Saturday, January 28, 2012


Apparently the Obamas are watching it and the Clintons are watching it. Well, a whole lot of people are watching Homeland, the new series that's started on Irish television a couple of weeks ago.

It's about a CIA agent, who has some un-named psychiatric issues by the way, who believes that an American soldier who has just been rescued in an operation in Afghanistan after disappearing 8 years earlier and being presumed dead (including by his wife, who started having sex with his best friend, who is now his superior in the Army) has been turned and is now a terrorist.

Yes, all that was packed in the first episode, and it was a bit much for me. I prefer a slow-burner. But we watched the second episode, and it does build on this premise without going too fast. And the actor who plays the soldier guy was the main character in Band of Brothers, and he is good. I'll keep on watching.


I had seen the trailer, and I wasn't impressed. So, Bridesmaids took me by surprise. It's silly and full of scatological humour more suited to teenage boys all right, but it was sweet, and there was an actual story to it. And the guy from the IT Crowd makes an unlikely American cop and romantic interest, but hey, it worked for me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jean Byrne, red leather dress, 24 January

Red is a good colour for Jean Byrne. And she loves leather, so this is the perfect combination. I'd say the boys on the forums are talking about this one!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

Yiyun Li's collection of short stories (some of them as short as 10 pages), Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, is an interesting little book. Set in modern-day China, the focus is on people who don't quite fit in - some are living alone, some are or were married. Some are lonely, some strike unusual friendships, or not. It's an easy read before bedtime, the characters who populate each story come to life within a few pages, and it's an interesting look into life in China. I enjoyed it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Shape Shifter

Did I tell you I got a Kindle from Santy this Christmas? I wasn't expecting it at all, but I loved it instantly. I've got a few paper books to finish before I can start buying books for my new toy - about 6 months' worth of reading. But it will be so handy for the holidays - no more worrying about Ryanair weight restrictions. Over the Christmas holidays, I downloaded a book my Dad had mentioned - a detective story with a Navajo theme. It's called The Shape Shifter, by Tony Hillerman.It follows a retired Navajo tribal police lieutenant, Joe Leaphorn, as an old case he investigated when he was a young man raises its ugly head, when an old rug, cursed due to its association with the persecution of the Navajo people, reappears after having supposedly been burned in an accidental fire many years before.

I'm not a reader of thrillers and detective stories, but this was pretty good. I might read another one or two from the same series.

Evelyn Cusack, 20 January, black dress

Beautiful black dress on Friday evening for Evelyn. A different cut from her usual style, but this looks really young on her. And I think her hair is less heavy than it used to be.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Evelyn Cusack, purple dress, 13 January

Evelyn always looks so happy, even when she is telling us that, by next weekend, the weather might be turning "wintry" Snow anyone?

Trees on an island

I have something like 80 pictures I took from that Yellowstone program, so bear with me. I probably won't paint them all, but there are some beautiful beautiful scenes that I have to share with you.

This one I painted after lunch today. I used the leftover paint from Autumn in Yellowstone, rich greens and reds, well diluted and I applied a quick wash, which I blotted straight away with absorbent paper. I repeated the process, and, interestingly, the part that I hadn't blotted out the first time came out lighter than the rest. It makes sense, as it was still very wet, but the effect surprised me all the same. I then went on to paint the island and the trees with the same colours. I did the water last: I re-wetted the bottom part of the paper and I applied the tree reflections wet-into-wet. It was all done in less than half an hour.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Autumn in Yellowstone

I've never been to Yellowstone, but I'm definitely adding it to my bucket list after seeing a three-part documentary on RTE over Christmas. The photography was so beautiful that I had to replay the whole thing and take pictures of the scenes that inspired me!

So here is the first little painting based on those photos. It's mixed-media - mostly watercolours, with highlights and sky in oil pastels. The colours are completely different from the original, but I wanted to continue to explore the richness of autumnal hues. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Siobhan Ryan, red dress, 9 January

Very Mad Men:


I got a few tubes of watercolours in Kennedy's before Christmas - they had a 20% off offer for customers on their email newsletter list.
This little scene was painted with Schmincke's madder red dark, mixed with cadmium red. The two reds bounced off each other and gave me this beautiful bright colour. The darker shades are achieved by adding a dark mix of ultramarine blue and vanadium yellow. 

Monday, January 09, 2012

It's all in the mind

Some people who shall remain nameless see an octopus and crab claws. What do you see?

Saturday, January 07, 2012


I'm going to need more wall space for all these watercolours! Really glad I used my holiday time for painting. It feels so good to look back at these! During the year, it can take me two months to achieve as much.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Wet-into-Wet technique

Ah Ah. Now I know what I've been doing wrong all these years!

  • First, I always stretched my paper, let it dry, then just wet it but not soak it through. I tried Wes Waugh's method of wetting the paper on the board without stretching, and it's true, if you wet it enough, it won't buckle
  • Second, although my paper wasn't soaked, there was a lot of water on the surface, so paint would get too diluted and it would run all over the place. Using a cotton towel to mop up the excess water definitely worked
  • Third, I tend to use a brush that's too full of water, so the colour goes in all directions. Taking the excess water from the brush (and making sure that it's fully loaded with pigment) definitely gave me stronger colour.
  • And fourth, because I had water flowing everywhere, I always rushed. Taking it slow gave me more control over my painting.

Now all I need to do is find a suitable subject to apply these new skills!

Monday, January 02, 2012


Very productive holiday in terms of painting. I was quite inspired - that's half the battle. The other half of course is to pick up my brushes and actually paint something. Normal weekends always seem to be busy, and even in the summer I often don't get to do much, but Christmas holidays are different somehow. Here is a little pomegranate I bought a couple of weeks ago. It's shrivelling fast, so I think I'll cut it and see if I can manage to paint the inside, and then eat it!

Sunday, January 01, 2012


I've just finished watching La Monnaie's staging of Massenet's Cendrillon. I've enjoyed it tremendously, more for the production and singing than for the music itself. Though I have to say it was my first time listening to an opera by Massenet, and sometimes, you need to familiarise yourself with a piece to fully appreciate it. The music has plenty of humour in it, just like Rossini's La Cenerentola, which I saw in Dublin a good few years ago. I felt Massenet's music a bit disjointed for my liking, though, despite some lovely pieces and tunes. Maybe I'm just not used to French opera.

The staging, sets, lighting, costumes, choreography, the whole production was beautifully done - modern and abstract, but in keeping with the spirit of the story - it's a fairytale after all, and there is a dreamlike quality that permeates right through. But it's also comical, a perfect one to introduce children to opera, maybe. Maybe not, after all. How do you explain to a 7-year-old that the Prince Charming is really a boy, although he sounds like a girl? (For those of you who like a Joey moment, yes, there is a kiss at the end!)

I loved the singers - gorgeous voices and lovely acting - Cendrillon and Le Prince Charmant are suitably romantic, while the rest of the cast carries the comic aspects of the story with gusto - the two ugly sisters were very funny, as was the bad stepmother, in an Alice-in-Wonderland kind of way!

Overall, well worth spending two and a half hours watching this - it's available for free on La Monnaie's website for a couple of weeks (until 19 January).