Saturday, December 27, 2008

Becoming Jane Austen

Christmas is over and done with for another year thank goodness. I mus admit that I was so unenthusiastic that I didn't even bother to put my "Merry Kissmass" teddy bear out on display. One thing I have noticed over the previous few years is that less and less people are sending Christmas cards. I thought it was just me but when I've asked around everyone confirms that it's the same for them. Whether it's the influence of the Internet or else we're becoming too busy to be bothered I have no idea but on the plus side I guess we're saving some trees.

I did much better at the Creative Hastings sale than I expected so should be able to pay a couple of worrisome bills in January. Four of the seven soaps I sent in sold- in particular the stylized butterflies and Jazzy cats were most popular. I gave a few for gifts and have heard from people that they're not going to use them which is a shame as I wanted to find out how the paintings lasted.

Full of good intentions every afternoon I sit on the sofa, my bean bag tray on my knees painting. Because I am so comfortable there I am able to work for much longer than usual but unfortunately this doesn't help for larger works as my sitting room is really too small to accomodate my larger easel. However I want to build up some stock so I can find other outlets to sell through.

I am currently reading "Becoming Jane Austen" which I guess partially inspired the Anne Hathaway movie. I have read every biography of Jane Austen that I could find over the past twenty years- this is a highly readable addition. It made me think of how important letters once were to people of those times and how well written they were. Although concerned with the minutiae of daily life they were very witty. There is nothing so wonderful as holding a handwritten letter in your hands, knowing that someone has taken the time to sit there and write to you. I wonder what Jane Austen would make of us today with our "text" language and emails? I can't talk though as I take so long to write by hand that battering out an email on the computer seems a much easier option. Who knows- if she lived today Jane Austen might be an enthusiastic blogger.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Great Underwear Caper

I have been painting painting painting gifts and still have more to finish today. However yesterday I had break when I went to town to finish a few chores including spending my birthday money which I had put aside to go on an underwear safari. So it was that I found myself at Farmer's panicking, trapped amongst the knickers with lacy over the shoulder boulder holders surrounding me in every direction. Two snotty young females on the counter looked haughtily in my direction but it was no wonder as I crept along, bent in shame, surrepticiously feeling every bra I could, trying to find any that were not underwire ones.

Finally I found two cotton ones that looked like they should really be in the training section and bashed my way out of the claustrophobic jungle of briefs and thongs (why women bother to buy them when it would be cheaper to wear dental floss is beyond me) ala "Father Ted". I now have great sympathy with men who panic at the mere thought of entering the lingerie section as it's bad enough when you're female.

Afterwards I dropped off another pendant at Creative Hastings. The past week has been very good for me as I have sold seven of my twelve Love Bugs, a couple of soaps, pendants and a brooch as well as animal cards. The sale ends today but hopefully there will still be a few last minute shoppers who in desperation will buy something that they don't want, don't understand and can't return ie. my stuff.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Cheer

I feel a bit like a mouse frantically running on a wheel at the moment but that's only because I decided (due to finances) to make most of my Christmas presents this year. This can be a hit and miss event because some people feel that if you don't spend alot of money on them and instead "palm" them off with a home made gift you're short changing them. I should know- I've seen the look of disappointment often enough! I love having things my friends have made me about the house. I have a few paintings, embroidered cloths and beautiful beadwork that I've been given. I always think of their makers when I see these things and it gives me a buzz to think that my friends have taken the time to work on something especially for me.

We live in an increasingly sterile mass produced world with increasingly minimalist uninteresting "houses" designed to look good but which give little idea as to the owner's character. I was thinking about this yesterday when I went to the Painters' group end of year party which was held at our leader's lovely arts and crafts home in Waipukurau. Everywhere there was warm natural wood, textiles with a real eye for colour and, to me the most interesting part, many wonderful paintings hanging throughout the house. There were several delicate watercolours painted by our hostess as well as some that I recognised as being done by other members of the group. Everything was original and really made the house a home.

None of us really wanted to leave. We arrived just before midday, bringing our plates of food and our under $5 presents. Gine encouraged us to sing Christmas Carols with her and then sang a beautiful Irish song called "The Wind In The Willows" before we tucked into a buffet lunch. Blanca was there and the life of the party as usual. She had made gifts for a few of us including a necklace for me made from beads she'd brought over from Peru. Also Glenys made sure I was stocked up with chocolate with an unexpected gift. Later when we all dipped for a present I ended up with three sweet little recipe books for summer fruits which I guess it the universe's way of making me cook a little more!

At 3pm it was time to say goodbye. I honestly felt as if I would never see anyone again which is so silly as I surely will be back next month but still being without a place to move to has left me feeling unsettled, melancholy and overall very Irish.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Seeing Double

Last Friday was the last life drawing session for the year and for the second month in a row we had a couple pose for us. There was no need for heaters as it was broiling hot and most of the windows in our art room don't open so it wasn't long before we were all sweating and sighing. Finally someone remembered that we actually have a ceiling fan so this was turned on to everyone's relief including the models.

Our models have posed before for art students and enjoy thinking up difficult poses to prematurely age us. They quipped that they knew we were challenged because the room fell quiet without our usual chatter. In a couple of cases there was only time to pare down the subject to gestural poses which I think worked more successfully than the longer drawings.

We had started at 9.30am so we could end earlier as we'd booked in for our Christmas lunch at the Paper Mulberry Cafe. Our models came along and in a strange case of serendipity we met another of our life models in there as well. The Paper Mulberry has two advantages to other cafes in the area: there is a good gallery showing local art, a small shop stocking local produce and a second hand bookshop out the back of the building. The second advantage is the food is excellent and served in generous portions which means that when you order a mug of hot chocolate you also get a marshmallow and small chocolate fish! That's enough incentive for anyone I would think....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting Plastered

Late November I finally got round to running the mask making workshop at Otane. I was concerned that few people would be interested as it did involve taking off make up and trusting your fellow painters to get you plastered without suffocating you at the same time. Blanca (our Peruvian visitor) was the first to volunteer. We draped her in newspaper and towels after she had first vasolined her face and I demonstrated how to wrap Gladwrap around her hair before applying the plaster bandages. Even though she can't speak English Blanca continued chattering in Spanish before I finally plastered her mouth shut. Jacqueline documented the procedure with her digital camera so we have a great record of the morning including shots of everyone fully masked looking decidedly spooky.

Glenys went next and this time Blanca and Jacqueline did the honours while I supervised. I took the opportunity while Glenys was unable to speak to cheek her but she still managed to place a well aimed kick to the shins! There was one hairy moment when the girls inadvertantly covered up part of her nostrils and then she was partially exfoliated as we removed the mask but all in all Glenys said she found it all very soothing.

Marie had a huge phobia about having her face covered up and perhaps being unable to breathe properly but she bravely faced her fears and allowed us to plaster her face. The others in the group came over to add their support and occasionally a smart comment to the proceedings. The general consensus was that Maire resembled Queen Victoria!

Meanwhile Gine and Colleen decided just to plaster their hands. Colleen however was a bit impatient and didn't wait for the bandages to dry which resulted in a couple of her fingers falling off. She found a jar and positioned the hand over this while trying to stick them back on. At one point they were all facing different directions, another time one finger was standing alone flipping the bird, another time the hand was giving the Vulcan sign to "Live long and prosper". In the end Blanca helped Colleen to stick them back on and they made a great job too. It was only when they finished that Gine pointed out that the little finger was where the middle finger should be and visa versa!

After much discussion over lunch Jacqueline decided that she would have her mask done while lying down as that way all her wrinkles would fall away! She lay down on a table while four of us worked on her. Then it was my turn- photos to follow! I don't think I have laughed so much in a very long time.

The following week I showed everyone how to vaseline the negative and pour plaster of paris into it to form the positive. As of writing this I have several scary looking plaster "Jen's" lying on the dining room floor. When I have time I will then make a couple of papier mache masks based on these to frighten the visitors!

Otherwise I have been frantically painting colourful "Love Bugs" and decorating soap for the Creative Hastings Sale. It has been so slow this year but I have sold three pendants and a few cards and there is still two weeks to go.