30 June 2008


Walk away from it Kay, walk away.

I have put the photograph aside now, and today was working from my memory and from a "painterly" perspective. This is the time I start to make mistakes. I can lose the strong likeness as I try to bring out the personality more. I need to put it where I can't even see it for a few days.

Discipline, discipline!
Or should I paint with reckless abandon?

Glazes, cautious glazes now. Take your time...


29 June 2008

stage three... or is it four?

stage four I think... another three steps to go. (photo taken with flash, some reflected light from wet areas).

*Finish the clothing.
*Correct any problems (check details of ears, eyes, mouth etc) and adjust hue and tone.
*Add a bit of "zing".

Put aside for a while, check again, then adjust again or add the poppy and varnish. Let's hope it is the latter, time flies and the August exhibition is suddenly far too close!

The next commissioned portrait will stay secret until 29 July in case the recipient chances upon my blog... highly unlikely as she is a local, but I think I should keep her "under wraps" until then. Then onto the next lot... who said my life was one great holiday? (Smiles with twinkling eyes as she lays her happily exhausted bones in something resembling order and drifts off to sleep).

next stage

I have blocked in a multi-layered background and worked a little more on the eyes and hair. The next stage will be to paint the suit, shirt and tie, and then adjust the background colour again. It is a little too dark I think. I will need to adjust his shoulders for a more natural look. In the photograph I was given he is relaxed and sitting at an angle that does not transfer well to the portrait position.

I am using a very limited palette and aiming for overall unity. I think I preferred the more purple shadow colour I originally anchored the portrait with, and might revisit that again. However, in my mind I see this gentleman as being more in the ochre to green range of colours, and wonder why I think this. Perhaps he was wearing a suit in those hues when I first met him.

I know I have a good likeness as visiting friends recognised him instantly.

28 June 2008

on efficiency...

I have never really been an appointments diary person.
I used to be a list person.
I was a write-it-on-the-calendar person.
I was a notes-to-myself person.
I was most certainly a year planner person.

I went back into the classroom. I became a plan-book-person with whiteboards-and-noticeboards-at-home-and-at-school person.

In times of huge busy-ness and overloaded-brain-ness I pinned urgent notes to the curtain above the kitchen sink.

I became an RTLB and I had to carry an appointment diary into my schools. I was a diary and year planner person who occasionally made ambitious lists for out of work hours.

I have been guilty of writing "hang washing out" and "get washing in" in my darker days purely so I had the satisfaction of crossing them off the list. If you have been there, you will understand.

Out of that location and with no real routine I don't have noticeboards, whiteboards, year planners at my disposal. I am compelled to use a diary. I write on calenders.

The problem is, I just never remember to look at them!

Grazie for the internet. I have downloaded monthly charts and made myself a year planner. It sits on the unit between my bed and the door. Sometimes I even remember to look at it.

It gives me just a tiny little feeling that my life is getting back into some kind of order. I have, just fleetingly, moments of efficiency bordering dangerously on control.

I wont get too excited though; who wants a life that is orderly and controlled? If I did, I shouldn't have moved to Italy!

Today's list:

Exercise Zacchi and his owner.
Eat again.
Eat again.
Rest without guilt.
Paint again.
Walk and chat.
Eat again.
Meander up to the piazza and wait with the locals for the cool breeze that comes from the coast around 10.30pm.

If I achieve all of those things I think I can call myself efficient... with "ample sufficiency thereof".

art for the greater good

Media release – June 26, 2008
Secret collaborative work by 88 NZ artists to be unveiled in Takapuna next Tuesday

Eighty eight artists have contributed to produce one large piece of art for the New Zealand Art Guild’s annual exhibition opening at at Takapuna next week.

The merging of all the small paintings creates one large piece of art with proceeds going to the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

Guild spokeswoman Sophia Elise said the image of the collaborative work would not be known until the opening night at the Bruce mason Centre next Tuesday, July 1.

"It is being kept secret, even from those participating in it, until the opening night unveiling. And we’re thrilled to be working with the foundation this year to increase awareness and help people suffering from mental health problems. "

Elise said 20 percent of the proceeds from the annual exhibition sale will be donated to the foundation. The artwork will be auctioned on Trademe July 19-29.

The NZ Art Guild was formed in 2004 to promote artists at all stages of their careers.

Media advisory: For further information, comment, photos, or interview contact Sophia Elise on 027 630 1810 or Kip Brook at Word of Mouth Media NZ on 03 374 5426 or 0275033 855 or www.wordofmouthnz.com

27 June 2008

time for another break

My back is sore.
I need an easel.
I need a rest.

My feet are enjoying the five layers of rubber to take the rigours out of hard floors on aged body...

30 minutes rest then out to buy some fruit. Guests tonight. Pizza and beer. No cooking, too busy. OK?

26 June 2008

picture this...

Never a camera when you need one!

Today is hot, 37 degrees when I set out to meet the train. I started my car and pulled out to turn around. A large covered truck parked in the roadway blocked my view. I nosed out cautiously, ready to turn in the narrow street. A shiny, black, fast, interestingly shaped BMW sports car zoomed up the road. It had to brake a little when it came around the big truck and saw me. I paused, not actually in its pathway, and wondered what its acceleration rate was as it shot away.

I turned cautiously, not in any hurry. I meandered across to my side of the road (as we locals do) and drove steadily at around 50kph. We are on a mountainside on a narrow road, remember. With cars parked erratically it is essentially a one way street in parts. Cats, dogs, pedestrians share the road, but not in searing siesta time heat. I wondered how far ahead the menacing black creature had got, then put it out of my mind.

When I came around a particularly dangerous bend about 1 km along there it was. I could feel the impatient vibes emanating from the car. Ahead of it was a tractor and trailer, piled high with huge round hay bales, in no hurry to get to its destination and with nowhere it could possibly pull over to let traffic pass.

I smiled complacently for the next kilometer as we pottered along. There was something quite delightful about the shining hay bales towering over the sinister black shining machine. I wished I had my camera, but I don't take it with me in these temperatures when I don't expect to need it.

As we got further along the impatient vibes seemed to disappear. The two men in the car seemed to be relaxing and enjoying their conversation. When I turned off the road to go down the hill they stayed behind the tractor, not taking a detour to overtake it as they might have done.

Yes, there really is something special about this place.

25 June 2008

time and time again

I have just read that today was 14 seconds shorter than yesterday. I have wasted a bit of today.

Sometimes work has to wait because there is something else more interesting, more valuable, more important to do. That might include resting, or sitting on the step enjoying the view. That time is not wasted.

But today I had a few patches where I really did just let time slip by, wasted. It was one of those days when I might have rung Jan and said "Shall I put the kettle on?". We would have put the world to rights over our bone china teacups and then happily got back to our work again. Or I might have called George, to tempt him with pikelets and a few laughs over a cup of tea.

I started the day so well, got so much achieved. Then I fizzed. I blame the heat. Everything became an effort. Each step had to be a deliberate one. One foot in front of the other. Tomorrow I must do today's shopping for food. Friday I must clean my house, I have special guests for a pizza dinner. Somehow I have to figure out how much table three people and large pizzas need. I might have to move some paints for the night, but that takes effort. I think we will eat outside (adds citronella candles to the shopping list).

I am not beating myself up for wasting some precious time today, just noticing that I have. Time that I can never have again. If we (the collective "we") remembered that more often would we be happier, less rushed, less angry? Would we treasure our friends, our family, our special moments a little more?

Oh! I have just remembered how I started the day. I got up and did a heap of ironing. Proof that I am ill? No, just enjoying using a brand new, very fancy, German iron after two years of making do with one that hardly heats enough to function. I bought it on Saturday, with a new hair drier too. Watercolours deserve the very best... (the new hairdrier is for me, the old one for the watercolours, really!)

The iron was all the fault of my little friend. We were sneakily ironing dry his shirt that we had got dirty for the third time in a few hours, and that time he insisted on ironing it dry himself. To my shame I found that he is better at ironing than I am. It got me thinking... and spending.

I am now the proud owner of an iron with TWO steam controls. The things that give me a buzz these days never cease to amaze me!

It is too hot to wear synthetic now, I shall be crisp and fresh in cotton and linen, beautifully ironed, of course! And tomorrow, if I see time slipping by, I shall simply remember that there are still 24 hours in a day...

Tania, will you remind me about time management again please?

Moriori, a tradition of peace

An article dispelling old myths about the Moriori (this morning on www.stuff.co.nz) is well worth reading.

(Copyright prevents me from using the content of this article here. I removed what I had written after reading the fine print at the end of the article).

I grew up believing that there was no future for Moriori as a people. Thankfully that was wrong.

Never give up hope. Ever.


thoughts on a borrowed quote

Art is our one true global language. It knows no nation. It favors no race. It acknowledges no class. It speaks to our need to heal, reveal and transform. It transcends our ordinary lives and lets us imagine what is possible. It creates a dialogue between individuals, and communication between communities. It allows us to see and to listen to each other.
............................................... Richard Kamler

This reminds me that a smile means the same in any language. In fact, I think the smile, the eyes, the face... body language is the one true language.

When we look at art we have the art object, the viewer, and the "gap between" in which interpretation takes place. Each brings his own frame of reference to an artwork, therefore while all can "read" art each will have a different reading.

If I had to choose, between my ability to make art or my ability to smile,

... I would choose to smile.



24 June 2008

exciting new project

I am running ahead of myself. I have a new work to do later in the year and it is something I can really get excited about... so instead of doing the immediate I have started research and sketching for November...

it just goes to show that if you are excited about something you can move mountains...

what did I write much earlier, that quote from David Whyte (quoting someone else)... about the antidote for tiredness being total immersion... or words to that effect?

life is wonderful!


Found it (Sunday January 20 post)... "The antidote to exhaustion is whole-heartedness" from a conversation between David Whyte and a Benedictine monk.

officially hot...

The news is full of cautions and advice about how to keep safe in the heat.

Zacchi and I were a little late walking this morning, got home at 9am, and he was panting as much as I was melting. No more late walks for us! 5.30am or not at all.

There is a brief period in the day when I can open the windows to let some air in, then all must be closed and shuttered to keep the house cool. Friends in newer houses swelter; we ancient ones bless our thick rock walls and stay inside.

Oddly enough I get more work done in this weather, there is no option but to stay inside and read or paint. I like it. A lot.

The downside is this computer magnet... I have work to do for another website, then I must walk away, walk away...

Ieri sera (yesterday evening) I played with a little watercolour, about 12"x4". It wasn't particularly satisfying, I hadn't put much thought into it, but it was a diversion and about all I could manage after varnishing paintings in the heat. This morning it looked pretty good. Certainly worth finishing. I think I will paint one a day as long as the heat lasts. Tiny, unimportant, good skill revision. Yes, a good idea. Keep me accountable, will you?

Music, action, but first a cool shower!

23 June 2008

for better or for worse...

Varnished. If all else fails they make a pretty table top.

Often when I have finished a painting I catch sight of it with shadows on it or sunlight dancing across it. It comes to life in a way that I have not managed to paint it.

I like to push things to the limit (in painting, that is!) but often find that nature has greater lessons for me to learn.

Now I must paint the single poppy again, in water colour, and this time make it really sing.

PS the temperature is in the high 30s again today, hence abandoning creativity and choosing to varnish and put the paintings on the "finished and now untouchable" list.

yesterday and today

"Jewettfest" by Sarah Scott and Brennen Reece
October 2003

happy birthday Brennen (for yesterday)

and Sarah (today)

born in different hemispheres really means they share the birthday...

and now our days get shorter, while the NZ ones get longer.

There must be magic in the date, so much creativity in two people!

monday morning


Last one of the four, not my kind of painting but it works... in some way!

In this one I ignored composition "rules" and let nature take over, as tends to happen here (read that how you choose...) so of course there are parts I like and don't like, as in everything! Actually, come to think about it, I have probably broken every composition rule... now if only I could extend THAT to the rest of my life here...

Photographing paintings reminds me that I do like to work in glazes, be it water colour washes or many layers of scumbling in oil or acrylic. With all three media it is possible to glaze and to scumble, and in these four experimental works I think I have far too many different techniques competing.

I believe that whatever paint you put down as a foundation does influence the work; nothing is ever completely covered. Occasionally a photograph seems to pick up the layers below, not the surface seen by the naked eye.

After a few days away from these works I will look at them more objectively I hope, make some last adjustments, then glaze them to unify them a little more. A final varnish, and then I think a swim in a pool for the artist to wash them out of my system!

These unframed works complete the more affordable "bits and pieces" for a very local solo exhibition in an ancient oil pressing room in Caprile in July.

What have I learnt from this series of paintings? I have reaffirmed that I am a purist when it comes to painting technique. Shortcuts bug me, working to a deadline isn't always good (although essential sometimes) and I work best when I am completely at peace or absolutely "hopping mad". Seeing I no longer get "hoppng mad" I will just have to keep the music playing, the dog content, and potter along happily and peacefully using time-consuming but satisfying techniques.

And now, between portraits, I can work on the next series for the August/September exhibition at La Locanda del Castello, where it will be another group show. This work I am really looking forward to... it will be different, preparing for it involving more angst, more intellect, more what I want to do. Watch this space!

22 June 2008

finished...or almost

Although this is a watercolour it is on 640gsm rough cold press and I have sanded the surface a few times so it looks as though it is on canvas. I much prefer my smooth hot press 300gsm, can't wait to get Sabina working on that!

In real life this glows, but I don't like the solidity of the poppies. I wont be painting like this again...

Another frustrating one, these three (and one other) were all experimental and I can't say that I have really enjoyed them. I am certainly remembering why I moved away from landscapes and "chocolatebox" paintings in the first place. Unfortunately for me it is what people are asking for here.

On the upside of things, I am enjoying the portraits much more, studying other artists a bit and getting bolder and braver with how I approach the paintings. Soon I will be bold enough to insist that I take the photos to work from, with my own lighting. For now people are handing me favourite photos, not the best for poses and lighting.

21 June 2008

but these still not finished...

four unfinished works and I have abandoned them for the portraits...
but I think the straight water colour is the one I will prefer when I do get them done. Mixed media is not for me...

getting started...

lots more to do... ah the power I have, to wrinkle and grey... or not!

squeals of excitement...

I answered the doorbell and there was a police car outside my house.

The uniformed gentleman asked me my name.

I think he asked if I had/sought residency.

I said yes.

He asked me if I rented the house.

I said no, I had bought it.

I invited him in to check it.

He came a few steps into the foyer.

I said my part was the lower floor.

Would he like to see it?

He declined.

He wished me good day.

I think I have just had my inspection for my documentation!!!!

I might be legal soon...


Cross everything for me....................

What a beautiful day!

I can do posh sometimes...

The other day I was called (for the second time in a year) "a bloody dag".

I'm not sure how to react to that. I am sure the writer meant it as a term of endearment. I have always thought that you had to be funny to be a "dag". I don't think I am amusing, quite the opposite sometimes. But it certainly reminded me that I am a Kiwi.

Or not?

Oh dear, perhaps I am becoming too used to being "bella".

Another email wrote about a woman being "a hoot" with "a plum in her mouth" and always shrieking with laughter. I like the sound of her, plum or no plum. I think I am the only woman in this village who laughs out loud.

Makes you stop and think though, about the language we use. I can do "plum", maybe even be "a bit of a dag". But I've never been brave enough to be "a hoot". It sounds like fun, living life with rich humour and enthusiasm!

I love words, I love writing, and love editing. It is studying I seem to be allergic to at the moment.

Note to myself: no more gelato until you have studied for an hour a day for at least three weeks...

Yeah right! You're a bloody dag, you are!

San Pietro Infine

Always beautiful, no matter how much sorrow.
Time soothes, if it cannot heal.


20 June 2008


Today I was a guide. I am very lucky, I like the people I guide around the battlefields. I like best the ones who take time to visit all the cemeteries, and take time to reflect. I have all day, there is no need to hurry. These are the days that I know that I am in the right place, doing what I need to do.

Thank you for today.

19 June 2008

today and today

painting is going well. summer is here. zacchi is sleeping at my feet.

this morning I started two new portraits, then rigged up a temporary display shelf so I could contemplate unfinished paintings during siesta time.

there is a hush over the valley. it is too hot to move. the tiny bathroom window lets in a huge amount of heat. yesterday i ordered the double-glazing for the studio-kitchen.

even the birds have stopped singing.

i honour the down-time by ignoring the capital letters obligatory at the beginning of each sentence. it is hot. who cares?

after i have written this, thinking of archy and mehitabel, i will rest a little.

i love the sound of this hush. it is so eloquent. zacchi stirs, heaves a sigh.

now you must excuse me, a pile of pillows and some contemplating calls me.

but just in case you are curious, here is my favourite called the coming of archy by don marquis.


once again apologies for not knowing the protocol for copyright for something published in 1927 but freely available on the world wide web...


expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard
but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook upon life
i see things from the under side now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i cant eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have
removed she nearly ate me the other night why dont she
catch rats that is what she is supposed to be fore
there is a rat here she should get without delay

most of these rats here are just rats
but this rat is like me he has a human soul in him
he used to be a poet himself
night after night i have written poetry for you
on your typewriter
and this big brute of a rat who used to be a poet
comes out of his hole when it is done
and reads it and sniffs at it
he is jealous of my poetry
he used to make fun of it when we were both human
he was a punk poet himself
and after he has read it he sneers
and then he eats it

i wish you would have mehitabel kill that rat
or get a cat that is onto her job
and i will write you a series of poems showing how things look
to a cockroach
that rats name is freddy
the next time freddy dies i hope he wont be a rat
but something smaller i hope i will be a rat
in the next transmigration and freddy a cockroach
i will teach him to sneer at my poetry then

dont you ever eat any sandwiches in your office
i haven't had a crumb of bread for i dont know how long
or a piece of ham or anything but apple parings
and paste and leave a piece of paper in your machine
every night you can call me archy

by don marquis

18 June 2008

"my" Liri valley

I still say the afternoon shadows are on the wrong side of the trees...
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the things you learn to accept...

Aaah... the mystery that is the Italian postal service...

I have been waiting a long long time for my order of Share Your Tears Volume 1 and it just didn't arrive. I contacted the publisher and they finally emailed to say my order arrived back at Lulu today marked "Undeliverable".

I didn't know your book was that hot, Sarah!

Mind you, today it was 35 degrees at lunchtime. Everything is pretty hot here now.

the funny little things...

It's odd what things give me pleasure.

While "camping" across the road I did a lot of washing for the owner who is seldom there long enough to get all the linen up to date. The last time she was here it rained and rained. I enjoyed being a secret helper. Call me peculiar if you like, but I have always liked washing flapping out in the sunshine.

The balcony with the clothesline is high above the road.

The first day I cautiously pegged the towels to the wire closest to the railing. I didn't dare to look down, although I love being "up".

Each day I was a little braver.

This morning I cheerfully leaned out to peg a heavy towel on the far wire, the balcony rail cutting into me as I stretched out over the road. I thought how far I had come! Almost a real Italian mamma.

But not quite.

I remember walking through the next village once when a wet white missile landed on the road near me. I looked at it, then looked up. The rather embarassed owner of the underwear called her apologies. I tried once to throw them up to her, then folded them neatly against the building and moved on.

No matter how hard I think about it, there is absolutely no way I will be hanging my underwear up there for all the world to see.


on blokes and dogs...

This is what I wrote in an email two days ago:

Zacchi did a PB (personal best) this morning, we went for a jog with him off the lead, and he was well behaved. Might try again tomorrow, he just loves to be free but had become too naughty and would scamper off just as I bent to put the lead on him, stuff like that. He is soooo fast! We went out at 5.30am so no cars to bother us.

Yesterday, had I been at the computer, I would have written:

Zacchi is grounded yet again. We went up to the "big house" to sort the washing after the NZ tenants left, and Zacchi, who thinks that the front part of the house is haunted, scarpered with his lead on. I called and called, sure that he would come home, but worried about him getting the lead caught somewhere. (Somehow in my training I didn't manage to achieve what horse trainers do, getting him to stand still with the lead dangling where there is nothing to attach it too).

Night came, no Zacchi. People passed (walkers stroll until after midnight now that summer is really here) and no-one had seen Zacchi. It got later and later. Dogs barked up and down the valley. I contemplated driving, but where would I look? He was more likely to be up a little street with no car access, chasing cats.

All night I was up to the window, calling, hoping he would at least find his way back to our house if not to the one I was in. I imagined him caught on something, being attacked by the stray dogs that roam the town. I imagined him hit by a car, lying wounded. I imagined him whimpering.

At 5am I sensed something. I listened. Nothing. But I was sure he was there. I went to the window and softly called "Zacchi". I was rewarded with a "Woof". I unlocked the door at the top of the steps. There was another woof and a scratch scratch. I pulled on the chord that unlocks the door at the bottom of the steps. I started to go down to open it. The door flew open and a hairy ragamuffin bowled up the steps, whole body wagging, the little head already turned in grovelling position.

He slept all day. Didn't move from the step. I think my little puppy is now a dog.

And like every gorgeous Italian man, the mutt expects to be forgiven! Forget it mate, you are well and truly grounded! This kiwi girl has different rules!


A week or so ago I met a bloke who suggested we might become very good friends. My well-honed antennae said "married, married". Mutual friends gave him my number. He called. He texted. I refused to meet for coffee. He asked if I was afraid of him. He said he wouldn't eat me. I texted that I was working, not on holiday. He apologised for bothering me. Call me when you are free, he wrote. I deleted his messages and forgot about him.

I saw him in the street again yesterday.

You didn't call me, he complained. No, I replied, I didn't. I don't need any problems in my life, I said, it is difficult enough living in another culture without making my life more complicated.

He couldn't see any issues other than a language barrier, and that of course was no problem. I (only just) resisted asking if his wife would come for coffee too. I wont bother you, he said, but please call me when we can meet. I walked away. Wait, he said, will you call me?

Penso di no, I replied. (I think not). I didn't apologise. He should be grounded too.

16 June 2008

no post today...

too busy painting.

Exhibition in two weeks time, and another portrait request this morning.

Busy, but glad to be out of the heat. Summer really has arrived...

15 June 2008

from an email with honky-tonk piano...

The bubbling brook would lose its song if you removed the rocks.

Happiness comes through doors you didn't even know you left open.


It is Sunday. A day to reflect, a day for rest, a day for family. I have been listening to my son-in-law's music, thanks to the magic of cyberspace. It helps me to picture my family in America.

I think I will visit my musician friend today. (As I wrote that I smiled, because I have more than one musician friend here... and until now I hadn't registered that fact!)

Music fills the soul. It can change a mood, heal a wound, sooth a troubled mind. Nature does that too. How long is it since you lay on a hilltop, looking for shapes in the clouds?

I wonder, when we look at clouds, do we forget to see the angels?


14 June 2008

progress report...

coming along... at least I am enjoying this one!

a dog's life...

all I want is a little attention...

choosing to be sad?

Lately there has been debate about the place of melancholy, and the over-abundance of "happy pill" prescriptions, society demanding that we all smile all the time.

As I read my previous post I thought "I chose to indulge in that sadness yesterday. I chose not to block it out, to pretend to myself that all was well".

Emotions are very real, and I believe that at some stage in our life they must be worked through. I used to talk to "difficult" teenagers about how to cope with their emotional baggage. I have used art therapy on myself. But sometimes, more particularly here, I simply give in to the emotion and let it work through me.

Yesterday at 4pm I pulled myself together (I thought) and went to a trigesimo mass, the mass that follows a few weeks after a funeral. Instead of the normal choir of five or six local women there was the organist, and a soprano and a flautist. The music was superb. Knowing that under his purple robe the priest was wearing polo shirt and jeans took nothing from the ceremony. Knowing that the singer is married to the local butcher, cuts up meat and has two young children to care for does not diminish the power and beauty of her world class academy-trained voice. Knowing that under my sunglasses my eyes would be red when I emerged did not stop me tingling all through and weeping as I listened to the music. Still not really sure why I was a bit of a "cot case" I let the tears flow.

Why am I writing this? Because just maybe someone, somewhere, needs to read it. Now I respond to intuition much more. I remember once working with a suicidal teenager and having huge trouble convincing her parents that she required medical help for depression. No weakness was tolerated in that family. To convince them that it was OK to need help the counsellor and I told our own stories of depression, confessed to our own need for medication. She got the help that she needed, and enjoys a full life now.

I always maintained that John Kirwin's greatest gift to New Zealand youth was not his skills as a rugby player but his public admission of his battle with depression. He made it OK to talk about mental health.

Sadness, nostalgia and melancholy is not the same as depression. But maybe, somewhere, someone needed to know that it is OK to feel blue sometimes. Tomorrow, there will be sunshine. There will be yellow, orange, and gold.

And for me, today, there is a kind of quiet colour that defies definition. Not happy, not really sad. I think it might be called acceptance.


reading, not painting

Just occasionally I indulge in reading something written in English. Yesterday I spent a large part of the day reading while I mooched through some melancholy, the result of a variety of things partly out of my control.

After some email and real life conversations I had been looking at some of the songs that were important to me in my teenage years. One seemed to bring up memories of a young me, full of hope, knowing where she would go in life. Forty years later I have no idea where I am going in life. Mostly I am ok with that, but just occasionally I lack confidence, miss having some certainty.

Nikki said "nostalgia is a gentle way of being sad, it's kind of good once in a while".
Sarah said "Contrary to popular belief, the dark is good. It's there for a reason. No light without it, you see, you see".

I don't know when they grew to be wise. It reminds me of another a line from another song, "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof. "I don't remember growing older, when did they?"

One phrase that I once read has stuck with me since childhood. I don't remember the context at all, it was so many many years ago. It was "clear shining after rain". It has come to me so many times over the years.

This week has been a patch of rain. Next week, clear shining?

Sunshine and light, so important to me.

PS: from Wikipedia The musical's title stems from a painting by Marc Chagall,[2] one of many surreal paintings he created of Eastern European Jewish life, often including a fiddler. The Fiddler is a metaphor for survival, through tradition and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance.

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

13 June 2008

up and down...

The ideas for painting are going well. I get excited about them, keen to start.

The reality is not so great. I keep stalling, afraid of failing I think. Now there is external pressure as well as my pressure on myself I want to run away from painting.

I think I am a control-freak who has lost control.

I'd rather be a writer.
With a nom de plume.

12 June 2008

on blank pages

Random thoughts...

In New Zealand, after my favourite French paper maker had been bought out by an American company and the paper dropped in quality, I switched to Fabriano paper... yes, Italian. I have a collection of samples of every different texture, quality, weight. My favourite is always 300gsm hot press (smooth, beautiful, needs stretching only because I use so much water to play in but doesn't greedily grab the paint the way the 640gsm does). 640gsm is like painting on blotting paper. It has its place, but not for me too often. 150 gsm should never be given shelf space. Students, don't use it just because it is cheaper. You get better results when you use the best!

Fabriano is well north of here, and towards the Adriatic coast. I know that because I looked it up, many years ago. When my Dad discovered that I was using Fabriano paper he told me about the time he was billetted in Fabriano with a family. The incredibly thin woman had showed him her ample dress from prior to hiding in the caves in the mountains. He said it was at least four times her size. It created an image for me I have never forgotten.

Last year Dad and I went through Fabriano by train, and looked out at the paper factory. I know the logo so well.

This morning, I opened my bundle of Fabriano paper, purchased in Riccione last year and left waiting, waiting, waiting for this moment today.

I love the blank page. I would collect beautiful blank notebooks, just to admire them, except that I am trying not to collect. Anything. I love the used page. I love old old paper, all kinds of paper.

As I opened the bundle - which had been carefully padded by the incredulous shop owner who was not used to tourists spending so much or being so excited by blank paper, and tied so I could carry it like a suitcase on the train before being delivered free of charge to our hotel that afternoon - I thought of a recent conversation. (Oh what a long sentence! Sorry!)

My dear young friend who is wrinkle-free and coming up 40 keeps insisting I should have "lifting". I told her how boring a blank page is, how much more interesting I am with my laughter lines (yes Jan, they are still there). I told her that if my face was more important to her than my thoughts or my heart then I was saddened by that. I told her I don't want to be a blank page.

I caressed the blank paper, and pictured faces on it. Old faces. Wrinkled faces. Beautiful, character-filled faces. The only thing that should be blank is paper. I watch the Italian people, and am drawn to the faces that are "ugly". I wonder about the lives that have left those scars. I see that there are so many stories that will never be told.

I think of a song I sang so hopefully when I was young. From The Sound of Music, "Sixteen, Going on Seventeen"
You wait, little girl, on an empty stage
For fate to turn the light on
Your life, little girl, is an empty page
That men will want to write on

I remember that Liesl trusted her Rolf, the soldier who ultimately betrayed her family.

I have been sitting here without writing for a bit. Even when I write a blog post about paper, somehow WWII sneaks in.

I need to change my mood. I have paintings waiting to emerge from that paper. Or were they meant to be thoughtful paintings today?


11 June 2008

fresh basil...

and tomatoes, tiny balls of mozarella, bread baked in a wood-fired oven... all washed down with (wait for it) mineral water... yes, summer arrived today.

Summer has been slow in coming, promising then running away again. We have had more rain this summer (to date) than for this period over the last 18 years.

This morning it was too hot to walk to the market. Water is far more important than wine now. Zacchi and I must walk even earlier...

10 June 2008

interesting what you learn

I have been staying in a friend's house while guests are in mine. I have only one bedroom while part of my house is being developed.

I thought it would be easy, living across the road. I would paint well, and study well. There would be no distractions. The light is better for painting, and the paints could stay set up in the large and airy room.

I haven't studied at all, and I have had to be really disciplined to paint. I am learning a few things about me, instead! I think I have worked out what the problem is.

Over there, across the road, I have no music. I am rattling around in a big house on three levels, not having had any luck with making the television go, with no computer, and with no music.

The birds sing all night here, but from the "house across the road" I don't hear them. I miss them, and I miss the church bells. I am closer to the bells but I am sleeping in a room built against the rock face and there is no sound except from the road.

I don't miss the telly at all, that is study for me, not relaxation. TV has never been my thing. I am missing my music terribly. In some ways it supports a theory I have always held, that hearing might be more important than sight.

I love being able to see, and when I get new glasses it is always a delight to be able to see that little bit better than the day before. But could I live in a world without sound? That would take a huge amount of adjustment.

Now it is time to leave the computer and look at this world with new eyes, and enjoy the sounds around me. Today while my guests are in Rome I am back in my own house, and I have music. Or I will have, soon. For now I am happy just to listen to the bird-song, knowing that at any time I choose I can play a CD or the piano, and have other music...

8 June 2008

a symbol of strength against all odds?

I watched friends build this stone and cement path last year. It has hardly had time to build up dust in the corners, but already a poppy blooms there...

Poppies, the flower for remembrance, but for me it is also a symbol of peace. When I see a poppy bloom between the railway tracks, in the rock faces, in new stone paths, I see it also as a symbol of hope.

A poppy growing wild, surviving against the odds; a shaft of light in an unexpected place, a dew drop on a blade of grass. Laughter, the sound of voices. The real treasures in life are these.

7 June 2008

new look...

Back to progressive lenses, a concession to my "maturing"...

now I can see the people across the room!

(I wasn't ignoring you, I just could make out who you were in the fuzziness of it all).

down the hall on a (friday) night...

There was laughter, music, dancing, and food, food, food...

It was very reminiscent of New Zealand in the 1960's, except that the dinner was "sit-down" and many many courses, and there was more singing. It was the "oldies" who made the most noise!!!

Between courses there was endless singing and dancing and chatter.

Antipasto (enough for a full meal)
Four very different meats (served on the same plate and with French fries)
Macedonia (fresh fruit salad).

I knew all the tunes, but not the words. My toes tapped as I ate. My feet wanted to dance, and did just briefly, with my Italian family and another new female friend. Women danced and their husbands chatted. Some couples were fabulous dancers, I looked on in envy.

I was thrilled to see so many women there, all having a thoroughly good time. It has been hard to find women of my age here, they are at work or at home, never out where I can meet them.

I left after midnight, the music had become too loud for conversation. And yes, it was the over - 70s who were responsible for that!

Italians really do know how to celebrate.

6 June 2008

how apt

how apt yesterday's borrowed quote was. Today I have been running, running... interesting but hurried. Tonight I go to the dinner for immigrants, so no time to write... a girl has to go get beautiful...

but first I will breathe deeply, count to ten, look a the beautiful festival lights above the road ... and appreciate the fact that I can.

Sarah I loved your post about being feminine. I have new glasses today... not nearly as feminine as your new attire!

5 June 2008

borrowed from another blog...


Sometimes you cant get there any faster than you’re already going. Don’t let your longing for the destination keep you from the quiet enjoyment of the journey

- Toni Sciarra Poynter


experimenting in waterbased mixed media

Dear Flossie,
for better or worse here is the photo I promised...

I have worked on the foreground more since this photograph but am still not happy with it.

I don't like the "fussiness" of this style.

In real viewing (as in real life) the poppies glow more than they do here.

Still to find the solution for finishing glazes and varnishes.

This practice "sketch" has already found a home, but it will be going out cheaply and unsigned. Grrr... I hate work that is less than my best going out. I have a sneaking feeling that I will wake up one morning and simply "attack it" with vigorous strokes and change it completely... in fact, it might be tomorrow morning!

I was reading about hard times coming up for artists... no more complaints from me about commission work!

late night

I need to sleep. Driving around late at night to connect Kiwi historians with Italian historians and trying to find a tiny white chapel in the dark makes for a huge headache today.

Next time I need better night-time instructions; why couldn't the landmark have been the garage with the lights on?

4 June 2008

prototype painting

the experimental work progressed well yesterday. Photos later...

Painting in watercolour involves painting "back to front" or "inside out". Painting in acrylic or oil involves a completely different technique. Acrylics may also be used as watercolours, the difference being largely that once they have dried they are permanent, nothing can be changed. If you know your watercolour paints well and choose wisely then things can be changed quite effectively even after they have dried. I prefer to use staining colours, so must also think well before I apply them!

What I set out to do yesterday was to find a way of combining the two techniques so that I had the fluidity and mystery of the watercolours for the olive trees, and the brilliance and light for the foreground poppies, but the substance of the oil or acrylic to hold the work mounted on canvas for my local clients. Here works on paper are not highly desirable because of the damp in the stone houses.

I am close to achieving it. The tricky part is the transition from one mode of painting to another, from washes and glazes to thick layers of paint. Equally tricky and for now more important is remembering which paint is which, and not using my precious watercolour brushes in the acrylics. I have put Sabina away now, she did her part in the early stages of the painting. An unnoticed "accidental brush" with acrylic paint would destroy her.

Now to find a healthy varnish...

2 June 2008


Sometimes you choose to do something difficult. You spend a long time thinking about it, rehearsing it in your mind, trying to find a better way.

How do you decide what is the right thing to so? Do you weigh up the odds of your words being accepted in the spirit in which they are given? Do you avoid the hard issue?

I have been weighing up cultural differences, wondering if I am over-reacting. I have gone over every possible scenario. It is time to take a huge risk and express an opinion. I will be "damned if I do, and damned if I don't".

If I say what I want to say, I will be bringing an unpleasant truth into the open. I may not be believed. It could be that what is upsetting me is actually quite acceptable to the other parties.

If I don't, I will have to live with the fact that I did not do my best to bring truth into the light. I would rather be damned for doing what I believe is right than for doing nothing.

Who said that life was easy?


it was always a possibility

another festa

Today (Monday, it is not Sunday despite the date above) is a public holiday, but I took my holiday yesterday.

Picture a long table, 15 people seated around it, and Italian food and wine.

I chatted happily as the meal was prepared.

I joined the discussion about the antipasto.

I added my compliments and comments about the primi piatti.

I ate the secondo but didn't say quite so much.

I compared notes with my neighbour about the contorni.

I commented briefly on the vino.

I quietly sampled the cheeses.

I was mute as I drooled over the pineapple.

By the coffee I don't think I understood a word of the conversation.


It just goes to show that if you eat too much your brain stops working!


Today we paint, Zacchi and I. Italy has gone to the beach. We have work to do!

1 June 2008

Sunday morning...

Today Zacchi waited for Kay to pick him up. They went early in the morning, but all the scary dogs were still there. This time Kay held the lead tightly. All was well in Zacchi land.

There may not be so many posts for the next two weeks, we are staying in another house for a while.

Kay has to paint, said Zacchi. No computer for Kay.

Darn it! said Kay. But the other house does have good light and fewer distractions for a painter...