Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Some things worth sharing

The first: I'll be having a solo show in Limerick in June 2015, at the Library in Dooradoyle. Details to follow closer to the time, but I am also compiling a book of my paintings, and some quotes. Have seen some marvellous things on Facebook that I'm going to use, and of course will credit whoever posted them up where I can.

The second: I was invited to submit two artworks for a group exhibition in Gallery Revival, Moneygall, County Offaly. Nice! The gallery specified non-Hallmark works, so I wrote about how my people paintings are a bit unsettling when you look past the surface, and he picked two from the attachments. Am very pleased, it was a spur of the moment e-mail asking if he had room for more. I dropped up the paintings and met Joseph-Philippe who runs it, he likes to hold themed exhibitions, which suits me fine because I have different genres of work I'd like to exhibit - my people paintings, landscapes, nudes - and I'd love to try some still life and abstract works, and deadlines are marvellous for helping one focus.

And I'm off out taking photos most days. Am admiring the landscape where I live, the man-made elements of it, and the way the light changes so much. Can see why the Impressionists would get all hot and bothered over it. Landscape was SO unfashionable when I was in art college, but it's not something we should ignore as a subject, because the way the landscape is changing, and the way the human relationship with landscape is changing, you can take different things from it. Plus I've been seeing a lot of Donald Teskey's work on my Twitter feed lately, and his landscapes are simply wonderful. And also, I suppose I was influenced by John Shinnors' landscape work, his Estuary series. I've been thinking about that too. A bit. But mostly about the Impressionists.

So this morning I got some canvases and put gesso on them. I have only a vague idea of what I'm going to paint. It will probably involve acrylic paints. I did five of them. I have this idea that I'll do five of them and see what's what.

The two for Moneygall: This one and this one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Call To Read: Give in to the Book

The best storytellers in the world are the most appreciative of other stories. And in nine cases out of ten, those storytellers are also great readers.

Before we had writing, we had stories - and they were shared by memory, but don't you know, memory isn't always the most reliable. So when there came a way to 'draw words' and writing developed, it was a great way to record stories, and of course variations on stories. And nowadays people tell their own stories.

I'll just interrupt this here before the self-professed non-readers among you start yawning: YOU share your own stories through writing, and we read them. Oh yes. You use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySpace? You're writing you own story for the world to see. And you read the stories of your friends and those you'd like to be friends with. You do it every day on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, PC or fruit-decorated equivalent, you write your story and read other people's stories CONSTANTLY. You're addicted to writing, reading and sharing these stories. So don't tell me you don't read, I'm not buying that for a second.

You don't read BOOKS. Books are for school, for nerds. Or they are manuals to help you do things like use that expensive device you bought - sometimes. And newspapers? Please. Why bother with newspapers when you have the Internet?

In a way, it's a valid point. I first learned about the Malaysian jet shot down by the Russians - no, I won't change that, a spade is a spade, bitches - on Facebook. I learned about the death of the great Robin Williams on Twitter (Oh Captain My Captain), and have been following various newsworthy items in Ireland through links shared on the social networking sites. Here's the thing though: Those links are posted by newspapers. It may be online, but the premise is the same: (good) reporting and writing is cross-generational, (good) storytelling is not limited to any particular age group. Accuracy is another thing entirely, but isn't really relevant to my Call To Read. But I do feel that with some stories, accuracy is important. It's just as important to news editors as it is posting your own story online - but that's another story.

If you use social networking sites, you think you're reading for informative purposes, to keep up with your mates, keep an eye on the gossip ... but you're still reading stories. You read every day. And given the extent to the mental activity and the imagination you exercise when you read what your friends are up to without you, you are only fooling yourself when you say 'I'm not really into reading.'

You're better off saying 'I'm not really into books.' This would be more accurate, especially as books are long, and are someone else's story. Books, however, DO END. The stories you read, write and share with your friends of your own lives do not end so neatly - it could be argued they go on and on, and indeed the particular stories you share with one individual will only end when one of you dies. Not a pleasant thought. Sorry, but there it is. And unless you have their password, all the photos and everything they posted online will be gone also.

Every single book written is somebody's story. There's a whole discipline behind it, there's hours of writing followed by hours of editing followed by more hours of writing and more editing until the writer has something he/she can show an agent, and even then, there's no guarantee it will very be published, packaged and sold in a shop. If you post a lot online, and don't edit, you soon learn the hard way that not editing is not a good idea.

I got into reading because my parents liked reading. My father used to read to us, and he brought the books to life in a beautiful way. Everyone's favourite was Winnie-the-Pooh, and he managed to create voices and individual inflection for the characters, and even made up the little songs that Pooh loved to sing. Later, it was Roald Dahl and his books, and we loved Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator so much that we'd go around calling each other 'Vermicious Knids', much to the consternation of our classmates in the Presentation Convent school we attended, not to mention the poor nuns who were supervising us in the playgrounds, who didn't know what we were saying and didn't know if it was rude or not. And there were the Little House books, which were really interesting and kind of cool because of the television series as well. (The books were always better!)

And I would read a LOT. Why? Because I was exposed to good writers who could and did create wonderful visuals with words, and that stimulates the imagination, which triggers all kinds of other good brain activity. Nevertheless, the downside of this was the fact that I would always have a book under my desk and if the lesson at school was boring, I'd read instead. I got caught several times. And the teachers weren't happy, because that was an indication their classes were not as interesting as they might have liked. Some of those teachers might have benefited from more reading. And then instead of doing the homework, I'd end up reading ... sigh. But still, it was good. Some subjects work through reading, like history. My old school might not believe me, but I actually liked history. Still do. Mainly because good writers present it so much better than any of my teachers ever did, with a couple of exceptions.

I like reading so much that I read for a living. Most of it is not really the kind of material I'd actually choose to read, but no matter - I'm the geek who sees a misused apostrophe, spots and hisses at a hyphen that doesn't belong, and queries the use of the word 'unique'. (Seriously. That word has TOTALLY lost its meaning. Nobody seems to know what it actually means anymore.) I like reading so much that I read in other languages, and rewrite what was written in those languages in English - for a living. And it pays for the art.

Aside from the enjoyment and stimulation I gain from reading, it is also interesting to see how the meaning of words changes. The word 'gay', for example, has undergone a few changes in meaning: it started out to mean 'happy' or 'jolly' or 'cheerful', and now mostly means 'homosexual', for both men and women, and has started to mean 'stupid' as well - a usage I personally don't encourage, as such usage stems from homophobia. 'Awful', which originally meant 'evokes a sense of awe', now means the opposite of  'wonderful'. 'Terrific' used to mean 'evokes a sense of terror', but it no longer means this at all. A phone is no longer a device that's plugged into a physical network and you only talk through it, it has changed almost beyond recognition. Language changes to reflect the world of its users, and you see this in books also, probably more so than you would on a website, as websites are frequently updated. And this is even before you get into regional variations of the meanings of words in other countries: In Ireland and the UK, a fag is NOT a homosexual, a telephone line can be engaged, and most people have mobiles instead of cells - although, to be even more accurate, that world is divided into iPhones and Androids, never the twain shall meet. (In the 1990s, an Android was something that walked on two legs and lived in a star ship, but however.)

I have huge respect for JK Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter series. Huge. She got a whole generation back into reading BOOKS - like I said, they were already readers, just didn't really know it.

Reading is fantastic - in all senses of that word. So yeah, if you think you're not a reader, and you're reading this, please just stop deluding yourself and surrender to it. Give In To The Book. You WILL be glad you did.

Pen drawing, more of a doodle really .... 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Salon du Chat and other stories

I had heard about it, and indeed there was one during the famous Electric Picnic music event in Ireland, and there have been one in Limerick a few months ago, and I'd only heard GOOD things about it, so I decided I'd go in and check it out.

So glad I did. Salon du Chat is not French for Salon of the Cat - but you'd be forgiven for thinking it - but is a play on the concept of 'salon' and the English word 'chat', as in to talk to with another person in an informal manner, or indeed to talk to another person via an application on the Internet, only in a café situation, possibly with strangers, and with a 'menu' of topics you can choose from. It was on in the Cantine on Mallow Street in Limerick City as part of the Elemental Arts Festival.

And it was nice. I liked the 'random' aspect of it, as I was seated with two young women, one from Malaysia and the other from Poland, (and my goodness but their mastery of the English language could put anyone to shame,) and an Irish lad who turned out to be a software engineer. Neither of the two girls had been aware of what was going on, but they stayed and participated for an hour before heading off to get something to eat, and another guy joined our table. All the stuff we talked about, wow - Giant memories, Sharing is Caring, GIY, to name but a few, and of course the beauty of the conversations is that it could not but flow into other subjects and other topics.

Great fun. Can think of a few people who'd enjoy it. Will let them know about it in good time, they might want to go to it. Apparently the organisers want to hold a Salon du Chat five times every year ... :-D.

Culture Night is next Friday - what will I go see? Lots and lots going on ... we are spoiled for choice.

And further to the cataloguing of works and going through folders, I'm delighted to discover a whole rake of watercolour drawings I'd recorded, here are some from Sicily, once place I was very very sad to leave ... Here are a few of them. Enjoy.

Catania, Curious Germans (I think)

Couple On Holiday

Family Group, Palermo

Ice Cream for Lunch! Catania

In Cefalu

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Giant Grandmother in Limerick

In early December, the biggest Granny in the world visited Limerick city and walked around.

The 'Granny' was in fact a giant puppet created and executed by Royal De Luxe, a French company that specialises in creating acts for street theatre, overseen by company director and artist Jean-Luc Courcoult. The company has other giant puppets, including The Girl, The Dog, and apparently one known as The Spider - which I personally would find absolutely terrifying - as well as many other projects that are documented on the company's website.

But back to Limerick. Of course there were the begrudgers. The whingers who went on and on about how much it was costing (around a million Euro, according to Limerick City of Culture Director Mike Fitzpatrick), how the city centre would be disrupted for the weekend by streets being closed off to traffic, how local businesses would suffer, etc. However, given the publicity around the event, and the warnings to car owners in the city who would normally park their cars along the streets where Granny was due to go that the cars would be towed if they were there on the days in question, you'd want to be completely out of the loop not to be aware of what was going on. There was AMPLE WARNING, in a nutshell. And Park&Ride buses had been provided ....

In the days before the weekend, odd things started to appear in Limerick city. There were cars parked in odd places with huge iron safes embedded in them. A bus that would normally carry human passengers was seen cruising around, half full of potatoes. And odd giant footprints were spotted on the pavements .... all of which contributed to the general excitement of the weekend, so that by the time Granny arrived on the Friday, a nice buzz was building up.

In addition to the Royal De Luxe technicians, there was a team of local volunteers who helped make up the team of 'Lilliputians' to help 'Granny' get around. I see myself doing it, referring to this giant puppet as though she was a person - this was the genius in her execution and performance, she was so well made and operated, and the character developed in such a manner, that in the eyes of the people who saw her and followed her around the city, she DID become a 'person'. She travelled in her wheelchair for a time, and also got up to walk, waved and smiled at spectators, drank some whiskey (a couple of gallons apparently) and smoked a pipe, and - to the great amusement of the many small children among the crowd - stopped in the middle of the street to have a pee. Yes, that's right. To piss. Pass water. Urinate, if we must be direct about it. Yeah, she wasn't bothered. She was a giant, remember? And being a giant, she slept in the Sarsfield Barracks on this huge bed specially brought over for her ...

I loved the atmosphere in the city when I went to see her. The weather was amazing all weekend, and people were in great humour - the wonder of the Granny, the amusement at her antics, the vibe generally, it was amazing. The gardaí - or police force, to those of you not familiar with Irish institutions - were out and having a laugh with the rest of us, and did a marvellous job controlling the crowds - because there were crowds. Cafés and sandwich bars did a roaring trade, to the extent that many of them had to close in the middle of Sunday afternoon because they had run out of supplies. (I heard it on the radio the following Monday.) More than one person in my Facebook acquaintances was converted, and praised the initiative and Granny herself. And many, myself included, think that there is room for more street theatre in Limerick city, and like how Royal De Luxe gave us a taste of what's possible. And I believe the person who organised this event is Karl Wallace, in which case - wow. Your vision is justified, Mr Wallace.

I took a few shots myself, but I think that in order to fully appreciate Granny and the wonderful effect she had on Limerick city, I will refer you to the photographs taken by the various photographers for the page. I particularly like the shots of Granny on the bridges, with all the people milling around her.

What a great weekend.

Some of my own shots:

Granny was going down Roches Street in her wheelchair in Limerick city centre, and because even in her wheelchair she's so large, the Lilliputians had to help her along by making sure she didn't get caught up in cables. They used a pole to push up the cables as Granny was going under them.

The shots below give an idea of the scale. Granny herself is quite tall, and the equipment to make her move of her own accord is even taller. No cables along the quays!

Come back to Limerick soon, Granny. We miss you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two more watercolour drawings

Now that I'm a bit more organised - see last post - I know what I haven't posted up here yes, so here are two more which date from my last trip to Paris a few years ago. 

Jokingly entitled 21st-Century Impressionism

St Michel, Paris

I really do have a treasure trove of work, although I have come across a few of them that I might possibly use to light the fire over the coming months. Waste not, want not, and all that. 

Digging is dangerous. I want to go make MORE. LOTS MORE.