Monday, April 30, 2012


I did sketches from the car on the motorway on Saturday. I wanted to capture some of the beautiful hill views that grace the landscape, particularly beyond Dundalk - fleeting images, flashes of colour, big skies. They were quick impressions. No time to add any detail. No time to take photos. But all inspiration for a series of watercolours that I will simply call M1. Here is the first:

Pink Sky

Inspired, hard to believe I know when you're looking at this, by St Paul de Vence. I just dreamt a city on a hill, with big fields sweeping down. And who says you can't have a pink sky?

And while I'm at it, a view of the actual town, manipulated in Picasa.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


My initial impression of Nice was that those people who talk about the magic Mediterranean light have never been to the Maldives. But the bottom line is that we arrived on the French Riviera in mid-April. Although we got plenty of sunshine, there were some showers lurking and the sky was not pure blue until our very last day. But on that last day, the Côte d'Azur earned its name all right - sparkly turquoise sea and pure blue sky. Though not quite the same emerald-turquoise as the Maldives - a colder blue. Very pretty all the same.

A different kind of holiday from the Maldives - this was a city break - Nice, Fréjus, La Garde Freinet, Nice. And we moved around a lot, seeing (sometimes just fleetingly from a train or a bus, but that was enough for me) almost all the major towns of the Côte d'Azur, except for St Tropez, Ste Maxime and Antibes. Not bad in 8 days!

There is a lot to see and do in Nice -here is what we covered on our first afternoon and first day:

  • La Promenade des Anglais is a lovely place for an easy walk and plenty of people watching - French women were still wearing their winter clothes and colours - black and beige, short trench coats, boots, scarves.
  • The hill up from the old town - make sure to find the free elevator to get to the top. Great views of the city. And a cooling cascade on a hot day.
  • The Matisse museum - it's free, and for me, probably the best of the museums we saw. Lots of paintings, sculptures, drawings, collages, a photographic exhibition by Brassai. I found it fascinating to discover that Matisse did not develop his characteristic style until quite late in life - there is hope for me yet! We got there early, before the crowds, so that probably influenced my impression. Nice is a busy town, and I think it would be unbearable in the heat of the summer with the hordes of tourists descending upon it. Take the bus, 15, 17 or 22 to get there. We took the bus from rue Sacha Guitry at the back of the Galeries Lafayette. It would be a long walk up a very steep hill. We're glad we took the bus!
  • From the Matisse Museum, it's an easy walk down the hill to the Chagall Museum, where it was mostly biblical paintings on show, big paintings, and the smaller preparation works done before he tackled the large canvases. Beautiful colours, a lot of detail, and a strange way to mark "holy" people - in my, Catholic, iconography, they have a circular aura over their heads. In Chagall's, it's shiny horns. You learn something every day
It's a good shopping town too, with the Galeries Lafayette, fnac and plenty of boutiques. But I'm not a big shopper, so you'll have to go to another blog for that perspective.

For me, the great thing about Nice is that it is a good base to explore the whole coast, by bus or by train. Will tell you about that some other time. Laundry duty calls.

Urban Sketchers

And here we thought that there was very little online about Susanna Linhart - I found these wonderful sketches on Urban Sketchers, by an artist called Simo Capecchi, I believe, who met up with Susanna last year at her house in the South of France. She even sketched a few portraits of Susanna, and one of Fishy.

Make sure to click on "Other pages of my sketchbook here" at the bottom of the page to see all these wonderful sketches.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Evelyn Cusack, 26 April, new hair cut

After many many years with the same hairstyle, Evelyn Cusack is finally experimenting with a new hair cut. A softer look around the face, which I think really suits her and makes her look younger. My recommendation would be to cut the back shorter!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saint Paul de Vence cat

Plenty of art everywhere in Saint Paul de Vence. This one of a cat by Giuliano Mancini.

Our little one, Willow, was delighted to see us home by the way. He spent most of the first night with us, purring non-stop, and drooling too.

Today is a wet and windy day back in Dublin, and Willow is curled up on the bed. He's not going anywhere in this miserable weather.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Siobhan Ryan, red cardigan, 22 April

The forecast was miserable - plenty of rain due to come our way tomorrow and Thursday. But Siobhan was wearing a pretty outfit with a red cardi, so it didn't feel so bad. Plus the persistent showers she forecast for today didn't materialise in this part of the world!


I caught a glimpse of E.1027 at Roquebrune/Cap Martin - both from the bus on the way over towards Menton, and from the train on the way back towards Nice. It was painted white, looking much better than the pictures of it I had seen on Patricia O'Reilly's website, which were taken a few years ago, when the work to restore the house was still at an early stage.

It was the colourful Le Corbusier hostel just beside it that caught my eye first. And then on the train, we were at the same level as the house and I saw the path leading to it, and I was sure then this was Eileen Gray's house.

It was only a glimpse, but I was strangely thrilled by it. It was one of the highlights of my holiday.

Apparently, most of the outside renovation is now done, but there is still considerable work to be completed inside before the house can be open to the public. I'll have to go back to the French Riviera when that happens!

(Photo taken from the Friends of E.1027 website)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Susanna Linhart

I can't believe that it's back in 2010 that we first unveiled the mystery of Katherine Corbett's painting by Susanna Linhart. Over the months, we had talked to Susanna on the phone and corresponded by email with her partner, Andrew. They had invited us to visit them at their house in the South of France. We had looked at the possibility of driving over from Montséret on our next holiday, but when we checked it on the map, it was too long a journey, so we had parked the idea at the back of our minds. Then, towards the end of last year, we were looking at inter-railing around Italy and the South of France. When we worked out that we were trying to cover too much ground in too short a time (and with too little luggage from my female perspective), we thought of reducing the trip to a more manageable one week on the French Riviera. Visiting Susanna then became a pivotal element of this adventure.

Susanna and Andrew live in a remote location in the Massif des Maures, but we found that the train from Nice goes as far as Les Arcs, which is about half an hour's drive from their house. Andrew was happy to pick us up from there, so we booked our flights and hotels and planned our holiday.

There were more passengers who got off at Les Arcs than we had anticipated, but we found Andrew easily, as he was waiting for us on the platform (we had not thought to exchange photographs!). Andrew then drove us along the twisty scenic road (though it has to be said that the main road is just as twisty, but busier!), through forests of cork oaks and chestnuts, small hamlets, and along sheer precipices without a single crash barrier. I was glad to be sitting behind Andrew, where I could not see how long our fall would be if the car ever left the road!

Susanna was waiting for us at the house, and it was like meeting with a long-lost friend. We sat out on the porch for a while, but the clouds started bubbling up and the sun soon went in. Andrew lit a fire inside and we had our lunch in their beautiful house, a labour of love entirely made habitable by Susanna who purchased it when it was a wreck about 20 years ago. It had not been lived in for a hundred years when she acquired it. She showed us the pictures - I can see how everybody thought it would be impossible to make a home out of those 4 walls. But Susanna loved the spot and the view, and has transformed it into a lovely home.

While Andrew enjoys making paths through the mountainous terrain, Susanna looks after the garden, cooks and paints. Our lunch, to my delight, included rabbit, delicious with plenty of garlic, nothing like the scrawny mustard rabbit I was served on the beachfront between St Raphael and Fréjus, but succulent, tender, tasty, and accompanied by chard (blette in French), a vegetable I don't think I had ever eaten before - I don't think they sell it in Irish supermarkets!

After a lovely fruit salad, we took a walk around the terraced gardens, admiring Fishy, Susanna's 17-year old carp, who lives in a big tank beside the vegetable garden and happily eats bread from Susanna's hand, all the while being followed by their black cat, who was curious about us, but too shy to come close.

Susanna also showed us the storage room for her many paintings, her studio and her collection of watercolours. She is a prolific artist, she paints every day, mostly in oils, sometimes with collage elements blended in. Her paintings are large, often one meter square. She paints the world around her, the trees in the woods around the house, cut flowers, fruit - I even saw a painting of asparagus in exactly the same dish as the one she used to serve our asparagus starter at lunch! Her choice of colour is very delicate - you could almost say white on white - but somehow she manages to give her work depth and interest. She has many of her own work hanging on the walls of her house, and, despite their size, they are not oppressive or overpowering, but yet, they are very present, they cannot be ignored. No wonder she has sold many of her paintings around the world. Her watercolours are quite different - more realistic, brighter, bolder colours - I found them beautiful too.

We chatted all along, discovering more about each other's lives, which we knew nothing about, apart from a painting done a long time ago, in a beauty salon in London. In 2010, when we were given Katherine Corbett's painting, S. Linhart was just a cryptic signature. BB's cousin had told us it had been painted by an artist of some renown, but they knew nothing more. Now we have a friend.

PS: If you're interested in purchasing any of Susanna's art, let me know and I will put you in touch.

Art in Nice

Beautiful light statues on Place Masséna in Nice. I manipulated this one with Picasa (just a little bit).

There are seven statues placed on high pillars. They are lit at night, their colour changing all the time. They are the work of Jaume Plensa, who seems to specialise in larger-than-life but very peaceful human sculptures. I must look out for more of his work in public spaces around the world!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Intense and Peaceful

I've been churning them out this weekend, not all very successful, though, so I'll spare you. This one I'm quite happy with. What do you think?

When we were in Brussels a few weeks ago, I saw a painting I liked in the Modern Art museum - it was a painting by a German artist, I think. It had some black marks, with blue squares painted over. The paint was opaque, but what struck me were the 2 shades of dark blue-green. Intense and peaceful. Maybe that's what I'll call it, then. My first idea for a title was "Laurel & Hardy", then "Blue Lagoon" or "Blue Tower", none of which I was happy with. Let me also say that what we have here looks nothing like the painting I remember from Brussels. I don't have a photographic memory, unfortunately, so I use my imagination instead.

I drew a few lines with a stub of black oil  pastel over Galeria canvas-textured paper. The paper is a bit thin for the thick layer of paint I applied, but it will have to do. The acrylic was mixed with a good dollop of Liquitex  Glazing Medium (gloss) and Liquitex Slo-Dri Blending Medium (gloss). The combination gives the paint a luminous quality. I'm not sure why I used 2 mediums - One of them, the glazing medium, makes the paint dry faster, while the other, the blending medium, makes it dry slower, so I probably should have just used the one. But it kind of worked. The 2 blocks of colour are quite glossy though, so I'm not sure how it will look on a wall - it would need to be well lit, or it could appear very dark, but how to avoid reflections? That's the question. Which is why I tend to use matte medium more, but I wanted a very transparent effect on this occasion and I think gloss conveys that better.

Make sure to look at the Liquitex Inspire section - some good, some that make me feel good about my own paintings! There's hope for all of us!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Olivier Cornet Gallery

I'm not biased - Olivier Cornet has some beautiful art on display in his new gallery. Modern with a soul. Beautiful colours, interesting textures. I wanted to buy it all - or at least 90%! And I'm fussy about art (except for my own, which I love unconditionally - they're all my babies after all).

Olivier and I go way way back. 1987-1988, I'd say. The early days of localisation. Softrans. That's a long time ago. I was a senior translator (with at most a year's experience!), he was a new recruit. But he was the best translator in the French team. We worked together for years. I became language coordinator, then project manager. He went freelance. And then, I don't remember exactly when, we lost touch. I thought he had gone back to France. He thought I had gone back to Belgium.

And then, yesterday, on our way back from the Lighthouse cinema in Smithfield, we cut across the far end of Temple Bar, and found ourselves on a street I wasn't familiar with. I saw a board outside an art gallery. It said "Olivier Cornet Gallery". I said to BB - I used to know a guy called Olivier Cornet. I was puzzled. Then I looked inside the door. And Olivier had the same look on his face as me. OMG. Unbelievable. Here he was, in  his own art gallery. He's been working in art for years, and only recently opened there, at the Wooden Building, on Exchange Street Upper (it's at the Dublin castle end of Temple Bar, not far from Queen of Tarts and the lovely Gutter bookshop).

If you're into art, pop in and have a look. You won't regret it. Check out the Artists section of his website for pictures of the art. I'm particularly fond of the pieces by Sean Mulcahy and Jordi Forniés.

The Island President

We went to see The Island President yesterday, the movie about the president of the Maldives' battle against global warming.

First, let me tell you about the Lighthouse cinema in Smithfield. Beautiful modern cinema, good seats. Plenty of good movies. But in the wrong location. You can call me a Southsider if you want. Maybe I am. I tell it like I saw it. We walked across Ha'penny bridge, had a lovely sushi box and miso soup at Kokoro Sushi Bento, a little takeaway place on Liffey street, then moved towards the Jervis Street shopping centre, which was humming. We then followed the tourist signs for Smithfield and the Jameson Distillery, a major tourist attraction. It's a straight route, but you won't find too many people around the area, except for the hooded types. Call me paranoid, but I was holding on to my handbag for dear life, and I was nearly telling those American tourists to hold on to their cameras!

When we got to the Market Square in Smithfield, the place was eerily quiet. A few cafés, at least two closed-down restaurants, an Asian shop selling Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags (I was tempted), a mini-supermarket. That's it. In the Celtic Tiger days, Smithfield was hyped to become the humming new centre of Dublin, competing with Temple Bar for youth buzz. Well, I'd say that's one failed experiment! The only youth we saw was as woman cursing at her two young boys.

And in the middle of that, the Lighthouse cinema - A great cinema, but sorry to say I will not be going to any evening movies there.

But I digress. Let me come back to my original topic, The Island President. This movie is a fly-on-the-wall documentary, following Mohamed Nasheed, the first President of the Maldives to be democratically elected in 30 years, as he battles to save his country from extinction. Soon after taking office, he realised that his country was doomed if nothing was done to stop carbon dioxide emissions causing global warming and the rising of the seas. The Maldives is a very low-lying country, without even a small little hill, and if the water level rises by more than a meter, the country will be gone. It's as simple as that. So Nasheed, who had spent years in prison for his political views, 18-months of which in solitary confinement in a corrugated-iron hut, started his fight to highlight the plight of his country and influence superpowers, the culmination of which took him to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009. He comes across as a brave man, an honest man, a likable man too. There is so much to lose, a whole country. He's not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, to shake super-powers like India and China into action. He doesn't care about all the politicking that goes on. He just wants results. If we had more politicians like him, the world would be a better place.Unfortunately, he's recently had to resign, apparently under threat of a military coup by supporters of the former dictator. Hopefully this movie will help re-ignite the fire in the battle against global warming. And let's hope that things work out for Mohamed Nasheed and his family, and for democracy in the Maldives.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Site officiel du Royal Standard de Liège - Multimédia - Vidéos - Détails vidéo

It's not often I post sports links, but this one is a link to the video of one of the players from the Standard team visiting Gilles Merckx in hospital. Gilles has made a good recovery after his cardiac arrest at a soccer match a few weeks ago.
Site officiel du Royal Standard de Liège - Multimédia - Vidéos - Détails vidéo

Friday, April 06, 2012

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Barbara Kingsolver is a versatile writer - The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, Pigs in Heaven - all great books. And I haven't read The Lacuna yet.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is different, though. In this book, Kingsolver tells us about a full year during which she and her family strived to eat what they grew or at the very least foodstuff produced within a 100-mile radius of their farm in Appalachia. This book is a collaboration with her husband and elder daughter, who provide information about agriculture in America (large- and small-scale), nutritional information and recipes. The bulk is written by Barbara Kingsolver herself, in her personable, warm, entertaining style - the doubts of the first winter months, the joy of the first rhubarb at the farmers' market, the plenty of summer, the reasons why you should not give your hens names, and turkey sex rituals!

A pleasure to read in its own right, it's a book that makes you think about your food choices. While I have to admit I'm unlikely to start growing vegetables in my backgarden, I am trying to stay away from Chilean blueberries! That's a start!

Siobhan Ryan - 5 April - very Mad Men

A very sixties look for Siobhan Ryan yesterday - a modern dress, but the hair and makeup makes me think of Mad Men!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Acrylic transfers

I found this other video, which I think is actually better than the other ones. The guy is a bit slow and meticulous, but the transfer I did using his instructions, and Liquitex matte medium, worked out much better than the others. Drying time was about 20 minutes and the result was really tidy. I think I used a thinner layer of medium than recommended, but it worked out perfect anyway. This is a little picture I found on the web and that I used for this transfer.

I'm going to try it out with a photograph on a darker background now and see how it works out. I think the background I've chosen may be too dark, so there won't be enough contrast with the picture. Also, I wanted to have some text in the background, but I'll probably have to cover it or it will show through the transfer.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Bébé Requin

A picture posted by a friend on Facebook of a black-tip reef shark surrounded by a shoal of fish reminded me of one of our trips to the Maldives - this is a few years back, when I was still proudly wearing bikinis! I'm thinking one-piece swimsuit for our next holiday!!

This was on Nakatchafushi - the island has since been turned into a luxury resort and they even changed its name. There had been a storm the previous day, and big shoals of small fish had taken refuge close to the shore (mackerel or something like it? - I'm not a specialist, though I'm pretty good at recognising the more exotic fish. I'd just call these ones "boring fish"). They were still there the following morning.

And in typical shoal fashion, they create a zone of exclusion around anything that remotely looks like a predator - shark or tourist, they don't discriminate. And they move as you do, keeping the same distance no matter what.

Which makes it very difficult for a shark to catch them. We observed baby sharks in the lagoon spending hours trying to figure out how to catch a fish - the trick is to work in a group and to separate a small group from the bigger shoal. Once that is done, push the small group towards the shore. Then, in the shallows, move for the kill! But be careful, baby shark, you could end up stranded on the beach if the tide is on its way out. I nearly had to go to a baby shark's rescue on one such occasion, but he/she managed to wriggle back into the water without assistance, thankfully. Go, Baby Shark, Go!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Acrylics transfers

I bought a Brother Laser printer today! At €49, I couldn't resist - I was looking for a LaserJet for an art project, so I didn't want to spend too much money. I've been wanting to do a collage with acrylics transfers, but my previous experiments with transfers hadn't been successful. I had ended up with solid acrylic on a mirror and it took me months to scrape it off! So, instead of transferring my photos, I printed them on acid-free paper and tried gluing them to the page with acrylic gel, but it was all too clunky and chunky.

A few Google searches later, I found that the recommendation from most sites is to print with a LaserJet, not an InkJet printer. Something to do with the water content, I think.

There are a few techniques described on the web. One of them is to apply the acrylic gel to your canvas and put the printout face down on it and let it dry, some say for an hour, some say overnight, then rub the paper off with water. Another technique is to keep the printout face up, apply 2 layers of gel, and when that is dry (again, how long that will take, I'm not 100% sure), soak the whole thing in water for 10 minutes and rub the paper off, so you have an acrylic transparency you can apply to your canvas. I'm trying 3 different samples,with different drying times and methods. I'll let you know how I get on.

Here are the 3 sites I found most helpful:
PS: Don't forget that your image will be a mirror of the original if you apply the printout face down - very important if you want text to be legible!