chocolate! It's a small café, nothing fancy, but the owner, Ida, is really friendly, and she makes good coffee. And there are a couple of tables outside if you want to bring your dog! Lots of old trees and power lines added to the interest, from a sketcher's point of view!

I kept the Ulysses quotes simple.
"-The rain kept off.
 No answer."

"Save the trees of Ireland for the future men of Ireland on the fair hills of Eire, O."

Thursday, April 12, 2018


I was given beautiful tulips by a friend recently. It's not often we have flowers in this house. Although I love flowers. I just never think of buying them. So they had to be painted. I did a drawing (with inktense pencils and soft pastels) in my Fake Journal. And then, two watercolours.

The colours and the effect worked out much better in the one on the right. I was more careful in how I defined the petals. I need to work on painting better leaves, though.

And I might crop it...

Or try something more abstract. But that's another day's work.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blue eyes

"Why have women such eyes of witchery? Gerty’s were of the bluest Irish blue, set off by lustrous lashes and dark expressive brows…..But Gerty’s crowning glory was her wealth of wonderful hair. It was dark brown with a natural wave in it. "

Continuing with the Bloomsday sketching project. My approach this year, as it's a much more prolonged affair, is to take every sketching opportunity as a Bloomsday inspiration. So, every time I use my Moleskine sketchbook, it's a Bloomsday sketch. Since Ulysses contains references to more or less everything in the universe, it is not hard to create connections. On this occasion, a friend was over for an afternoon of sketching, tea and chat. She happens to have blue eyes and dark hair! I sketched this directly to watercolour. Not even a pencil line (except for keeping my handwriting straight - I cannot write in a straight line to save my life). Portrait done in less than 15 minutes (we set a timer!). Watercolour swatches done as we were discussing various pigments I use for skin tone and other favourite colours (PG50 - I wouldn't use it for skin, but it's a fabulous colour, Cerulean Blue Chromium - a newcomer to my palette, Buff Titanium x2, Perylene Maroon x2, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna). I then added the quote and Japanese origami paper and washi tape. Why the Japanese elements?, might you ask. Just because I like them. And they help my page composition. And they contribute to the feeling I'm trying to evoke on each page. But mostly because I like them.

Monday, April 09, 2018


"—Afraid he’ll bite you? says the citizen, jeering.
  —No, says I. But he might take my leg for a lamppost."

Special thanks to Timber for modelling. (A chewy kept him occupied and roughly in the same position for a good half hour!)

A great afternoon spent chatting and sketching.

Friday, April 06, 2018

At the hairdressers

I'm not a hairdresser person. I like my hairdresser. He's great to chat with. But I find that the process of colouring and cutting hair is a tedious chore. A good reason to bring my sketchbook with me! I normally sketch a self portrait while the colour is taking. It's never very flattering.

So this time, I took a different approach. First, I drew the shelves behind me in the mirror. Then, I sketched the hairdresser as he was cutting my hair. That was quite a challenge. I never realised how much the hairdresser moves when he is working on my haircut, and how high his elbow is most of the time! Pencil worked better than ink.

I also did a quick sketch in the car as I was a few minutes early.

Next time, I should bring a bigger sketchbook and work all on one page.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Dublin Castle - Crawford

I really thought winter was over when I was able to sketch outside last Sunday week. But no. Not yet. Not for a while.

This is one of those sketches where the connection with Ulysses is tenuous. But it made sense to me at the time, based on a memory of a previous exhibition held at Dublin Castle. I bet there are plenty of connections like that in Ulysses, where no-one can figure out what Joyce was alluding to, just because the answer could only be found in Joyce's head. Not that I'm comparing myself to James Joyce!

Lots of tours around Dublin Castle at this time of the year. One of the tour guides I heard said that the pattern on the lawn in front of the Chester Beatty Library is a Celtic pattern that means Welcome. It doesn't quite match the information on the Dublin Castle website, which says that "At the heart of the gardens is the grassy sward of the Dubh Linn Garden, where patterns representing sea serpents are cut into the lawn. This lawn is on or near the site of the original dubh linn or ‘black pool’, where the Vikings harboured their ships and set up a trading base. It was this pool that gave its name to the city: Dublin." The tour guide did talk about the black pool and said that it was originally believed that the dark waters of this pool were the reason Guinness was black! So there you go, Dublin is the original Blackpool, and you can never be sure tour guides are telling you the truth! (PS: you will find this same paragraph on Dublin Sketchers' website, but since I wrote those lines, I think that's ok!)

I had great fun at home playing with the acronym so it would stand out.

—He can kiss my royal Irish arse, Myles Crawford cried loudly over his shoulder. Any time he likes, tell him.

While Mr Bloom stood weighing the point and about to smile he strode on jerkily."

Monday, April 02, 2018

Looking towards Bray Head

I'm fed up with winter! I really want to get out there, sketch and paint. But it's too bloody cold. I did get a good day when I went to the beach that time. I didn't stay out very long. And I didn't capture the brightness of the sky and the sea. But I got out with my sketchbook, pen and paints.
It's not going to happen this weekend. I'm currently looking out at a grey grey sky, with the same forecast for tomorrow, and rain.
Easy to tell myself "no excuses". And the weather is definitely not a good excuse. It's just the waves of creativity, with their peaks and troughs. I knew I would have to pick myself up and dust myself off. I just didn't think I would find it so hard to get back into the routine.

And in case you're wondering why I have those James Joyce quotes in my sketchbook, it's that I'm taking part in the Bloomsday sketchbook project. And rather than having a separate sketchbook just for that, I've decided to make every sketching outing into a Ulysses moment. There's very few locations in Dublin that have no Joyce connection. And if I need to stretch reality a tiny tiny little bit to make it fit, well, that's allowed! Sometimes, the connection will just be in my head.

"—Then what is it? Buck Mulligan asked impatiently. Cough it up. I’m quite frank with you. What have you against me now?

They halted, looking towards the blunt cape of Bray Head that lay on the water like the snout of a sleeping whale. Stephen freed his arm quietly.

—Do you wish me to tell you? he asked."

Sunday, April 01, 2018


I've been waiting for an election for so long, not that I want a change of government or anything, but because I needed a piece of coroplast, and I didn't want to buy it!

Whether our politicians are sensing an election in the air or not, I don't know, but many of them seem to find any excuse to set up public meetings, just to get their face on posters on the side of the roads. And in Ireland, we don't do simple paper posters that are displayed on a set board. No no no. That would be too environmentally friendly! No, what our politicians do is print dozens of posters on coroplast, and attach them with plastic ties to electricity or telephone poles! Coroplast is some kind of corrugated plastic sandwiched bewteen two sheets of straight plastic. A lot of plastic. It's strong. And quite rigid. And when it gets windy (I live in Ireland, remember, it's windy every other day here), these coroplast posters act like sails, they catch the wind, and sometimes, they break from their plastic ties, and go flying down the roads. So I was only doing my civic duty when I picked one up recently that my husband had seen near a junction in our neighbourhood.

So now, I was able to cut my own support board for sketching. No more worrying about holding my sketchbook's spine, or having to lean to pick up paint or water from the ground. It all fits! I didn't go for the version that Liz Steel has designed, with a flap. The full length fits in my bag. And while it's a big awkward in stormy weather, I'm so thrilled to have this new piece of kit. And I have plenty more of the politician's poster in case my first board gets damaged on my adventures! The one thing to remember is to bring lots of bulldog clips! Two to hold the book in place, one for the watecolour palette, and two for holding the pages in windy weather!

Saturday, March 31, 2018


As willow is getting older, I feel the need to sketch him more. He's such a long-hair cat that it's actually quite hard to draw him!

Willow drinking from his bowl (bowl not drawn)

Willow settling down on his bed

 Willow sleeping

Willow sitting up to cough.

After that he went for a bite to eat, then a little drink of water, then settled for sleep under my desk, where he knows he won't be disturbed.
He's getting old, but he still enjoys life.

All sketches done from life, using Suhita Shirodkar's method of drawing verbs.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Fake Journal Month

1st of April is fast approaching. April is International Fake Journal Month. Fake Journal Month is an idea brought to life by a wonderful artist called Roz Stendahl. Basically, you draw, paint, journal, as a character you have invented. This will be my third year of participating. And yes, Odile will be back. But which one? Young Odile from the present day? Or old Odile from the future who's escaped back to the present and met her younger self?

I haven't planned much. So I probably will be using old art supplies again. At the moment, I am interested in practising drawing and painting the human face and body, but if a nice tree or a dramatic sky presents itself, I will be flexible. And maybe I will let Odile play with my watercolours...

So, if you don't see much activity on this blog for the next month, come and join me and the Odiles on mhbdifjm.blogspot.ie!

Let International Fake Journal Month begin!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Low tide

Another snow day (a little over a week ago), another painting

Lavender, English Venetian Red, Moonglow, Buff Titanium, and a touch of Naples Yellow (which I should have left out!)

Or should I crop it and make it a portrait view?

The view is originally from a photo I took on Killiney beach at really low tide, but somehow my clouds on the horizon have turned into distant hills, hence the more generic title!!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

After the storm

This tree lost one of its branches after one of our autumn storms - I can't remember which, it feels like it's been winter forever here, and I can't wait for spring to come! I haven't even done as much sketching as I normally do - the weather seems to have constantly conspired against me, and I've been feeling cold to my bones too.

I fully intend on catching up now that the temperatures are starting to hit double digits again.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


I tried to draw a seagull from life last week and it clearly didn't work out. So I decided to practise from photos this afternoon. Still a lot more work to do before I can successfully do this. There are so many seagulls in Dublin that it's an essential skill I need to acquire. A visit to the Natural History Museum may be needed!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Great Blasket View - Dún Chaoin

Another version of the same painting, in a smaller format (slightly smaller than A4). Although the sky worked out well in this one, I decided not to mention the sky in the title, as I made the house bigger, and therefore, it's more about the house itself, called Great Blasket View, and the islands in the distance, of course.

I'd like to paint a fourth version, combining the best elements of each of the three I've painted so far. But I'm not sure I've got the energy right now. One thing is for sure, though. I'm getting good at painting utility poles and power cables!

For the sky, I worked on damp, rather than wet paper, and I think that worked better for me. And I also altered my "stormy sky recipe". It's normally ultramarine blue, PV19 (quinacridone rose), Quinacridone gold. This time, I tried Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (it's a transparent pigment, unlike a traditional sienna), Potters' Pink (very light pigment in hue, but granulating), PV19 and ultramarine. It's nice to create new recipes!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stormy Sky, Great Blasket View - Dún Chaoin.

A darker sky. A better composition. A lovely house (it was a really nice house that we rented last year for a week in June - as evidenced by the sky, the weather wasn't the best, but we had a great holiday all the same!). And better utility poles!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Stormy sky in Dún Chaoin

A pretty dramatic sky, painted from a photograph taken last summer from the house we were renting in Dunquin (Dún Chaoin in Irish). I like how the sky turned out. But the overall composition is a bit too dominated by the sky, or rather, I haven't got enough space for the house and the other elements at the front.  I've had to raise the wall and vegetation towards the left, because there was an issue where the sea suddenly disappeared, so that helps a bit. But my electricity poles and cables are a bit chunky. Maybe I should have left the foreground more as a silhouette, but it's a start. There will be more!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Trying out pigments

I should be trying to reduce the number of pigments I use, not expand my collection of watercolour tubes. But Daniel Smith do dot sheets, which are hard to resist!

And I was inspired by fellow sketcher, Emma, who did colour charts on what was hopefully the last snow day of the winter!

And in a way, dot sheets are useful, as you get to try colours without having to spend money for a full tube. I was very tempted by Amazonite Genuine, for instance. I just liked the name. But having tried it, I'm not so sure now.

On the other hand, I had never heard of Rose or Ultramarine or Under Sea Green. But, having tried them, I think they are full of watercolour magic potential, and they are on my list for the next time I order art supplies!! Maybe just a small tube to start with!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sketching while waiting

I was a bit early for a meeting, so I sat in the car and did a quick pen sketch. I added watercolour later that evening.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bloomsday sketching - Lestrygonians

Last Sunday was a Bloomsday sketching afternoon. The chapter we were covering was Lestrygonians, a chapter where Bloom walks across the Liffey, in a path that looks like the human digestive system. A lot of references to food, and its journey from the mouth to the anus! And also seagulls, swooping to catch any bit of food going! On his journey, Bloom passes in front of Brown Thomas on Grafton Street, and thinks of all the beautiful silks and ribbons that women love.

Still recovering from my flu, I decided not to do the full route from O'Connell Street. Instead, I went to the Marks&Spencers Rooftop café, with its terrace overlooking Grafton Street, and a great spot for seagulls! Another interesting note about it is that the original Brown Thomas store was at 16 Grafton Street, which is now occupied by M&S! After they bought Switzer's in the 1990s, Brown Thomas moved across the street, in what was Switzer's and sold their original store to M&S.

The seagulls were too quick for me to sketch one accurately, hence the very long beak and strange shape. And none of the photos I took worked out, as they kept moving. I should have bought some food, but then they would have pestered me the whole time!! I will have to practise by looking at photos on the Internet! Being able to draw a seagull is an essential skill in Dublin, I believe!

The tall tower with the green roof is from St Teresa's church on Clarendon Street, which gets a mention in Penelope, where Molly Bloom remembers singing there a year previously.

So there you go, that's what inspired me!

The hungry famished gull. 
Flaps o'er the waters dull.

He came out into clearer air and turned back towards Grafton street. Eat or be eaten. Kill! Kill!
Ulysses, James Joyce

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Glenbeg Lough, Beara Peninsula

I've had a productive few days with the snow two weeks ago (more is forecast for tonight and it's cold today - I always feel sorry for the Texas majorettes at the St Patrick's Day Parade! But at least they're moving! I feel sorrier for our president and also for Mark Hamil (Luke from Star Wars), who is the International Guest of Honour, who will be sitting for hours while the parade walks past!)!

This is a view of Glenbeg Lough, on the Beara Peninsula. The day we walked that road was a soft day, indeed, after a gloriously sunny day the day before. So we couldn't see the hills at the end of the lake. A good excuse for wet-in-wet painting! We encountered a few sheep, and a man who seemed keen on us not walking towards his house. We respectfully retreated!

For the greens, I used a technique from Marc Taro Holmes, which he calls "charging" I think, whereby you drop pure pigments into a damp wash. It makes for a lot of unexpected watercolour magic!

Now, I'm going to try and make the most of the long weekend for some more painting!!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Coumeenole Beach Two

Another version of the same view on Coumeenole beach. Slightly different composition. I added a little bit of sky and even a sailing boat on the horizon (it's actually in the photo I took!). And I moved the main rock slightly to the right - I wanted it to be more about the waves this time. In terms of colours, I think I used cobalt blue rather than cerulean chromium blue for the main part of the sea. And I was bolder with my sand, rock and waves colours. I used another Ken Bromley sample paper - Winsor and Newton Classic 140LB NOT. Fantastic paper. It handled beautifully, allowing the paint to granulate, move, merge and split. The masking tape I used around the edges lifted the fibres, something to watch out for. But, strangely, the masking fluid did no damage. Will definitely be tempted to order some more of this paper!

And by the way, if you're tempted to go for a swim in the Atlantic ocean, be warned that the currents at this beach are dangerous and it is unsafe for swimming. Not that it stops Irish children and adults from enjoying the water in the summer. But then again, the Irish don't like rules! Béal Bán, a few miles down the road, near Ballyferriter, is much safer.

More from Anne-Laure

I loved this little video and I must definitely try to paint more freely!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Coumeenole Beach

Watercolour on Bockingford 200LB NOT paper - much heavier paper than I'm used to (140LB, which is 300gsm). So quite interesting to try it out (was from a set of papers from Ken Bromley). But I found the paint didn't glide as much as I'm used to (although I generally use rough paper). This paper might be good for a lot of layering.

I used a wax pencil to keep the waves white - a little blockier than I'd like

And if you're thinking that I just take a photo and paint, check out this link where you'll see the pen and watercolour sketches I did on site, and the photos and videos I took. And that's a year and a half ago. I've been working a lot on my watercolour techniques since. 

I used a few new colours in this painting, getting familiar with them, and I have to say that so far, I love them! Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Transparent Red Oxide, Potters' Pink, and Cerulean Blue Chromium (not sure about that blue, it's very granulating). All from Daniel Smith. All discovered via Liz Steel's Sketching Now Watercolour online course.

Value Sketches

Trying to decide what to paint, I'm working my way through some photos from a few locations in Kerry.

I'm currently working on the third one (the one that you have to rotate your screen to see properly). And I must definitely refer to this value sketch before I go any further with the painting!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Snow movies

4 days more or less house-bound with the snow. We managed to keep ourselves occupied, so we didn't binge on Netflix too much. Two good movies.

  • The Revenant: Beautifully shot and a tense story. A man is abandoned after he is attacked by a bear in the wild west mountains somewhere in North America. His struggle for survival, and revenge, takes its time to unfold. A tad long, but a good story.
  • I don't feel at home in this world any more: Don't be put off by the long title. I have trouble remembering it. This is a great movie. About a nursing assistant, Ruth, who is finding life frustrating, with a lack of connection to others. Her house is burgled and the police isn't exactly helpful. So she takes matters in her own hands. It's dark and gruesome in parts, hilariously funny in others (or even in the same parts). It's full of humanity.