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.