Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yanny Petters - verre églomisé

Lovely exhibition at the Olivier Cornet Gallery - botanical painting on glass by Wicklow-based artist Yanny Petters

Video of her technique on YouTube is very interesting:


Since I was on a roll with Indo-European roots, I kept going on the same theme. I asked BB to give me a word. He picked "Circle". I found that its Indo-European root is "(s)ker", meaning "To Turn, Bend". Interesting to note that the same (s)ker also has two other meanings, To Leap, Jump about, and To Cut, leading to completely different words.

Even sticking to the "turn, bend" meaning, there are plenty of resulting words, Ring, Ranch, Range, Rink, Arrange, and Curb, Curve, Curvature, and Circa, Circadian, Circle, Circus, Search, and even Crown.

I decided to keep this page fairly simple, pouring well-diluted acrylic over a gesso and white acrylic foundation. It's a bit shapeless, but I like the colours. Maybe I'll come back to it at some stage and build on it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

True Tree

I decided to go for a linguistic theme with this one. It all started with a little square watercolour I painted to test colours for my last project. I then dug up my American Heritage dictionary of Indo-European roots, and found that the root for the word Tree is "deru", meaning "To be firm, solid, steadfast". It is also the root of Trough, Tray, and also True, Trust and Truce, Endure and Rhododendron, and Druid. I love my Indo-European roots!!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Green Smoothie

A while back, a friend of ours had mentioned the Green Smoothie Girl diet. Well, you know me, I'm not big into diets. But I like to eat healthy. So I was curious. I'm not going to go out and buy all the books and accessories - there is plenty of that on her website if you want, meal plans, 12 steps, ready-to-mix powders, ... But we made one this morning and were pleasantly surprised with the taste. Our experiment included: water, spinach leaf, one banana, one apple (Skin included), a teaspoon of honey, and a dash of safflower oil. I can see plenty of options with celery, carrots, ginger, kale (if I can get it in shops at this time of the year), beetroots - ok, I'm moving away from the green theme here, but any colour is good, isn't it? Everything was thrown in our blender. It took 5 minutes. Tasted lovely - you don't really taste the spinach, to be honest. Packed with fiber and vitamins. And isn't the colour fabulous?

Life of Pi - did you know?

A few interesting factoids I gleaned through various websites about Life of Pi (all websites listed in my previous post):

  • The young actor, Suraj Sharma, didn't know how to swim before the movie
  • Before the movie, he could hold his breath under water for 15 seconds. By the time he had his underwater scene, 2 minutes.
  • The wave machine and other equipment were so noisy that instead of having someone shouting "Cut", they had a loud klaxon. One beep for "Cut", Two beeps for "Reset", at which time the young actor had to reset his props and start again - he would spend a lot of time on his own in the middle of the wave pool.
  • Before this movie, he had no acting experience.
  • There were four tigers used to create the CGI animations for Richard Parker. In a side-by-side test, I could not say which was real and which was CGI. Actually, I picked the wrong one!
  • The animation artists paid attention to the minutest detail of how a tiger moves. 
  • Richard Parker is a name often used in literature for ship-wreck survivors.

Reality stranger than fiction is what comes to mind.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Life of Pi

Like a lot of people, I had loved the book! And I was worried that Life of Pi, the movie, would disappoint me. Far far from it.

On the contrary, I even found that the movie made the first part of the story more thrilling than the book. I remember that I had to work hard to keep going when I started reading the book - somehow, it wasn't as exciting as I had expected. But of course all that changed quickly after the storm!

I found the movie visually so rich, full of colour and texture. Richard Parker looks very real, and yet, not real. The skies and the seas, whether calm or stormy, are full of reflections and movement, and beauty. And I loved the whales moving underneath the raft. And the representation of the island where Pi takes refuge until he realises how dangerous it is.

The only thing that didn't really convince me was the ending, where Pi tells the story in a way that is acceptable to the insurance agents - maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, but I don't remember such detail in the alternative reality in the book. Yes, I do remember something along the lines of "believe what you want, this is my story", but not such details of the zebra being his mother and the hyena being the nasty cook, Gérard Depardieu, and stories of canibalism for survival. Maybe I'm blocking the memory? Well, it will have to wait until I have time to read the book again. In the meantime, plenty more books to read and films to see.

To me, Life of Pi is a celebration of life - the will to live against the odds, the beauty of the world, the immense satisfaction that comes from surviving, one day at a time. I could watch it again and again and still find it fascinating.

PS: if you're looking for a more spiritual review than mine, check this blog post out!
And if you'd like more technical detail, knock yourself out with this article.

And for a wonderful site about the filming of, this one is the best (but I had trouble watching it on WiFi - I had to use a homeplug to watch the movies without stuttering).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Un remplaçant

This one is on a family theme - with cryptic words on the back of a photograph..

I applied the photograph over an acrylic paint background. Then I used one of the doilies I got as a set of 60 in Dealz (€1.49!) as a stencil and I painted with watercolour. As it turns out, I had 4 doilies stuck together, which was perfect, as the paint couldn't seep through the paper as much as it would have with one layer. I added a few dots with a golden Faber-Castell PITT pen. That's pretty much it. I quite like the colours.

I kept my left page very simple, with additional doily stenciling and the words from the back of the photograph, which my father can't explain. I am hoping it will make some sense when he looks at the photograph.

I might try this one again using an acrylic transfer rather that gluing the photograph - I find that no matter how careful I am, it always looks a bit chunky when I glue a photo onto my journal page. I use matte acrylic medium as a glue. Maybe I should use PVA glue, which I've just found out is acid-free!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Evelyn Cusack, black sparkly dress, 20 April

Lovely sparkly dress for Evelyn on Saturday night, to match her sparkly smile!

Trees with water

That's it. I'm done with this one. This is the best I'm going to be able to do. I know, I know. It doesn't quite work, but at this stage, I want to move on. I am happy with my trees and my water. The ground elements, not so much. But I tried lots of different combinations in Adobe Photoshop, and I couldn't find anything that worked perfectly for me. Maybe that's what happens when I go over the same painting too many times. I have five versions, and believe me, this is the best of the lot. Though the very first one has something about it that I like better.

Some day, I might get back to it and try it with a more monochromatic and flowing approach? I can't decide whether I want something more abstract or more textured? I guess that's my problem - I really don't know what I want to achieve visually. Do I want to paint realistic trees? Or the essence of trees?

Well, believe it or not, my next one is another set of trees - this time a lot closer to home. If practice doesn't make perfect, there really is no hope for me!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Lovely Bones

We watched The Lovely Bones a few weeks ago. It didn't get great reviews. I thought it was not bad at all. It was always going to be hard for the movie to match the book - Actually, I think the author has found it hard to write another book to match this one.

But I found the movie quite atmospheric - There is the lovely lightness of being a young teenager on the cusp of love, and the evil darkness that seems to emanate from the serial killer.

Yes, the "place before Heaven" scenes are a bit over the top, but Saoirse Ronan is such a lovely young actress that she made it work, for me anyway.

I probably would have been disappointed if I had bought cinema tickets to see this film, but it was good for a Saturday evening on the sofa.

Friday, April 19, 2013


When I was told about this movie by a friend, she compared the tension in the big escape scene to queuing up for a Ryanair flight! Pretty accurate description!

Again, I'm way behind the curve - the whole world has seen this movie already. So I won't go into detail.

Argo is set in Tehran  after the fall of the Shah. Demonstrators storm the American embassy and take hostages. A small number of embassy staff manage to escape through a side entrance, and take refuge with the Canadian ambassador. They live there in hiding, and the CIA is looking into ways to get them out of the country - options are thin on the ground. Until an operative comes up with an idea - create a pretend movie, called Argo, and have the embassy staff in the roles of director, casting director, etc pretending to be on a location scouting trip to Tehran  and then have them leave on a plane, in full view.

I won't tell you how it works out. But it's a true story!

You will find in the Wikipedia article that a number of scenes and events in the movie were not historically accurate - apparently the Canadian ambassador and his staff were much more instrumental than the movie gave them credit for. And apparently the British did not turn them away. But it's a movie after all, not a historical documentary - there has to be tension building up, and a sense of "will they? won't they make it?".

It's well worth watching, if you haven't seen it yet!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Vanishing words

Had great fun with this one. Isn't it what it's all about? I often dream about school or college - I'm taking notes but I can't make sense of my own handwriting, or I'm struggling to keep up with the lecturer, whether it's Latin in school or English and Russian in college. Typical anxiety dream, I'm sure! So I dug up my old Russian phrase book and photocopied elements from the first few lessons. Who is it? It is Ivan. What is it? It's a house - "dom" in Russian (obviously, the alphabet is different, but I don't know how to include cyrillic letters in my blog!) means house. Think "domestic". All from the latin dominus etc. So you see, Russian isn't so hard! And diachronic linguistics was my favourite subject in college!
I glued the pages in my journal, then applied my lovely Neocolor II pencils and added small amounts of water. It didn't look so good, so I applied clear gesso mixed in with cadmium yellow acrylic, using a (old) credit card to create a vertical texture effect. Then more Neocolor II. And then, something I just discovered on YouTube - this lady has got tons of good advice for journal artists! - applied flexible modelling paste over a stencil. Now, the alphabet stencil I have is quite heavy, so the resulting ABC is a few mm thick. Not ideal for a journal page, but hey, does it matter?

And by the way, I used to love that Russian textbook "Russian for everybody". Before going to college, where I studied translation from English and Russian into French, I went to evening classes in my hometown, and did Russian for a year (I've always been a believer in being prepared!). And when I started the Institut Supérieur de Traducteurs et Interprètes, I was just so thrilled to see that they were using the same textbook! It was such a bonus - it meant I could focus on English and everything else, without having to put in too much work for Russian, at least for the first couple of months. Enough of a head-start to make that first year in college bearable. And that picture on the ISTI website, it's such a blast from the past. That big room with rows upon rows of seats - it hasn't changed one bit. It sends shivers down my spine! No wonder I have anxiety dreams!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Potato prints

More potato prints - acrylic over Neocolor II (with a little bit of bubble wrap print and Pitt marker) - again in my trademark aboriginal snail pattern

Jean Byrne, black dress with yellow belt, 14 April

Not a bad dress, this one, with a lovely yellow ribbon detail - it would look a lot better with a narrower bracelet, though. Those big chunky ones are not flattering on the bare arms, I think.

Jean Byrne, fuschia body-hugging dress, 15 April

A favourite of mine - very flattering dress! And I think that the finer bracelets suit Jean better than the black chunkier ones she often wears.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Trees - with water

Call me stubborn if you wish, or obsessive! Me, I'll just say I'm persistent.

This is my 5th go - this scene from a park in Tokyo will be imprinted on my brain forever!.

I think at this point, I've got the 2 main elements right, the trees (which have now taken an autumnal hue) and the water - but my big problem is how to wrap it all up successfully - if I go for more cobalt blue on the little hillock in the centre, it will be too samey. If I choose a different colour, will it not break the unity? What I need to do now is follow Shirley Trevena's advice (now, she's a lady who's not afraid of colours): if not sure about a hue, gather magazine cuttings in a variety of colours and place them over the area in question until I find one that works. Then match it with paint. Sounds easy enough! I'll be sure to let you know how I get on.

Trees - 3 or 4?

I think this is my fourth attempt at painting this scene - I might not have shared all of them with you. I think my trees are quite convincing, but again, my water is a disaster. In this case, I applied oil pastel (golden and white) as a resist, to represent the reflections, but it still didn't look right. I think oil pastel or wax resist for water effects is excellent when you want to impart movement, like a river or a waterfall, but after this disastrous experiment, I've come to the conclusion that it's no good for a lake or a calm sea!

I also applied white oil pastel all over the sky, before painting a very pale golden peach watercolour wash, and that looked good (Well, I think so, at least). Go figure!


Still working on this watercolour - I'm happy with the trees, except the trunks are too evenly spaced. And the water didn't work out. I had applied vertical bands of paint over damp paper, but the burnt sienna was a lot stronger than the cobalt blue and the aureolin yellow, so I painted over it with cobalt blue. But then it was all too even. So I scratched the water surface with a blade, but it still lacks oomph. A few more iterations before I get it right!

If in doubt, wipe it out

This page didn't start well. I painted an acrylic background, then I started writing over it, but it was all drivel. So, rather than agonize about what to do, and feel inadequate, I decided to paint over it. That's the beauty of acrylics - another layer is like a blank slate. I decided to go for a dark mix of cadmium red and cyan blue, perfect for writing over with a white pen. I added a few collage elements, like this lovely abstract wave motif from a Japanese paper I found online a while back, and a red origami paper with a white leaf pattern, which I found in a treasure box at the back of a press, full of Japanese paper, cards and stamps, beautiful little things sent by friends or purchased while on business trips to Japan, and put away for safe-keeping, then forgotten for a few years. What a pleasure to rediscover all this material, perfect for art journals!

On my second page, along with a repeat of the leaf pattern from the origami paper, and a little tree (there for no reason at all, just because I could), a reminder to myself for when a painting doesn't go well! Soothing words when I feel like I am no good at this painting business!

I can't say this page ended any better than it started, but I felt a lot happier.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


This is really more an experiment than an art page. I'm exploring stamping and stencilling techniques and I read somewhere that cutting stamps from potatoes was a cheap way of experimenting! According to BB, this is a skill that every Irish school kid of our generation got to practise. Well, potato is not such a big part of Belgian culture, except in the form of chips of course. So, maybe that's why I have no memory of potato painting from my school days. I remember using a big pin to punch holes in paper on top of squares of brown felt. What was that called? And now that I think of it, I can't believe they put those pins in the hands of 4- and 5-year-olds! But no potato stamping! Anyways, I had to try this - I painted my pattern on a halved potato with a felt pen, then I used a sharp knife to cut it. It was very straightforward, the straight lines more so than the snail swirl, but even that was quite easy. I applied acrylic paint, and off I went. As you can see, I did get slightly carried away!! I also used letter stamps I found at the back of a press - I only have blue and purple stamping ink, so the colours are not very harmonious. Like I said, this was just an experiment. I should really buy sepia or black. Next time I'm in the Art & Hobby shop I'll have a look!


I got a boxset of Rome last Christmas, and we've been watching it in the last couple of months. Very enjoyable and educational. But not for children! A bit like The Tudors, too much steamy sex and bloody deaths for young eyes. But a great way to become familiar with a period of history that, although studied at school (I did Latin for 3 years), is not that familiar to me.

It's not too intellectual, with a focus on the personal rather than the political, and, as is often the case with period drama, you don't know how much is accurate and what is made up. I wonder about the dresses worn by the ladies - are they an exact representation of the period? Some of the outfits look more elaborate than I would have imagined for the time, but what do I know? Although I do agree with another reviewer that chain mail for soldiers of that era is a tad premature. But again, I can't say I'm an expert! But I feel better now that I see how much research the costume designer, April Ferry, put into the job!

And now I know a lot more about Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Octavian, Cleopatra, Pompey, Cicero, and many others. And interesting to read that the two soldiers whose adventures bring a human perspective to the historical events, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, are two actual soldiers mentioned in Caesar's writings! Their adventures are probably mostly made up, but it's a nice touch all the same!

It's a shame that the funding ran out and there were only two seasons (instead of the 5 that were originally planned). But, hey, I've already moved on to my next box set!

PS: And not a note of a Northern Irish accent in actor Ray Stevenson, who plays Titus Pullo. He is from Lisburn!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wagner's dream

Despite some negative reviews on the blogosphere, I really hope this documentary will be shown here - Wagner's Dream is about the Robert Lepage's production of The Ring for the Metropolitan Opera.

I only saw the last of the four operas on Met HD, Gotterdammerung, but it certainly gave me a taste for Wagner. There is something about the interaction between the people and the machine that spoke to me. And I love "behind-the-scenes" documentaries, which is something that's become more and more common in the YouTube age, of course. Maybe you could argue that it takes away some of the magic, but, for me, it enhances and prolongs the experience.

Hopefully it will come to cinema screens in Dublin soon (maybe I've missed it already?). Or it will be available on Netflix or DVD, or even SkyArts2 (which I'm sorry to say has been showing nothing but André Rieu for the last two weeks - what's that about? Seriously!)?

O and Letter to myself

I'm churning them out! Quantity over quality, maybe, but it feels good at the time. I am trying to remind myself of an inspiring line I found in an art journal on Pinterest "Make art because it makes you happy".

In this case, I just glued the photo to the page, after applying a background of Neocolor II, with a vertical stripe of acrylic paint, applied with a roller.

On the left-hand side, I applied a few treasured stamps, and I placed a little note to myself in an envelope I made out of Ikea wrapping paper, closed with a Japanese sticker (a cup of macha tea)

On the right, I added some more Neocolor II, without water, to create a more crayony effect, then I affixed a Belgian stamp dedicated to Franco Dragone and the Cirque du Soleil!

Simple, and very personal.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Libellule 2

This time, I used a purple stamp and a blue stamp, which I dragged directly onto my journal page. Then I applied my dragonfly stamp. Simple, but pretty!

Libellule - with stamp

Forgot to post the photo of my journal page with the actual dragonfly stamp. It took forever to dry, I'm not sure why. When I stamp on plain paper, it dries straight away. In this case, I don't know if it was because of the gesso, or the Neocolor II wash that I had applied. I must invest in a heatgun (I'll put it on the Christmas list - I know I know, I shouldn't mention the C word, it's way too early in the year to do that. But don't you get the feeling this year is going to fly?)

Tram à La Panne

I don't feel very inspired with my watercolour projects these days, so I'm doodling with art journals instead.

This one is an acrylic transfer onto watercolour paper, glued onto an acrylic background. The transfer itself worked quite well actually. I lifted the paper after only a few minutes, then when it was dry, I used a damp cloth to remove the remaining paper fiber. But then I decided to apply a layer of matte medium on top, and it went cloudy on me. The paper was completely dry and I wasn't working in humid conditions. Maybe the brush I used to apply the medium was too damp?  If you know how to avoid this problem, leave a comment!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Apple and Walnut Strusel Cake

I tried another of Aine McAteer's new recipes at the weekend - an apple and walnut streusel cake. A lot of ingredients. But very easy to make. And very very tasty. I think my topping wasn't quite as crumbly as it was supposed to be, but once baked in the oven, it all tasted perfect.

The term streusel is apparently associated with "strewn", referring to the sprinkling of the topping onto the cake. My topping was more like a paste (think peanut butter), and it wasn't easy to spread onto the very elastic cake batter. Maybe it's because I used standard (unsalted) butter instead of vegan butter. I was a bit concerned about the amount of butter I put into the topping, but BB loved it, so there was definitely no taste of butter after the time in the oven.

Believe me, it tasted better than it looks - though I have to say its appearance is pretty similar to the one on the "Joy of baking" website. Not bad for someone who only a few days ago didn't even know what streusel cake was.