Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Cheap" Joe Miller-Non Traditional Watercolor

I find this demonstration of non-traditional watercolour techniques even more interesting than the previous one. Beautiful colours that sing together. To me, it shows that the subject matter doesn't need to be lofty in order to produce a good painting. Here, Joe is painting a few pharmacy bottles and a big paint brush, making references to his two careers - one as a pharmacist and the other as a painter and artist supplier. That's what prompted me to start my "Pag" project. I'm a translator, a project manager and a computer repairer. So, I decided to go back to my love of diachronic linguistics (the history of language to you and me). I don't think I'll make something as pretty as Joe's painting, though, but the joy is in the making. That's good enough for me. I'm not planning to sell any of my paintings - though we're running out of walls, so I'll have to figure something out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Cheap" Joe Miller-Traditional Watercolor

I know it's really about selling products (their American Journey watercolours are currently on special offer), but I love Cheap Joe's videos - he just makes it look so easy and the colours are always vibrant. I wish all my  watercolours looked that good. Or maybe they would if I bought Periwinkle and Halloween from the American Journey range! I'm tempted!

Siobhan Ryan - 24 Oct - Blue dress

New dress for Siobhan Ryan. She also wore a nice pink dress a few days ago, but I forgot to snap it on the RTE Player.

I think she's growing her hair longer, but I think I like it better when it's not pulled back so severely from her face.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Red Sky, Red Earth

I didn't think that a larger version of Red Sky, Red Earth would work, but I was wrong. It was quite easy to do in the end. I had to get plenty more acrylic glossy medium for my base layer, which I got in Kennedy's. I had rung earlier to see if they had what I needed, but I got quite worried when I saw a lady ahead of me buying tons of acrylic medium, and I thought I had made the trip into town for nothing. But the gentleman whom I had talked to on the phone had set aside the medium we had discussed, fair play to him.

I've used less oil pastel, which I think works better, less fussy. On the other hand, I wish I had used a slightly stronger yellow as a base - I find it too pale. Not sure how we'll go about framing this one - it's painted on canvas board, but no doubt the man in Village Framing will work something out.

Les Belges du bout du Monde

Coming soon - click on the video for a taste of what Belgians around the world are getting up to these days - Les Belges du bout du Monde

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I've got this notion in my head about a painting around my favourite indo-european root, pag. Not the easiest thing to express in a visual way, so I'll need to explore for a while. I've started here with a few clothes pegs, courtesy of Padraig who took this lovely photograph, that I manipulated with Photoshop and Picasa. How I'll incorporate fasten, page, travail, travel, newfangled, peasant, peace, pectin and Pacific into this, I have no idea! And a peg is hard to draw, so I might need to make a little stencil that I can paint over. I might start with a collage, then move on to watercolours. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jungle Fever

I'm doing more acrylics work than watercolours these days. I'm not sure if it's good or bad. Acrylic colours are easy and vibrant. But I get so lost in the glorious hues that I forget composition and structure. It's certainly a great way of ignoring the fact that I should practise drawing more.

But never mind all that. I picked up some cadmium deep red, process cyan and cadmium yellow the other day and dabbed it all over canvas paper, with a touch of slow-dri blending medium. It wasn't particularly pretty.

Then I mixed more process cyan with lemon yellow and cadmium yellow, and applied it all over, again with slow-dri blending medium. Before it had time to dry, I pulled the paint around the canvas with a plastic painting knife. The result is more like graffiti than painting, and the green is too green, but I like the idea of it, if not the actual result. Yes, I think I'm going to explore this theme with a more natural green maybe, or a deep red. Hard to know what will work best.

I've tried a few variations in Photoshop and I can't decide between the olive green and the maroon. It makes for a nice collage though!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anna Netrebko video blog

For a glimpse into Anna Netrebko, check out her video blog - down to earth &  funny, not your typical opera diva!

Anna Netrebko as Anna Bolena in The Metropolitan Opera 2011-12

Anna Bolena

I had checked the Movies at Dundrum listings but could not find anything about the Met HD transmissions. As Opera Ireland had ceased to exist, I could not find any information and had given up on it. Until Lucinda mentioned that she had heard that this season of Met opera would be shown at the Screen in town, as well as the cinema in Dun Laoghaire. With only a week to spare before the first performance, I didn't think I'd manage to get tickets, but I was lucky and even got a seat for the first show of the season, Anna Bolena.

The heavy rain that started almost the moment I left the house didn't stop me. I had an umbrella and good shoes. After purchasing a bottle of water and a pack of jelly babies, my favourite opera nibble, and making my way down Grafton Street, I was all set..

I didn't know Anna Netrebko, but, according to the gentleman sitting next to me - and he was quite the opera buff, so I'd say he was right - she was the main reason the show was sold out! Beautiful stage presence, dramatic acting and a clear, powerful, delicate, voice. I was not familiar with Donizetti's operas- after Anna Bolena, I will certainly be tempted to try out more.

I felt the stage design on the bare side, with some strange choices - I didn't like the tree trunks coming down from the sky to set an outdoors scene; the red bed didn't work - I would have felt it more appropriate for the scene between Henry VIII and Jane Seymour; and what were those Irish Wolfhounds doing on stage?

That said, the stark set and dark lighting conveyed a strong sense of oppression and impending doom, so I can't knock it.

The costumes were beautiful. The costume designer based her work on paintings and drawings from the period by Hans Holbein - from the simple linen undershirts with embroidery around the collar, to the way each outfit was actually held together (for instance, some of the sleeves were just tied to the bodice rather than sewn), most of them in blacks and browns. The only fancy outfit was Henry's golden Court coat. And it was interesting to see Anne Boleyn shedding her jewelry as her star wanes in Court.

The acting was good, if a bit dramatic - but I think that's expected in such a tragic bel canto opera. The only singer whom I felt was too restrained in his acting was Stephen Costello, who sang Lord Percy. An Irish American according to my knowledgeable neighbour! I felt the character's passion wasn't showing through, amidst all the drama. That said, he was a beautiful tenor. And considering how young he is, I think he has plenty of scope for developping his acting skills.

Good interview with Anna Netrebko, who comes across very friendly and witty, not a diva at all, and Stephen Costello & the director of the Metropolitan Opera here.

PS: It's a real shame that the Opera Ireland bi-annual live opera productions no longer exist. Apparently, they closed down to make way for a new Irish National Opera Company that was going to be set up in 2011. But I have just found out that it has collapsed, even before reaching its first production.So, we're left with no live opera season in Dublin this year.

Monday, October 17, 2011


We're cat lovers and this big guy caught our eye in Marlay Park yesterday:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Marlay Park

Beautiful day today. It's hard to believe we're past mid-October. Temperatures are getting a bit cooler, around 12-14, but with the sun shining, it was warmer than some days in August this year. We went for a walk to Marlay Park, along with half the population of South Dublin - Thankfully we got there around 10:30 and found parking easily. It was a different story by the time we were leaving, though. Cars were abandoned on footpaths and on the grass, and the traffic was at a standstill outside.

Still plenty of leaves on trees - very different from our estate where the leaves have been turning for well over a month.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Irish Presidential Race - it's getting worse

Dana’s niece set to sue her over comments denying abuse | Irish News | IrishCentral

Educating Essex

Long winter nights are the perfect time to catch up with what's on the telly. We're still watching Big Brother (Channel 5 don't broadcast to Ireland, unfortunately, so we're watching it via some YouTube links - Many thanks to the young person who's taken on this daily task), we're nearly done with MasterChef Ireland (don't click if you don't want to know who won), and there's always a Come Dine with Me or two showing on a channel somewhere.

We're looking forward to the next season of Mad Men and also to the start of Pan Am (coming to our screens next week, I believe).

In the meantime, we're being entertained and educated by a program we're watching on Channel 4's 4oD - Educating Essex. Cameras have been set up around a secondary school in the UK and are providing a fly-on-the-wall documentary - the main themes so far have been mostly about discipline, bullying and how the school manages disruptive students.

Some may disagree, but I think the principal and vice-principal come out of it with flying colours. What strikes a chord is their patience, persistence and focus on giving their students the best possible chance of an education, in situations where others would have given up on the troubled kids a long time ago.

In one case, a student is taken into care because of issues with his mother following an acrimonious divorce. The way the story is told, it looks like the principal cares more about that student's welfare and future than his mother, to be honest.

Now, of course, we're only seeing an edited version, what the producers have decided to show us. It may not be the full story. Those things rarely are. And of course, we're seeing all the trouble students, who are probably playing up to the cameras. We're not even getting a glimpse of the ones who are working hard and have no reason to be sent to the vice-principal's office.

In the last episode we watched, there was quite a funny scene, with a long queue of boys reporting to the vice-principal, as their internet accounts had been monitored and it was found that they had been downloading games onto the school computers. Not a single girl in the queue.

All in all, the world of teenagers is very different from when I was a kid. I don't remember any cases of bullying. Sometimes, the class would get into trouble for making too much noise if a teacher was late turning up. But I don't remember any bad language or major bad behaviour  - I did turn up for History a bit tipsy on  the occasional Friday afternoon - we had a couple of free periods after lunch and we'd go to the pub - I was probably 16 or 17 - I'd be drunk on one beer. But that's the height of it. And it didn't affect my grades!

The school shown on the program is probably one of the better ones - that's the scary thing. It seems to be relatively middle-class. Most of the children, even the ones getting into trouble,  want an education. Nothing compared to what was portrayed in "The Wire" - Inner-city Baltimore it isn't!

Siobhan Ryan - brown dress 14 Oct. Jean Byrne on Green Tea

Very low cleavage for Siobhan last night - she had a little vest all right, but it was flesh-coloured, and I'm sure it only served to fuel the boys' imagination. She hadn't been on for a while, and she sounded a bit uncomfortable. My guess is that presenting the weather on TV is like anything else, the more you practise, the better you get.

Jean Byrne certainly has been getting plenty of TV time lately, and we've seen most of her wardrobe displayed. My favourite I think is a black dress with three-quarter sleeves and an asymetric neckline. I heard PlayBack on the radio this morning and I thought that her portrayal on Green Tea was a bit unfair - the voice was spot-on, but she doesn't swallow every 30 seconds. Apparently, she used to do that when she was more of a novice, but that's no longer the case. She is such a professional.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is a book that was recommended to me a long time ago. Clearly, I didn't read the blurb on Amazon and I was expecting a work of fiction. It isn't. It's an account of death and grief.

Joan Didion's husband died suddenly of a heart attack, while their only child was in hospital fighting septic shock brought on by a flu and pneumonia. They were sitting at the dinner table - one moment he was talking, the next he wasn't.

In this book, Didion surveys the year following her husband's death, her feelings, or rather her numbness, how the slightest little thing would drag her back into the vortex, if she found herself in a place that held memories for her and her husband, and her inability to accept the fact that he's not coming back.

Being a writer, Didion is someone who takes her research seriously. She tries to find some literature that would help her understand what happened, and deal with her feelings, and she quotes plenty of learned tomes that really don't help her at all - only a book on etiquette seems to hit a chord with her. Interestingly, this book has now become the reference point for people grieving. It didn't make me cry - which I think is good - but I felt it immensely compelling.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Guardian articles

This is a facebook app, so not sure if the link will work, but let's give it a try:

Cute Pictures

PS : much easier to share all these links on Facebook - most sites have a Facebook Share button, but not many have one for Blogger. So if you want to see more of these things I find on the web, search me on Facebook.

Major Tom

I'm a Star Trek fan, but I don't think I'll be buying this album. Good giggle listening to the samples on the iTunes store - Shatner's versions of Rocket Man and Bohemian Rhapsody are hilarious.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Impressions of Parknasilla


We were down in Kerry earlier this week. Like last year, we stayed in Parknasilla. It proved a good choice, as the weather wasn't on our side. Low cloud and fog most of the time meant that we couldn't even see the peninsula across the way.

There would have been no point in setting off on long sight-seeing journeys, so we decided to explore the extensive hotel grounds instead - lots of little coves, islands and dense woodland.

We also made use of the pool, with a swim before breakfast every day. Just as well. What a breakfast! Home-made muesli and fruit, poached eggs, grilled tomato, black pudding and nutty brown bread, pain au chocolat, and French toast. Even a soup for lunch was too much! (That didn't stop me, though!) All that followed by delicious dinners. My stomach has doubled in size in 3 days. Fantastic food in the main restaurant. Beware of Fabians, though, their pizza restaurant. We were served 2 dreadful frozen pizzas. If they were not frozen, there was something seriously wrong with them - a biscuity base, lashings of tomato sauce and shredded cheese. It really tasted industrial. The waitress was very apologetic.

Kerry is a long drive from Dublin. Four and a half hours is a long way. We went via Cork - with the motorway, you can make Cork in two and a half hour. The road isn't bad after Cork (at least, it's not as busy as Mitchellstown-Killarney), but it's a long two hours all the same. I still think there should be a motorway between Dublin and Killarney, the capital of tourism in Ireland. But nobody in the Department of Tourism seems to be pushing for this.

We got one of the newly-renovated rooms, on the top floor just above the entrance. Maybe because we were repeat customers? Gorgeous room, large and bright.

Apart from eating, swimming and walking, we didn't do much. I tried a little bit of painting and drawing on the iPad, but more doodles than proper work.

Red Sky, Red Earth

With the added copper-coloured oil pastel. It's going to be hard to reproduce this on a larger canvas!

Posted by Picasa

Redemption Falls

Redemption Falls is a strangely interesting and engaging book by Joseph O 'Connor. It took me a while to get into it, I have to admit. I found the language in the first chapter really hard to read, full of strange expressions and fancy words. I considered giving up, but I stuck to it and it proved immensely rewarding in the end.

The thing is that it's a story told in many voices and from many perspectives. So the language changed at every chapter - that must be something really hard to do as a writer - and it became easier.

The story is set somewhere in the Wild West shortly after the American Civil War, and follows the entangled lives of the acting Governor, an Irish patriot who escaped death in Ireland, his estranged wife, and a silent little boy who's seen too many horrors in the war.

Probably the most challenging book I've read in a long time, but well worth it.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Indian Summer

No, I'm not talking about the 3 days of glorious weather we had last week, I'm referring to the Indian restaurant in Stillorgan that's re-opened its doors after 9 months closed following a fire next door.
We went there this evening and enjoyed their new value menu. Can't wait to try their other dishes