Friday, June 26, 2015

Looking at green

A gift of rosemary and homemade rosemary pesto

The cygnets are growing so fast

Doing new versions of older paintings

While I try to move my 'office' outside as often as possible, there have been too many days spent working indoors for too long. My eyes get tired quickly in front of the computer, and even though I love the smell of my studio (and I mostly use water-mixable oils now, so rarely need turpentine - and when I do I use low-odour solvent), after a few hours my lungs are crying out for fresh air and I need to look into the distance, at green growing things, or at the sea.

A while ago I made daily walks a non-negotiable, because it can be too easy to not do the things you know are good for you and you enjoy. I no longer count walks into town from work (lovely as they are, past the swan nest and other delights); there has to be a proper walk just for the sake of walking. At the moment it tends to be evening time; the morning mirror-a-commute walk when I work from home has fallen away, but I might reinstate it and go running in the evening. There are no rigid rules.

Even though full-on summer has been sporadic here, at this time of the year  I crave being in nature all the time. Sometimes when taking out the compost - a few steps across the garden to the wall - it hits me how wrong it feels to be indoors on such a glorious day, and I look forward to doing laundry, because I get a few minutes at the clothes line.

This year I want to get into gardening more (and it looks like it will happen). In the meantime I tend to the few plants I have here and enjoy the abundance from other people's gardens.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Pencil and paint

 Mounted drawings


Sketch for illustration

This has got to be the most productive phase of my life to date, and long may it continue. Though I realise there will be pauses and blocks, and they need to happen. Once I have figured out what has brought on this change from being an expert procrastinator to actually 'getting my stuff done', I'll share it here.

Preparation used to be almost counter-productive for me, a key part of the process that ended up being the only thing I would do for weeks (though the lines between preparation and the 'actual' work are of course often blurred). I would spend so much time preparing, organising and imagining and then wonder why I had nothing to show for all my 'hard work'.

A few weeks ago I ordered a lot of mounts (from a wonderful Irish company), intended for future prints of my paintings. I proceeded to store them under the spare bed, and then worried about them because a) I am a big believer in keeping the space under the bed empty, and b) mounts are fragile and Irish houses are damp. I would take one mount out to use it and try to wrap the rest in a way that would keep them dry and not damage the corners. Then I moved them to some thin drawers, which is a much better home for them.

And then I thought of all the original drawings I have and decided to start using all the mounts now rather than wait for the prints. Five of the original Jumbo drawings are now mounted and available for sale in our Etsy shop. It feels good to move from a preparatory state to action.

The mini paintings of Irish scenes have proven quite popular, especially the Long Walk one, and I finally bought some more 10x10cm canvases and work on them when taking a break from the large works-in-progress. I do a different underpainting each time and change the colours a bit, and they are never exactly the same as previous ones.

The illustrations for the book I have been working on since the autumn are nearly finished - one more double-spread to go, and of course that final scene is the most daunting.

With this newfound energy and productivity I hope to get back to posting here more often, and not just updates about my work...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Treasures on the coffee table - and beyond

Two recent additions to the piles of books on my coffee table - John got me these after I showed him this short film, which he loved as much as I do (especially the bit about Lincoln's pocket watch).

There is so much to discover in these books, down to wonderful details such as the endpaper (third photo above). The endpaper of the book I am illustrating at the moment will have a repetitive pattern of elements from the illustrations, and I am looking forward to adding these little touches. Kalman's work always acts as a reminder of the utter joy and delight of drawing and painting, looking and noticing, for me (among lots of other things), and I would buy her books for the endpaper alone.

On Monday morning I set up office on the wooden deck in the garden, and it was the start of a productive week. Just like sleeping with your head on the foot end of the bed, shaking things up this way seemed to trigger a flood of new ideas and different approaches in my brain. My outdoor "desk" then turned into a picnic table when my friend arrived with her children. This place is paradise when the sun is out. This week we also discovered a new-to-us walk in Spiddal and a new hidden beach. We listened and sang along to a cover of Tom Waits's "Ol' 55" in a lovely pub, which prompted me to play Closing Time in my class yesterday, and just when "Martha" finished the band downstairs in the College Bar started playing that very song in preparation for a wedding, the afters of which we attended in the evening. And today is Sunday.