Monday, February 28, 2011

Iphigénie en Tauride

Despite our colds, Brendan and I went to Movies@Dundrum last night for the Met HD performance of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride, with Placido Domingo (who's just turned 70!) and Susan Graham. Both singers had colds too, but still managed to give their best.

Brendan's cold certainly was not improved by the night out, but I'm on the mend, despite a rattling cough that's slow to clear.

But colds aside, it was a perfect night - Gluck's music is gorgeous, even toe-tappingly so at times. The production was rich and dark. The set was divided into two areas: the sacrifice chamber and the prisoners' cell, both dimly lit to suit the mood. The chorus's costumes were rich red dresses for the Priestess's ladies-in-waiting and bright blue for the soldiers. There was dancing, some sort of hand-miming, and even a couple of scenes with the Goddess Diana lifted down from above (Not quite Spiderman, but more of a nod at the 18th Century stagings, just like I imagine them anyway)

At the interval, the artists were interviewed, and we even got to see Placido Domingo in his dressing room at the interval (Nothing fancy - a couch, a piano, a cup of tea and a packet of Halls), and we saw the special effects make-up applied on Paul Groves (who plays Pylades) - scars and bruises and blood dripping down the face.

The story is straight out of Greek Mythology: Iphigénie was going to be sacrificed by her father, Agamemnon, but was spared by the goddess Diana, and sent to an island far away to serve as a priestess of Diana - her job being to kill all strangers to the island, as the King was completely paranoid and keen to appease the gods. In the meantime, Clytemnestre killed her husband Agamemnon, and was killed by her son, Oreste, Iphigénie's brother. Fifteen years later, Oreste is shipwrecked on the island, along with his one friend Pylades. That's at this point that the opera starts.

It's the performances that carried the night, though, both in terms of singing and acting. Within minutes, I was taken in by Susan Graham's voice and deeply sad presence, and for the next two hours, I was in a different world.

PS: I got some of the pictures from this review.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Forsythias, willows, and I even saw daffodils in bloom on the side of a road this morning!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mountains in Kerry

Here is another interpretation of the same subject. White lines, done with my Masquepen, give it a more abstract feel.

I used up some leftover paint (from the Saint André in the Mist series) - mostly phthalo blue, cadmium red and vanadium yellow.

Again, the sky worked out well.

I think I need to explore this landscape some more.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Coups de coeur

I often share these kinds of things on my Facebook, as it's so easy. A flavour of what you're missing if you're not a "facebook friend":

Black Swan

I'm not really sure what to make of Black Swan. I went to see it at Movies@Dundrum with Susanne last Friday night. I had heard and read mixed reports about it. Some critics saying it was the movie of the year, articles saying that it was hard to take, with scenes of drug-taking, lesbian sex and stomach-churning violence.

It's none of the above, really - ok, there is one capsule of some un-named drug taken in a bar, the lesbian sex is a lot of sighing and a woman's long hair covering the lower part of Natalie Portman's body. No pubic hair in sight, and not even a hint of a breast! As for the violence, I was able to watch most of it, so it definitely was not major. There are scenes in The Sopranos more disturbing than this

At the end of the day, it's a story of obsession, of a controlling mother, of a controlling artistic director (Vincent Cassel), of a passion and ambition for dancing that takes over the character's life. For all of this, a good movie, but nothing like the hype that's out there.

My verdict? 7.5/10. A good night out, but not a life-changing experience.

And I did not recognise Winona Ryder as the older, discarded, ballerina!

Mountains in Kerry - Step Four

Step Four:

For my sky, I applied a medium grey wash wet on wet, and used a tissue to pick up paint while it was still damp. Lovely fluffy clouds that make a dramatic sky.

For the next version, I think I'll need to add some detail. It's a bit too abstract. I'm trying to find the right balance between getting lost in the detail and just sticking to the big shapes.

It might not be good enough to hang on a wall, but I'm enjoying playing with all these gorgeous colours.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mountains in Kerry - The Artist's studio

It's not fancy, but I'm very lucky to have a room that I can dedicate to painting, without having to tidy up every day!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mountains in Kerry - Step Three

Step Three:

At this stage, I used my Photoshop drawing as inspiration rather than an exact template. I drew the basic shapes onto one of my watercolour blocks, using a Faber-Castell PITT artist pen. Then I mixed some lovely greys and neutrals, and I worked away, forgetting the world around me.

All that's left to do now is the sky.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mountains in Kerry - Step Two

Step Two:

I added three basic colours in Photoshop. (This is turning into a right multi-media experience!). I was trying to do a value sketch, light, dark and medium, but I couldn't help playing with colours instead!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mountains in Kerry - Step One

Here is my current project. It's a view of the mountains on the Ring of Kerry, just after we went through a mountain pass on a lonely road between Sneem and Lough Caragh near Glenbeigh last autumn. I'm having difficulty locating it on Google Maps though. We were the only car on the road for a very long time, and we felt we had found a gem, by pure luck, as road works on the Sneem-to-Kenmare road had forced us to re-route across the middle of the peninsula, rather than driving all around.

Step One. 
I'm trying to simplify the landscape. I imported a photograph into Sketchbook Pro on my iPad, created a new layer, which I used to trace the main features of the photograph. Then I shut the eye on the original layer. Here is the resulting drawing:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How a boring wash can turn all right

I wasn't very focused when I applied this wash. I used left-over paint and I didn't really have a plan.

All it took was an "I'm Feeling Lucky" in Picasa to turn a boring painting into a bright landscape from a psychedelic dream.

I'd like to do something with it, but I'm not sure what. The obvious would be to add a tree - at the top of the hill or the bottom? And what kind of tree? I think I'll park it for a time while I think about it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Evelyn Cusack - 5 February - Purple dress

I meant to post this a while back, obviously, but I'm falling behind - so much to do, so little time! Another lovely dress on Evelyn.

Shellac nails - 2 weeks on

Two weeks later, and my Shellac nails are still perfect. Not a chip or a scratch, and they are as shiny as on Day One. The only problem is that my nails are growing at a good pace. Plus I've read that the longer you leave them on, the harder it is to remove.

So, I'll pop in to Pink Beauty Boutique on Monday if I get a chance, and get it removed. I'll feel very unsophisticated without my beautiful red nails!

Poolbeg chimneys

Caught at their most glorious, on Monday afternoon:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Siobhan Ryan - 13 February - pink dress and hair up

Siobhan was wearing a bright pink dress last night, with some nice gold jewellery. And she had her hair up, with, I suspect, a hair piece.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

St André Mist

Various views of the same landscape, cropped in Picasa. Amazing what a difference a few lines with a black Faber-Castell PITT artist pen can make. Not frameable quality, but I like it a lot more than without the lines. 

St André Mist

Getting there... It's a bit wishy-washy, but it's not as messy as some of my previous attempts. I'm still not happy with the colours, though. The greens are a mix of phthalo blue and lemon yellow, but it lacks oomph. I think I'm going to go back to my good old reliables: ultramarine blue, vanadium yellow and permanent rose. My next attempt will have to be wet in wet, though, as I still haven't captured any of the foggy feeling

Friday, February 11, 2011

St André Mist

You can't beat Photoshop Elements really, even the ancient version I'm still using (3.0). I brought in the drawing from Sketchbook Pro onto my laptop, connected my Wacom tablet, and opened Photoshop. A layer or two later, and the Bucket tool was doing its job nicely, a nice soft effect that I must now try to emulate with the real thing - watercolours!

For the first one, I used a left to right pattern for the sky.

On the second one, I went for a starburst pattern, which gave a lovely effect of the sun about to rise behind the hills

The last picture just shows the tracing done with the Wacom tablet! The weird squiggles at the end of every line are because the pen is misbehaving a bit - it's over-sensitive and starts drawing even when I'm about an inch from the tablet! It was still drawing in mid-air, although I had tried to lift it from the tablet as quickly as I could. I wonder if I need to recalibrate it, and how?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shellac nails

Thought you might like to know: One week on - Shellac nails still going strong - no chipping, still glossy. Perfect.

Abstract - ArtRage

It's so easy to buy apps on the App store - I just found ArtRage for iPad, and, at $4:99 (or was it $5.99?), I couldn't resist. I haven't figured out how to increase the brush size to "really big" so I can do a nice background wash. I like the nice texture effect from the roller tool, though. Of course, it's a new tool I'll have to learn, a distraction from real painting, but it's such good fun, so why not? 

Saint André in the Mist

This one was done on Sketchbook Pro on my iPad. More like a kid's colouring book effort, but I do like the softness of  the hues. And I think that this particular composition works quite well. So, that's a start at least. But I really need to practise more with the tools available on Sketchbook Pro, or I'll never move beyond the basics. So much to do. So much to do.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Work in progress

I'm struggling with a watercolour I've been working on for the last few weeks. It's a view towards the hills behind Saint André de Roquelongue, on a misty morning in May. What I want to capture is the quiet fog with the promise of a warm day, but any wet-in-wet attempts I've made so far have been poor. So I tried a different set of colours and painted wet on dry, but my colours are too blocky and the effect is autumnal - not what I want. So I might try different colours with Photoshop first, rather than waste more paper! I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The last of the Christmas Roses

The actual Christmas roses are still doing quite well, actually, but I've probably exhausted all my inspiration for this year, with this simple little watercolour. I painted the colours very roughly first, then added the leaves with one of my beloved black Faber-Castell PITT artist pens. Sometimes, less is more. I should try to remember that when I'm struggling with a painting.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 is another of the Christmas movies we watched. It was light. It was enjoyable. Six weeks later, I can't remember much of it. Is that a good thing? There were plenty of great action scenes, and something about a failing part inside the heart of the man/machine. And of course Mickey Rourke playing a great baddy! And Scarlett Johansson in an action cameo role. Oh, and Sam Rockwell is great in it too, as the creepy arms salesman. Not so keen on Gwyneth Paltrow in this one. And, yes, Downey Jr is good in his cheeky chappy style. But, really, you'd think I'd remember a little bit more about the actual movie, wouldn't you?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The King's Speech

I still have a good few movies to review. We seem to have taped a lot of films lately. It's cheap entertainment, and I'm not big into going out on the town anyway!

But last weekend, we made an exception and went to Movies @ Dundrum in the afternoon. The movie we picked was The King's Speech, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter. We had heard a lot about it of course, but didn't quite know what to expect. We both found it excellent!

An intimate portrait of the royal family, painted with compassion and humour. It's the story of a friendship, between King George the 6th and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. I should really have picked a picture of the two men, but I thought this photo of Helena Bonham Carter playing the Queen Mother to perfection was so gorgeous that I had to use it. Actually, the photo I would have liked would have been a close-up of the peeling wallpaper in Logue's office, but I couldn't find one.

At this point, you probably all know what the story is about, so I won't bore you with the detail. All I'll say is that I found that it was a movie with great warmth and humanity. Not sure if I'd buy the DVD, but I'll certainly watch it again when it finally makes it to television one Christmas!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Let's not forget Evelyn

I don't generally talk much about Evelyn Cusack. (There are only so many hours in the day, and I don't have enough time to paint, let alone blog). But tonight I want to give her a special mention, as she was wearing a beautiful, classy dress. And she's got such a great smile!

Jean Byrne - 1 February - new red dress

What a gorgeous new dress for Jean - bold and beautiful, well cut and so flattering. And she's got the figure for it.

Shellac nails

This morning, I treated myself to Shellac nails. I had first heard of them on, and I was intrigued. I'm not a sophisticated kind of girl. I never paint my nails, and I rarely get a manicure. I just don't have the patience to wait for the polish to dry and I end up ruining the effect before I've even left the salon. That's why I thought Shellac would work for me. They are supposed to last for 3 weeks (well, 14 days according to their website!). At €35, that's quite reasonable, I think. (Pink Beauty Boutique on Dundrum Main Street told me they also have a special offer of 2 free Shellac manicures if you block-book 6 sessions. They also have a place in Dundrum Town Centre)

And that includes free removal. They don't recommend you remove the polish at home, I'm not sure why. (The answer on the website is a bit vague: "To ensure the health of the natural nail, Shellac is a professional only service and only trained Nail Professionals should apply & remove Shellac.". Actually, there is a video explaining the science bit, but I didn't have the patience to watch it!)

I hope they'll last that long, because I think it looks really well on me. The colour I went for is Red Baroness. The only thing with Shellac is that there are not that many colours to choose from. I might try the black some day - I think it might look quite well.

I did my research last night, reading all about it on (Imagine, a blog just about nail polish!). And I've just found more information on the Shellac blog. Mmm... The salon never mentioned anything about applying an oil to prevent nail dehydration. I have a bottle of Dr Hauschka Neem oil. I wonder if that will work. I might try it this evening. But what if it melts my beautiful nail colour? (Well, I know that's not very likely, but still!)