Monday, April 27, 2009


Ok, we have resolved one of the problems. I used a blending medium for my sky (the one I used is Liquitex Slow-Dri Blending Medium, which I bought as part of a set of 6 different acrylics mediums, which I really like. It's a very good set to try out the various types of mediums available. I haven't tried them all yet. It's called Intro Six, and it includes clear gesso, slow-dri blending medium, flexible modeling paste, gloss super heavy gel, pouring medium and high gloss varnish).

I did a first layer with a delicate lavender, then I added a layer with plenty of white, then with Process Cyan, and then more white again. I mix the medium and the paint in a little plastic jar (it's an empty Lush Dream Cream jar - perfect for mixing acrylic medium, as it has a good lid, and the paint doesn't go dry). I did not let each layer dry out before applying the next, but I didn't apply it all in one go, as I wasn't sure what I was doing. I worked on an incline, so that the paint would go down the page smoothly, and then I turned the page around to send the paint back up towards the top of the sky. Pure stroke of luck, the paint and medium was just at the right consistency to create a subtle marbling effect, which looks like clouds hit by a very low sun, with a blue sky under them.

Still need to figure out the snow. The white paint I have on right now looks far too rough.

Note that the acrylic paper has buckled quite a bit. I should really do this on acrylic board, but that's too expensive. When I have more experience with acrylics maybe!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tempus Fugit

Amazing, as you get past your twenties (and then some), how time seems to go so fast. Weekends in particular. There are so many things on my mental to-do list, and it's already 5:30 on Sunday evening, so I'm going to have to make choices - will I write a few more posts for my blog, watch an episode of Brother and Sisters, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will I do a bit of painting, will I go for a walk? OK, the walk is out - it's starting to rain, and it's cool enough.

I read somewhere that the reason why time goes quicker as you get older is because it's all relative to how many years you've lived. A set period of time is a bigger fraction of your life when you're ten than when you're 40, so it feels longer. Say, a year is a tenth of your life when you're 10, but only a fortieth when you're 40. And it's half you're life when you're 2, and that's why it would feel like a very long time if you're 2.

At least, I don't suffer from Sunday evening blues any more. Come 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, I used to get into work mode, getting things organised, trying a bit of yoga to soothe the nerves, preparing my clothes for the morning, and starting to think about what I would have to face on the Monday - Susan and Malcolm being the two dreaded individuals, with their unrealistic expectations, mad plans, and sarcastic comments. Now, my main worry is whether to get up before 7 to go to the gym or not!

Mmm, I think I'll pick up my paint brushes and see what I can do to fix my problems with Lake Tekapo 2.

Lake Tekapo - collage and acrylics

My last watercolour attempt was a bit too wishy washy, so I decided to try out the same subject in acrylics.

And since I've just finished reading a book on collage, I've incorporated some collage elements into it. I printed a black and white version of the photo and cut out the mountains, and painted over them with acrylics. I've used a slow-dri medium so I could gouge some of the relief with a wooden stick. And I printed a colour version of it and cut out the trees in the middle ground, and painted over them, with a dry-brush technique.

I'm very happy with my water in the foreground (it also uses a retardant, which gives it a lovely gloss) and how the colours are vibrant, but what the photo doesn't show is the mess I've made of the snow and the sky since then. If you never hear about this painting, well, you'll know why!


We bought a few herbs (5 for €20) at the Powerscourt garden centre this morning and, after cleaning my old pots, I've planted them. Brendan has seeded two small pots with coriander, and we have parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (Scarborough fair!), and rocket (doesn't rhyme), and I also have a basil indoors (the lady in the shop said to keep it in - I'm not sure if she meant keep it in until the weather is better or all the time).

I didn't plant anything last year, as we had the builders in, and I had forgotten how satisfying it is to be getting my hands dirty and watch my plants grow.

Looking forward to enjoying all these fresh herbs in our food over the summer.

The Perfect Storm

Not so perfect!

We watched The Perfect Storm last night. I had a rather good memory of it from the last time I'd seen it. But I had obviously blocked the worst bits out - far too much drama at the start, with the wifes, mothers and girlfriends greeting their sailors coming home as if they were ancient heroes, and watching them going out to sea every week as if they're never coming back. And too many cute kids who love their daddies! And heavy music. Once they're out at sea battling the storm, it's not bad, and George Clooney is as good-looking as ever. But I don't think I'll be watching it again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

China Sichuan

Easter Monday was dull and wet, so we decided to treat ourselves to lunch in the China Sichuan restaurant in Sandyford.

We had rung ahead of ourselves and Kevin told us that it was à la carte, i.e. not the standard Lunch menu. We decided to go ahead anyway. We were the only customers in the restaurant. A man on his own arrived about 10 minutes before we left. I know it was Easter Monday, but I had expected a bit more buzz. I guess if they had had the lunch menu (and the lunch prices), the place would have been busier.

The food was very good. Brendan was disappointed with his hot and sour soup, which he found flat, lacking in bite and flavour. But everything else was excellent. I had the hake that Kevin recommended, with crushed pepper and a chilli sauce I think - simple and full of flavour, and Brendan chose a few dishes from the dim sum menu, including the Loh Bak Gou, a really tasty radish - it sounds like an oxymoron but it's not, it was very nice. I had the scallop Har Kow, which I really enjoyed.

And we had a smoked black tea that Kevin recommended - really strange - it smells smoky, but the flavour is not.

Now, the bill - €65.50. We had no wine, just tap water (it wasn't filtered), and only 1 rice. Far too much for lunch. I enjoyed the food, but we both found that it was too expensive. The hake was €28. It was good, but I would pay €16 or €18 for it, not €28!

I really like China Sichuan, but I will only be going for special occasions in future - it's just too expensive -, or to try out their lunch during the week, which is supposed to be much better value.

The Bourne Trilogy

Brendan got a value DVD with the Bourne Trilogy a few weeks ago, and we've watched the 3 of them over the last 3 weeks. The second viewing was as good as the first. And I'll probably watch it again in a few years time. It's the perfect film for a couple - an intelligent action movie that appeals to both men and women. Matt Damon carries the whole thing of course, but the secondary characters are strong too. Perfect for a rainy day.

According to Wikipedia, there is a fourth movie in the pipeline.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nineteen Minutes

I've just read Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes. I don't think I ever went through 579 pages so quickly in my life. I read through Wednesday afternoon and evening, and again on Thursday morning, until I was finished. I did answer the phone when it rang, but I didn't do much else!

Like all Picoult's books I've read so far, this is centered around a family, with some traumatic events, the involvement of the law, and a good (but not totally unpredictable) twist at the end. It was a very interesting subject, how a bullied teenager ends up going into school one day and killing 10 people. I found the depiction of his parents very insightful. Peter, the killer, is chilling in parts, but human in others. I would hate to be a teenager in this day and age - the expectation that you have to conform, the bullying, the in-crowd. There was none of that when I grew up. In secondary school, I wasn't part of the in-crowd for the first 3 years, but then I changed class (I gave up Latin) and got on great with everybody - we were all very different, style-wise and in academic ability, but we had a great time together. I don't think anybody was left out or bullied. The girls in Latin-Maths and Latin-Greek were a bit more posh, but we just ignored them, by and large.

There are lots of gems in the book, that make it feel real - for instance, one of the characters is an economics professor who has developed the "happiness equation": happiness equals reality divided by expectations. So, if you earn €50,000 a year when you only expected to earn €25,000, your happiness level is pretty good. Reality - 50,000; Expectation - 25,000. Result = 2. If you expected to earn €100,000, the result of the equation is 0.5. Not so good. Or if you expect a perfect sunny day, and it's partially cloudy, your happiness level is not great. On the other hand, if you were expecting a downpour, and the rain clears to give a cloudy - but dry - day, you're all happy! It's quite neat, isn't it? And the best part is that, apparently, it's all real.

Oh, and My Sister's Keeper is coming out in movie format in June. Definitely one to go and see with Lucinda - the two of us will need plenty of tissues! There is a trailer on the website - it looks just like I expected it, except Alec Baldwin is a bit too old to play the lawyer, well not the handsome one I had imagined anyway!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lake Tekapo

Today, I brought 5 of my paintings to the framers. It took me a long time to pick the ones I wanted done. I've already got 3 watercolours framed - a poppy, a lilly and my "When Philip Met Isabella" abstract. These go back a couple of years now. So it was time to get some of my newer ones framed. I can't believe it's more than 2 years since I painted my red poppy! I haven't painted that many good ones since then, really.

I've just finished a watercolour of Lake Tekapo, one of the places we visited in New Zealand. I don't think it will make it to my gallery of framed works. But I've learned plenty in the process. For instance how to use a white candle to apply a white resist that looks just like snow. And how to paint little fir trees with a dry brush technique. And I'm quite happy with my sky, though it looks nothing like the photograph. The mountains and golden hill are not so good. I'm now going to try a collage + acrylic version of the same subject, and maybe come back to watercolours again after that.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tate Modern

On our trip to London, we visited a lot of museums. Much more satisfying than shopping, though I have to admit I loved the shop in the Victoria & Albert Museum, with all its little knick-knacks, bags and jewellry.

I have already told you about the V&A and the Science Museum. Let me now tell you all about the Tate Modern. Since we had seen a program on the telly a few years ago about the re-designing of it as a museum, it was one of these iconic buildings I really wanted to see, for the architecture of it, more so than for the art on display. As one of the tube stations was closed, it was quite a long walk along the Thames to get to it, but it was a lovely sunny morning, so we didn't mind. (I did mind on the way back, when my legs could hardly carry me any more!)

There is a new pedestrian bridge leading to it, the Millenium Bridge. It links it to just across St Paul's Cathedral, perfect photo opportunities, of couse. And it's just beside the Globe theatre (we didn't have time to go in - maybe next time). As you walk across the bridge, step by step you realise how big the Tate Modern is, a fabulous building, an old power station, transformed into its new life as a museum with fabulous high spaces that can accommodate all sorts of things. Mind you, some of the exhibits seemed to have been chosen for their height rather than for their beauty.

The main highlights were the Roy Lichtenstein, Picasso's Nude Woman with Necklace and Francis Bacon's Study for Portrait on Folding Bed, as well as an installation that consisted of hundreds of pieces of silver hanging from the ceiling (it's actually called Thirty Pieces of Silver). We also liked a piece called Hip Hip Hoorah (pictured here), as it was so full of fun and joie de vivre, and it also made me feel that, some day, I could have my paintings in a museum too! There was also a big painting of a blond woman's head - she had fabulous eyes - but I can't find it on the website.

Don't forget to click on Explore Tate on the website if you want to view the paintings in each room.

And here is a piece of trivia before I leave you for today: I found in the Explore Tate section a painting by Francis Bacon called Figures in a Garden. There isn't much information about it on the website, except this note: "Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of Inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2007" I kid you not! It's on Level 3, Room 2!


Do you know who was the inventor of bakelite, this early plastic that revolutionized the world?

Well, on our visit to the Science Museum in London, we went to the exhibition on Plastics, and I discovered that it was a Belgian man by the name of Leo Baekeland!

Your parents' old telephone was probably made of bakelite! So, think of Belgium next time you pick up the phone!


Today being a bank holiday, I'm catching up on my posts. We did so much in London over our St Patrick's day break that I haven't had a chance to write about everything yet!

On our 2nd day there, we had lunch in Chisou, a Japanese restaurant on Princes Street (just off Regent Street). It was fairly quiet when we were there, and service wasn't great (the waitresses were better than the Maître d'), but the food was lovely. We had an assortment of sashimi, miso soup and green tea. My kind of food.

And with the great exchange rate, it was excellent value too.

Apple Shop, London

On our recent trip to London, we went in to the Apple shop on Regent Street. What a treat! It's spread out on two floors - downstairs is the main retail area and upstairs is the training floor. Apple have got this fabulous training program, with free lectures (you can sign up in advance or just drop in) and one-to-one training (to be booked in advance on the web, if you have an annual subscription with them).

When we were there, there was a general OS session starting, and about a dozen one-on-ones in progress. And there was lots of staff on hand for general retail questions too.

You can see the whole schedule of workshops on the website. They also offer training for the iPod and the iPhone! And they even have summer camps for the children (3 hours - free!)

Friday, April 10, 2009

JK Ensemble Session

Last week, we went to the 2nd JK Ensemble Session. This time, it was held in The Village on Wexford Street. As a venue, I felt that the Button Factory was better. We didn't get seats, despite being there in good time (the ticket collection system isn't great at these events - I would prefer to get my tickets sent to me or to get an online ticket I can print myself), and my legs (my right hip, in particular) were tired and sore after an evening leaning against a high table.

The music was exciting, though, and we had a good night. We had a drink in the front bar when we arrived, and that was very nice, quite modern and warm. And my britvic orange was fine! The music place is upstairs, with the entrance at the back - not particularly nice, and they must have run out of money when it came to decorating this part - very spartan, with a big area to stand up and a sofa at the back (for those who are more interested in smooching than the music). There were chairs at the front, but they were all taken when we got there.

It was a long evening, starting around 7:30 and we got home on the last Luas at 11:30. We found that the changing over between the various artists was slower than the last time. Another contributor to the late night was that one of the acts, Julie Feeney, stayed on stage for a very long time. This was a preview of her upcoming album, and I get the feeling she played every single song from the album, one of them twice - it was a catchy little tune so I didn't mind that one, but there were some songs that I could have done without. It took me a little while to warm to her, but some of the songs were very good. On her website, she looks really alternative, but on stage, she was much more down to earth.
The first act was Matt turner, an improvising cellist. One of the pieces he played was inspired by Northern Indian tunes, and it was fantastic. Some of his other stuff wasn't "jointed" enough for my taste, though I admired the virtuosity. What I mean is that I like a tune to build up on a theme, and I felt he was jumping around from genre to genre, maybe to show us what he can do, but all these jumps broke the unity of the piece. The cello is my favourite instrument, and his cello playing was magnificent, so I won't complain! Some gorgeous samples of his music on his website, by the way. I'm listening to "darn that dream" right now - a nice little classic jazz number.
He was followed by Ensemble Avalon - a piano, cello and violin trio. They were good. They were more of a straight classical group, compared to what we've grown used to with John Kelly. I found on their website that "Ioana plays on an Italian violin, built by Goffredo Cappa in 1695". 1695! It's totally amazing, I think that an instrument built so long ago not only is still in one piece (or whatever number of pieces there are in a violin) but still plays beautifully!
I think after that, we had Julie Feeney.
After quite a long break, Caoimhin O Raghallaigh came on. Well actually it was himself who was setting things up on stage, not a stagehand, and that may be why it took so long, between a laptop and a 3 or 4 violins, it seemed to take him a long time to get it all ready. You get the feeling that time is a relative concept for Caoimhin, a complete virtuoso fiddle player, in the Irish traditional vein, well, traditional with many twists is the best way I can describe it. The first tune he played was one where he laid a rythm track first, using two violins on his knees (Castor and Polux), before playing the actual tune. He was completely engrossed in his music, sometimes spending a considerable amount of time tuning his violin and fiddling with his computer (what had he been doing beforehand?) before starting to play. It mustn't have been easy for the singer who accompanied him for his last piece!

The last act of the night was Yurodny, the biggest sound of the night. A large group of musicians playing music with an Eastern European flavour. Plenty of violins, accordion, trombone, saxophone, cello. Big sound, great rythm. I really enjoyed their music. It was amazing to watch how quickly the violinists and cellist moved their fingers. By the time they came on, a good few people had left already and we got seats. It felt so good to sit down after all that time on my pins!
Overall impression of the concert? Maybe not as good as the first JK Ensemble Session. I think the first one felt so good because of the element of surprise (and because Chequerboard and Ensemble ICC were so magnificent). But still a great night out, and I'm enjoying listening to the various artists again, through their websites. Will I go to the next session? You bet I will!

Il Fornaio

We had lunch in Il Fornaio in the IFC area today. It's a little Italian place and it was delicious. I had a mixed salad and rosemary potatoes, and Brendan had a mixed meat platter (pictured to the right, courtesy of Brendan and his camera-phone) and soup, and lots of lovely bread. It didn't look like much, but it was busy enough, so we decided to try it out and were not disappointed. All the staff sounded Italian and the food was authentic. If I worked in that area, I would certainly treat myself to lunch there on a regular basis. 

There are a lot of eateries in the IFC area - Milanos, Kudos, a Malaysian restaurant on the quays, and a few Italian places. Most of them were closed today, so it was an extra bonus that Il Fornaio, one of the few places open, turned out to serve excellent Italian food.

According to Babelfish, Il Fornaio means The Baker. Well, they did have nice breads, and also plenty of gorgeous-looking little pastries - the kind of little treats you'd take back to the office after lunch to keep you going for the afternoon!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Bowl with Blue Pebbles - Take Two

I decided to have another go at painting my crystal vase in acrylics. I started last weekend, and only got a chance to finish it yesterday. I changed the background colour and I tried to be more precise and delicate. Still not quite there yet, but at least the bowl reflection is the right shape now. (I managed to keep track of the tracing I had taken).

Here is the end result:

And pictures taken at different stages:

Sunday, April 05, 2009


I guess this is the equivalent of doodling. I found on the web a site with lots of ideas for textures in acrylics. Great fun in terms of trying out colours that go together, but I'm not sure how I would incorporate this into a painting. You could make them into nice squares and have 3 or 4 of them together in a nice frame. But it's not really art, is it?

I did these ones with bird seeds, Pencil shavings, and Hole punch

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

On the way back from Australia last year, we watched Le Scaphandre et le Papillon, a French film about Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of Elle, who suffered from Locked In Syndrome after a massive stroke. The movie really touched my heart. So I was delighted when Mary gave me the loan of the book, in its English translation. It's not a long book, but it gripped me from start to finish. Although it is very sad, the whole philosophy behind it is that as long as your brain is working, you can get a lot out of life. Your imagination can carry you through the warm skies, just like a butterfly, and you should make the most out of life, even if all you can do is blink one eyelid. A good one to read whenever you're feeling sorry for yourself!

The next book I'm going to read now is a book on the art of collage that Brendan got me for Christmas. I need a bit of inspiration. I have started another version of the crystal vase with blue pebbles, but I feel I'm a bit stuck for ideas as to how to take it into another direction.

Revolutionary Road

I occasionally watch The View on the RTE website, and they were reviewing Revolutionary Road, the movie with Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio. They didn't give it a great review, but they said "Read the book". So I did. And I wasn't disappointed. Revolutionary Road is a story of suburbia, life ambitions that got killed by - well - normal life. It's set in the mid fifties, and it has a feel of Mad Men, the constant smoking and drinking, the man working in the city while the wife stays at home to look after the house and the children. But that life is not enough, at least not for her. He says he wants more, but really he doesn't. He works in a large company, that sounds like an early IBM, where he does as little as possible. He is full of pompous ideas, but doesn't put any of them into action. He goes along with her plans for a more meaningful life, but drops the idea at the first opportunity. It's quite a serious and intense book, and a very good story.

I have to say I wouldn't mind seeing the movie now, and I can really pictures Winslet and DiCaprio as April and Frank Wheeler.