Currents

Rivers scare me. In the 1960s, when I lived in Glenageary, a neighbour drowned in the river Shannon. I overheard a conversation that suggested that he was wearing wellingtons when he fell off his boat and that they sucked him down into the river. That made a bit of an impression on me, as you might imagine, and I’ve been wary of rivers ever since.

I’m not too keen on lakes either. Not sure why. Rather irrationally, I kind of think that large bodies of water should be sea.

I do love the sea though. I love its saltiness, its wildness, its unpredictability, its colour and depth. I was a Sea Scout when I was younger and I learned to sail, row and canoe in the sea. In the summer months in my very early teens, a few of us from scouts used to hire a boat from Bulloch Harbour and fish. Sitting, chatting, fishing. Good times.

Anyway, today’s creative thing was inspired by an item on the Instagram feed of a Bangladeshi artist with the account name of @teabag_stories.

Here’s a close-up …

And here’s the whole teabag …

The colours are better in real life. The natural light was fading as I finished it and try as I might with phone and a proper camera, I couldn’t get a decent photo that accurately reflected the colours. The sea is actually a rather nice greeny-blue, painted in acrylic. The dingy and rower are painted mostly in gouache.

Doodling, Distractedly

It’s that ‘back to school’ time of year, when people take a deep breath, gird their loins and get ready for the return to term time routine. It’s not my favourite time of year, to be honest. I love the relative freedom of summer, the absence of deadline pressure, the freedom to imagine, daydream, doodle mentally, be a bit late for things.

As a school-goer, I always dreaded the first day back. I don’t know what I was anxious about. Maybe just the unknown and new: timetables, teachers, classrooms. Maybe my peers: would my school friends still be friendly towards me? I’m really not sure. I just remember the tension and the fluttering in my stomach.

This is going to be a busy week, with two very important meetings and a load of other new term stuff to sort out. I’m glad about that because I need the distraction.

I doodled yesterday, mentally and creatively.

Here’s an overworked strawberry in gouache.

And a knotted/macrame dragonfly.

Here are some doodle doodles that I did when thinking about something else.

And then I botched a good idea about bamboo in the moonlight. I’m not even going to put it up here because it ended up an embarrassing mess. Well, OK, here it is. (I did say to myself that I’d put up the bad and the OK.) The bamboo element wasn’t working so I changed it as I was going along and then I wasn’t sure what it was. It was six trees, then three, then five. Ugh.

Phew.

Atchoooooo! Echinacea.

Not sure that this deserves its own post but it’s getting one anyway.

Echinacea flowers are distinctive, with their downward facing petals. Not that I would know them, to be honest, but Christine was able to name them when we saw them in Hungary near the end of our holiday.

The image of them stuck in my head and, when Pinterest (again) stuck a picture of them in my feed, I took it as a sign that I should have a go at representing them with paint.

The fact that I noticed them on Pinterest could be an incidence of frequency illusion or the Baader-Meinhof effect, whereby, as Wikipedia explains it, a ‘thing that has recently come to one’s attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterwards’.

Or it could be simply a coincidence. I’m not superstitious in the slightest but I’m more likely now than I would have been, say, two years ago, to pay attention to coincidences, and be curious about why they happen. Jackson Brodie, Kate Atkinson‘s private investigator says that a coincidence is an explanation waiting to happen. I tend to agree. There’s nothing mystical about them but, given that the trajectory of one’s life is basically a series of choices, if life presents you with an event that seems to have enhanced significance, then I think it deserves to be looked at a little more closely.

Anyway, here are my echinacea flowers on a teabag. I could say that the cropping of the photo is influenced by Instagram’s square format (I did post it on my Instagram account earlier). That would be untrue however. I cropped it because the top and bottom weren’t very good.

PS. Fixed it. I put a few more flowers at the top and bottom. Looks much better now. Yay!

Catching Up. Sort of

Over the years, we’ve kept a record of our summer holidays. Sometimes in scrap books, sometimes in photo albums, and there have been a few videos. Some of these items have been quite elaborate and they are lovely to look at years later.

Digital photos have disrupted this process. Before digital cameras and especially camera phones, you were always conscious that film, and developing the photos you took, cost money and so you’d be more careful about what and who you snapped. Now, you can go mad, snapping at this and that and ending up with hundreds of photos that you’ve then got to go through to pick out the ones you want to keep. I’ll probably do this eventually but I haven’t yet decided how I’m going to use them.

I’ve always loved the idea of a handwritten travel journal containing words, sketches, maybe a few tickets and other bits and pieces. Once or twice, I’ve managed to put something like this together, probably heavier on tickets than sketches. This year, I did keep a journal and, because of the creativity every day resolution, I did my best to do some sketches, as you’ll have seen a few posts back. Of course, when you’re on holiday, there isn’t always enough time to sketch stuff, and I wouldn’t be the quickest of sketchers.

In time, I might try to sketch a few more of the things we saw, from photos. In the meantime, I did this map this morning …

Click to enlarge

Yesterday in work, there were a few enforced gaps. One, when my computer decided to update itself and then, two hours later, decided to undo the updates. And two, during a Vodafone outage.

I DID do some work during these gaps but I also did these!

I love Pinterest and many of the ideas that I have about things to make and do come from there. Browsing through it on my phone, i found a little video on how to tie a double bow. I happened to have some ribbon in my briefcase (I know, what am I like?) and so I had a go. Once you get the hang of this, it takes about 10 seconds to do. Looks great though. (I love doing stuff like this. I really do.)

One of the interesting things about the resolution that I have mentioned before is that, as time passes, I have begun to THINK more creatively as a matter of course. I suppose it’s like learning a language. After a while, I believe, you begin to think in the language (not that I was ever any good at languages). So, sometimes I might see something and I might think: ‘I could do that’, or ‘I could do something like that’, or ‘that’s interesting and hey, it’s given me an idea’, or ‘I wonder how that’s done’.

In Bratislava, in the shop Ethno Sumba, that I’ve mentioned previously, there were some fish hanging in the window, made of woven reeds. Very simple. Very effective. So, during yesterdays down time, I cut up an Irish Board certificate and made one …

And then I painted it …

I made a couple actually and hung them up in the fishy downstairs toilet but they didn’t look great hanging there, so I took them down this morning and just stuck this one to the wall.

I was watching a documentary about Woodstock 1969 last night and someone used the phrase ‘frayed at the edges’ and it struck a chord.

New Toys

But before I tell you about them, I did this. It’s a copy of something I found on Pinterest, done in pencil in my notebook. It could be better but it’s OK. I’ll do it again, but better, in paint in due course.


So much for resisting advertising on the internet. On Instagram and Facebook, in recent times, ads have been appearing for articulated figurines for use by artists. The concept is similar to the familiar wooden mannequins that you can pick up in any art supply shop (and in Flying Tiger). But these ones are plastic, about six inches tall, have a lot more moving joints, interchangeable hands using various expressions, and accessories. They are made by Ban Dai, the company that makes collectible fantasy figures.

Anyway, I ordered two, a male and a female and they arrived in my office while I was away. I’ve been playing with them this evening, seeing how flexible they are, how the hands work, what sort of poses I can get them in to. They can stand without support but they also come with a support mechanism which allows you to pose them jumping of running or falling. (And, yes, before you ask, I am an adolescent at heart, so I have, of course, put them in various erotic poses.)

I am not good at drawing people and so I intend to use these to practice with. Here’s a few pics of the figures …

Here’s a very rough first sketch. You see why I need to practice.

Hmmm! Almost

The art-related things I did when I was away on holiday were all quite structured. They were about trying to represent things on paper that I saw or saw and captured in a photograph.

The stuff you’ll see below is a bit more experimental and, although none of it really worked, there are germs of something here that might be worked on a bit more.

The first thing is inspired by cycling past countless trees in central Europe. Looking at the trees carefully one realises that undergrowth can be very dark. So I started this with black acrylic and then layered over it with ever brighter colours of mainly green gouache, and ending with yellow and white. What I was aiming for was depth, an idea that there was vegetation underneath and behind what was in the light. I’m quite pleased with the effect, even though it’s a bit messy.

The next items were inspired by two things from the holiday. The first was a piece of art on a wall of a hotel we stayed in. It was a kind of collage with a bamboo element. The second was an item in a shop in Bratislava, a kind of triptych of three related pictures bound together vertically.

In my efforts below, the gaps between the painted elements are too big. I used masking tape and I didn’t have any that was thinner. The execution, especially of the gold on black ones, is a little careless. The texture of the tree trunks in the bottom panel of the blue and white one has potential. The slightly mottled background to the grey and green one is quite attractive and I did get some quite nice highlights on the bamboo stems and leaves. So, there are things to work on but it certainly wasn’t a waste of time. You can click on them to make them bigger if you want.

Finally, while I was trying to get in contact with the aforementioned shop in Bratislava this morning, I came across the Instagram account of someone who either works in the shop or supplies things to the shop. She was cataloguing her progress in learning how to become a henna tattooist and part of that involved dot work. I never thought that I’d have the patience for dot work but I had a go and did this feather. It’s a very interesting process because it really looks like nothing until you’ve got quite far in the process and then it begins to take on some depth. This isn’t very good but it showed me that I do have the patience, and that the work can be quite subtle.

And that’s it for today.

Holliers

I’ve been on me holliers with Christine. We flew to Vienna, spent a couple of days there, then cycled from Vienna to Budapest, via Bratislava, and had a few days extra in Budapest. We cycled 350k.

The cycle generally followed the route of the Danube but we didn’t see that much of the river. We rode on a mix of lovely flat tarmac cycle paths (Austria), rutted tracks, paths on the top of flood defence dams, sandy tracks beside fields, pot-holed roads and communist era concrete slabs. It was tough going some of the time. Tougher for Christine as she injured her back in Vienna but bravely cycled on through the pain barrier for the six day ride. It was very enjoyable though. Some lovely views, lots of peace and quiet, several pretty towns and villages, interesting eateries, a profusion of different languages, and interesting people. It was outdoors, warm, dry (apart from a thunderstorm one day) and active.

I didn’t manage to do something creative every single day. Some days were quite hard and I was too tired. But I kept a bit of a journal and did some sketches.

These first two are of sculptures in Donau Park in Vienna. (Donau = Danube)

A couple of years ago, on our last cycle trip, down the Neckar River in Germany, we visited Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s complex in Plochingen, so we had to see the Hundertwasser Haus in Vienna. Hundertwasser was interested in the influence of architecture on the quality of life and was not a fan of the straight line.

Here’s the house, and below is one of the mosaics on one of the walls.

Many church spires in central Europe are variations on a well-known theme. Here’s one in Austria from day one of our cycle.

One of the stand-out features of Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, is its wrought iron fixtures. Here’s one found on a statue outside a church in the city.

We found a lovely little shop in Bratislava called Ethno Sumba. My type of shop with lots of hand-made goodies. It gave me some great ideas for future projects. Here are some of the motifs from the facade and signage of the shop.

Along much of the cycle path were grass verges or the edges of fields and these delicate chicory flowers were ubiquitous. This painting is not a good representation of them. The petals had serrated ends which were beyond my crude painting skills.

The first village we came to as we moved from Slovakia to Hungary was Rajka, and we found this memorial in a recess in a wall beside the church.

Budapest is a big sprawling city with elegantly proportioned but decaying buildings. It’s also full of domes and turrets. Here’s one of the domes. A bit wonky but I’m getting better at representing depth, I think.

There you go. Year two of my ‘do something creative every day’ resolution is off to a not quite flying, but better than stuttering, start.

Anniversary

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my resolution to do something creative every day. I haven’t quite managed EVERY day, mainly due to work-related travel but, in truth, I’ve missed only a handful. Some days, the creativity was pretty minimal but on others it might have stretched to four or five hours or more.

The resolution has changed my life. It started out as therapy, as a means to re-engage a creative muscle that possibly hadn’t been fully functional since my childhood. It continued, sometimes as a distraction from other life events. It’s now a central part of my life. And it has changed my life. It’s changed the way I look at things. It’s changed the way I look at myself. It’s made me feel far more comfortable about being me.

This is the 230th post on meatpunkspit. Even I’m astonished by that. When I look around my attic, where I do most of the things that I do, I’m also astonished by the range of things I’ve managed to make, paint, carve, glue, print, write, edit, play and assemble. Some of it is reasonable. Some of it is rubbish. But all of it is a result of me just having a go and not really being that bothered about whether the things I create will look good, or work. It’s the process that’s important to me, not the product.

In the last year number of people have encouraged me to keep going, have commented both positively and critically on the things I’ve produced, and have inspired me to create particular things. They know who they are and I am extremely grateful to them.

I still have loads of ideas and I am determined to continue to do something creative each day.

Settling an argument

With myself. About travelling and what paints one might bring.

So, the choice is between watercolour pencils, watercolours or gouache.

Watercolour pencils are amazingly portable but colours are difficult to mix and it’s difficult to achieve any sort of flow or informality. So, no.

My painting with watercolours has improved but they do require patience and a lot of forward planning. I have too little of the former and, I’m not inclined to do much of the latter. Also they don’t work on black paper and I sometimes like to paint on black.

Gouache is not naturally easily portable. It comes in tubes which are a bit unwieldy to carry around. But one can squeeze some out onto a portable palette, let it dry and transport it that way. I like gouache. It suits my temperament. It dries quickly and its opacity means that one can cover one’s mistakes easily. In other words, it’s forgiving. Also, white gouache works as a colour, unlike white watercolour which is really just used for mixing.

Having been experimenting mainly with watercolour for the last week or so, I returned to gouache this evening. I enjoyed it.

I’m trying to be less fussy with my painting. Here’s what I came up with.

St Mark’s Church, St John’s Wood, London, a photo of which I took last week. Usually, I’d do an outline in pencil, fussing over angles and proportions. For this, I just put some colour on a brush and let rip. Unusually, I managed to achieve a bit of depth and I’m pleased about that. The white gouache helps supply texture too.

A rose, focussing on the highlights. This didn’t really work as well as I had hoped but I’m quite pleased with the approach, if not the result …

Verbena from our back garden. Leggy and resilient. I’ve tried here to give an impression of these, rather than an entirely accurate representation.

Argument settled. Gouache it is.

Ikebana

Christine bought me a book on wabi-sabi, a Japanese concept concerning finding beauty in imperfect, old, repaired or broken things. There’s a lot more to the concept but that’s it in shorthand.

In an early chapter, there was mention of Sogetsu, which is a school of Ikebana, Japanese floral art, or flower arranging, a strong and ancient Japanese tradition.

It reminded my of my mum who, for a large part of the 1960s arranged flowers competitively. This activity was a big part of all our lives then. Towards the end of the 1960s, I remember her being very keen on arranging flowers in a Japanese style. It was all about simplicity and a flowing shape. Not being able to find the sort of vases that she felt would allow her arrangements to have the maximum impact, she made some by melting old 78rpm records in the oven and shaping them by hand. The smell was dreadful.

A quick search in Pinterest revealed some lovely examples of Ikebana and I found that I had to get up early this morning to paint one.

The vase is overworked and I dropped a blob of water on the stem and had to do a bit of repair work, but I’m reasonably pleased with this.

We went for a bike ride this morning, along the Grand Canal to the 12th Lock close to Lucan. Training, really. Nice weather for it although the outward journey was predominantly uphill, against the wind. That made the homeward journey very pleasant, however: downhill, with the wind at our backs.

This is dreadful but I’m putting it here anyway because it doesn’t matter. It’s supposed to be the 8th Lock. This is the best bit of it. The stuff I cropped out was really pretty poor.

Later, I made a macrame bracelet out of hemp. I didn’t pay enough attention to the arrangement of the black and grey cords and so their distribution is uneven and a bit haphazard. Pity. But it’s wearable.

Break

Just back from a couple of days in London. To be honest, today I’m feeling as if I’ve been hit by a train. I think it’s the consequence of enforced relaxation after several months of high intensity and not enough sleep. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s a temporary affliction.

My reason for going to London was to watch cricket. Not just any old cricket. The Irish cricket team has recently been given test status, which means that they may play extended matches against the top cricketing nations in the world. Test matches typically comprise two innings over four or five days. For those not familiar with cricket, that means that each team gets two chances to bat. This test was Ireland playing England, at Lord’s. So it was too good to miss.

Cricket is quite an extraordinary game, especially at test level. Ostensibly, it’s about scoring runs. But, really, it’s a battle of wills, in which concentration, skill, technique, confidence, endurance, aggression, tedium, the weather, and psychology all play their part.

It was a most entertaining few days, organised by a close friend, spent in enjoyable company. But it rather knocked my creative agenda out of whack.

I did manage this at the airport yesterday …

And this today …

But that’s about it.

In other news, I’ve been cast in a low/no budget film, a consequence of the Happy Murray reunion described a little while back. It’s a project of Colin McKeown, the documentary maker who filmed the reunion, and I’ll be acting with Happy. Two years ago, I would have hummed and hawed about this. Now, I’m more inclined to say yes to new experiences and opportunities, and embrace the unknown and the slightly scary with a sense that, fuck it, life is short and I might as well, and that I’d much rather take a risk and make the odd mistake than regret not having a go.

Also, this …

Tribal 2

I’m rather taken with some of the tribal symbols, motifs and drawings that I’ve found on Pinterest. I like their primitive vibe. So I did a few of them this evening. Some elements are just copies but I adapted and messed around with others …

They’re on used teabags, painted with gouache, which has the right sort of matt quality to make them quite effective. They’re fun to do too.

Here’s that preacher on a pebble, with a few more embellishments …

I varnished the pebble later but the contrast was lost so it’s hard to make out the detail.

Then I did this from Rice’s Architectural Primer, keeping up my sequence of one a day from that book.

It’s a bit messy but I don’t mind that. I layered the watercolour from light to dark. You can see the layers on on the right hand side. I then used a fine liner to emphasise the detail. I’m quite pleased with the texture of the stone. I felt this was going to be a hard one, and it was. In the past I would have approached this with some trepidation which tends to make one’s lines quite tentative. This evening, however, I felt reasonably confident that I could have a good go at this, and so I just went for it.

Received this today and I’m going to have a go at it …

… later in the summer. My sewing experience to date comprises sewing buttons on shirts, sewing up a sweater that I machine knitted years ago, narrowing a pair of chefs trousers for college wear and making some net curtains. Still, nothing ventured …

I did a few other bits and pieces this evening but, as yet, they are works in progress.

Playing with Matches (and other things)

Years ago, I saw a cute idea on Tumblr and saved it. I haven’t been on Tumblr for ages but I went into it the other day to look at something embroidery-related and found the thing I’d saved. The idea is a series of boxes, like matchboxes containing little messages.

Anyway, long story short, I got hold of a matchbox today and deconstructed it, used the now flat pieces of cardboard as a template, and made a little box out of black card. Now I know I can make these easily, I have some ideas for how I can decorate them.

The matchbox I got a hold of had a few matches in it. In work I started trying to glue them together but it didn’t really work. At home I happened to look behind the fire guard in front of one of our fireplaces and found a load of spent matches. I gathered them up, cut off the burnt heads and made an abstract sculpture. Fun times.

I bought some thin cotton cord recently with a view to doing some small scale macrame. Some years ago, I got stuck into macrame with paracord: a kind of man-macrame. I enjoyed it for a while and made some interesting things. The nylon-based paracord came in different colours and one could create interesting patterns. Finishing paracord projects was easy too, With nylon cord, a bit of a flame sealed the ends of the cord and stopped fraying.

Finishing projects made with cotton cord is a bit more challenging. On YouTube I found a few methods involving either glue or sewing the loose ends into the knotted part.

The other thing I wasn’t sure about was how to create a tightening mechanism for, say, a macrame bracelet. YouTube, again, provided the answer. I gave it a go today. So, you make the bracelet. I made a simple square knot one. Then you do a further tight sinnet of square knots around the loose ends and put a stopper knot or a bead at the end of the loose ends so that they don’t get pulled through the sinnet. Simple, when you know how.


Today’s architectural drawing/painting is of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, England, found on p186 of Rice’s Architectural Primer.

Apart from getting used to drawing buildings, the other benefit of this exercise is getting used to watercolours. That’s very useful.