26 April 2014

what colour am i today?

It's tough, trying to keep life simple.

Yesterday I changed twice before heading out the door. How do you dress for a formal cemetery visit, a home visit to a lovely not-yet-one-year-old, an art exhibition opening and a very casual visit to friends all in the one day, in that order, with no chance to come home between these things? Add to that setting out early in the morning in the mist with clouds, being in the open in bright sunshine, and then ending the day with a not so great weather forecast.

Today as I caught up with washing I tried to evaluate every item and decide whether or not to keep it. I am leaning towards a "uniform" - something that will carry changes simply by adding a jacket or a scarf.

I am, more and more, confident enough to flaunt fashion trends and choose what suits my mood, my comfort, my wardrobe. But I notice that in my wardrobe there is an increasing gap between "special occasion" clothing and every day wear. I do need to toss out, but also to find some middle ground.

Footwear is always a problem. Heels and I just don't go together. Sigh... that probably accounts for my shoe envy as friends strut about in high heels looking stunningly elegant. I wonder if we could ever begin to admire flat heeled shoes? In this country, never. In NZ? No, I fear the worst there too.

Why am I thinking about this now? It is out of character, I agree. Some time ago, September 2009 in fact,  in the wee small hours of a sleepless night I foolishly uploaded as a Facebook profile picture an image of me as "mother of the bride" complete with hat. I took it down rather quickly too. But unknown to me it remained in my folder, and yesterday a friend with time on her hands found the image and commented on it. That evidently brought it to the fore, and by this evening 50 people have clicked "like" on a previously forgotten image.

The FB picture is perhaps flattering, and certainly is a "classic" that still looks OK five years on. But it does beg the question of what we wear, what we keep, what we throw away or give away. I still have the outfit, including the hat. I have worn parts of it several times. But should it still be in my wardrobe, with no more events to wear it to in the near future?

When going to formal commemorative events I now have what I call my "uniform", serious in black. Perhaps I could design more parts to my present "uniform" so I don't need to think about what to wear at all. I am torn, torn between simplicity which demands a restricted colour range, and the urge to wear bright colours in this country which favours black on every formal or celebratory occasion.

Back to black for basics? No, in the summer I like to dress in light, bright, white.

Today I wore bright orange, for my Dutch friends. It was the day of the King in Holland. Occasionally I shall wear green, for my late mother-in-law. And blue, for my own mother, and red for my grandmother because it was scandalous when I was a teenager and she gave me red nail polish when I was ten. Black? No, it's not in my life, but already too much in my wardrobe.

Some time ago I challenged myself to reduce the number of items I owned and especially the number in my wardrobe. I culled out an embarrassingly large number, but still want to cull more. As spring comes and goes, pulling summer and winter alternatively with her, I have plenty of opportunities to consider what I am wearing, and what I have here.

What shall I do? I think it is time. I shall wear purple, with a red hat that doesn't go. Jenny Joseph said it so well:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in the slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
-Jenny Joseph, 1961

Today I am grateful for defiant, colourful and fashion-flaunting "senior" women.

23 April 2014

tomorrow and tomorrow

It is time to review the last seven years. I arrived in Italy on the 24th of April, 2007, clutching the correct documentation (in my passport) which gave me permission to stay for a year.

I didn't know if I would stay for a year, or just a few months. I thought that my apartment might simply be a holiday home, while I returned to a "normal" Kiwi life.

I couldn't possibly have foreseen all the excitement, speed bumps, highs and lows ahead of me. It was probably just as well.

I renew my permesso to stay every two years. I will try again next year, hoping to be allowed another two years. After all the ups and downs I feel as though I belong.

Today I am grateful for tenacity and honesty. 

18 April 2014

you might be interested

This is how the last painting evolved.

I still need to get a more accurate "final" colour photograph. 

Today I am grateful for boxes ticked.

15 April 2014

nine days ago

Nine days ago I was perched on a marble street marker painting this:

I seem to have misplaced the photos of the finished paintings. It was the artichoke festival (sagra) at Secce. A group of artists I belong to was part of the "entertainment". 

Until I find my photos you can study the artichokes :) 

And if that made you hungry, try these: http://www.acitrezzaonline.it/ricette/verdure/verdure06.htm
Google translated:
Ingredienti 8 artichokes; Homemade bread crumbs; grated pecorino cheese and chopped; one sprig of parsley; salt, pepper, olive oil. 

Procedure: Clean the artichokes, drain and cut the tips and the stem in order to make them feel very high standing in the baking dish. In a bowl mix well with bread crumbs and grated cheese with parsley and garlic. Add salt and pepper and finish mixing. 
Open the center and artichokes filled with this mixture. Place them tight in a pan and then pour the oil into the artichokes. Put the pan in the water almost to cover the artichokes (flush), add some more in 'water a tablespoon of olive oil, a little salt and a slice of lemon (to remain clear artichokes). Cook for at least half an hour. You can serve hot or cold.

Today I am grateful for walnuts and salted peanuts. 

out of time

Not the perfect photograph, but it has to do for now. There isn't such a great colour difference between the two sides, it was the lighting in my studio that did this. The roses on the right should be a bit more like the ones on the left.

The black is my own mixed dark, mixed from an emerald green, deep crimson and dark ultramarine blue with a touch of raw sienna (yellow). I don't own black paint, it is flat and dead.

I risked getting too bogged down in this, I wanted to add, add, add. I like my works to be tidy up close. It is a challenge for me to leave things "loose" and painterly. But the owner of "my" easel needed to borrow it back for a while, just as I was about to fiddle some more. It was great timing.

So, this is it. I just need to sign it and it is all done. (Of course the patient wait for six months for it to cure and be varnished gives me a window in which it can be altered again...).

Maybe I'll let you in on my stages later, you might be surprised! 

Today I am grateful for a sense of achievement.

12 April 2014

maybe it is (almost) finished

I am not sure. It didn't live up to my original expectations, but it has a power of its own "in the real" that photographs just don't show. When I began this work I had something so clearly in my mind, and still can see it now, but my hand and the paint took it upon themselves to re-design my concept.

People who have seen it say "Don't touch it, leave it exactly as it is". Perhaps I should put it aside for now, and see what I think in a couple of weeks time. If I cancel my original concept from the equation then I can say I have painted a really strong work that people are reacting to in a positive and thoughtful way. That is what I want to achieve. If I think of the image I wanted to create, then I have failed, miserably, and this is not even close to second best. But maybe this is the better image. I don't know.

The roses do glow, and seem to lift off the canvas. I guess I should be happy with that. The symbolism is there, without a more literal aspect that I decided part way through to leave out of the composition.

Maybe, after a few more tweaks of colour, this is enough.

Today I am grateful for helpful critique. 

11 April 2014


This is a part of a work in progress for Legato (May). It is the work in water-soluble oils that have taken some getting used to. I don't have all the mediums for glazes that I could use with these, but I am determined to at least get this finished before I toss what is left in the tubes away (I'll give them away, for what that is worth, there wont be much left).

Water soluble oils because I bought them at the request of an Italian artist who then decided she didn't need them (after I had carted them from NZ for her). So, after having them sitting on the shelf for a long time I decided to try them and avoid having the smell of turps and oil through my studio home.

The work is about a metre square. Here is a little bit more just to show you what I am doing. There are many areas still to resolve, but finally I am beginning to feel that I have made some progress.

Today I am grateful for music while I work.

10 April 2014

now you see them..

I photographed this view with the poppies from the car the other day to send to my 2013 flatmate who walked along here each morning and photographed this as the seasons changed.

The next day I looked out the window to see freshly ploughed earth... not a poppy in sight! 

Now you see them, now you don't...

Today I am grateful for my fabulous views. 

2 April 2014

the year is flying by too fast

Today I am sharing this post so you can see that I haven't "just" been sitting around loving the birdsong, the blossoms, the sounds of the valley in springtime. I am learning to "put myself out there".

Legato went to Ortona. This is my contribution to the publication, and if you click on the link you will see some photos from the event.

Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation
Out of the carnage and destruction wrought by the siege of Monte Cassino in 1944, there developed a strong tradition of remembrance and reconciliation - bringing together veterans of the many nations which took part in the battle (on either side of the front line). The many reunions of Monte Cassino veterans have been in support of this noble theme, with former foes developing friendships and discussing the futility and waste of war.
The last major reunion for veterans was in 2004, although smaller numbers of able travellers continue to return every year. This year, 2014, will see a very poignant commemoration as the travelling veterans are in their nineties and know that this will be a last visit to the places that are forever in their memories. 
Now the peace campaign must pass to the generations that follow, focusing on educating youth and society, as well as the veterans' activities. The Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation, MCFRR, founded in conjunction with the UK organisation Veterans in Europe, is devoted to ensuring that the lessons of 1944 are never forgotten. 
The Legato exhibitions for peace and commemoration, established in Cassino in 2010, invite artists to research the history of the battles for the Gustav Line, exhibit in Italy, and then take the messages of reconciliation and peace back to their own communities through their various artworks and presentations. These exhibitions are inspired by the work of the late Douglas Lyne (co-founder of ViE and MCFRR), promoting peace and reconciliation through cultural exchange based on the creative arts. 
It is an honour for the artists to be invited to share this commemoration in Ortona. 

I was very surprised to be one of the main speakers, but welcomed the opportunity to share some of the things that I care about. I struggle a little with "putting myself out there" but there is work to be done and I am trying to be less hesitant about being in the middle of things. Despite being a Leo I am not entirely comfortable in the limelight, and after being out in the open need to scuttle away and hide like the introvert I suspect I am. (If you haven't read Susan Cain's wonderful book "Quiet" please do).

I have always seen myself as being a capable "behind the scenes" person, or perhaps even the "indispensable number two" in any public works. It may be time to get over that obstacle and start standing up and doing things more publicly simply because I can, and because they need to be done. I am reminded of the maxim attributed to Hillel the Elder, "If not you, who? If not now, when?"

Today I am grateful for the opportunities I am being given.  I am also very grateful for the birdsong, the blossoms, the sounds of the valley in springtime, and the chances I make to "just sit around and enjoy".