Sunday, November 28, 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

It snowed on Friday night (with - really weird - thunder and lightning), but the roads were not too bad. We managed to take our trip to Ikea, as planned. It was very quiet there - perfect! I got Kassett boxes to tidy up the shelf in my little office. The motorway wasn't great, but it was driveable (though not at the speed that some lorries were going at).

But then, it snowed again last night - we had 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) of snow this morning. Real Winter Wonderland stuff, powdery snow, lovely and crunchy underfoot (but apparently not good for snow balls and snowmen), blue skies, freezing all day. Temperatures went as far as -5 last night (we have a thermometer that keeps track of lowest and highest temperatures). Really unusual for here, particularly so early in the year - some of the trees still have leaves - it's a really strange effect. The laburnum in our back garden has been shedding leaves over the snow all day - thermal shock, I'd say!

We decided to take a walk to Airfield this morning, as I wanted to make the most of the weather but obviously didn't want to drive anywhere. It was gorgeous - we even saw a fox. The lake is frozen and the cows are cosy in their shed. The hens are all hiding under their houses. There was hardly anybody there. Really peaceful. The oaks have been shedding their leaves over the snow too.

Siobhan Ryan - 25 November - cognac top and black skirt

Another good outfit for Siobhan. A brandy-coloured top with a flower pattern, and a simple black skirt with a golden belt detail. Of course she is so slim that even a hessian cloth sack would look good on her.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Aine McAteer on RTE1

Aine McAteer was on the telly last Thursday - she did a cookery demonstration for Four Live on RTE1. I thought she was really natural - wouldn't it be nice if she had her own cookery show on RTE?

Never watched Four Live before, but Mary rang me to say that Aine was on, and the bit of the program I saw was pretty good - I enjoyed the gadget slot, where they were reviewing gadgets to help you sleep. Some stocking filler ideas in there!

Oh, and while I was going through the Four Live website, I found this interesting article about rodent control, where they say that the rodent problem this year is 40% higher than previous years, and as temperatures get colder in the winter, they become more of a nuisance around the house. Well, thank god we have a cat. He's never caught anything inside the house, but has been a good hunter in the garden!

Well, I might not become a regular watcher of Four Live - I tend to be still working at that time - but I'll certainly try to catch up on the website every so often!

And here is the link to Aine's recipes. It's also on the RTE Player until the 16 of December. I might try the hemp milk some day. I think there is a recipe for almond milk somewhere. I must dig it up, since I don't tend to drink cows' milk. I got into the habit of drinking rice milk and I love it. I alternate between the organic variety and the version with added calcium. Why they can't do an organic one with added calcium is beyond me - I want both in the one carton, surely that's what everybody wants?

Oh, and while I'm talking telly, great Toy Show last night (on the RTE Player until 17 December). Ryan Tubridy was wearing the perfect Christmas jumper - tacky and tasteful at the same time! And he's really funny and very good with the kids!

Arlington Road

I'm on a roll - still catching up on books and movies read/watched weeks ago, maybe even months. Arlington Road - I was sure I had seen this movie before, but we watched it there on the telly a couple of months ago, and I swear to god I had no memory of it whatsoever, though I did guess the end (and I'm usually not that bright).

Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack- great actors. The movie is an good thriller with a great plot. I jumped in my seat a few times, but nothing spooky. I'll have to wait many years before I can watch it again, though, or wait for another onset of Alzheimer, as it's all about the ending.

Don't read the full Wikipedia article, as it will tell you every last twist. I hate that!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dawn/Dusk at Caraguilhes

I haven't been drinking any rosé lately - the current weather doesn't really work with cold rosé - or is it that cold rosé doesn't work with this weather? Anyways, I was looking through my stock of inspiration photos, looking for a suitable subject to apply the six-way wash watercolour technique from the Nita Engle book I mentioned in an earlier post, and found this gorgeous picture I picked up from the Château de Caraguilhes website a while back.

So I set off to work last Sunday afternoon, working on the back of a failed project, and not even bothering to stretch my paper properly, as I was thinking I was only trying out a technique, not painting a real painting. And I was using leftover paint from Trees in Yosemite, so surely it wasn't going to be worth the effort... Well, I'm sorry now, aren't I, because I'm probably never going to be able to paint such a smooth sky ever again! And I don't think that pressing the paper under layers of heavy books is going to iron out all that buckling. (I'm going to try anyway, but I don't think that's going to work). Ah well!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Great Offer

Costelloe+Costelloe have a fantastic offer - if you buy €100 worth of goodies in their Chatham Street store, they  give you €10 towards your taxi fare home! Check their Facebook page for more great offers!


Brendan got a loan of 2012 on Blue Ray a few weeks ago. I wasn't expecting much - I thought it would be another "The Day after Tomorrow", too serious and heavy, and full of stereotypes.

Well, 2012 couldn't be more different. Yes, it's a disaster movie, and yes, there is a cute American kid or two. And, OK, it's the end of the world as we know it, so there are plenty of serious and sad moments. And they can't seem to be able to kill off the American President, making the movie longer than it needs to be. (He does eventually die, so those scenes could have been cut without changing anything substantial, but I guess Danny Glover didn't come cheap, so they wanted to use up all his screen time).

It was great fun (apart from the millions - or is it billions? - of people dying). The action is fast-paced (except the scenes with the President of the United States, and a few other sub-plots, which should have been cut), John Cusack is brilliant in it, and the special effects are like I've never seen before (check out the video Blog to find out how it's all done). For me, the driving-out-of-L.A. action sequence alone makes the movie worth watching, warts and all.

It's not an intellectual movie, and there are some lame lines and silly moments, of course, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. And the director is not afraid to kill off a few central characters too, which is really unusual in Hollywood blockbusters nowadays, but then again, he is German (and also co-producer and co-writer). If you need good entertainment for the holiday season, you could do a lot worse than renting out 2012.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Autumn colours

You know I love mixing my PB29 and PY184 (Ultramarine Blue and Vanadium Yellow to you and me) to produce the loveliest greens.

A mix I had experimented with while reading Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green, but that I hadn't tried out in an actual painting is Bright Red Violet (PB29 + lots of PV19) and Green Yellow (PY184). It's the mix I used for my trees in Trees in Yosemite, and it worked beautifully, from the rusty yellows to the deep oranges. I think I'm going to use it a lot more.

Another mix I re-discovered is PB29 + PY35 (Ultramarine + Orange Yellow). It makes a vibrant olive green - not dull at all - it's the bright green in the water in the bottom left corner of my Trees in Yosemite.

I must go back to that book and try out more mixes.

I love colours!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jean Byrne - 23 Nov - Leopard-print top & black belt

All I can think is "oh-oh" It makes her look big - it's just not a good look for TV

Salem Falls

Salem Falls explores some of Jodi Picoult's favourite themes - there is a police officer or two, a single mother, a few lawyers, some children in trouble, and, of course, all is not what it seems, but I found it quite different from her usual stories. The main contrast is that it's the father-daughter relationship that's developed, rather than the mother-daughter/son. And there are a few layers, going back in time to also look into the main protagonist's relationship with his own mother - in a life that's completely different from his current existence.

The plot follows Jack St. Bride, a young teacher who went to prison for the statutory rape of one of his teenage pupils. Having served his prison term, he moves to a new town, hoping for anonymity and a new beginning. But things are never that simple. And a small town will be quick to find him guilty again, except for one woman, who loves him and believes in him.

It wasn't as much of a page turner as some of Picoult's other books, but it was compelling in a deeper way. One of those stories that makes you think about the basic principle of Western law that one is innocent until found guilty. And can what's right in truth and in law keep a mob of men who love their daughters from going on the war path for what they believe is right? Well, you'll have to read the book to find out!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The White Queen

I've read a few Philippa Gregory books. She is a master of historical fiction - taking characters from British history and filling in the blanks with her imagination.

This time, with The White Queen, she went back to 1464, and the War of the Roses, and if anything, court life is even more violent than with the Tudors. The book follows the path of Elizabeth Woodville, who marries Edward IV. It's a time of intrigue and constant fights for the throne. I found the Elizabeth depicted here to be not as likeable as some of the other characters in Gregory's other books, The Other Boleyn Girl for instance.

While Mary Boleyn appears to be a victim of her circumstances, but a nice person, Elizabeth Woodville is very much in control of her life. What's wrong with a strong woman?, says you. She is ambitious, for herself, her family and her children. But the choices she makes have repercussions beyond her cunning and magical plans (her mother was believed to be a witch, and Elizabeth is presented as having some knowledge of witchcraft), and everything seems to slip away from under her. When she becomes Queen, she becomes obsessive about placing relatives in positions of power, which backfires, as it causes a lot of resentment amongst other noble families, who start plotting against Edward. And yet, she keeps on fighting and manipulating, using, and losing, her parents, brothers and children in the process

So this is very much a book of the rise and fall of a powerful woman. Could she have used her powers more wisely? Could she have learned the lessons earlier and retired to a peaceful (and powerless) life, and saved her children in the process? Or was it just that there was so much rivalry between brothers and cousins that her fate, and her family's, was sealed the moment she married Edward IV?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Airfield - aquatic plant

Another aquatic plant in the pond at Airfield. More inspiration for paintings.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Trees in Yosemite

Here is my second imitation of Yosemite Autumn by Karen Winters. This time, I went for a square format, which is a lot more dramatic. I think it would look nice framed, but I feel bad about copying another painting (OK, it's not like I'm going to sell it, but I would like it a lot more if it was based on a picture that I or Brendan took in a place that we actually visited!)

The technique I used for the reflections in the water is from a book called How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself by Nita Engle - it's full of interesting tips and inspirational examples.


Sunny day Sunday, and cold. We made the most of it and went for a walk in Airfield first thing in the morning. We saw the first live ducks (1 male, 3 females) on their pond, which is starting to look good  (the plastic duck is sinking). It will be a few years before the trees around it provide the kind of reflections I'm looking for! But some of the aquatic plants are looking well!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Siobhan Ryan - 16 November

I'm not so sure about this dress - maybe it's a bit old for Siobhan? Nice simple, everyday, dress - nothing wrong with it, but it looks a bit dull on her. 

Marlay Park

We went for a walk in Marlay Park last Sunday week - the light was in and out, so I didn't get too many shots. Here is one good one, as the sun came out:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Trees in Yosemite

I've never been to Yosemite. I'm not sure it's on my 20 things to see/do before I die list. Maybe I'll add it. I came across a beautiful painting of trees by a lake in Yosemite park while doing a search through Google images for autumn trees. It was so gorgeous I felt compelled to copy it! Next autumn, I'll go in search of my own trees by lakes in Ireland, I promise! (But we really don't get the same colours as they do in America - I saw the fall colours in Boston and Maine once, many years ago - the light was so intense and the leaves so bright, it was dazzling)

Here is my - pale - copy (Do click on the link for the original):

I've now also painted a bigger version. Will post it in the next few days!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Autumn Leaves

Of course, this is not a very big painting (40x30cm) so I think I might get myself a nice canvas and paint it big - maybe in a flatter proportion. Here it is on my little easel with the original photograph below. Next time, I might tone down the reds a bit too - slightly pinker would work better I think.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Siobhan Ryan - 15 November - red top, black skirt

Nice red top and black skirt for Siobhan Ryan on the weather today - pity about the typo in the summary screen behind her, though!

Autumn Leaves

I love painting trees - here I pushed the boundaries of the theme when I was inspired by a photo Brendan took of the reflections in the lake in Marlay Park.

I painted a dark smooth background first, then I had fun with a painting knife and lots of acrylics. I particularly enjoyed the texture of the Liquitex Heavy Body acrylic. I got a tube in PY3 (yellow-green) in Kennedys a few months ago, and I think I'll go back in the January sales for a few more colours!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another fresh look from Siobhan Ryan

Siobhan Ryan was wearing another lovely dress on Six One News tonight - fresh and simple, slightly retro:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Silent Crossing

I'm way behind on book reviews these days. To the point where I'm having difficulty remembering much detail about some of the novels I've read over the last few months. I'm going to try anyway.

The first of the series is Silent Crossing, by Ellen McCarthy. It was a complete impulse buy in Hughes & Hughes in Dundrum Town Centre. It was 50% off, and the cover was attractive - that's marketing for you - that bright green definitely worked for me!

I enjoyed it, but it's not the kind of book I would normally read - it was a bit of a thriller really, and some parts were spooky enough. It's a clever story, with plenty of twists, and I can see it as a movie all right.

It starts with a tragic car crash, and then jumps 16 years later, when the main protagonist, Melanie, walks into a Garda station with her hands covered in blood, and starts telling the guards a disturbing story. The lines between perceptions and reality are completely blurred - Melanie's slow recollection of the events brings up more questions than answers.

It is described by the Irish Independent as "A chilling page-turner". That sums it up. For me, it's the "chilling" part that put me off. It's a very good story, but I'm just not into dark lonely houses on windy nights, with strange noises and shadows.

Susanna Linhart

A few months ago, Paul, one of Brendan's cousins, stayed over with us for a night on his holiday in Ireland with his wife Meg (they live in the UK). He came over with a rather large painting of their aunt Mary Kate. They were flying Aer Lingus, thankfully, as Ryanair would have charged them an arm and a leg for the extra luggage (it's a good size painting, and it was very well wrapped up too). This painting had been mentioned a while back, probably at a funeral, and apparently, Brendan was the only one of the family who was interested in having the portrait.

Paul and Meg were delighted to hand it over to us - nobody in the family knew anything about how this painting came about, except that the artist was somewhat famous (but nobody had any idea who it was).

I can't resist a good mystery, so I started googling. All I had was the name of the artist from the signature- S Linhart. It took a bit of searching, as my original google didn't bring anything up. When I searched for "S Linhart painter", I came across a painting on TwitPic with the exact same signature, and I knew that our artist was a woman - Susanna Linhart. I contacted "ReallyLinda" (a UK TV presenter - Linda Barker - she does interior design programs - you'll know her as soon as you see her picture), who had posted this picture on her Twitter, but no luck.

Once I had a name, my Google searches started giving me a tiny bit more information - South of France, gardens, not much really.

Then I searched "Susanna Linhart France" and found an artist who referred to studying with her in a place on the French Côte d'Azur called La Garde Freinet. We were getting closer.

When I searched "Susanna Linhart La Garde Freinet", I got a website from the tourist office of this little town, where there was a mention of a painting exhibition with our mysterious artist.

So I wrote to the La Garde Freinet Tourist Office, explaining - in my perfect French - that I was looking for an artist called Susanna Linhart, as we had a painting that we believed was one of hers, and we wanted to find out more about it. I included a photo of the painting.

And a few days later, we got an email from her partner, who told us that she remembered the painting very well and would be delighted to talk to us. So we set up a time and called her one evening. She is a lovely lady, of 80 years of age, but she sounds younger. She told us that seeing that painting in an email was a real blast from the past. She remembered Katherine Corbett well (that's the name that Aunt Mary Kate was using while working in England). Katherine Corbett had set up a beauty salon in South Molton Street, where she had developed a special technique for removing facial veins. Apparently, she had a deft hand and was very popular with the London IT crowd of the time. Susanna knew Katherine through her own aunt, if I remember correctly, and offered to paint her portrait (this was in the 60s I think). As Katherine was a busy woman, with a successful business and busy social life, the deal was that Susanna would come to the salon and set up her easel in a little closet and Katherine would come and pose in between clients. Hence the white coat! The painting was completed in a day.

According to Susanna, Katherine wasn't crazy about the it initially (apparently, most people don't like their portrait, as they normally see themselves in reverse, through a mirror, and they don't recognize themselves in a portrait.). But she must have got fond of it, as it is one of the few possessions she kept throughout her life, right through to the end (She died in England in her 90s. There is longevity on that side of the family). Susanna and Katherine remained friends for a long time.

I think the painting is an oil. It is painted on a rusty-coloured board, which you can see at the bottom. It is somewhat warped, but we're hopeful that a good framer will be able to straighten it for us.

Susanna now lives and paints in La Garde Freinet - she still paints every day - not so much portraits any more!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Siobhan Ryan vs Jean Byrne

I'm catching up on work - it's amazing how much can accumulate over 2 weeks of being sick (and still working). So, I don't have much time for long book reviews at the moment. But there is always five minutes for some photos of our favourite weather girls

Jean Byrne - 27 October - a matronly look - with black lace! The dress would probably be gorgeous on its own, but I don't like the black lace look.

Siobhan Ryan - 8 November - simple, modern, fresh. Very pretty

Friday, November 05, 2010

Bull Island

We were on Bull Island on the bank holiday Monday (last Monday in October). A gorgeous spot that I had forgotten about - a lovely long sandy beach, very close to the city centre. It was a cold day, and my hat wasn't tight enough - so I think that's where I sealed my fate. I already had a bit of a sore throat, and it got worse after that walk. It was worth it, though. Next time, I'll just have to wear a better hat to cover my ears.

In the distance, you can see the 2 Poolbeg chimneys at Ringsend - one of the iconic landmarks of Dublin, captured here by Brendan with a good zoom. They are one of my favourite sights in Dublin. I was doing some work for a customer very close to the 2 chimneys over the last few weeks, and I'm only sorry I didn't bring my camera with me. Maybe I could sneak back some day - I've read that they're going to be pulled down, as the power station is now closed, so it's a case of now or never!

The Social Network

The Facebook movie got plenty of good reviews, so we decided to go to the pictures in Dundrum on the bank holiday Saturday.

Very interesting movie - despite the fact that apparently a lot of it is made up and is not an exact representation of how Facebook was set up nor of Mark Zuckerberg, its founder.

I didn't know much about Facebook the company, or its founders, but the movie The Social Network makes it all about someone with poor social skills, and whose company's success (it's worth 25 Billion dollars!) doesn't seem to bring him any joy. Nothing seems to bring him joy, according to the movie anyway. And he seems to lose the one friend he had. Maybe, like a lot of geeks, he is not good at human interaction, but becomes the wittiest and most likeable person on earth when he communicates through a computer. And also, in the movie, he never smiles, but there are plenty of pictures of him on the web with a nice big smile on his face.And he's got a girlfriend too. So, who to believe? The movie or Zuckerberg's PR machine? My philosophy is to give people the benefit of the doubt. In the movie, there is no doubt that Mark Zuckerberg is a geek jerk, but since I don't know him personally, I won't judge him on that basis!

It's a great movie, though - a parable about not relating to others' feelings, getting rich, and losing friends. You wouldn't wish that life on anybody. The big question is was it all worth it? And does it make him happy?

Am I on Facebook? Yes of course.

Christmas cards - Take 8

I don't think I'll go with this one - it's a pretty flower (I was inspired by a painting I found on the web), but I've found it hard to make the green leaves look nice - they're too blobby for my taste.

Feeling a bit better - but it's been a rough 2 weeks - the doctor has prescribed codeine tablets that stop the coughing. But they make me feel very drowsy, so it's strictly to be taken before bedtime. He also gave me some nasal spray to dry things out, but I don't like it at all. Anyways, hoping to catch up over the weekend. This is the first day this week that I still have any energy left in me after 4pm. Other days, I just had to lie down and rest - I was completely wiped out.