art journal

...and tigers, oh my

I decided to try out monoprinting with the kids the other day, and despite the tutorial stating bristol* paper was the best to achieve good effects, we were overall disappointed with the outcome.  We tried watercolor paper, too, and got marginally better results.  We also used different watercolors (two types of child-grade paints as well as my Winsor and Newton) and I later used some gouache as well, and one test with acrylic.  The artist also said that plexiglass could be used instead of glass but the plastic sheets we used just caused the paint to bead and were quickly abandoned in favor of glass.
After lots of frustration, I got out my Yupo paper and tried again.  Here is my first attempt, the print part being the green background, upon which I used to a brush and different colors to get lots of texture.  The result pleases me, but of course, it does not show monoprinting to its full advantage.

The next morning, I decided to try tiger portraits instead.  And despite thinking through the process and deciding to apply orange first, I forgot and applied black gouache stripes to the glass, applied Yupo paper, and then hand-painted the orange:
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All in all, a satisfying way to experiment with different techniques.  Do you have a favorite?
* The artist giving the advice is based in Berlin, so maybe what is available to her is not the equivalent of what I am using in France
flora: I heart you

What a delightful surprise

Look what eller sent me in the mail :  a lovely postcard she painted and had printed.  I love the graphic style, line work, and color choices. :D  When FarmerBoy got it from the mail-lady he called out to me "Mom, you got something beautiful! Wait until you see it!"

ellers orchid.jpg

Thanks, eller. You made my day. :D
art: woman reading

A Review - Lagoonfire by Francesca Forrest

Here is a reposting of a review I wrote on Goodreads for Lagoonfire written by Francesca Forrest:

As per my request, I received an Advanced Reader Copy of Lagoonfire in exchange for my honest review.

Having read and very much enjoyed Francesca Forrest’s The Inconvenient God, I was thrilled to find out there would be a sequel. I am a Whopper-of-a-Tome kind of gal—someone who likes loooooooong stories—so my only gripe, as such, about The Inconvenient God was its short length. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like tales that are wordy for the sake of wordiness, rather ones that enchant me into lives of people I want to be around for a long haul.

I think Francesca* has created such a person in Decommissioner Thirty-Seven. Decommissioner Thirty-Seven is a woman with integrity, sensitivity, and compassion in a country that seems intent on eradicating such useless sentiments. Instead of worshipping gods, people must adhere to Abstractions. This is where I will admit this was not a very easy story for me to read right now because it is hitting too close to home on the political reality in my country of residence, as it is, I think, in many places in the world.

Lagoonfire has a dystopian feel because of the Polity’s oppressive views toward tradition, religion, and personal freedom; however, what makes this story different from most dystopian narratives is that there has been no earth-shattering cataclysm, war, plague, etc. that has resulted in the Polity. This is a place that could exist today. Its birth has been a march of time, policy after policy, complacency, propaganda, media manipulation, “for the common good” brainwashing… so much bending and bending on the part of the people that they no longer have the will to fight a still ever-tightening government, that or they have completely bought into the Institution.

Or so it seems.

Thankfully, there are people like Decomissioner Thirty-Seven, called Sweeting by the gods she has decommissioned, who find ways to fight the inhuman, inhumaneness of the Polity by choosing: they choose to embrace their humanity, to believe in others, to not bend.

I don’t want to go into any kind of spoilers—the book’s blurb does an excellent job of setting up the premise—but I do want to say that Francesca made the Polity feel so pervasive and unbeatable that I was wary of the ending, worried I would be left feeling hopeless at the thought of facing down the behemoth of oppression. Knowing Francesca, I need not have feared. Sweeting finds a way to keep on fighting that is uplifting and within the reach of all.

I can’t wait for the third installment.


* I met Francesca online many, many moons ago and have struck up a friendship with her because of her enchanting way of looking at the world and ability to conjure that enchantment through her words; her passion for volunteer work, justice, and helping others; and her ability to convey hope and resiliency even in tough times; it would, therefore, be just plain weird for me to refer to her as Ms/Mrs/Forrest.

art journal

(Stress) Diving into Art

Doesn't that sound better than Procrastination?  Well, maybe. If you take off the "stress" part.
With the kids, I have been re-watching some videos I found years ago when we lived Egypt, The Forger's Masterclass.  The kids (the two older ones anyhow) have been very interested in seeing different artists, even if they don't agree with the styles.
Sprout does not like Hopper's view of the world, his fascination with isolation, frex, but she did feel inspired to let go of her own "realist" tendencies after seeing the episode featuring Fauvist André Derain.  Farmer Boy was excited to channel the "wild beast" style, as evinced by the plein air painting he did during our group outing* yesterday.  You can glimpse the painting on the ground by his feet:
As an aside, look at this lovely eyed ladybug our friend, P, found.  We have a lot hatching in the house right now, but they are mostly the classic 7-spotted variety and some of the yellow 22-spotted ones.  Too bad I no longer have my macro lens.
Seeing as how I tend toward Sprout's realist tendencies, though I have nothing on her literal mind, let me assure you, I decided to have a play with color this afternoon and did a Fauvist rendition of a photo J took when we lived in Sancerre, antechildren.  I primed a cut-out of a cereal box with gesso and used gouache.  The painting is about the size of a postcard, so I had no pressure either size- or materials-wise. :P It was fun.  I am planning on trying some portraits.  It was interesting to note that my natural hair watercolor brushes did not want to lay down the paint nicely but synthetic brushes had no problem.  Some YouTube tutorials had mentioned that watercolor brushes had too much of a tendency to hold on to the water and I can now testify to that.

*As much as I love snow, the poor forest really suffered for the heavy load they bore this December/January.  The paysage was positively apocalyptic.
art journal

The painting that almost wasn't

A flurry of business and an overnight guest meant that my gouache attempts were put on the back burner for a bit.  They had already been edged there by me picking a motif that was, I discovered, NOT something I wanted to commit to doing "right."  I chose the following three Egyptian motifs to mesh together into one illustration and set about meticulously spacing out the lines of the geometric border.

Disgust and frustration ensued.  I knew there was no way I was going to be able to enjoy the process, much less successfully make Perfectly Perfect straight, well-spaced lines.  Instead of scrapping it, I decided to freehand the whole and see where it took me.  That freed me up to try different brushes (note to self:  get some new brushes and TAKE CARE OF THEM!) and see the application of each.

You can tell that I did the left side first and relaxed more and got better at the spacing once I tackled the right side. I should have done fatter stems and made more, more regular stem "hairs."

The colors, being fewer, were easier to deal with this time around, even if the photo doesn't truly show that.  I learned that I need to decide beforehand when I want to play up gouache's opacity and when I want to take advantage of more transparency (the greens).  I also saw once again that upon photographing and enlarging the motif, my eyes (and lighting) are doing me a disservice in seeing the true details, notably the blue-green in the sepals and the yellowy-orange layer in the pinkish blossom.  It is not very evident in the photo above, but it is there.  This means that next time, before painting, I might photograph my subject first to get a better feel for it. That or break out a lamp instead of using the overhead light in the kitchen.
art journal

Art and memes

First two memes and then what I have been up--er, what I am going to get up to--on the art front.
First from pjthompson, The Corner.  Here is the corner of our desk, which as you can see, the corner is pretty much the desk. This set up is not conducive to writing.  That, dear friends, is one of the reasons I have not gotten any words of late.  Things must change. The mouse and keyboard are on a cajón at slightly-below-knee level. :P

Then a book meme from green_knight:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Turn to page 121.
3. The 2nd sentence is your life in 2021.

From Riverworld and Other Stories, which I have permanently-shelved but left lying on the sunduk until I can be bothered to put it back in the library:

I'll denounce him to the whole world, and the Last Days will've started.

The Last Days...yeah, feels a bit like that to me.
Nero fiddled while Rome burned.  I decided to paint.  I need to get some practice in with learn how to use my gouache, so I decided to use a book of design patterns as inspiration.
Here is a Persian rug motif and my rendering on black mixed media paper:

Not too happy with the colors, but as a first try, it will have to do.  The original image is quite tiny (the main flower being the size of my thumbnail), and I painted it last night by kitchen light.  Therefore, I only saw after photographing it and enlarging it for the post that the pattern on the petalss was much less organic than I made it.  Paint and learn. :P
wayfaring wordhack


With one car in need of repairs, snow outside, and the cozy-indoors or close-to-home lifestyle that can induce, we have been voyaging in other ways these past few days.
First of all with food.

I don't know if I have shared a recipe for Poulet Coco (coconut chicken) from Mayotte before, but I made it last night and thought I would share the culinary love.  Hang tight for a "how to" and not ultra-precise measurements:

If you are not pressed for time, cut up your chicken, salt and pepper it and sprinkle with turmeric powder, then marinate it in the juice of one lemon for an hour.  I usually do not do this step and add my spices and lemon juice later.  Regarding what kind of cuts you use, that is up to you.  I do the whole bird; you can do thighs and drumsticks or just breasts. Cooking time will vary according to your choice.

Brown the chicken in a bit of oil.  After browning, remove it to a plate and sauté one diced onion, when translucent add a few cloves of garlic.  Add about four fresh diced tomatoes or a can of whole/diced tomatoes, and a bell pepper cut in strips (I often leave out the bell pepper just because I don't always have them on hand and ate plenty Poulet Coco dishes in Mayotte without).  Return chicken to pot.  Now, if you can, grate your own fresh coconut and make the milk from it, using about 2 cups/480 ml.  My next choice is to make my own coconut milk with 1 cup dried shredded coconut  (NOT THE SWEETENED kind) and 2cups/480 ml of water, which I blend in my Vitamix and then strain (doesn't have to be through a nut bag).  If you can't do either of those things, use a can of coconut milk plus a cup of water.  Season with about 1tsp of tumeric, salt, pepper, a bit of thyme, and parsley.  Cook until sauce has reduced a bit and chicken is tender. Stir in the juice of a lime or lemon, and serve over rice.  I also made a basic rougail to go with it (dice 4 tomatoes--used dried, see below, finely slice one small onion, either finely mince a nub of ginger and one small chile or use a mortar and pestle to make them into a paste.  Stir all ingredients together, add the juice of one lime and salt to taste.)

Today, I made Egyptian Ful Medames, with some distinctly seasonal compromises.  I made dried tomatoes this summer and preserved them in oil, so those stood in for fresh tomatoes, and ditto for some dehydrated cucumbers.  I also made this quick Yoghurt Flatbread (soooo good!) to go with it. However, next time I will add a touch more salt and will have to fiddle with the amount of yoghurt (I had fromage blanc on hand) because the dough was excessively sticky and hard to work with. The resulting flatbreads were incredibly pliable and had a very nice texture for a yeast-less bread.

phone photo:

And OY!  I just realized I forgot to serve it with tahini.   Ah well, just reason enough to make it again.

And my elsewhere finale is the movie Padmaavat.  Epic, gorgeous, lush cinematography.  The landscapes, architecture and costuming were to die for.  The movie apparently (I was not privvy to this before watching, having never heard of it before stumbling across the eye-catching theatrical release poster) caused a lot of protest for various stereotypes, which I understand, one plot element being telegraphed by the disclaimer before the opening credits.  But like I said, gorgeous.  Not being a Hindi speaker, I watched a subtitled version, so I am sure there were plenty of things lost in translation.  As a Westerner, one thing I loved watching was way the male actors express their virility, like the dancing, that are foreign to the cultures I have frequented.

critters: egret fishing

New Year's Day visitors of the feathered kind

Sadly, my super macro lens is having technical difficulties, which prevented me from getting good photos of our feathered visitors.  I had to content myself with photographing the birds through the kitchen window and front door window, respectively, zoomed in to the max.

Rougegorge (English Robin) :



Mésange Charbonnière (Great Tit) :


Mésange bleue (Eurasian blue tit) :


Sitelle Torchepot (Eurasian nuthatch or wood nuthatch) :


We usually have skads of tits at this time of the year, but so far they are rare and sparrows are our most common visitors to the birdfeeders. :-/