29 December 2012

in the aftermath

Christmas fruit cake just like my mother used to make - so good!

The post-Christmas eating to excess continues. I can't blame anyone but myself, there is noone holding me down and forcing me to eat chocolate or Christmas cake. I am the author of my own demise.

New Year usually brings a healthier start for me, but why oh why can't I make it easy on myself and not over-eat in the first place?


But it all tastes so good...

A few more trips up and down the stairs must surely burn off a little?

Today I am grateful for figs, nuts and rich fruit cake. 

post gift giving

Now I can reveal two little paintings that have safely made their way to Scotland and will be framed as soon as I can arrange it. Assembling images for the NZ one was easy, but the Scottish one had me scratching my head. In it you should be able to find the flag, Ben Nevis, a castle, a loch, two salmon, some heather and a thistle, two little Scottish dogs and some bagpipes. What the little dog is doing with the bagpipes is for you to imagine... 

Oh, and of course, there are two elusive creatures occasionally spotted in Bonny Scotland, Nessie... and a pale sun! 

Perhaps more obvious to most of my readers are the Kiwi buzzy bee, a Mary-Lou doll, two "real" kiwis, the TVNZ kiwi and his cat, (the kiwi with fishing rod and gumboots), a tiki on a skateboard and jandals on the beach. Some ferns complete the icons, and the blue sky and sunshine goes without saying... :-) 

Artistically the biggest challenge was uniting the two works. Both have circular (in fact, oval) compositions, but the spaces are used differently. The colours were disparate so the Goodnight Kiwi's jacket moved more toward Scottish colours and the bagpipes, Nessie, one little dog and incidental colour in the foreground picked up the reds and yellows of the NZ composition. 

Today I am grateful for gifts received and those given on my behalf. 

23 December 2012

saint nic

Prayers and requests to St Nicholas in the church at Bari, in Puglia, Italy. To read more about St Nick follow the links on this earlier blog post

presepe and a Christmas carol

Each year dedicated people produce a different, and increasingly complex, nativity scene. The baby Jesus does not appear in the scene until midnight on Christmas Eve, and as that date approaches the three wise men are moved closer and closer to the waiting stable. 

For the last few years the lighting has become more complicated, and the viewer watches while the scene is bathed in moonlight, through to daylight. Moving parts include a mill and smoke comes from a chimney with a little help from the operator who tops up the hidden source. 

The website can be visited here, website of il Grande Presepe di Roccasecca. Click on previous editions to see other versions of the nativity scene. Many Italian nativity scenes place the manger in the stable within a cave setting rather than a building. 

An Italian Christmas carol talks of the baby Jesus lying in a stable in a cave. Here is (on youtube) "Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle". The word "grotta" is cave, but here is translated as manger. 
Tu scendi dalle stelle,
O Re del Cielo,
e vieni in una grotta,
al freddo al gelo.
O Bambino mio Divino
Io ti vedo qui a tremar,
O Dio Beato
Ahi, quanto ti costò
l'avermi amato!
A te, che sei del mondo
il Creatore,
mancano panni e fuoco;
O mio Signore!
Caro eletto Pargoletto,
Quanto questa povertà
più mi innamora!
Giacché ti fece amor
povero ancora!

Today I am grateful for creative people. 

22 December 2012

little gifts for little folk

Teddy is not quite finished, more shadow needed to make it more 3-D, and spiderman was still to have his spider added and a little shading done.

The spiderman picture was photographed in deceptive light so the paper looks more yellow than it really is.

Today I am grateful for a strong waterproof jacket.

15 December 2012


A chance conversation brought these two little sketches into being. They are really just purposeful diversions to keep my brush occupied while I am waiting for the paintings to dry. The one on the right is still wet so will dry a little paler. I am very happy with the random happenings on the left hand side door.

This evening I am grateful for tissues. 

simple is best

A Christmas theme with the simplest of ingredients.

Rosemary for remembrance, and the tomatoes and white bowl join it to make the colours of Christmas. 

I like the idea of a Christmas tree of rosemary. This was simply inside to go on the roasted vegetables, and unexpectedly formed a Christmas theme when I added the tomatoes to the bowl. Now I am looking at my very healthy rosamarina at the kitchen doorstep with new eyes and intent... 

Today I am grateful for family.

one better

There is one thing better than hearing a wonderful performance by a talented singer. That is hearing that same singer "jamming" with friends for the pure joy of making music together.

I'd post photos but it feels wrong to do so. It was a magical night, and the memory is far better than a photo can record.

Last night a friend expressed surprise that I hadn't taken photos of the singer as he thrilled the small but enthusiastic winter audience. I did take photos after the main performance, only of the informal session and I don't think I should be sharing these without permission. At the moment I was asked about the (lack of) photos I thought, but didn't say, that I wanted to treasure the memory, and not "reduce it to a mere photo".

Are photographs reductionist in some way? Is the editing process too severe when sound and emotion are part of the subject? Photographs can be evocative, but last night no photograph would have captured the joy, the pleasure and the appreciation that resonated in that ancient space.

Today I am on my own creative roll, with four small paintings on target to be completed in time for Christmas. That will make six done since I sent my other works to NZ.

I miss my paintings when they leave home, but something in the gap that they leave releases another energy, and more paintings/writings come to fill the void.

Now let's see if I too can go one step better, and paint with joy and delight :-)

Today I am grateful for happy memories.

12 December 2012

blessed, I am

What's better than hearing a tenor singing in your tree top?

Hearing him singing while he cooks your dinner, of course.


This morning I woke early, at exactly the time my exhibition preview was being held in New Zealand. How can you get opening night nerves in your sleep?


I am really happy with some creative progress today. Now I am impatient to bring into painted image and crafted text the ideas I have jotted on paper.

Today I am grateful for art and music. 

10 December 2012

a thousand words

or maybe not!

An early morning trip to the railway station had me driving back home at 7.30am. The colours of the sunrise were surreal. If I had painted them it would have looked tacky, horrible, cheap and nasty. BUT.....

Picture this:

The cold crisp air produced a translucence that was almost sickly, a lemon yellow with a mere hint of cerulean blue, made bearable only by the flush of a warmer Indian yellow tinged with rose madder descending to, but not quite touching, the horizon line.

Above, the clouds were suffused with colour, a strong magenta, with the finest strip of grey where the sun could not permeate and colour the regular puffs of moisture.

Below, jagged, foreboding, strong and steely, the mountain stood totally unrelenting, cold in hue, dark in tone, untouchable, forbidding.

The line of cold, clear light that formed a delicate and transient boundary between earth and sky reminded those below that it was a bitterly cold atmosphere; ice and frost would be slow to thaw.

Bundled up in three layers of wool and rabbit fur gloves I was snug and smug... yes, the car heater was on, set to 22 degrees.

Today I am grateful for gloves and colour. 

8 December 2012

winter in the valley

Today I am grateful for heating. 

7 December 2012

our big day

by Zacchi.

Well, today was a big big day. It's been a bit boring around here lately; since the olives were picked Mum doesn't come out to play much. And when she lets us in she just stays at the computer, and gets grumpy if I do anything to get her attention (you, know, raising my leg and waving at her, that sort of stuff) and she has cut Piccolina's rations and makes us eat separately now. It's all a bit much, really.

Well, after she got home last night she must have felt a bit guilty, having company and all, talking and laughing with her visitors and not even letting us come and sniff their legs. So this morning, miracle of miracles, she let us in.

WOW we thought, that sounds like walking footsteps, AND she has her jacket on, so we ran up the stairs barking like crazy things. We were so excited.

Big mistake. That's when the trouble started. She told us to be good, and my oh my did she mean it. She said we had forgotten our manners completely. And she went and got a bottle of water. Uh oh, in this cold weather?

I managed to stay quiet, well, mostly, and only got a few drops of water in my direction when I barked. That shut me up pretty fast I can tell you. When Mum says to stay quiet she really means it. But silly Pickle, she just barked even louder. You should have seen Mum run up the stairs. And Pickle got a shower. Well, part of a shower, because she moved even faster than Mum and the water went more on the floor, not so much on Pickle. But even Pickle understood, and we were like little angels while she put our leads on, and there was no more water even when Pickle scratched the door. Again. It looks more like kindling than paint, to be honest, but Mum doesn't seem to notice that.

So, out we went.

Well. Talk about unpredictable women! Instead of taking us the usual route she took us down the hill. I remember her doing this before, and it was all a bit too scary. I wasn't so keen, but then she started to run, and you know how I love to run. So off we went. It was pretty cool, and we got past the big dogs in the olive grove really fast. Then we got to some little yappy dogs (don't you just hate little yappy dogs?) and Mum made us go fast again, but they didn't cross the road. Pickle tried to go and play with them but Mum said NO. I just looked straight ahead, and trotted along perfectly. I know not to mess with that tone of voice. (Just between you and me, I didn't really want to play with them... there used to be a BIG dog there too, and you can't trust them not to hide and pounce out from somewhere!)

Mum started to get a bit tired after her running, so she slowed down a bit. She even thought about turning back. But I just reminded her that our friend Helen is about to run her 101st marathon, so Mum should just stop being a whimp and deal! So on we went. A moment later I regretted that, cos a huge dog came running out. But luckily it didn't come over either. Pickle wanted to go and play with it too, she's shameless, the little hussy. But Mum pulled and pulled the leash and we got past safely. (Did I tell you how much I love my Mum sometimes?)

Well, from there it was pretty uneventful. We talked to the postman, and we jumped a few puddles. Mamma mia, you should have seen the ice in those puddles. It was like broken sheets of glass where the postman had driven through. Then, a huge surprise for us, Mum took us to visit our best friend, Jackerd. He was almost as surprised as we were, but he still had treats for us.

We had a playdate with Panda and Lulu for about half an hour, and then Mum said we had better head home while her legs would still move. I see what she means. Now that she has cooled down she is not so keen on running everywhere. But back to the story. We were almost at the top of the hill again when Piccolina slowed down, she reckoned it had been a loooong walk. I could see Mum starting to agree with her, so I did my best encouraging behaviour and trotted like a champion. Then near the top of the rise I was a superstar, really keeping close to Mum's ankles and protecting her from the big big dog that looks a bit like a beagle or some other scary hound.

And soon we were home again. Now it is cold, and almost dark and it is not even 5pm. Mum looked at the weather forecast and said we don't know how lucky we are. She said if she had known how cold it was outside today we would not have set out for our walk, and now that she has seen what's coming we can forget about walking again for at least five days.

But I don't believe her. I think when she gets another email from Helen she will put on her hat and gloves and scarf and coat and take us walking again. But next time, I predict, it will be the other direction to the rubbish bin and back again... and we all know that that's not even a hop step and jump, it's certainly not training to keep up with Helen!

Mum says that today she is grateful for two little dogs who are wonderfully well behaved and really little superstars and she doesn't know what she would do without them and she loves them so much and she is going to give them lots of treats every hour... oh, you stopped believing me after "two little dogs"? Ok then... woof woof... wag wag... (just keep that water away from me, will you?)

5 December 2012

letting go...

For all the best reasons in the world I can't be at my next solo exhibition. It takes place without me.

My works will be delivered to the gallery, beautifully framed, while I am sleeping tonight. I have not seen one of these new works in a matt, let alone in a lovely frame. I hope they look as good in the real as they do in my mind. I can't see them. At least not until long after the exhibition is over, and hopefully some will sell and those I wont be able to see in their final presented form.

I am feeling rather frayed around the edges, letting go is hard.

I am a control freak when it comes to my exhibitions. I like to know how the works are framed, and I like to curate the show myself. Plans on paper mean nothing, only that the work will fit in the gallery. Once the work is in place the paintings begin to react, one with another, in unpredictable ways.

This time I am not there to read this interaction, to change, to change again. My babies have been sent out into the world without me holding their hands.

I have complete faith in the people doing all of this for me.


it is soooo hard letting go!

Today I am grateful for wonderful people on the other side of the world.

3 December 2012

the up side

"Of course you can't exhibit over Christmas then, tanti auguri, and you'll be gone for 3 months at least?"

This morning I turned down the offer of a Christmas exhibition in the main local venue. I explained why. Beaming smiles and handshakes came my way instead of pressure to exhibit.

When new grandchildren are involved, the expectation is not that you will hurry home but that of course you will be needed to help for at least three months.

(Dear sons-in-law...the good news is...)

Today I am grateful for helpful people. 

1 December 2012

Pickle says d i e t is a four-letter word

Pickle and I could both do with more exercise and less food. I am trying, a little harder than Pickle, to do something about this. Zacchi is adding to my exercise regime, being the loyal and faithful dog that he is.

The background:

Zacchi, bless him, has always been a pathetic eater. Light of frame, nervous, never hungry... it was always an effort to get him to eat at all to put any flesh on the bones under the wirey hair. And dog food, always available, held little appeal. Food from my kitchen, or Franca's left over pasta, well, that was a different story. But otherwise he would pick little, but often.

Pickle loves food. Any food. Any where. Any which way. But she doesn't (yet) steal from the coffee table unless I have really left something close to the edge and it is just way too much of a good thing right by her nose. She knows that No means NOOOO!

The situation today:

After Pickle's illness she has become terribly spoilt, and less active. Much much less active. And so she grows... and grows. And of course the more she eats, the harder it is to run up hills. I can relate to that. RUN up hills? You've got to be kidding.

So Pickle and I are watching what we eat. And Pickle watches what I eat. And what Zacchi eats. And the poor thing wonders why her tummy isn't quite as full as it used to be.

I have had to separate them at meal time; in fact, before there was no proper meal time. Pickle would eat everything I put out for both of them, and then look for more. And because Zacchi had missed out, I always put out more. Now I give Zacchi his meal apart, so it is not consumed in a few crunches.

The problem is that Zacchi eats such dainty portions, then wants to come back in, or go out, as the case may be. Then, five minutes later, he wants the door opened again. And again. In the meantime I am up and down like a yoyo, opening, closing, grabbing food from Pickle when she sneaks out to get Zacchi's...

Dear rotund Pickle, at least one of us is getting exercise even though there is cold wet miserable weather outside. Now about you going outside again... Pickle... no Pickle... you are not a cat, you are supposed to LIKE being outside barking at pigeons or chasing cats. Pickle, if I put some food outside will you go out... ?


when facebook friends leave us

Despite using it every day, I remain terribly ambivalent about Facebook. I don't like the way it takes me into other people's lives, where I may not have chosen to go. It has linked me with people I will never meet. Just occasionally something happens that reminds me how strangely remote yet touching these Facebook friendships can be.

I have made several "friends" through art on FB and feel that I know some of them quite well. Others I really don't know other than through the images of their paintings. This week one of my FB friends died, in hospital, surrounded by her family.

We have been FB friends since 2010 I think. I really didn't know her, although she appears to have been a gentle and kind person. I simply don't check many individual pages, but simply respond to what happens to be passing on my news feed when I am at the computer. I don't know if she ever checked my page. It feels wrong, somehow, to even consider going to her page now, looking back to see what notices I might have missed over the last two years.

We may have met in the Waikato a few years ago, I was never quite sure. I think that we probably did, her name and her photograph were very familiar. But as FB friends, which we became at her request, we had never exchanged personal messages, nor had we commented on one another's posts. However, we were both Waikato artists, and we were not so different in age.

This evening FB tells me that it is her birthday this week.  I didn't know that. She would have been 66 in a few days. Well over two hundred people, her Facebook friends, will be getting this same birthday reminder. It wouldn't surprise me if many of them don't know that her funeral was held in Te Kowhai this morning. If, as I sometimes do, they sleepily write their greeting as FB prompts them to, without going to her page, they still wont know.

We talk about everyone being connected, everyone in the world being no more than 6 links away from everyone else (six degrees of separation). But instead of reducing those degrees of separation, increasing connections, does FB sometimes disconnect? Do we write less instead of more, chat instead of talk? And do we rely on FB to tell us when our friends have left us?

And, when their pages continue, a place for memories and condolences, how can we bring ourselves to "un-friend" the friend that we didn't, in all honesty, even really know?

I think I shall spend less time on FB, and more time writing longer emails and visiting people in their homes. But there are one or two people I need to stay in touch with, for their sakes and mine. And FB is how it happens.  However, if you think that I am keeping up to date with your news simply because we are Facebook friends, then I have to tell you that it is not at all likely. Email me, maybe. I'm not so hard to find.

Today I am grateful for intuition.