'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

My New Year's Day activity suggestion.

Ever since I saw "Under the Tuscan Sun", I've enjoyed making Limoncello. (I mean what woman wouldn't have that drink and this lovely person seared into her memory?)

So, now we come to my suggestion: a delightful way to spend a cold and dismal, or, as is the case down here, warm, overcast and muggy New Year's Day:

Northern Hemisphere: Two shots of Limoncello. Add to a small wine-glass of mulled wine. Sip.
Southern Hemisphere: Two shots of Limoncello. Add to a tall chilled glass of 1/2 and 1/2 cheap sparkling white wine and dry lemonade. Slurp.

Now, come with me on a auditory Terry-Pratchettisque-type leap from home-made LIMONCELLO to home-made LEGO CELLO....
Below is Nathan Sawaya playing his cello.

Click here to see how he did it.

Now, off you go and grab the kid's lego and see what you can make!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christopher Perkins - Landscape style

Christopher Perkins.  Self-portrait.  1954  Oil on panel

In 1928 Christopher Perkins was appointed to the staff of the Wellington Technical College under the La Trobe scheme (which was an attempt to improve the calibre of art teaching in New Zealand).  Although he only stayed here until 1934, he challenged the views of many New Zealand artists of the time and was outspoken in his criticism of the standard of art and the critique process here.  He himself emphasised the surface pattern in composition, the simplification of forms and particularly rejected conventionally picturesque subjects.  This latter especially, shocked  conservative critics.  However all these considerations eventually found their way into New Zealand painting.  

Here, in his style, is my interpretation of a piece of Hawkes Bay.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Happy Christmas Everyone.

Click on the image above to receive a large, more discernable helping of my sincerest mass-produced wishes.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Those camping summers

...that went on for ever, when we were young.  

We used to stay at Waipatiki and swim all day in the lagoon and then, just before tea, we'd have a quick dip and wash the salt off in the river near our tent.  The river was cold after the trudge in the sun back up the dusty road, so we'd have a game -  we'd hold onto each other and shout "One, two THREEEEE!" and duck quickly under so our hair would be rinsed too.  I'm the elder sister.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Weaving with NZ Flax

This year I've been introduced to the craft of weaving with New Zealand flax (Maori: Harakeke, Latin:  Phormium spp.)
As I'm by no means skilled, at this point I'll direct you to a super website that will give you some background to this interesting world:  Ali Brown's website.

The New Zealand flax bears little resemblance to the Northern hemisphere flax   (a linseed plant with pretty blue flowers) but actually looks like a massive clump of grass with orange or red flowers from which the tui bird loves to sip nectar.

In a rather laborious process, the silky fibres of Phormium can be stripped out and used for a variety of purposes, or the leaves can be used more or less as they are and woven into baskets called Kete.

First you cut the leaves at the base of the plant, angling the cut away so the rain doesn't rot the centre of the clump.

Then the hard centre midrib and the thin outside edge is pinched out and pulled away and discarded.

The centre part of the leaves is then divided into even widths.  Then the leaf is pulled across something firm to soften the strip.  It can also be blanched in boiling water at this point if you don't want to weave immediately.

There are many beautiful patterns, some involving the leaves dyed as well.

   But even with just a simple over and under method we had a lot of fun, and were proud of our first efforts.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Parallel Lands

I was looking at another blog some time ago and saw a photo of a piece of land half a world away (the Grand Ronde River, Washington state) that started me thinking. 
A couple of ideas:  When people move to a new country they are usually homesick.  They often do one of two things:  either keep going until they see some land that reminds them of home, and settle there; or settle any old where and make it look like home.

In the case of New Zealand, the former has, for example, meant that many Scots settled in the south of the South Island, where the stone and the weather felt right and comfortable.  In as much as we have regional accents at all, one can detect a slight burr from southlanders even today.

The latter, meant they cleared the natural vegetation, brought in livestock, and, more destructively (although they weren't to know that), brought over grass, thistles, brambles, gorse, and innumerable other seeds and plants that quickly naturalised in New Zealand's milder climate.  Also, to remind them of home, or to provide sources of food, came the dogs, rabbits, blackbirds, thrushes, hedgehogs, trout, pheasant, quail, goat, pig, stoats, weasels, deer, cats ... the list is long.  Others came in accidently:  rats being the most obvious.

New Zealand became separated from the rest of the world millions of years ago before mammals evolved.  So New Zealand's native species consist almost entirely of a few reptiles (no snakes), birds and insects.  And because there were no mammals (except for a couple of bats), the birds had often lost or reduced the use of their wings, and were nesting on the ground.  This, of course, made them incredibly vulnerable.  The destruction of the forest habitats and the introduction of grazers and carnivores has meant that New Zealand has now 27 indigenous species extinct and very many more are under threat, including several unique frogs and those bats.

These things are in my mind constantly as I paint the bare bones that once were forest-clad New Zealand hills ringing with the calls and gutteral clicks of our amazing tame birds.

This post first appeared in my now defunct 'State of My Art' blog. I re-post it today because I think it's worth keeping.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Four Agreements

1.  Be impeccable with your word and deed.
Speak and behave with integrity.  Say only what you mean.  Avoid using words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.  Use the power of your word and deed in the direction of truth and love.

2.  Don't take things so personally.
Most of what others do isn't because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dreams and hopes.  When you don't mind the opinions and actions of others, you won't suffer needlessly.

3.  Don't make assumptions.
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.  With this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4.  Do your best.
Even in small day-to-day tasks.  Remember however, that your best is going to change from moment to moment.  It will be different when you are tired or ill than when you are rested or healthy.  Under any circumstances simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.  

The above is from my fridge but is old and tatty.  Time to stick it here and throw out the old piece of paper.  

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

That Reflections Painting

Here is a clickable version of that finished reflections painting I was struggling with at the beginning of the year:

Previous posts leading up to this painting:
Step 1.    Step 2.    Step 3.    Step 4.  

Monday, 7 December 2009

Hawkes Bay map

Here's me strangling Ann* up the peak a few weeks ago.  This is the view looking west over Havelock North, then Hastings, and you can see the snow on the Ruahine Range in the distance..

And here's a map showing some of those places I mentioned in my previous post.  Just thought you might be interested.  Click to embiggerate.

* One of the best-natured and tolerant women I know.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Growing up in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

If you walk over a landscape enough, it becomes part of you.  You absorb it through your feet, drink the parched soft cream colours through your eyes, smell the warm dry grass and the tang of pines, swim in the cool shadows of the trees on a hot summer's day, resonate with the cicadas' buzzing.  I can still feel the dry heat of my teenage Hawkes Bay days when Wendy and I would walk up Te Mata (Tay-Mah-tah) Peak on a Sunday, simply for the fun of doing it, just to get to the trig and look out over our plains.  From door to door, it would take us about three hours, maybe a little more. We'd go up past flocks of sheep through Chamber's Walk, the path winding under the Cenozoic limestone cliffs with their strange bivalve fossils, and then battle supplejack vines and tree nettles in the sudden cool of the bush walk, emerging out of the pines at the bottom of this valley.  
When we got near the top, we could see the whole of the Heretaunga (Hairy-tong-ah) Plains before us, shimmering in the heat.  Havelock North immediately below us (where's your house?) and the green strip of orchards, before the neat cross-hatching iron-grid street layout of Hastings.  Rows of orchard shelter belt poplars centre, south to the dry hills over towards Pakipaki (Pah-key-pah-key), north to Napier and Bluff hill - an island before the big earthquake of '31.  In winter we could easily see the far white line of snow stretching along the tops of the Kaweka (kar-wekka), Ruahine (Roo-ah-hee-nay) and Mangaharuru (Mar-ngar-har-roo-roo) range, and, way in the distance, the ice-cream cones of the central plateau volcanoes peeking through the perfectly-placed gap.
The other side of course, the sudden drop down the steep scarp face to the Tukituki (Took-ee-took-ee) River, and the desiccated hills out to Cape Kidnappers - well, that was something else again...

"Kaitiakatanga" - Tread lightly on the Earth

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Beauty in Unexpected Places

                 "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."
                                                                    - Dr Carl Sagan.