Saturday, April 30, 2016

MHBD's Fake Journal - Day 30

All done! 16 prologues and 30 days of fake journaling! I feel like I could run a marathon! 

And I've got to experiment with gouache paints, which I had never really used before. And found that they are a great paint to use instead of watercolours if the paper is not brilliant.

What will I be doing with my days now? First thing will be to tidy my office, which looks like a bomb hit it. Then catch up on my Japanese studies. And then, who knows? More drawing, more painting, more life!

Here are the colours I mixed for today's gouache sketch:

Friday, April 29, 2016

MHBD's Fake Journal - Day 29

Is Odile going to be able to escape from the drudgery of her life? I haven't decided yet. But it's not looking good. In the meantime, she'll keep on painting objects that mean something to her. Even if her lines are wobbly and her vases wobblier.

The one thing I have enjoyed through the process is discovering how many beautiful colours I can create from just 6 tubes of gouache paint (including a black and a white)

Only one more day to go. And I have no idea what I'm going to paint. And it's lining up to be a busy day in my real world, so don't expect a big finale. It's a journal after all. Her story might pick up in a year's time, you never know!

Full text here

MHBD's Fake Journal - Day 28

Getting there. It's been a bit of a struggle - it's quite a commitment, to draw or paint something every single day for a month. Some days, like yesterday, there just isn't enough time. And then there are days where I'd like to paint with something else than gouache, and paint on good paper that won't buckle every time I apply water to it.  It's really for dry media only. But I've had this sketchbook for years and I had only started working in it last year, and even then, not much.

Using it for the fake journal month was the best way to make use of art supplies that would normally be neglected.

Full text here

MHBD's Fake Journal - Day 27

Odile's world is not peaceful. And she is getting too old for all that patrolling at night.

She would really love to live in a world where she has no chores and where she could paint all day. This dancer by the way is a little statue I have, about 40 cm tall. I've drawn/painted it three times in the course of this fake journal, but always from the same angle. Next time, I'll have to pick a different position. I'm getting better at painting the legs and the body, but the arms are still a struggle.

Full text here

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

MHBD's Fake Journal - Day 26

The cherry blossom in the neighbours' garden is finally starting to flower. It's got a good bit to go yet. But comparing to where it was on the day of Odile's first prologue, on the 8th of March, we can finally see the end of the bleak days of winter (despite the freezing wind). Hopefully it will be in full bloom by the end of the week!

Full text here

Happy colours!


I'm sketching a good bit these days. Maybe one day all that practise will show.

But it's good to carry a little sketchbook and a pen around. You never know when you might be early for an appointment and you have to sit in the car for ten minutes!

One day, I hope to develop this habit to make better drawings and add watercolours like Shari Blaukopf does. She lives in Montreal, and that's the only way you can do outdoors drawing in the winter over there. But for now, quick squiggles will do me.

I got a new fountain pen in Nimble Fingers, a plain Manuscript medium nib pen. My previous one (part of a set) seems to be blocked, no matter how much I rinse it under the tap. I should have kept the packaging so I can find it again when this one gives me trouble. It was quite cheap, and yet it glides easily on the paper and makes a lovely line. And it takes cartridges, so no messing with ink. No messing is important for someone as clumsy as me, believe me.

But then, sometimes, you don't have a pen with you. You just have a biro or a marker. And that's fine too. This sketch on the right was made with a United Office gel pen which I got for work ages ago. The ink is probably not archival quality. But let's face it, I am not Leonardo da Vinci, so it really doesn't matter.

BTW, there is an exhibition of 10 da Vinci drawings at the National Gallery, starting 4 May! Looking forward to it!

CBL garden. Sketch

Another little sketch in my little sketchbook

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

MHBD's Fake Journal - Day 25

Yes, I decided to use that drawing of Timber for Day 25 of Odile's adventures (well, not much of a life, if you ask her, but nobody's asking!).

And since I had another busy day, I kept it very simple. A transparent gouache wash as a background, and I printed Timber's sketch onto card.

Full text here.

And a close-up of that yummy pink here (buckling paper and all)

Petal Dance

These days, I take every opportunity I can get to listen to Japanese radio. To sharpen my ear. I have an interesting capacity for listening to a radio programme for half an hour and still not be able to say what the programme was about! Not a clue. I do catch the odd word, which I guess is encouraging. But I have a long way to go! I might be listening to the equivalent of the Gerry Ryan show for all I know, so what hope have I got?

TV is a little easier, as you can see the context of what's going on. And with subtitles, it's much easier of course.  For the last little while, I've been watching Good Morning Call, a teenage series set in Tokyo, on Netflix. It's great fun, watching 16 year-olds fall in love, Japanese-style! I've just learned that it's based on a Shoujo manga of the same name. And a shoujo manga? I hear you ask! Well, that's a manga aimed at a teenage female readership! (I learned that in the last 5 minutes!) But the point I wanted to make is that while watching it, I've actually learned new words! For instance, I had always learnt that "I'm sorry" or "Excuse me" is "sumimasen". But in a more informal context, you can use ごめん(gomen), or ごめんなさい (gomen nasai) if you want to be a little less casual!

So, when I had the chance to watch a Japanese movie, I decided to take it. Now, there was not that much chat in Petal Dance (ペタル ダンス Petaru Dansu). It was quite a bleak movie, about a young woman who has tried to kill herself, and two friends from college, who haven't seen her in 6 years, make the trip to go and visit her. Another young woman, whom they've just met, drives them North on this road trip. Very few words are exchanged. It's all looks and repressed emotions. A very different side of Japanese culture from Good Morning Call, which is all teenage madness and giggles! But I liked the atmosphere of it, and the cold, bleak landscape - all very pale blues, pinks and golds that even made me feel cold. It makes me want to watch more Japanese movies.

MHBD's Fake Journal - Day 24

Odile jumps back in time, just for a walk on the beach.

And since I had a busy day, I used an old stamp I carved about two years ago for another project (it took me a while to find the post where I first showed this stamp. I knew it was for the Documented Life Project challenge, but what year, I wasn't sure, so I did a little time travel of my own revisiting these old pages!)

Full text here

Monday, April 25, 2016

MHBD's Fake Journal - Day 23

I'm a little behind in posting links to Odile's journals on this blog. I've managed to keep up with the challenge so far, and now there is only 5 days to go before the end of the month. I find myself simplifying my pages, or cheating a little bit, so that I don't miss a day. I'm falling behind in my Japanese studies, but hey, life is a juggling act! So for the day before yesterday, I just did a little live sketch of Willow sitting in the drive in front of the house, watching the world go by (and making sure  that that young ginger cat knows who's boss). I used the Pentel brush pen for what was literally a 10-second drawing - probably even less. And I added a two-toned background. I love the reds I can produce by mixing the slightly pink red and the orange yellow that come in the set.

Sleeping dog

He did stay still for a short while, enough for me to catch his essence, if a little fat and bulky.

Maybe it would look better if I cropped it? But it's in a sketchbook, so I can't!

But with today's tools (well, Picasa is all you need really), I can pretend I did a perfect drawing. Maybe I'll cheat and use this for my fake journal? If I print it and glue it on the page? I'm pretty sure Odile won't mind? She's  busy on night patrol with Spike, tasering intruders anyway, the only part of her life she doesn't complain about, so she might not even notice?

Sunday, April 24, 2016


As you know, I'm interested in everything in terms of subjects for painting: trees, clouds, skies, faces, flowers, vegetables, tea cups, ... One thing I would love to be able to paint in watercolours is ripples, well, the sea in general, waves, light, movement, sunny days, stormy days... but let's start with ripples.

This one here on the left was done by applying Schmincke masking fluid to draw the ripples. I like that particular masking fluid because it comes in a little pipette dispenser and it's quite good for drawing fairly fine lines. I use the blue-tinted masking fluid rather than the transparent one, as I need to see what areas I've masked.
Then, once the masking fluid is completely dry, it's just a matter of applying a wash of colour (Schmincke's Helio Turquoise - PB16) with a big brush.
For this one, I started the same way as the one above (using Sennelier's Phthalo Turquoise, PG50), then, when the paint was completely dry, I added extra ripples with the masking fluid. And when that was completely dry, I painted some areas with a slightly darker mix (PG50 with a touch of burnt sienna for the darker greener parts, and PG50 with ultramarine for the bluer area in the centre).

Neither is close to the original photograph, but this is a start at least!

I'm wondering if I should do a very very light wash before applying the masking fluid - a pale yellow and maybe some very pale red in some areas? To give the ripples more life?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Experience Japan day

The organisers of the Experience Japan festival were blessed with the weather last Sunday! It wasn't very warm, but it stayed dry and the sun even came out.

A very well organised event, with music, dancing, children singing, martial arts, origami, kimonos, bonsai trees, haiku readings, and of course plenty of Japanese food.

It was the latter that persuaded BB to accompany me to this event - and his good heart, as I needed a driver! Talking about driving, my only negative comment was the crazy traffic through the Phoenix Park and towards Farmleigh House - How can we have a national Zoo with no car park, and a major site for public events with only a single lane to get in AND out. Yes, you read correctly: there is a choke point at the entrance to the grounds of Farmleigh House, at the main gate, where you cannot have cars going in and out at the same time, so a full-time garda is on duty to manage the traffic. And of course, their car park is too small too - it would have needed to be double the current size to accommodate the numbers that turned up for last Sundays' event.

Now, back to the food - all the usual suspects on the Dublin Asian food scene, I guess. There were major queues for the noodles. Not too many for the ramen, but we decided that eating and drinking ramen while standing in a field would not be easy, so we went for sushi instead, from Yamamori, who have been in this business for years. It wasn't cheap, but the little bento we got was very tasty, with the usual suspects in Ireland: tuna and salmon - the prize goes to the two big tuna sashimi pieces. おいしい!

All photos below courtesy of BB!

MHBD's Fake Journal - Day 22

I wasn't happy with yesterday's dancer, so I had to have another go. This time I drew her first (and measured!), then painted her with diluted gouache, trying to achieve more of a watercolour effect. I think I'm not done with her yet. The original is a really heavy little statue that I got after my grand-aunt died. They had a lot of beautiful objects, but this was really the only one I wanted (I also got a beautiful painting that I love, a scene from my hometown - maybe the inspiration for another story?). Plus living in a different country that can't be reached by car unless you're prepared to take two ferries and drive across the UK doesn't make it easy to bring heirlooms over. And the house is full enough as it is. Or so I'm told!

Full text here

I did a few manipulations in Picasa, which are really inspiring me in terms of colours that I'd like to try!

Picasa heat map effect
Some other Picasa effect. I might try this effect in gouache!

And if you think I'm not compulsive obsessive, here is another attempt I made, now thankfully covered up with a Gelli print, but you can still see it through the paper is look up at the light!

I think you can understand why I covered it up without me saying anything more about it!

Roberto Devereux

Three Met HD operas this month! Just in case I find myself with nothing to do!

Last Saturday's was Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, ending the Tudor trilogy (Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, Roberto Devereux).

In this opera, Elizabeth I is getting older, she has lost her striking looks (apparently her face was scarred by smallpox and she had lost half her hair), and she feels her grasp on her power slipping. The story of her love for Robert Devereux is not necessarily historically proven, but it works in the context of the opera.

This is the third of Sir David McVicar's productions - visually, it's probably the one that worked the best for me. It's set as a play within a play, with a jacobean audience standing to the left and right of the stage, within touching distance of the singers, an audience that chats during the performance, claps after every aria, and even disappears when the main performer is not on the stage.

And the costumes were amazing - you could almost feel the weight of them! Elizabeth of course is wearing the more elaborate dresses of all - all heavy brocades, pearls and those crazy starched elizabethan collars. OK, they are not called elizabethan collars apparently! That's the name used for dog lampshades, i.e. the collars dog have to wear after an operation to stop them from pulling their stitches. The proper name for the piece of clothing worn around the neck that you associate with Elizabeth I is a ruff.

(I got this picture from Wikipedia - it looks like there is a dispute about the copyright of this photograph of a painting from the National Gallery)

And here is a little taste of it - all very passionate - Sondra Radvanovsky, the soprano who plays Elizabeth said it's a hard role because she has to be angry for the full duration of the opera!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fake Journal - backgrounds

A quick view of Gelli print backgrounds I used recently in my Fake Journal (days 14 and 15). I'm glad I took a picture of them beforehand. In the case of Day 15, the background almost completely disappears behind layers of gouache.

I found that the newsprint paper worked better than the baking sheet. I should have thought about it really - baking sheets are designed so that cookies don't stick, and the same thing happens with paint. Whatever it is that they use (all good, I'm sure, as it's used for food after all), it's very hard to paint over it - it took a good few layers of gouache to cover it. On the other hand, it's great if you want to lift the paint in order to reveal the original background, which is exactly what I did in a few places.

acrylic on baking sheet paper
acrylic on newsprint