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.
It’s not like me to miss a week posting something on art or travel, but I have been ‘out of sorts’ for want of a better word to describe my sporadic exhaustion and brain fog. However, this morning I returned from my walk with a blog idea! I hope you’ll join me as I sift through the travel notes I jotted down when visiting Granada, in May last year.
Thursday 9th May. The bus trip from Cordova was great, the landscape fairly repetitive in the main – rows of olive trees mostly, the soil clay-coloured and arid looking – but what a surprise as we neared our destination, to see the high snow-capped mountains of Sierra Nevada, a majestic backdrop to this Andalusian city and the fabulous green belt of trees.
I had popped in to the Depot Artspace to view the new exhibition by Robyn Gibson. It was great seeing the sales already made. It wasn’t surprising to find that the smaller works had been snapped up; as Robyn’s quirky renderings are popular. Her works amuse, yet they hold subtle messages about the consumerism of society. She is a multi-media artist, although this exhibition showcases an assortment of acrylic paintings in the main.Continue reading
It’s been full-on since my Wellington book launch; fielding enquiries regarding the purchase of my book while preparing for a second launch at the Depot Artspace where I volunteer. This is because I am not only author and publisher of my book, but also the promoter and distributor – jobs I am learning the skills for experientially. It’s been a learning curve, that’s for sure, but I am improving with each transaction.
I’ve been tardy with my posts but with good reason: totally absorbed with organising the launch of my book – The (almost) true story of a man called Jack. Last week saw me driving down to Wellington, where I had hired a venue; a convenient site for family and friends from around that region, as that is where my family is from, and the story was set. After messed up flight bookings we ended up driving the length of the island; not a long trip if you compare NZ with say, Australia or the US. But long for me, with the boxes of books in the back seat, tired, a bit anxious, but as keen as mustard to release my book to those who knew me well. Continue reading
One action always precipitates another, and in this case offered me the subject of my next post. My husband was straightening a long bowed shelf in the pantry and began lifting down the vases and other crockery which often get thrust into those seldom-used spaces. He set down a large yellow jug on the bench, which I quickly scooped up and popped in my studio. I would sketch this jug and tell the story of it crossing the globe in my back-pack, following my first visit to Europe, oh, so long a go. Even before the days of cellphones and the internet!
This time last year, Kerry and I were in the United Kingdom, catching up with several old colleagues and friends not knowing when we would get the chance to visit again. Little did we know then just how special that trip was to become, with Covid 19 stopping us all in our tracks. One of our stops was Yorkshire, to stay with Wendy and Robin. I’d never been before, and like all regions new to me, I couldn’t wait to get out and explore.
This time last year I was in Edinburgh, many months before Corona virus had hit the world stage. It was my first visit, and I had been strangely unaware I would be among thousands of others who had ambushed the city for the Fringe Festival. I was thankful that our friends Mick and Anne only lived a thirty minute walk from the centre, in a lovely, quiet, suburban neighbourhood. We strolled into town past handsome stone buildings on either side; a cobbled street in between – so different from the wooden architecture and asphalt roads I am used to in my New Zealand surroundings.Continue reading
For the past three Tuesdays, while at my volunteer job in the local community art gallery Depot Artspace, I have found myself in an interesting situation. The current exhibition is titled Sex Workers of Aotearoa: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF, 2020, curated by a member of the group. And although the curator and many of the artists have shown their names, for privacy reasons I have chosen not to include them. Our manager had said that we may need to be aware of some peoples’ reactions, and if we felt uncomfortable with speaking about the artworks, to seek assistance from management. Continue reading
Many here have become blasé about the reports of Covid-19 escalations reported in countries overseas. New Zealanders have been extremely lucky in this regard, having a government which acted quickly with a shut-down. There were always the nay-sayers, and there are still some, who criticise the border regulations made for New Zealand residents who continue to arrive back home. These regulations have tightened recently, especially concerning the two-week isolation period each returnee has to face, with Covid testing undertaken on the third and eleventh day. But it is not the rules I wish to talk about here, but the way some people try to evade them. Continue reading
A relative of mine thought it strange that I would write my father’s story as fiction. It makes sense to me, I told her, as he was with us for just a few years, and I was looking back on our time together from many years later. What would the truth be, if I wrote the work as non-fiction? I had to call on my memory as a child to put together the essence of my father’s life, and to also borrow my siblings’ memories to complement my own. It is known that memory is both fallible and selective and fiction is always based on some version of fact. Continue reading
I received my final book proof last week, and set about planning the sketch that I promised I would do of the cover once the print process was complete. Well, since I showed an image of the front cover in my last post, I decided I would sketch the back cover instead. I was already late with my usual Thursday post, but thought; never mind I’ll do it tomorrow, thinking the task of sketching six family members (as on back cover) a relative doddle. Last night I drafted the sketch in pencil, planning on doing the ink and watercolour the following day. Continue reading
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
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.
Happy New Year.
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
I was meant to be speaking about my book tomorrow at a local library, except … Auckland is not yet done with Covid 19 it seems and we are back in partial lockdown. This means libraries, events, shops etc, are closed for the week. Like all of us, we hope the lockdown doesn’t continue past that. But, it is some time since I sketched anything, and so I got cracking on a small drawing project. I love sketching clouds, and decided to do three; each in a slightly different medium. Yesterday’s was a brooding scene, done from a photograph I took a few days ago. I worked on Hahnemühle cold pressed water colour paper 300g/m. It took the graphite well, as I used the back, which has a slightly smoother feel, but still gives enough bite for the leads. I used 6B, B, and HB pencils. I shall use the same paper for each sketch.