Wednesday, 24 February 2021

painting happily

 When working on a large painting, I always begin the bare bones in yellow. Though I generally paint in many layers, the yellow marks can still be seen and show how the painting has changed over time, as invariably it does. 

Getting a feel for the sky and water, and the blue has seeped into what will eventually be land and foliage too.

Just blocking in some basic colour areas.

Flowers of varying sizes and types are integral to the piece's dream-like and memory imbued qualities.

I don't think the colour is correct on this detail but it shows very clearly the pattern of the pressed cloth.

Painting on this pressed cloth (roller blind material) is both a challenge and pleasant. It is unpredictably absorbent, so I can only do a small bit of work at any one time.  

For larger areas I have to use a lot of water to even move the paint around, but for smaller areas it seems like I'm working with a dry brush (though I am not!). It is a unique way of working, in search of a balance between looseness and control -- and accepting the random bleeds of paint while continuing to work.

The overall image is starting to take appear.

"Knockeen" is the name and location of the second Kerry house I lived at, 1995-1996. It was an old-style farmhouse with a few outbuildings, surrounded by fields, with a great view of Valentia Island and Portmagee Channel. From the road, access to the house was via a quarter mile boreen hedged by blackberries and cows were often "guarding" our territory in the field in front of the house. Sometimes they escaped this field and wandered around, hiding behind the shed or eating plants from our garden attempts, or even eating our welcome mat.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Year of the Ox

Kung Hei Fat Choy! I used to live near Chinatown in Toronto and always enjoyed the celebratory atmosphere in the darkness of winter, late Jan or early Feb. When we moved to Ireland we decided to appropriate the celebration of the lunar new year, certainly because evenings are still dark at this time of year, but also because we like having an excuse to celebrate with good food and learn something about another culture. We decorate the house, and adhere to certain rituals of cleaning and luck. I blogged here about the celebration we had with my Mum in 2016, before her death a few months later.

A number of years ago, I bought a Chinese cookbook and tried quite a few of the recipes. We always start our meal with a Phoenix Tail salad (a display of raw vegetables and egg slices arranged to resemble the extraordinary tail of this mythical bird) and sesame soy dip. I have given details of how to make this dip and arrange the salad on a previous blog, here. I also make Szechuan cucumbers annually to accompany this meal. I was delighted last year when I gave a jar of these pickles to my friend from Hong Kong and she reported back that they were both delicious and authentic! I blogged about them and give the recipe here.

Because the celebration this year was so close to Valentine's Day, we interspersed our Chinese decorations with red paper hearts. Click here for more information about the traditions surrounding the lunar new year.

We originally got this elaborate decoration in the Year of the Dog, some years back, when visiting family in Prague. We  were invited to dinner by friends whom we had met on previous visits. Our child loved the Chinese decoration (New Year was over) and was given it as a keepsake. We have kept it since, just making our own appropriate designs annually to cover up the dogs! In a previous blog I have shown a Year of the Pig cover up, but I also posted a picture of the full decoration.

This year, as well as having our fabulous Chinese New Year feast, we also logged on to China Spirit for a zoom celebration. China Spirit is located physically in Wallesley, UK, but we were made aware of the organisation when they were offering free tai ch'i classes by zoom during the spring 2020 lockdown. We have just found out that they received National Lottery Funding (UK) to offer free zoom classes again and those tai ch'i classes start next week. Hurray! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Sea of Roses

When I first moved to Ireland in the late 1980s, I lived with my parents in their house in the centre of Bray. My room for two years was the middle upstairs room and, unbelievably when I think of it now, it was also my studio. All of the work created for my first solo show in 1989 was drawn and/or painted on the floor between my bed and the fireplace! Sometimes, for very large pieces, I was allowed to take over the house's front room and work on the floor there. In 1989, after my exhibition, I wanted to work very large on an idea inspired by a dream. Sea of Roses, approx 140 cm square, oilstick, 1989.

Even after I left my parents house this large work remained affixed to the wall of the middle room. This room later became my Mum's bedroom after my Dad died and an elder sister with her family moved in. After my Mum's death in 2016 the piece made its way back to me and has been rolled up, taking up space in my studio ever since. At this point the oilstick has permeated the paper (good Canson stock!) making it brittle. It was always destined for purgation, I just had to figure out when and how. In my January clean-up of the studio, my husband set it up to photograph as its time for destruction neared.

There were some scratches through the oilstick medium in different places but otherwise the drawing has held up pretty well over the years.

It was difficult to get the colour nuances, in the roses especially, to show up in the photos.

A picture of the reverse of the drawing, where I signed, dated and titled the piece, shows how the oil has permeated the paper.

I used a ruler to tear up the piece, which took about an hour! I couldn't resist saving about nine of the roses, in their surroundings, as individual keepsakes but otherwise Sea of Roses is now a memory.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

new painting started!

 As I mentioned in a previous post, my studio had descended into total chaos in the run-up to the holiday season, so I spent most of this month tidying, putting things away and reorganising my supplies. I had put up this pressed cloth, at least six months ago, earmarked for a new painting in my current series, Memory Is My Homeland, with the intention of painting my thoughts on the second house I lived at in Kerry in the mid-1990s, Knockeen. 

I eventually got the area cleared. The composition sketch, visible on the right, and the cloth has been waiting patiently for me to start work.

Finally, by the end of last week, I started work. I blocked in where I wanted things to be, making changes to the original composition along the way.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Incognito 2021

I have taken part in the annual fundraiser for the Jack and Jill Children's Foundation for quite a number of years now. I first got involved with the charity when they hosted The Big Egg Hunt Dublin, where artists were given a giant egg to paint. The eggs were then displayed in various locations around Dublin around Easter time and later sold off at auction to raise funds for this very worthy cause. Mine was displayed outside the beautiful Chester Beatty Library and later sold to IBM Legal Services. I have previously blogged about that particular event here, here and here.

Although the following year there was a similar event with painted pigs (in which I did not take part), the subsequent fundraisers took the form of "incognito" events, which were both more straightforward and very successful. The premise was simple: artists were given three cards on which to make artwork, the artist would only sign works on the back, all cards cost the same price regardless of who the artist was, all proceeds would go to Jack and Jill CF. Last year, due to Covid19 the sale of work was completely online, widening the audience over the internet. There were two sale dates (as there was supposed to be an exhibition in Cork as well as Dublin) and both sold out within hours of becoming available. This year the sale is again going to be online and further details can be had here.

I blogged about the 2017 event here and here, and blogged about the 2019 event here. This year is the 5th year that the Incognito fundraiser has taken place, and I am participating again, as I have in all the previous four years.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

getting organised...

If you saw last week's blog, here, you will know that I had to deal with the xmas chaos in my studio before I could even think about getting back to work. So this is the pressed cloth hanging in wait for me to begin - without all the boxes in front of it!

Although it may not look like it, I did a complete overhaul/reorganisation of my materials shelves on the back wall, and the large items (rolls of paper, etc) in front of the shelves are more manageable where they are now located.

After completing all the physical tidying, I have been going through work from the past few years making sure things are signed and/or dated.

There was also a lot of work that is "sub-standard" - prints that have too much or too little ink, etc - which needs to be tossed. However, I am not one to waste paper, so I have simply ripped them in half and added them to my collection of "backs", which I use for lists, notes, etc.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021


 Happy new year! Well, in order to get back to work, I first have to deal with the chaos of the past six weeks and get my studio back into working order. Even before I get in to my attic studio, I have to clear the stairs going up to it - the flat surfaces of the stairs have been brilliant repositories for all kinds of detritus to be dealt with "later". "Later" is now!

Before xmas the attic (aka my studio) was used as a space to wrap and store things. The first thing that has to be tackled there is organising the wrapping paper, ribbons, labels, etc. and putting them away in deeper storage on the roof (behind the couch) where they will stay for the next eleven months - when it starts all over again!

The area in front of my workspace it crowded by boxes. These are storage boxes for xmas decorations, boxes of ceramics (work done in the past few years) and boxes containing items from my Signal studio residency that I haven't yet put away.

My supplies area needs to be reorganised before I can smoothly get back to work! It takes some time, but I will do it a bit at a time in order not to be overwhelmed. I have given myself till the end of January to start my new large painting, which has been calling to me. My composition sketch for this painting, Knockeen, can be seen affixed to the wall at the upper right of this photo, where it has languished since last summer. But it will happen soon...