Many of you will know that I put out a book a few months ago. I was involved with two book launches, a radio interview and two library talks before the end of last year. I was extremely busy organising the advertising and the events, getting the book into bookshops around the country, as well as posting copies to those who had ordered from me. Yes, being the writer, publisher and distributer proved to be a job and a half. And, because of Covid delaying events in many libraries last year I still have more author talks lined up to do. I am really looking forward to these talks, as they are the fun part in the process. It really is a joy to speak about, read from the novel and share the experience of writing it with others.
The heading refers to a new documentary on the famous artist Amedeo Modigliani, best known for his lean-faced unpretentious portraits; portraits I have admired, even copied as a student, over the years. I viewed the film a week or so back, and was pleased to be re-acquainted with the man. I knew a lot of his life story, as he has been much written about, and I am lucky to have read many books about him.
The documentary, directed by Valeria Parisi, was released on the 100th anniversary of Modigliani’s death (Jan, 1920).
I have done little since returning from the family holiday, as I arrived home ill, and still feel a shadow of my former self, three weeks on. Such great plans I had: to get cracking on my new novel, sketch and sketch some more, but for anyone who understands what exhaustion feels like, you’ll understand. I have also been wanting to write a substantial post on art, writing or similar, but that is yet to come. All I have to offer are a few pen sketches and a short excursion to talk about.
Several years ago I was listening to the radio, when a programme came on, discussing people who were super recognisers, meaning, that they possessed the ability to easily recognise faces. This was the first I had heard the term, and the more I listened to this man talking, the more it dawned on me, that he was describing what I had long thought of as ‘a quirk’ of mine: the way I could easily recognise people’s faces.
We travelled inland through the heartland of Hawke’s Bay knowing that a large house was awaiting us to rent. With the hideousness of the previous day (see Part One) still bugging me, I prayed that this place would suit our family’s needs. The scenery was uplifting, though the hills were their usual arid summer colour. It was hard to believe that there had been torrential rain and flooding a week or so back in nearby Napier. But this region bore no apparent scars.
We had long thought of finding a holiday place in Hawkes Bay big enough to take all our extended family. And as I knew how hard it was to find accommodation in that area in the summer, we booked through bookabach agency a year earlier. When the time came, we were very sorry that our family in Melbourne weren’t able to come because of Covid restrictions, but the New Zealand bunch were still keen on the holiday, making us a total of eight. We were travelling by car from Auckland, Wellington, Whanganui, Palmerston North (all in the North Island), and from Dunedin in the South. We were to be staying at Haumoana, right near the beach; a favourite surfing spot for the children when they were teenagers. But that was not the only reason we chose this spot: it was also close to bike trails, great produce, and wineries – and the house could sleep up to eleven. We couldn’t wait to get there.
A week ago, I invited Tony, an artist friend, to join me in a figure sketching session in my home. I am lucky to have a private and reasonable-sized room to work in. I’d had asked Ayla to model again, as I was keen to get more figure sketching done. I wanted, and needed more practice. This time however, I was just going to ‘do it’ and not stress about outcomes. We began with two minute sketches, which I find a little fast, but went with the consensus. Yeah! I enjoyed it; standing at my easel, using A2 paper, extending my arm and moving my graphite like crazy. I always want more time, as I take too long sorting myself out before I put graphite to paper, and tick-tick I am racing to beat the clock. So, make that a 90 second sketch.
Tally Stick: historical piece of wood scored across with notches for the items of an account and then spit into halves, each party keeping one.
I had been aware of the stack of Carl Nixon’s latest book every time I visited Paradox Books, a terrific bookstore just across the road from my home. I had a backlog of books to read, and was at the end of that pile when I decided it was time that I took The Tally Stick home. And was I pleased that I did!
Drawing the nude was second nature to me at one time, and I drew a lot of figures over the years, becoming quite skilled in that area. I was intending to write about the life drawing session I held in my home last weekend, thinking that I’d have produced pages of work and have plenty to say about the process. When the session didn’t prove as fruitful as I’d hoped – meaning I wasn’t that happy about most of the sketches – I realised I faced a dilemma.
I’ve long been a fan of dance, learning ballet as a child, possessing a dancer’s heart, but little natural ability. However, the desire to dance never left me, and as a thirty-something adult I returned to ballet. I began to feel my body move with more agility and learnt how to use it. Yeah! Around the same time, I noticed flamenco dance classes advertised and joined up. I came to love the dance with passion. Having a guitarist certainly helped the atmosphere, as we learned to arch our backs and move to the specific beats for hands and feet. I so enjoyed the sound of the dance and the stamping of feet. It was another twenty years before I visited Spain, and while in Madrid I got to see my first ‘authentic’ performance, taking place in Corral de la Morería, a cafe famous for its flamenco shows. I have continued to love the dance, the callers, the guitar and its passion. I have often idly wondered whether I might have some Spanish blood.