Category Archives: Just musing

“Point and click” I hate that expression.

I really loathe the expression “point and click”. The word I really object to is point. It’s such a sneery term implying that as the owner of a digital camera with a very good auto function I will simply point my camera at any scene and click away with no more thought than if I were flicking a light switch.

The Writer often extolls the virtues of his digital SLR- talking all that photographer speak of f stops and iso . I remind him that I’m not a photographer, I’m an artist. Red Velvet, my lovely red camera, is simply another artistic tool in my studio and whenever I use her I am most concerned with composition . I NEVER “point” and click.

I could go all technical if I had the inclination , after all I run an MRI unit where I’m constantly concerned about signal to noise, contrast to noise, resolution and image quality. I know how to manipulate factors to improve image quality and provide high quality diagnostic images of the human body. Of course I could learn to manipulate my camera’s many manual features if I wanted to- but the truth is I don’t really want to. There’s been a lot of R&D gone into fine tuning her auto functions and I can tell you they work just fine without ant intervention from me. I’m never going to be one of those people who carry round a notebook and jot down the ISO for this shot and now what does it look like with a  different ISO? Just don’t care! Surprisingly I’ve done some of my best work from less than perfectly focussed or lit photo references!

What I do care about is using my artistic sensibility to frame  in an inspiring way. To see an imperfect scene and crop before I shoot. Of course I’ll keep cropping afterwards because cropping is my friend. …but why would I want to just point when I can frame?

Taking photos for me is another form of sketching. I’m making little thumbnails of a scene, I take one in portrait, one in landscape, then I move the horizon low …what about if I make it all about the sky and move that horizon really low? I’m already working on the painting that might not materialise on canvas or paper for several years. I’m storing up visual memories that will lay dormant until some time in the future when I search through my archives for inspiration and bang! there are all my thumbnails , the composition options already thought out and one will leap out at me and I’ll be excited because all those memories of being there, on the spot, will come flooding back. If I had just pointed I wouldn’t have the scene so firmly etched in my memory.

 

That doesn’t mean to say I don’t use a sketch book as well- but sometimes a camera is more convenient. When I’m travelling with The Writer we often hike through amazing scenery and he hikes a lot faster than me! If I were to stop and sketch every sketch worthy scene I would never make the ridge , the top of the mountain or the end of the track. So I take along Red Velvet and frame and click away with just the occasional sketch when we stop for a break. Later that night I’ll make some more sketches after dinner to fix the subject even more firmly in my memory banks.

 

So that’s why I hate that phrase. I don’t judge you if you like to mess about with your ISO and F stops so don’t judge me just because I love the auto functions on my digital camera!

 

 

Countdown till Italy.

Not that I’m counting -but there’s only 33 days till we head off to Italy again for 5 glorious weeks. It’s been 2 years since we last visited. There are some things I just can’t get anywhere else so I’m  a tad excited at the prospect of 35 straight days of Italian pleasures.

Tuscan wheatfields
Tuscan evening silhouette.

We spend a lot of time in the countryside and because we always hire a car we get to drive around early morning and late evenings as well as long, lazy, lovely  days. The summer fields of wheat look beautiful anytime of day but I love this shot of the sinking sun turning the wheat golden against the lengthening evening shadows.

Field of Tuscan poppies.
Poppies in a Tuscan field

Then there’s the summer wildflowers. I know you can get wonderful wildflower meadows other places but the poppies are such an integral part of a summer in Italy that I miss them and if I have a summer without poppies I feel I’ve been florally cheated!. One year we went a little later than usual and the poppies were gone only to be replaced with fields of deep red/purple clover. After years of visiting Italy I discovered another pleasure of the Tuscan countryside.

Clover fields - Tuscany
Clover fields – Tuscany

When I’m dreaming of Italy it’s the colours that I’m longing for … all those ochres, reds, oranges…warm and earthy with the summer sun bouncing off them. The reflections in a Venetian canal capture all the colour, movement and essence of Italy. The iconic cities never disappoint!

Venetian canal.
Colours of Italy reflected in a Venetian canal. 

There’s the unexpected like this zing of orange leaves against the bright blue sea I captured on a walk around the island of Capri.

Orang and blue. Capri
Orange and blue – Capri

….and the night time reflections as we walked the Cinque Terra trail after sunset.

Cinque Terra reflections.
Cinque Terra reflections.

Of course there’s all the little details as well. Doors and doorknockers are right up there for me. Also tiled terracotta rooftops with their variegated oranges brightening up the village skylines. The flap of white clothes drying in the breeze on lines slung across the laneways. Roses climbing up stone walls. Pots of geraniums making a windowsill all the garden that is needed. Fountains with their sweet sound of cool water in the summer heat.

Doorknocker in San Quirico
Doorknocker in San Quirico.

Not least of all is the food! I just cannot get ice cream as good as Italian gelati anywhere else in the world…and I have to eat enough spaghetti  vongole to last me till our next trip.

Spaghetti with clams.
Spaghetti with clams.

Thirty three  days and yes, I’m counting!!

 

 

 

 

 

Coastal inspiration.

Island life

Living on an island has meant I’ve had a long love affair with the coast. Tasmania has some wonderful mountains, lakes and rainforests and I’ve walked many a wilderness track over the years with stunning scenery and seemingly endless mountain top views but it’s always the coast that draws me back time and again.

My earliest holiday memories are of riding in the back of the ute all the way from Lonnovale to the end of the road at the far southern beach of Cockle Creek where we camped in an old canvas tent for a glorious week of freedom.

Summer holidays followed at Sister’s Beach in the north ,swimming every day, lying on the hot sands and bundling up in a jumper for an evening walk in stormy weather. Later as a teenager joining friends for camping trips to Binalong Bay on the East coast where camping was pretty basic but the water was a stunning turquoise that lapped the glaring, white sands.

We explored nearby beaches with huge sand dunes and lichen covered rocky coves. We clambered over giant orange boulders , rock hopping along the sea edge.

The salty tang of the sea air, the healthy tiredness after a day of sun, surf and sand and then the sound of waves sending me off to sleep – these are the memories I cherish.

I visit the coast as often as possible and love it in every mood.

It’s not always the grand view that inspires me – sometimes a small sketch or painting seems to say it better.

I think it must be time for another trip……..

Reflecting

Window reflections
Through the window

I was playing around with shots through my kitchen window and was fascinated with how real the reflected plant looks – much more solid and real than the kitchen.

It made me think about how we often see some glaring fault in another, overlooking the real person, as we concentrate on their perceived shortcomings. As we pay more attention we might find that the fault is merely a reflection of our own lack of understanding, empathy and humanity.

I wrote about this photo – baring my soul – and then I went off and experimented with a theme change and bammo! all my words are gone. (So this is just  summary of my previous poetic ramblings)

 

Cleaning day in the studio.

I’m a bit of a slob when it comes to cleaning my pastels. On Saturday I was doing a little painting and pulled out a brown stick of pastel, swiped on a good solid swathe only to find it was really a deep, luscious red!

With that little bit of motivation a grabbed a rag and started cleaning- now I have a box of glowing pastel sticks sitting on a new bed of rice ( brown of course!) The rice keeps the sticks clean as they roll around and rub against the grains – polenta is even better but I’d eaten it all!

Home – Photography 101

The BookshelfHome is family and this family bookcase tells the story of those who live in my home. Our individual and collective interests sit side by side on the simple white shelves.

On the top shelf  lie the heavy tomes of architecture – an absorbing passion of the Writer. 

The next shelf holds art catalogues, travel stories and some language dictionaries – the Writer and I travel every year, love seeing great art and have taught ourselves some French and Italian. The Writer says he’s speaks 4 languages, English, French, Italian and fluent gibberish!

In the corner is the little ceramic cat that our then 12 year old son choose as a souvenir in France where he befriended many a cat – enticing them into our holiday homes with scraps of ham and saucers of milk. At 20 he rescued a kitten that had been dumped and she’s become a loved family member.

Then there’s the shelf with the speakers – our home is filled with music from the moment the Writer gets up to the moment he goes to bed. We have R & B, classic, baroque, rock and jazz – and a library of 4000+ CDs to choose from. He carefully curates a sound track for all our holidays and particular songs are irrevocably linked to certain places and bring back sharp and clear memories every time I hear them.

Then there are the family photos of parents and grandparents no longer with us – their memories cherished, stories told and lives remembered.

Also a  few simple ornaments that bring back memories of far away destinations.

Stashed on the bottom shelf is a collection of classic reads enjoyed by us all- Wodehouse and Christie. Some of these have been read and reread over the years. We’ve spent many a night chuckling over a Bertie and Jeeves video or guessing “who dunnit”as we watched Poirot unfold the clues.

A few tubes of paint hint at my passion for painting.

A trio of games are the flow over from a huge stash of boardgames  which are the glue that bonds our family together in difficult times, when we need to destress or to celebrate someones achievments. The eldest son owns many of these – he eschews spending money on frivolities but feels games are a basic necessity of life.

So there you have it – my home on the shelves of a bookcase!

 

 

The art behind a handmade bag.

I make bags much the same way as I paint a picture. Something will catch my eye, a shape will stick in my mind, a fabric pattern will pop out from all the others and I start thinking how I might use that idea to sew a functional piece of art – and what could be more useful, decorative and functional than a bag!

Just like a painting I get to make all sorts of decisions that will influence the final outcome. Will the bag be large or small, will the patterned fabric dominate or just add a highlight, will it be big, bold and bright or more elegant and subdued.

I like to paint fast. I try to be expressive and gestural in my approach. I value simplicity of design over fussiness . Just as I  want a painting to come together and tell a story so I want my bags to tell their own story , to insist on going to the market and being filled with winter pears , to sashay into the evening accompanied by a little black dress, to be slung over a shoulder and take a ride on a scooter.

There are lots of little details and flourishes that will lift a painting out of the ordinary and give it that extra something that makes you want to live with it on your walls for years to come. I like to add small details to my bags to finish them off. I might use strips of the main patterned fabric to trim pockets and isolate a graphic element in a small square against a plain fabric background just like a painting in a frame.

 

Sometimes a bag design will develop purely to showcase a fabric like this little tote with 3 “windows” I made just to frame a hand printed penguin on a mustard linen. I liked the result so much I’ve started using it to frame Japanese kimono fabrics .

I love hand printed fabric and make my own stamps to add a touch of whimsy to otherwise plain bags. I often”frame” them on squares of fabric which I attach to flaps, pockets and backs.

The other way by bag making is like my painting is that I have an overall design idea, an artistic concept and I start. I don’t always get it right first time, I may botch up something and then learn from that. I often measure with my eye not a tape measure! I make changes on the fly! No  two bags are ever the same – I  would get bored with that. I could always streamline my process and make a lot more bags a lot more efficiently but I just don’t want to. When I sit down to sew I look through my fabric stash to see what excites me today -then I choose a design idea to rework or try something new . Just like painting I want to be inspired, to try new techniques to challenge myself and hopefully make a thing of humble and useful beauty in the process.

You can check out my other bags at my Etsy shop.

No more pictures

The Windows 10 debacle has left me in despair. Thousands of photos from years of travel have all gone. I backed them up before deleting Windows 10 and when I went to copy them back the files were there. I copied all my backup files back to the laptop but when I checked tonight my main photo files weren’t there. The external hard drive doesn’t have them either – just a series of corrupt files.

Years of photos of Tasmania – all gone! France and Italy – all gone! New Zealand – a few left. USA – maybe 20% left.

I feel totally gutted. I want to wail and cry and bang my fists against the wall. I know they’re only digital images – it’s not like I’ve lost an arm , a friend, a family member. But it feels a bit that way. All those images carefully framed , pored over, painted from – all gone.

I’m going to bed and I just might not get up tomorrow!

 

Windows 10 – I want to go back!

You know how my tagline is “life is art and art is life”? Well life this week has been a bit like one of those paintings that start out with a good idea, the sketch  goes well , I lay in the first washes and think to myself ” this is going well!” Of course that’s the killer – as soon as I let that little complacent thought escape from the deepest recesses of the confidence corner of my brain I just know that it’s all going down the gurgler!

Suddenly the colours don’t seem right, the tree trunk looks more like a lollipop stick and the river starts running uphill. So I splash on all the paint left on the palette in gay abandon just to cover up the mess and then start out again.

What I always want at this stage is to be able to go back , to lift the layers of paint and get back to that moment when the painting was so full of promise – and just stay there. I wouldn’t add another brushstroke. I would just enjoy the unpainted possibilities.

I’m so familiar with this process that these days I can pretty well spot the moment a painting is going to “turn”. Sometimes I can even ride through the moment , rework the surface and produce a better painting  than my initial concept. That’s a very rewarding experience.

So you might be forgiven for thinking that when I decided I was so fed up with ignoring the insistent little invite to upgrade to Windows 10 for free and started the download,that I might have recognised the path I was heading down. Even as my finger hovered over the Install button the IT Geek was warning me that it would just slow down my laptop further .

Did I pause for thought? Well  I did pause for just the teeniest moment but I’d already wasted all that download time, and I couldn’t face going back to more Windows nagging everytime I booted up so I closed my eyes , clicked and there it was – the “turning point”!

Up to this moment all had gone smoothly so I wasn’t too phased when the install finished and I saw that my display resolution was horribly wrong. Naturally there would be a way to fix it and hadn’t I given birth to the IT Geek for just such an occasion as this?  What I hadn’t factored into the equation was the antiquity of the laptop – the pharoahs of ancient Egypt probably had this very same model interred with them! By midnight the resolution was still horribly wrong, all my photos were elongated and unviewable. I went off to bed in a foul mood cursing Windows 10, the world in general and my self in particular.

The next morning I turned to Google and found I wasn’t alone- other’s had been here before and they had the answers. What a feeling of relief , I could still save this “painting”. I followed all the instructions but my stupid laptop didn’t seem to have read the same articles I had and the vital bits of information were missing. Off to work in a foul mood wailing – I just want Windows 7 back!

Of course the IT Geek saved the day and managed to reinstall Windows 7 a few days later- something to do with holding down F9?? And so I got my reset, I got to go back to the moment before it all started going wrong and now I’m just admiring the seamless simplicity of Windows 7 – no extra fiddly bits, no fripperies and finery , just the bare bones of a very pleasing operating system that lets me view my photos in their proper format.

Making my first YouTube video!

Yesterday was one of those days when I had BIG plans. I was going to make my first Youtube video… how hard can it be? Quite hard as it turns out!

I had the plan for a demo of a pastel painting all ready – I’ve done a fair few painting demos in my time so I have a good handle on how to paint and chat about it at the same time. I set up Red Velvet on the tripod and fiddled around till I could see my head and the painting paper in the screen- it took a bit to get them there at the same time.

I needed to set up some extra side lighting so went to get the side lamp from the lounge room. I just needed to get the cord out from under a pot plant stand. A small voice in my head suggested politely that I should empty the stand before I tried to lift it but it’s lazy sidekick shouted – just get on with it ! Forty five minutes later I was still cleaning up the mess from where the pot plants had tipped off leaving about a ton of dirt and a few litres of water ( aka mud) all over the beige carpet and my laptop. But I did get the cord out and finally was ready to start filming. During this forty five minutes The Writer (aka husband) had eaten a delicious lunch by the pool and then had a refreshing swim.

Take one ! Well it “took one” for about 3 minutes and 45 seconds and I was doing a spot on intro when I noticed the record light had gone out. Take two! Things went a bit smoother ( except for the bit when I made the mistake of looking at the LCD screen which I faced to the front – of course it was a mirror image and in my spatially dyslexic way I started pointing to the wrong side and became mesmerised by the way my mouth didn’t match up with the words spewing forth from it). Take three – and I finished the intro.

This is a piece of cake I thought to myself -then in a moment of digression …. maybe I’ll have a piece of cake before I get on with it. Actually , it was only a raw carrot as I’m in the process of shedding 18 Kg before I head off to Italy in May and eat my way through a mountain of fresh pasta and about a thousand scoops of ice cream. Anyway, after the carrot feast I got back to it and did an outstanding first section of the painting demonstrating clearly and articulately how to develop a lively sky and laying in the basis of the sandy beach. I turned to face the camera and started my spiel ” and now we’re ready for the sea and the path- oh bugger! the videos stopped again!”

There was a lot of mucking around this time . I downloaded the instruction manual as it clearly was not enough to take the quick guides exhortation to simply press the start record button to start and then press again when I wanted to stop. There was obviously some vital step missing. I looked for that step for about half an hour before giving up and just having another go.

Things went better – but only after I scrapped the first painting and set up a new one. (Remember there was no actual footage of me painting any sky or beach!) So now I only have to splice all that footage together into a seamless video with a great voice over and some carefully selected sound track. Should be a raw carrot!

Beach Path demo
Beach path – Demo of a 30 minute painting