Monday, 31 January 2011

A beautiful day!

We have had another cold snap here with night time temperatures below zero and days getting to the dizzy heights of only a few degrees.  It was actually zero at midday on Saturday!  Yesterday was a beautiful winter's day here in London.  It was cold, but gloriously sunny.  We headed off to Kew gardens for the final use of our 12 month passes.  Initially we were going to visit the open day for the herbarium, but the tours finished at 2:30 and by the time we got there it was too late.  Not to worry we still had a lovely time wandering around the gardens.

We came across this beautiful old Corsican Pine.  It was planted in Kew Gardens in 1814 and is said to be the oldest tree of its type in the country!  It has been struck by lightening several times and even hit by a small aircraft and is still's that for staying power!  Most importantly, note the beautiful blue sky through the tree's canopy!  Lovely, especially when Saturday would have won an award for the greyest of days!

In one of the glass houses we spotted this wonderful piece of art work.  He is a model of a hummingbird moth and is made of wood:

.... gorgeous isn't he!

Another arty thing we came across was this:

... and this was hanging inside:

We also discovered this fabulous tree which, from this angle makes me think of one of Tolkien's Ents!:

...and honestly it had the most fabulous gnarly, overhanging, yet gracefully pendulous branches.  ...and would you believe I can't remember what it was!

School's going well!  Only three more weeks and we are on our half term holiday....then hi ho, hi ho it's off to Athens we go!!  Have a great week everybody!

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Over the past week or so I have been playing around quite a bit in my art journal.  I watched this video and then started following Diana Trout's process and ended up with this:

There are quite a few hours of work in this. but it is a lovely relaxing way to destress after a busy day.  It was done over a few nights of the past week.  I used a medium Pitt Pen, acrylic paint, water colour pencils, metallic water colour pencils and glimmering H2O paints.  The colours in real life are much more vibrant....just don't know how to get it from a piece of artwork on to the computer and keep the intensity!  I have done similar things previously, but it was fun to try a slightly new take on and old theme!

Today I have again been creating!  A few weeks ago I bought Carla Sonheim's book 'Drawing Lab for mixed-media artists - 52 creative exercises to make drawing fun!'  I have been working my way through some of the activities and today did Lab 8.  The idea is to use water colours (I used watered down acrylic paints).  You do random swirls of red, let it dry, swirls of blue, let it dry and then swirls of yellow and let it dry.  You then look at the result and break out with the pens and in my case charcoal pencils and start creating little critters with your swirls of paint.  If you need to you can come back with a little more paint to complete the image.  I did these four this afternoon and really enjoyed the process.  I think I will be trying these with my boys at school because they are nice and quick and the results can be lots of fun.

The great thing was that while I was waiting for the paint to dry I finally (after having been stopped by many months of coughing and spluttering), got my saxophone out again....I am very rusty, but had a great time getting back into it!  It will not be so long between tunes again!!

After all that 'playing' I still need to do some prep for my classes next week!  Can I find yet another distraction?

Thursday, 20 January 2011

This and that!

We are well into winter here now.  The days are slightly warmer than they were a few weeks ago and getting longer again although I have been told it may get colder again.   I catch two buses to get to work each day, and have to walk around a roundabout and down a bit of a hill between the first and the second bus.  About a week ago I was on my way to work and this is the sight I was greeted with as I started down the hill.

 The sunrise was simply stunning and I had to stop and take a quick photo.  I am sure when the Londoners are rushing past me stopping to take photos,  they wonder what on earth I am on!  The morning was cold, but still.  The colours were a lot more intense than they appear here, but even at this level they are beautiful.

Richard has been growing us a little bit of spring recently.  We are just starting to reap the rewards of his efforts with these beautiful hyacinths and amaryllis.  There is one more amaryllis planted but it hasn't done much so far.  I guess there is still hope though because the bulb still looks reasonably healthy.

When Richard saw my last post he said I had missed the Rodin he had liked here she is now:

Her name is Rose Beuret in Straw Hat and she is very beautiful!  I had a lot of problems reducing to just a few images.  I took many photos of the faces he sculpted so that I could try to draw them later.  So as I do not have too much to add, I will add a few more photos to finish this entry!

Sorry about the first photo.  He was in a glass case and impossible to get a good photo of with the light and his position in the room!  I decided to add him here anyway because it shows you Rodin's early work:

...followed by the final piece based on that work!

...stunning isn't he!  Now look at him closer!  So beautiful!

This piece, out in the grounds was stunning!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Two wonderful days in Paris!!

Our final two days were New Year's Day and January 2nd.  We slept in on New Year's Day as we had not been able to get back to our hotel room after welcoming the New Year, until about 3:30am.  When we woke we went to Montmartre and had something to eat and a bit of a wander around.  It is an absolutely beautiful area of Paris with lots of galleries and quirky shops.  But alas, the only things open were the cemetery and the cafes and restaurants!  We ate in one of the cafes and had a chat to a young Aussie guy on the table beside us.  We seemed to be meeting a lot of Aussies as we moved around Paris.
After eating we went for a short stroll around the cemetery - I had it in my head that it was where Jim Morrison's grave was .....wrong!  Anyway we both reaffirmed that we find cemeteries horrid places and the massive headstones and memorials are disgusting!  Some of the bigger structures looked like old country dunnies to me!  Anyway we were quite tired and didn't stay out too late.  We went back to our hotel for a while had a rest and then went out to dinner at the restaurant I had drawn and eaten in previously.

On the 2nd we went to the  Musee Rodin in Paris and I have to say it was wonderful!  I was astounded by the beuaty of some his work and enthralled by the idea that he uses some of his images time and again.  For example the are several versions of 'The Thinker' in a range of sizes, including the massive one in the garden of the museum.  The figure is also part of his 'Gates of Hell' below (he is in the centre of the the top section).

'The Burghers of Calais' was another favourite.....I love all the different poses and expressions and the Museum had a room where quite a few of Rodin's working figures were on display.  It was fascinating to see the way his work progressed from an idea to the final product.  It would be great for kids to see that even these masters had to work hard to achieve the levels of brilliance they did in their lifetimes.

I also love the sculpture called 'Sleep'.  This the the first form.  He did a final I think in marble, but for me this was the one I preferred!  I just love her face.

The other theme I really liked were the sculptures of hands.  There was the simplicity of this one called 'The Cathedral':......

...the beauty of 'The Lovers' Hands'.......

........and I guess the divinity of this one.....I didn't get its name...though it was something to do with creation I think!

The lovers, 'Paolo and Francesca' were breathtaking!

There were so many others that were wonderful.  I think I have discovered sculpture now!  What will the theme of my life here in Europe have been.....learning, learning, learning about art!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Rodin will have to wait!

The view from Montville, 2006

My last few evenings have been filled with watching news stories from home in Australia and catching up with my family and friends in some of the flooded areas.  I am so grateful that they are all safe and well.  I hear that in many circumstances the post flood challenges of moving about their towns and neighbourhoods and being able to buy food and fuel are enormous.  It is hard to explain the range of feelings I have felt watching from this distance.  I guess that even if I were right there I would still feel completely overwhelmed in the face of a disaster of such huge proportions. 

I guess as time moves forward the emotion that is shining through is pride!  I am proud to be an Aussie when I watch the way we move forward under such dire circumstances.  I am proud to be an Aussie to see a friend of my daughter (a young mum in her early 20's) organising collections of goods for flood relief!  I am proud to be an Aussie when I hear the great stories of mateship coming out all the time in the film and news articles we are seeing from here on the other side of the world!  I am proud to be an Aussie when there is a wonderful family stepping right up to help and support my children as they move forward in their lives (not flood connected)!  I hope you realise how much your love and support means to them and me!

My cousin recently put the second verse of this poem on her facebook page and it reduced me to tears!  I guess this poem really talks to me and, I have to say, always has done.  So I just had to add it here:

My Country
by Dorothea McKellar

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies -
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die –
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Tasmania 2004

 Kakadu, 2008

Wave Rock, Western Australia, 2006

Barrington Tops,  2007

Barrington Tops, 2007

Barrington Tops, 2007

Being Aussies, like this little guy we will just keep on moving forward, across the hurdles to something even greater!

Stay safe!

Oh and this morning one of the great characters I work with said:
'Bruce, I know why the floods are receding in Aus!' 
My answer 'Why's that?' 
'Well mate, they have finally stopped crying about losing the Ashes!'
My answer after stopping laughing 'I love your sense of humour!'
'Well mate I need it.  I am British!'

Sunday, 9 January 2011

New Year in Paris

We have had some issues with our internet here over the past week or so.  It has meant we have been without internet and more importantly phone, several times since getting back from Paris and when we have had service it has been extremely slow.  It is working at the moment, fingers crossed it will continue to do so!

My last couple of days in Paris were as delightful as the first few.  Richard arrived there on New Year's Eve, so by the time I got back to the hotel from the last day of my art retreat he was waiting for me.  After settling in he ducked out to get a bottle of Champagne for us to welcome the New Year in with.   He returned it to our room and put it in the 'fridge' to chill!

......yes our 'fridge' was the window sill!

We  relaxed in our room for a while and then at about 8:00pm went to the area we had stayed in when we went to Paris together in 2007.  We decided to go there to have dinner as we had loved it on that visit.  It was lovely to return to the Ternes area and have a look around again.  At about 11:00 we then made our way with with many, many other people to the Trocadero to welcome the New Year with a back drop of the Eiffel Tower.  We were not sure whether or not to expect fireworks because we had seen some webs sites saying there would be and others saying there would not! We were hopeful when we arrived as there must have been hundreds of thousands of people gathered.  But alas, there were none.  It seems they all gathered for the comraderie and the lights twinkling on the Tower.

We did pop our Champagne, which was well chilled and toasted in 2011!
Our first attempt at a 'long arm' shot......oops it was zoomed in, but I love it anyway!

Our next attampt......that's a bit better.  You can see the champagne glass (well plastic cup) and those lights on the top of the photo just left of centre are the lights twinkling on the Eiffel Tower.  (Note my knitted hat and scarf....hand made by moi!)

We finished our champange and waited for the crowd to clear a little and walked from the Trocadero down to the tower.  On the lower level of the Trocadero we stopped to take some more photos.

By 1:00am we had made it down to near the base of the Tower and it all started again!  New Year Greenwich Mean Time!

After we had walked under the tower we started to try to find a train home.  We crossed the Seine only for Richard to see a very drunk girl fall down some stairs and me being me, had to check she was OK.  She was not, so then the problem of language and getting help!  Some dramas and some time later we got a paramedic and left him to it!  OK we continued to walk to discover that the Metro being open all night did not mean all stations were open all night!  There was nothing so sensible as a sign at the closed stations saying the nearest open station is at.....  Oh no!  We walked and walked.  Saw many VERY drunk people.  Saw fights!  Saw many people vomiting, but still enjoyed our walking and chatting through Paris!  We eventually made it back to our hotel room at about 3:00am!  Poor Richard, not a night person, was snoring before his head hit the pillow.  I then had a chat to Ash online! 

New Year's Day was wonderful, but I might post this now and will try to get a post up about the Rodin gallery tomorrow!  See you all later.....dinner time here and it smells delicious!