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.