'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.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Hazy Moon

Here is a monochromatic scene spotted through my kitchen window a couple of nights ago. A full moon softened by high cloud, peeks shyly from behind the macrocarpa.

Here's a lovely set of Tao words from Delwyn's blog, "A Hazy Moon" which was in my mind as I looked at this moonscape. She accompanies them with some of her own stunning imges here.

Show by example
Lead by behaviour
Inspire by content
Teach without words
Be useful without action,
based in the beauty,

Thursday, 29 April 2010

You're OK

I've just spent a delightful six minutes.
It was a little like RWP's wonderful Easter virtual choir, yet it's quite different.

Go here to read and listen to the making of a very special song.


I think you'll like it!
Another great find from Flatattack. Thanks guys!

Still Life

In the tradition of the Dutch Still Life masters, we have set ourselves up a 'still life' to paint. We've begun with a large box painted black inside, and, with a view to alluding to the traditional 'vanitas' theme (all earthly things are but vanity - meaningless), brought a few things from home to arrange.
But when I took the photo, I was surprised to see just how much like a painting it looks already.

We are attempting to build up the painting in layers, but as this method traditionally used oil paint, have had to adapt it to acrylics. I'm sceptical of the chances of success, but I'll give it a go.
Sadly, oils are not used in my class because of the fumes and cost, so I may finish this off at home. It seems a pity not to do the best job I can on such an inspiring scene!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Meet Max

... Limax maximus, actually. And although you may not want to meet him, I was delighted to make his* acquaintance a few minutes ago when I took out the scraps to the compost heap. Along with his entourage of minute cream friends, and providing moist protection for a worm, he was resting on the underside of the compost bin lid.

Slugs in general don't interest me much, but I quite like nice big robust species like Max, and I consider his leopard spots quite delightful. He is also called the Great Grey slug or, unsurprisingly, the Leopard slug.
They have been accidentally introduced to many places other than native Europe and are now found in many countries all over the world, so Wiki tells me.

Wikki also tells me that they hang in trees when they mate, and they are the only slug species that do.

And apparently they are also good at learning new things, and have been used in experiments exploring learning behaviour.

* or her. Slugs are hermaphrodites, and have both sex organs.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Graphite tonal drawings of hands

Quotes from James Ormsby, my tutor:

"Life drawings is the bootcamp of art. ... it's the 'no bullshit' zone ... An artist is judged on the quality of his [or her] life drawing portfolio."

We have begun the week plunging straight in. Why prevaricate? - we have a lot to cover in one term. Homework: twenty graphite tonal drawings of hands. Phew.

Here's a beginning. The resolved ones took me more than an hour each.
Click image to enlarge.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Mollie and Me

A couple of days ago it was my Mother's Birthday. Well, it would have been if she was still alive. She was always pleased that it was on the Queen's 'real' Birthday; April the 21st, not the one we celebrate.
Here she is with me on her lap. I'm sitting up pretty well, and on solids, so that means it's 1956, probably lunchtime on a clear, bright day in mid winter. I expect it started with a crackling frost because Mum has her mid-calf warm skirt on.
We are on the verandah of the Napier Road house, and behind Dad's back would be the old orchard that my parents bought along with the house section, and that was eventually sold to pay the mortgage off. The river ran behind the house, (except we always referred to it as 'the creek') and I used to lie in bed and listen to the pukeko swamp hens and morepork owls in the willows that lined the banks. These days there's a tidy walkway and the river is constrained and isn't allowed to flood any more, like all the Hawkes Bay rivers. It's ironical, really, because it was the repeated flooding and deposition of that wonderful fertile silt that formed the Heretaunga Plains in the first place, and made it possible to grow the wonderful cornucopia of fruit and vegetables that are produced here still. Every year Mum would preserve dozens of 'Agee' jars of tomatoes and pears and golden queen peaches for the cupboard. They would sit up in the top cupboards like rows of red and cream and gold suns, trapped behind glass and shining like the hot summer days to tide us over the winter.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


The Strawberry tree in the back garden is laden with ripe red fruit at the moment, and I am being treated to the yearly visit of the wax-eyes. They are like large olive bumblebees, swarming through the tree and making the leaves twitch and shiver as they fight and peep with their little voices, and gorge.

The Maori name for the Wax-eye (or Silver-eye) is Tauhou, a word that means 'stranger'. For it wasn't until relatively recently in the mid 1800's, that they were seen in any great numbers here. It's assumed that a flock was blown over from Australia. They are now one of the commonest New Zealand birds.

Tauhou will eat berries and fruit of all description but more than make up for the damage in orchards by also eating vast quantities of insects. Like the Tui and Bellbird, Tauhou has a feathery tongue which also allows it to take advantage of nectar sources from flowers in spring.
During winter, when many die, it appreciates fat, bread and sugar water left on bird table. For years my grandparents had little glass jars of jam or lard hung up in their japonica outside the dining room window, and as children we used to sit and watch the wax-eyes feed as we had our own meals.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

I got Male

Recently I've been feeling the inclination to extend my movie viewing habits and take in some of those 'men' movies. I feel I should watch them so I understand what it is that makes many men refer to them in hallowed voices.
This interest came while watching 'You Got Mail' (what's wrong with 'You Have Mail'? - sounds much nicer) when the Tom Hanks character writes to the Meg Ryan character that she should 'Go to the mattresses!', a spine-improving, courage-inducing quote from 'The Godfather'.
So I've watched 'The Godfather', moved on to the first 'Die Hard' and am slowly ploughing my way through the Epic above, irritating theme whistle and all. I'm still working it out, but it has a lot to do with vicarious winning, I think. Still piecing my thoughts together.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

What rainbow are you?

I'm usually too busy to do these type of things but I found this one on GB's Eagleton blog* and it seemed like fun.

* I wonder if his travel plans, which are only a day or two away, will be disrupted by that pesky volcano.

Can one buy absolutely anything online?

While checking out the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (who'd want to be a newsreader some days? ) I noticed the advert....

This site informs me there are probably around 20 volcanoes erupting at any one time, but that doesn't include undersea ones, nor ones on other planets. I wonder how much they cost. Probably out of the range of an art student.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Tove Storch

Tove Storch - brilliant young Danish artist - fascinating and eerie art works. One of the best things I saw at the Auckland Triennial last week.

Added later: Here is the link to the paper I have written entitled "Tove Storch. Illusion and Reaction"

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Henrietta Chook

We have an Only Chook, Henrietta.
She turned up at a local country school with her husband and, with a picture of a delicious brown egg a day, I took her on (Cocky had to go elsewhere as crowing is not allowed in town).
She has been in residence for two months and so far has laid zero eggs.

I like chooks and usually have a little flock of six or so. When I get sick of the garden looking too tousled, I pen them up and move the pen around, but it doesn't seem worth it for just one.

When Henrietta came to us, she would only eat bread. She didn't appear to know even the rudiments of poultry behaviour, e.g. Scratching = Food; Worms = Good; Humans = Too Busy to Feed You All Day. She just stood around waiting for her daily bread. I wondered if I'd been wise. She seemed a really dumb cluck.

But over the last two months she has learnt a great deal. She found out where the mash was and helped herself until it was better stored. She now enjoys the gourmet treat of wriggling worm. She has learnt to scratch a living for herself. She discovered the back porch is dry in the rain despite having a whole hen house of her own. She had us all fooled at first, but it appears she's a really bright chookie.

Last week she discovered the cat flap.
Unfortunately the flappy bit doesn't stay affixed since the Shelly-Pippin chases through it. So it's open most of the time.
Henrietta spent a considerable portion of her time standing out in the porch listening to the voices of the Bread-Givers inside.

Yesterday I looked up from my desk and she was strolling past, and out the front door. Incursion by a solo chook.

Monday, 12 April 2010

From the Kitchen Window.

I know I know, another sunset. Perhaps it's because the temperature's dropping a little and we need a skivvy and a jersey in the mornings, that these days I've been extra aware of the sky outside and the edges of the days.
Last winter was colder than average here. And the northern hemisphere winter just been, was cold. And this one we're moving towards is supposed to be cold.

Thanks to friends I have a big stack of excellent dense firewood. And winters here are not very long. But I still prefer summer!

Well, whatever the reason, here's the view from my kitchen window about six pm this evening as I was making an omelet for our tea. Click to get the full effect.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

This time, 3D movies are here to stay.

I missed Avatar - the first 3D movie to screen in New Zealand - but caught Alice in Wonderland this week.

The whole 3D movie experience is not new of course, but I suspect if it had been like this back in the 1950's it would have never disappeared. However, although the glasses you have to wear to view 3D movies like 'Alice' are superficially almost identical, the way they work is quite different. And as a result, colours are real and bright in this new generation of 3D movies.

Back then, so I'm told, the red/blue method of distinguishing each part of the stereoscopic input meant that the colours were odd and also washed out.

REAL D projection technology use circularly polarised light (I'm not exactly sure what this is, but it means you can tilt your head and still see 3D) and alternate the left and right eye's view (you don't notice any flicker).

In this picture I took of two of our pairs of glasses. You can see that rotating the same side ones against each other allows no light to get through. As you decrease the rotation, more and more light can pass through. These are called oppositely circularly polarised lenses.

If you're interested, you can read more about REAL D here.

Anyway, back to 'Alice'. It's not the original story, which, let's face it, was pretty disjointed, with Alice stumbling about meeting random beings with varying degrees of insanity who seemed to have no interest in helping her at all. However we all have vivid memories of those encounters; the hookah-smoking caterpillar, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Mad Hatter, playing-card soldiers, the Queen of Hearts playing croquet with a hedgehog ball and flamingo mallet...

Well, they're all there, plus a few extras from the poem Jabberwocky including the Jabberwock itself, looking wonderfully like the original John Tenniel illustration, but with better fangs.

And the storyline is ok I guess. It flows. There's an aim, and if it's a bit like all the other reluctant hero stories, at least Alice learns to improve her Muchness and make decisions for herself that involve courage, and belief, (even if it is 'six impossible things before breakfast') and all that other Girls Can Do Anything stuff.

Now the 3D bit. Unfortunately I think this movie might have been better in 2D. There was too much information, but more importantly the camera movements, angles and out-of-focus foregrounds and backgrounds during depth-of-field shifts, were irritating for me (and others like Gizmodo). Now these are good and appropriate techniques in movies. I'd not want a reversion to the static and boring directorship of the early talkies. But Burton, consummate director in 2D that he is, hasn't taken into account the different needs of a 3D audience. To be honest, the best bit was the end credits where you can just sit and watch a mushroom grow and flowers slowly opening. 3D is here to stay, but it just needs a different way of directing.

Having said all that, visually Alice in Wonderland is indeed a wonderful land that Tim Burton has created. Dark, cruel, frabjously beautiful, - a refreshing and acceptable 'Disney with teeth'. Callooh Callay! But best in 2D please.

But still not a patch on his The Nightmare before Christmas or Corpse Bride.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Sunset - Firth of Thames

I couldn't resist this lemon and soft blue chiffon Miranda sky on Wednesday night. A pale pink headdress adorned the clouds.

And it then about ten minutes later it had donned a different garment; showy and more flamboyant as the colours became intensified. That old Miranda magic at work again.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

- William Blake.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The predator

In the wisteria there prowls a fierce green predator. It is after the passionvine hoppers.

As the hopper slowly moves among the leaves, the mantis, cat-like, inches forwards.

It only moves when the hopper moves. When the hopper stops, the mantis freezes.

The two eyes are set far apart to maximise the binocular vision. The mantis is able to judge distances very accurately. And in addition can spot movement directly behind behind too.

It fixates on the still hopper. Then gently extends its antennae to softly touch the hopper. This is a mistake, for the next second ....

... the hopper has boinged off into the sky! Drat!

Undaunted, the mantis climbs into another area. Suddenly it's all over. I've missed the quick efficient stalking and the lightning attack. The hopper is clutched in those wicked claws and the soft parts are being consumed. All that is left to photograph is the systematic munching.

After three minutes two delta wings flutter separately down to the deck. The meal is over.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The same moon

... And the moon and the stars are the same ones you see, it's the same old sun up in the sky ...

Friday, 2 April 2010

Examination Cubicle 15

If confronted by a wrinkled old pink curtain in an art gallery...
Would you peek in?

If, upon peeking in, you saw some words back-to-front, and a single chair, would you go in and sit down?