31 May 2012


I think I'd like to fill some gabion baskets with river stones, and plant around them with...

eeks, I have been doing too much NZ research!

I'll settle for fixing my drywall terracing and plumbing and electricity!

Today I am grateful for hot water. 

more poppies underway

These little works are all on a block paper 15cm x 15cm.  I don't particularly like the paper (it is 300gsm cold press with a strong texture, I prefer hot press smooth), and it's a real discipline for me to paint so small. They are useful exercises and I can have several on the go at once, but still pack them into a locker at night. This afternoon they go home though, tomorrow I pull down the exhibition here. 

Sorry about the bad lighting once again.  I parted with one tiny painting yesterday - a visitor brought me a book as a gift, so I invited him to choose a painting.  He left with this one; it was a bit more finished than this but I hadn't photographed it:

Today I am grateful for random acts of kindness. 

30 May 2012


No painting today, too many visitors in the space (a good thing) and students sharing my table for the free internet.  But here is a shot of yesterday's almost completed work, although like the other photos taken in this space it is a bit too yellow.  Where the colour looks yellow it is actually a warm diluted red but the yellow base is dominant in the photo.  The reds are much more red in the real.

I am happy that I am getting the transparency of the poppy with the sun coming through the petals, and am keen to do this in a bigger work.

But first there are some paintings to do for others, one of them a fresco.  Am I up to it? I'll let you know when I have looked at the job!

Today I am grateful for company.  

29 May 2012

and today...

Hardly a visitor to the exhibition, I could have stayed home.  But the folks doing a presentation in the space this evening have been coming and going, turning my lights on and off, and when they eventually left with (like all the others) the screen up in front of the artworks and the projector lights running I rebelled and shifted the screen.  I had visitors to the exhibition due, and the presentation was still two hours away.  Enough, I say, no matter how polite you are, how much you excuse yourselves, right now it is Legato's space!

I think I am getting grumpy in my old age!

I have been painting more little poppy pics, and think that some of them are quite delicate.  I am painting some with the sun shining through them.  I forgot to photograph them before I locked them away.  Tomorrow... there's always tomorrow.


And then... at the presentation this evening the first thing they did was read out the title and themes of the exhibition so everyone there was aware of the work and its message. I am much less grumpy now, even though I would love to go home and they are still busy with the presentation.

And I had two very important guests to the exhibition (in terms of working together for future exhibitions and the peace project) after I posted earlier, so it has been a very worthwhile day.

Today I am grateful for smiling faces.  

28 May 2012

enough for now

These all look a little bit yellow... maybe the lighting in the Biblioteca ... The poppies really are quite red! Or, at least, several reds... but then again, I use a lot of yellow... 
Click on image for a closer look :-) 

watching paint dry...

Yes, even tiny works have lots of water on the paper and it takes time to dry when it is cool in the biblioteca and raining outside.  

(Springtime in sunny Italy...)

lunchtime at Legato

...and after a yummy lunch thanks to my good friend who brought me fruit, nuts and chocolate, it's time for a little relaxation with some paint and paper...

Today I am grateful for tranquility.

26 May 2012

uh oh!

Well, how about that!  This morning about 70 school students aged from 13 to 15 visited Legato.  For a moment there I was young and in the classroom again.  It must have been energy that they generated, rather a special time.  Now I understand the teachers who say that teaching keeps them young :-)

No, not tempted to go back into the classroom though.  Once the students had gone I was happy to retreat to my writing, wishing that I could just put the kettle on and have a nice cuppa...

Today I am grateful for the visiting Cassino artists. 

25 May 2012

bits and pieces

This morning I drove to Cassino.  At the first major intersection, the lights on the Via Casalina, I was on a red light.  Across the intersection where I could see it clearly was a huge, shiny, black truck... with a stylised Maori design on the cab. I did a double take. Was I really seeing this? Where was it from? It was a huge transporter, and the bulk of the truck was white, with a limited amount of advertising on it.  The cab, however, looked all Kiwi to me.

It was a little moment of culture shock.  I spent quite some time looking at it, wishing I hadn't put my camera in the back seat out of reach.  The design was stylised to fit the contours of the truck, and while we can't claim that every similar design has Maori origin, this one certainly seemed to be a Maori design.  The fact that the cab of the truck was black and the design painted in silver added to this.

Somehow, though, unlike the haka advertisement that caused an uproar some time ago, this seemed quite OK. I wonder if the owner of the truck had kiwi connections?  (It was an Italian truck from south of Rome).


Further along the journey I found myself behind a police car.  Not unusual, but this was one I hadn't seen before, Polizia Penitenziaria. Just how many different types of police are there?

Aware that my insurance sticker is still with my lawyer and not on my car windscreen I cruised along happily, tucked in behind the official BMW with the penitenziaria number plates. I have learned not to stress too much about these things.  The road widened, we were almost in Cassino, and it was rush hour.  Cars from behind pulled out on either side of me, and they overtook, one on the inside and one on the outside - no, it was not a three lane road - and then they saw the police car.  The policeman, driving along in relaxed mode, threw up his hand outside the window as if to say "Are you crazy? What are you doing?" and the two startled drivers quickly got out of his way weaving their way through the traffic.

I love Italy.  

coming alive

I wonder if it is a part of human nature that we like or need to belong? One on his/her own is OK, but together we can achieve more.

Occasionally I dream of opting out of all that I try to do, to live a peaceful and simple life.  But the reality is that life isn't quite like that for me.  Yesterday I met a lovely couple who also care about making a difference.  Later in the day I met a water colour artist from Rome, and we were able to talk about "real things" like paint and paper supplies, techniques, and exhibitions.  It was uplifting, exciting.

And today I have met some people from Il Comitato "Se Non Ora Quando" di Cassino, "If not now, when?"  This is a women's group outside politics of council and state who are working for equality and dignity for women, and fighting the debasement of women in sexy advertising, abuse and exploitation.  I've never been an ardent feminist, but to find a group like this in Italy is wonderful.  I will be at their next event.

I think my adventures in Italy are only just beginning; language study, here I come!

Today I am grateful for bits and pieces.

24 May 2012

forgive me if i sound excited

...but every so often you meet someone who understands "where you are coming from", who wants to talk to you about your ideas, and then, you have a genuine feeling that they are going to carry some ideas forward.  Exciting!

Life is pretty wonderful, really!

Today I am grateful for new friends. 

wise words in any subject area

Neil Gaiman addresses new graduates - his 20 minute address is well worth watching, especially for the artists/creatives among us.

Who is Neil Gaiman?  His blog is here, and there are many images on the web.

This post is largely a filing system for me; there is much to read on Neil Gaiman's website. But if you have time, or are seeking inspiration, then do watch the address. (I've watched it three times, and know I will watch it again!) It makes a lot of sense, is entertaining, and might just change your life!

Today I am grateful for research time. 

22 May 2012

too much computer

Putting Legato photos up on blogs and Facebook and downsizing photos to email takes a long time.  It means that time between visitors to Legato flies, but my eyes are tired.

Last night there was an amazing storm, lightning flashing and lighting the room.  Today it is cold. Tonight I am grateful for... my electric blanket!

Today I am grateful for fresh earl grey tea. 

21 May 2012

from the Legato blog this morning

 Guest speaker  Cathie McGregor, New Zealand Embassy, Rome, 
Deputy Chief of Mission, (on right) with Legato curator and artist Kay de Lautour Scott

 A visiting official delights the guests with an energetic discussion (in both English and Italian) of the merits of the game of rugby as a means to peace. 

Americans and Canadians listen to the presentation of the Cassino artists to the visitors.

Proloco Cassino, Michele Di Lonardo, presents artists Prof. Alessandro Nardone, Rafaelle D'Aquanno and Francesco Nardi to the viewers.  

Sunday 20th May was the official presentation of Legato to the public and invited dignitaries.  Visiting Canadians and Americans out-numbered the Italians present this busy weekend.  

Guest speaker Cathie McGregor, Deputy Chief of Mission, New Zealand Embassy, Rome, spoke of the links forged between Italy and New Zealand many years ao, that survived and were strengthened by shared wartime experience, and which flourish today.  She outlined briefly the numbers of New Zealand casualties in Italy and in Cassino in particular, then reminded visitors "how precious and hard won peace is",  and why we must all strive to protect it.  She concluded with the following adaptation of the Walter De La Mare poem, "Peace".   


Night is o'er (this place), and the winds are still;
Jasmine and honeysuckle steep the air;
Softly the stars that are all Europe's fill
Her heaven-wide dark with radiancy fair;
That shadowed moon now waxing in the west
Stirs not a rumour in her tranquil seas;
Mysterious sleep has lulled her heart to rest,
Deep even as theirs beneath her churchyard trees.

Secure, serene; dumb now the night-hawk's threat;
The guns' low thunder drumming o'er the tide;
The anguish pulsing in her stricken side....
All is at peace....But, never, heart, forget:
For this her younges, best, and bravest died,
These bright dews once were mixed with bloody sweat.

"Peace" from Memory and Other Poems (1938)

(Link to this poem above in original form is here).

Thanks to our visiting New Zealand artist for the top photograph.

Today I am grateful for tasks completed.  

18 May 2012

a first for me?

Today I received an email telling me that I have won a book, Katie Parla's  very useful "Walking Rome".  I don't remember ever winning anything in a raffle - is this a first for me?

I bought the ticket considering it to be a donation to a worthy cause, international literacy with a focus on girls' education.  I promptly forgot about it, so it's a lovely surprise :-)

Katie is an interesting and energetic ex-pat living in Rome.  Her website is worth checking out if you are heading to Rome... or simply dreaming of Italy.

Today I am grateful for sunscreen.    

17 May 2012

all set to go

Tonight the artists who have taken forever to deliver their work got lost trying to find me.  The phone calls were so frustrating, and I was fast becoming impatient. Why didn't they listen to my original instructions?

I had been standing out on the road, sitting in the boot of the car, wandering up and down, for almost 40 minutes when they finally got to me.  I was "hopping mad" until I saw their poor stressed faces. Instead of voicing my frustrations (apart from anything else I was now over 30 minutes late for my next appointment) I suddenly put myself in their shoes and gave them each a big hug.

The work they delivered was well worth the wait.  It is going to add a real zing to the show.  I hope they make it to the opening on Sunday.

Today I am grateful for perseverence. 

16 May 2012

happily tired

More Legato photos later, it is still a work in progress.  But the five I have wanted to paint for this show for quite some time are safely on the wall....

@Perry, spot the ieri e oggi...

Today I am grateful for my "co-curator"  :-)

15 May 2012

working on details - and it's done!

The camera seems to accentuate the yellow in the poppies.  They look better on the canvas.  I have worked on the hills quite a bit, and now I think they are much better linked to the middle ground as well as being less flat.

And now, as much as anything ever is, it is finished.  I have simply run out of time to do more.  But the five hours today has made all the difference to it in my own eyes.  I will use a varnish that I can paint over, and only one layer of varnish, because I think that I will work on it some more after the exhibition.

For Kris and Celeste:  I deepened the reds of the poppies, lightened the ones on the right where the sun might be shining through them, worked on the greenery in the foreground, deepened the shading of the mountains in the background then glazed them again, warmed up the closest hills, and glazed the middle ground with a very light ivory tint (the view out the window was hazy today...).  So the difference in the two photos is pretty much an indication of the changes I made today.

I lost track of the hours, but this one was certainly a lot more than the other ones, and they took me long enough!

14 May 2012

done but not varnished

Not varnished because all the little things that take it from a good painting to a painting to be proud of are still niggling at me.  It will be tomorrow morning, unless I get an energy burst tonight.  

I would approach it differently if I were to paint this again.  But I think I have achieved the effect that I was looking for.  The critic in me wont be silenced, but the pragmatic me says I have done enough.  It is a large work and I could go on improving it forever.

It's time to sleep on it... or at least sign it and leave it alone for a bit.   It's now up to approximately 25 hours,   plus all the thinking time, and there are may be another four or five hours to go.  This has been a good week's work :-)

In the meantime a little watercolour is waiting so patiently for my attention.

Today I am grateful for cups of tea.

work space


i haven't read the book

...but I loved this review of it!  On Beatties Book Blog.

On Saturday I trained up to Roma to a gathering of ex-pat authors and apps writers, brought together by the publisher of some of the books and The Beehive, a delightful art-filled hotel near Termini station. Check out The Beehive's blog for tips about travelling in Roma.  I learnt of the occasion via one of my favourite blog authors, who, much to my delight, I met on the day.

Anyway, the garden was jam packed with writers, mostly American women, so this little claustrophic Kiwi was very grateful to find a lone English accent in there and after some total immersion in ex-pat America she soaked up conversation with a wonderful young woman who is teaching her way around Italy.  (Oh to be young again?)

Anyway, I now have some new blogs to follow, and plenty to think about if I am to become a published author in my own right (and not "just a co-author or editor" - still being very proud of both of those things).

Check this out:  soooo true!  From another blogger (or two), about being an ex-pat in Italy.

Today I am grateful for progress with my painting.

on mother's day (from Legato blog)

Yesterday Italy, along with many other countries, celebrated Mother's Day.  This too began as a peace movement, started by Julia Ward Howe in 1870.  The proclamation is copied below.

Mother's Day Proclamation

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.


Perhaps it is appropriate that Legato, an exhibition promoting education for peace, was started by a woman profoundly affected seeing all the graves of the young men at Cassino, who could only think, trying to hold back her tears, "each one of these young men had a mother". Out of the devastation of war we must build international bridges, strive for reconciliation when we remember the history, and honour those who died by working for peace.

Governments find all the money they need to go to war; peace movements ask for little in comparison. Women, you are voters and politicians. You can make a difference on mother's day and every day. Unite with other women, and like-minded men, and teach your children that education, tolerance, and the equitable distribution of resources is more important than military power. "Charity, mercy and patience" wrote Julia Ward Howe. These words are no longer in fashion. Let's bring them back again.

"It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a cake stall to buy a bomber" (Author unknown).

Some might argue that historically some of the toughest politicians leading countries into war were women, but I would argue that the peace movement begins in the home, where the mothers have the most influence on their children.


My thanks go to blog writer Alison Sampson for her inspirational post Cake Stalls and Fighter Jets.

(Peace rose image and tea towel images from google images search, owners of the original images unknown).

13 May 2012

mother's day, painting day

Still plugging along with this one... I need to work more on the grasses, trying to keep them reasonably abstract, and then differentiate between foreground and middle ground a bit more.

I have been working on the trees and hedges, but need to make a clear decision about how much detail I want in the middle ground.  Apart from the abbey and the castle, the background is as good as finished - ummm... almost!  (Photographed in different light a few hours and a bit of working apart. In the lower one the camera is picking up one particular paint mix making the stalks look lighter than they are. It is also greener than it looks on my computer screen). Let's see what tomorrow brings, I am starting to make mistakes I think.

I forgot to count the hours today, so I am guessing at another six or seven, I started before 10 am, it's now nearly 8 pm but I did have some down time in there.  That puts it up to at least 20 hours so far...

Today I am grateful for Legato paintings delivered to me.  

12 May 2012

pushing the zones

Recently I shared on FB someone else's quote suggesting that "life begins at the end of your comfort zone" (Neale Donald Walsch). These days I seem to be having so many of those moments that I am hoping that I am not a cat, for surely each of my nine lives must have expired by now!

I had a lovely day really.  I arrived early in Cassino, and managed to find FREE parking in the SHADE right next to the Comune.  So to steady my nerves I had a late second breakfast, then went up to experience my first conferenza stampa.  I was expecting to be called to speak, and sat in the second row.  I was unexpectedly called up to take my place on the panel, and then the first speaker immediately handed over to me.  Yikes!  How much should I say? Why did I leave my notes in my handbag back on the chair? But despite the wobble in my voice I think it went OK, although I will admit to having had two coffees this morning to try to help my Italian!

Then lunch with dear friends, and while I was enjoying some heated debate about the pros and cons of life in Italy my phone rang, with an "are you still in Cassino? There are three New Zealanders at ..... come now!"  Well, after the cup of tea I wandered along, playing Italy time.  There at the restaurant, wondering what to expect, were three lovely Kiwis, dairy farmers from Southland.

Somewhat bemused at having a Kiwi appear on command, they trusted me enough to hop in and off we went, a mini battlefield tour, then out to Roccasecca for a few more things that the average tourist doesn't find.  I really do enjoy sharing this part of Italy - particularly with people who are not expecting it!  We had a lovely afternoon, I talked far too much, and I dropped them back at their hotel not tooooo late (I was home before midnight).

So all in all, what a lovely day!  No painting, but heck, sometimes you just go with the flow...

Today I am grateful for lovely Kiwi visitors.  

9 May 2012

this morning, wednesday

This was another two hours, up to here, making it eleven so far.  I have been working from a winter photo of the mountains, and looking out the window to the valley below to create the valley floor.  I have had to "warm up" the mountains as it is late spring when the poppies are here.   

I have glazed the mountains twice, have blocked in distant trees and begun to work on the cultivated land.  The green around the poppies is just blocked in, still a long way to go.  The yellow and white flowers will also be poppies, just a little further back from the main ones and behind grassy brush strokes.   

More later I hope... 

Another hour before I had to leave it, so 12 hours so far.  I have established my darkest dark in the foreground, so now I have a reference point for all the tonal values.  I want this picture to be a happy one, a contrast to the starkness of the previous four, so not too dark in the foreground.  

And that's it for today folks, my eyes have had enough!

Today I am grateful for relaxation. 

8 May 2012

after dinner

The colours will be better united as the painting progresses.  At the moment the introduction of yellow seems rather harsh.  Don't panic, it will all be resolved as the layers of scumbling go on... 

I think (altogether, from the start) that has been about 9 hours of work.  And now my brain and my eyes are tired.  I think it's wine o'clock... goodnight!

literally hours of work and only this to show for it

I'm still working on the mountains; critics here will know every ridge line and I'd better have them close to correct!  The abbey from this angle seems particularly huge, as you have two walls instead of the usual one looking down at you.  

Yep, still a long long way to go!  But I've got 8 days... and nights...
I've lost the light now, so it must be.... walk time!  (Then food o'clock...) 

Today I am grateful for cut grass.

distracted by the view and the weather

How's a girl to paint when the day is so glorious?

Today I am grateful for fields of poppies.