Sunday, January 31, 2010

Indian Summer

Went out to Indian Summer with Padraig and Mary last night. We had a lovely evening. Food was good - except for the aubergines in my fish and prawn dish: they were very sour, and I had to leave them to the side. The restaurant was extremely busy - busier than I've ever seen it. It was a Saturday night after all, and we were a little later than usual. It's nice to see them doing well, but I get the feeling they were a bit rushed off their feet, and the kitchen had difficulty coping with the volume of orders. Brendan's dish was cool when it arrived at the table, a sure sign of an overwhelmed kitchen. Still, it didn't spoil our night. It was great to be able to meet up, particularly when their baby sitter only confirmed his availability at the last minute. We had no such problem with Willow!

Sea at Killiney

We went for a walk at the Bray seafront yesterday. It was cold, but sunny, and the fresh air was wonderful.

I haven't had the time to draw or paint at all this weekend. Apart from the walk in Bray, it's been all work work work.

So, here is one I prepared earlier - I'm still immersed in my sea and sky view of Killiney bay from the Vico road. I've improved my technique. Pulling the wet paint with a Skipper brush from Cheap Joes produces a lovely soft effect. Technique is good - Composition? - not so sure. This painting is also called "Three UFOs"

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Audacity of Hope

I bought Barack Obama's second book, The Audacity of Hope, for Brendan a few months ago. He found it hard work and abandonned it after a few chapters. I picked it up around Christmas, and I've just finished it.While it's true that the chapters on the Constitution, Republicans and Democrats, and Politics are not the easiest to read, I found them interesting enough to keep me reading. The rewards in this book are in the later chapters, on Family, Race and the World at large, where Obama's strong sense of fairness and moral values really come to the fore.

Let's just hope he can play the political games as well as he can talk and write. When reading this book, you can't help but wishing him well in his job as President of the United States. If only there were more politicians like him in the world, it would certainly be a better place.

And did you know that the White House has a Facebook page that you can become a fan of? Cool or what!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Busy Busy Run Run

No time to write this week. I didn't even have the time to take a photo of the watercolours I painted last weekend.
Hopefully will get a chance to write a few lines over the weeekend.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pink Beauty - Girls night out

I don't consider myself a VIP customer of Pink Beauty, but I gave them business when they first opened their salon in Dundrum, availing of their 2-for-1 offers and other discounts. So I was delighted when I got a text yesterday afternoon inviting me to a VIP evening, with free treatments and products. I dropped over around 6, was offered a glass of champagne and a goodies bag (that I was too polite to look into there and then). I waited my turn for a free mini-manicure. I didn't have long to wait, as they had plenty of staff on hand. As I never wear nail varnish, I went for a shape and polish. My nails look really nice. I should do this more often.

There was a nice atmosphere, a good buzz, and I really enjoyed my hour there (the champagne helped, no doubt!). And when I got home and looked at my gift, I was delighted to find a Dermalogica Skin Rescue Set (with travel sizes of daily microfoliant, skin hydrating mask, multi-active toner, skin hydrating booster and total eye care). Goodies Heaven!

Monday, January 25, 2010


Brendan made a lovely beef and Guinness pie last night - a Jamie Oliver recipe. A real nice winter dish. It was so good-looking (as well as tasty) that I had to take pictures of it:

Just looked at that Jamie Oliver website, and there is a bit of everything there, including a dating section (if you don't believe me, go and check it out!). There is also a nice shop with good-looking kitchen goodies, and, strangely enough, bathroom accessories and fragrance (what's that got to do with Jamie Oliver?? Well at least I guess it's aimed at the same demographics as the kitchen stuff - but the dating? I really don't get it. A sign I'm getting old?)

Sunday, January 24, 2010


It was a gorgeous sunny day today, and although I had planned to spend the day painting, I decided we should go for a walk to make the most of this nice weather. We didn't feel like going too far, so Airfield was the place of choice, despite the fact that we had been there yesterday already (it was much foggier and murkier, and definitely a lot muckier).

Not much happening in the fields - most animals are indoors.

There are 10 beautiful piglets in the little pen near the entrance. Yesterday, they were all in a row, quietly eating their feed and keeping each other warm (with the odd tussle to get in in the middle). Today, they were giddy and playful, running and skidding and play-fighting.

The cows are all looking pretty, even the big Belgian Blue with her big blue tongue. And the ewes are patiently waiting for the lambing season.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Killiney Graffiti

The Irish are not very creative when it comes to graffiti - tagging seems to be the most they are prepared to do - very rarely will you see creative graffiti on the white walls of this country. Killiney offers that rare opportunity for graffiti artists - a derelict building at the end of the beach, with big white walls, and a quiet spot where the chance of being caught by the guards is fairly low (though if you do, you don't really have anywhere to run).

A lot of these were painted with stencils I think, but the overall effect is pretty good - well, apart from the derelict building at the end of one of the capital's prime beaches, that is.


I'm still working on another interpretation of my view of the Irish Sea from Killiney Hill - another watercolour - this time in a bigger format. I've just completed a very pale wash of lemon yellow with permanent rose for the golden clouds. It probably will cause me problems when I lay my blue wash over it, but I hope it will be pale enough not to go all green on me. The start is always full of hope. Like an Irish summer.

We walked Killiney beach last Saturday. It was a bright, blustery morning and the fresh air felt good. The waves were crashing heavily on the beach, rolling the pebbles by the millions. Brendan managed to take a few good pictures of the waves (I was hopeless, pressing the shutter button a fraction of a second too early or too late). This one will go into my collections of  ideas for painting (I will need to live another 100 years to complete all these projects!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bottles and Potions

Or is it Potions and Bottles?
Courtesy of The Creative Licence, here are a few bottles and potions from my bathroom cabinet:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


If you like nature photographs (or any kind of photos for that matter), you will love these 2 websites. I stumbled upon them and I think they are absolutely gorgeous. If you're a friend on Facebook, you'll know this already of course!!

I'm particularly fond of this photo of antelope canyon (I have no idea where that is but I want to go there!) plenty more on that website - advice to bloggers, designers - there are even facebook tricks and tips, and plenty of other technical information. I'm going to have a good look through - there is so much to read!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Up in the Air

We'd both heard/read good reviews about Up in the Air, the new George Clooney movie, that we decided to give it a try. We were not disappointed. It's not Hollywood at all - quite off-beat actually. It doesn't really fit any genre - it's got a lot of humour, but it's not hilariously funny, and it's got a lot of sadness, but not too many tears. It's a bit like real life, with its ups and downs, and nothing works out like you expect, and yet you get carried by the flow of it all, whether you like it or not.

It's by the same director as Juno, so that gives you an idea of the feel of the movie - it takes its time in telling its story, and it lets you get acquainted with the various characters, they're all really lovable, despite their flaws and life choices.

It only won one Golden Globe, for best screenplay, probably because it doesn't fit into any one category. But I highly recommend it.

After the movie, we went to The Counter, a burger place in Dundrum Town Centre. The food wasn't bad, but I didn't see anything special in the place - quite industrial and very cramped - we had walked by it before the movie and people were queuing to get in. Service was slow (with a smile though) - our chips didn't arrive at the same time as the burgers - we complained, and in fairness they didn't charge us for the chips (€12 worth of chips - we had underestimated the size of the portions - I liked the sweet potato chips by the way). While the food was good, it served as a reminder of why we don't eat burgers and chips - we felt so bloated afterwards. And my skin is feeling all itchy today - probably nothing to do with it, but I can't think of anything else that's different (same clothes, washing powder, face cream - nothing different from the usual, and my chin and neck are really itchy!).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The sea at Killiney

Here is my interpretation in acrylics. Although the holes in the clouds actually look like clouds instead, I'm happy with the colours, particularly the sea. It would look nice as a really big painting.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sea at Killiney

I'm currently working on a project - trying to recreate the atmosphere of one day looking down at the sea and sky from Killiney Hill.

I'm experimenting with various techniques and colours in watercolours. Not quite sure how to achieve the effects I want yet, so I might try something in acrylics too - with plenty of blending, I might manage to express the light and the heavy clouds at the same time.

Here is my first attempt - I love the colours of it, but I need to use a much bigger tool to pull the paint back:

Nurse Jackie

Brendan has started recording Nurse Jackie on the telly. The episodes are short (barely half an hour), so it takes a few episodes to get into it. Jackie is played by the actress who was Tony's wife in The Sopranos. No glamour and fancy clothes in Nurse Jackie - she is working in a New York Hospital's emergency department, lives a double life, has sex with the hospital's pharmacist, and he gives her plenty of prescription pain killers and other drugs that help her get through the day (she never seems to get high on them though - strange that). She is married to a lovely man (who, annoyingly, keeps calling her "Babe"), with 2 young girls (one happy, one going through some sort of stress-related depression).

It's a slow burner, but I'm getting into it.

Definitely better than Flash Forward, which we've also started to watch recently. Everybody in the world has suffered a 3-minute blackout, and most people have a memory of events that happened 3 months later. Those who don't remember anything might have been asleep - or dead - in the future. It was described like the new Lost, but unfortunately, it's trying to uncover too many puzzles too quickly for my liking. The beauty of Lost is that you were none the wiser by the end of the first series (or even the 5th series). Here, all I see is cute kid, pretty mother who is also a dedicated doctor in a hospital, hard-working husband, who works for the FBI and is fighting an alcohol addiction - too many stereotypes for my liking. We'll watch a few more, just to be sure!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Snow

After the big thaw yesterday and this morning, we're being hit by heavy snow since about 2:30 this afternoon. Everything is all white again. I don't envy people who are driving home this evening.

And we have no water. We rang the County Council (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown number for water supply enquiries:205 4800 - and they did answer on the 2nd ring!) and they said that it would be back up between 5 & 7 this evening then off again for the night. A bit inconvenient, but at least we don't have 3 children under the age of 4!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Remember the project that went pear-shaped? Well, I decided to cut the trees out - they were too gorgeous to go to waste. I then painted a proper background for them, and then glued them on. It was a bit messy (I used Liquitex acrylic matte medium), but it worked ok. I then painted shadows (probably the weakest link in this project), and here we go:


A lot greyer than last week, but plenty of snow

It Might Get Loud

I spotted something about a movie/documentary called "It Might Get Loud" in Google News on Friday evening. I had never heard of it, but the 3-line summary said something about The Edge, Jack White and Jimmy Page talking and playing guitar. I thought Brendan might like it, so we braved the elements (there was a heavy snow shower on Saturday morning) and headed into town on the Luas (all running with no problem - but the stairs and platforms were in poor shape - you'd think they'd get someone to clear all their platforms, wouldn't you - but this is Ireland - people are afraid to clear their footpaths for fear of being sued if someone slips - it doesn't make sense to me - everywhere else in the world, you get sued if you don't clear the footpath and someone slips!).

After lunch in Wagamama's (we had coupons for free drink and free side dish!), we headed to the IFI, where our movie was showing at 2:30. The cinema was full of men, with a few brave partners like myself. I didn't know who Jack White is (he is the guy from The White Stripes) and I don't particularly like Led Zeppelin, but I enjoyed the movie, an exploration of how three generations of influential guitar musicians got to where they are today. I still don't like Led Zeppelin, but I have new respect for Jack White, after seeing his fingers bleed all over his guitar at one concert! And of course The Edge comes across like a genuine guy - he drives his own car (OK, it's a big mercedes, but still!). Probably essential viewing for anyone who's into guitar. And quite enjoyable even if you're not.

Friday, January 08, 2010


Don't forget to follow my other musings in facebook - you'll need to log in and become a friend to see my facebook page. Most of it is linked to this blog, but not all of it. It's quite addictive - be warned.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


When I was painting last week, I kept track of some of the colours I was using. Some of them were so gorgeous I found it hard to throw out what was left.

I have found over the last year that the book Blue and Yellow don't Make Green that Brendan got me last Christmas is the best source for colour mixing. If I stick to the basic pigments advised in that book (except for one - more about that later), I get vibrant greens, oranges, purples, greys and browns, and no mud guaranteed. It's well worth the effort.

The only colour that doesn't quite work for me is lemon yellow (PY3). I find that Vanadium yellow (PY184) gives me better greens when I mix it with ultramarine blue (PB29). It's got that bit more punch to it.

No time for painting this week, and the only drawing I've done has been on post-its while waiting for Brendan in the van. We've been busy enough this week, despite the weather that seems to have sent the country into hibernation. This morning, I walked down to a local customer and there wasn't a single car on the main road - it was really eerie. Most schools seem to be closed still. I'm still amazed at how such a small amount of snow (5cm) and temperatures that are not that cold after all (-2 to -4 at night is the coldest Brendan has recorded over the last week or so) can bring the city to a stand-still. Apparently, it took some commuters 4 hours to get home last night. Glad that wasn't me - one of the advantages of working from home. And why the county councils can't get themselves organised to have enough grit for all roads and estates and footpaths, not just main roads, is beyond me. Complete lack of organisation is what it is - OK, we don't get cold weather like this very often (it's the 2nd year in a row, though), but you'd think they'd have some kind of emergency plan through which they could get supplies of grit from other sources. And that they could bring in extra workers to work around the clock. But you can be sure that the guys in the council have got their roads gritted. I just hope I don't break a limb on the ice. In the meantime, our transport minister is on holidays, and there isn't a peep from the rest of the government (Apparently, Willie O'Dea, our minister for Defense, said on the radio that the army wasn't helping because nobody had asked them to! and I won't go on about the useless stuff on his website like €6500 - not a lot of money, but multiply that around the country for each minister or TD to spend in their constituency - spent on environmental projects in Limerick like an "outdoor classroom" - €250, "The Story of the Rubbish Monster" by Conor Dwane - €500 (for what?) etc. etc. You'll find these under "Local News". Would that money not be better spent on national projects?) - End of rant -

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Old Chestnut

Not very seasonal, put I painted this chestnut leaf with some leftover paint. I had some lovely rusty colours that I couldn't bear to pour down the drain!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Squidgy Forest

Here is one I prepared earlier. Back at work today. Busy Busy Run Run.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Squidgy Sea

Squidgy trees

I did some other experiments with my Cheap Joes Colour Shaper over the Christmas holidays. I do like the vibrant colours of my Squidgy Trees.

Holidays are nearly over - back at work tomorrow, but it's not like it used to be. In my previous job, I would have been getting the Sunday evening blues from 3pm. I would have had to keep myself busy with walks and yoga and deep breathing to keep the anxieties at bay.

No more.

I still get anxieties, but only in my dreams - I dream quite regularly of college or school - I haven't studied for my Russian or Latin exams, or I haven't even attended the classes (it's always those two subjects - I was pretty good at both.), or I'm back in Lotus and there is some major panic. It's often quite a relief to wake up and realise that the day ahead is going to be a lot smoother than my night of busy dreams.

I love experimenting with my new tools - I haven't had a chance yet to try out my Skipper Wash Brush. But I've used the Colour Shaper, and it's been great fun. I often have better results with these experiments than with full paintings. I know all the techniques. It's putting them together that can be problematic!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Winter Wonderland

It snowed for about an hour on New Year's Eve - and everything was white yesterday (and the roads were in a mess because Councils haven't bought enough grit and they only have one supplier, who is now rationing their deliveries - the usual mess!). I'm glad I took a few pictures, as it's getting slushy today.

Pictures to cheer myself up

My painting is not going well today. I know exactly what I did wrong - I started with the detail rather than the background, and when I added the background after the event, I painted on dry paper, and you can see every brushstroke, and then I decided to add paint to the shadows, and it became a complete disaster. I'm going to leave it at that. I should have left it as it was a few days ago: a gorgeous little picture of trees executed with my new Cheap Joes Colour Shaper.

Well, at least I took a picture of it at that happy first phase.

And I even experimented with it in Photoshop - that's what it should have looked like. I should just print that and keep it as the final painting.


Went to the pictures yesterday, to see the big Christmas release, Avatar. Definitely one for the big screen - such rich scenery and detail. I'm not sure about the 3D, though - I think it gave me a headache - that or the dehydration caused by overheating in Movies @ Dundrum.

It's been said already, but I'll say it again: Avatar is really "Dances With Aliens" - a traditional tale of soldier falls for native princess and is not so sure any more about the war he was fighting. This time, the story is set on Pandora, a planet far far away, where humans are mining some crazily-expensive rock. The goodies and the baddies are easily recognisable, and the main baddy is very cliché'd. And there is a moral to the story - about man's bond to the earth and all this warm Gaia stuff, but it's still a darn good story and it's well told, and the special effects are out of this world.

Actually, it's mostly special effects. The strange thing is that I couldn't find anything on the official website about the special effects, but I did find a "Pandorapedia" site with all sorts of factoids about Pandora, its inhabitants, the na'vi, and also about the spaceship technology to get there (one for the geeks - and it's editable like Wikipedia, but this morning, all I found was this: "БУБЛИК, ОТСОСИ <3…I hope the owner of this site made a backup. I figured this would happen, some nob-gobbler cleared this whole site. Next time don't make it so that every average joe/jackass can edit your site. RIP PandoraPedia.")! 

And I did find a site that says that 60% of the movie is 100% CG. I had to dig a bit further to find information about the technology and the special effects, for instance how they avoided the "Valley Effect" on the CG faces (read these  2 interesting articles )

Friday, January 01, 2010


Have a look at this first attempt at putting the pieces together. Does it look like me?

MHBD's Nose

My nose gave me great trouble today. Very hard to draw, a nose - it's all shading and no lines. It wouldn't be so bad if mine was straight and cute, or even just symmetrical. I spent a lot of time this afternoon with my left brain telling me I can't draw. Quite frustrating. I had a soothing bath with a Lush bath bomb, and then I had another go at my nose (the drawing of, not literally). It's still not quite right (Brendan thinks my nose is not that wide - Me, I don't know), but that's the best I'm gonna get today - despite the fact that the glasses are sitting too far to the right (it's not that crooked!). Maybe I should draw my nose every day. Eventually, I'll get it right. I'd rather draw my feet, though - much prettier.