The past few weeks have resembled those in lockdown, when I waited to receive the first proofs of my book. I was thrilled when they arrived and to see the great job done on the cover (I had four choices). One was particularly perfect for my story The (almost) true story of a man called Jack. But the hard work was far from over, as I now had the task of scrutinising the printed pages for any errors in the text, or any changes I wished to make to the proof. Before sending the manuscript to the print company I had gone over and over that MS, as well as having someone proof it a little earlier on in the process. Continue reading →
On our last afternoon in New Plymouth, we re-visited the Len Lye Centre, which sits within the Govett-Brewster Gallery building on Queen Street, to see the extra exhibits which weren’t on display the day we first went. We had hoped to also look inside the Govett-Brewster gallery, but it remained closed, preparing for re-opening once the Covid levels had lifted. The Len Lye Centre is as famous for its architecture as it is for the artist it is named after; innovative and fascinating in so many ways. Continue reading →
With our lockdown almost over, Kerry and I got busy organising the trip to New Plymouth we had planned months before we’d heard the word Covid. Now were were in level 2, the government was urging Kiwis to travel within their own country; to help kick-start our local tourism industry, which had suffered with the border restrictions to overseas visitors. New Plymouth is within the Taranaki province (the Naki to Kiwis) and has many attractions. The most famous being its superb mountain; a mountain I’d only spotted from a distant road, or when I’d flown over the cone capturing a terrific birds eye view in a photo. Meaning always to go and walk around the foothills – sometime. That time had arrived! Continue reading →
With Covid19 locking us in our homes for weeks it was good to finally get together with our art buddies again. We started the class last Saturday with several very quick pen sketches using a model. The aim being to keep the pen moving constantly on the page. This method is called continuous line, or contour. Although contour usually refers to the outline, continuous line allows you to move around and across the form. With both methods it is usual to look at the model and then the page. Blind contour, is when you look only at the model while you sketch. A challenge, as it’s so compelling to look down at your sketch. Continue reading →
Last week’s post, New Beginnings, was about my new writing project, although it was not the only new thing I embarked upon post-Covid lockdown. I am proud to say that I began a new job, as a volunteer worker at The Depot Artspace, a community art gallery in Devonport just down the road from me. It’s a great creative hub, where artists are encouraged to produce new and innovative pieces, whether it be photography, painting, sculpture or sound. They offer a professional development programme, publications, a recording studio, and a design studio. That’s quite something for a community enterprise. Continue reading →
Slowly the world shrugs awake outside my study window as people respond to the lifting of the Covid19 lockdown while I am at my desk staring at my computer wondering what to post this week. The daily sketching exercises have ended, I haven’t been anywhere for weeks, so there were no new places to write about, and hadn’t I written about about a long-ago trip last week? Something would come to me; it usually does. And it has. I have begun writing a new novel length piece of non-fiction. Continue reading →
Last week our tutor suggested we might sketch a wonder of the world as our weekly image for the group FB page. I immediately thought of The Great Wall of China. But heck, my visit there was back in 1997. A photograph. I knew there were one or two taken of me that hot day with the migraine and having to rest every few steps as we walked along that magnificent structure. They weren’t online, as all our photos are these days, so I raced off to ask my husband to help locate them. Oh my gosh. What a man. There all the photographs were from that year, in his study cupboard, the prints sandwiched neatly between their pertinent negatives. I was in awe. Let’s not mention my filing techniques here. Continue reading →
It may seem relatively simple to write a novel-length work, and send it to a publisher for the printing etc, and sit back and wait until – voila, there the book is, all newly minted and looking gorgeous. It’s not quite that simple for a memoir-style book which requires images as well as text and this was something I’d not thought too much about as I focussed on the writing. Continue reading →
Imagine life seven years after a virus (an electronic one, the Crash) has taken down all electronic services world-wide. So, no computers, no devices, no plane towers, no planes, power or petrol. The only access to food is to grow your own; the only way to get around is by foot, bicycle, boat, or horse. That’s the premise of Tina Shaw’s latest novel, Ephemera. Continue reading →
Yes, sketching a favourite bag was on the sketch list for April. I didn’t feel that motivated to sketch such an object but changed my mind later in the day when I came across my green bag. It is a made of soft leather; body and handle, and is different from other handbags, having a contrasting colour inside and a drawstring to pull it closed. It comes with a little story. Continue reading →
Clouds were on the list of suggested sketches we might do for the month of April. Great, I thought. Clouds just happen to be a favourite of mine to sketch, so I didn’t hesitate to start. I had captured a cloud scene on camera during the week, and when I viewed the image again, I knew that this sketch would be different. I had been sketching with pen and watercolour wash for most of the month, but I was pulled into a memory of a series of cloud drawings I had done many years before using only coloured pencil and graphite. I opened my boxes of polychromas pencils and selected the colours. I was in my happy place. Continue reading →
Sketching the cover of the book you are currently reading was on the list of suggestions that our sketch tutor gave us, to keep students busy while in lockdown for a month. It’s been a great motivator, and occupation, while (mostly) confined to our homes. Continue reading →
There are several artists who post on WordPress whose work I admire and follow. One such person is Chris, who recently moved house and stacked some favourite paintings and art folders by her door while she attended to a problem. Unfortunately the paintings were stolen and she was distraught. I can’t imagine how horrible that would have been. Other followers and I sent messages of condolence. Chris posted that at least her folder of drawings was spared, and showed images of two beautiful pastel drawings of angels which she’d done some years before.
Tony, the tutor of the travel sketching classes I attend, sent out a page of suggestions for daily sketches to keep us busy, as we cannot attend classes right now. I took a week to produce my first sketch; the figs I posted about last time. The tea cup, which was actually first on his list, I was keen to do next. I love nice china, and think a cup of tea tastes so much better sipped from such a cup. I seldom use tea bags as I prefer the flavour of leaf tea. Combine the two, add a friend to share the pot, and the experience of sipping a cup of tea is even better. Add a piece of homemade shortbread and – perfection. Continue reading →
Following last week’s post, I began wondering what I would write for the next. I usually like to ‘mix and match’ the content of my posts to keep my interest up, and hopefully that of my followers. But this week, for me (and everyone else), it has been a week so different and unplanned that it has been hard to think of writing longer succinct pieces of writing on any subject. So, while this ‘isolating’ in our homes settles into a pattern, and I can begin thinking of something other than the covid-19 virus, I shall be posting one sketch at time and tell you the story attached to each. Continue reading →
Since my last post much has changed for myself and my family. The Covid-19 virus has shut down the New Zealand we have known. I had thought that two granddaughters were coming from Melbourne to stay for the holidays, and I’d be taking them places, enjoying their company. I was looking forward to that. This week I’ve been self-isolating as I am someone who has a couple of auto-immune conditions, and I’m not as young as I think I am. I shall be shopping online for our food from now on, but that’s okay. I feel fortunate that I have many interests, such as reading, writing and art, which will keep me well-occupied over the next month or more. Continue reading →
Well, did I make the 100 sketches in a week? I’m afraid not. Yesterday was day 7 of the challenge and I didn’t have a sketch left in me. My grand total was 87, and although I was just 13 away from the 100 target, yesterday I just needed a rest. I feel good about my decision, and as a result I feel considerably more refreshed today. I also chose not to post my sketches on the Facebook page for this oneweek100people challenge, as I realised early on that I am just happy to be out sketching, and that I didn’t need to compete with zillions of others who were racing to reach the 100 mark. Continue reading →
What a difference a day makes, as the song goes, and Day six of my sketch challenge was certainly the best sketching day of the week. The Saturday sketch group that I am part of met at a different venue this week: Britomart, Auckland’s central train station. Our tutor Tony was continuing to look at one-point perspective, in relation to trains stopped at the terminus, as well as sketching people on the platform. I had told Tony about the sketch 100 people challenge, so that would be my focus. But first … Continue reading →
I have to admit I am very tired and achieved even fewer sketches on Day five than on the previous four. Although I do realise this challenge is self-imposed and not a ‘do or die’ commitment. I entered this challenge to get me outside sketching, as often I am absorbed by writing, which means that I am inside at my computer too much. However, I had many other commitments on day five, and going out and about wasn’t possible, so I rustled up some images from sketchers I had on my computer, and sat at my desk – yes, inside. Continue reading →
Today just didn’t pan out I had wished. A bad sleep. A morning meeting. But I did do two contour sketches in pen (from photos) before I left for my second attempt at finding people at the ferry terminal. And what a beautiful day it was for walking. Oops, bumped into a friend and accepted the invite for a cup of tea. At least we chatted about sketching. Continue reading →
Day Three, a late start. Travelling a little further from home to Brown’s Bay beach. Kerry had a dental examination, and told me I had ’15 minutes’ to get to the beach and do some sketching. Okay. I was onto it pronto, and practically sprinted to the grassed area beside the shore. A rain shower had just passed over and I spotted a woman with an umbrella walking. Out with the art gear. She was moving quite slowly down the beach and I tracked her with my pencil. Next a man and another woman walking the opposite direction. Not my best sketches ever, but hey, I got something down. Continue reading →
Day two of my sketch 100 people challenge proved rather amusing. I set off walking swinging my art bag, after doing a quick pen sketch (above) from a photo. I was keen as mustard to get going. I had hoped to sketch a friend, but she wasn’t home. Okay; next on the plan was to visit the ferry building – always crowds of people there. Good idea, except the ferry had just departed. No commuters in sight. Right, there were a few visitors hanging about outside, so I pulled out my sketch pad and just managed to get one man in before he moved off. Oh, good, two people at the bus stop. Better than nothing I thought. Continue reading →
I decided last week to take up the challenge of sketching 100 people in a week. Day one was Monday. It is now Tuesday, and I decided that I would write about this experience as I go. I first saw the challenge advertised on Suhita Shirodkar’s site and knew that she and many other sketchers had taken up the #oneweek100people# challenge a few times in the past. I thought ‘well, why not give it a go’. It would make me work fast, not allow me to get bogged down with too much detail, so I joined up to do this crazy thing. Continue reading →
Last week in art class we did an exercise on one point perspective. We were to practice the rudiments of eye-level-line / horizon line, and the point to which other lines travel. In short, perspective drawing. The word perspective may intimidate new sketchers. But perspective is really just a word which suggests that there are different ways of looking. And as artists, that is the most important thing we can learn.
It is some time since I wrote about critique groups (post March 2018), so thought you might like to read a more recent article I wrote for an independent publishing house on what new writers might expect from a critique group. I still belong to a writing group and continue to enjoy the process of having others read, listen to, and give feedback on my work. Writing can be a lonely occupation and it is good to mix with others who share similar interests. Continue reading →
This exquisite photograph comes from a book I’ve owned since 2000. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, by Isabel Alcántara and Sandra Egnolff.
Even before I was gifted this book I had read much about Frida, and greatly admired the Mexican artist and her work. Her story is one of triumph over tragedy. Or maybe that should read ‘triumph through tragedy’, for Frida may not have become a painter if she hadn’t suffered a dreadful accident at the age of eighteen, which left her bedridden for long periods of time. Continue reading →
In the run up to the start of my travel-sketching class, I have been trying to complete a sketch a day. Drawing daily used to be effortless, but now, I seem to need more motivation to get started. I have managed to get some sketches done and thought I’d show that I can sometimes walk the talk. As I have a very nice room, set up for both writing and art, I thought I’d take objects I like and sketch them at the worktable in there. Continue reading →
I may have not read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante if my friend Liz hadn’t passionately recommended it to me. I was down at the library to borrow it immediately. My reasons for haste were because I was going to stay with her in a couple of weeks and I wished to be prepared for the discussion about books and writing I knew we would have. Liz and I met as young teens, at school in the sixties, two clever but disaffected kids. Not unlike Lia and Lenù the main characters in Ferrante’s book, the first in her Neapolitan series, Book One: Childhood, Adolescence.Continue reading →
Auckland skies the week before leaving (photo not altered)
This was a long-planned trip to visit family in Australia but I was not filled with the usual mounting excitement. Our skies in Auckland reflected the awful reality of the fires burning over there, made all the more alarming given that New Zealand is over 3000 kilometres away. For days we had viewed flames ripping through communities in several parts of Australia, leaving utter devastation in their wake. And loss of life. Although we were heading north of the worst affected areas, there had been fires reported close to Toowoomba, near where my youngest lives. With assurances from her, that the area was quite safe apart from a smokey atmosphere, we flew to Brisbane, the closest International airport. Continue reading →
This post is going to be amazingly short for, as many of you will know, I have done nothing for weeks but write. However, last week, with the end of my draft in sight, I took a break to quickly sketch my Japanese-inspired bowl. Continue reading →
Art appears to be on my agenda this year, thanks in the main to Tony McNeight who runs sketch groups locally. In the past I have dipped in and out of these classes when time allows and he is amenable to my dropping in. The watercolour and pencil sketch above was done, when I joined a Saturday class at the local Ngataringa Community Gardens for a sketch session and Christmas wind-up. I made an early New Years’ pledge that day to join his classes for a term. I start mid-February. My intentions to sketch regularly did not reach the mark in 2019. Let’s hope I do better in 2020.
For the record, I am on track with my writing, and am pleased about completing my most hefty resolution from last year. Apart from seeing the book come into being, the other resolutions for this year are to finish as many unfinished projects as I can. I am always impressed by the work I see others on-line achieve; so please keep blogging about your art, travel and writing, as you all give me inspiration.
I would have written more posts of an arty nature if I hadn’t been so busy keeping to a different kind of writing deadline. For those new to my posts, I began a story about my father a couple of years back and I was never diligent in keeping to the schedules I set myself. Well, finally I decided that enough was enough (see my post, Deadlines, Oct 25th). Yes, it’s true, an amazing thing, for I have been keeping to that self-set deadline, of finishing the draft of a novel by mid-January. I have found the going sluggish at times, not with the writing itself, but with the research and detail I need to keep this story authentic. Continue reading →
It is two years since we moved to our apartment in Devonport, a village at the end of a peninsular across from Auckland, where ferries, tankers, cruise ships and yachts fill the watery divide. It is a moving spectacle. Daily, I look out at the scene thinking how lucky I am to be living here. I am also lucky to have met the people I have since arriving. On Sunday 1st December we held an early Christmas party, as is our custom, and invited many of them to our home, plus others we have known a long time. Continue reading →
As Christmas approaches, I attend to jobs that need finishing in order for me to complete my gift-giving. My sewing machine had long needed a service; it’s almost as old as me. But even old things can still be good (yeah!), and my machine is a good example. What stories it could tell… from sewing baby clothes to teenagers’ dresses, to shorts and shirts for my son, until he learned to sew on my machine and made baggy shorts for himself, and covers for his surfboard. Continue reading →
The past weeks have seen various family members come and go, each group staying a few days, making for a very busy time. This has meant, however, my ideas for new posts have been like jelly waiting to set. That was, until yesterday, when I was invited to join another of Tony McNeight’s sketching classes, the subject, linking typography with watercolour sketches. He asked me to bring something to sketch which held a special meaning. Continue reading →
I read Owls Do Cry by New Zealander Janet Frame (1924-2004) when I was in my twenties. Not that that is remarkable. What is remarkable is her personal story, which translates into fiction through much of her work, and this novel is no exception. The setting is the coastal town of Oamaru where the ‘Withers’ family face many hardships, including money problems, mental health issues, a disabled child, death, and grief. It is a profound book, touching and disturbing, for when Frame writes about ‘Daphne’s’ experiences in psychiatric hospitals, she is speaking of herself. There are passages which float between the lucid and the wild but Janet Frames’ writing carries the reader into these worlds using unique and brilliant prose. Continue reading →
The week started well. I kept to the deadlines I’d set myself regarding my story: meeting with the editor, sending her the ‘almost ‘finished’ manuscript and continuing to write, write, write. I set my deadline for finishing the entire MS too, just eight weeks away from the day of meeting. After a week of writing I decided to work on my painting; just for a day. I opened the ‘how to’ art book at the page which suggested ways to achieve tonal values. The best option for beginners was to use one colour, mixed with white. I chose Sap Green, mixed it with white and thinned the paints with linseed oil. The addition of Phtalo Blue was a personal inspiration. Continue reading →
Deadlines are something usually associated with the workplace, school or universities. Who hasn’t sweated to complete an assignment or task on a specific day? Those days were over, I thought, when I began writing to suit myself, when I could apply my own rules to the short stories, or novels I wished to produce. This worked, for a while, but when I was no longer in the paid workplace, or engaged in study, I found that the earlier discipline I’d applied to both my art and writing, was lacking. Continue reading →
“Everyone should read this,” my friend Betty said, handing me a book she’d been telling me about. I glanced at the tile The Choice, noted it was an International Best Seller, and immediately slotted it in the popular novel category I mostly stayed away from. “It really is worth reading,” she emphasised, no doubt sensing my scepticism. I needed something to take my mind off my husband’s illness and my stressed state, so thanked her for the read and left.
That night, I couldn’t sleep and began reading The Choice. The author, Edith Eger, is a Holocaust survivor, but before I reach that part of her story, the introduction has captured me. Continue reading →
It really was a week of extreme contrasts and I wondered if I’d be able to get a post out at all for a couple more weeks. The story goes something like this, beginning and ending on a Sunday, the day I left for Rarotonga and the day I returned home with my two oldest children. Rarotonga is a small popular island in the Cook Islands and the stay was ultra relaxing.
A silly selfie
While my son worked, my daughter and I walked, paddled in the lagoon and lay on the sand watching palm trees sway overhead. We drank cocktails, ate way too much and had a thoroughly good time. The only minor negative was the dozen roosters cockadoodledoodling at four am as they chased their girls around the yard. We were staying inland near the hills which were often shrouded in misty rain. We looked out onto lush plants, palms and grass, and the aforementioned roosters. It was the perfect place to relax, after our terrible time lounging or walking beside the sea. Watching others on their paddle boards or snorkelling was also quite fun.Continue reading →
A few months back I did a pencil portrait of myself, and was pretty pleased with the results. I wrote a blog about that process at the time. More recently, while in London, I visited the Portrait Gallery, as they run the BP annual portrait competition and exhibit the short-listed paintings, and winners. I liked many of the paintings, but there was something special about Frances Borden’s work that appealed to me: the (seeming) simplicity of the composition, and the bold choice of colour. “I think I’d like to try a self-portrait in oils,” I told my husband, buying a postcard of the work from the gallery gift shop on the way out. Continue reading →
I know many authors who have tried publishing their writing through various online sources, and have found the experience, difficult, tedious and frustratingly slow. It needn’t be that way.
It is my pleasure this week to welcome guest blogger Holly Dunn, who works in the world of writing, books, and independent publishing. She is just the person to help if you are thinking about publishing a book, whether it be a novel, short stories, essays, memoirs … Continue reading →
As I’ve mentioned before, I can get stuck with what I know when it comes to sketching, but nothing beats joining an art group from time to time and just going with ‘the flow’, literally. On the last two Saturday afternoons I attended Tony McNeight’s class in the teaching block close to my home. Centre table was a large striped vase filled with silk flowers and dotted around were a bundle of twigs, and numerous pots of coloured ink. ‘Mm’ the class said. Continue reading →
The post I planned for this week was going to be about my process of executing a self portrait in oils – a first for me. That will happen, it is just that I needed to attend to a far more important matter, another first, which involved helping my friend Gabby decorate clothes-peg dolls, for an extremely important cause. Continue reading →
Frances Hodgkins was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1869 and died in England in 1947. Last weekend the exhibition, Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys finished its run at the Auckland Art Gallery. I made sure I saw the exhibits, over 150 in all, as this artist has been a trail-blazer for the many female New Zealand artists who have followed. This particular artist stands out from the crowd because she forged an art career at a time when the art world was completely male-dominated. Frances Hodgkins left her birthplace for Europe in 1901 at a time when just a handful of women travellers were experiencing the world. What made Hodgkins different from those women was not mere travel to exotic countries, but her personal mission of becoming an artist of international repute. Continue reading →
I do love drawing fountains, ones with figures spouting water in particular take my fancy. The first I drew was a few years ago when I happened to be in Prato, Italy. It was summer, and hot. My husband was at a conference, so I had time to sit and sketch. But when I found my subject, the sun beat down, my hands got sweaty, and I was forced to close my sketchbook. Back home, with the aid of a good photo I drew the cherub-like fountain feature above. It now hangs on the wall of my study. Continue reading →
This was the question friends asked when I mentioned I was going there. And now since visiting, I can answer this question more definitively for them. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. Any the wiser? I thought not, because until recent times it made up one of the two states of Czechoslovakia, and only in 1993 did Bratislava become the capital of the newly formed Slovak Republic, with the Czech Republic being the other part of that change. So? Where is it? Continue reading →
I have already mentioned how much I enjoyed Madeleine Thien’s book Do Not Say We Have Nothing (see post 29 July) but what it stirred in me was not just the plight of its characters and the awful choices they had to make, but the strength of the love which bound people together despite their dire circumstances. It reminded me of a novel that someone I know intimately wrote a few years ago, but left untouched, as she struggled to think of a way to correct the structure. Continue reading →
In May, after leaving Seville and the sketch group, we travelled on to Córdoba. The city was old and quite lovely, with streets so narrow our taxi almost scraped the walls. We turned into a square and stopped in front of our modern hotel. I was impressed. My husband less so, when I took the invitation to ‘upgrade’ our room. Boy, what a room. King-size bed, windows and balcony; I had no regrets about my decision, after the dingy, and rather stinky room at our last stop. However, it is not our hotel, or the wonderful churches, and artisan stores which surrounded our hotel, that I wish to dwell on here, but a different part of the city where we ventured. Continue reading →
‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’ is not a title supported by my new bookends, sadly enough, but it was on loan from my book group. The author of this moving novel is Canadian Madeleine Thien, and I am pleased that I was given the opportunity to read her work.