Sunday, September 30, 2012

More to the point

is that it is not "white English people" the Labour Party, and the left in general, discriminate against, it is white men. If you're a woman, you can claim yourself to be part of a persecuted officially recognised Victim Group, no matter what colour you are.

It was revealed last year that Avon and Somerset Constab-ulary rejected 186 applications from white men on the grounds that they were already “over-represented” in the force. In the same way, London Mayor Ken Livingstone last month refused to endorse a series of nominations for the London Fire Authority because they were dominated by whites.

And whole towns are beginning to suffer state disapproval. Eighty administrative jobs in the Prison Service have recently been transferred from Corby in Northamptonshire to Leicester because, as the Home Office admitted, Corby’s population is predominantly “white British”, a terrible sin in our multicultural society.

It is a bitter irony that the Labour Government, which works itself into such a synthetic rage over racial prejudice, should practise overt discrimination on an epic scale. The remorseless focus on supporting minorities has led to a perverted ideology of anti-white racism. 

Identity politics, another name for a shakedown. I remember another version of it. They used to call it "consciousness raising," but another word for it is "grievance-mongering." My mother became addicted to it, so I saw it up close and ugly in all its whining, snivelling, morally infantilising glory.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Ten thousand? Really?

I know that some people have disputed the 10,000 hour idea. Some guy has determined that you can get to a professional level of expertise in artistic skill, either music or painting or whatever, by spending 10,000 hours practising. This works out to about 6.8 years of practising 4 hours a day.

I am a little skeptical of this theory myself, but there is probably at least some truth to it. I think there is a lot more than just sitting down at a piano and practising for ten thousand hours that created an artist like a Rubenstein or Lang Lang. I know that Yoyo Ma had all manner of other things in place that allowed him to get to where he is in his skill. The right parents, the right time and place. And yes, probably an elevated "natural talent," if we mean by that an aptitude supported by love.

I know from experience that sometimes one simply gets "bitten" by something. When I was a teenager, I was briefly in the army cadets in the NWT. I loved it. I couldn't get enough of the outdoors stuff we did, running about with maps and compasses, building fires of damp wood and making traps out of a sapling and a shoelace. Hiking and camping and swimming and target shooting. I didn't care one way or another about the military aspect of it, though I enjoyed the disciplined and organised approach to learning things it taught me, (not that I ever applied it to much).

I got bitten by it, the outdoor bug, very hard, and for years after, even long after I moved back down south to live in BC again, I would annually be seized by the need to be outdoors for days at a time, and would pack my stuff and just walk all over the islands. Living in Cheshire, I couldn't resist the countryside and would spend hours stomping all over the footpaths, always reluctant to go home. England was so tame; I missed the great, vast emptiness of BC.

When I went to university in Nova Scotia, in the theatre department of Dalhousie, I was hoping I would get "bitten" by the theatre bug, since it seemed like it would be such a natural fit, but it never happened. In the end I was so depressed and alienated from what I was doing I couldn't wait to get away and never wanted to go anywhere near a theatre again. It goes to show that there is such a thing, at least, as aptitude.

I suppose it could be said that I was "bitten" by writing, but it happened so long ago, and has become so much a part of my daily existence, that it is like saying I was bitten by breathing.

The more I draw, the more I want to, which is a sign at least of bittenness. Obviously love is needed, and I think it is a stronger thing than "talent". Nothing I've ever done has ever so calmed my mind and quieted the arch-chatterer that lives in my skull. And it happens every time I start; time seems to stand still, even as the waves keep crashing and the birds keep flying and the sun keeps moving towards the West. maybe it's not time standing still, but me.

I remember reading an essay by Stephen King about writing. He said that everyone has an obsession. And the lucky few are those who can make their obsession their work. Other people do a job in order to support their obsession, which their families politely call a "hobby". The English are famous for this kind of thing, all those men going out to work in the shed or at the allotment, after they get home from their jobs. What else could possibly account for the Industrial Revolution? How do we think the Cotton Ginny was invented?

If talent is real at all, I think it is just another name for love. Without that love, or obsession, it would simply be impossible to practice anything for 10,000 hours. No one would ever do it, even with the most terrifying Tiger-mother standing over him.

I've found there's a strange push-pull that happens with drawing, though, in your brain. On the one hand we get obsessed with it, with perfecting this or that technique. Once the pencil is in the hand it is close to impossible to stop. A lot of times, I've found myself standing with an aching back and cold feet at the easel and six or seven hours have passed, it is dark outside and I'm hungry and all I had intended to do was just fix this one little thing here... At other times, I can go for weeks without touching a pencil, with the feeling of hopelessness growing on me, my Evil Brain whispering coldly, "there's no point in trying, you're never going to get there..."

Anyway, I've decided to start tracking my practice hours and see how much per week I can do. And maybe try to apply some of the disciplined approach I learned from the Canadian military.

And at the next long weekend, I'm going to go to Florence again. The last time, I had no confidence about drawing from life and the statues intimidated me. We'll see if things have improved.


Another one

Weird but interesting.

Dead Birds.


Put 'em up!

I LOVE this!!!

From the ex-pat-without-a-name.



Three blogs

Another Anglo living abroad because the Home Country has become just too damn frightening and insane. I hear you, brother.

And a fascinating blog that examines modern realist paintings and illustration according to the classical rules of composition. Very interesting page on the Golden Section/Golden Ratio. Everything is Math.

Drawing OWU is for students of drawing at Ohio Wesleyan University. Check out the galleries there if you want to see how far it's possible to go with drawing as an art form of its own. Some of it boggles the mind.


Also, once again, researchers find out that modern people just aren't constituted for marriage. Modern, Newfangled people just don't know how to order their lives. Thanks, Hippies, for doing such a good job of destroying any last shreds of hope that we can put back together the civilisation you've destroyed.

"The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate," Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled "Equality in the Home", told AFP.

Researchers found no, or very little, cause-and-effect. Rather, they saw in the correlation a sign of "modern" attitudes.

"Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage" as being less sacred, Hansen said, stressing it was all about values.

"In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce," he said.

I'm pretty sure if I were married, I would never allow my husband to touch anything at home. No way he'll do it right. Whenever I've had roommates, I don't want to let them do the housework, or if they do, I usually sneak around after, to do it again properly.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Drawing from photos

I've noticed something interesting, and I thought I would run it past the Picnickers who are into photography. I've found that there is a distinct difference in appearance, in "tone," between the drawings I've made from photos of ordinary people, and great master painters, and the ones made from photos from modern magazines.

In learning to draw formally in a studio, a great deal of time is spent copying "from the flats," as it is called by instructors. That is, from 2D depictions of objects, usually casts of famous Classical and Renaissance statues.

Outside the studio, I have amassed a collection of art books with good black and white and colour photographs of those statues, both by the Ancients and the great Italian masters. Drawing practice from these is a great pleasure and always presents some new thing to learn and perfect. Somewhat less frequently, I also use photographic reproductions of master paintings, and making "master copies" is a big part of classical instruction.

In drawing the figure, I'm currently doing a little practice project in my book recommended by one of the online drawing people. Drawing 100 noses, 100 eyes (or pairs of eyes), 100 hands, 100 legs etc. The idea is to become so familiar with the structure of these that they become almost automatic, so when drawing from a live model I can cut down on the time it takes to produce a likeness. It's quite fun actually, and I might put a few up and make a contest out of it: "Name that nose".

I've always known that a lot of drawing practice involves copying from flats. Everyone used to start off with the Bargues, a set of lithographs, and so we still do. And I am given to understand that in some places (that should know better) all the drawing instruction that is offered is the kind that involves taking a page out of a magazine, drawing a grid on it and copying from the grid. But this latter always seems to produce a much inferior quality of work.

As well, for some years I thought a convenient way to learn figure drawing, at least to learn the basic human proportions, would be to practice using photos from fashion magazines. They may not help you produce great art, but at least you could become adept at rendering the human form, correct proportions, etc. But now, having tried it a few times, I find that there is something about most fashion photography that produces a strange quality to the drawings. I suppose it is true that you could use fashion photos effectively, if you had no other source (living on, say, Mars) and wanted to learn to render the figure. But they have such an air of unreality about them that the drawings have an oddly unnatural feel. I don't know how to describe it better than that.

What I was wondering about, and would like to hear from our photography readers, is what about that kind of photography produces this strangely flattened effect.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hey! someone stole my wishlist!!

I've found another artist I long to be when I grow up.

Sarah Simblet. She teaches drawing at Oxford's Ruskin school and has produced several books for artists, including the Sketch Book book, Botany for Artists and an anatomy book. The last one I'm not too sure about, since it seems to be one of those anatomy books that is very heavy on the photos. I prefer drawings.

But the botany book looks very exciting. Not so much a book on botanical illustration but an actual study of plants with her drawings, which are beautiful.

But to my great annoyance, it seems as if Amazon and Blogger are no longer on speaking terms. I had a Wishlist posted to the sidebar, and have been very grateful to have received several books from generous and helpful readers from it. But I had a note last night from a friend in England asking where it went. I didn't notice, but it seems as if Blogger just took it off. V. annnoying! I tried to put it back up, but the thingy says there isn't one. Grrr...


I am leaning more and more towards botanical and nature illustration. I know that the world needs more classical realist art, and that the Church is in desperate need of a revival of sacred art. But I can't help it, I just like bugs and flowers.

I did one of the geckoes last night in my leather book, and he turned out beautifully.


September fauna

September is a good time of year for spotting geckoes.

(Though I took this pic in May, 2009)

One of the fun and easy Amateur Naturalist things you can do after dark in Italy is look for geckoes. They hunt mostly at night and are able to run around at astonishing speeds up walls and even upside down! They like to hunt insects and love to roost quietly, waiting for their prey to come along, just hanging on a wall. They are also attracted to bright light, so are among the easiest of the wildlife in Italy to spot. You can often see them on the ceiling of the walkway outside the bar at the train station, running around with that odd, twisty and very comical gait.

But the other night when I was coming home late from Rome, I kept an eye open and saw several of them between the station and home, some tiny, no longer than my little finger and others larger, about the length of my hand.

Though you can see why they're sometimes hard to spot if they're sitting still.

They come in colours ranging from light greenish grey to dark brown, and sometimes are mottled for camouflage. They live in the little cracks and crevices of walls, so you can see them come out in the evenings if you are patient. Though you do mostly see them at night, I think the big ones don't mind coming out to bask in the sun.

I've wanted to draw them since I came here and saw one up close the first time, but they are really very shy and incredibly fast, so I really have very little hope of ever catching one. One of them came into my first flat one evening while I was sitting very quietly reading. I wonder if it is possible to attract them somehow.

I just find them irresistibly cute, with the little rounded pads on the ends of their toes and their funny run.

In a few months they will have all gone to sleep for the winter. It's always the best sign of spring when you start hearing the geckoes shuffling around in the leaves when the weather starts warming up.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but when I was about 12, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Not the falling-down-and-frothing kind, but a rather less well-known kind that is more difficult to pin down. Temporal Lobe epilepsy seizures produce some profoundly weird experiences, with a lot of hallucinations, and can leave a person, especially a young person, with some rather strange perspectives on reality. For me, reality was never so hard and fast as it seems to be for some other people, a difference I didn't even know was there until I was much older. I had been having the seizures for as long as I remembered, and, despite a prodigious skill at describing things, they remain extremely elusive.

Words are a medium meant to abstract reality, to create symbols that point to something real. But if your perception of reality periodically gets radically altered, if you regularly wake up in the middle of the night and can't tell the difference any more between here and there, the distance between here-ness and there-ness is either non-existent or infinite; if you can't tell the difference between an inch and a thousand miles, between a thing and not-a-thing, between a space and the object that defines the space, words meant to describe the ordinary waking world, will tend to fail. I can say that on occasion, I've been able to see sounds.

I was told when I was diagnosed that it would go away and the seizures would stop when I reached puberty, and it was true that I now rarely have the strange experience of falling backwards into another world that presages them. Now that I know what is happening, they aren't so frightening. I have also learned to make them stop when they are inconvenient by playing music, making noise or by physically grasping objects, all methods of trying to make perception and the external world match up. I remember once I was even able to just let it all happen and ignore it and carry on reading my book while reality hissed and bent snakily away from me.

Now, in my stolid middle age, they come so rarely that I can often forget about it entirely. Only when I am really sick with flu and a high fever, or experiencing extreme emotional stress (something that has happened a lot in the last few years) do I ever get a glimmer of the Other World. And oddly, though it was a bit of a problem when I was a kid, I sort of miss it. The only thing left that makes me remember it is knowing that I can't take modern anti-depressants. Apparently the serotonin re-uptake inhibitors that are all the rage with the more reductionist variety of head shrinkers "lower the threshold" for seizures and create a kind of constant state of seizureness that more or less is functionally the equivalent of going insane.

(I found this out the hard way several years ago when I went to the doctor complaining of being down after losing a job. The drugs he gave me, as a matter of routine, and which successive doctors added to, made me so ill that I was told on one occasion that I was probably going to die. I didn't know what was going on until a specialist (that I had to nearly threaten a lawsuit to get referred to) told me, rather alarmed, that it was no bloody wonder I was so badly off. While muttering something about the damned arrogance and incompetence of the psychiatric profession, he prescribed a mild anti-epileptic drug and a lot of water and rest and two months later I was back in the boring old Real World full time. But it was an interesting experience, and some day I'll write it into something.)

Since diagnosis I've read, though, that what they thought about my kind of epilepsy in 1979 is no longer regarded as complete. When they told me that it would "probably go away" they didn't know what a strange and complicated place the brain was. Epilepsy doesn't ever go away, but it can certainly change. I don't get the huge and terrifying, all-encompassing hallucinatory seizures that frightened me so much as a child. But apparently, the type of epilepsy I have can alter perceptions in hidden and interesting ways.

Of course, it is close to impossible to tell if I am perceiving reality differently from the way everyone else does, but it seems that temporal lobe epileptics have certain personality traits in common, which I suppose makes sense. And a lot of them have to do with communication and perception, which tends to make us arty.

The world looks unique to each person who observes it, neurological disorders notwithstanding. I think of learning to draw as taming those bendy and malleable perceptions. Having not had much parental guidance, I've been making up my life as I've gone along, Indiana Jones style, through my whole adult life. It would be interesting to work out if that includes a perceptual method that differs from other peoples.


Flipped my book today

I've been writing and drawing in my leather book since I bought it on November 11, 2011. 11/11/11. Today I reached a milestone and flipped my book.

I bought it in a little stationers' behind the Pantheon that specialises in leather bound books and hand made leather bags and satchels. You can buy really beautifully bound sketchbooks, diaries, blank books of all sorts, as well as printed stationary and all sorts of fanciful toy-stationary like letter seals and pewter framed magnifying lenses and dip pens. Girls, especially imaginative Goth girls, love this stuff, and I couldn't resist the siren call of the place. I bought my leather book last November just before they told us I would have to go forward and have the big surgery. I determined right away that I would use it to write down my explorations in art and perception, a project meant to distract from cancer fears and lift myself out of depression. It has worked, to a degree.

The book that comes in the leather cover can be replaced, so I thought I would keep going buying replacements as I fill up the books. I can foresee a line of these on the bookshelf, dated by hand. The stationer's has been in operation since 1910, so it seems likely that I'll be able to keep getting the refills indefinitely. Looking in it today, one can see as I've gone along that my courage has grown for drawing.

Of course, most of my life I've been comfortable with using words; my mother started teaching me to write, on an ancient manual typewriter, when I was six or seven. But I realised a few years ago after starting to take drawing lessons that I've overdeveloped my verbal skills and neglected my visual vocabulary. When I was a child I loved art, and knew quite a lot about the Italians and the Victorians as painters. I remember being tremendously excited at being taken to see an exhibition of drawings and sketches by Turner and Constable that came to the Victoria Art Gallery. I can still close my eyes and see the pieces, which were surprisingly small. One, a beautiful Turner watercolour of a fish, is especially lodged in the grey matter.

But, though I don't know why, I never took to drawing as a skill, even though Grandma tried many times to teach me. I guess words were just so much easier as a method of expression that drawing always seemed like too much trouble. As a result, I feel as if I'm mentally muscle-bound in one area and nearly atrophied in another.

During cancer, I found an odd thing happening with writing. I started to get sick of words and felt they were inadequate to describe what my brain was doing. I wanted to understand the world in a different way, a way that I had previously skipped over or considered too hard for me. I reasoned that there had to have been a time in my life when writing was difficult, when it was an effort to put words together to express ideas and that it had only got easier after doing it a lot for a long time, like any other skill. It's just that it was so long ago and so early in my life that I don't now remember it being difficult. This had to mean that if I only persevered I could in theory become as proficient with drawing as I had become with words after a lifetime of writing.

I'm still deeply frustrated with my inability to use drawing to describe my thoughts, but I have recently found it becoming ever so slightly easier, like feeling the first movement when you're trying to push a car out of the mud.

Anyway, I thought the process would be very long and would be interesting enough as an experience to write about and I didn't want to have the whole thing left to this ephemeral electronic medium. I wanted something solid and permanent. The leather books are ideal for this purpose.

I write and draw habitually only on the right side of the book, which seems a waste to me, so my friend Vicky suggested that when I got to the end of the book, I should just pull the insert out, turn it over and start again on the pages that had been on the left side for the first half of the book. Today I reached the end of the right side pages turned the book over, and it feels like I have accomplished something. I think flipping the book is going to be a sort of marker, a place to pause and look back at what and how I've been doing.

At some point, the idea is to go through the whole thing and put together a book worth publishing about what it is like to live in Italy studying art. But not only about that in an autobiographical way. I hope it will be about the process of learning, developing perceptual skills. And I want to examine what I've learned about how seeing is not the same thing as perceiving, but putting the two together and drawing the result creates a unique way of bringing information from out of yourself into the outside world and the life of others.

Everyone who comes here seems to write an Italian Book at some point, so this is the one I'm planning.


Why the media is stupider than you

And Stefani Germanotta's opinion on what matters does matter?

I've often wondered, when "celebrities" give testimony to Congressional hearings and Parliamentary committees about, for example, stem cell research or the death penalty, why the very first question for them is not, "Why are you here?"


Never give one an even break

Sometimes I come across something that makes me wish I didn't have any moral or ethical scruples.

This is one of those things.

Why didn't I think of manufacturing a four-inch piece of black, rectangular plastic and marketing it to sci-fi nerds?


Bunch of art documentaries


As annoying as they are politically, the BBC still makes great documentaries.

Also, a box of wonders,

mechanical toys, tumbling automata, miniature thermoelectric engines, kaleidoscopes, tetraxis puzzles, mirage boxes, pseudoscopes, magic lanterns, cameras obscura, equinox ring dials, orrery kits, starfinders, invisible ink, stirling engines...


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Autumnal soup

No, I didn't use the mushroom growing in the living room. It was a windy, blustery day today, and the big thick grey clouds coming in over the sea made me think of home made cream of mushroom soup. Of course, it being Italy, and only the second half of September, it was still in the upper 20s and heavy and humid, so not really very autumnal, but you take what you can get.


1 packet of sliced mushrooms you bought last week and were in danger of going funny in the fridge
1 mushroom flavoured oxo cube
1 small onion
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 sprig fresh parsley
5 tbsp butter
1/4 cup marsala or dry sherry
3 tbsp rice flour
whole milk
heavy cream

Chop all the mushrooms and the onion very fine, mince the garlic and parsley. Reserve a portion of the chopped mushrooms. Saute gently together in a pot over a low heat with 2 tbsp of the butter until the mushrooms start releasing their juice. Pour in 3 or 4 cups filtered water, the marsala and the oxo cube and allow to simmer for about ten minutes.

While it is simmering, make a cream sauce. Melt the rest of the butter in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot, sprinkle in the rice flour (for primal people; if you don't care about your health, you can carry on using white wheat flour) and stir over a medium heat until you've got a thick paste. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Continue stirring while adding cream until you have a nice thick consistency. (Don't worry about the cream sauce being a bit bland.) Stir constantly as long as the cream sauce is over the heat. With a little practice you will master the art of knowing how much milk and cream to use, but I can't really tell you. Wing it. Do not allow to boil. When the cream sauce has reached a thick, even consistency, remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the mushroom mixture in the blender and blend on high for two minutes. (Watch out, be careful not to overfill the blender or it will go all over you and you'll be scalded. Never fill a blender all the way to the top. If you've got too much stuff, do it in batches.)

Once the mushroom mixture is very smooth, put it back in the pot and over a low heat. Whisk in the cream sauce and you can add a little more cream. Wash the heavy bottomed pot and add another tablespoon or so of butter and saute the reserved portion of the chopped mushrooms and add them to the soup as a garnish.


(Very nice with a little grated pecorino on top. But what isn't?)


Friday, September 21, 2012

Must be autumn

Even though it's 25-28 degrees every day, which when I was growing up was 'summer,' it must be autumn in Italian.

This mushroom sprang up in the pot with the hibiscus today.


Oooo, so pretty!

A Pinch of Salt Home, seems to have some lovely bedding and kitchen things.

I wonder, though, what is with this odd habit that many advertisers have of juxtaposing these lovely things with these oddly post-apocalyptic settings.

I mean, what? Embroidered duvet covers for homeless people squatting in abandoned buildings? Is that really the visual message you want?

I realise it's a habit of advertisers now to contrast pretty things in these kinds of dilapidated settings, that people think it's chic and helps to avoid being too "twee". But isn't it just another instance of the media world disparaging the good and the beautiful? Being embarrassed by it and having to shove a load of "irony" in there to make it acceptable to cynical hipsters? From an artistic viewpoint, I can see the value in a sharp contrast between the rough, unfinished surfaces and surroundings to highlight the pretty, polished, embroidered doodads. But I think it's possible to take it a bit far and it can come out faintly schizophrenic.

I'll take my beauty without irony, thanks.

And maybe I'll do a little embroidery.


Buona Festa

Happy feast of St. Matthew.

I first saw this Guido Reni when it came to Toronto as part of an exhibition of Vatican treasures that visited for World Youth Day 2002. When I moved here, I went to the Vatican Museums and was overjoyed to see it again, like greeting a long lost friend. It was wonderful to be able to look at it closely enough to examine his brush work.

Parishioners at Santissima Trinita de Pellegrini are immensely proud of our beautiful Reni.

His great masterpiece of the Holy Trinity hangs above the altar and is so enormous it creates a false sense of scale.

Of course, Trinita is jammed with important art works.

This is the back wall of the sacristy.

It is one thing to see these great works in a museum and I'm glad we can, but it is an entirely different experience to see them in the context for which they were created. Being in a Roman church with the works of the Baroque masters all around makes one really understand what religious art is for.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Out for lunch

with a friend the other day at our new favourite place in Santa Marinella. So lovely. What a great place to live!

About a block from our castle in our tiny Old Town. Most of Sta. Marinella is new, but the one piazza was the original centre of the village attached to the castle and goes back to the 17th century. The restaurant terrace looks over a slope down towards the sea, all covered in palm and olive trees, then a cliff, then the glittering Tyrhennian, with the little sail boats and a few yachts. We had all the seafood we could stuff into ourselves, and downed a half litre of prosecco between us.

One of those memorably great lunches where we just sat and sat and didn't want to move, under the umbrellas surrounded by blooming bougainvillea, feeding the restaurant's cat under the table.

All you can want, grilled gamberoni, fifty kinds of little fishy things for antipasto, and good prosecco on tap. On TAP!!

Oh yeah.

The food in this town is far superior to Rome. We have a farmer's market every Thursday. We are right in the middle of a huge agricultural area, and right next door to one of Italy's biggest fishing fleets. I've gone a bit nuts in the markets now and then. The tables piled high with fruit and veg, the fresh fish on ice, the home made cheese and every type of pig product you've ever heard of (except bacon). One time I came home with fresh peas in the pods, a bag of spinach, those weird Italian alien-looking fibonacci broccoli, fresh artichokes. During the season, they pile up the strawberries in a kind of mountain and you buy it by the scoopful. Local clementines, apples, fresh octopus, giant shrimp and mackerel, fresh peccorino from the cheese maker, incredibly sweet carrots, so good it's a shame to cook them. And everything served up by the nicest, friendliest rural Italians central casting ever imagined.

Seriously, I go every week and feel like I've fallen into one of those soft-focus movies about the uptight middle aged English woman who moves to Italy and at last learns to relax, drink wine under the olive trees and find true luuuuurve.

After The Heat is over in August, the temp drops down to what I consider normal summer range, about 26-28 degrees. You go out on market day and it's like living in a movie: the mothers all pushing prams, the nonnas in their sensible shoes all standing in the middle of the way, oblivious to the crowds trying to shove past them, gossiping away. There are a lot of other kinds of stalls, clothes, household goods, the tackiest curtains you've ever seen. One place was selling new feather duvets and pillows for ten Euros each. I don't know what truck they fell off the back of, but I didn't question the guy who sold me two feather pilows for the guest room for 13 Euros. All I could think of was how much I felt like I really lived here. Everyone calling me "bellissima" and "la signorina Inglese".

Seriously, living here is really starting to turn into one of those films. I still get very badly worn out if I go to Rome for the day, shopping or appointments or whatever. Some time ago, after a day in town, I called Santa Marinella's one and only taxi driver, Gianni, to ask if he could pick me up from the train station and drive me home. He has been driving me back and forth to hospital, doctor appointments, he has even picked up prescriptions from the drug store for us. He speaks not a single word of English. He was waiting for me when I got off the train, took my bags and offered his arm to walk me to the taxi, took down the plastic step and handed me into the seat like a Victorian princess. I didn't have to tell him the address, he just took me home.

There was one night we were in dire straights trying to get an expensive prescription after normal hours. The hospital had released me at five pm on a Friday, but in Santa Marinella, there is no doctor office open until Monday morning, and I had to have the drug within 24 hours of the last chemo treatment. So we phoned the on-call volunteer oncology nurse, who called the dispensary in Civitavecchia, and arranged for the hospital dispensary to have the drug waiting for us. Gianni drove us to Civi, then when we couldn't find the dispensary, spent about 1/2 an hour on the phone sorting it out between the nurse and the hospital, then drove us there and back home again. I think at some point in Civi he just turned the meter off.

After the response I've got from having cancer just from the local people, Gianni the taxi driver; the fat, kindly pharmacy lady who always told me how nice I looked without hair; Rosetta the real estate agency lady who gave me a freezer from out of her garage when my own freezer died, the gelato place guy who gave me a free gelato when I was looking like I was going to faint one day in the heat, the hardware store guy who fixed my bike for nothing; the bike shop guy who fixed up the wheelchair we borrowed from the parish; the mad old lady who lives upstairs who drops her cigarette ashes on my flower pots, but always lets me in when I've forgotten my keys...

This is starting to be more home than anywhere I've lived since I was a kid.


Hot stuff

So, we're coming up to the start of the last season of Fringe.

I'll let it go, but only on the condition that they give Peter Bishop his own baddass, interdimensional cop show.


It's a brand new day!

...even if I didn't wake up until nearly two.

Hahahaha!! Can't get ME, stupid virus! You're teeny and I'm BIG! Hah!

I would like to go on record as saying that I do not enjoy spending my evenings barfing. Don't do it on purpose to lose weight or anything stupid, and am getting annoyed with my stomach that seems to be making a habit of this. We will not be having any more to do with chronic illness. Right?

OK then.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ostinato Rigore

For the last week or more, I have been struggling with a charcoal portrait of a friend of mine, and I am not really very happy with the outcome. I can excuse some of the difficulty by noting that I only had her there in person for two sittings, and have had to rely upon a few photos I took of her pose. Right in the middle of the project, she went into labour and had to go have a baby.

I have found that photos have some advantages. They sit still, of course, and do not drift to the left as my friend tended to do. They are not subject to changing light conditions either, which can be helpful. With my Mac, I can zoom in and concentrate on certain bits, and I can adjust the contrast to create more or less dark in the darks and light in the lights, as needed.

But the photo doesn't chat with you and keep you company. And it does not helpfully peek around and say things like, "Gosh, I look kind of un-smiling."

I will keep working on it and see if it can be salvaged, and as usual, I've learned a great deal and the product is better than I could have done a year ago by a fair stretch. It's just kind of lifeless and lacks style.

Nevertheless, I'm not giving up.

Far from it. I'm actually signed up for more classes for our autumn session for October and November. Eight figure drawing classes and eight portrait sketch classes, which latter will be my first introduction to oil paint (!!!).

Funds are rather tight, and I am rather horrified that I am plunging in and taking more classes before I have finished paying for the Spring Session. I had a wonderfully generous donation from an anonymous person in Canada who gave me $2500 Cn. But the total for the spring classes came to over 3000 Euros, (which I see is over $3800 Cn! Yowch! I could have bought a motorino!) and I've got over 1100 E left to pay off.

If Andrea had not suggested that we put that remainder aside for the moment and concentrate on continuing classes, I would never be doing this. I have developed a deep terror of being in debt and normally would have flatly refused to go ahead until the last batch was fully paid up. But Andrea is going away again this winter and will again not be returning until the spring and I don't want to go another year before starting paints and colour work. The theory is that the four month hiatus should be enough time to put aside the remainder of this year's fees to give to her when she comes back.

Still, it makes me feel slightly ill the thought of going forward with something that is, simply, beyond my means. I have steadfastly refused to get a credit card all my life because I was taught, and have since observed, that only catastrophe can come of spending more money than you actually have.

I feel as if I am jumping out of an airplane without a chute.

I have just today read that Leonardo da Vinci's motto was Ostinato Rigore which, translated from his medieval Tuscan seems to mean something close to "obstinate rigor", and more or less describes how I feel about drawing and painting. I seem to be possessed by it. I don't have any idea whether it will lead to anything practical. I don't know if I am really any good at it, or even if I can become any good at it. I have seen other people's work after two years of this study and get quite depressed when I see how much further along they are than I am (I suppose I can blame some of my lack of progress on cancer treatments, but even so, I could have done more drawing whilst sitting up in bed) and look ahead and wonder often whether there is any point to it at all. The likelihood is that cancer will return before I am anywhere near my goals.

But I can't seem to stop. It knows no logic, the pressing desire to try and try and try. Even my natural procrastinatory nature has not prevailed, and I have found myself working at the easel, when work time allows, as much as ten hours a day.

It's a funny sort of compulsion. I only have to go over there and look at it, and my hand starts reaching for a bit of charcoal, while my brain is thinking, "Oh, I'll just fix this little bit here..." six hours later, I am wondering where the day has gone and why my back is aching so.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Anyone out there good at the Bible?

I have a couple of questions you might be able to help with.

Is there any indication, (genealogies, etc) how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden before the fall? Are there any reliable scholars (ie. saints) who have written about the state of man before the fall? Thomas, I think, right?

Apart from the Protestant fundies and creationists, are there any Catholic scholars who have thought about the time frame for the existence of the world? When it all happened?

I ask because I was discussing with someone on email the theories being put forward by some rather interesting, and rather odd, Egyptologists who say that the pyramids and the sphinx and temples built in the time of the Old Kingdom were in fact a great deal older than the academic consensus would have us believe. Someone has said, for example, that there is irrefutable evidence of water erosion on the base of the Sphinx, the sort that could only be made by many hundreds of years of heavy rain. Well, the Sphinx is in a desert... no rain. At least not for a very long time. Much longer than academia thinks is possible. But there it is.

There were lots of other things this person told me that I didn't read the details of much, but sounded damned interesting. Things about astronomy, the placement of temples to look at star patterns that are no longer in the right place. Meaning, the temples have been there so long that the star patterns they were built to map have shifted in the sky (or the world shifted under them, I guess is more accurate). Meaning the temples were built a hell of a lot longer ago than, again, academia wants us to think.

Another thing was the incredible tale, which is the academic consensus, that the pyramids were built with no tools more complex than rocks, copper tools and plumblines. Like they made millions of huge stone blocks, hauled them up the side of a man-made mountain, all within 20 years. According to modern engineers, we would have a hard time doing it in that time now, with our modern stone-cutting techniques and heavy cranes. But we're supposed to believe they did it with stone mallets and hemp ropes?

I went through my Egypt phase at about eight, the usual time, and never heard anything about this. I vaguely knew that the temples lined up with the sun rise at the equinoxes, and that some of them had something to do with astronomy. But these guys are saying that they are complex pieces of, essentially, stone machinery, technology, and that the Egyptians were way past stone tools by the time they were built, which was way before anyone thinks. Someone said just after the last ice age.

The trouble is that the people making these claims then go off all wild and wiggy about mystical energies and stuff, and totally lose all credibility (to me, anyway), but it's incredibly interesting nonetheless. And even if we don't think that the planet was once ruled by a race of super-smart space hippies, or giant-headed warring Nephilim from Planet Nibiru, some of the things they said about the age and mathematical complexity of the temples and pyramids, certainly sound plausible to this unschooled ear.

Now, I'm not up much on paleoanthropology other than the stuff I read as kid in National Geographic, but I have had the impression, from other things, that the current academic consensus actually kind of blows. I know that it does on a variety of other scientific things (pregnancy starts at implantation because we damn well say it does!) and the arrogance of the materialist Darwinians does not match the rigor of their arguments. We're just supposed to believe it because they say.

Not being a fundamentalist protestant, or still less a young earth creationist, or a biblical literalist, I don't have a pressing need to prove that the world is only 4000 years old, according to the genealogies in the old testament. So I wanted to consult the more reliable sources. What do Catholic biblical scholars, especially the ones, as Philip said, whose names start with an S, say about the time scale?

And the millions of years the world is supposed to have been capable of sustaining life is a really, really long time. If civilisation has only existed since the times of Çatalhöyük and the neolithic and chalcolithic, how do we explain a thing like Gobekli Tepe? a large stone temple complex built during what is supposed to be the paleolithic, predating pottery, metallurgy, writing, the wheel, agriculture and animal husbandry?

I've read a few books recently, not by gnostic Egyptologists, but by perfectly respectable archeologists and geologists, that suggest human civilisation is not only far older than we thought, but is actually cyclical, that is, that not just individual civilisations like the Egyptians, but the whole human endeavour of civilisation itself, everywhere, comes and goes. That we go through periods of civilisation and primitive tribal societies, every few tens of thousands of years.

So, anyone have any idea how this idea could be reconciled with the biblical accounts of the creation? (I mean anyone sensible, that is, neither a Protestant fundamentalist, a young earth creationist or a dedicated materialist Darwinian).

I don't know what relevance it has for us now, what it has to do with any of our pressing problems, but wouldn't it be cool to think that there were ancient civilisations running around building flying pyramids before the ice age?

And isn't it just a bit of a modern conceit the idea that history is a natural progression from primitive to sophisticated societies? That we're doing nothing but get better, taller, smarter and more sophisticated? That it could never ever go the other way? Or be in any way cyclical? The modern historical theory of uninterrupted progress is bollocks on the face of it. We've seen societies decay, morally, economically, even technologically. They go up; they go down. Peoples learn things and forget things collectively. Technology waxes and wanes.

Ours certainly is. It's an observable fact that a large portion of the manufactured goods available today are less useful, less enduring and less functional than the same things as they were produced 50 years ago. Right now, for example, I would not buy a new domestic sewing machine. They're crap. I'll regret to my dying day that I didn't manage to retain my mother's sewing machine, made of metal, with beautifully machined parts, weighing about a half a ton, that was never, ever going to break down. We might have fancier technologies, cell phones, but can you drop one and have it still work? Is it going to last 70 years? Or will it die if you splash your latte on it? The 1937 bakelite rotary dial phone in my room still works just fine, thanks.

I have no doubt whatever that the accounts in Genesis are true. That God made the universe out of nothing, made the earth for the animals, plants and man to live on, that we had two genetic parents who transgressed and undid their original state of primal grace, were taught to fend for themselves in a transformed creation after the Fall. I've got no problem at all with any of that. But I would like some thoughts of scholars on the exact when. How long ago are we talking about.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Nice dress

Apparently, my dislike for the ... err... I suppose we must now call her the Duchess of Cambridge ... is eliciting comment in some circles. No idea why. What is surprising about a Traditionalist Catholic - one whose life's work is to repair the societal ravages of the Sexual Revolution - disliking a woman who made her name parading around 4 fifths naked, allowed the photos to be published, and then publicly shamed herself by living in an immoral relationship with another man for ten years? A man who, moreover, would some day sit on the throne?

That this is now accepted behaviour, even by Her Majesty, is a testimony to what has happened to that country. But it really never seems to have occurred to anyone over there, anyone, that it is perhaps just a wee bit of a scandal that the grandson of the monarch should be, first, publicly keeping a concubine and then marrying one. One might have thought that someone, anyone, might have looked at the trouble caused by the outrageous behaviour of the late Princess of Wales (how many were there? did anyone count?) and give some thought to turning back the clock a little. But it seems never to have occurred, even to the Queen, that the disaster All That caused should have prompted a revival, at least within the family, of more, shall we say, old fashioned standards of behaviour.

But no. We're all fine with this sort of thing now. We're the New Britain. Whoopee!

But more importantly, the fact that her pretty face has so turned the heads of my readers that they are surprised by my calling her a tart, will perhaps be an indication that they, not I, need to rethink a few things. Yes, she's very pretty. I believe that was the point she was making when she took off her clothes and flaunted herself in front of the cameras and the son of the Prince of Wales.

I'll say one thing for her, she's got good taste in clothes ... when she chooses to wear some.

I do sincerely hope that is taken into account for her when she is standing in front of the Judgment Seat.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Painter: Irving Wiles

I've seen this one around about several times. It always reminds me of my mother. It looks a little like her face, but the whole picture makes me think that this is the sort of woman she ought to have been, and could have been if feminism hadn't ruined her. This is her true self.

And this period of dress was her favourite.


Pop Science Is Cool Quiz



1) What is it?

2) Where is it from?

Plus, bonus video of terrifying baddass Japanese ninja honeybees totally...
cooking to death a deadly giant hornet.

It's actually one of the most dangerous insects on the planet. Called in Asia the Yak-Killer Hornet, it kills more people in Japan than all the poisonous snakes put together.

Cool huh?


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No, I haven't forgotten

What did it teach us? That until we renounce Fantasy and face up and live in The Real, none of us is ever going to be safe.


Friday, September 07, 2012

Brain training

A friend dropped by this afternoon while I was typing away and made me take a little break from work. I showed her a new drawing I'm working on, of my nice old suede boots. I showed her the basics of how the sight-size method is done, where to put your feet, how to hold the plumb line and plot points, make a contour line, how a cast shadow has usually got a bit of reflected light inside it, the difference between a cast shadow and a half-tone... basic stuff.

I lent her a book about it and she said she would come over some time in the mornings when I usually draw and I can get her started on a project of her own.

Something I realised when I was showing her a little bit of the stuff I've learned in the last couple of years, is that I have two distinct drawing styles. The Hilary Method, and the Andrea Method. The Hilary Method is a combination of my personal iconic system and a few of the little observational tricks I've picked up here and there to make things "more realistic". Cobbled together from books like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and from Grandma's old instructions and the little bits of advice I've had from artist friends.

The Andrea Method, that is, the classical realist, sight-size method, is the one that actually produces something that looks like art. It is totally a matter of disciplined observation skills and produces a strange state of mind in which much of my verbal and interpretive mental skills are switched off. At least, that's what it does when I'm concentrating. It is also when my iconic system is turned off completely.

Everyone who has ever drawn anything, particularly as children, will have a personal iconic system. It's just a way we decided as children how to depict things we like to draw, like cats, horses, houses, trees, birds, cars and human faces. This iconic system often sticks with a person their whole lives, and is the reason they think they can't draw. When I draw a face now, if I'm not looking directly at a person's face, I will at least start with the standard human facial proportions, because I've studied them and can more or less approximate them from memory. Not very well, but more or less.

It might be a big handicap when you're learning how to draw, but the personal iconic system that most people have, and used for drawing in childhood, is actually an important function of human cognition. When infants see, they don't differentiate things that are far away, or coloured or in perspective. It is only as they go along that they learn to see objects being distinct from each other, or learn things like the difference between far and near.

Unfortunately, when you're learning to draw, these essential mental skills get in the way. We look at a chair we are asked to draw as an exercise, and think, "Well, a chair has four legs, a flat part to sit on and a back, so I'll draw those things." Then we get annoyed that the chair we have drawn doesn't look a thing like the chair we are looking at. We have actually not drawn a chair at all, but our personal mental icon of a chair. A symbol of a chair. Or even, if we want to be Platonic about it, a symbol of chairness. But certainly not the actual object in front of our eyes.

It is usually at this point that we decide that drawing realistically, with perspective and whatnot, must be some kind of magic trick reserved to those with the magic Harry Potter Drawing Gene which we don't have. And we give up and never draw again, and when asked will give the inevitable line, "Me? oh heaven's no, I can't draw a straight line." (Banned at this blog).

Anyway, I have found that my own personal iconic system is still firmly in there, making demands that I draw all four legs of the chair, no matter what my eyes can actually see. It's very insistent about things being drawn properly. The trouble is, my combination method does not produce anything like art.

There are days when I am out in the world (not that many lately, actually) and I am trying to draw something I'm seeing, and I'm distracted or in a hurry, and not paying attention. It is at this moment when my lifelong Hilary Drawing Method tends to take over, and I start drawing eyes and hands and noses of statues that are directly in front of me, in the way my child-brain insists they are supposed to be. The Andrea Method is still very new to me, and not very deeply ingrained in my brain. The old method will come out if I'm not paying attention, and it is at those moments that I think, "Dammit! I can't do this! I suck."

Of course, the most tempting reaction to these failures is to quit, thereby sparing oneself that pain of being either bad at something or having to work hard at it. I'm a grown woman, and most of the things I'm good at I've been good at for a very long time. It's been a long time since I've been in the position of wanting to learn something that I didn't know how to do, that was very difficult and required a lot of work to learn and a lot of practice. (I think typing was the last thing, which was 15 years ago now.)

It's funny, though, that you can really see when flipping through my sketchbooks which drawings and scribbles were done under the strict Andrea Method rubrics and which came from me.

Learning is interesting, isn't it? I think I'll find a documentary about it.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Mind boggling

Most amazing nature show about the intelligence of crows.



From the book I carry around with me. It wouldn't be accurate to call it a sketchbook, but I do draw in it from time to time. I do a lot of drawing on the train into the City.

Longest project in history. Started while sitting in a waiting room to hear the cancer verdict from docs. Still not finished. San Andrea by Borromini in the Lateran.

From the Turtle Fountain, Rome

View at the beach in S. Marinella.

First go with coloured charcoal pencils. The face of Joseph of Arimathea, Caravaggio.

Fooling about with anatomy from Bridgeman's

Infant John the Baptist, Leonardo

St. Jerome, Leonardo

Hand of Christ, from a statue by Michelangelo in Sopra Minerva.

Worked on him mostly at Gardone, sitting at the breakfast table in the mornings.

A friend taking tea at my place last week.

My first attempts at sketching Winnie. She never lies still for more than about ten minutes, so it's a speed exercise.

Something to work on while in hospital.

First attempt from life with charcoal

Fooling about with Bridgeman: working on proportions.

From a photo in a magazine. I tried to get that right eye about six times. Gave up.

Work more. Try harder.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Feminism: symptom or cause of insanity?

Kathy tackles the question.
Firestone published her radical manifesto calling for the liberation of women from childbirth’s unfair burden—and from gender itself—at only 25. That’s around the age when schizophrenia tends to claim its victims, of which she was one.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Drawing the figure

Figure drawing is considered the backbone of the practice of realist drawing, and therefore the foundation of all classical realist painting. The human figure, since Renaissance times, has been looked upon as the "measure of all things," the centre of interest in all the humanistic arts. And it is probably the most practical thing to start with when learning to draw, simply because we are so familiar with the form. A totally untrained eye can spot an error instantly. (It might be interesting to discuss how modern media has distorted this instinctive human perceptual ability.) We simply know what a human being is supposed to look like, so errors in proportion are easy to understand.

This little essay on the stages of figure drawing, really does a good job of illustrating and demystifying the process. When we look at a completed drawing, and see how incredibly lifelike classical drawing can be, it is a little intimidating. We think it can only be a sort of magic, a gnosis available only to the initiate. But it really is simply a matter of mechanics, of transferring what is seen by the eye, without the brain trying to interpret, onto a flat surface. It's the trick of creating an illusion of depth and light and shadow, with paper and pencil. It's not easy, but once the mechanics of it is revealed, the magic trick is revealed as simple. After that, it is only a matter of practice.

From the London Atelier of Representational Art: it is split into two separate stages but you can see that the process of breaking down the elements of the shape, then thinking about the lights and darks, is all one linear process.

Exercise one:
The aim of this exercise is to accurately ‘block-in’ gesture, proportions and the particular body type of the model in a simple manner, so that mistakes can easily be corrected.

Step one:
Using a soft piece of charcoal, begin by marking the top and bottom of the figure, making sure that you have about the same amount of blank paper above and below, so that the final drawing is vertically centered on the paper. Next,make a note of the widest horizontal points of the model so you can estimate the placement of the drawing and decide the composition of the final image from the start.

At this point draw an arbitrary vertical (plumb) line parallel to the side of the paper. As a useful tip, try to find the most static point in the figure (in this example I chose the front of the lower standing leg). To complete this stage, indicate on the plumb line where the plane of the shoulders and the pubis bone (anatomical centre of the body) are.

Step two:
Starting with the torso, indicate the tilt of the ribcage and pelvis, keeping in mind their relationship with the imaginary vertical line drawn in step one. Try to keep the drawing as simple as possible, at this time, focusing on the biggest gestural lines you can find. Don’t get distracted by details, but concentrate on drawing the average width of the main body parts. By using such simple lines and constantly returning to your observation point and using your plumb line, any obvious discrepancy between the drawing and the model can easily be corrected. You can employ this simplifying drawing approach to virtually any subject.

Step three:
Once you’re reasonably satisfied with the gesture and proportions of the mainlines, it is time to start breaking down big shapes into smaller ones. Try to introduce obvious anatomical landmarks such as a line to indicate the centre of the breasts, the position of joints like wrists, elbows and knees. Use the new marks to further judge and refine the drawing by taking your time comparing your work with the model in front of you. At this point you can take the drawing in different directions such as pursuing line to a more refined stage, or introducing values to capture the impression of light.

Exercise two
Having tackled how to break down a complicated figure into simple lines, this exercise will take you through the use of value to convey a sense of atmosphere and light in your work.

Step 1
Using the block-in of your previous exercise, introduce a flat value (don’t go too dark at this stage) to represent the main shadow shapes. This sounds like an easier task than it actually is, as the defining line between light and shadow can be quite confusing in parts of the figure. To get around this potential stumbling block, squint when you observe the model to compress values and minimise the distracting influence of some mid-tones. If you still have trouble making a clear distinction between the main value areas, think of a fax or a bad photocopy with just two values and arbitrarily decide whether the mid-tone at hand is closer to light or shadow value. It also helps to position the model under one single light source

Step 2
By keeping the two tones of the previous step, start adding complexity to your shadow shape design. Pay particular attention to the edge quality of each individual shape and make a note of whether it is sharp or soft. I cannot stress enough how important edges are, as they visually describe how light (and consequently shadow) follow form in nature. At this stage you can also start to introduce a background value to further isolate the light shape. This also helps to evaluate the accuracy of the drawing thus far.

Step 3
Now it is time to establish the full value range (key) by establishing the darkest dark (soft charcoal) and lightest light (white chalk) within the figure. This may expose the limitations of the drawing medium, as it is usually impossible to match the depth of the shadows or the brightness of the light we see on the actual model. A way to try and achieve a similar light impression is to compress shadows, by keeping them as unified as possible and minimise distracting variations. As soon as you have clearly committed to the extremes of the value range in your drawing, the tone of the paper takes its place in the scale as a halftone.

Step 4
At this point the pace seems to drop, though you are getting close to finishing.Here you need to start comparing smaller and smaller sections of your work against the model, judging and adjusting shapes and value by adding or removing small amounts of charcoal and chalk to ‘push and pull’ the three-dimensional impression of form. Use harder grade charcoal sharpened to a fine point to achieve subtle transitions. If you have a view of the model’s portrait in your drawing, now is the time to really concentrate on getting the likeness.

Step 5
In this final stage it is very important to use the background to add atmosphere. Create contrast where a focal point is needed and bring the value of certain parts of the figure and the background closer together to make those areas optically recede in space. I find one of the most telling differences between an average figure drawing and a good one is in the handling of the bony points close to the skin surface. Being able to represent the feel of flesh and bone in your life drawings is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding aspects of it. So make sure you leave plenty of time to work on elbows, wrists, knuckles, knees,ankles… well, you get the idea.

Figures by Luca Indraccolo


Monday, September 03, 2012

Ateliers, painters, writers and teachers about art, the world and The Real

Camie Davis - no longer posting or teaching, but lots of great pics at her site. Studied at the Grand Central Academy, she is into something called "classical narrative painting" which is that old Academic style of painting scenes from famous mythical or biblical stories. V. big in the 19th century.

The mind of James Howard Kunstler - an interesting thinker who believes, oddly, that beauty is better than ugliness and that old stuff is better than new stuff. He also paints a bit.

Helen Frost - Metadrawer Many videos and pictures of her drawing and an especially good anatomy section, particularly on how to get started when you're feeling overwhelmed.

An interview with Juliette Aristides, the Seattle instructor and author of the Classical Drawing Atelier and Lessons in Classical Drawing, which are becoming the standard beginning texts. And her studio has a blog.

Artbooklook - A multipurpose blog about classical realist and representational art books.

David Clayton - an Englishman who studied at the Florence Academy and has a great paying gig teaching art Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and painting icons. He's a very friendly fellow who helped put me in touch with some local painters and instructors when I was looking for a place to study a few years ago.

A romantic at heart, the lovely watercolours of Jean William Hanoteau.

Hein Academy blog.


Sunday, September 02, 2012

It's raining in Santa Marinella,

it's eleven pm, and I'm about to go to bed, and you have no idea how happy I am about it.

Evil Yellowface is defeated! All hail the gentle and benevolent god Greyroof!

It really can't be overstated how much difference it makes to everyone's lives when the weather changes at the end of August. It's very reliable. We get six to eight weeks of complete misery. Temperatures in the high 90s every day, humidity 80-90 per cent, we don't sleep, we don't go out, we move as little as possible. It's too hot even to go to the beach and swim.

Then one day, it's over, just like that, and we ex-pats come out of our caves, blinking owlishly and rubbing our tired eyes, and joyfully break out the cardigans. We leave each other notes on FB saying we feel like we've just woken out of a three-month-long fever-induced coma, and are looking around the world to see what has been going on since we went into our bunkers.

The forecasts had predicted the drop to happen on Friday night, so I went to bed at midnight to try to start shifting my schedule around to normal hours again. And, sure enough, right on schedule, about three am, I woke up, lying under my sheet with the fan going full blast as usual and rather muzzily thought, "What's wrong? What is this? I feel funny."

It took me, I swear, at least three minutes to figure out that I was ...


I switched the fan off, (first time since June) and went and got a quilt from the cupboard.

It's the same every year. The only way to handle it, I've found, is to become effectively nocturnal. You sleep in the day, and by two am, the temperature is finally nice enough to make you feel at least a little perkier. You do housework, you write, you draw, you go for walks, between two and six am, go home, make something to eat, send a few emails, and go to bed about 7:30. You drop the blinds (which are more like blast shields) point the fan at the bed and take a melatonin and don't surface again until the late afternoon.

We went into the City today for Mass for the first time in three months. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to leave the house and not have to worry about getting fried by the Great Italian Death Ray.