The reason I haven’t posted recently is, that I had an unexpected road trip to Wellington with my daughter. She was filming in the city for a couple of weeks, so, I arranged to stay with my friend Jayne for a week. ‘Have you been to Somes Island?’ she asked me that first night, as we talked about what we’d like to do, or see. I originally came from Wellington and worked in the city when young, travelling from the Hutt Valley by train, which skirted the harbour and I came to know Somes Island well. In those days Matiu/Somes was known as a quarantine island. Day-trippers were unheard of, and its status only changed in recent years. The weather was hot and clear when I arrived at my friend’s, but wild winds and brooding skies blew in, and plans quickly changed.
Funny, just when I thought I had nothing to post, I turned my head and saw Rosemary sitting in the corner of my study, my ‘walkie talkie’ doll from childhood. I met Rosemary on a Christmas morning when I was six years old. My sister also received a doll, but there was something different about our parcels. Mine had a note pinned on. It read something like this. “Dear Vivienne, I have an apology, but on the way over one of my reindeer stood on your dolly, and now its ‘Mama’ doesn’t work. I know your parents will have it fixed as soon as they can. My best wishes, Father Christmas.” My reaction?
We are in the unique position here in New Zealand of Christmas arriving a day before many other countries in the world. Tomorrow will be Christmas Eve here, and it will be a busy day, so today is my chosen day to forward my good wishes to you all, as I haven’t managed to write the post I had intended. I found this photo of myself, decorated as a Christmas ‘something’. It was taken while I was in Japan, by my lovely arty friend who made these wonderful adornments / ornaments. I remember sending the photo to my daughter who was living in New York at the time. I’m sure she laughed a lot when she saw it, because I certainly did when I viewed the image again the other day. What was I thinking??
To all you lovely WordPress bloggers, and friends. I would like to wish you the very best for the end of a year that has been pretty chaotic for so many. May you enjoy family, friends and good company this Christmas.
I met Mutsuko in Nakatsu. She wasn’t part of the art group I wrote about in my last post, but she was an artist all the same. She was years younger than me but we connected right from the start through our love of travel and art. Her family home was in Usa, just a few kilometres from Nakatsu, and I visited often. Mutsuko was a teacher of English, but loved teaching me Japanese. Our classes were weekly, but often shorter than planned as she liked to show me the sights in her wee Toyota. I was introduced to her family, as well as the Sagara family whose girls she taught. And when my husband came to visit, he got to meet them all too. It truly was a special time.
I first lived in Nakatsu, in Kyushu Japan, arriving in August 2001. It was a freezing day when I left New Zealand and a sweltering one when I touched down in Japan. On the train down from Osaka, sweat pooled in my boots, after I’d removed my woollen socks to supposedly help cool me down. I was met off the train and taken to my apartment, a short walk away. Everything was close in this old castle town. Some might have called it ‘sleepy’, but I found it a perfect place for finding friends and cycling around.Continue reading
As we will not to be able to travel widely for some time, this week I have been looking at some mementos to sketch from the times I have been able to travel overseas. I have sketched many items I’ve brought home from places visited in the past, so I needed to find one I had overlooked. Ah ha! The chosen one is a very old (and rather grubby) fabric doll I bought in Japan, when living and teaching in Nara, several years ago. It was a special time, as an old friend from New Zealand had come to stay for a week or so, and we enjoyed tripping about when I had time off work.
Adrienne was a great planner, and this day we were going into Nara from Ikoma (20 minute train ride) then a bus (a stop and start hour), to take us to Hōryū ji, the oldest surviving wooden complex of its type in Japan, founded by Prince Shōtoko in 670. It did have a nasty mishap around that time when it was seriously damaged by lightning. Fortunately the central buildings were reconstructed, some 1,300 or so years back. The kondō (main hall) is recognised as the world’s oldest wooden building. In 1993 the complex was recognised as Japan’s first UNESCO World heritage site under ‘Buddhist Monuments’ in the Hōryū-ji area, and we felt most fortunate to visit such a large and illustrious site.
This post has been too long in the making, as I got swept away with novel writing – again. Not that I am personally sorry about adding to that storyline, but regret I didn’t continue the sketching theme of my last pōhutukawa post sooner. The plan changed slightly too, when I finally got around to sketching the pōhutukawa buds, which were pale green with a fluffy outer, yet tightly bunched, when I photographed them. They have since undergone a dramatic transformation.
When others discovered I wrote, I was asked many questions beginning with W. When? Why? What? and Why? again. The last why was because I had always been known as an artist, and friends couldn’t understand the shift. I don’t think any of them would have understood that it had started as a game. I was teaching English in Japan, spending a lot of free time on my own and reading a lot of fiction. One evening, I wondered if I was capable of dreaming up a plot for a novel. Well, that was twenty years ago, and the answer is ‘yes’. I have been writing fiction ever since and absolutely love it! But some days, I don’t wonder why I started, but why I continue, as it all takes so long.
This week I shall show you why it is best to use a knife, not a sharpener for your drawing pencils. I shall use our native pōhutukawa tree for my first example, as they grow in abundance here in Devonport. They love living by the coast (who doesn’t?). But seeing it is too early for their famed scarlet flowers, I’ll show you the branches and bark instead. I went walking yesterday, and took close-up images of some lengthy limbs, as thought these would be great for me to sketch, and show you what I mean by the nuance of line created by one pencil.
I love sharpening pencils, as it reminds me of sitting on the back step as a child, and watching how my father sharpened pencils – always using a knife. He was never without a pencil, which he kept behind one ear, whether for jotting down sales in his bookshop, or sketching a scene for painting. ‘A sharpener doesn’t give nuance to the lead’, he told me, and I only discovered the value of this statement when I became an artist much later in my life.
Recently I struggled to finish a newly published book of short stories, which surprised me, as it had received reasonable reviews. The storylines were okay, but weren’t dynamic, and the characters didn’t draw me in. I just didn’t like all twenty of the stories, apart from one.
I was bewailing my dislike of this book to a writing friend, who told me I’d love Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories, and lent it to me.
I wrote recently of being in a slump, where I wasn’t feeling like writing or sketching. Weeks of Covid Lockdown have done that to me, to some degree. Then one day I felt like continuing the novel I’d deserted, just a few pages in. With any genre of writing, but especially with a longer piece, it is necessary to write then leave it alone for a while, returning with fresh eyes, as one can become too close to the work. I read through those pages, adding something here, and removing something elsewhere. I was happy to be writing again.
Whenever I read a regular post by someone from Brittany, I am immediately taken back several years, when I met two men from that region. I had been staying with a friend in the fabulous Villefranche-sur-mer, on the southern French Coast, when she suggested we visit some nearby gardens she had spotted in a tourist magazine. Hanbury Gardens. Old, and of historic interest. The images looked beautiful, so I said “why not?” and we planned our trip for the next day, Saturday.
Me on left, all ready to go.
If it hadn’t been for Kerry sending me the photo above through to my phone today, it probably wouldn’t occurred to me to write about Van Gogh. The photograph was taken in April this year at the touring Van Gogh Alive exhibition in Auckland. The clever little scene, where I am perched on a chair, is a 3D recreation of Van Gogh’s bedroom in Arles, France. He lived in Arles for little more than a year, yet his output of work from February 1888 until May 1889, was prodigious. Yet this post isn’t just about the famous Dutch artist; quite likely the most well-known artist of our times, but what his paintings conjure; in my memory, and imagination.
While out walking around the mangrove estuary the other day we passed an area which accommodates several of Navy buildings. Devonport has been the Navy’s base for a good deal of years, and this area is just one part of it. It is a tranquil place, settled beside the mangroves and looking across water to a peninsula, and to the harbour bridge to the south. The glare was harsh on the water, when I took this shot, just a few steps on from the navy marae, Te tau Moana marae.(This tab will give you a sample of simple greetings, if you were to introduce yourself in te reo Māori. Example here is from an NZIE meeting at the marae). Kerry and I skirted around the wharenui (large house in the centre of the marae, meeting ground).
While walking, on the lookout for something I could sketch, I looked no further than the sky. It was both fantastic and rather terrifying, as the brooding clouds looked ready to empty their heavy load on me. So, before the anticipated deluge I took a photo, and continued on my walk, expecting to find myself racing for cover at any moment. Weirdly, those clouds kept on brooding and finally wreaked havoc in the middle of the night. Wind thrashed the trees, streets, and whipped up the sea, but our region was relatively unscathed, fortunately. Not so, further out west where floods drowned cars and wrecked homes and businesses.Continue reading
Usually I am up reasonably early, take off for a walk once I’ve finished my chores, returning refreshed and ready for ‘work’. But, lately, I have been staying in bed longer, reading, not wishing to face the world. I do go out eventually, masked while walking, and steer clear of others coming too close. I look at at the clouds, the sea, and the trees still in blossom, to help lift my spirits like they usually do. But my heart is heavy, as the Delta strain of Covid has hit New Zealand and we are in lockdown again. I miss my family terribly. One week has become two, and I have done little artwork or writing. I knew I had to shake myself out of this slump, and gave myself a little drawing project to complete.
It all began with me couriering an artwork to Melbourne, as three of my son’s planned trips to New Zealand were cancelled through Covid, and I had intended to pass this over to him when he came. The artwork was intended as a gift when they’d finished house renovations, a year or so back, but I have been a bit slack. You see, I had promised him that I’d do an artwork as a house-warming gift. I did get as far as sketching the idea, but then I just didn’t get around to doing it. That dratted procrastination thing again. But, when I spotted a print in an art store window, by an old tutor of mine, I knew it was the perfect present, and I brought it immediately. I packed it securely for travel, and sent it off to Melbourne last Monday, anxious about it surviving the trip. I was thrilled when Duncan phoned to say that it had arrived safely and he and Harriet just loved it. I got to talk with my granddaughters too, which was great, as It has been a long time since I’ve seen any of them. Then, Beatrix the eight year old said, “Can you draw a sloth for me, NaniViv?”
I am currently in the process of reading through twenty-one of my short story manuscripts, following my reader’s track-change suggestions. As Suzanne is very good at her work, I mostly click ‘approve’, and keep scrolling for the next comment. I always re-read the work after this initial browse, in case I find any small thing I think will improve the flow, or a word which now seems inappropriate. Why would you change anything at this stage, you might be thinking? Well, it is because these stories span ten years of writing, and some of those early ones may still require more ‘tightening’.
As I shall be in Wellington for the week, I was aware that I’d not find the time to post a comprehensive blog. I thought, I know, I’ll do a sketch, and sorted through photos from my recent trip. Nothing there that beckoned me, but wait? I’d taken a photo some time back of the lovely white orchid which sits on my desk, blooming beautifully. Okay. I quickly uploaded the image and sketched it. Hmm. As I’ve stated many times before, sketches always work best if one keeps up regular practice. I haven’t been sketching lately, in spite of all my promises to do so. Yet, I have decided to show this ‘something’ rather than nothing. I sketched quickly in pencil first, on 140lb, Canson watercolour paper, adding some aquarelle pencil for colour, before grabbing an 0.5 pigment liner to provide a loose outline for the white on white flowers. Perhaps I’ll take my sketchbook with me?? No excuses with some free time up my sleeve… Maybe I’ll find the inspiration I need.
We continued our West Coast travel northwards. The weather was no better by the time we reached Punakaiki, and it was clear I wasn’t going on any horse trek here. I have only ridden a few times, but always thought that I’d like to learn to do it properly – some day. Probably never now. And then there was the scenic flight over the glaciers which quickly became an unfilled whim, but once we walked around the Punakaiki (or Pancake) rocks, we held no remorse for losing those dreams.
It is true, that the weather was lousy the day we drove to Franz Josef, and the road flooded in patches, but we arrived safe and sound at the Alpine Glacier Motel. It was hard to realise that mountains surrounded us, as the sky had lowered to road level. Rain, and hunger saw us drive to Alice May’s restaurant for dinner (although it was a mere 5min walk), for rain continued to fall. This is THE place to go to dine, for three reasons: the friendly staff, whitebait omelet, and to read the legend of Alice May. One of twelve children, from Hawkes Bay. She worked as a hotel maid, fell pregnant, and was rejected by her lover when she lost the baby, when he’d originally promised marriage. She shot and killed the man, and was imprisoned. The Socialist feminist movement petitioned widely for her release, and she was, six years later. Later, after moving to the South Island, she married Charles O’Loughlin and they had six children together. Jennie O’Loughlin, the owner of Alice May’s restaurant, is one of Alice’s many grandchildren. Amazing story.
Last week, Kerry and I headed off for another South Island adventure, with family this time. No bike riding, but a train trip on the TranzAlpine, through the Southern Alps to the West Coast. On the day we left home I dressed for the cold, boots and all, as Christchurch, our first destination, is always colder than Auckland in winter. On the plane, I felt like a swaddled babushka and sweated in my seat, while I looked out in awe at the snow-clad Kaikoura Mountains on the East Coast. What stunning views. And luckily I had the window seat. And, yes, I was the photographer this time.
Yes, well, Procrastination, I think, must be my middle name. That’s me above, procrastinating. A month back, I was anguishing over how to progress with my new novel, having written several pages and coming to a halt. So, I began collecting more background material, and that helped to a point. I wrote approximately one more page. I had begun writing in 1st person perspective, and was fairly happy with that choice.Then I began wondering whether 1st person would give me the depth of insight I wanted from other characters. So, I changed what I’d written to 3rd person, and stopped. Why? Because I decided to write an article about libraries back in the day. That’s awaiting an edit. Following that, I re-edited a collection of twenty short stories I’d written over the years. My reasoning was, why start a new story when I already had a novel-length book waiting in the wings? Good. Finally I was focussed on one thing!
I was thrilled when my brother phoned a few weeks back to ask If I would like a painting of our Dad’s. It is an oil of the Hutt River looking towards the far hills and had hung on various walls of houses my mother had lived in since my father’s early death. When she died ten years ago, the painting came into my brother’s possession, and now, it has found its way to me. There is mention of this painting in my recent book The (almost) True Story of a Man Called Jack.
A friend recommended this book to me knowing that I was interested in memoir. She said it was beautifully written, as the caption on the cover also says. As individuals, we all come to reading with our own agendas, a particular way of viewing the world. I hoped that I would be captivated by William Horwood’s story, as I had found myself not engaging with many recent books I had read. But, this one, was so engaging, so compelling, I didn’t wish it to end.
We were heading to Doubtful Sound for the last leg of the trip; which involved more of an adventure than we bargained on. First up was a short flight on a small plane from Alexandra Airport to Manapouri Airport. Mm, the weather wasn’t shaping up well, although we were all keen to get going. There was a huddle of ‘powers that be’ at Alexandra airport as we looked out at downcast skies, and a decision was made. We would take off, and IF things got a little turbulent we would land at Queenstown, disembark and board a shuttle to Lake Manapouri. Let’s just say that short flight was a little curly, and with a very sharp dip and audible intakes of breath, we landed at Queenstown, relieved to set foot on terra firma and to travel by bus.
This blog recounts our three-day cycle experience, travelling on different trails in Central Otago. There were five couples and tour leader Gerard in our group. All had biking experience, and with e-bikes, which was good. On our first day, it was cool to start, but a fine day, and all were eager to get going. First, we were shuttled, with our bikes on a trailer, to Oturehua, and the start of our ride.
After considerable discussion my husband and I said ‘let’s do it! to what looked like a fabulous nine day trip to Otago & Fiordland over the Easter period – a trip which offered cycling, flights in small planes, canoeing, boat rides in idyllic places and wonderful hotel stays. Add great food to that list. How could we not go? We tried not to out-guess what we’d find, as we packed our gear, and just accept what came our way. We both felt so fortunate to be able to travel.
Since leaving my last post unfinished, I have been travelling in the South Island, and look forward to sharing those exploits next time. To recap, the last library photo shown was the disassembling of the old upstairs library in September 1956. The image above is the relocation of the new library in the main street: it is this reincarnation I would visit for many years to come.
I have been waiting for some images from my talk at Upper Hutt Library, and finally, I am able to post them, and write about that day, plus other periods in my life related to Upper Hutt and the library. This library has seen many changes in my lifetime, from its position above a milk bar, to the Main Street, to its present position next to the council chambers. Each move provided a bigger space and wider service to the community. I want to celebrate that.
I must apologise here, for delaying this post for a further ten days. The reason? I am leaving for a South Island adventure early tomorrow and just don’t have time left to finish this post as I had hoped. It will be interesting, I assure you, and worth the wait to read. I am rather excited that my trip will offer me plenty of opportunities to take photos of the various activities we are going to do – as in biking, walking, boating around sounds etc., Giving me plenty of material to write several posts on in the future. So, until I can return to tell you more about the library, my talk and more, keep safe.
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