Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Purple Sea from Above

As promised, more 5x5 squares. This one I've sent to Paul, glued on a card, with a few pictures of Willow. I've saved it for the Web so it doesn't take as long to upload. Hopefully the difference in picture quality won't be too noticeable.

PS: Lovely day today. Breeze is still cold, but it does look like it's going to get warmer. At long last! I've put some Clarins fake tan on my legs and my face, as the tan from the holiday is completely faded by now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Confetti

I went to the pictures with Lisa last night. We went to see Confetti. It's described as "A mockumentary that follows three couples as they battle it out to win the coveted title of `Most Original Wedding of the Year'", and it got some good reviews. It had its moments - some funny, some touching. There were also some dead moments in between the good bits. I'm glad I saw it, but I wouldn't say it's "movie of the year".
Some of the humour is a combination of "The Office" and "Green Wing". While I loved Green Wing, I can't stand The Office. That's probably why I have mixed feelings about Confetti.
We had a nice evening anyway. Lisa called around to the house, Brendan cooked us a nice dinner (pasta & salad, which left us with plenty of room for a Magnum & Pop corn). The Ormonde in Stillorgan was very quiet and I got an easy parking spot. Just as well, considering that I had to do an 8-point turn to turn the car around at the house. Not my finest driving!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

del.icio.us

Yves showed me del.icio.us when I was in Brussels a couple of weeks ago. So, last week, I tried it out. It's very handy. You can keep all your bookmarks there and then you can get to them from any machine. Plus you can share them with others - it's a bit like having a good look through somebody else's book or DVD collection. It tells you something about them, I guess. But anybody who reads this blog knows everything there is to know about me anyway...
It's easy to get completely absorbed in it. I just realise that 50 minutes have gone by, and all I did was editing some of my bookmarks. I imported them from Firefox yesterday, and I'm going through them before sharing them. Mind you, it's a nice way to while away the time. A few months ago, Sundays after 3 were just spent being busy beating the Sunday blues. No Sunday blues since I joined PC Medic!

Here is a link to my del.icio.us.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

War on snails

Snails are Namur's mascot - we're supposed to be slow people, or at least to speak slowly (with a heavy Namur accent!).
That hasn't stopped me from waging war on snails in our garden. We have a lovely laburnum tree, which snails love to bits - literally. One year, we nearly got no flowers and we thought that the tree would not survive the assault. Since then, I keep a close eye on it when it starts to grow fresh leaves in the spring.
I got this eco-friendly system, which is just a little green container with a lid, in which you put water with plenty of salt. Snails seem to die instantly when thrown in salted water (I'd rather not look). So I go around the garden and pick up the big snails (I don't have the heart to take the small ones) and throw them in this container.
This spring, it got so bad that I had to resort to slug pellets. I sprinkled a ring of slug pellets all around the laburnum. The following morning, I counted 50 dead snails around my tree.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Karen's Studio Notes

I found this nice blog which I wanted to share with you: Karen's Studio Notes.

She's interested in digital collage, mixed media and quilts.

A nice change from my amateur pictures!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Featured artist: John Lauder Davies

The current exhibition in Airfield is by John Lauder Davies. It's a series of watercolour abstracts. Some of them are very nice. Some are a bit too subdued for my taste, but others have lovely colours that sparkle against each other, like this one, "Road to Freedom I".

PS: Willow is well recovered from the trauma of dematting. I'm sneezing quite a bit in the wake of loose cat hairs he is leaving everywhere around the house.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Long-haired cat

Today, Willow went to the vets for his annual dematting. It's not easy to care for a long-haired cat. We should have got him used to brushing when he was a kitten, but we didn't know. He doesn't mind brushing with a grooming brush on his back, but it's impossible to brush his tummy. So, every spring, we have to take him to the vets to brush and shave all the matting on his tummy.

We picked him up about an hour ago, and he is still all groggy from the anaesthetics. He is walking around the house, and his body is swaying, and his legs look they are going to buckle under him. He still managed to jump on the counter in the kitchen, though it looked like he wasn't going to make it.

Every year, I promise myself that we'll get into a better routine and brush him on the tummy every day, but it never seems to work.

And every year, the vets give me the bag full of hairs - this year, it actually looks bigger than him!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Aboriginal Snail

Here is another of my watercolour squares. I can honestly say that the dots were inspired by the Aboriginal paintings I was looking at recently (see my post of 27 April).

I was about to say that there are probably no snails in the Australian outback, but then I found a website that says that "There are over 1000 species of native Australian snails and slugs."

I also found out on this website that "The white shell of a Central Australian desert snail helps the species survive intense heat". There seems to be a lot of government interest on the subject. If you want to find out more, you can refer to the Fauna of Australia series ("This newest volume in the Fauna of Australia series includes more than 2 000 exquisite line drawings and colour photographs and is available for $295 from the Australian National Botanic Gardens Bookshop or from CSIRO Publishing toll free 1800 645 051")

I even found some websites on snail farming in Australia.

You learn something new every day.

Monday, May 22, 2006

More watercolour experiments

At the weekend, I decided to paint little squares, 5x5cm, with a view to cutting them and pasting them on cards. While I was watching last week's episode of Invasion on the telly, I prepared little designs on a post-it, just to figure out what shapes I wanted inside the squares.
Then, I used the Masquepen masking fluid to draw the shapes, just little doodles really. Then I painted them, using Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolours (they are the cheaper range), Winsor & Newton Artists' Watercolours (they are more expensive, and tend to give more vibrant colours, though I find the Cerulean blue very dull and disappointing) and the Derwent Aquatone pencil for Light Blue, which produces a lovely bright blue.

Over the next few days, I'll post some of the resulting pieces. Some of them are just gorgeous. They work well individually or in groups. And they look fabulous when you look at them at full screen. Remember that the originals are just little squares, 5 cm by 5 cm. Maybe I should try to reach the same effect on big squares. Remember to click on the picture to see it full screen.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Eurovision 2006, Athens

You can't break the habits of a lifetime...

Although I didn't host a Eurovision party this year, I still watched it - from start to end. I didn't vote this year. There really wasn't any song that I felt worth picking up the phone for. Belgium wasn't in it this year, otherwise, I would have voted for them, good or bad, Flemish or Walloon!

The Irish entry was OK - I think Brian Kennedy has put on weight, and his voice isn't as good as it used to be. He used to hit some high notes, which made his voice really unusual. Now, it felt like his voice is stronger, but somewhat blander. I was never a big fan of his style of singing, but there was a unique quality to his voice, which seems to be gone now.

The French entry was awful. The Finnish entry, which won, was OK, if you like big monsters singing a big song.

I quite liked the German entry. It's not often I'd say that, but this year, it was a nice song, well sung. OK, it was a country and western song, and the singer looked a little bit too old for the look, but I still liked it.

And the overall show was ... amazing... (Terry Wogan would kill me for using that word!)

Friday, May 19, 2006

More splashes

While doing watercolour splashes last week, I remembered that, in secondary school, I used to have a little tool that made colour splashes very easy and beautiful. It was a small rectangular mesh with a handle at the end. What you do is dip an old toothbrush in your paint, then rub the toothbrush on top of the mesh. The paint spreads beautifully on the paper (rather than on the walls), like a very fine mist.

This was the first thing that I looked for when I got home in Champion last week. I knew that the chances of finding it were good, as my mother finds it painful to throw anything away. And within 10 minutes, we had found it, along with a set of gouache pots (which could not be salvaged - they were bought at least 24 years ago).

So, when I got back home, I had to try it out. As you've probably guessed by now, I love experimenting with paints. The white lines were made with "Masquepen" masking fluid. The watercolours I used were Winsor & Newton Cotman Mauve, Dioxazine Violet and Cadmium Red Pale Hue.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Joseph Haydn, Cello Concerto in D Major

This is one of the pieces of music I love. The version I have is on a CD set called Les Introuvables de Jacqueline Du Pré, and, when I hear it, I want to dance with joy. I don't have a very musical ear and I don't know much about music, so I can't really explain why I love it so much - My favourite part is the Allegro moderato, which just jumps and leaps in my ears and makes me happy. I love its strong rythm. Then, the Adagio settles at a slower pace. And the Rondo (Allegro) picks up again, more subdued than the first part, but still with a lovely melody to it.

Anyway, as I said, I don't know much about music, so I can't really explain. Go to the Amazon site and listen to the samples. Althought they are short, they give a good sense of the piece.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about Joseph Haydn, but I'll confess I only glanced through it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Champion, Belgium

J'ai passé les quelques derniers jours en Belgique, avec la famille.

Nous avons été à Bruxelles samedi pour voir Sander, Erika, Laura, Yves & Ingrid. Nous y avons passé une très bonne journée - le thon cuit au barbecue par Yves était délicieux (barbecue allumé par Papa). J'ai eu le temps de faire connaissance avec Sander, et d'aller me promener dans les champs et les bois avec Erika et Laura.

Le reste du séjour, je suis restée à Champion - j'en ai profité pour faire un peu de rangement dans ma chambre. J'avais encore des brouillons de mon mémoire de l'ISTI. Il était grand temps de jeter tout ça à la poubelle!

J'en ai aussi profité pour voir des amies - Marie-Gabrielle, grande amie d'humanités, qui habite tout près de chez nous, et Françoise, que j'ai connue à l'ISTI, et qui est venue de Bruxelles pour me voir.

Et lundi, je suis allée en ville à Namur avec Maman pour acheter (ou plutôt me faire offrir!) quelques beaux vêtements. Il y a pas mal de nouveaux magasins à Namur - Zara, bien sûr, à l'emplacement de la maison Delhaye, 123 et Un Jour Ailleurs, qui ont de belles collections de mode. Et il y a aussi encore beaucoup de magasins qui existaient déjà quand je vivais encore là, comme Il fera beau demain, le magasin parfait pour la baba-cool que j'étais.

Le temps n'était pas très beau - on a eu un peu de soleil le samedi après-midi, lundi et mardi après-midi, mais il a fait assez frais la plupart du temps.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Watercolour splashes

When I have no specific project in progress, I enjoy experimenting with my watercolours.
This one was done with an initial wash in Magenta Aquattone watercolour pencil. When that was dry, I splattered masking fluid on the page using an old toothbrush. Then I splattered purple, green and yellow-orange paint over the page (fill a paintbrush head with watercolour and shake it over the page - very messy, but great fun). The bit of purple on the left was done by stamping an old sponge soaked with purple paint onto the page.

And, No, I wasn't six years old when I did this. It was last week.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Wildlife of South Dublin

No, I'm not going to talk about the niteclubs or pubs in the Stillorgan Dundrum area. To be honest, I wouldn't know!

Some other time, I might tell you all about my war on snails. But not today.

This morning we saw a squirrel on the green at the front of the estate. Minding his own business. Hopping on the grass in search of a better tree. Then a magpie arrived on the scene. The magpie wasn't one bit happy and started chasing the squirrel. That magpie wasn't going to share her territory with anyone, let alone a squirrel, and kept on chasing him. That's the kind of wildlife we see at 6:45 am on our estate.

There seems to be any number of mad squirrel websites out there. Here is one I found: scarysquirrel.org

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fitzwilliam Square

I met Berit for lunch today. She is lucky to work in an office on Fitzwilliam Square, with a key to go into the park. We were lucky that today was such a lovely day in Dublin - hazy sunshine, and temperatures of about 16 degrees - and we sat down on a bench enjoying our sandwich and a chat.

It was my first time in the park in my 20 years in Ireland (I first came to Dublin on holiday in 1982, and moved to Dublin on an exchange program after I finished college in October 1986).

The only picture I could find on the Web doesn't do it justice, as it was lovely. It doesn't have the variety of trees and flower borders that you'll find in St Stephen's Green or in Merrion Square, but it's really peaceful. Basically it's just got a big lawn with trees around it. But the fact that you need a key to get in makes it special! To get a key, you need to apply to the residents' committee, I think.

The other park I know that operates on that principle is Gramercy park in New York, which we didn't get into the last time we were there. It's unlikely I'll ever know anybody rich enough to have a key to Gramercy park. Ah well...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bray

The weather was nice yesterday (sunny and about 14-15 degrees), and we went to Bray for a walk on the seafront. Over the last few years, the seafront has been nicely renovated and it's quite a nice walk - it's clean, the beach looks bigger than it used to (it was low tide, but still, I'm sure it used to be narrower...), even the amusement arcades don't look as grotty as they used to. On a sunny day, it's a nice easy walk. For some strange reason, it seemed that all the Eastern Europeans who live in Dublin were in Bray yesterday. It was the same the last time we were there, about a month ago. I guess it's an easy excursion from Dublin, in particular for those who don't have a car.
And there is more to do in Bray than in Killiney. I still remember the first time I got off the Dart in Killiney, expecting to find a village, and there was nothing there. The view was nice, but there was nothing to do, and it seemed so quiet (it was mid-week). At least, in those days, there was a hotel by the Dart station (the Killiney Court Hotel), and you could have something to eat or to drink. And, if you were lucky, you could catch a glimpse of Bono and the boys from U2 having a pint in the bar. But now the hotel is gone, and an apartment block is being built there instead. Great view, by the way. I'm sure they won't come cheap.
We didn't go up the hill. Too much hard work. Besides, there was a heavy sea fog over the top of Bray Head. Actually, I've only ever walked up to the top of Bray Head once in my life. I must do it again. The view is lovely from there.
Today, the sunshine is gone, and it's bucketing down - not a great spring so far!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Baros Palm

Done! And I never want to paint another palm tree! I'm not 100% happy with the result, but it's the best I can do.

Judge for yourselves:















(I took a picture of the watercolour with a Nikon camera, and then reworked it in Photoshop Elements - the photo had a blue cast which I removed. I think this is an accurate photo of the watercolour, but it's very subjective)

One thing that bugs me about it is that I didn't catch the tension of the leaves - i.e. the angle at which they sprout from the branches - in the bottom right corner, I have the leaves bending downwards. If you look at the photo, you'll see that they actually spring upwards, and that's what gives the picture its dynamic feel. The way I have the leaves drooping down makes the watercolour painting look "tired"

No plans for the next project yet - I might get back to a bit of drawing, or maybe just splashes of colour, so I don't have to think too much!

Friday, May 05, 2006

An easy post...

This one is so good - particularly for those of you who studied languages: Brendan's Friday 5 May post
(btw, you will need sound on your computer for this video clip)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Work in progress

Progress is very slow on the Palm Tree project.

I'm painting it section by section, so it's not as difficult as I thought it would be.

I got a few things wrong on the way. I should have kept the white page with no paint for the few bright areas. I have put a yellow wash in parts where I should have had a blue wash (where you can see the blue sky behind the tree).
And I think I'm using far too much masking liquid to block the areas I want to protect from the extra layers of watercolour.

I really thought I would not be able to capture it at all, and it took me a long time to figure out how to go about it. Once I got the structure in place - trunk and branches, I decided to paint the leaves section by section.

The most difficult thing for me is to think before I start painting. And for this picture I really need to think before each section - I need to figure out which branch is in front and which is in the back, I need to measure to make sure I keep things in proportion, I need to decide what colour to apply first - dark or light, what areas to mask, etc. etc.

I think that I'll do a more abstract version after I'm done with this one. Just to see what it looks like.

Here is a picture taken a few days ago, showing my progress. It won't sell in an art gallery, but I hope that one of my nieces and nephews will pick it up after I'm dead and say "Hey, that's not bad. Let's not throw that away with the rest of her things."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Maldives or Connemara?

It took us a while to find it, but it was well worth it! I had been to Carna beach with Yves and Ingrid many years ago, and I remembered the white sand, but I wasn't sure where it was. Beautiful white sand and clear sea - with the blue sky and the sunshine, it gives the water a perfect Maldivian blue colour.