Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Watercolour Society of Ireland

On Sunday, we went to the Watercolour Society of Ireland's exhibition in Dun Laoghaire. Well worth a visit. It's running until the 10th of October in the County Hall, and it's free. Some of the paintings were not very original (some even, I thought I would be able to do better than them), but there are a few gems, full of vibrant colour. Quite an inspiration.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kerry Sky - Watercolour

And here is the watercolour version, in progress.

I still need to remove the wax, which I used to keep some of the fluffy clouds white. It's slightly shiny, so I need to iron it out. I'm always a bit nervous doing that.

And then, there is the question of the foreground - what colours to use - something that will stand to the brightness of the sky, but it should be dark all the same, or all my values will lack contrast. And then, how much detail? and to what scale? The original photo has got very little foreground texture. My pastel and acrylics versions were more textured, and they worked quite well. But somehow in a watercolour, I'm not sure that will work - I think it will be too fussy. But if I don't add any detail, will it be too bland?

Questions questions

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ocean Sea

I think it was Françoise who recommended this book to me, Ocean Sea, by Alessandro Baricco. It's a little gem of a book - really weird, set in a strange world, more like a fairy tale. Very poetic, but compulsive reading all the same, and full of a whacky kind of humour, and some savage, dramatic moments.

He is better known for his short novel, Silk, much more serious, but equally mesmerizing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Matchstick Men

Brendan taped Matchstick Men on the telly, and we watched it last week. I had never heard of it, but it was excellent - Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell (of Moon fame), and a young actress called Alison Lohman.

The 2 men are con-artists, making reasonable money out of theirs
scams. Roy (played by Nicolas Cage) is the more experienced partner, while Frank (Sam Rockwell) is the bright young apprentice. Roy is an obsessive-compulsive, who is also agoraphobic and a chain smoker. His life is pretty grim - his wife left him nearly 15 years earlier, he survives on a cocktail of prescription drugs and mad cleaning bouts. Until he discovers he has a daughter, 14-year-old Angela.

The movie is set is an anonymous sunny city, and follows how these 3 characters discover each other and how they impact each others' lives.
Very good story, great acting, well paced action. Really enjoyable.


This is blackberry season - we've been to Airfield a couple of times to collect enough blackberries to make 2 nice crumbles - one with apples and the other with pears. As always, I've followed Aine McAteer's recipe, and the resulting crumbles were yummy. Brendan's favourite dessert!
I think we might go again this weekend, before the blackberries are all picked out.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kerry Sky

Here is a better picture of the Kerry Sky in acrylics. The medium I use to keep the paint open for longer has a slight gloss to it, so I can't take a picture of it with the flash. I should really use Brendan's camera, with the tripod, to get a good picture in relatively low light. But this one will do.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kerry Sky

I've been a busy bee in the last few weeks - not much to show for it, as a lot of my attempts at painting my Kerry Sky (seen from Loop Head) were heavy-handed. But I'm getting there (or so I think anyway). I've been practising the quick blending with a fan brush shown on a YouTube video, and I am getting more realistic effects. I am using a slow-dry medium that keeps the acrylic paint open for longer, so I have more time to blend. It's not quite as subtle as pastels, but it's as good as I'm going to get for now.
So, I'm ready to move to the watercolour version of that same sky.
After that, I have some homework given to me by Moya - a couple of still lives - so I can learn to walk before I run!

Here is the original attempt

A lot of brushmarks - you can never forget you're looking at a painting, and a bad one at that. I knew it wasn't right, but I just couldn't control my brushstrokes.

And using black to make greys - big mistake. I knew that!

And here is my final painting (it's not a great picture - it really doesn't do it justice. I'll take another one in natural daylight in the morning). I won't bore you with the 6 intermediary pieces.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sandycove beach

Our second walk last Sunday was to Sandycove. I've never seen the place so packed. There were cars everywhere - double-yellow lines, footpaths, corners. Complete Irish madness. And the Gardai were doing nothing about it. We saw a guard on a bike and a squad car going by. But they didn't bat an eyelid. I can imagine how frustrating this must be for residents in the area. There was no way that a firetruck would have been able to go through some of the streets near the James Joyce tower.

Good citizens that we are, we parked the car a little distance from the seafront, and walked. It was cool in the breeze, but that beach always seems to be sheltered (the best spot is on the wall facing South, but all those spots were taken).

After queuing for an icecream, we found a nice bench overlooking the sea, and we spent a very pleasant half hour people watching.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Marlay Park Dog Run

The weather was glorious at the weekend - it felt like the start of the summer we didn't have. I'm glad we made the most of it, as it's been dull since Monday. Dry, so I guess we shouldn't complain. It's good for the farmers. Personally, I'd rather have rain than a dull overcast day!

We went for a walk in Marlay Park on Sunday morning, before our shopping in Lidl (which is just across the road, very handy). They now have an enclosure for dogs, where dogs can be let off the leash and run to their hearts' content. It seems to be a good spot for socialising too (the dogs and the owners). We've recently watched an episode of The Dog Whisperer (on National Geographic?), and we're now dog experts. It was really interesting to watch the interaction between the various dogs there. The greyhounds seemed to be the shy ones, whereas little mongrels were leaders of the pack. By the way, this guy Cesar, the Dog Whisperer, has books and magazines and all sorts of things to help people manage their dogs (and to make him rich!). You can even buy teeshirts. And plenty of free tips on how to be a good dog owner. Mmm... Probably doesn't work with a cat though. Willow knows we're his slaves, he doesn't believe in pack leaders!

We didn't take pictures of the dogs, but we did take a photograph of this peacock!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


We were back at Airfield (new website by the way!) this morning, as the blackberry season has started, and we wanted to be ahead of the crowds - the bushes were well picked already, but Brendan managed to gather a good crop. We'll buy apples tomorrow and I'll be making my Aine McAteer crumble. Happy Days!

There was traditional ploughing in one of the fields - looks like hard work. The man behind the plough told us that the last time that particular field was ploughed was 20 years ago, and he was the one who had ploughed it!

And we discovered the new sown flower meadow. It was such a gorgeous morning that we decided to have lunch there. The south-facing terrace at the back of the house is a wonderful spot - I had the salmon and leek quiche - it wasn't really a quiche (it fell apart in the microwave) but it was tasty all the same. And good value, we felt - €10.50, with 3 salads (I had coleslaw, melon and potato salad - all very nice)

Hot August Night

Brendan taped this for me last week - Hot August Night NYC - a recording of Neil Diamond's concert in Madison Square Garden. Basically the same concert as the one in Croke Park last year, with some of his old songs, like Cherry Cherry and Kentucky Woman (my personal favourite), and some of the brand new ones, such as Pretty Amazing Grace (which I can recognise from the first chord).

I enjoyed the few bits outside the concert - the scene where he goes back to his old neighbourhood in Brooklyn, which seems to have gone a lot more "ethnic" than when he lived there, I'd say, and he talks to some black kids who have no idea who he is and he starts mentioning some his top songs, like Sweet Caroline, and they don't know any of them. He finally thinks to mention Red Red Wine, and yes, they've vaguely heard of that one. It's just surreal.

And also the bit where he shows some of the glitzier shirts he used to wear!

Don't like to see him up too close - too much foundation I think! But he still has a good voice, and he puts his heart in it. We've kept the recording and I might watch it again!


We're finally having a bit of good weather - after the 3rd bad summer in a row, I badly needed this little bit of sunshine.
We even had lunch outside last Wednesday - Brendan made burgers and a caesar salad - the taste of summer at long last!

The Day After Tomorrow

We watched The Day After Tomorrow last weekend. Good special effects, dreadful story and poor attention to detail! When Dennis Quaid finally finds his son alive and well in a frozen New York, he is so taken by emotion that he forgets to close the door! - Despite the fact that it's so cold outside that you could freeze instantly. And Jake Gyllenhaal is way too old to play an 18-year-old (ok - he was only 24 when the movie was made, but he still looked too old)! And really, I didn't care that Dennis Quaid's wife was a dedicated doctor, who stayed all alone in the hospital with a young patient, waiting for an ambulance, because the child could not travel by regular transport - with the snow storm outside, I'm not sure the ride in the ambulance was going to be the best anyway. And why did Dennis Quaid have to jump over the rift in the ice when he was in the Antarctic? Just to show what a hero he was? Mmmm. I did watch it to the end though. A good movie if you're in a bitchy mood and you want to give out!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Tony Takitani

I don't know much about Japanese cinema. The last Japanese film I saw was Kagemusha, by Kurosawa. Tony Takitani is in a completely different vein. Not a big epic - only 3 actors, one of them a voice only. It's really all about loneliness (and shopping addiction!). It's a quiet movie, with the colours washed out, and very little action. But it's beautifully done. I love the way each scene moves, scrolling from right to left, each set framed by those big windows with no glass, which the breeze seems to be constantly blowing through.

It's a simple story - Tony Takitani is all alone, but he does not feel lonely until he's loved and lost. He tries to recapture the feeling, but his heart is not in it. That's more or less it.

Far far from Hollywood movies (more about those later), but such a beautiful film.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Kerry Sky - Acrylics

Nothing to show in this section yet! I'm on my 4th attempt at a decent sky in acrylics, but it still looks too brush-strokey. I'm going to have to persevere. I found this website with a pretty nice sky. The trick seems to be to use less paint, do more criss-cross blending, and work really fast!

Thursday, September 03, 2009


I don't know if butterflies are a sign of a healthy eco environment or not - if they are, the Corbières is hale and hearty! We saw lots of beautiful butterflies and other insects there, as well as the most amazing variety of wild plants and flowers. And thankfully, not a snake in sight - though I'm sure there were plenty of them in the vineyards and rocky hills.

The Time Traveller's Wife

I read the book, and I loved it. And now the movie. And I loved it too. It feels more romantic than the book, but it follows the story very closely, and the characters work well. Both main actors, Eric Bana, and Rachel McAdams, looked familiar - yet I haven't seen any of the movies they've been in (except Black Hawk Down, but I don't expect I would recognise him from that movie, really!). On the other hand, the guy who plays their friend Gomez, Ron Livingston, was in Band of Brothers and some episodes of Sex & the City, so that's no wonder he looked familiar!

If you loved the book, you won't be disappointed. If you haven't read the book, and you like a good love story, this definitely fits the bill.