Who needs tea bags when you can have …
Who needs tea bags when you can have …
I’m in Letterkenny. I drove up yesterday morning, examined yesterday afternoon and again this morning. Crashed out in the Radisson Blu hotel this afternoon and I’ll be examining all day tomorrow, driving home tomorrow night. Sunday will be my first day off in two weeks. This is the pre-Christmas examining hump.
Didn’t really do anything creative yesterday apart from these doodles in short breaks between candidates. I wasn’t all that happy with my clothes on the line in my gouache painting the other day so I thought a bit harder about trousers and shirts and what they look like.
Then this evening I was messing around with watercolour pencils. The first thing is abstract, sort of inspired by the stained glass I saw in a funeral parlour in a Netflix sitcom we’re currently watching, called The Kominsky Method, starring Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas. Phew.
For years (yes, YEARS), I’ve been thinking about creating a something involving a spoon carved from wood, some coloured stones and the representation in some way of a liquid in which the stones sit and which seems to spill from the bowl of the spoon. In my mind, the spoon has been a ladle. To do this would require a piece of wood with a very distinctive shape. So, now, I’m thinking of a much simpler spoon, flatter and easier to do. Here’s a very rough representation of my current plan.
Now it’s after midnight. I’m in the Radisson Blu hotel in Letterkenny. I’ve been in non-stop chat with a couple of examiners for the last five hours. I’m tired but my room is very close to the lift, so that’s going to be noisy. Plus there’s a Christmas party going on downstairs and, although I’m on the third floor, I can hear the thump of drums and bass quite clearly. I’m going to be examining for about eight hours tomorrow. Then I have to drive home. Arse.
There is a woman called Ruby Silvious and she is the queen of painting on tea bags. Here’s her Instagram feed which will provide some evidence of her skill and precision. Beautiful work.
I was reading an interview with her today. I think she paints with everything but she mentioned gouache in particular. I had a go with gouache a few months ago, with a set I bought in Lidl. It was lumpy and I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing so I threw the set in the bin.
This afternoon, however, I had a little look at a video on YouTube on gouache and how to use it. The thing about gouache is that it’s very opaque, has great coverage, and vibrant colours. Judging from Ruby Silvious’s work, it seems quite suited to tea bags too. The woman in the video spoke about quality and intimated that you get what you pay for. She mentioned Reeves as a cheapish but good quality brand and, what do you know, my local Art and Hobby shop in Nutgrove stocks Reeves gouache sets. €10.95 for a set of 12 tubes. So I bought a set and had a go with them this evening.
I like them. You can get them to behave like watercolour if you use a lot of water but, if you go easy on the water, they are like acrylics but with a lovely matt finish and they seem to blend quite easily. They are also forgiving in that you can paint over mistakes and rework things without them looking overworked. And, indeed, they work on tea bags very well.
Here’s a few things I did this evening. Again my painting skills aren’t great but I’m not really bothered. I’m not exhibiting this stuff. I’m just doing it for the sake of doing it, really.
First, here’s the set
And here’s some of the colours and blends
Here are some experiments with washes. On the second one down, I threw salt on the wet paint to see what effect it would have. The bottom one shows the opacity and sturdiness of the colour.
Here’s something I did to see how something painted over a background might look
And finally, here’s a fish on a teabag.
Gouache, eh? I like it.
Bringing a few things together here. I was wondering how to get some celtic knotwork onto used tea bags. Last night I tried using carbon paper on bags that I had prepared with acrylic medium. It didn’t really work. The creases in the bags caused some distortion of the image. Also, I was trying to use ink and it didn’t really adhere all that well to the bags.
This evening, I thought I’d try it with untreated bags. So I opened out a few of them, carefully removing the tags first, and then I traced the images directly on to the bags. Because they were untreated, the ink worked better although the black outline ran a bit until I used a Sakura Micron pen. The Microns are filled with archival ink. I remember doing a little test some years ago to see which black markers ran least when exposed to water. The Microns were the best.
The problem with the untreated bags is that they are a lot more delicate and stretchy than treated ones, and so it’s difficult to be precise. I probably wasn’t as patient as I could have been with these, but I’m quite pleased nevertheless.
The final problem was putting the bags back together when I’d finished drawing on them. Folding wasn’t a problem because the creases were still there but I wanted to get the tags back on. I raided Christine’s sewing box and found a big needle and sewed the tag strings back on to the bags. Problem solved.
Here they are, first without tags and then with the tags reattached …
This was the poem I recited for one of my speech and drama diploma exams.
In Cork. Travelled here today. Examining tomorrow and then back up to Dublin. It’s late and I’m tired but I brought a pad and some watercolour pencils. Still trying to convey the impression of Christmas tree branches. Attempted a few different ways this evening. This was the best of them. I was using a hair dryer to dry the paint in between coats. The socket in the hotel has a loose connection so I lost control of the airflow. Hence the messy bauble and the clumsy wire at the top.
Posting this from my phone. First time trying that too
I’ve examined speech and drama candidates two days in a row now and I’m quite tired from the sustained concentration required. I had some plans to experiment with trees and baubles this evening. I did a few bits and pieces but if I had kept on doing it I would have become frustrated and that would have become counterproductive. So I stopped.
This is as far as I got.
Actually, they don’t look too bad.
We were at a book launch during the week. The Loneliness of the Sasquatch by Amanda Bell, a friend of Christine’s. It’s a translation of a work written in Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock. Actually, it’s more than a translation. Amanda specialises in creating poetry in accordance with Japanese tradition: haiku and the like. So her book is more a transcreation.
The word ekphrastic was used in the book. It’s my new favourite word! It’s the adjective of ekphrasis, which means, in short, a description of a work of art in which the description itself constitutes a work of art. The idea is that the practitioner describes or references the work of art (which can be real or imagined) in a vivid and/or evocative manner in poetry or prose in such a way that it stands alone as a creative entity.
On Saturday, I went to see the ‘Hauntings Soldier’. Jane, my dear step-mother, a lively, interesting and refreshingly curious octogenarian had suggested that I see it before its removal from its placement just beside the Fusilier’s Arch in St Stephen’s Green.
Here it is
And here is my attempt at ekphrastic writing …
Out of time
Under a gunmetal November sky
Against the backdrop of the skeletons of winter trees
A giant haunting presence
Feet planted firmly in Dublin mud
Gaiters tightly wrapped
Steadied by his rifle
Cap pulled low over furrowed brow
Uniform and equipment unsullied.
He gazes at the Royal College of Surgeons
A ghostly echo of our troubled past.
What horrors has he seen or sent men to?
What horrors are buried deep
In mind, in earth; or scattered
in the blood-soaked fields of Flanders and France?
Destroyed hopes, destroyed futures, human scrap.
Like the metal gathered up. Now remade.
Now the Hauntings Soldier.
I’m OK with this, as a first attempt.
Sometime in 1984, we were in Uxbridge, in north west London. The miners’ strike was in full swing and some people were collecting money to support miners’ families. The slogan on the collection tins was was Dig Deep for the Miners. Clever.
I did put money in the tin, mainly as a small act of anti-Thatcher solidarity. I think I may even have bought a badge. Without too much difficulty, one can see that the origins of the rise in English nationalism (before the mid-1980s, the sight of a St George’s Cross flag was very rare) and the current political crisis in Britain about Brexit lie in Thatcher’s period in power. She firmly shifted the political focus in Britain from facilitating the social good to idealising and providing for the right of the individual to act and accumulate for his/her own benefit, to the exclusion of others.
Anyway, what put me in mind of the phrase, dig deep, is my Knifey Spoony work in progress. I excised a lot of wood today and the item is taking shape nicely. I haven’t yet decided whether to merge all the cutlery on one level, and use it (say) as a trivet, or to represent the different levels of each item and just have it as an art object. I like the idea of making something that can be used but I kind of relish the challenge of seeing can I represent the individual items under and over each other.
Deeper and down, as Rick and Francis ‘sang’ in 1975. I’ll spare you the video.
This is my favourite love poem.
By the way, this is the luscious thing I referred to a little while back. I did the art work about five times and the voice recording about 25 times until I was satisfied. Whew!