Wednesday 31 May 2017


While I am busy working on the new painting, I am also doing the background preparations for the Sticks n' Stones books I am planning to make in the next few months. I have mentioned this project before: companion books - an accordion book and a stick book. I definitely needed some paper for printing and was delighted to be able to order some Fabriano and Indian rag online from Evans Art Supplies. Along with some other supplies, the items were delivered to me in two days. I was impressed by the careful packing (in fact, extricating the paper packs was a bit Fort Knox-ian!). 

I knew some adjustments had to be made in my pasta machine printer in order for it to handle a long intaglio plate (800 micron acetate). Because of the base on the machine, and the shape of the table it would be clamped to, only a small rectangle plate could be used, so I imagined the base would have to be cut so that it hovered above the floor from a height - a long plate could then go through the machine. The birds eye view shows that the printing plate can go through the press vertically and there is about 3 feet distance to the floor -- plenty of room to accommodate a long plate (though my print won't be THAT long!).

However, and thrillingly so, the base was removable/adjustable such that it could be turned around and hover over the floor without having to make any cutting changes. I just need to use an extra clamp for balance an security. The side view shows how the machine will cantilever from the table.

Wednesday 24 May 2017


Last Saturday, May 20 2017, was National Drawing Day. I had been planning to do some plein air sketching in Knocksink Woods but there were a few downpours and I also had a birthday cake to make, so the kibosh was put on outdoor drawing. However, while doing my morning ablutions, I was enamoured by some of my curls and decided to do a quick self-portrait before brushing my hair. This is the result:

I have been thinking of doing a regular bout of self-portraits, but just haven't been motivated to start! For a brief period before my daughter was born (15 years ago!) I tried doing a daily self-portrait, but once I became pregnant, my drawing regimen lapsed. But at the beginning of that attempt I think I look a bit tentative about the project of self-portraits in a brand new sketchbook. This charcoal pencil sketch from August 9 2001 has holes speckled on the face because I later used the closed sketchbook as a semi-hard surface when I was piercing holes for bookbinding!

The pencil sketch on August 10 2001 also has numerous holes in it. It took me awhile to figure out what the things were in front of the mirror, then I remembered I was in a different house at the time, the mirror was above the fireplace and they were objects on the mantlepiece.

This pencil sketch is from August 13 2001, and again, because it is at the start of the sketchbook has holes in it. It must have been a warm day because my hair is tied back.

On August 14 2001 I was outside with a mini mirror on the window ledge, and obviously more interested in the fuschia.

On August 15 2001 I was interested in a continuous line, which stylised the drawing.

I remember this taupe t-shirt from Canada with the stylised deer, under one of my favourite items of clothing at the time - a denim shift dress. This pencil drawing is from August 16 2001.

A week later, August 20 2001, I was wearing my denim dress again. I loved my blue fish earrings, a gift from one of my Canadian friends. I lost one, but still have the other.

In this sketch from August 22 2001 I was trying to include a bit more of the room. The image behind me is a sketch of an oil painting of tulips that I had done in 1980. One of my earliest works that is still in existence!

This sketch is also from August 22. I know I was outside with the mini mirror because my glasses have gone dark.

This pencil sketch is from September 19 2001. I was starting not to feel well, but I didn't realise yet that I was pregnant.

By time I did this pencil sketch on October 27 2001, I had let all my family and friends know that I was having a baby. Later I was so grateful that my morning sickness only lasted for the first trimester -- one of my aunts had told me she had morning sickness for 9 months with each of her 5 children... I was never actually sick, but constant nausea all day prevented me from eating anything other than porridge and dried apricots. I remember it well.

On May 14 2002 (a week before my daughter was born) I commented on feeling Yoda-like while I tried to draw!

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Eternal City - early days yet!

I was in Rome for the second time a few years ago, and did this sketch of the Teatro Marcellus. There was something about it, and I knew it was a foil to my painting that I was working on at the time, Fractured City. So the intention to paint this was always there, the sketch a little kernel for the future.

For Incognito 2017, the fundraiser for the Jack & Jill Foundation, I conceived of three "cityscape" postcards. So  still the painting was on my mind.

I took a printmaking workshop at the beginning of April this year in order to learn the Chine collé technique and quickly did an intaglio from my sketch.

Finally, I unrolled some canvas, quite a large piece (takes up most of the wall in my attic studio) and blocked in Eternal City.

I started to apply metal leaf in the negative areas behind the architectural structures.

I had applied some texture before blocking in the painting, but then decided that I wanted some rougher texture on the older part of the Teatro building.

I will gesso over this scrim burlap and re-block before I get into the meat of painting.

The texture of the columns is mostly smooth rather than canvas.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Mini quiche recipe

I had overseas visitors arriving after midnight last Friday, so I wanted to prepare some nibbly food to have with a relaxing chat and glass of wine before they headed for bed. A few small snacks and also something light but sustaining - I thought mini quiches would fit the bill. I added some dried basil to my usual pastry recipe, but basically use your favourite pastry recipe or pre-made puff pastry to fill a tart tin (usually 12 shallow places). Preheat the oven to 180 C.

For my filling, I cut only about a  tablespoon or 2 of purple onion and two mushrooms in small pieces and divided among the pastry shells. If I didn't already have the onion waiting for use, I would have used a scallion (green onion) instead. By all means, use your own favourite fillings but remember these are 2-bite size, so you only need a small amount (eg, 1/2 cooked sausage, 1/2 cooked slice of bacon - chopped and divided between all!).

I beat 2 eggs with a splash of milk and divided between the pastry shells (about 2 spoons each).

The egg doesn't have to cover the fillings (as it will in cooking) and be careful not to overfill the pastry shells.

Slices of cheddar cheese are placed as the last ingredient and I have cracked some black pepper on top as a finishing touch.

Bake in the oven at 180 C for 15-20 mins. They will look like little souffles when fully cooked.

Once they start to cool, they deflate. Remove them from the baking tray and they can be served hot or room temperature. They are delicious!

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Accordion and Stick Books

I have my next book-print project in mind for during the summer (after my big painting is finished). One thing I needed to do, though, was whip up a couple of templates for an accordion book and a stick book. These were done really fast to ensure I had the concept right for the book designs, I haven't decided on paper or materials for covers yet.

So first off, I got some thin cardboard for the front and back covers. I recommend having a look at American artist Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord's YouTube channel here - she gives complete, quick instructions on how to make a variety of simple books for various uses. She is also a brilliant calligrapher and artist, using bookbinding within her gorgeous sculptures (have a look at The Spirit Books).

I used some heavy grey paper, folded it and glued the covers on either end. Okay, I have the concept figured out! In 2015, I saw an exhibition of Etel Adnan's work at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and in a display of small works there was an accordion book, which was opened out to reveal a single painting. This has stayed happily in the back of my mind till now.

I am also planning a stick book for this coming project - the two types of books, with their prints, will be companions.

Again, I have not yet decided on the materials for the pages or covers. It is not likely that I will use acidic cardboard for covers, as I am not planning endpapers (I used 100% acid-free rag endpapers for the Good Morning/Maidgín Mhaigh/Buenos Dias books). However, never say never - it's early days yet!