Sunday, November 30, 2014


I am finally reading The Goldfinch, which is serving as a reminder to always have an absorbing novel on the go, especially in periods of high anxiety, and reassurance that it is ok to take your time with projects (Tartt famously spent about a decade on each of her novels, though I would never compare the pitiful fruits of my labour with her output). It had been on my to-read list for a while, but the physical copy of the book came into my life as part of a chain of goldfinch-related occurrences that I would like to believe are more than mere coincidence.

The goldfinch - Fabritius's - has been a steady companion to my home life for years, gracing my pinboard ever since the day a friend gave me this exhibition brochure (other items on the board come and go, but the goldfinch is a constant, along with sketches and notes by my mom and sisters). I missed the exhibition and have never seen the painting in real life, but it is one of my favourite works of art. Always in my field of vision when I am working on the easel, the outline of the goldfinch inspired a painting of my own.

A few weeks ago, I was at my desk in my studio/office room when a goldfinch hit the window (I have ornaments hanging in the window, but unfortunately they weren't enough to deter birds). I ran outside, and it was on the ground, still breathing. I brought it indoors, hoping it would recover, but the poor thing died in my hands, which was very upsetting. I kept it in my house for another day or so and took photos to maybe paint it later, wanting to preserve its beauty somehow (I briefly considered taxidermy, but though I admire it from afar, I doubt I will ever attempt it), before we buried it in a compostable coffin, along with yellow flowers. [This window death was also the fate of a finch at a local artist's apartment a couple of years ago, and it was the trigger for an entire hauntingly beautiful exhibition.]

And then yesterday in class one of my students brought in a set of photos from a bird calendar, and of course there was a goldfinch among them (I realise that in itself is not extraordinary, it being a bird calendar. But the timing of the bird pictures appearing seems to be yet another "sign"), now repurposed as a bookmark.

Maybe none of this means anything, but it is in my nature to look out for patterns and repetition. I cannot even say what that elusive meaning might be. All I know is that I am very fond of this little bird that keeps appearing everywhere. And I don't want the book to end.

Monday, November 10, 2014

From the West of Ireland to Wertheim

Work-in-progress in this case meant sitting-on-the-easel-untouched-for-months, a silent reproach every time I entered my studio/spare room, a reminder that I was most definitely not "getting my stuff done"(I just watched this again... my life in a nutshell). But now it is finished, I think. And it made me nostalgic for my hometown, especially when I put the lights into the windows of the houses.

This painting is for my older sister and my brother-in-law, and a recent development means that I may unwittingly have painted the new home of my younger sister and her husband. Not the castle... somewhere beside the church. Or maybe it is just beyond the frame; I haven't asked her yet (Sibylle?). But in any case, this is soon to be their neighbourhood. So this painting is linking the three sisters in an unexpected way.

As much as I love working on the illustration projects that are more active works-in-progress, I need to make space for my own personal art-making. The last two Sundays enabled me to do that, and it's the best start to my week. The Daily Drawings shall return (my discipline for turning up here has been woefully inadequate, but there is a lot of behind-the-scenes housekeeping going on).

November can be desperately bleak, but so far it has been kind, with blue-sky mornings when I walk down to work from the Park-and-Ride and pink clouds above my house. I have finally got into the mood of the season - until last week I was still in May in my head.

Last night I resisted the urge to go to bed early - my default in the colder months - and watched a Spanish movie (another neglected thing on my list: keeping my Spanish alive) while knitting a scarf. This made me nostalgic for Spain, where I lived in 2004-05 (where did those ten years go?). So all in all it has been a week of sentimental thoughts and the resolve to be better at keeping in touch with loved ones.