A great idea does not always deliver a great outcome

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Hebei province by BenBenW licensed CC BY 2.0

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

A deviation from the usual

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cordoba hotel

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

What should have been on my bookshelf.

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‘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.

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Domestic sketches

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To wind up this series of what I found in my art folders I have decided to show some  sketches – people, plants, animals, and objects – which I drew in and around my house. I have always loved using graphite pencil and this aluminium teapot was a perfect object to draw, given its shape and sheen. I really like the contrast of light and cast shadow. I must have placed the teapot near the edge deliberately so the curve of the table showed in the composition. Continue reading

Writing for children

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I came across more illustrations in one of my art pads; images I planned as part of a children’s picture book called Toby and the Tuatara. (see above). As in Flora’s story (2 posts back), I forwarded this work to a publisher. Again, there was praise for my illustrations, and a polite reason as to why the story did not fit their ‘lists’. I was subdued, maybe a little sad, that my stories were not considered good enough for publication. But did I let it bug me? Continue reading

Finding more than I bargained on

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As a pulled art pad after art pad from my folder and turned the leaves, I smiled, laughed and occasionally grimaced. I found sketches of my children, pets, and articles from around the house. The more I looked the more I realised the stories I’d been telling through my art. One story was perfectly clear. Continue reading

More discoveries from the art trove

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A few years ago, my husband and I lived for a year in Hong Kong, in an apartment on the Chinese University campus in Shatin.  I looked for something to do with my time while my husband was teaching and began tutoring children after school in drawing skills. One fourteen-year-old girl was passionate about art, and she was a delight to have around. Flora was already very skilled in traditional watercolour, but wished to extend her drawing knowledge. The reason? She was also passionate about cats and brought a different cat book from the library when we met on a Friday. Every day she drew a cat at the top of her diary page, and Friday was no exception. Flora’s aim: to draw every cat species she could.  Continue reading

Coming across some old friends

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charcoal 2I  have accumulated many sketches over the years; some in notebooks, on scraps of paper, in art pads and folders. Some work is good, some bad and the rest indifferent. And that isn’t all of it, when moving, I made the bold choice to give work away, or throw it out. Recently I decided to go through a folder or two, to see if I found anything interesting.  These drawings had stories attached to them; some had sold and I only had photos of the originals, but many were tucked away, waiting for me to show them the light of day. It was nice, dipping into my past and meeting old friends.

For some years I concentrated on doing life studies, using my own models, working in a studio above my garage. I used Anita, who was great to work with,   on many occasions, mostly drawing the whole form each time.  I used  charcoal pencil and willow stick on Grumbacher paper in the image above.

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A bolt of love from the blue

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I have been writing a story for sometime now about my father, John Frederick Lingard Fowlds, who died when I was a teen. He never got to know how I, or my brothers and sister turned out as adults, or ever got to meet any of our children, and grandchildren. I began writing his story, fictionalised to some degree, to give the wider family some idea of what kind of person he was. Writing about him has been relatively easy, as he was a funny, warm and loveable man. Very artistic too. The hard part is the loss I still feel for him after so long, and maybe the reason I am taking so long to write his story, is that I don’t wish to lose him again. Continue reading

With a little help from my friends

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Sketch Spain group

Sketch Spain group

This post is about others –  the other sketchers whom I was lucky to spend time with on my recent trip to Spain. Why was I lucky? Because I learned rather a lot from them. The group may be surprised by this statement, as many are new-comers to sketching and are rather modest about their outcomes. But they have an approach to their sketching, that I, as a long-standing ‘sketcher’ lack. Continue reading

Third stop: Seville and Flamenco

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From my sketchbook

The contrasting landscape heading to Seville was amazing: cypress trees dark against earthen buildings, scruffy pine-nut trees, tiny old huts, and fields; where grapes replaced orange trees, then olives, as the train sped past. Undulating hills, the soil darkening to a burnt sienna and white houses with orange tiled roofs. A change back to orange groves as we neared Seville, sun-touched and golden. What a warm welcome. Continue reading

Second stop Valencia

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It was a peaceful 3hr train ride from Barcelona to Valencia, which gave me time to sketch the orange tree (above), abundant with Valencia oranges – naturally. I looked about the carriage, and saw most of the group head-down sketching, or colouring their work, assiduously. It has become clear that Tony’s enthusiasm for sketching has caught on. Continue reading

First stop Barcelona

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Barcelona map

It’s taken a few days to clear the brain-fog which often happens after long-haul flights. Factor in a one and a half hour’s flight, a seven hour stopover, a seven hour flight, a two hour stopover, a final sixteen-hour flight, and you’ll have some idea of why I couldn’t get my post out sooner. However, here I am, back in New Zealand and inviting you to share a little of my experiences of sketching in three Spanish cities, beginning with Barcelona, a city made famous by Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) for his unique take on Catalan Modernism architecture.  Continue reading

Reading someone new to me

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My husband bought this book for me, having read a review online praising the writer. I have read many collections of short stories in my time, including the likes of  Katherine Mansfield, Doris Lessing, John Steinbeck, Janet Frame, Raymond Carver, and Alice Munro. Until I unwrapped the book and read the cover, this was the first time I’d met  the author. Continue reading

Keeping the practice up for Sketch Spain

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Barcelona doves

Come next Monday, I shall be making my way to Barcelona, and embarking on a daily sketching sojourn in several cities. This prospect has made me slightly nervous, as well as excited, as I endeavour to keep my sketching practice up. My aim is to be as fluid as I can with my line, and use of colour. Last week, I attended two  workshops; both with live models, but each very different from the other. I knew that we were going to be covering animals in the first class, but expected that we would be working from photographs. I was rather taken aback when a rather large, although handsome tan and white boxer dog (Walter), was led into the room.  Continue reading

An approach to portraits

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After doing a recent quick ‘selfie’ portrait, I sifted through some old art folios, in which I found a few very different images of myself.  Two were pencil drawings, and the other a quick sketch in acrylic on paper. Over the years I’ve executed many portraits, in pastel, pencil and paint; some done as teaching tools, some commissions, and others as part of children’s book illustration. rbt

 

 

With all portraits, and all figures come to that, I have generally used the same techniques to plot the sketch. But the most important technique of all does not involve pencil or paint. To become accurate with any portrait, you must look. Seems obvious? I am talking about really seeing here: the shape of the head, the face; whether it is thin, long, wide, plump. Is the skin tone fair, or dark? All these features need to be observed before a pencil makes a mark. And, then comes the hair. Is it dark, light, thick, wavy, straight? Is it wispy, framing the face? When you are becoming to know the person, it comes the time to select your tools (pencils in this case). It does help if you already know your model too. Continue reading

Recapturing the passion for art

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fshbtyMonday I was back to the travel sketching class, where the focus was on people. People, faces, bodies, used to be my thing, but not consistently practising these skills has shown a gap in what I know I can achieve and what comes out on the paper. I cannot blame the pen. I have chased another passion (creative writing), too much, and let my art skills languish. By coming to classes, I hoped to renew the passion I’d once held for art.

The first sketch, was fine: a self portrait sketched from a phone ‘selfie’. I’d certainly not done that before, although I had done a few self portraits using the old-style reflection in a mirror. Luckily I happened to have a recent phone selfie, showing off my new glasses, as I could imagine the ten photos I’d have to take in class to get one I remotely liked. Continue reading

Facing the unthinkable in New Zealand

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This week’s post is far from my usual offerings, as last Friday in New Zealand we were subjected to our worst fears: a right-wing racially-bigoted man shot at and killed fifty of us; among them men, women and children. This twenty-eight year old man went into two mosques in quick succession and opened fire with semi-automatic weapons and mowed worshippers down.

New Zealand is a small country, in size and population and up until last Friday, we had been considered a peaceful, fair-minded and friendly society. We do not have a culture of toting guns (including the general police force), and most of us would never have seen a gun, let alone held one in our hands. Guns, we thought, were the domain of farmers, hunters, special police force, the military, and countries other than ourselves.

We are not however, so naive that we close our eyes to the gun culture within our gangs, or have we been immune from the trauma of other gun-associated deaths; but these happenings, although horrific, are not generally committed by someone with a skewed ideology and an inherent hatred for those different from themselves. The man who walked into the mosques last week, had come to New Zealand intent on carrying out this heinous crime.

As a child, my parents hosted a Hungarian family who were escaping troubled times in their home country.  They arrived in New Zealand with little more than the clothes they wore. This family was welcomed in by the small community in which we lived. The local Anglican congregation rallied around to find toys and clothes for the children, help the father find work, and a home. This is what I remember.

We had long welcomed other cultures into New Zealand and I was proud that my father had friends from India, Italy, France and Hong Kong. My mother taught new Dutch immigrants in her classes. This is what I remember.

To say our country is in grief, sums up the collective pall which hangs over us.  Many of us have tears in our eyes.

Despite this, our country has rallied together, schools have held concerts, performed haka, sung their hearts out for the families who have lost so much. Others have written messages, left flowers, attended memorials, donated money. It seems we still have a lot more to give. This is what I’ll remember.

Kia kaha

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Sketch Spain preparation

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The map I began two weeks back has made some progress forward, and although not quite finished, it is fairly much there. I decided to make a legend/key to off-set the Devonport map I’d begun, shown in an earlier blog. See below, the pen and aquarelle pencil icons which I have numbered but still have to name.

map pics

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One arty day in Villefranche

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Villefranche-sur-mer, on the Côte  d’Azur

It is always interesting how one idea can trigger off others, and writing about travel diaries got me to thinking about the major unfinished travelogue of mine, which is idling on my computer. I have salved my conscience a little, by uplifting some passages from the longer story and posting them in various blogs. This post is adding to that list, and shall focus on a single day in Villefranche-sur-mer and a fleeting look at some of its art.

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Travel diaries past and future

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Diane and I @ Parc Guell

I am to be visiting Spain in April, for a second time. Last time I went with an old  friend to attend a month’s teaching course in Barcelona. I loved Barcelona and had always contemplated a return. When I learned late last year of a 2019 Sketch Spain trip, I didn’t need any persuasion to add my name to the list. My husband is coming with me this time, with his camera, while I shall join a small group of sketchers. To build some impetus, and ideas for how I’d approach my travel diary, I joined Tony McNeight’s class for a map-drawing exercise as he thought this a good way to familiarise oneself with a new place. We were to emulate a schematic drawing of Devonport, using any style we wished, though keeping to the preferred mediums of watercolour and ink (see at end of blog). Continue reading

Solu Khumbu

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Taken by me in the foothills of the Himalayas

As I wrote a recent post about trekking on Stewart Island, I mentioned my old boots, which brought up memories of the time I had worn them trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas, over twenty years earlier! That got me thinking of that month in Nepal.  It was my first journey to a country far from home; a country where I would be the foreigner speaking a different tongue. I had dreamed of such a journey since childhood. As an adult, I wished to challenge my status quo, and when the opportunity presented itself to visit this eastern kingdom, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. Continue reading

A southern experience: part two

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st Island sketch

The weather changed to wild winds and rain on our last day on Stewart Island. Foveaux Strait was difficult even in fine weather; but foul? There was nothing to do but wait. So, I sat for a while sketching the view out the window, hoping the small plane would not be grounded come morning. My husband and I were continuing on to The Catlins, a stunning coastal region, with wildlife, native bush, and splendid beaches we were itching to explore. Continue reading

A southern experience: part one

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View of Oban – images courtesy K. Chamberlain

It was my first trip to our most southern coast and to Stewart Island, a place as famous for the straits which lay between the departure point of Invercargill and the island. The trip over in small plane, however, was superb. To be able to see from a bird’s perspective – just amazing. Stewart Island was everything I thought it would be, from its beaches, bush, Oban’s iconic hotel, the hospitality and the superb fresh blue cod. Then there was the visit to Ulva Island, the three day Rakiura walk, a free day and the return flight to Invercargill. Plus, we had four days outside this in The Catlins. How could I fit all of my stories in just one blog? Continue reading

My Japanese New Year

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My sketch of me in kimono

After writing my last blog about Japanese author Murakami, I was taken back to memories of my time living in Japan. One outstanding memory for me is the time I spent with Japanese friends during the important New Year festival of Shogatsu. This occasion is shared equally between Japan’s two most common religions; Buddhism and Shinto. I was very fortunate to be invited to stay with these friends in order to experience first-hand some of the most revered and long-lasting rituals which take place at Japanese New Year. Continue reading

Murakami

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Haruki Murakami

I have begun the year reading through the backlog of books which has been accumulating beside my bed. One I was keen to get to was the hefty tome of Haruki Murakami’s recent book, Killing Commendatore. But I let it sit, while I read one of his I’d been given earlier as a birthday present; Men without women. This book features seven short stories, plucked from various collections. It contained the wonderful prose and  wit, which I’d come to love from this great Japanese author. I have read a number of his novels and have kept all the titles I’ve read.  However, If I hadn’t been given a publication of his as a present years ago, I doubt that I’d have plucked one from a shelf. I like reality, the known; whereas Murakami is unafraid of having his characters venture into very different realms, and he has managed to entice me into those worlds, through his mesmerising prose.

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The making of a special doll

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doll-making paraphernalia

Being New Year, it is customary to make resolutions. Mine are pretty general; just get those unfinished pieces of sewing, artwork and writing completed. I didn’t need to write a list, I have known for too long what needs to be done. So, I started with the calico doll, which has been in bits since my granddaughter stayed last year. Continue reading

O Christmas tree …

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Pōhutukawa – the NZ Christmas tree

I had thought to summarise the year; my inaugural year of posting blogs on Artistry, but changed my mind when the Pōhutukawa began showing off all over town. The Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), a tree native to New Zealand, is affectionately named our Christmas Tree, with very good reason. There’s no need for tinsel, baubles or fairy lights if you happen to have one of these in your garden.  Continue reading

From island to classroom

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This week was bookended by attending two different art groups. Monday, I joined the travel-sketching crowd at an end-of-year sketching day on nearby Waiheke Island, just a 30-minute ferry ride from my home. On arrival at Matiatia wharf we were to find a spot to sit and sketch until the bus arrived. It would take us to Casita Miro, a fabulous Spanish winery and cafe. Continue reading

Chasing the perfect clouds

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John Constable c.1824

This post began as I was searching for information on artists who used extra long brushes for painting, after a fellow artist-blogger had mentioned Matisse using this method. I knew that several of the old masters painted in this fashion but I drew a blank with finding out whom. The British artist Constable seemed to ring a bell, so I added his name to the search. But I could find nothing about his use of the long paintbrush either. However, I scrolled through many images of his paintings and quite by chance I found something altogether amazing (see above). Continue reading

Setting the record straight.

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coverLast week I had a folder of artwork returned to me from a publisher who was moving premises. It was the first book I had illustrated, and I never expected to see the illustrations again, as royalties were paid in advance, thus becoming the publisher’s property. I had enjoyed drawing the illustrations, which were of a young Vietnamese New Zealand girl. However, I had always held a gripe about the finished cover, showing an image which was not what I actually drew. I had drawn two images of the girl inside the plane, one at the beginning, minus the box, and the other at the end holding the box. Both images I drew with the girl’s eyes shut. So what had happened here? Continue reading

What’s hatching?

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A favourite pen

I was pleased to be asked to join another of Tony McNeight‘s sketching classes on the weekend; the topic – cross-hatching, and the medium, ink. It was some time since I’d used the technique but I was keen to give it another go. True, my tools were ancient, but in good form, since I’d recently cleaned my pens out and replaced the ink cartridges.  Continue reading

The elusive tuatara

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Illustration from Toby and the Tuatara

Many years back, I wrote my first children’s story, Toby and the Tuatara, and illustrated several images to accompany it as an example to show potential publishers. My artwork gained mention  but my early writing attempt didn’t. However, the drawing of a native tuatara instilled in me the desire to see one in the flesh. Last weekend that dream almost came true.
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It’s all about the line

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Torpedo Bay jetty

This is the blog that almost wasn’t as my procrastination had reached levels unsurpassed. However, through a chance meeting with an artist touching up a sign at the community garden and an ensuing conversation, we discovered that we had much in common, from our beginnings in advertising to illustrating and tutoring.  Continue reading

The road trip to WOW and back

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Vivienne by Lara Macgregor

I begin with the destination, for there are approximately 650km between Auckland, where I live, and Wellington, the city I drove to last week with my daughter Lara. This was a long-planned road trip to see the phenomenon of the World of Wearable Art show, which so many have seen in its thirty-year history, but has managed to elude my  daughter and me. This may have remained the status quo if I hadn’t seen a figurative print in a local gallery earlier in the year that I instantly desired, and wished to hang on my  newly-painted studio wall.

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Walking in my neighbourhood

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View from my apartment

I love walking, and while walking around my neighbourhood I got to thinking about why I enjoy it so much. Fitness certainly plays a part, for I am like a caged animal if I can’t get outdoors. But there is more to my walks than mere exercise, and one salient aspect is what I see. More ideas for drawing. Devonport is a lush green suburb at the tail-end of a peninsula. Homes are built on and around several volcanic cones, and nowhere is far from the sea. The views are simply stunning. My walking routes either begin or finish on King Edward Parade which looks across the harbour to Auckland City and to the other townships lining the promontory opposite. Continue reading

A touch of lemon with my Picasso

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A glimpse of Picasso, Auckland Art Gallery

There was a talk at the Auckland Art Gallery two weeks ago featuring a small still life study of Picasso’s, Verre et Pichet. The painting reminded me of my art studies at University when I painted a fragment from one of Picasso’s cubist works (long forgotten the name). This in turn set me thinking about the many still life sketches I used to do of simple kitchen objects. At one stage I produced one (at least) per day. Perhaps this talk would be the kick-start I needed to set me on a similar drawing trajectory. I asked a like-minded friend if she’d like to accompany me to the gallery and happily she accepted. We set off in anticipation of what we might gain from the talk that day. Continue reading

Spring at my fingertips

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Magnolia blooms

I either go biking or walking most mornings and love looking over hedges and fences into people’s gardens to look at the various flowers and plants growing. This pastime has become even more important to me lately, as I now live in an apartment, and no longer have a back or front yard of my own. A couple of days ago, I went walking with my daughter, and took photos of trees full of blossom, and some daffodils against a wall in a garden. This was in anticipation of my next post, where I thought to feature the change in seasons by sketching some blossoms. To achieve what I had in mind, I needed some actual blooms. Procuring live specimens proved harder than I thought.  Continue reading

Sansepolcro

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Sansepolcro: photo Marcello Piomboni

Yesterday I was gazing out my window at the the hill opposite, the gutters overflowing in a downpour and instantly I was thrust back in time, remembering a hilltop village in Tuscany during a thunderstorm. Lying below this mediaeval town was the village of Sansepolcro where I’d stayed for a week with my husband, enjoying the sun, the food, the ambience and the art. I also remembered I’d written a short travel piece after returning home and searched my files to find it. Great – I had my next blog.  Continue reading

Misery

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Screenshot 2018-08-23 10.54.57 Last weekend I was down in Christchurch and was invited to see a play at the Court Theatre. I knew the essence of the story from seeing the film in the early ‘nineties. My son insisted I see it, as he thought it time I experienced a horror movie. Misery the play,  like the film, was adapted from the book by Stephen King. I wondered whether the play adaptation might seem dated as years had slipped by since the book and the film appeared. However, the reviews for the play were very positive, and I stepped into the theatre on Saturday night looking forward to a second spooky experience.   Continue reading

The day I fell over Caravaggio

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The Colosseum Rome

My first trip to Rome was brief but memorable. It was summer, and stinking hot. Kerry was in Europe already, but I arrived in Rome several hours ahead of him. An astute traveler, I found the airport station, train, city and the hotel with no trouble whatsoever. I changed into a light dress and navigated my way down Via Nazionale. I came across a nice café, drank a ‘flat white’, ate lunch. I wonder what those buildings are further down, I asked myself, and kept walking. I arrived in the middle of the Forum, just by chance. This impressed my husband, that’s for sure, as I had no map, and no idea of the rich legacies which lay within reach. Our motto became – If only we had done our research. Continue reading

In the absence of electronic devices

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Having my granddaughters to stay was as enjoyable as it was interesting. I knew the eldest had an iPhone, but what I didn’t expect to find, was how little interest she showed in using it. I mean, most children I see these days have some kind of device they’re staring at, speaking into, or plugged to their ears; whether out walking, sitting with friends, or eating with their families in cafes. The use of these devices is endemic – or is it? Not as far as Phemie and Beatrix were concerned, for they were more interested in following their creative instincts: they drew, wrote, read, and played their days away. Continue reading

Real stories from World War One

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Anzac violin

I met Jennifer Beck while tutoring illustration classes some time back, and had long admired her writing for children. When I noticed her latest book in my local bookshop I picked it up, admiring the pencil and watercolour sketch by Robyn Belton on the cover. The Anzac Violin tells the real story of New Zealander Alexander Aitken and the part a violin plays during his time as a soldier in the first world war. Continue reading

The stories behind our mementos

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The day I posted my last blog, my cat Ninja, as if thinking my Japanese ceramic horse and the Chinese Warrior replica were taking precedence in my affections, managed to break both within a few minutes of each other. He was up on the bookcase and decided to push a glass paperweight off the side (rather like a baby throws a rattle from its cot). Unfortunately, my warrior bore the brunt of this act, with one hand being severed by the heavy glass ball. “I can fix it,” my husband said, “it’s a clean enough break.”  Continue reading

Finding extraordinary rewards

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Art group Nakatsu

‘When did you start writing?’ is a question often posed to authors. I, like many others, started writing in childhood, building on from the stories written for school projects. In my case, I recall writing about girls leaving home; travelling to foreign towns, or countries. The protagonists were always by themselves, managing with little money but finding extraordinary rewards by navigating their journeys alone. Continue reading

Why would anyone write about themselves?

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It has often been said that everyone has a story to tell and it certainly appears that the adage holds truth. Memoir, or Life writing, is a genre which has flourished in recent years. Mary Karr  writer, memoirist and teacher defines the genre in her recent book The Art of Memoir  “Novels have intricate plots, verse has musical forms, history and biography enjoy the sheen of objective truth. In memoir, one event follows another. Birth leads to puberty leads to sex. The books are held together by happenstance, theme, and (most powerfully) the sheer, convincing poetry of a single person trying to make sense of the past.”

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Book Clubs and other interesting stuff

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Devonport Auckland

As part of my getting to know my new neighbourhood I decided to join a book club. I had shied away from joining one in the past, although my reasons probably weren’t that solid, except to me. Most groups I’d heard of could bring any book they happened to be reading and chat about it.  I was after a group that read and discussed one book per month, who actually read the book and were able to discuss why, or why not it held appeal for them, and how they viewed the writing style etc.

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Further down the tracks

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View to North Shore Auckland

Last week I posted Don’t rubbish that first draft, and asked readers to share their thoughts on whether they thought the first draft of the train story I had written some time back, was better than the second draft, which is my post today. Please feel free to comment. Continue reading

Don’t rubbish that first draft

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South Rangitikei Viaduct

While researching for my last post, I opened a file I had not touched in a while. It contained several drafts and assignments for a travel writing paper I had completed through a New Zealand university. I opened each in turn, quite pleased at the diligent student I had been. But something intrigued me about one assignment in particular.

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