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Archive for August, 2007

Books!

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My Amazonian parcel arrived last night! Yaaahar!

One book yet to come -(but that’s one I’ve read from the library and just want to have). The other book is a paperback LOADED with text – not so lovely to show, but hopefully helpful.

These two other books though had me so excited I couldn’t sleep last night.

The best, most wonderful one is ‘Painting people – figure painting today’. It was just exactly what I needed to kick me along and get my groove back. I’m sure every artist goes through phases where they wonder if what they are doing is good enough, relevant, saleable, and true to their own vision. I’ve had a tough couple of weeks, but think I’m back on track now – with confirmation that my vision is ‘out there’ and that’s OK. Some of the works in there are confronting, others pure and beautiful. Many, many, many of them have figures making eye contact with the viewer – something I’ve been wondering is too confronting in my own work. I think that’s just fine now after looking at this book.

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Peter Doig. I think I’m in love…..

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Still cogitating……..

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Brushwork is another inspirational and useful book for me – with loads of techniques, which I’ll hopefully use to build on my own repertoire.

Oh – and I noticed that I’ve had 10,000 visitors here! Gosh, WOW!  Thanks for coming! 🙂

So, feeling excited, and inspired I’m off to do some reading and hopefully some painting……………..

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Dr Sketchy

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Went to Dr Sketchy last night!   Such fun as always.  Mel always seems to find such great models, and Lolly, (aka Succubust) was no exception.  She had a great sense of humour and an armoury of weapons which made for a fun night’s sketching.  If you are faint of heart or easily frightened, come back tomorrow for a different post. 🙂

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I had a great post ready for today. Something wonderful, but it will have to wait, because I realised this morning, after dropping my son off at school and noticing that there is a weed almost as tall as me in the front garden that I have been incredibly self indulgent and lazy.

I get focused on minutae. Having a clean bench, scacciata made weekly so my husband feels loved, a painting on the go, clean clothes, a updated blog……

In the meantime I havn’t had a proper haircut for m-o-n-t-h-s, I am due for a vitamin B shot – which is why I am sooo tired lately, and our garden has run to absolute ruin through a combination of not watering in the drought and summer rain. Things have died, left space for weeds to take hold, and when the rain came it was party time. You know – I didn’t even notice, I just thought the front looked nicer a bit green, even if it was covered by a horizontally spreading weed…..

Slap.

So, I am resolved to spending a bit of heavy duty time in the garden for the next week or so, to exorcise some demons and hopefully the neighbours will start talking to me again.

In the meantime here is my recipe for scacciata in true sicilian style.

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First you need to make the dough.

  • 2 cups wholemeal flour
  • 2 cups plain white flour (4 cups if you don’t have wholemeal flour in the cupboard)
  • 1 potato cooked, and mashed
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 + 1/3 warm water
  • 1 packet (tandaco) instant yeast (7g)
  • big pinch of salt
  • decent slosh of olive oil (2 tablespoons?)

Step 1

Dissolve sugar into warm water, stir in instant yeast and leave for 10 minutes until the top of the bowl is covered with foamy yeast.

Put flours, potato, salt, olive oil in a BIG mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the prepared water/yeast mix. Stir, then get stuck in with your hands, and knead until a springy dough is formed (about 10 minutes). At some point once it is coming together, put it on the bench and you’ll find the kneading easier. The dough should feel firm and elastic but soft. It took me a few tries to get this part right, but once you do – it’s yours for life.

Splash some olive oil in the empty bowl and run it around with your hands until the bowl is well coated. Toss your ball of dough in, cover with cling film and put in a warm spot to rise. Sometimes I put it outsidein the sun, sometimes near the heater. My sister in law makes the dough in the morning, wraps the bowl up in a blanket and puts it in her bed.

The dough will rise to 3 times its original size depending on how well the yeast activated. Speed of rising will also be affected by the warmth of the spot you have chosen. It takes 45 mins – 1 hour for me most times.

Step 2 – Filling it.

In the Giacobello family, the filling of choice is broccoli, spring onion, parmesan cheese, and marinated olives (lots of chilli). Another good filling is tomato and onions (cooked together until soft), cheese, salt and pepper and sliced cooked potato. Experiment and find your own great version.

Divide dough into 2 balls.

Roll one ball into a long rectangle and place on baking tray.

For the filling you’ll need:

  • 1 large head of broccoli cut into florets
  • 5 spring onions chopped
  • big handful of pitted, marinated olives
  • big handful of parmesan cheese, cut into small chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • BIG sploshes of olive oil (my husband loves his olive oil……..)

Distribute all of the above over the rectangle – leaving a border around the edge. Salt and papper to taste. Splash olive oil over.

Roll remaining dough into a large rectangle, lay over the top of your base and filling, and press around the edges to seal. Lately I’m bringing the bottom edge over the top of the top edge by rolling and tucking it, and it works a treat.

Using a sharp knife, puncture the top in lots of places to let steam escape as it cooks.

Cook in a low to moderate oven (I set mine at 150 c) for about an hour, depending on the thickness of your final creation. It is done when you are able to lift it (or slide something under it), and you will see the bottom is cooked in the middle.

You can eat this hot from the oven and it is fantastic, but we tend to cut it into 6 portions, and package them up to be eaten cold for lunch for the week.

Belissima!

Scacciata is a sicilain dialect word that means slipper…. Go figure. 🙂

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Gugging

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Yesterday I went into the city, on my lonesome, to complete the first part of a new website for my husband’s business, and to go to the National Gallery of Victoria.

It was lovely, and sunny, and perfect weather for a trot out.  My heart was light and happy, and I was excited about seeing the Guggenheim exhibition which has come to our fair gallery.

To cut a long story short it left me really flat.  It wasn’t that I hated it, and it’s not that I’m a traditionalist – I actually really, really love conceptual art and find it challenging and interesting.  I think it was a combination of a light heart and short attention span because I was out as a grown-up unaccompanied, which is very rare at the moment.

I found the colours for the most part flat and uninteresting – with the exception of the fairly recent stuff.  I did enjoy seing Lichtenstein, Warhol and Gilbert and George.  I was heartbroken to find no connection to the Rothko pieces they had on display, and while I really tried (I did – I so tried) to connect to a work in the corner formed by 2 pieces of elastic which was clearly a statement on our perceptions of space and boundaries, it too left me cold.

Intent on getting my money’s worth I glided upstairs to the European section to see if there was anything there that interested me and I fell in love twice, and reminded myself that my own passion lies, for the human form in soulful representation, with a steady gaze from the canvas, and in rich, beautiful colour.

The works that I would have taken home (had they offered) were: la Cigale – a recent acquisition by Jules Lefebvre, who also painted our iconic Chloe.  I was completely entranced in the space between her toes.  A masterful and beautiful work. And another work, that I can’t remember the title of for the life of me.  It’s medium/small oil painting of a woman with a bobbed haircut (black), her hands folded gently in her lap looking straight out.  Love it, want it.  Tender and beautiful.

It was a strange visit, but reminded me of where I want to be, what I want to achieve, and how I want to paint it.  I keep hearing over the years that painting is dead, but I feel it so isn’t.  I feel that the role of art is to catalogue our lives and experiences on earth at this time.  That can happen through photography, or writing, but for me painting it is logical.  I want to tell stories, I want to make a flat surface glow, I want to make people happy.  And I want to be doing it my way.

So there you go.

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Reinvention

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painting over a recent work – ringleader – work in progress.

I suppose it’s progress of some kind. Painful, awkward, gut-wrenching progress, to be thankful for in the evolution of self and soul and body of work. It turns me inside-out. It lays me at the side of play, watching helplessly as others effortlessly glide by – doing their thing with no apparent discomfort.

Sometimes I love what I do. It could be completely pedestrian and uninspired, but on that day I feel like I’ve kicked arse. Other days I look at something I did, showed, perhaps sold and feel like I’ve cheated someone because I could do better today than I did then! Some works I feel immensely proud of but haven’t sold, and I wonder if it was time and place, taste, or if I am just hopeless.

I do think all of this is a natural process. It’s not a delightful experience though, and it’s something gallery viewers never see (and they shouldn’t), when they look at a piece and wonder if it will match their decor. Absurdly enough the discomfort is a gift to the artist, evolution (or devolution sometimes), a personal journey that gives its own gifts in richer work, bolder stories, or a new viewpoint.

If only it wasn’t so uncomfortable.

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Sprung

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Spring has sprung, de grass is riz,

I wonder where de boidies is?

Dey say the boid is on the wing, but dat’s absurd

I know the wing is on de boid.

If anyone knows where the poem originally came from, please tell me. I’ve got a feeling it’s a Marx Brothers one, but have nooo idea. 🙂

Where I am, we are having an unseasonably nice patch of weather. Sunny and gorgeous yesterday – even nicer today. Warm breeze, gentle sun, birds chirping. So…… spurred on by my ridiculous find at the library, I’m dragging myself around, trying to do a bit of a spring clean – see how well I’m doing? I’m back on the blog and I’m only halfway through.

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The windows are open. Fresh sheets, clean floor, leggos and bionicles in their own storage solutions, dolls in their houses, bathroom about to be tackled. A mountain of papers organised, magazines thrown out. Soup on the stove. All is good. My painting studio is a disaster, but that will have to wait for another day…. Some of the larger stretchers need to go out to the shed – and that’s a whole day in itself. Any volunteers?

This book – it must be said – is one of the cruellest things I have ever done to myself. I used to be quite the entertainer. A good cook, and an enthusiastic one, a tidy house, fresh flowers once a week. Gentle industry, quiet time, enough sophistication to keep myself sane without being a complete wanker…

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Now, the coffee table is covered in piles of books and unread magazines (ours and the kids). There are piles of toys in overflowing baskets in the living room, that are piled back in at the end of the day, but are not pretty. The kitchen has an almost permanent clothes-horse covered in washing drying, or an overflowing basket of clothes waiting to be folded. The amount of mail that comes in the house that must be sorted or filed leaves me gasping for breath, and while I relish the time spent with the kids, there are afternoons, mornings, whole days that the painting tugs at my sleeve and soul relentlessly.

The entertaining is done in my own house, these days, with my own family, and involves singing, stories, art projects, cooking, and building. The thought of having a large number of guests is as foreign to me as the idea of going out and having a regular haircut. This book, has whole chapters devoted to making guests feel comfortable in your home. With helpful suggestions like – check the temperature is suitable, as large numbers will affect airflow in the house. Leave empty tables for hostess gifts. Um what? Make sure there is enough seating. ……Will the floor do?

It is very pretty. It is very, very pretty, but it has to be enough to me to have our home clean at this point in our lives I guess, and I try to remember at regular intervals that the artist Margaret Olley (someone told me – so I hope it is true) used to do her ironing, by carefully laying it all on her favourite chair and sitting on it until it was needed.

And that sounds like good housekeeping advice to me. 😉

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well this sucks….

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It must be said, that my husband is, well, sort of, how do I put this……. compulsive.

He is, bless him, fanatical. I wish there was a more descriptive word, but I can’t think of one that fully describes his particular compulsion when it comes to crumbs on the floor. And it’s certainly a compulsion.

I suppose I should have been adequately warned, when – newly in the flush of our relationship I stayed at his house overnight for the first time. He cooked me toast, and proceeded to vacuum around the floor while I was eating it. He’s such a romantic. And over the years, things have not changed.

As he vacuumed, that first day – I remember him saying ‘are you surprised?’

‘By what?’ I responded.

‘By a man vacuuming’ – he replied…

Being the liberated woman that I am I must have nearly wet myself laughing, but his Sicilian notion that it was womans work, was well overridden by his fathers credo – if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself. And to be truthful – nobody vacuums more throughly, or – it must be said – more often that my husband.

He vacuums the minute he walks through the door – despite the fact that I have only just vacuumed so that he doesn’t get concerned about crumbs on the floor. He will vacuum again during, and after a meal. If there are guests, he may vacuum while they are there – around their feet while they are standing or sitting. He is concerned that the “mess” will track its way into the bedrooms, where he doesn’t vacuum every day. During the day the drone of the beast will be heard (on a weekday) perhaps 6 times. When he has a day off, it is of course, much more frequent, and it must be said – that with my particular form of hearing impairment, some days it drives me completely mad!

Some days I could cheerfully toss the thing through the window, and I wonder what the effect will be on my children. Will they be compulsive as well, or perhaps never, ever vacuum out of sheer delight in the silence.

I have tried the greenhouse gas emission argument – nothing. I have tried pleading. I have even threatened violence. Today – mysteriously the blue creature has gone silent of its own accord. I am to take it to the repair shop to get it fixed (the lack of a vacuum will bring its own stresses to my darling man I imagine), and I’m not looking forward to the argument – this will be the 3rd time it’s been taken back to the shop, and now it’s just out of warranty by a whisker.

I am tempted to hide it under the bed for a week or two before I take it there just for the peace and quiet. 😉

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