Brushes with Fate

I suppose that when one is in a way of thinking that is receptive to ideas and new things, a word or a phrase can spark an idea that leads to a train of thought that, ultimately, can lead to something on paper or a tea bag or an egg shell. A few days ago, my step-mum Jane mentioned in an email that there was ‘an oriental feel’ to some of the things I was doing with egg shells and bamboo sections.

The words ‘oriental’ and ‘bamboo’ met somewhere in my head and, this morning I started looking at oriental ink paintings of bamboo, cherry blossom, orchids, koi and so on. Among all this was a minute-long preview of a YouTube lesson on using an angled brush to create oriental style brush strokes.

I don’t have such a brush but, on a whim, during my last visit to a shop called Sostrene Grene (a kind of upmarket Flying Tiger) on South Great George’s Street, I had bought a set of three paint brushes with curved tips and a firmish bristle.

So I had a little go with these and my trusty gouache to see if I could recreate something approximating an oriental style of art. I also have a Japanese style paintbrush that I’d never used so I tried that out too.

I found that by loading the brush with watered down black, not too wet, and by using a smooth gentle stroke, I could achieve quite a nice effect. And then I found that by twisting the brush from flat to a point, I could do leaves. It’ll take a while to achieve any consistency but I’m pretty pleased to be honest. (Click on image to enlarge)

Using this technique I then had another go at a sunflower. The result is a bit messy but the relative proportions are better and I’m quite pleased with the shape of (some of) the petals.

Thanks Jane. x


On this day 34 years ago, my Dad died suddenly. I had forgotten that this was his anniversary until Jane, my step-mum, reminded me. Coincidentally, while doing a bit of a tidy in our converted attic this morning, I came across a few photos of him from around 1981. So, I thought about him today. He was a good man who loved and supported me unconditionally. He and Jane had an exceptionally warm and loving relationship which was cruelly cut short by his death a few days after he retired. I’m dedicating this post to him.

So, on with the show.

There were a few things I said I’d do, and I’ve done them

I hung those painted bamboo sticks …

I painted the snow scene on the inside of an egg shell …

And then I tied some knots. I love knots. It’s presumably a hang-over from my scouting days and, in particular, my early experiences as a sea scout in 41st Dublin, Dalkey scouts. Something put me in mind of a Carrick Bend yesterday. A bend is a knot that joins two pieces of string/ rope together and I think the Carrick Bend is a particularly elegant knot.

This year, the second scout troop I was in, 31st Dublin, Rathfarnham scouts, celebrated its centenary. A special scout scarf was commissioned and I insisted that the badge on it contained a Carrick Bend rather than the simpler reef knot. Here’s the scarf with the Carrick Bend on the right …

And here’s a Carrick Bend I tied. First, loose …

And tightened …

Then I tied a few in sequence, as a decorative key fob …

I think my Dad might have liked this stuff.

A Stone Groove

Went in to town today, hoping to take advantage of the sales to buy a pair of shoes or even two. It’s been a while since I bought shoes and the one black pair I have are coming apart. Not a good look.

I love going into town. Usually. But not today. The purchasing mood deserted me early on and that old pair of black shoes will have to do me for another little while.

I’m also fat. So I’m going to do something about that.

A little bit of creative endeavour when I got home restored my mood. I did a negative image of the black piece of bamboo I did yesterday. Here are both of them. I’m going to suspend them vertically from a third piece hung horizontally.

In the middle of the night I was wondering what to do with the other pieces of bamboo I painted yesterday. I felt they needed a companion. I thought of sunflowers. And so this morning I found a few pictures of sunflowers and had a go at painting them. Here’s my first effort.

A useful experiment anyway. The centre bit, whatever it’s called is too small, I think. Anyway, not one to hang around, I painted a few on a piece of bamboo.

Here’s a close up …

And here’s the three together …

I’ll suspend them in the same way.

And finally, a snow scene. I’m hoping to do this in an egg shell. Might be a bit ambitious. We’ll see.

That’s it for today.

Morning Glory

It’s 28 December 2018. Just coming up to lunchtime. I’ve been bringing a lot of things together: bamboo, gouache, egg shells, a silver pen. It’s been a great morning.

First, my phoenix idea. This kind of worked and I’m quite pleased at the way it turned out. I had to simplify the symbol, and the colours of the fire aren’t really bright enough. They are brighter in real life but the photo washed them out a bit.

Next, those bamboo sections. I painted on two of the white ones and the black one. (Click to enlarge)

A closer look. Hey, roses!

Not a bad morning’s work really. Going to do some carving this afternoon.

3 Fs

Yesterday I woke early. Just after 3am. I know! Anyway, I was puzzling about that bamboo fish. Thinking that even if I did another one with string all the way around the outside, I still wouldn’t be able to hang it horizontally. Also, Christine noted that it didn’t have any fins. The construction method isn’t really consistent with the addition of fins so I had to think of a different way of making a bamboo fish. I thought that, because the bamboo was hollow, I could string it a different way, by running the string through the bamboo. However, it still probably wouldn’t be rigid enough to hang properly. So then, I thought of glue.

I didn’t really think this through before I started except to realise that I needed to glue the bamboo onto something. I started at the head end and quickly realised that for stability I needed a slightly more elaborate frame than I started with, so the frame grew with the fish and it’s a bit of a mess at the back. But, sure, who cares about the back anyway? Here it is, fins and all. Hopefully, it’ll end up in our downstairs bathroom, which has a fishy theme.

I found an interesting symbol for a phoenix on Pinterest and it put me in mind of flames and fire. Then I thought that I would have no idea how to paint fire. So I looked it up. It’s not easy! Anyway, here are my first attempts. What I’d like to do is try to paint fire on the inside of an egg shell and superimpose the phoenix symbol on the top of it. We’ll see whether that works or not.

A few days ago I painted some bamboo sections white and black. Here’s one of the things I might paint on one of the white ones.

One day. Three Fs. Fish, fire, foliage.

St Stephen’s Day

Yesterday was busy: preparing, cooking, eating, drinking, playing games, walking, crashing out. Not much time for creativity. Stretching the point, though, I suppose I tried a few new things in the kitchen.

The red cabbage recipe was a new one for me. I usually do Nigella Lawson’s red cabbage cooked in pomegranate juice. This year I tried her red cabbage cooked in apple juice with cranberries. Both are easy to follow fail-safe recipes and the new treatment was indeed good and, as an added bonus, incorporated cranberries and so eradicated the need to put cranberry sauce on the table.

I tried a new method for the turkey gravy too. Very easy. We had a boned and rolled turkey which I roasted, covered for most of the three hours, on a bed of red onion, with some white and red wine in the roasting dish. The result was just under a litre of delicious liquid with which to make the gravy. Earlier I had made a roux using 45g of flour and 45g of butter. I melted the butter, added the flour and cooked it for about 5-7 minutes, until it turned a light brown colour. When the time came to make the gravy, I skimmed the fat off the meat juices, reheated the roux and slowly added the juices, whisking like bejaysus. I then let the resulting pan of deliciousness bubble languidly for about 15 minutes, giving it the odd whisk.

My roux

I also made the stuffing and pigs in blankets but I’ve made them before so nothing new there.

Today, then, there was a fish made from bamboo (Jan’s idea). It’s as I envisaged it but I think I’ll do it again and continue the outside string to the end of the tail. I bought a Dremel tool recently. It’s a small hand held power tool with which one can do all sorts of interesting things such as drilling tiny holes in bamboo! Combined with my new vice, things that would have been problematic previously, are now quite easy to do, although there was one ‘Jaysus’ moment when I dropped the tool on the desk.

Earlier, I had a thought about bringing a few of my activities together by whittling egg cups in which to display my egg shell paintings. Ambitious but I’ll give it a go. But I then thought that I’d probably have to paint the outside of the shells too to give them a bit of lift. So I eggsperimented with some metallic colours …

The copper and pink ones look well although the others look better in real life than in this photo.

Also, I messed about with paints …

I discovered the other day that you can use masking tape on your paper in order to create a number of separate canvasses. It creates a nice effect on the page, as you can see.

Closer …

A familiar theme
Still working on trees
Painting with string! (string dipped in white paint and dragged across paper previously painted black)
A string print (bundled string painted black and pressed onto the paper)

Finally, we have dozens of sticks of bamboo in the back garden. I’m going to use some of them in different ways. Obviously, the fish above is one way. These aren’t quite dry yet but I’m going to do interesting things to them when they are!

That’s it for today.

Misty Forest

Just to keep the ball rolling so to speak. I’m getting more comfortable with painting, and painting plantlife in particular. Here’s a pine forest in the mist … (a bit rough but it’s my first go at this and I did it in a bit of a hurry).

I’ll post some more items that I’ve been working on soon. Until tomorrow they have to remain veiled.

Roses …

… are difficult to paint.

Here are my attempts

Among them is this

which I think is pretty good. The problem was that it was one of the first I did but I did it by accident. So I then did 30 odd others that were crap. Anyway, I think i’ve kind of cracked it now. Here’s an OK one in an egg shell! Cracked. Egg shell. See what I did there? And yes. Gouache.