Consuming and Doing

Yesterday I bought some art.

Nine or ten years ago I bought a painting by Isobel Henihan. It’s a lightship moored in Dun Laoghaire harbour beside the lifeboat.

I loved it then and I still love it now. I particularly love the reflection of the lightship on the water and, of course, the Dun Laoghaire connection. I kept a look out for Isobel’s paintings since then but I understand that in the intervening period she was kept busy with motherhood.

She’s recently become active again with what I think is a new burst of energy and confidence. I follow her on Instagram and so I get to see new drawings and paintings as they emerge. (She follows me too and has been very generous to me with her likes.)

Late last week she put up a small painting that I fell in love with. It’s a view from Sandymount Strand across to the Pigeon House chimneys. It’s got great movement, energy and freshness and the sky is boldly represented. On Saturday, I went to the Doorway Gallery on South Frederick Street (another place with an emotional resonance – it’s where my dad’s office was) and bought it. No hesitation. It’s even more dramatic in real life. It’s currently with Bernard of Terenure Framers, but here’s a pic of it.

I also bought a print yesterday and you’ll see a recurring theme here. To me, the Pigeon House chimneys are Dublin, much more than any other structure I can think of. And it struck me recently that I don’t have anything on the wall that features them.

Susan Early is a print artist that I like. Many of her themes resonate with me strongly: Dun Laoghaire, lighthouses, Sligo. I bought one of her prints a year or so ago. It’s of the five lighthouses one passes leaving Dublin Port: North Wall, Poolbeg, Bull Wall, Baily and Kish. I love her detail and sense of atmosphere.

This is what I bought yesterday …

Happy with my pictures

Today, I tried a little crochet with string …

Used puffy paint (not very well) on a pebble …

Made some things out of air dry modelling clay I bought yesterday in Sostrene Grene …

Later I’ll try to remind myself how to play the guitar, something I’ve been a bit lazy about recently.

Tick. Tick …

Ticking over. Making stuff. Drawing. Dreaming. Keeping busy. That’s important. Keeping busy.

Carrying on crocheting. Getting the hang of the hook action but dealing with the ends of the rows is a bit of a nightmare. I’ll get the hang of it in time, I’m sure.

In Vienna, near the Hundertwasser Haus, there was a shop with some very cute ornaments hanging on a piece of beautiful Indian embroidered patchwork.

I’m having a go at the birds …

I’ll paint it when it’s dry.

Then. Teabags and pens.

That’s all.


This morning, I was reflecting on beta-blockers. They were referred to in the book I’m reading at the moment, as having been prescribed to counter feelings of anxiety.

Some years ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I was prescribed some medication designed to lower it. The medication made my ankles swell up and, when I reported this to my GP, he reduced the dose and prescribed beta-blockers to be taken in addition. Previously, I had only heard of beta-blockers as something that snooker players took to help steady their cue hands. The combination of medications was effective in lowering my blood pressure and I thought nothing more of it.

This was around 2015 and I did notice subsequently that I had slowed down a bit. I didn’t seem to have much energy. I’d fall asleep in front of the TV or find myself staring into space in work. I put this down to getting older.

Following a procedure to address some atrial fibrillation I’d been having, another doctor altered my prescription in late 2017, lowering my dose of beta-blockers. Well, my goodness, it was like being poked in the face with a sharp stick and I haven’t looked back. The fog of indolence lifted and I felt as if I had twice the energy that I had before. And so it is to this day and hopefully for the foreseeable future.

There ARE downsides. Too much thinking, sometimes obsessively. Not enough sleep. Some anxiety and hyperactivity. Occasional frustration and impatience. Stressing over unimportant issues. Throwing things and shouting (but not at other people, I hasten to add). Putting the energy to good use by, for example, engaging in creative stuff, helps to counteract some of these, however. I rarely achieve calm though, unless I become absorbed in an alternative activity. That can get a bit wearing, to be honest, and occasionally I crash.

That’s got nothing to do with the stuff I’ve been doing in the last few days. I just wanted to get those thoughts out of me and on to a page.

I saw this on Instagram and decided to have a go. I drew a heart shape, some leaves and flower shapes, cut them out with a sharp knife and laid them on top of a contrasting background. Quite a nice effect and easy enough to do.

In the last post, I mentioned that I had made a bags of a macrame bracelet. So I made another one. I kept away from the superglue this time and so the slip knot slips in the correct manner.

I haven’t done any wood carving for ages. One of the reasons is that I’m not very good at sharpening tools and some of them are a bit blunt. The guy who runs the firm I bought my carving axe from, Robin Wood (yes, I know!), suggested making sanding/sharpening blocks out of wood and very fine gauge sandpaper. I bought the sandpaper in Halfords ages ago, but I only got around to buying the wood to make the blocks with on Friday. So I made the sanding blocks today. Here’s the process …

Yesterday I popped into Evans art supply shop and bought a few tubes of Holbein Acryla Gouache. Just black and white. One of the properties of gouache is that, once dry, it can be reactivated very easily by water or other paint. One consequence of this is that if you paint a light colour on a dark background, the paint can mix and become muddy. Acryla gouache doesn’t reactivate.

Finally, on holiday, I started doing some sketches in a journal I keep to record the arty stuff I been doing. You’ll have noticed the lined paper on which some recent paintings have been done. I like doing this. Much of the art I’ve done over the last year is scattered randomly in my attic so doing them in the journal keeps everything in order and means I can track my progress, in painting anyway. Also, it makes the journal more interesting to review.

Here’s today’s page, with the writing ‘artfully’ blurred.

This morning, as well as thinking about beta blockers, I thought, pretty randomly, about the chef Ken Hom and wondered what had become of him. In the gym later, I happened to glance at one of the few remaining TVs and, what do you know, there he was, cooking stuff. I wrote about co-incidences recently and paying attention to them. There was the weirdest string of them at the start of last week. Too complicated to explain but ultimately, positive.

I’m off to adjust my chakras.


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.



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.


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.


The spirit is willing but the skills are weak. They’ll get better. I know they will. A bit of discipline and plenty of practice. I’m a bit disappointed that this is not better than it is but I know what’s wrong with it.

This, I like. It’s not an original idea. I’ve seen roses done this way before. This particular working is copied from Gemma Black, a calligrapher who puts her stuff up on Instagram. The only change I made is to paint it with gouache on black paper. It could be neater but it’s grand.

I did my fingerpicking practice on the guitar and, for the first time in a few months, I played the ukulele. It took a while to get the chord fingering right but after a few songs I was flying. It made a nice change from the guitar.