25 April 2015

eight years

Today marks the beginning of my ninth year in Italy. Eight years ago, on the 24th of April, I arrived here to make a complete change in my life.  Today on the Italian calendar it is now 25th April.

When I arrived here eight years ago, on a one year visa, I had no idea how long I would stay. Three months, perhaps, and then I would have an annual painting holiday here? Instead, my 'bolt hole' apartment became my home.

A year after my arrival I wrote this post. I am less sure of where home is now, or perhaps I am more sure that I have at least two homes.

The commemorations for 100 years of ANZAC hard on the heels of the 70th anniversary commemorations here last year have left me in a more fragile state. This week my heart and head have both been in New Zealand, and it has been harder keeping my daily life here moving smoothly.

Three days ago my permission to live here expired. My application to stay another two years is in. I play the waiting game. Will this remain my home, or will I become that visitor on a painting holiday every year? Rules are being tightened all through the systems here. I can't take anything for granted any more.

If home is where the heart is, then I am lucky to have many homes.

Today, the festival for the liberation of Italy (WWII) I take stock, paint some ANZAC Day poppies (see note below), and reflect on my fragmented life. I am grateful for all that I have learned over the past eight years. It hasn't been easy, but it has been a good life.

Happy anniversary to me.

Today I am grateful for options and choices.

Poppies: I am exhibiting here in June, and chose to focus on the poppy in all its meanings. I began with the joy and brightness of it, lifting myself away from the commemorative meanings. That series is the strong ones in the previous post. I have worked my way back to the poppy for commemoration. The timing is perfect, but it doesn't make the work any easier. I will be focusing on the art making, more than the significance, as I paint today. ANZAC Day has been emotional enough for me already. (Painting above is a detail from a poppy I painted last year).

20 April 2015

poppy time again

but this time I am painting them with joy.

 I have tried two different types of texture medium (my credit card went on a spree in Melbourne recently) and will certainly be using the one below again. The one above really should have been applied with a palette knife, not a chopped up credit card...

Each is a series of five paintings, plus there are two more horizontal ones in the strong vibrant style. As these are for an exhibition in June I am not putting the full works out at the moment, just a glimpse to keep you up to date with what is happening in the studio.

Now to work on the watercolour versions. 

Today I am grateful for time to create. 

5 April 2015

this year it was too sad

I have avoided all things Easter up until today. There is so much sorrow in the world, with man-made tragedies, that I found it too difficult to watch another that I find too real, too sad, as presented in the villages and towns here. Instead I will link you to a performance I watched a few years ago.

It is times like this that I am really a misfit culturally. I have a much more optimistic view of life and would prefer make more of the empty cross and the resurrection rather than the suffering of Christ. I guess it is my protestant upbringing.

It was very good to see that the Pope has continued his "tradition" of going into a Rome jail and washing the feet of prisoners. Now that is something that gives me hope. (Link chosen randomly - I don't see why one prisoner was singled out for description in this article).

Here is the Passion of Christ as I saw it in 2011. It left me without words.

Today I am dining (Easter Sunday) with new friends. I am looking forward to it. Tomorrow I will take some baking to old friends. It is time I caught up with them again.

Today I am grateful for friendship.

29 March 2015

group exhibition ends today

I have three poppy paintings in this show, photo later. They are shiny and hard to photograph. I was aiming for a more contemporary look, but as you can see I am surrounded by tradition :)

Today I am grateful for inclusion. 

not cricket

It's not cricket I know, but I'm just linking you to my other blog today.

Work calls... (and so did the cricket but it's just too distracting!)

But Spring is finally coming, and if only my computer would accept my camera card I would post you some photos. Need to find the connecting cords...

Here is my recent post, on my Little Goat Books blog.

Today I am grateful for blue skies.

22 March 2015

there's always an up side

Paintings (gesso base) drying by the fire. If you can't have sunshine, then dry firewood is the next best option.

 I love the smell of an open fire. It takes me back to my childhood, where I learnt to light fires in our huge open fire. This one is not nearly as wonderful a fireplace, and the chimney is impossible to clean, but a good roaring blaze knocks down a bit of soot.

All that is missing is the pot of soup, fresh local bread, and some music. I can remedy at least two of those. 

Today I am grateful for two little dogs (who seem to have forgiven me for being away for so long). 

16 March 2015

to eBook or not?

Today's post is copied over from my "other" blog, Little Goat Books. A little longer than usual, back into my favourite mode of shameless pontificating, one might say! 

I have been asked by potential buyers if my books are available for Kindle, and others have suggested that this would be a good idea. Yes, when children are travelling, perhaps this would be useful. Yes, for getting more books sold, it is probably a good idea. Would I? Should I?

For now, at least, the answer is a firm (yet gentle) no. Why do I choose to miss out on those sales and that revenue when I am a fledgling business? The answer is easy; I love books.

When I was a child, the “success” of a Christmas or birthday was always the number of books I was given. But it’s more than that. I love the idea of children snuggled into a parent, an aunt or uncle, a babysitter, an older sibling, pointing to the page, running their fingers over the words, sharing. Sharing, sharing. I also love paper, paper of any kind.

I am totally for eBooks, but I am not writing for this format yet. To me a good eBook is an interactive adventure, a little like a 21st century “pick-a-path” book.  I am not ready to learn all I would need to know to present a book to its best in an interactive way.

I strongly believe that picture eBooks should be designed for the pages to be read consecutively. Mine are still designed to a “facing page” format. My illustrations, particularly as I work on the next series, need that page turn, that suspense, the adult deciding just when to reveal the surprise over the page. I like that.

Jon Skuse puts it particularly well. Jon Skuse worked in the computer games industry then did a Master of Arts in children’s book illustration to develop his skills. He is now a freelancer helping publishers move into world of eBooks. He says:
“There are two aspects to this – the business side and the creative side. The eBook is cheap to make once the technology is in place and it is cheap to buy. And you are not limited to a certain number of pages in the way a print-based book is. It doesn’t have to be linear in its construction either. The creator can make different ‘branches’ or routes; for example, the reader can tap on a door to take one route or tap on another to follow a different narrative.” (Cited in Children’s Picturebooks The art of visual storytelling, Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles, 2012 ,Laurence King Publishing Ltd London, pg 184).
He continues on to say:
“The eBook isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about an ‘exploration’, an experience, rather like a pop-up book. What many publishers are doing wrong at the moment is just copying printed picture books on to this format, which does both media a disservice. It’s just like looking at a PDF. Children will simply flick through. A printed picturebook is a particular kind of physical experience that can be savoured and revisited. The eBook needs to exploit its own particular characteristics and strengths to evolve as similarly special but distinct experience.”
This month one of the keynote presentations at the world-wide Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, Italy, is the development of eBooks in the digital age. Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” has at least two re-makes into interactive apps, and these will be explored in-depth. I think the presentation description of a book “re-engineered” is very apt:
Case Study: Two apps; one caterpillar — How StoryToys successfully re-engineered a beloved children’s publishing icon, with interactivity in mind.
Emmet O’Neil of StoryToys. Winner of the 2015 BolognaRagazzi Digital Award. Emmet will provide a case study into the details of making the award winning My Very Hungry Caterpillar. (Excerpt taken from the programme update emailed to me).
This is a glimpse of the future for children’s picture eBooks. I am impressed, I think it is exciting, but I am not in a hurry to write for this model.  For now I will leave that to the younger writers and the computer enthusiasts.

I write for junior teachers to read to classes. I write for grandparents who grew up with books and want to share their love of the printed page with their digital age grandchildren. I write for children who want to touch the page, to revisit images, to add their own imagined world into the white spaces I leave, and I write to keep shared reading alive.

It’s even more simple than that too. I don’t love screens. I love books.

Today I am grateful for books with paper, pictures, covers and spines.