I’m Learnding

Busy enough day but I found time to watch a few YouTube videos on gouache.

I use gouache in tubes and i’ve been in the habit of washing away the excess paint after each painting session. Gouache is quite expensive and this is a bit of a waste. One of the things I learned today was that one can leave the paint on the palette and simply reactivate it with water later. The handy thing about this fact is that it makes gouache a lot more portable than I thought it was. I bought this palette a while ago and haven’t used it much. It folds over though, so it’s something that I might consider bringing away with me when I travel.

I think I improved my blackcurrants (I added some more) except they look a little pale. That’s more to do with the photo. They are darker in real life …

Not so sure about this rose. It started off very pale but it looked dreadful. The right hand side is OK. I had trouble with the left side however. Trying to make things lighter is harder than making things darker. I really should have started again instead of trying to make it better. Anyway, no worries. The next one will be better.

I mentioned the Rathgar Horticultural Show a few posts back. I decided not to enter the herbs competition. Christine, however, continued to dominate the baking competitions, coming first in four out of the five competitions, and second in the fifth. She also won the major baking prize with her magnificent lemon, bay leaf and olive oil cake.

I’m Learnding …


I suffered a significant loss of creative confidence over the last few weeks. This time of the year can be challenging. May and June are quite stressful work-wise and then the speech and drama year stops quite suddenly. The switch from crisis mode to ‘what just happened’ can deliver quite a shock to the system and often puts me off-balance. Anyway, some positive interventions have helped to restore my equilibrium and the ideas have started to flow again.

This, which was a good idea, I think, didn’t quite work out. It’s worth coming back to and executing better in the future though …

I enjoyed thinking about this, planning it, and painting it. I’m pleased with the result …

Its translation to a teabag didn’t quite work out as well. I know what went wrong. I rushed it too. I’ll try it again …


I’ve written before about my inability to make watercolours work for me. I won’t give up on them because I love some of the effects you can produce with them, especially at the delicate end of the spectrum. I tried a thing this evening and I thought it was going to be OK but it turned out looking so crap that I won’t even put it up here.

I ended up just doodling and playing with water and pigment.

A friend sent me a YouTube link on acoustic guitar playing and it’s made me more determined than ever to learn to finger pick. I’m just going to choose a style and go for it. I reckon 10-15 minutes a day over the summer should give me a good start.

Speaking of acoustic guitars, the same friend brought me to a gig in Whelans on Tuesday. A band called Tir na nOg. Pioneers of a kind of progressive folk with an Irish flavour in the 1970s, out of the same sort of stable as Scullion. I can just about remember them. Two members, Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly, both in their late 60s. They played some beautifully mellow melodic music – very calming. Nice guys and lovely musicians too with amplified acoustics, using alternative tuning.

I need to go here …


Here’s some of the things I did this week.

I blogged …

Click on the pic to get to thebreakfastblog.ie

I bought some spray satin varnish in a sale in Evans. I was a little concerned that the gouache that I had used to paint on pebbles might fade over time or get damaged if something got spilled on it. So, I dealt with that this morning.

I did this this evening. I had previously used acrylic for something similar some months ago. I used gouache for this one. I wouldn’t be framing this, with its wonky moon and the harsh track of the light on the water, but I think that with another few goes I might have something quite pleasing.

This was just playing with new brushes and new paints this evening …

To be candid: it was a mixed week. Interesting in both good and not so good ways. Let’s just say I’m glad it’s over, and leave it at that.


There are a few more poppy-related things in progress but there are a few other ideas around.

The Rathgar horticultural show is coming up. It’s Christine’s gig really. She enters and wins baking competitions each year. One of the competitions, however, is for a bunch of garden grown herbs. I’ve seen the entries before and they are superb. But I thought that, if I had the time and could do it, I might try to display a few of our herbs in a creative way. I thought of plaiting a few sprigs of lavender and then inserting other herbs into the plaits. I don’t know whether it will work or not but it might be worth a try. Here’s a rough go at a lavender plait. Maybe I could do three of these and plait them together.

Ages ago, I was having a go at painting moonlight on the sea and I promised my step-sister that I’d do one for her. I’ve prepared these cards, two with black gouache (the two at the bottom) and two with Chinese ink )top left and right).

I also painted a piece of cardboard with Chinese ink (top centre). It looks quite promising because it dried with some interesting patterns on it. Anyway, that should keep me occupied for a few days.

… and Candles

I enjoy the process of making candles. It’s a bit like cooking with a bit of chemistry thrown in. I think that this is the first time I’ve made scented candles in painted tuna cans so … yay!

I may have explained before, there are various formulas used to calculate the amount of wax and the amount of fragrance to be used and then there are temperatures to be observed. Put the fragrance into wax that’s too hot and the fragrance will burn off. Pour the candles into the containers too hot or too cold and you run the risk of bubbles or shrinkage.

And there is a calculation to be made about the thickness of the wick. Too thin and the flame will be overwhelmed by the wax. Too thick and it’ll smoke.

Here they are, poured …

And, because I’m quite pleased with how I decorated the cans, here are some gratuitous pics …

Poppies and Bees

I’ve spent a lot of time on this idea.

I made a few poppies yesterday out of rice paper but they looked like poppy day poppies and that’s not really what I wanted. I’ve painted poppies in watercolour. Some weren’t bad but not really good enough.

Anyway, to cut a shortish story shorter, I went back to my tuna cans and trusty gouache.

Here’s my first go …

And here’s my second …

I feel a candle making session coming on.

Accidental Inspiration

Poppies and bees are in my head. I have a real need to represent them in some way. I’m working towards something but I’m not quite sure what or how. You’ll see me trying to work this out below.

This is hard. I have a real lack of skill in some areas. I’m not quite sure how to do some of the things I want to do. I’m experimenting. I’m off balance at the moment and a little too anxious also about being able to produce something that I’m going to be happy with.

This thing below is an envelope.

An albino bee, made from toilet paper and PVA glue in my office.

Miraculously coloured now, you’ll see my ex-albino bee half hiding under the poppy below. He’s hiding because his head is too big. I’m not sure which of us is more embarrassed by that fact. This is an experiment on a tuna can. I accidentally varnished my face when trying to stiffen the rice paper poppy petals.

This is a messy watercolour experiment. It’s messy on purpose, though.

Bees awaiting wings and colour … (These ones more accurately represent actual bee anatomy, and are made from that air dough stuff that I used before to make sea creatures. The toilet paper one above was more a loose interpretation of a bee.)


Sweat the Small Stuff

Sometimes it just grabs you. Inspiration or an urge. Happened this morning. Scrolling through Instagram. A little movie made by one of my favourite Instagrammers, @minortismay.

In a sped up video she painted small flowers and foliage, outlined them in black, cut them out and arranged them in a hand-drawn frame. She listed s few of her inspirations, among them @li.la.o. So looking at her page I found a little bunch of cut out flowers arranged in a paper wrapping. I decided to give it a go.

Yesterday, this arrived …

It’s a letterpress drawer, a relic from earlier times and Im going to use it as a display frame. Like this …


Work and work-related travel to Kerry over the last few days made it difficult to find either the time or the head-space for creativity. I did do something each day but it was minimal.

Having effectively worked everyday for the last 13 days, I’m a bit knackered to be honest but I really needed to spend some time today doing something other than work or thinking.

Lavender was in my head from my last post so I let it form the basis of today’s exercises.

On a teabag …

And on used tuna cans … (As I was doing this one I was thinking that the lavender sprigs were too small.)

But I’m quite pleased with this one …

It’s Father’s Day and the boys did me proud. A big breakfast from the young lad and a lovely bottle of wine from the older one. Thanks guys.

I Can Do This …

It always looks easy on YouTube or Instagram. An experienced artist demonstrates painting a leaf or a flower or a fruit. It seems effortless, as she builds up the painting from a pale outline, to an object with substance and depth.

The key word, of course, is ‘experienced’. I’m not, but I know that there are things that I can do better now than I could a year ago. And that the more one does something, the better one can become at it.

I am determined to become better at watercolours. It’ll take time.

I can do time. Although I can be impetuous, impatient and impulsive at times, if I really want something, I can be willing to take my time to achieve it. Sometimes the more time and effort one puts in, the more satisfying the achievement becomes.

Well, that’s a bit deep. All I want to do in this case is get a bit better at watercolours.

Here’s the start point. Lavender, in watercolour, flat and one-dimensional …

And in gouache, with a bit more depth and expression (ignore the stem and leaves, which are rubbish) …

So, my objective is to be able to achieve in watercolour something of the depth and substance I manage to achieve in gouache. (Although, to be honest, as anybody reading this blog will already know, I love painting with gouache. I’ll address the expressive nature of gouache in another post in due course.)


Another impulse purchase! But I was intrigued. I get the sense that until very recently watercolours came in two basic formats: the tube and the pan, the latter being a little box with a hard lump of stuff that, when wet, becomes paint. There is a new emphasis now on portability. And technology has played a part in this by being able to concentrate pigment into a number of different formats.

I was on Instagram recently and one of the people I follow, @minortismay, the inspiration, by the way, for the miniature floral wreaths, was demonstrating her art using what looked like a little booklet of flat colour shapes. The colours seemed to be pretty vibrant and easy to use. There was a link to the booklet in her post and an offer of a 15% discount to boot.

I followed the link to a company called Viviva, didn’t think about it much and bought one of the booklets. That was about a week or so ago, and the booklet arrived today, delivered to my office by our very friendly postal worker. It’s smaller than I thought it would be and it was made in, and delivered from India.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m not good with watercolours. Although I’d love to be able to get some sense out of them, I can’t seem to. It’s probably impatience on my part and an aversion to the discipline of practice. So, I’m constantly trying to find something that will shortcut that process and this little booklet is the latest something.

Here’s the booklet. The little discoloured blobs on some of the pages are where I’ve used it.

This is what I did this evening. Although it’s not great, I enjoyed using the booklet. The pigment is quite intense and the colours are vivid, although I had terrible trouble mixing the greens for some reason.

They are supposed to be sweet pea and lilac. I hope you guessed.

Then it did this with gouache on a pistachio shell to bring today’s artistic endeavours to a close.

Regular readers will know that I have shed blood for my art, mainly by jabbing knives and gouges into my hand and fingers. Well, yesterday I suffered another art-related injury when I fell down my stairs at home. I was walking downstairs, carrying a beaker in which I had just rinsed out some brushes and looking up, over my shoulder, at my jellyfish, hanging above the attic stairs, to see whether it was moving in the draught. I missed my step and, in a shower of pink water, fell backwards and landed heavily, with my back taking the brunt of the edge of a step. Ouch. Nothing broken I think, just a bruise and irritating pain.