Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Green squares

Here are a couple of samples of my attempts at green, with Vanadium Yellow and Phthalo Blue.
The only other colour used in these samples is a different blue to surround the leaves. I used Schmincke's Delft Blue, which I also got as a free sample from Kennedy's.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


My next project is a watercolour of green leaves from our laburnum early in the season - a gorgeous, vibrant, green.

Before I start putting any colour on the page, I'm trying out different techniques - masking with low-tack masking paper, wet-on-wet washes for the background, and glazings of different transparent washes to build the colours.

My first stumbling block is green. You'd think "just get some green paint and get on with it!". Not so easy. I find that getting a nice, natural, vibrant green is nearly impossible. Try and paint a simple stretch of grass - it often looks too dark and dull. So, I've gone back to colour theory (I did attend 1 class 2 years ago) and I'm going through various books I have for recommendations on which colours to pick, and I'm going to try various samples with different combinations.

The first combination I'm trying is Vanadium Yellow (I got a free sample of Schmincke paints in Kennedys) and Phthalo Blue (I got the student-grade quality - Cotman from Winsor & Newton). The 2 colours on their own are very vibrant. The yellow, in particular, is really intense.

My first attempts were too dark, and very dull - very disappointing. The Phthalo Blue was not diluted enough and was stealing the light from the Vanadium Yellow. But I've made a second attempt, with a very diluted Phthalo Blue, and the result is a nice, clean, bright lime green. I'll try a few other combinations, but I think I'm going to go with this.

Friday, June 23, 2006


I often find that the smaller fishes can be a lot of fun to watch. It's hard to beat this family of six-spot sleeper gobies for cuteness value. These gobies live in the lagoons on white sand, and we found this family in the lagoon in Baros. Generally, you'll find two of them in a hole, but we were lucky to catch this whole group (according to one of the books we have, the juveniles form small groups).

The Six-spot Sleeper-goby is identified by its pale colour, blue spots on the cheeks and a small black tip on the dorsal fin, which you can see very clearly on the picture if you click on it to enlarge it. As you can see on the picture, their home is a hole in the sand under an object, like a shell or a rock or a piece of coral.

They tend to be quite shy, and dart back in their hole when you get near them, but if you just float quietly at the surface for a while without moving too much, they'll come back out to check out what's going on. They look like little sentries standing guard, with their head raised towards the camera. These guys were less than 10 cm long.

There are other types of gobies - I like the shrimp gobies, that live in symbiosis with - you guessed it - shrimps. I'm not sure we have pictures of these. I must have a look. They live together, and the shrimp does the digging, while the goby stands guard. You could watch them for hours.
I also like the White-barred Reef-goby. We have some nice pictures of these, that I'll post some other time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps

When I was home in Belgium in May, my Mum commented that they don't see swallows anymore. She said it was due to the use of insecticides in fields. So I was thinking of her in the last few days when I've seen swallows flying low at the top of the estate. I was always told that a swallow flying low is a sign of rain. I think it's got something to do with the fact that there are more insects to catch closer to the ground when it's going to rain...Well, anyway, that's what I was always told as a kid, so I believe it!

Well, these swallows must be confused, because it hasn't rained much in the last few days (though it did rain yesterday morning). It looks like it could rain any minute, and the wind is strong, but not a drop of rain today... Or maybe, the lore that's been passed down through my family is completely wrong! There is a reference to swallows flying low in the wikipedia article, but they don't explain why!

On the other hand, there is a reference in the same article to the decline in numbers in Europe: "In recent years, there has been an ongoing gradual decline in numbers in parts of Europe and North America, due to agricultural intensification reducing the availability of insect food."

I just found in an Ireland.com article that the saying about swallows and summer comes from Aristotle: "Aristotle wrote that "one swallow does not a summer make"". The saying we have in Belgium refers to spring, not summer, but anyways, interesting to see how far back these things go!

By the way, the picture I chose today is by Hokusai, one of my favourite Japanese artists. He's very famous for the print called "The Great Wave at Kanagawa", which I've never managed to see. I've been to the Metropolitan Museum in New York several times, and each time I ask about it, I'm told it's not on display!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Other Boleyn Girl

I've just finished reading "The Other Boleyn Girl", by Philippa Gregory. I don't normally read historical novels, but this one caught my eye in a shop when we were in Cork a couple of months ago (see Hayfield Manor entry on 29 March).

The history books don't tell very much about Mary Boleyn. For instance, www.tudorhistory.org gives one line about Mary: "Sister of Anne Boleyn and mistress of Henry VIII. Married William Carey", whereas Anne Boleyn gets pages and pages.

"The Other Boleyn Girl" tells the story of Mary, told by Mary herself. It's fiction, but based on the historical facts available. I found it a very good read. I did very little else but read this book in the last week or so. And I've now ordered another book by Philippa Gregory, "The Constant Princess". Let's hope it's as good.

Apparently, there is a TV drama that was made by the BBC based on the book. I must keep an eye out if they do a re-run of it at any stage. The actress who plays Mary Boleyn is Natascha McElhone, who played George Clooney's wife in Solaris. Actually, not quite his wife, but I won't spoil your fun if you haven't seen Solaris.

If you want to read a synopsis and an extract of "The Other Boleyn Girl", have a look at Philippa Gregory's website. There is lots and lots of interesting information on the website, and a snazzy feature to turn the pages of the book. I must find out how that's done!

On this note, I'll leave you now and go and have a further look at her website.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Birthdays this month

Ann's birthday was on 5 June, and Lorna and Paul both have their birthday on 21 June. Paul will be 84 or 85 this year. To celebrate their birthdays, we'll give them Red Fireworks, another original 5x5 by MHBD! Aren't you lucky!

Another little thing that caught my eye recently... In the Best of Blogger (or whatever it's called - the bit where top Blogs are picked for special display), I found this blog called A Dress A Day, which has lovely pictures of dresses, and interesting information about them ... if you're into dresses of course...It's fun to look at the gorgeous dresses and to read the witty commentary about them. This is more for Ann and Lorna than Paul, but since Paul doesn't have a computer, I'm sure he won't mind!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bonne Fête, Papa

C'était la fête des pères en Belgique dimanche passé. En France et en Irlande, c'est dimanche prochain, le 18. Alors, je ne suis pas trop tard pour souhaiter une bonne fête des pères à Papilou!

Si la carte n'arrive pas à temps, il devra trouver un ordinateur pour voir cette version "en ligne" de la carte (qui s'appelle "blue and yellow waves").

Monday, June 12, 2006

Eagles concert, Dublin

We went to the Eagles concert in Lansdowne Road last night. I can't say I knew much about them before this. Actually, the only song I could name before the concert was "Hotel California". Now I can name a few more ("Take It to the Limit", "Desperado", "Take It Easy", "Tequila Sunrise", "One of these Nights", "Heartache Tonight"). Amazing to think that there were all these songs I knew but I didn't know they were by the Eagles...

We had a great time - we managed to get good seats, so we were fairly close to the stage. The sound was great, the music was good, they all have good voices and they put on a good show. They really looked like they were enjoying themselves on stage. Apart from being cold, that is. Don Henley was wearing a long-sleeved tee-shirt and a shirt, and after a few songs, he actually put on a wind-proof jacket. He looked like he was going camping! They're obviously not used to the Irish weather. (We were lucky - the rain only started after we got back to our car - and it was only a few drops). All of them put on extra layers at the break.

Yes, they took a 15-minute break about a third of the way through the concert, which was really strange. (Neil Diamond, who is at least 5 years older than them, manages to do a two-hour concert without a break!).

Also, they started a lot later than scheduled. The tickets said it would start at 7. The email we got from Ticketmaster said it would start at 7:30. They finally got on stage at 8:20!

Apparently, a lot of people were unhappy about this, as it meant that the concert ended a lot later than planned. We got home just before midnight. People travelled from all around the country, and I hate to think what time it was when they got home! A lady beside me cancelled her restaurant reservation at 8 pm. She must have booked for 10 and she knew by then that there was no way they'd make it on time!
Anyway, we didn't mind it was a late night. We just had a little lie-in this morning.

By the way, the pictures of Lansdown Road in the Wikipedia article are pictures of how it will look when the reconstruction will be done.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Once upon a Summer

With the good weather, I'm going through books at a fast pace. I've just finished Once upon a Summer, by Patricia O'Reilly. A perfect summer read. A good story, set in the Ireland of the Fifties. It's the story of a young girl of 15 who is sent down the country to get her away from the boy she's been seeing in secret. But there are boys in Kerry, too, and the story takes us nicely through that summer. It is a story of a more innocent time, with some dark undercurrents. The writing is simple and direct, and you just want to keep on reading more. I finished it in a few days, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Post 100

This is my hundredth post - would you believe it? "Yes" say the few of you who are trying to keep up with my constant chattering!

What will I talk about today? I haven't done much in terms of drawing and painting lately. I'm trying to do "weight drawing". I'll tell you about that some other time, when I've figured out what it actually means!

It's still hot out there - about 23 degrees. I've had enough sun this week, and I don't mind that cooler, cloudier weather is on the way, as evidenced by the satellite picture from Met Eireann. It looks like Belgium is cloudy again. According to my mum, the weather hasn't been great at all.

Last night, we went for a meal in Bistro One, in Foxrock Village. I really enjoyed it. It was simple but tasty food. There was a good buzz in the place. We went in at 6:30, and were finished a little after 8, and, despite the lovely warm evening that was in it, the place was full. Brendan had carpaccio for starter, then a Thai fish curry. I had celeriac soup and then pork with an apricot and couscous stuffing. Then we had desserts. We should have got just one dessert and shared it, but we pigged out and had two desserts and shared them - almond tart & custard, and rhubarb crumble (heavenly!). I could barely move for the rest of the evening!

Well, I'll go now and join Brendan for the last of the sunshine.

Before I leave you, another bit of trivia. Did you know that carpaccio is named after an Italian painter, called - you guessed it - Carpaccio? (Well, I didn't know - Brendan told me!) Check it out in wikipedia!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Aboriginal Snail II

The weather is so wonderful... So, just a quick blog before I head out to the back garden again. I did a second series of 5x5 squares, so I'll be using these when I'm too lazy or when I don't have much to talk about. I saved this one in Photoshop Elements by choosing the option "Save for the Web", so it's not as large a picture to load into your browser. To the naked eye, I don't think it makes much difference. You can still see the grain of the watercolour paper. I did these on The Langton Watercolour Paper 140 lb (300g/m2), Block format. Block paper is great, in that you don't need to stretch it before use. It's more expensive, but it's so handy if you're away from home or if you're in a hurry.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Day at the beach...

Yesterday, we went to Killiney, to the little beach down from the Vico road. It's a lot of steps to get down, and it feels like even more steps to get back up, but I really love that little beach. For one thing, it's a sandy beach, whereas the main Killiney beach is all pebbles. And it feels more secluded. Let's face it, it takes a little bit of effort to get to it, so you don't get the ghetto-blaster hordes getting off the Dart. It always feels a little quieter.
Although the weather wasn't as blue as it had been in the last few days, we decided to head off to it anyway, and it was lovely there, very hot when the sun was shining, and just perfect when it wasn't. Very often, there is a cold breeze blowing from the sea at Killiney, but not yesterday, so we enjoyed our few hours at the beach.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Dive from Clausen's Pier

I've just finished reading "The Dive from Clausen's Pier" by Ann Packer. I've been reading it non-stop in the last few days. It's a long time since I've read a book I couldn't put down. It's a very good story, and it's told at a nice pace. It's about the choices we make in life, the guilt that goes with these choices. It's about being yourself before you can be other people's expectations.

While writing this blog about it, I've just found out that it's out as a movie too, with Buffy's little Sister (Dawn?) as the main actress. Now, that's a bit too much for me. Carrie, the main protagonist, is supposed to be 23. Buffy's little sister (the actress's name is Michelle Trachtenberg) still looks like she could be 14 (though I've just read she is 21!)! She looks very wrong for that role, but then again, you never know! On the other hand, one of the other actors is Sean Maher, who plays the doctor in Serenity (see posting of 1st April), and I can well picture him in the story (plus - he is easy on the eye!)

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Wildlife of South Dublin - Continued

This is starting to feel like "Mooney Goes Wild on One"...

Yesterday, we had a robin in the back garden, picking up a nice feed of flying ants. It came really close to us, despite the fact that Willow was just around the corner. It came back again and again, and we saw it again today. Today, Willow was just under my chair while the robin was 2 meters away, 20 cm above the ground, and I could hear Willow making that funny noise, when he is opening his mouth and snapping his teeth lightly, with a tiny little miaow sound. He generally does that when he sees something he wants to catch, be it a bird, a fly or a butterfly. So I put my book in front of him to distract him, and his little head was going back and forth so he could keep an eye on the robin, which eventually flew off. When will this robin realise that our backgarden is not a good place for a bird. Maybe it has a nest full of baby robins it has to feed, and it's worth taking the risk!

By the way, don't miss "Inside the Nest" - where you can see a mummy blue tit feeding her baby blue tits. Be quick. According to the Derek Mooney site, the baby blue tits are ready to fly and will be leaving the nest in the next few days.

And, in Airfield this afternoon (yes, the weather was good again and we took the afternoon off again...), I saw a tiny mouse jumping across the path in front of us

And then, we saw a fox - it was very scrawny-looking, but not too shy. It had a good look at us before it disappeared in the bushes.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hot Hot Hot

What bliss! Sunshine and heat, at last. I was busy this morning, but we decided to take the afternoon off, on account of the good weather. It's not often it's over 20 degrees here (it's 23!). I've had to put factor 20 on my arms and face, and my legs are starting to turn from fake-tan pale to a healthy glow!