Monday, November 30, 2015

Night Sky by BB

I play with paints and brushes. BB is more interested in photography. Here are two photographs he took last week. Fabulous, aren't they! I was told the first one was a time exposure. And it was set for a time short enough that the stars hadn't moved.



He does sleep a lot! I was exploring layers of Neocolor II. Definitely more work to be done here!

Sunday, November 29, 2015


I can't believe it's a week since I was at the Met HD screening of Lulu!

After reading about it and checking out the videos on the Met HD website, I wasn't sure I was going to stay beyond the first act - I was worried I would not take to the atonal music. Me and my opera-going companion had agreed that if we didn't like it, we'd make our escape at the first intermission. But we didn't need to. The music is what it is, but for the most part, I found it quite melodic. The part I liked the least was the third act, which was actually completed by someone else after Berg died, having left the opera unfinished.

But the production was very much to my taste - Kentridge, who had done The Nose last year (which I didn't like) drew so many ink sketches for Lulu. And they were photographed, blown up and projected onto the stage, telling the story of in a sort of graphic novel way. I would love to see all those sketches up close! Because of the way the HD production is filmed, you don't always see the full stage (close-ups etc), but I'd say it was stunning for the audience at the Metropolitan Opera.

And bravo to Marlis Petersen. What a Lulu!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Live, Love, Sketch


Still painting sunflowers

Would you say I have an addictive personality?

I didn't think this version was frame-quality, so I decided to use it to experiment with a background. Still not sure, but it's too late now! I might push the background a shade or two darker and see what it does!

Duo-Tone Sunflowers

Just for the fun of it

Thursday, November 26, 2015


A quick little sketch with Caran d'Ache Neocolor II crayons

Pop Art Self-Portrait

This is how I jazzed up my little sketch! Duo-tone and collage tools in Picasa are brilliant!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


It doesn't quite look like me. But it does. All at the same time. And it was fun. What more do I need?

Under Your Spell - Give me something to sing about

I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer the first time round.
And I still love it on Netflix.
These clips are from the "Once more with Feeling" episode. And you can buy the album on iTunes!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Under your spell

Again, this doesn't quite look like the person I was trying to draw. But I am certainly not afraid to tackle faces any more!

Koosje Koene Illustrations - Learn to draw: Drawing For The Sake Of Staying Sane

Another good post by Koosje Koene Illustrations - Learn to draw: Drawing For The Sake Of Staying Sane:
Reminding us that drawing the every day is good for the soul. Never be stuck for something to draw!

Sigur Rós

This will probably be taken off YouTube - after all it's the whole album. But while it's there, have a listen. Iceland is definitely on my bucket list!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Not a pumpkin, not a gourd

I don't know if it's because of my health problems this summer, or just that I'm not getting any younger, but I'm forgetting words more and more. Let's hope it's not early onset!

But no matter how hard I try, I can't think of the word for this vegetable that looks like a gourd on the outside and has the lovely orange of a pumpkin on the inside. I could google it I guess, but that won't help my brain, will it. Maybe I'm suffering from over-reliance on Google? In which case, the world is in deep trouble.

Wonderful soup was made out of it. Hence the title! And yesterday, we had celeriac, apple and butter beans soup, which was divine! Maybe I'll try to draw and paint a celeriac - nice subtle shades of white!

Butternut squash! That's the word!

Sunflower - a different approach - again

I found a painting on the internet that's exactly what I'd like to do. It's a painting by a lady called Sandra Strohschein, called Maci's Sunflower, and it's absolutely yummy!

So I decided to try and copy it, so I would have a better understanding of how to approach this. I didn't quite achieve the same sense of movement, but I think the colours and textures work well. So, this is definitely not over yet!

I used black ink for the centre. I know, I know, you should not use black in watercolours, but I like how it turned out, as I sprinkled it with bits of watercolour pencil (using my favourite bit of sandpaper - I got sandpaper in Dealz at some point, and it doesn't work at all, so I'll have to go to Woodies when I run out!)

Koosje Koene Illustrations - Learn to draw: Draw Tip Tuesday - The contents of my Sketch Bag

I loved watching Koosje Koene Illustrations - Learn to draw: Draw Tip Tuesday - The contents of my Sketch Bag:

And no, I don't snoop through other people's pencil cases. Or at least I haven't since I was ten.

But, like all amateur artists I guess, I love to know what tools professional artists are using. At this point in my life, I know that a new pen is not going to magically turn me into a talented painter. And I'm still in that phase where I'm using art supplies, not buying art supplies. I did accumulate a lot over the last ten years or more, so it will take me a while to work through all those pencils, pens, paints, sketchbooks, brushes, and other bits and pieces that I thought at one stage were essential to my artistic development. But it's Christmas soon! And I can't resist a good art shop!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What I'm wearing today

Not quite today. But over the last few weeks. I'm particularly fond of my H&M grey maxi jumper. Very cosy. Though probably won't be warm enough for the real cold days. But then again, we rarely get colder than minus 5 celsius in Dublin!

H&M Jumper
H&M scarf

Boden jumper
Banana Republic shirt

H&M jumper
H&M scarf
H&M coatigan
Boden skirt
Clarks pumps

Penneys top

H&M jumper
Levi's outlet jeans
Clarks boots

H&M jumper


I've decided to cure my sunflower obsession with a face obsession.

The other Willow

Maybe a spell gone wrong?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Pushing because it's already broken"

Remember a few days ago, I showed you this awful drawing I made. It was only a week without sketching but boy did it show! Well, I have plenty more drawings and paintings to show - yes, I am quite prolific these days. But I thought I'd jump right to this one:

Does it remind you of something? No? It's the same drawing! Hard to believe, isn't it? I was (more than a little) inspired by Roz Stendahl's post "Pushing, Because it's Already Broken". And I decided to follow her advice. I had nothing to lose, so I went for it. 

I decided I liked the eyes, so I wanted to keep them. The overall shape of the head with the hair was more or less all right, but the shape of the face and the rest of the features were completely wrong, so I had to erase them. Out comes the gouache tube. Yes, gouache is opaque. What I didn't realise of course is that my water-soluble black ink would mix with the white gouache to give this dark grey mass. So, OK, still nothing to lose! Let's let it dry and apply another layer of white gouache to define the shape of the face, more or less

I then used my black uni-ball pen (waterproof) to reshape the face and redraw the features. Added a bit of hatching for shading. Then a dash of colours with my Neocolor II (Caran d'Ache watersoluble pencils).

I still haven't achieved a likeness, but that face is not so scary any more! And if you don't believe me, this here on the left is a collage showing the three stages.
And again, Roz Stendahl's blog is an invaluable source of inspiration, practical tips, and, well, challenging challenges. I particularly like her "Project Friday" series of assignments!


We went to the cinema last week. Something we hadn't done in a long long time. It just doesn't fit with dog walks.
But it was a wet day, and we thought it would be nice to avoid all that rain. We hadn't thought that half the country would be heading to the shopping centre too. But we were there early enough to get parking without too much trouble.

Now, about the movie - Brooklyn. I had read Colm Tóibín's book of the same name. And from what I remember, the film is quite faithful to the book. The only thing I would say is that 1950s Ireland sure looked a lot bleaker in the book than in the movie.

This is the first movie that I'm aware of where Saoirse Ronan is playing a young woman, rather than a child or teenager, and I thought that she did a good job of it. Actually I think she carried the whole movie on her shoulders - there are a lot of head shots of just her and her emotions.

When I finished reading the book, I remember feeling a lot more ambivalent about the choice made by the young woman. I felt she wasn't so sure herself that she had made the right choice. Or rather it was a case that there was no right choice. No such ambivalence in the movie, though.

I wonder will there be a movie made of Nora Webster? If there is, Saoirse Ronan would have to wait a good few years before she can fit the role.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Apples and Pears

After obsessing on sunflowers for a week, I decided to go back to basics, and paint apples and pears from life, without preliminary drawing.

I'm rather pleased with how they turned out.

If you're wondering how I did the speckling, I used watercolour pencils, which I rubbed on a piece of sandpaper over the still wet/damp paint

This one is my favourite. I applied a very light wash of yellow, let it dry, then I applied a second layer, in a looser style.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A week without sketching!

Not pretty! And in case you're wondering about the rectangle around the eyes, it's because the eyes is the only part I managed to capture. So at one point, I considered blackening everything else and just keep the eyes.

Actually this drawing would be a good candidate for Roz Stendahl's "pushing, because it's already broken" treatment! I might try that!

Sunflower - the obsession V

This one also almost was ruined by the addition of badly-thought-out leaves.

I worked the colours on the petals a bit more than in the previous example, so it's not quite as vibrant in my opinion. But at the same time, I really like the centre.

Time to move on I think!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sunflower - the obsession IV

Now we're getting somewhere!

I had to crop this sunflower really tight, because I had almost ruined it by adding dark leaves in the bottom right. But I was so happy with the way the red and orange and yellow worked together, flooded into each other, forming gorgeous blooms (no pun intended, that's the watercolour term when a watery colour is applied before the paint next to it is completely dried and it pushes into the other colour), that I had to salvage it.

This was a really impulsive painting, and I had it painted in a flash. And I believe that's the secret for me. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to reach that middle ground between too tight and too loose in terms of style. But if all my paintings can look as dynamic and vibrant as this, I'll be happy.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sunflower - the obsession III

Now that I had completed my original painting, I had to explore the feedback I was given. And try to tackle the same subject in a more 'watercoloury' way.

This first attempt might have worked if I hadn't tried to include too much detail in the centre!

Sunflower - the obsession II

And now, the finished painting. After I added several more glazes to get rid of my twinkly stars! And reworked a few areas (the centre, a few petals that I pushed back into the background, those kinds of things).

Just to prove that if you're using strong watercolour paper, all is not lost, even when it looks like it is.
Or maybe just to prove that I'm stubborn!

Oh, and I also cropped it slightly to anchor the flower. (Before that, it was still a bit too floaty.)

You think it's over?

More to come... soon

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rika Hongo - Japanese skater

Shinobu was telling me about this figure skating interpretation of Riverdance, by Rika Hongo, a young and talented Japanese iceskater. Love it.

Sunflower - the obsession I

Remember the sunflower that wasn't working out?

So the first thing I had to do was to complete that painting. I had invested a few hours in it, and I just could not abandon it, no matter how tempted I was.

So I scrubbed off areas that were too dark. I added a few glazes of transparent red. And I started working on the background.

And then I added more and more layers to the background. The problem is that I had spattered masking fluid, and it started to look like my sunflower was floating in space, amongst the stars. I don't  have a picture of that stage. I only have one just before I removed the masking fluid. As you can see, not too promising:


Friday, November 13, 2015


We just finished watching Season 1 of Sense8 on Netflix, and I can't wait for the next instalment!
And I find that the Sigur Rós music is best played at full volume!

Thursday, November 12, 2015


This sunflower is taking me a while to figure out. I thought I was doing well, until I was given the feedback that I was probably getting confused between acrylics and watercolours and I wasn't doing my beautiful set of watercolours justice. Comments that hit me hard at the time. But it got me thinking. And thinking. And thinking. Thinking so much that I ended up spending the rest of the week finishing that painting and exploring alternative styles. I went back through a number of the many watercolour books I have acquired over the years! Looking for inspiration. And clues. And guidance. If I happened to wake up in the middle of the night, I would start thinking about that Sunflower again!

Here is where it was this time last week. When I look back at it now, it looks dull and stiff to me. I had definitely lost the vibrancy of my preliminary sketch, and the movement of the pencil thumbnails. Exactly what I had feared.

But a short seven days ago, I was very happy with it. I am clearly not very self-critical. I think I inherited this trait from my mother - a great confidence in myself, even when that confidence is totally misplaced!

Thankfully, I didn't stop there (I was tempted!).

To be continued ...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


I can't believe it's a week since I drew this! I'm definitely picking up my sketchbook tomorrow, and I'll draw one of my three boys!

I was interested in the photo this sketch is based on because of its strong shadows. I think the eyes and the nose worked out all right. The rest of the face, not so sure, but I'll have to stick at it if I ever want to get better.

By the way, I just finished rewatching Series 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. And I actually cried at the end. Despite the fact that I watched it before, and I know there is another two seasons, which I also watched years ago. I'm a soft soul!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Easy Japanese

I'm not sure about the 'easy' bit in Easy Japanese, the lessons on the NHK World website. But it's good fun.

My experience so far about learning Japanese is not so much that the grammar is complicated (if you can handle particles, it seems pretty easy so far) or the pronunciation difficult. For me, the main difficulty is memorising all those words. So I have to go back over my notes regularly so I don't forget last week's words while I study this week's new vocabulary.

Or maybe it's just that I'm not 20 any more! But it has to be good for my brain, right?

Thursday, November 05, 2015


I wasn't great at posting about the operas I went to last year - by the time I'd sit down to it, it seemed like it was always too late! And maybe November is too late for New Year resolutions, but I'm gonna try this time!

Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
So, last Saturday was an early start - 4pm! For a 12 noon matinée in NYC. I guess the US hadn't moved to winter time yet so we only had 4 hours time difference with them.

Tannhäuser was my first Met HD opera of the season. I have to say I have become quite a Wagner fan. The music was just divine, carrying you through 3 hours of opera (with two 35-minute intermissions, so a total of over 4 hours). The production was old, the sets not very imaginative, but the music and the voices more than made up for it in my mind. And while I find it hard to take Johan Botha seriously as a romantic lead, he's got a smooth, beguiling voice that makes you forget his physique! (And I'm sure he's a very nice man!)

Sooo, all in all, a lovely evening, and I was home before 9 o'clock!