Sunday, July 31, 2011


My parents are on RTL TV news this evening! They were interviewed on the streets of Namur this afternoon!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Holly Dolly Cakes

If you like decorated cakes and cupcakes, check out Holly Dolly Cakes. She makes the most beautiful edible decorations! My personal favourite is this little fellow (I wonder if she would be able to do a cat that looks like Willow?):

Back to Basics

I got a few of my watercolour, collage & pastel works framed this week, and I'm proud of the result! Modesty is not a quality that I possess. My only problem is that we're running out of walls, and I have a good few paintings stacked in wait for the next rotation.

But never mind that. What I wanted to talk about today is drawing. I love painting, applying colours to canvas or paper - acrylics, watercolours, pastels. The brighter the colour, the better. But my problem is that I'm not very good at drawing. Or rather, I'm not very patient with myself when it comes to measuring lines and angles. The result is often less-than-realistic images. I work my way around that by tracing when needed, but that's not very artistic!

I can draw when I apply myself, though I'm not a neat drawer - I did complete the Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain workbook, after all. But I lack the discipline!

I came across this article recently that has inspired me to get back to basics and draw some more. So, I've cut my viewer out of a piece of cardboard (I've got 2 sizes - 12"x8" & 10"x6"), I set up a simple still life and I've started measuring and drawing, going step by step. The next stage is to apply the darkest shading. I'll let you know how I get on!

Note how I propped my viewer with a couple of low bowls. I hate holding a viewer while I'm drawing, as I can't keep it at the same angle and distance for long. What I should do is make little legs for the back of it, like an old-fashioned picture frame.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Woman in Berlin

A Woman in Berlin was recommended to me by Susanne at least a year ago. I've only just got around to reading it now in the last couple of weeks. It's a hard subject matter - when the Russians arrived in Berlin at the end of WWII, local women ended up the victims of multiple rapes. The anonymous writer tells us of her life over a few weeks in May and June 1945. What remains with me, though, is not the horror, pain and degradation experienced by the author and her friends and neighbours. It's their resilience, stoicism, will to live, and sense of humour. So, despite the desperate circumstances, I found this book quite uplifting. Recommended.

I believe a movie has been made of this book. I've only seen the photos of it when searching images in Google, but somehow, it looks too glamorous - it's the clothes that give me that impression, a petrol blue coat, a red cardigan, too colourful. I shouldn't judge, but it just shows how much a few visual clues can impact our feeling about something that we know nothing about!

Boats for hire on the river in Arashiyama

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


There are a lot of ponds with big fat carps in Japan, it's true. Here is a collage from some we found in Arashiyama:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stormy skies

I'm experimenting with granulation medium. My first few attempts didn't work out at all, and then I read that you have to keep disturbing the paint until it dries, otherwise, the watercolour will do what it does best - revert to an even wash. I'm still not convinced, to be honest. I get the feeling I would obtain a similar effect with just water. But what subject is better suited to granulation medium than stormy skies? So, I found a picture on the web, I mixed some ultramarine, winsor red, winsor violet and winsor yellow into a nice rich grey and manipulated the paint until it looked right. It took a couple of tries, but I like the result. In the first one, my mix is more purple, and I painted the ground a shade of orange that I think works OK. In the second one, I added more yellow and blue to the grey, and contrasted it with a vibrant vanadium yellow field.

They are big stormy skies all right, but I feel something is missing, a sense of scale maybe. I'm thinking of adding a collage element, in the shape of an American Mid-West red barn perhaps. I haven't actually glued anything to the paper yet. I'll have to think about that one for a little while

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Denjiro Okochi

Photos of the samurai actor Denjiro Okochi who built the villa and developed beautiful gardens in Arashiyama:

Views of Arashiyama

Some of the beautiful paths and canals of Arashiyama:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Arashiyama photos

I've got lots of pictures from our day in Arashiyama. So, bear with me as I post them here bit by bit.
The famous bamboo grove - with cars. What a shame!


On the Western side of Kyoto, you'll find Arashiyama. The bus from the station went through a lot of non-descript semi-industrial areas for a long time, but then all of sudden, it was a different world. A beautiful river and rolling hills. Arashiyama is a bustling tourist spot, but as soon as you leave the main street and enter the Tenryuji temple, tranquility surrounds you. We didn't actually go into the temple itself, but the gardens were wonderful. Though I have to say we were somewhat underwhelmed by the Zen garden - we had expected circular patterns in the sand/stones, but it was all very plain. Well, I guess that's what Zen is all about. We were blessed with the weather and the shaded gardens were in full bloom.

The road going through the bamboo grove we had read so much about at the Northern exit to the Tenryuji temple was very busy. Not only with pedestrians, but also cars, mostly taxis, which was quite disappointing. Secondary-school students on their visit to Kyoto seem to be in the habit of travelling by taxi. I guess it must be cheap enough if you split the fare among 4 or 5 students. It was beautiful all the same, but I would recommend to go there early in the day to try and get a shot without strangers standing in the middle. One thing I can imagine is that it would be a lovely cool spot in the summer heat.

At the top end of the bamboo grove, we found ourselves at the entrance to Okochi Sanso Villa. We decided to go in and we were deligthed we did. The path takes you through a variety of gardens and various small buildings, houses and temples. You can't go into any of the buildings but the gardens going up and up are well worth the entrance fee (Don't miss the cup of matcha green tea included in the price. It was so refreshing.). There was hardly anybody around. We came across a Western couple, who ignored us, and an elderly Japanese couple, who were very nice, the only problem being that the only words we had in common were Nikon and Sony!

At the very top, you have lovely views of the city over the tree line, and on the other side, you can see the hill across the river valley, with a beautiful little temple amongst the trees. It was such a peaceful sight that we decided to make our way back down a path that follows the river. It was a completely different side to Arashiyama, shaded and away from the tourist shops.

I had to have a look around all the touristy shops all the same and then we had lunch in a small place, where Brendan had chicken over rice (oyako don) and I had an udon dish, which I found very tasty.

It was still early enough in the afternoon and we went for a walk on the other side of the river, though the path there was quite narrow, and a bit close to the river for my liking, but the views were so lovely it was well worth it.

We then made our way back to the little station and got onto a train that we thought would bring us back to the city centre. It didn't, and we had quite a long walk, but I got myself a green tea icecream on the way and I didn't mind one bit!

Bando Tamasaburo in Kurokami HD

Came across this while doing a random search. Quite beautiful.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Source Code

Of the 3 movies we've seen recently, Source Code is the weaker one. But it was the first we watched, so it seemed good enough at the time. I can't reveal too much of the story, except that an army captain finds himself on a train near Chicago and has 8 minutes to prevent an explosion. My big criticism  is that too much is revealed too quickly. Think Groundhog Day. That movie took its time. It wasn't rushed. You got to enjoy going back to the same day over and over again. In Source Code, I get the feeling that they tried to reduce the overall running time too much, and it spoiled the effect somewhat. But it's still a good idea for a movie and Jake Gyllenhaal is an actor I like.

There is a double twist at the end, which was quite clever. I hadn't seen that one coming (OK, I'm not very bright in that category, but still...). If it wasn't for that, I would have found it just OK, but the ending redeemed it in my eyes. The kind of movie that you'll only watch once, though. Whereas the other 2, I would enjoy watching again.


Another movie we watched in the last week: Limitless. The story is that of a failed writer (a lazy young man, if you ask me. I can't see what his gorgeous girlfriend ever saw in him) who comes across a pill that enables him to access his brain's full capacity (the premise being that humans only access 10% of our brains). He remembers everything, he is able to process information really fast, he is full of energy and ideas. There is a but of course. Let's just say that things go pear-shaped, because he's not the only one who wants this pill. Plus the special powers only last for 24 hours, so you have to have a big stash! Plus it can kill you if you don't manage it properly.

It's a story for boys, but I enjoyed it. It's full of humour, a few gory bits, and fabulous cinematography.

British Museum

I was expecting old and stuffy, but I was wowed when we entered the British Museum. It's such a beautiful space.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Your Scandinavia Photos -- National Geographic

Fabulous photos - I grew up with National Geographic, as my Dad's American uncle got him a subscription. We always looked forward to receiving the next edition.

Jean Byrne vs Siobhan Ryan

Two very different but stylish ladies: Jean Byrne & Siobhan Ryan. Very similar bracelets by the way.

Siobhan Ryan - 18 July - Black sleeveless dress

Another beautiful dress for Siobhan Ryan last night.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Saint André in the mist

Here we are, I managed to remove most of the green field by applying water and gently mopping. The two base colours, ultramarine and cadmium yellow, mustn't be staining colours, thankfully. I then applied a mix of cadmium yellow and cadmium red.
As I suspected, the sky looks wrong, so I'm going to cut it out. I tried a crop in Picasa, and I pretty pleased with how it looks. So, let's go for it!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Brendan downloaded a few movies recently, and The Adjustment Bureau is definitely my favourite of the ones we watched in the last week or so.

After seeing the trailers, my summary was: "it's the movie where Matt Damon is not supposed to be with the girl, but he loves her and  keeps on trying to see her again." And that's pretty accurate. I won't tell you more about the Adjustment Bureau itself or that would spoil your fun. All I'll say is that it's an action film, but there is a strong romantic angle to it - the perfect date movie. I really enjoyed it.

Saint André in the Mist

And here is the palette generated from the clip I cropped. Now I feel I'm making progress!

Pastel sunset

I haven't been very successful in my current painting and drawing projects lately. I did this little pastel sunset on impulse and it worked out OK, though. I tried another one subsequently, and it was a complete disaster, so bad that I actually threw it out, not something I do very often!

Saint André in the Mist

This old laptop has Photoshop on it, so I could get straight to work, and I've replaced the green by a rusty orange. Now the sky doesn't look right - too pale or the colour is too different from the rest. I could just cut it out, maybe?

A crop actually looks quite good, colour-wise, so maybe that's what I'll do.

Saint André in the mist

I've come back to this old theme of mine again, but still without great success. I'm just not getting my colours right. I was going to use Photoshop on my laptop, but the poor old ThinkPad is not well. After a blue screen, problems with Chrome and Picasa, it worked ok for a few days, but this morning Picasa gave an error at import, and the folders in Picasa were garbled - strange! And when Firefox wouldn't launch, I decided to move to the iPad. But then, the new Blogger interface seems to have some bug with Safari on iPad (I am not alone, the forum is full fellow-bloggers with the same problem), so I've reverted to the old Blogger interface, and here I am.

But then, I'm finding that I can't post pictures from the iPad! How frustrating. The Photos app allows me to email photos to a special Facebook email address that posts to my Wall, but I'm not finding an equivalent in Blogger. Ah well.

So, a couple of hours later, I'm now set up on an old laptop, but at least it's working, except the spacebar is a bit sticky!

So, here are two versions of Saint André in the Mist, one with the colours I'm not sure about (it's the big green field that doesn't work for me), and one in a sepia tint. Viewing it in b&w or sepia is useful, I find, in terms of assessing the values (lights and darks). But I'm going to need to play with the colours for that green - it's too blocky and it dominates the picture too much. I'm thinking of changing it to an orange hue, but that means blotting out the green first, and it's quite dense, so it won't come off easily.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Color Palette Generator

Discovered this website yesterday, the Color Palette Generator. You put in the URL of a picture (any URL ending in .jpg) and click on the button, and voilà, it gives you the main colours in a handy palette you can use in your art projects. Cool!
Here is one I did with a photo I posted recently.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Regent's Park

Great photo taken by Brendan in The Regent's Park. He had seen the little dog in the distance and knew it was going to be nosy and want to find out what was going on. His patience paid off:

Hyde Park

I love London parks.

Masala Zone

Food is always a major attraction when we go to London. We tried a new place for lunch, around the Covent Garden area, Masala Zone. As you may have guessed from the name, it's an Indian restaurant. It wasn't very busy when we were there, on a Thursday lunchtime.

I have to say it's the meal that stands out from our three days in London. Amazing value, first of all, it cost us around €26 for the two of us. I had a starter and a thali, and Brendan had a supersize thali + a fish dish.

We got a nice table in the window - the view isn't much, but we were treated to a procession of ballet dancers emerging from the lane at the back, carrying their pink tutus with them, quite a sight. Service was good. And the food was really excellent. It was different from other Indian restaurants I've tried - ok, it was rice and naan bread and lentils and things like that, but the flavours of the dishes were really unusual. I think my starter was a "aloo tikki chaat", surprisingly cold but full of flavour. The main dish in my thali was "undhiyo & lentil khichdi, a mix of vegetables – sweet potato, raw banana, baby aubergine, snow peas, purple yam, val dal cooked with greens, a celebratory gujarati dish". A combination of flavours I had never tasted before. Gorgeous.

I highly recommend it. But beware, the portions are large, even for lunch, so don't plan on a big meal the same evening (and the poppadum is hiding an extra dish!).

Extreme Photo of the Week -- National Geographic

Extreme Photo of the Week -- National Geographic

Evelyn Cusack - 14 July - another beautiful wrap dress

Wrap dresses suit Evelyn Cusack, don't they. I do like the graphic pattern of this one she was wearing yesterday.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Book Thief

It's a while since I've posted about books I've read. Not that I'm not reading any more, but on a day-to-day basis, I have to say I read a lot less than I used to. One of the reasons for that is that I spend more time on Flipboard on the iPad, reading bits of articles from various sources (Elle magazine, The Guardian, The New Yorker, The Sartorialist and The National Geographic are my favourites of the moment).

But a book I just finished is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The story is set in Germany during World War II and is narrated by Death. That sounds grim, doesn't it? Well, it is, but it's also quite magical. It's a lovely story that takes you by the hand from the start. And it's told from an interesting perspective. Yes, Death was very busy during those years, but that didn't stop it from becoming interested in the story of a young girl, Liesel, who is on her way to a foster family, along with her mother and brother. With plenty of quirky asides, Death tells a good story. Yes some of the characters are a bit stereotypical - Rosa, Liesel's foster mother, is fat and angry and loud, and also loving and warm-hearted.

But you'll laugh and you'll cry. What more can you want from a book?

I've found this book-review blog, just in case you want more in-depth analysis!

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Meat Outlet

Just wanted to say that we've been getting our meat at the Meat Outlet on the Lower Kilmacud for the last couple of months now, and their steaks are absolutely gorgeous. Tender and juicy and full of taste. And good value too. They deserve to do well.

Kittens in bowls

Too Cute:

Kittens in Bowls

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Siobhan Ryan - 11 July - turquoise summer dress

I would love to have a peep through Siobhan Ryan's wardrobe - she seems to be wearing a new outfit every day! Yesterday's was a simple summer dress in a gorgeous turquoise.

National Geographic pictures

Fabulous satellite pictures in the National Geographic. This one in particular, a view of the Mississippi, slowly meandering down:

Friday, July 08, 2011

Jean Byrne - 7 July - Black dress

I'm not sure if it's a dress or matching skirt and top. But it looks good for Jean Byrne's return to our screens! The simpler the look, the better, as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Peace Sign

What is it about Japanese school girls and the peace sign? As soon as a camera appears, they're at the ready!

Brothers & Sisters

I should have known that the episode with the wedding was the last of the series. But it wasn't a double, so I was expecting more. I really hope they do another series. Otherwise, I'll just have to get the DVD set and watch it all again.

PS: Loved Beau Bridges' character. There is certainly potential for a whole new series with this extra-extended family.

Evelyn Cusack - 5 July - maroon top, black skirt, black belt

A little bit autumnal maybe? But a nice look on Evelyn last Tuesday. And the weather she was forecasting was hardly summery anyway...

Boden Sales

We were in London for 3 days last week, and I got my fix of Boden clothes. The Sale had just started the previous day, so I got lots of gorgeous clothes at reduced prices. Now all we need is for summer to arrive!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Higashiyama - architectural details

It's all about the small things, so here are some of my favourite memories from our day wandering around Southern Higashiyama (we didn't get to the Philosophers' Path - that's for next time) and other parts of Kyoto:

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

More pictures...

We're back from Japan over 2 months now, but I still have plenty to talk about (I haven't even touched on the subject of heated loo seats!).

Here are picture from Otani Mausoleum in Kyoto's Higashiyama: