Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Riding the subway

The Saturday night of Halloween is an exciting time to be on the subway...or indeed wandering the streets.  Jesus, the devil and a forest ranger were all in McDonalds, a priest and a stripper got on one car together.  We had Batman and Robin (in a veryvery VERY short pair of shorts) in the car with us, a variety of princesses from around the world.

A traffic light, roman gladiator, a cat burglar and my personal favourite...a piece of sushi!

Goodness how I love Halloween!

Jet lag

Yesterday, I went for lunch at a favourite restaurant....because it was early I was able to have an iced coffee there.  I figured it wouldn't be a problem as I wouldn't be trying to go to bed for ages. 

I'd had several cups of tea that morning.  One of the big fat advantages of jet lag is that I needn't worry about caffeine in the mornings!

Then I had one more cup of tea, at a friend's place, at around 3 pm.

And some chocolate.

I don't know about you, but too much caffeine gives me the jitters.

I had the jitters pretty solidly...and then I got seriously dozy in that jet lag-y way where there is almost nothing you can do to keep awake and you just have to stagger through knowing it won't last.

It is very very odd having caffeine jitters and a nearly irresistable desire to sleep at the same moment.

Something new every single solitary day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A big bounce

Hey ho all,

We've bounced so hard that we found ourselves in Toronto!  Just in time for Halloween!!!!

We're only here a few days, and seeing family more than anything else...quite delightful.  Costume making starts today.

All is well. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

mushrooms and insects

We went out hunting the wild mushrooms this weekend, we found a fair number, but none we dared to eat.  We did see some insects though, which was also quite lovely...


We are also going to be bouncing and hopping around like crazy for the next few days...posting is likely to be - irregular.

See ya!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

A noisy day...

I only have one painting finished for today, that's OK, well within the canvas a day format, no?

I actually spent quite a bit of time on a larger piece and working on several smaller ones.  A day for turning up and working rather than completing.

It was also a most delightful day with a pack of kids in the house, Eldest had three friends over and youngest one, and I have to say it was a delight.

Lots of cooking, and as Eldest and her friends originate in four different countries on three continents, and they are picky teens feeding them was a wee bit challenging, as in I cooked what they wanted and they were polite and ate what the liked.

Lovely loud fun full day.

The man survived it all too!

OH!  and look what youngest made me!  I'm all ready for the cold now.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nomad asked and I've been thinking

OK, Nomad.

You asked and I have been thinking this over and over so I'm going to talk about what the process has been with the latest paintings.

For probably closing in on a year now, I've been doing the 'canvas a day' thing, principally with watercolours, due to space/time/money restrictions.  Also I really like them, and I love the discipline of watercolour, they are utterly unforgiving.  Utterly.  They make acrylics seem positively playful by comparison and oil pastels are a day at the beach.  That and the clean-up with watercolour is a piece of cake.

I did start to crave stronger colours though.

Then we moved and I got some space.  

I can leave work out and work on it for longer.

I started working with a variety of layerings on paper, using a wide variety of papers.  I started with the heavy gauge (and very expensive) watercolour paper, and then during the move I found a stack of hand-made papers of different weights, styles and colours.  I started playing with those, and found their transparency tempting and started layering them over other papers with prepared backgrounds, like the explosive oil pastels that appeared a while ago. 

This seemed, however, fundamentally unsatisfying.  The underpainting was subsumed and the over painting was occluded as well.  So I moved to creating a textured base and then adding material directly on top.  In the midst of this I went to the Barceló exhibit and got a few ideas fed.

I got so I was fairly satisfied with the backgrounds;  they vary wildly depending on the paper, and what it calls for, the materials I feel like using, or that I have the time to use, and the mood.  I work on background till I am happy with it.  Just playing and layering and layering till it looks good, with whatever calls my hand at the moment as I gaze at the paper.

I then puzzled over the drawings to put on top.  Nothing had called to me.  I am, as I stated in the last post, reading Possession, which I am sort of enjoying more now.  They are...possessed (what a surprise?).   Every character is obsessed by writing, by words, and by their power.  Words and grammar and language also forms a large part of my life, between the three languages I teach and study and my love of reading.

But text on the page doesn't fill me with anything at all.  Like bad children's stories that insult the reader with their obvious - and frequently obnoxious - moral.  It is so dictatorial.  (No judgement there, huh?)  Sorry, to each their own, but I don't like being told what to think or how to interpret a work.

So there.

¿Letters alone though?  I have also been listening to versions of cuniform writing being read on-line, and we went to the science museum here and they had some ancient manuscripts as well as a jar printed with cuniform writing.  It is beautiful.

This beauty is in our letters too, but we don't see it for the words.

So, out came the handy-dandy mac, and the font book.  I found one I liked and blew it up as big as it would go.  I used the shapes of the letters, sometimes part of one, sometimes some parts combined as a basic contour map and interpret it onto the base I have created.  Then I paint into the resulting shapes. Sometimes densely, sometimes in layers of glaze (I kid myself and think of Rothko).  It depends on the piece and background, the shape of the letter and the mood, also available time.  A certain amount of experimentation is still going on, but I really like them.

I also prefer to mix the colours directly on the paper some of the time.  I like the immediacy of it, the spontaneity and feel of it.  I also really like the near sculptural nature of thickly applied acrylics.  Makes me think of my some of my grandmother's earliest paintings, where she is very nearly carving into the paint, and I compare it to some of the later works which are sparely applied.  There are artists now working both ways.  At this point, I like the thick play of the paint.

I like the multi-layering, I love hiding things in the layers that no one will every find, or someone may.  I love the geographic shapes that appear, the monstrous looks of some of them of how weird and lost the original letter is.  I am working on a much bigger one which will come further apart once it is completed.  Something speaks to me about the abstraction of the letters and their isolation.  I am no realist at heart when it comes to art work.    

One doesn't naturally think of writing as a visual art, and the blackness of the letters over the colour of the painted paper appeals to me, like I am making the letters into the negative space we normally find surrounding the letters and writing in that negative space.  An unwriting, a stealing of writing into the visual arts, a deformation of the letters into un-letters and playing with that.  Does that description go too far?  Still, it is an element, even if it is getting very late and I am sounding a wee bit obscure.

So that's how I got here, and how I'm doing it at the moment.

I've got 13 in process today, more time, with four five of those 13 finished so far.

I love it, and I'd like to thank you all for the positive feedback!

Friday, October 22, 2010

There was something I was thinking of....

I have been reading AS Byatt's Possession seemingly forever.  I started it before the summer, got about a third of the way in and gave up, finding the characters SO dislikable.

Picked it up again recently, and I am doing better with it.  While I would hardly call it a page-turner, I am making some headway.  Sort-of kind-of.

We'll see.  More than half-way now.

Thought of something brilliant to blog about earlier today.  Nothing happening now.  I think it's probably a sign.

Good night all, more tomorrow.


Thursday, October 21, 2010


This I find very very cool, web cam of the clean lab where NASA is building the Mars Rover.  REALLY neat.

There was an interesting exercise some of my students had to do concerning happiness at work.  The study we had to read stated that people, more than anything else, want to work with great colleagues, friendly and supportive.  The bottom of the list?  Being recognised for your achievements and money were the bottom two of the ten.

I have to say a good boss goes a really long way to number one, charming and supportive colleagues...if everyone is in survival mode, it ain't a pleasant place to be.

Work-life balance didn't make the top of the list either...weirdly.

Who knows.

Judging by my lifestyle, I would say that the money is not the top consideration, and the work-life balance maybe is.  Colleagues and the boss also rank up there fairly high.  Sense that I am making a difference.  Somewhat.


Do you love your work?  I really am curious to know.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Things you don't notice

Today was a great day, know why?

I had a shower with HOT WATER!!!!!

It was sooooo nice.

So nice.

The shower head was also high enough that I didn't have to perform a limbo to get under it.


(I also went to lunch with the man and got my hair cut!)

Nice day, all round.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Isn't it a drag when real life

takes up time from the life we want to lead?

I'm working hard at making that not happen, or happen as little as possible, but sometimes.....

Onto other topics.

When I'm teaching I find that possibly the single most important attribute a student can bring to class, the single biggest indicator of long-term success and, normally, short-term enjoyment, is an open-minded faith in their ability to learn.

These people, however long it takes them, get there.  They are willing to try other ways of looking at things, other ways to try and learn and they are able to overcome confusion and difficulties.  They often have a good sense of humour and a sense of perspective about what they can and can't get out of a class.

Some of them are brilliant students, but some of them are sloggers.  For those, it doesn't come easy, their speed or manner of learning is arduous, they may have to work twice as hard, or five times as hard as the average student, but with this faith in themselves as learners, be they kids (most kids have this built in tight) or teens or adults or seniors, they get there in the end and enjoy the ride on the whole.

They are also a whole lot more fun to teach - though that would seem to be beside the point.

This does make me wonder where in our education systems we go wrong that so many people leave thinking that they either CANNOT learn something, or that it isn't worth the effort of trying.  You'd think the teachers would be motivated if nothing else, the class is simply much more fun with these folks in the room.  Honestly.

Well, that's my bit.  Keep the faith folks.

Monday, October 18, 2010


The volume of painting dropped dramatically today, no big fat surprise, what with work and having to take Eldest to BCN to shop for clothing, oh, and the man threw his back WAY out and has been bound to the couch all day.  Poor thing honestly, I've never seen him in so much pain.

I went running this morning and forgot to pee before I left.  That was problem one.  Problem two was that it is mushroom season here, one of the most exceptional mushroom seasons in AGES.  On top of that Spanish unemployment is pretty darned high too, so you know who the mountains were full of?  MEN!  (How dare they) hunting mushrooms

This poor girl couldn't find a bush to pee behind without some guy with a basket popping up in the search for the ultimate bolet!

All was forgiven though when a friend arrived at work.  He's also unemployed, and profitably spent his morning in the mountain hunting mushrooms.  This is only a little bit of what he found, but can I say that it was a stupendous lunch we had!

They're called 'trumpetes de mort', Death's trumpet, they are, however, most delicious and not dangerous at all.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Did I write about this?

It's so long ago now, I'm not sure.

WEEKS ago, literally, back in Canada on the last day we were on the boat I put on some sunscreen.  I had an, um, extremely nasty allergic/chemical reaction.  I looked rather like someone had taken a blowtorch to my face and then things had swollen up and crusted over.


It also went on and on and on and on.

I ended up seeing a dr. here cause it just wasn't going away, and she prescribed a whole new regime of medications, which have left me quite, ah, sleepy shall we say.  As in every waking movement was an act of pure will power.  That was fun with the move.

Today is the first day in, I think, over six weeks that I have not had to take an anti-histamine in the daytime.

It was d.i.v.i.n.e.


I finished one book...if you care to look at the list of books read for 2010, my reading has slowed WAAAAAYYYYY down during this time, and I completed NINE paintings today with another four on the racks for tomorrow. (I kid myself that I will have time, but what the heck, live in hope.)

The various drugs have been reduced gradually over the last little while and I am down to a hefty night time dose and that's it.

Keep your fingers crossed for me that it all goes away when this is over.

All told, aside from being anti-histamine free, today was lovely, a day spent reading, painting, eating and hanging out with the kids.  Aside from an hour or so of algebra homework (in Catalan no less) it was amazing.

Algebra is amazing too, in its own way; but can I just say that the division of poly-numerals is more complicated than most of us need, and we should all be very glad indeed that it is not a skill that we have to put into daily use.

Truly, something to be grateful for right there.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

His Chuckiness

Yes, and update on his Chuckiness.

He is adjusting to the new house fairly smoothly.  Those death defying stairs to the third floor where I can paint give him the heebie-jeebies.  A moment when being a quadruped is not such a great thing.  He has found sweet spots to sleep and discovered some advantages to the new house.

Chief amongst them is the fact that the doors don't latch particularly well, giving him access to beds that were normally out of bounds when every one was out.

Another is his cave, conveniently located next to one of the other chief benefits of the new place, that would be garbage cans.

That sounds weird doesn't it.  The old place was so small that we only had one garbage, in the kitchen, under the sink, behind the closed cupboard door.  That was a wee bit inconvenient for us, but we were sooooo penniless when we first got here that the idea of BUYING garbage cans was outrageous, and then we just got used to it.

This place? Not so handy.

Garbage cans entered our lives.  Two out of the three bathrooms have garbage cans, with lids.  No excitement there for the Chuckmeister, but the new kitchen layout is basically devoid of any cabinets or cupboards at all, think farmer's kitchen.  (honestly, I will take photos one of these days, maybe a room by room tour?)  So, in the spirit of the older house we have a ceramic pot as a garbage can in the kitchen, lined with a plastic bag.  Chuck thinks that this is a wonderful idea.  Munchies, conveniently to hand, or rather mouth.  Today, for instance, while making a cake, I tossed two yogurt tubs into the bin.  We are fairly vigilant about getting rid of the garbage quickly to avoid temptation, but still.....a little later I hear slurping noises and turn to see Chuckalicious tidying up the ends of the yogurt from the tub, with the tub still balanced elegantly in the garbage.

I tell him off.

A moment or two later I hear muffled slurping noises, ya, he'd taken it into his cave with him and was tidying it up there.  Sadly he didn't bring it out again and put it in the garbage for us.  Gladly, youngest is still small enough to fit in there far enough to retrieve it!

Chuck just came up into the altell with me and delightedly headed over to check out the garbage up here too.  Nothing too tempting it would seem.

To each his own delights.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How young is too young

too learn some of the gorier details about torture.  You know, some of the more common techniques.

A teacher took that out of my hands today.

Meeting planned for Monday.  Teacher in question doesn't know that yet, but I do.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I have officially started Spanish classes, and about time too.  I was getting embarrassed about my complete inability in Spanish.  Hopefully my base level of understanding should help a bit.

Still feel somewhat traitorous as my Catalan still needs so much work....

Ho hum.

I don't see how I can fit in Catalan classes too.

Especially since I seem to be sleeping like a teenager these days....HOURS every night.  Does take up a lot of the day when one sleeps so much.

Frustrating in a way, but I must need it.

The house is getting there, in many soon.

Truly, not enough hours in the day for all I'd love to do.

One must plan carefully I suppose.

And study when the opportunity arises.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I have spent the day with a kernel of happiness watching the count of the miners coming up to the surface one after another.  First 1, then 5, 11, 18, now 22.  Hope it all keeps working right and they all get out fine.  The oldest miner, at 63, has been a miner since he was 12.

Yeah, 12 years old, working in a mine.

We still don't have hot water here.  Um, so what?


How's that for a hit to the perspective.

Here's hoping they all get out safely.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


It has been stupendously windy today, I woke up thinking that someone was hosing off the deck on Oreneta.  I am, however, firmly land-bound at the moment, but the new roof makes a heavy rain sound positively nautical.  That and the singing chimneys.  Sounds better in Catalan, les ximeneies estan cantan.

They do sing too.  I have decided that it doesn't bother me in the least.

Today we:

finished the left-overs  (I kinda miss turkey...I may have to get a bit and cook it for myself - no one else does)

fixed up Eldest's computer

blew sideways in the hills




worked a bit on the house

more of the same too come.

GOTTA love a four day weeekend.

Gotta LOVE it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

May I present our Thanksgiving dinner

Not traditional, but we liked it.

(is it just me or is blogger making it a whole lot more difficult and a huge lot slower to upload photos these days?)  Bleh to you blogger.

We made the lasagna from scratch, even the noodles!  Youngest and I, and the pie was fantastic, made by the man, one of his best.  The figs?  I stole those all by myself off a tree this afternoon.  There were none in the shops and that just wasn't going to do for thanksgiving.  Forbidden fruit indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving folks!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Looking better today!

Sofa's up!  It was super easy too, so that was cool.  First nap taken on it as well, and it was well up to snuff.  The living room almost sort of looks like a living room from certain angles!

Here's the view from my painting space this morning, nice no?

Look what the man built for me!  The easel that is, the painting, which is still a work in progress is all my own fault.

And the seat I've got in place too.  Those are postcards from exhibits that I have strung up against the wall.

Nice day overall.

Two more to go this weekend, how sweet is THAT!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I had forgotten feet could get so tired


Cosmo caixa.  Well worth the visit in BCN, especially if you have kids.  We went off with some local friends, who I never before realised were possibly the slowest walkers on the planet.  OMG my feet are killing me.

I can walk a long way, the standing around and waiting alongside the ever dreadful museum pace.

Despite that we had a lovely day, except the tea shop was closed on Sat evening, and my favourite kitchenware place too.

Let's hope that the tea I bought in the health food store is good.  I'm not holding my breath though.


Friday, October 8, 2010

The guys are kinda gone.

I think I might actually miss them, in a way.

Their tools in my living room though?

Those could go.  Seems they didn't quite feel like leaving either, as they left most everything behind.  We have, ahhhh, tightened up the storage of it all and a sofa is on the BOOKS for tomorrow or Sunday at the latest.

And about time too!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


What is it about seeing someone else's work that sets me bouncing in mine.

I love painting and drawing and all that, and there is a richness in seeing someone else's work...real, live, fantastic that sets all sorts of ideas hatching and wobbling around on their own.

I find I sometimes have to guard against dismay because what I can do is so much, less.

That is OK though, the stuff I am seeing shows internationally, sits in museums, is done by some of the greatest ever.  I don't have to come up to that mark, don't want to either honestly, the sacrifice is too great.

There is an excitement in seeing new work.  Looking at technique, ideas, seeing what is loathsome to me individually and what is appealing, and analysing why.  Sets the juices flowing.

Many many artists have done this, and I was recently told that the great Picasso himself was quite the thief, worse still, not only did he steal ideas, but his execution of them was infinitely better, and he moved the original idea along about another million kms.

That would be depressing wouldn't it.

Maybe that's part of what I love about living in BCN, a schedule that allows time to paint and read and think, and that also gives me access to fabulous works whenever I chose to go.


Then there is that coffee and food too, and the mountain, and the challenge.....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Guess what!!!!

The construction guys think they may be out of here on FRIDAY!


THAT is super super sweet!

I will kind of miss them, in a weird way.

That, of course doesn't mean that all is done, the electricians are going to be a part of our lives for some time to come, and another round of bureaucracy will open up, apparently mostly handled by the architect, who maybe I should notify about this upcoming change.

Not sure what the next steps are, and I imagine I am about to find out, and some of it will cost money.


A living room might appear in our lives, and I have been craving a couch something utterly ferocious....

****blissful sigh *******

Photos to come.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Miguel Barceló

We went to the big fat Miguel Barceló exhibit this weekend, at the Caixa Forum.  There is even a virtual tour!


Not every last bit of it, of course.

Some of it I didn't like at all, but the bits that were good, were very very good.

The man...meh, not so much.  Not enough colour for him.  Fair enough.

I liked the sculptural nature of the paintings and, maybe for the first time, Youngest was more interested and lasted longer than Eldest!  Wow!

I actually bought the catalogue, not so much because I loved every piece he did, so much as his range of style and work.  Very innovative.  Finding it fun to use as a technical idea for moving onwards.

Lovely to see, and if you get the chance, worth the visit!

Monday, October 4, 2010

We have developed a neighbourhood creep

Yup, a creepy creep.

He first appeared about a week ago.  Staring at the young girls.  Like youngest.

He even followed one of her friends - who lives on the street - telling her, I kid you not, to 'come here little girl' over and over.

I am the only one even suggesting we go to the police, which leads me to expect complete inaction on their parts.  Ho hum.

So far the girls on the street will be going down to school in groups and near parents.

I will be bringing my big, unsubtle camera out and taking a full face picture of the guy next time I see him.

Maybe finding out which park he's sleeping in, we can organise a group of folks to wake him up every hour or so, that should send him somewhere else.  Ah love the smell of vigilantism in the morning.

I like to imagine that if you called the cops in TO with this complaint, a cruiser would roll by about 20 minutes later, and any time you called, they'd get out and have a chat with the guy.

I suspect our local police will do sweet sh*t all.  Still don't know why we have them.  Honestly.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Woke up too early this morning

There are some upsides to this though.

Honestly feeling

very tired,

kinda yucky,

all right overall

but today I had to chose to paint

or blog.

So this is all that goes up.



The internet is an amazing place

Want to hear ancient Babylonian?  Go here, you can listen to the Epic of Gilgamesh.

An ancient incantation for dog bites?  Got that too!

Want to see a street view map of an Antarctic penguin colony?  Got that too!

Popping this up this morning cause last night just went on toooooooo long.