Monday, October 30, 2017

Contentment - reading and a good day's work

‘Now I close the door and return to my life a little tired but also with that modest contentment and gratitude of those who enjoy their work. This must be boring to read, as there is really no drama. The deeper I am in this routine, the better things are. My appetite for music, film, books, paintings and the people I care about increases. I have never understood why.’ 
Writer Hisham Matar on his working day in a recent Guardian Review

I had kept the cutting of that feature, as, far from boring to read, it articulates that feeling of quiet satisfaction we have after a good day's work and how our 'appetite' for other things is stimulated by said feeling and the routine that enables it.

Another cutting I had in my folder was an interview with writer Lucy Hughes-Hallett, in which she said the following about novels, so pertinent in today's political landscape:

‘I think getting inside other people’s heads, even if they are imaginary people, is very important. One life isn’t enough and when things start to go really bad politically is when people forget to see the other side’s point of view. That’s the way in which fiction can be useful.’ Guardian Review, 13 May 2017

Hughes-Hallett wrote her first novel at age 65 (having previously written non-fiction, including The Pike, about Gabriele D'Annunzio). I find mid- and late-life forays into new territory inspiring and reassuring - it is never too late to begin something.

The only painting I have done in the last couple of weeks was a few brushstrokes on the above painting by my nephew, a portrait of Daisy the cat (who refused to pose with it), but while I am itching to get back to the easel, other work has been fulfilling, and I have cleared time and space for projects I want to complete in the next few months. 

One day each week or fortnight is dedicated to new-house tasks (it feels weird to say that after over two years, but there is still so much to do) and gardening (we harvested the last tomatoes,courgettes and potatoes and cleared most of the polytunnel this week), and there have been impromptu day trips (to Inis Meáin, where I lay on a rock in the sun in an attempt to sleep off a migraine that had started on the boat and enjoyed it thoroughly, despite the lingering pain) and events and of course my day job. So time in the studio has been limited, but I am making the most of those moments.

And I have been reading more than ever. Twice in the last month I read a book in a day (a rare luxury, admittedly). I got Josephine Hart's The Reconstructionist in the library. Damage is one of my favourite books, and this one is as good. I love her raw, haunting writing style. I finished Shirley Jackson's biography (a brick of a book I nearly bought in London, even though I only had hand luggage), which was a fascinating insight into the mind that conceived such unsettling glimpses into the human psyche, and am dipping in and out of Frances Borzello's book on women's self portraits, so as to savour it. I also bought Siri Hustvedt's latest collection of essays.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

In the wonderful world of picturebooks

 From Beatrice Alemagna's What is a Child?

A page from Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton - note the fair trade symbol on Harris's bag

 Collages and one of the final illustrations for Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

 From A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alemagna

Collage workshop

A little visitor enjoying the children's artwork

This week I have been guiding tours and workshops for the Baboró exhibition 'A World of Colour' in the O'Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUI Galway. This show was curated by Sarah Webb and features artwork by two of my favourite illustrators, Beatrice Alemagna and Chris Haughton, so I am in my element.

Alongside their work there is a growing gallery wall/window of photographs the lovely volunteer and I take of the amazing collages the children make (they can take the originals home, and we tell them it is a process similar to how the books were made). The children's creativity and their responses to the illustrations blow me away.

 I wrote a piece about the exhibition here.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Filtered water, no plastic

Years ago a friend gave me a small piece of charcoal for purifying water. She was using this centuries-old Japanese technique and got her charcoal from her Japanese friend. I was excited to try it out with a small bottle and research it, but then I never got around to actually getting started on a bigger scale and buying more.

This summer I visited her and saw that she had taken it to another level by having two 5-litre Kilner dispensers of water with charcoal on the windowsill above her sink, which provide enough water for herself and her two children each day. She had me do a blind taste test comparing purified water with water straight from the tap, and the former tasted so much better. I told John about it, and he promptly bought one of these dispensers, even though he was sceptical, but he likes a project and unlike me, he is a doer.

I then ordered binchotan charcoal from this website, and we said good riddance to our plastic Brita jug with its wasteful and expensive filters - the jug was relocated to the potting table in the shed to use for watering plants. Each night we pour any water we haven't used into a glass jug and refill the dispenser with fresh water, so it is purified by the next morning. After three months you reactivate the charcoal by boiling it in water for ten minutes, and after a further three months you recycle it (there are various uses for old charcoal, from deodorising to gardening), so the sticks last for six months. We use three sticks (each approximately 12 cm and long and 2cm thick) in 4.5 litres of water.

Apart from all the above benefits, it is aesthetically pleasing - I never liked the look of the plastic jug sitting on the counter.


Two new-to-me songs I added to my playlist this summer:
"Going home (Mythical Kings and Iguanas)", a strangely haunting song by Dory Previn, which was another late-night-radio-while-driving discovery

"A Rose for Emily" by The Zombies - I found this via the podcast S-Town, which I binge-listened to while painting rooms