Thursday, November 30, 2006


Up to ten years ago I had never heard of Frida Kahlo. Then in December 1996 I was browsing the art section of the library when I came upon a book of her paintings. The first page that fell open showed an exotically dressed woman sitting in a wheelchair. Fascinated I took the book home and from then began a ten year obsession with this complex woman who fought through tragedy to express her creativity while retaining her sense of humour.

A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me some DVDs for my birthday and the one I most wanted to watch was "Frida" starring Selma Hayek with Alfred Molina as her husband Diego Rivera. I loved this movie. Beautifully filmed the story opens when Frida was in her teens, a wild child of the 1920s, whose life was turned upside down when she was involved in terrible accident while riding the bus with her boyfriend. Basically she spent the next thirty years slowly dying while enduring many painful operations which allowed her to keep painting.

There is no way that a film can hope to capture all the light and shade of a woman like Frida but I do think Selma did an excellent job portraying this Hungarian/German/Mexican Indian/Spanish charmeleon. A great part of the movie was devoted to her relationship with the muralist Diego Rivera (when they married her mother said it was like a dove marrying an elephant) and really showed all the love they shared although neither was able to be totally faithful to the other. Another theme in the film was her relationship with Trotsky played by Geoffrey Rush. I don't know why so much was made of this affair but I guess it was a chance to say "Yes Frida had an affair with a really famous man" or else to show her devotion to the principles of socialism.

Personally the most important theme of Frida's life was that she survived despite all the problems life threw at her. Not only that but she gave something beautiful back to humanity- not only in her strange compelling paintings but also in her vibrant, larger than life persona.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Whirlwind Painting

Been quite a week here what with one thing and another. Once I calmed down from the news and began sleeping again I got back on track with my painting and completed the pop art painting to go to the US. Packaging a 20" square work to mail was quite a feat involving copious bubblewrap, lots of tape and two coke boxes. I will increase the price of these in future as I have worked out that once I pay for airmail postage there won't be a lot left for the 22 hours of work involved. I also finished another small 4" square cat painting for the end of year exhibition at The Learning Connexion. It's the first in my hippy Cat series and I'm hoping as I'm working in very bold colours for me that it'll catch someone's eye amongst all the larger works. It is on gallery wrapped canvas so the flowers and stripes continue round the edge. Would have liked to do a couple more paintings to send but this is a good way to test the waters.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Finally got a few spare minutes to scan in two of my favourite pieces from my last TLC folder. One exercise was to take an Old Master's painting and then translate it into a pastel drawing. I had very little enthusiasm for this as I am not a big fan of pastels but something amazing happened and I was able to copy this section of a Cezanne painting in only an hour. It was interesting to see what colours he uses in painting skin tone- green, purple, blue etc.

We also had to buy a $5 frame from a second hand or thrift shop and renovate it. I really enjoyed this task and spent six hours working on this frame. Originally turquoise with gold stars I applied two layers of High Build (a type of runny plaster), embedding blue glass into it while wet, then painted it a wedgewood blue before rag rolling gold over the top. I found some thick cord to hang it with and painted it a matching blue. I've hung it in my kitchen where it looks ok empty but I'd eventually like to do a portrait of the five cats.

In her assessment of this folder's work Irene said I have a strong design sense and should perhaps think of illustration or portraiture work. Considering I had enrolled at The Learning Connexion to learn illustration and portraiture I was happy to learn I'm developing in that direction.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Christmas Sale

For the past two weeks I've been incredibly busy trying to finish the pop art painting I began a while back for an order, plus doing my course work and preparing stock for the Creative Hastings Christmas Sale. Today was one of the receiving days for this so headed down to town with cards, jewellery and some of my small cat paintings. Recently I have begun putting a patch of blue sky behind the subjects on some of my pendants to make them pop. The picture to the left features some of the ones I entered at the sale including a painting of Tobermory my goat (sans horns). Just wish the scan would show up more of the detail in the painting.

I also painted several cat brooches this week but ended up taking a couple plus a pendant into The Craftsman which has just shifted premises. This meant I only had three ready to take down to the sale but will get onto painting more this week. The ginger cat on the left is based on my girl Peaches. She's not quite that round yet but give her time as she loves her kai!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Girl With A Pearl Earring

Yesterday I watched "Girl With A Pearl Earring" starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson. What a wonderful movie although I am sure many people would consider it slow in pace. However it effortlessly captured the atmosphere of 17th Century Delft and the minutiae of daily life in a Dutch bourgeois household.

Based on a novel by Tracy Chevalier the story concentrates on Griete, a young illiterate servant girl who goes to work for the Vermeer household when her family falls on hard times. Her daily life is full of drudgery and sadness but the film also captures the unhappiness of Vermeer's wife who although fashionably attired and spoilt is also condemned to a life of endless pregnancies (the couple had 12 surviving children) while treated like a mindless doll by her husband. Ruling over the household is Vermeer's mother in law whose meanness probably covers an underlying terror of debt and penury. In the film she is portrayed as someone who sees Vermeer as their chief source of income, frustrated by his slow output (he only painted 36 works in his lifetime) while flattering his leaguers patron in order to gain more commissions.

The main story concentrates on Vermeer's friendship with the servant girl Griete. At first she is permitted to clean his studio, then to watch him painting before finally being taught to mix his paints. When she captures the fancy of Vermeer's patron she become a model in one of his group paintings before he paints his famous portrait "Girl With A Pearl Earring". This favouritism (plus the intimate nature of the portrait) leads to her dismissal from the house as Vermeer's wife is eventually consumed with jealousy at the closeness of their relationship.

The acting in the film is superb. The sexual frission of the main protagonists is palpable throughout without anyone undressing. It is interesting to consider who was the real Girl With A Pearl Earring. Certainly the movie will kindle interest in Vermeer's work. As for me I'm going to read the novel it was based on.

Friday, November 03, 2006

NZ Idol ends and Ihug Implodes

NZ Idol finished on Sunday evening- thankfully. The producers need to put this programme to rest now as we are definitely scraping the bottom of the talent barrel. Also the judges this year were abysmal. I've uploaded a piece on the series for Kiwi Herald called NZ Idol 2006 Ends On Sour Note which is a mild version of what I originally wrote. This old horse needs to be put down.

I've finished a couple of pieces of jewelry for the Creative Hastings Christmas sale only to realize they haven't sent me the entry form. As it's due to start in little over two weeks this is a bit of a worry. I am hoping they're just running late.

At the moment I'm having major problems with receiving and sending emails. Apparently there was an influx of viruses into Ihug over the weekend which resulted in a backlog of email. I was receiving them over twelve hours late. Yesterday I couldn't send any myself and when I rang the helpline I kept getting put on hold. I swear if I'd had to hear "Counting the Beat" one more time I was going to do something drastic. Finally I went to their homepage and they had posted an explanation of what was happening. Apparently not only had their servers gone down but the influx of phonecalls complaining about it had overloaded their system as well. They really need to get their act together as it's not the first time this year we've had outages and unlike Telecom which gives you a month's rent if you're without a phone for twenty four hours Ihug doesn't compensate its clients.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Three Shelties

I've just finished one of my orders for three cartoon Sheltie paperweights which are going to be donated as prizes to the South Island Sheltie Club show this month. Very unlike my usual type of work.