Thursday, May 27, 2010

If a story is in you... has got to come out!
William Faulkner

This is one of the many pieces inhabiting my studio dining room that has already been through many reincarnations. I am still unsure what it's first life was exactly, but what I do know is that I rescued it from a premature death by burning when I 'tidied out' a friend's Mother-in-Law's barn... (Remember the blue shutter? This is a smaller member of the same household).

With all the voices it's been hearing eg, my loud singing, and text after text of calligraphy that has been systematically scrapped one after the other for no reason other than me considering  it  'pas beau,' as well as taking into account it's narrow escape from death by bonfire; I've started nicknaming this one Joan of Arc.   Just a few days ago, JoAn looked like this...

Before that she was very brown and dirty. Mustering up whatever pride was left she begged me not to get the camera out. Nah - just kidding, I got her before I started blogging so didn't even think of photographing her. Rather, I scrubbed her up and covered her with lots of blue and white layers of paint. Since then I've been spending time scrubbing them all back off again in order to find her story which, given the number of paint layers she has, is no mean feat. 

I tried R.W. Emerson - but he didn't look right on Joan. Too verbose. Hope we all agree on this because I have already undressed her and started again. Sometimes a girl really does have to go through the icky-trying-things-on-stage before she comes up with the right outfit, n'est-ce pas? You know, the-ugly-duckling-before-you-grow-into-the-swan type transformation...

After a particularly inspiring calligraphy class this morning I raced home and said, 'Joan, you and I are going to play around with drawing gum this afternoon.' She promptly replied, 'What's drawing gum? Anything's better than what I'm in now.  Oh rid me of this verbose attire.'

We definitely had fun playing dress-ups again, but methinks her story still isn't finished. She's destined to be undressed again tomorrow. No mind, we have time to find just the right outfit. Thanks to your very wise and kind comments on my last post, I'm a little less worried about how long it's taking me to get her  and the other 15 or so bigger pieces lying around there. However, I do believe that we are both enjoying the process... 

Speaking of enjoying the process ... This post is specially dedicated to someone who has become a treasured friend over the last few months, Laura at 52 Flea, who is this week's guest curator for the blog Crescendoh, and who has very kindly linked to my website today, presenting me as someone who could inspire others. At this point you could knock me down with a feather...  I feel extremely privileged.

Crescendoh is a blog focused on promoting artists and encouraging them to tell their story. Laura, a million Mercis from the bottom of my heart both for including me in your guest blogging week and especially for sharing more about yourself.  Your blog gives us tantalising glimpses of your exquisite taste and beautiful collections - through Crescendo it was precious to get to know you more as a person and to see another example of how art can transform.  May your own art continue to help you overcome those daily worries that life throws at us... and take you down a path of joyful discovery.


PS - There may have to be another giveaway soon as I now have 200 lovely people following my blog and I love a good celebration. Welcome to all the new people who are along for the ride. Your support is so appreciated that I'm thinking hard as to what the next giveaway theme could be. Watch this space ...

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Until you try ...

... you don't know what you can't do!

Ha! I've always taken that statement by Mr Henry James in a very positive light. It says to me 'how do you know it's not possible if you if you don't try?!' 

Now, it's not that I've reached my limits or anything (heaven forbid!!),  but it's definitely been a week where every, single attempt I have made at finishing a piece of art has gone completely and utterly haywire. For a whole week's work, I  have nothing finished or even tangible to show. If that ain't TRYING I don't know what is ;-) Not ONE finished piece to show ...YOU that is. Yet that is what I had set my sights on doing. Seemed realistic enough at the time: kids at school, sunny, light-filled days, house clean enough to allow myself completely guilt-free painting time. Then ...

Complete paralysis! Artist's block

Yup! Not NO ideas - but rather so many that I just plain got snagged in the infinite realm of sheer possibility! I now have no less than 15 different projects scattered around my atelier dining room all in various stages of completion, or lack thereof. You see, the possibilities for any one canvas (or decent sized piece of wood in my case) are so infinite that I could spend an hour or two just looking at each one and imagining it this way, then that way, in monochrome or colour, with ornate calligraphy and a simple background, with simple calligraphy and an intricately worked background ... Then which type of lettering? Ink or gouache or acrylic or a mix of all? You get the picture? Not yet - I haven't finished one hahaha.

To compound the paralysis, when I don't finish something regularly I get panicky. Trying to fit everything in around the household routine (and MY GOD I HAVEN'T STARTED HOMESCHOOLING YET) means that I get frustrated with myself if I'm not efficient. Ridiculous I know - but I am a teeny weeny bit like that. Every minute must be accounted for in my head. Business man Beaker, who thinks I am the most inefficient person in the world would take issue with this of course... This sort of attitude I realise is obviously NOT commensurate with creating anything at all - except maybe a yummy dinner, which Beaker is more than happy for me to spend time on as long as it arrives on the table before 9.30pm. 

So today, with the sun shining brightly, and Train desperately trying to compete with me singing Hey Soul Sister at the top of my lungs - I resolved to give up trying to finish any of my pieces and allow myself to merely play around with no other objective or hidden agenda in mind than experimenting. To HECK with it! No Expectations!!

La Rivière is surrounded by roses at the moment so I abandoned my customary blues in favour of, dare I say it?  Delicate, gentle, feminine, soft PINK - with a hint of yellow!! It's not Moi - but I've let my sensibilities be influenced a little by my surroundings ...

Here's a wee glimpse of one piece but remember it's still only 'trying,'  for the pure pleasure of enjoying mixing inks with my fingers - much like what I used to love doing with my grandmother's lipsticks when I would play on her sunporch as a wee messmonster myself ;-)

Hope to be around a bit more often this week,  but the sun has a gentle pull that the Mac is having a hard time competing with. 

What would you choose??

Monday, May 17, 2010

I can see clearly now...

...the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
it's gonna be a BRIGHT BRIGHT sunshiny day!
(Johnny Nash)
I've been hiding from my MAC in a guise to concentrate on my calligraphy.
(Have you noticed the very infrequent posting? Please say yes ;-)

It mostly worked. But I was caught between seasons...
Then today the sun shone down on La Rivière... 
and every where I looked there were nothing but blue skies!
Funny though in spite of the sunshine, 
I just didn't feel like touching ANY
of the projects that I've been working on.
So I scrubbed and cleaned
every nook and cranny 
in the house,
singing loudly about sunshine and blue skies
(housework always seems so much more fun 
when I dance with my mop and imagine myself 
overcoming obstacles with ease and grace)

Then took the time to appreciate some of the work 
I had already done in Chickpea's room.
It's heartening to remember our achievements sometimes, eh?

Sacré bleu! 
I dyed some antique linen turquoise to brighten up her pillows.
Dyed an antique dress 'antique bleu,'
wrote 'it's time to light the stars'
(Guillaume Appollinaire)
at the bottom in white fabric paint,
then sewed it onto her white duvet cover.
I 'patined' an old door various shades of blue.
(It was my first try at colour 5 year's ago and I'm very fond of it still)

The ballerine is just marking the spot for a small applique light.
She is looking slightly worn as she has been sitting there for a while now.
Ahem... Another family project that needs the finishing touches. Oops!
That doesn't seem to bother Chickpea.
Although I'm sure she'd prefer it was a horse now...

Sometimes I just have to get my house in order 
and take stock a bit before diving head first back into 
production mode.
And sing really loudly, 
dancing around my home in wild abandon...
(this IS why I live in the country and have no neighbours, you know)

I even enjoyed mopping the floors today.

Shh - don't tell Beaker ...

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh Ameeeelia, you're making your art!

Sorry! I couldn't help myself.  It's just that every time I say the name Amelia I sing it to the tune of 'Cecilia' (nope- don't ask me why - just a stupid schoolgirl rhyming thing) and off we go again...

I have been making lots of progress artistically myself these days but have had no time to photograph the results. Let's face it, with the rainy spring weather, the light hasn't been that good either. Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it ;-)

(All photos of Amelia Critchlow's artwork taken from her blog)

So in the event that I can't give you any glimpses of what I've been working on, I thought this would be an ideal time to introduce you to one of my favourite London-based artists,

Had I been better organised, had I had access to my computer much of last week, had I ... well, I would've set up an interview. But I didn't. So before I introduce her in my own words, I borrowed this off her website so you could get a feel for how she sees her art:

My work continues to explore an art (craft) often associated with a feminine tradition, with the use of hand-stitched household textiles. This is then combined with images from contemporary popular culture (magazines), to highlight issues faced by women; particularly the airbrushed and unreal imagery that encourages women to starve, cut and stitch themselves to physical ‘perfection’, making them ‘objects’ to be looked at, rather than active individuals and intelligent contributors to culture and meaning in society.

By using the personal (hand-stitched), with the public (magazines), I wish to investigate personal experiences and feelings about being a ‘woman’ and a 'mother', against public notions of what being a ‘woman’ and 'mother' is, and to explore the way women are portrayed visually. By playing with public images of women and cutting and stitching them together in a different way I hope to say something new, creating alternative narratives, and hopefully raising questions for the viewer. 

Being a mother with two girlies leaning towards young-womanhood, I sort of like her focus here. 

However, what most touches me about Amelia, is the artist herself. I would purchase Amelia's art not only for its beauty, and follow her online art couses not just for their content - but mostly for the uncompromising strength, conviction, sincerity and positivity she shows in every aspect of her daily life. 

You can read here and here about Amelia's personal triumphs and trials in bringing up a son with Asperger's as a single parent, while trying to keep sight of her own personal goals. 

You can read here and here about her current musings on life, what she learnt at art school (little to do with art itself!) and the little things she does every day to keep herself inspired and running on all cylinders ;-)
More importantly,  you can access her talent and conviction that everyone can be an artist here!

Amelia, (like so many of my fabulous blogfriends out there, who are soon to get an individual show of appreciation here over the coming months for the very unique inspiration each of you provide to me and the rest of the blogging world on a permanent basis) is quite simply a remarkable, honest, extraordinary ordinary person, who I admire no end. 

I've been the lucky recipient of a few other tags and awards over the last few weeks from some special people. I will definitely give these my most urgent attention although we are in France and lateness is perfectly acceptable if not encouraged ;-) In the mean time, introducing you to Amelia is my other way of giving some encouragement to a like minded soul who gives so much herself as she earnestly goes about living her dream. 

'Art is my desire to sing my song, tell my tales, and try somehow to rise above it all . . . .'
Amelia Critchlow

See you later in the week - weather permitting!!

Big Bisous


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Helping Julie Blow out her Candles

I desperately tried to get to my blog for the last two nights. And the last two nights storms have had me in bed consoling the messmonsters, counting the kilometres between the storm and the house, and making firmly sure my modem was UNPLUGGED. 

We now go accoustic here in the country after having more than one internet connection frazzle itself out complete with perm and electric guitar in a storm.

My post about one of my favourite artists was prepared already... But it will have to wait for tomorrow. Because it's a 'STOP THE PRESS' sort of event that just occured.

It's JULIE'S birthday. Julie, the adventurer, sweet friend and general all round supporter of everybody and their 'blog,' is having a birthday today. 

Well - I say that you can't have a birthday without a party. And I'm inviting myself to this one.  (See - I'm already there under that same sky Julie took a  photograph of today)



You are one of the sweetest, sincerest and most encouraging people I have met (since even before blogging) and I could go on forever about your talent but I'm just tooooo  jealous so will let everyone pop over and wish you a happy birthday and see for themselves.

Lots of love


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

People mistakenly assume...

... that their thinking is done by their head; 
it is actually done by the heart 
which first dictates the conclusion, 
then commands the head to provide 
the reasoning that will defend it."

- Anthony de Mello 

via Whisky River (Thanks again to this most inspirational blog)

(Photo: Reflections. Taken for the C&C photo assignment that I forgot to post ...Ahem!)

The above quote pretty well sums up where I'm at in the proverbial a nutshell at the moment. You see there has finally been an uprising here at La Rivière. You may remember this post where I poured my heart out about the sadness of the French school system, and my ensuing désarroi...

Eh bien CA Y EST! In spite of my 'head's' better judgement and worries about how in goodness name I'm going to manage it all, let alone succeed in everything, I finally bit the bullet and formally announced my intention determination to homeschool the messmonsters (in light of having no better formal schooling option in a vicinity of 150 kilometres). Yup! All 3 of them.  As from September 2010. THIS YEAR! 

Did I mention that I am STILL going to 'launch' my new idea in a couple of weeks and go all the way through with it as well?  While still painting, reopening my wee shop and organising a couple of exhibitions? Am I intending to find time to eat or sleep? Hmmm - Not sure if the last two options will be feasible ;-)

Let's just say that, in a burst of pure FOLIE, Heart quarters overthrew Headquarters, is now staging a full on seige, and will continue to hold out until Headquarters caves in and comes up with the goods on 'how to pull it all off seamlessly and without a hitch.' 

So when Jamie Ridler asked today in her 'Wishcasting Wednesday,' "What rules do you wish to make or break?" I had to respond with this:

This is the first time in my life when I'm actually sort of 'breaking rules.' Up till my early 20s (well, late teens maybe) I was always a terrible goody two shoes, afraid of 'not being liked' and admonished if I did 'wrong.' France has been good for me in that way. This is a country where EVERYBODY bends or shatters the rules. NO ONE obeys rules here. Except for the school one that says 'thou child shall remain inside these school buildings from 9-5.30 when s/he will be released to go home to study for another hour at least.'

You may not find that shocking. I was a grade A student, finished my degree, was Student President and in the School Debating Team, musicals etc etc etc..... AND I DO!

So I'm BREAKING this one.   

Now I'm going to take a big deep breath and say, "It's been nice knowing you. I'm never going to find enough time to blog again." 

NoN! NON! 
That's not what I want to say at all!!

I want to say...

...THANK YOU FOR ALL THE SUPPORT YOU'VE SHOWN ME because your comments and shared concerns have been very influential in helping me make my decision.  

In the end though - it's just my messmonsters that seem sooooooo worth it!! 

Looking forward to catching up with you later in the week to share my 'other breath-taking news' and introduce you to two very inspirational women bloggers...


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Love and Do What You Will: Even if it's Inedible ;-) 10th photo post

Is it Sunday again already? 
Just the right day for some inspiration from a Saint!
I promised Jeanne (as well as you!)
that I would post my 10th photo and corresponding post.
What a blast from the past! 
So here it is... 
Aime, et fais ce que tu voudras...

One of my favorite pieces, sold last year to a lovely psychologist for her office

Tonight between cooking the kids' dinner, cooking lasagne for the kids' lunch tomorrow, and whilst I was full on into messing up the kitchen, what the hell! cooking up a baked cheese cake for my calligraphy class tomorrow - I had a flashback of baking my first (and consequently last) carrot cake during my first  year in France.
 In spite of the spectacular patisseries overflowing with delicious cakes and pastries that peppered my 'quartier,' I was determined to cook a fair dinkum
Aussie/kiwi carrot cake. Must've been a lust for orange in me even way back then. ;) Beaker was the only one around at the time to witness the result and up until now I had sworn him to secrecy. At nearly 40 I throw all self respect to the wind and say, 'it's time to bare my soul!'

Anyway, there I was, landed in Paris with this burning desire to cook a moist, juicy carrot cake. So off I went into the city to buy the ingredients.
First obstacle? The language barrier. Second? 14 years ago there was no self-raising flour in France, nor could you buy baking powder (except for a rather dodgy article whose name loosely translated into 'chemical yeast' ... yoook). To top it off, you could buy baking soda, but only at the chemist... Don't even ASK me about the cream cheese. Philadelphia was some obscure place in the US but certainly 'not a CHEESE mademoiselle.'  I obviously confirmed the prevailing suspicion that Antipodeans were little more than savages, so off I trotted  home, a little desolate but none-the-less determined to make my cake.

Under the bemused eye of Beaker, I diligently grated my carrot, mixed it with approximate amounts of sugar, flour (no cup measures at the time and I didn't have kitchen scales...) and a small packet of the 'chemical yeast' that I had finally bought in desperation. One hour later I was the proud mother of .... a carrot pancake.  Only people who know how magnificent a carrot cake normally looks like will see the tragedy and/or humour in this.

It was a beautiful colour mind - all golden on the outside and orange on the inside. However, completely inedible it was, even for the upstart pigeons for whom I had gracefully decided to leave it on the window ledge outside.  It stayed forlornly on the ledge outside for three weeks. Its only virtue was that it didn't go mouldy, inspite of the relentless Parisien drizzle. Thinking back, I should have varnished it and used it for a frisbee. Boulogne had great parks next to the ample patisseries...

Needless to say, I buried the incident waaaaaaay back in some irretrievable memory until I was strolling around Toulouse recently and saw, wait for it, A BAKED CHEESECAKE in the window of a very cool café. Deduction: if they could buy the cheese locally, then so could I!!

And here I am tonight, waiting for my baked cheesecake to come out of the oven, deliriously happy to have found a cheese suitable to make the icing for my next attempt at ...CARROT CAKE. 14 years later I am ready to create my second one. But is Toulouse???

 With all this cooking for family and friends (plus mess monsters, plus housework etc) I have had no time to paint. But my reflection today was that life's a lot like cooking; if you don't have all the ingredients, then the fun essentially lies in making do with what you've got, and making it up as you go along.

Love, And Do What You Will 
as St Augustine says...

PS. Now, you can buy English baking powder and (I'm in HEAVEN) Buderim Ginger in the local supermarket! Now that's progress ;-)

And now it's time for me to pass this one on. I'm normally a bit iffy about passing on awards and tags but this one is so much fun, not too much work and a real blast from the past that I'm passing it on anyway ...
But because I want this to be published before midnight so I can officially count this as Sunday and keep my promise, you'll have to come back  in 5 minutes to read to whom as I'm going live incomplete hehehehe!!

Me revoilà
Told you I'd be back!
Now - for my victims candidates (who are under no obligation to comply of course!):

if you're up to it, re-post your 6th or 10th photo (and post) or both ...
Let's see where it all began!

Don't forget to drop in for a read of their blogs too ...
enlightening, highly entertaining and often humorous reading
Back around Wednesday - time to translate my website into French