Friday, November 13, 2009


I dug up these two small batik pieces today - I hadn't seen them for a very long time. They are based on a species of nudibranc (sea slug) called Chromodoris magnifica - quite a common nudibranc but still very beautiful. I am not sure why I didn't do more of these... I like the idea taking a small area to examine the colour, patterns and textures, rather than the whole thing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

taking stock

literally and mentally....
I have amassed a lot of artwork these past few years and little by little it's been stored in the spare room, crept into my room, into cupboards, wardrobes, drawers. I've collected gorgeous paper from various travels and that is scattered all over too. I decided a week ago that things just can't go on like this - and so I've ordered a large plan chest and have embarked on sorting out all my artwork. 

Well, I thought it might at a stretch take me an afternoon - how wrong could I be?! I have photographed the majority of my work now, but that took me a whole day. Now I am going through everything section by section - deciding what to do with it all. I just cannot hang on to all this artwork. Apart from anything else, I'd like other people to see it! Also, I think it is time to reflect on what I've done, and move some of my work to new homes and move on... I reckon it will take me a week or so to really figure things out. In the meantime, here are two monotype prints I made about three years ago. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

batik baby

My niece is a fan of my batik! I made a wall hanging for her a few months ago - I intended it to be mainly primary colours. In the end it turned out to be mainly burgundy red and deep autumn colours - hardly traditional 'baby' colours! But my sister assures me my niece is entranced by it! I loved the little turtle tjap (stamp) I used in this piece. I used it over and over again - I was thinking of the urgent run baby turtles make to the sea after they hatch. 

Monday, August 24, 2009

north sea coast

I started a long windy description of Kijkduin, Scheveningen and the harbour, but have decided to let my photos do the talking instead… Here are my eight favourite and inspiring things about this lovely stretch of coastline in Holland:

1. strolling along the beach watching seagulls, oyster catchers and terns on the breakwaters

2. walking over the dunes at Kijkduin

3. watching the sunset over the North Sea

4. looking at coastal paintings by the Haagse school of painters and ‘seeing’ the coast a hundred years ago

5. eating pannekoken (pancakes) and steaming hot chocolate after a walk on a cold day at a pancake house in Kijkduin

6. buying fresh fish and seafood at Scheveningen harbour

7. eating fresh fish and seafood at one of the harbour’s restaurants

8. seeing hundreds bikes line the paths leading to the beach

Thursday, August 20, 2009

celestial vault

This August I'm here in The Hague. Last Sunday we walked through the woods at Oxenburgh to the Kijkduin dunes, a few kilometres from the city. A leisurely stroll, we stopped now and again to take photos of ducks slicing through the weed covered canals, water reflections and rose hips at their fullest. 

Out of the woods and near the dunes, we climbed a short flight of steps to reach what looked eerily like some kind of tomb. Apparently we’d been there before, some years ago. How had I missed this? There was no inscription, it was puzzling. Marcel said it was an art piece – oh, ok. It was slick and monumental, and did not move me particularly. I stood and looked at the view in front of the tomb - it was impressive – to the left you could see all the way to the Hook of Holland and to thee right the beach resort of Sheveningen. 

Further on was a short tunnel leading to a wide bowl with an identical tomb like structure in the middle. A man sat on the rim of the bowl pulling out weeds while his dog looked on. Was he the guardian of this place? It seemed strange to be pulling out weeds when all around the ‘tomb’ were shards of glass.

Then it all clicked into place. Not so much sculptures, these are places to gaze at the sky and experience changing light and colour. These two pieces are ‘The Celestial Vault’ created by one of my favourite artists, James Turrell. Lying with your head resting on the stone plinth, your view is shaped by the manmade landscape in the 'bowl', and the restriction of your head - your field of vision is severely limited. We were there with the sunlight drilling into us so we didn’t stay too long on the plinths. From the top plinth you could see the horizon to horizon view and upside down the sky became more magnified and majestic. With blood slowly traveling to my head, the focus was not what was on land and tangible, but what was in the sky - intangible and ever moving. In the bowl, the angle of the plinth was parallel to the coast and the sun directly in my eyes made it impossible to experience the full effect. The plinth resting in the bowl shape gives the illusion you are looking at the sky as if it were indeed a dome. Given less harsh sunlight, I can imagine this being a wonderfully meditative place. My field of vision was somewhat wider than the photo below, but this gives some idea of my view from the top plinth.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Lucky me - I am spending a week in Melbourne, one of my favourite cities! There's always so much going on and around just about every corner you can find something interesting from the fabulous street art to offbeat little shops.
Yesterday I was on a mission to find a new photo album - sadly the leather cover of our lovely wedding album has fallen victim to Singapore's humidity and kind of gone mouldy. At least the photos are alright. I headed up to Brunswick Street in Fitzroy where there are loads of interesting shops - in fact I had already planned to visit Kami, a shop specialising in Japanese paper, specifically Chiyogami (decorative designs which are silk screeened onto strong mulberry paper). They sell fabulous albums, photo frames, notebooks - I could spent hours in there, and I found our new album there. Then made a fantastic discovery.
Just next to the checkout was a pile of papers - I took a closer look - marbled paper! This was not the usual psychedelic swirls of colour, but a limited palette of blues, greys and golds on white. It was exquisite. Organic, earthy, otherworldly, this marbled paper contained so many elements I love - especially the contoured lines, I ended up buying two (A1 size) sheets. I have no idea what I will do with them - they look great behind a light (though you lose some of the colour), and look lovely just loosely hanging on a wall...I found out that the paper is not Japanese at all, it was made probably near Chiang Mai in Thailand.

One of the joys of the inner CBD are the laneways of Melbourne - Desgraves Street is the first one I ever discovered. Just as you turn the corner it's like being transported into Europe. Little cafes line the street, the smell of coffee permeates the air and there is Il Papiro! This tiny shop sells Italian marbled paper products, notecards, notebooks, photo albums, you name it. The marbling couldn't be more different from my Thai paper. The swirling designs are far more controlled, intricate and colourful yet also very beautiful. I have to admit seeing all this marbled paper has made me want to try it out myself - and find out more about its history.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

natural orange

Wow! My first attempt at natural dyeing produced an amazing orange! It's quite incredible. I don't know how 'fast' it is (time will tell), but even when I rinsed the fabric very little colour washed out. I am very excited about this and hopefully this will make its way onto paper in a short while. This orange came from the seeds of the Annatto tree (Bixa Orellano), which apparently is used as a food colouring agent for margarine amongst other things. It certainly is pretty orange - I haven't tried to use any mordants with it yet, just keeping it simple for now.
I am also experimenting with eucalyptus and mango leaves - let's see where this takes me! I've go the fans on full but even so there's quite a strong smell of eucalptus...

ship building

One afternoon last week I spent making some paper boats with a couple of friends for a fundraising event in Scotland ( ). I might make a couple more before mailing them off... Mine were made from banana fibre paper I bought in Yogjakarta, a bohdi leaf, and also some paper with a tjap of a wayang kulit (traditional Indonesian puppet). I knew all that practise paper with wax stamps on would come in useful one day... I covered one of my boats with hot wax - this boat is seriously heavy! There's a few months to go before the deadline and if I get time I'll make a boat with fibres from the garden - I have a long list of experiments to do!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I had looked forward to seeing and being on those long beaches that seem to go on forever and yet it was a fairly modest beach that stole my heart in Tasmania. The 'big' beaches were certainly impressive and all consuming - and yes, I could have walked for hours and hours. I guess I like beaches where I can stop often, pick things up, scrabble around in rock pools. I can't remember the name of the beach we found down a dirt track. The tide was out and we watched tiny crabs burying themselves in the sand and found fresh oysters hanging on to rocks. We started noticing the sandstone - pebbles turning into rocks, into boulders, into a cliff face. Sheer beauty.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

fruit of the fish tail palm

I passed by a wonderful fish tail palm yesterday - along the length of its trunk were fruits in various stages of development. Luckily I had my camera with me - a habit I am trying to cultivate as much as possible. There's something really pleasing about these great bundles.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

hot wax

Last week I got to go to my favourite country around here, Indonesia. This time I went alone for an intensive batik course in Yogjakarta - something I've been meaning to do for several years. Although there are batik courses in Singapore, I've never managed to find anyone to teach me about dyeing and so have only really learnt 'faux' batik techniques which are more akin to silk painting. I was really excited to have the opportunity to learn about dyeing in particular and also using 'caps' (pronounced 'chaps'), the batik stamps. Possibly the best part was getting this new input from wonderful husband and wife team Nia Fliam and Agus Ismoyo who run Brahma Tirta Sari batik studio. They and their team produce exquisite fine art textiles - my heart just melts when I see them.
The week was certainly intensive - learning how to use the tjanting (the wax filled tool used mainly to create lines), learning how to use the caps, learning about Indonesian batiks, learning about dyeing... there was a lot of learning. There was also a lot of doing. As my main interest was in the dyeing process, I worked mainly on four pieces which were loosely based on the four elements: Earth (Tanah), Fire (Api), Water (Air - mmm, that became a bit confusing - the word for water is 'air' in bahasa), and Air/Sky (langit). All four pieces had about 4 different colours layered on top of each other - using two different dye systems. I used some caps but just as simple reminders / additions to reinforce the themes (eg leaves for earth, turtles for the sea etc). In the end two turned out well in my opinion, if not that pleasing to me on an aesthetic level, the other two not so good and need more work. But hey, first time doing this so I was very pleased to have achieved it at all. Of course I have to give 99% of the credit to the guys who mixed the dyes - they really know what they are doing.
So, back home I am wondering where do I go with all this new input...I still want to incorporate batik into papermaking somehow - not sure which aspect - perhaps the dyeing, perhaps the stamping. Guess it's time to play some more!

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Spent today doing some aquatint printmaking and am beginning to get the hang of the possibilities. I decided to use one of my life drawings as the basis for a print - quite suitable as it was done in charcoal and was tonal. My first print was OK (bottom image) but not as much contrast as I wanted so I etched the shadow behind the figure more. After that I decided to etch more lines in the figure. Given more time, I might have stretched things a bit more but have decided to leave it at that and when I have time in the studio to play around with colours. I just love the process of printmaking. The possibilities are endless...
The print studio is windowless so I had no idea what the weather was doing. As I was coming home I noticed there'd been a huge downpour - it's been dry for so long so very welcome to have some rain. When I got out of the car, it was positively steaming outside. One of my cats had been inside all day, the other outside. It must have been some storm. When he finally appeared this black and white cat was mainly brown. Guess he'd been hiding in a drain somewhere. A battle ensued to get him into the shower and wash him - he was that bad. Even now his underside is beige not white. He's not best pleased with me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

mapping the landscape

I've had this idea for ages to map where I live. I sense this may be long project and have no idea where it's going yet and yesterday decided to actually act on it, start it, get some ideas going. So, I spent an hour or so tracking the land behind our house - taking notes, adding things to a diagram - reading the landscape. Where I live has a definite identity and I'm intending to chart it piece by piece and see what emerges. Who knows where this will go. What's interesting to me is how the land is used (OK there's the latent geographer in me...), how people claim the land and what they do with it. I'm also really interested in the flora and fauna and in the contours of the land - probably on an aesthetic level more than anything else. Here are some of my photos.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

sketches of frank gehry

I watched the documentary 'Sketches of Frank Gehry' last night - it was a wonderful insight into the work of such a creative architect and to hear some of the things that both he, and the director (Sydney Pollack) had to say about creativity and the creative process. One thing that particularly stuck in my mind was Gehry talking about how difficult it can be to actually start work. He describes cleaning his desk, making stupid appointments, avoidance, delay, denial - and admitting that he's scared he won't know what to do. But when he does actually start, he realises it wasn't so bad after all. Think I know how that feels! - waiting for everything to be just 'right' before starting anything, and clearing everything up first. Of course this is fear disguised as procrastination! There will never be the perfect time to start...Quite comforting in some ways to know that this affliction is not just my domain..

Seeing him at work with his assistants was an eye opener for me. I am very ignorant about the world of architects, and somehow assumed they worked in neat clean offices with computers - perhaps many do but not so Gehry. His studio had the feel of a sculptor's studio with 3D models everywhere. Scissors and card to hand, he and his colleagues played with shapes and forms, putting them together with sticky tape. It looked really fun. At one point Pollack asks Gehry, 'Do you think of architectural shapes unrelated to a job'? To which he fetches a Bosch reproduction he had on the wall and points out the compositional elements of the painting and then shows the floor plan of a building he is working on. Quite an insight. Although this was 'high art' influencing a design, he says later that you can look anywhere and find inspiration, citing an example of looking at the contents of a bin and noticing the shapes and forms. The other thing that was interesting was his drawings - mad squiggly sketches. Somewhere down the line some of these drawings, or ideas of drawings become buildings. Hurray for the scribble!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

dancing shoes

Here are my new flamenco shoes direct from Spain! I love the fact they have metal in the heel and toe - they sound great on against the dancefloor. If I can just get the hang of Sevillanas, or some basic hand clapping (palmas) in the next few months, I'd be really happy. I'm not the quickest at picking up these things... Kind of hoping this will help my posture too... You don't see many flamenco dancers slouching. I have no big aspirations, just a desire to be challenged in a way I don't usually let myself be challenged. It's fun. I don't care about making mistakes (which is just as well).

Friday, February 13, 2009


It's a real joy to have so much wildlife, especially in a city that is constantly building and renovating. I still haven't done it, but want to record the amazing sounds we hear every morning and evening - over and above the building that's going on just opposite us... Our daily visitors and residents include orioles, kingfishers, woodpeckers, bulbuls, toads and frogs, geckoes, lizards, squirrels, occasional harmless green whip snakes. But there's one visitor (hopefully it was only visiting) I'm not so keen on.
I was on the phone to my mother in the UK yesterday when I spotted something slithering across the lawn towards the house. 'Sorry Mum, I've gotta go. There's a cobra heading towards the house." Perhaps not the best thing to say to your mum half way across the world...Oh well, too late. What to do? I know my husband, who only hours ago got on a plane, would have grabbed his SLR and be exclaiming 'What a beauty!' and shot away to his heart's content. Talking of which, I could already feel my heart pounding faster than usual. I opened the back door and wishing it no harm picked up a mop and shook it in its direction. Thankfully it backed off (and didn't rear up). I watched it move towards our back gate. Ten minutes later though it was back and heading towards the house. This time I managed to gather up the cats, and call pest control.
The pest control guys duly came, and spent a good half an hour prodding in and under plants, trees, the washing machine, plant pots and so on, but the snake was either lying low or long since disappeared. I was sort of relieved. The threat from this snake was mostly in my mind. The guys explained to me (which I sort of knew anyway), that they are shy creatures. It was probably out hunting. They are not 'out to get me'. I am sure like so many other wild creatures they are more fearful of me. I want to embrace the diversity of life we have in our little patch of green - why can't I be a bit more laid back about a snake who's in all likelihood 'passing through'? I never did ask the pest guys what they do with the snakes they catch - I hope they drop them off somewhere where they can go about their snakey business in peace.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

a visitor

It's been weeks here without any 'real' rain - just one or two occasional showers. Grass is dying, bird's nests ferns look like they are going to drop off the trees, even bouganvillea which usually thrive in dry conditions look very sad. I've never known Singapore so dry. The large tree in our garden has been shedding huge amounts of leaves.
This afternoon though, the rain came - finally! It lasted a good half an hour - our drains quickly filled up and I was a bit worried that they would be blocked but this wasn't an all day downpour so we were safe.
Often when there is a big downpour, the bull frogs come out in force, or rather they vocalise in no uncertain terms. They are loud. A different frog put in an appearance tonight - a tree frog! About 10 months ago one jumped onto our study window at night and just as quickly sprang off again - and that was the only time we've seen one. This time, I came home quite late and one of the cats was playing with something - I assumed it was a gecko. (Sometimes we do find frogs in the house as our front and back doors have very large gaps at the bottom - it can be quite disconcerting sometimes when you are watching the TV and suddenly get an awareness that something else is in the room!) On closer inspection I saw it was a tiny frog - about the size of my thumb nail, with a very distinctive stripe along its body. I watched it jump around the study - it could jump a good 100 times its body length! I managed to scoop it up and take a couple of photos and took it outside where it leapt to freedom. It really made my day... I'm going to see if I can find out what it is.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Some of the exercises in The Artist's Way touch nerves, some are downright difficult, some I ignore (perhaps those are ones I need to do most - something to think about there), some are pure fun. Tonight I made a list of the things I love, something that Julia Cameron calls 'happiness touchstones'. I ended up trawling through old photos and making a separate file whenever I came across an image or a memory which I consider one of my personal touchstones. I'm thinking of putting them together and making a slide show one of these days...At random, in no particular order, here are some of my personal touchstones:
late afternoon sun
rock formations
rock pools
aerial views
Japanese gardens
spanish films
long deserted beaches
gnarled twisted trees
deep blues and purples
really good olives
craft markets
live music
sound of breaking waves
stroking and playing with cats
smell of eucalyptus
interesting contemporary architecture
queso manchego
.... there are many more but these came up tonight. A fun list to add to.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

life classes

Only a few weeks into the New Year and I already have one of my wishes! I've started a new life drawing class. What a great way to start the weekend. I've really missed going to life classes - I used to go regularly for a couple of years. It was a permanent fixture in my diary on a Wednesday evening, and I really did produce alot. But things change and that class is no more. I'm really happy though that I have found a new class, and better still - it's in walking distance from my house.
I love the challenge of life drawing - dealing with foreshortening, getting proportions right, capturing gesture. I love the fact that these classes are going to stretch me aswell. I pretty much always use charcoal, and in a few weeks we will be painting - I can't remember the last time I painted the human form. It's good to be pushed ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I took these photos this morning as I was doing a bit of printmaking. I opened a tube of printing ink I haven't used for ages and a lot of water squirted out creating these really nice bubbles - how I love digital cameras! I doubt I would ever have taken a picture if I it meant using film...


Here's the finished piece. I want to get the post tomorrow morning so the lighting's a bit off. The five at the top left hand corner alludes to the $5 dollar bill. Yet again the photo is the wrong way round! I will try and fix this...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

my paper my land

I am working on a postcard to submit to a show entitled My Paper, My Land which will be held to coincide with the IAPMA (International Association of Papermaking Artists) Congress in Tasmania this March. The exhibition will be held from 2 March until 14 April at Creative Paper's Gallery in Burnie.
The works are supposed to reflect where you come from which put me at a bit of a dilemna - where am I from?! I often feel rather disconnected from the UK as I have lived so many of my adult years abroad. So, instead of delving into the personal issue of where I think I am from, I've chosen to see this as a more literal question of where I come from right now.
The other condition was that the postcard had to be at least 80% paper. I deliberated a bit over using Chinese
joss paper in my piece, and collaging this with an embossed drawing or even creating some kind of relief map of the island. I decided in the end to make my own paper from cotton linters and emboss it.
I deliberated over various ideas - and then settled on an image which in many ways sums up one of the best things about Singapore to me - the wonderful trees. I love the fact that a tree (the Tembusu) is honoured in the back of the Singapore $5 bill. It is actually one of Singapore's heritage trees and you can find this one with its distinctive lower branch in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. So I decided to use this iconic tree as the basis of my piece.
I went to the Botanic Gardens today to make a quick sketch . This tree really has a personality - and is so used by people. Although I only sketched the tree, I think another time I will go and sketch people interacting with the tree. The lower branch has two supports and I cannot begin to estimate how many people per week sit on that branch to have their photo taken.

I am now working on a lino cut to emboss onto paper. I've decided to put in a few additions aswell which I'll post when it's complete.


I was sad to see another fallen tree near my house this week - in fact two. The larger one looked healthy enough to me, but then I figured if you have a strangling fig growing around you then your chances of living to a ripe age decrease significantly - so the fig stands proud while the beautiful gum tree lies in where it fell, and may well remain there to decay. The leaves have already turned brown (and retain their wonderful aroma), but the bark is as it was last week - beautiful colours and textures - finer than I imagined. I might do some bark rubbings later this week...