Tuesday, 19 May 2009

technology is a wonderful thing

Self portrait in a digital age

Does anyone else miss polaroid photographs? i know i do. Luckily help is at hand, for i have just discovered www.poladroid.net. This is a great site where you can download free software to make any image you have look like it is a polaroid. Try it - it's serious fun.

Another useful piece of software i've just discovered is Silver FX Pro. This is a great program designed to make digital images look like they were taken on film by mimicking the main characteristics of certain film types. So those of us who are missing grain for example can just select a classic grainy film type and voila, the digital image is processed to look as of shot on that film. You can chose from 19 different film types. So far i've read rave reviews of it in all my photography mags and heard good things from other photographers.

Now much as i love this and will definitely be forking out for it soon (how i long for the grain of Kodak T Max) i can't help thinking there's something wrong here. In the past few years, like many photographers, i've traded in most of my film cameras and spent thousands getting a great digital kit together. Now i need to spend just a little bit more so that my images will... look like they've been shot on film!! Hmm. Is it me or could i not just have saved myself an awful lot of time and money by missing out the middle step there? Technology, it's a wonderful thing...

Friday, 15 May 2009

digital art

i was reading a book of ideas for photos recently as i'm doing a photo-a-day for 2009 and was feeling a little bit uninspired, and i came across the idea of photographing your own art work but with camera movement. i thought it was a bit of a daft idea until i tried it and not only got some decent photos but also got re-inspired about some of the pieces of art. The nice thing is how some pieces came out as pure abstracts whilst others still have the human form clearly in them. i also liked the sense of movement that the camera movement gave to the figures. It's one of the joys of the digital age that you can mess about with this sort of thing to your hearts content with no cost or wasted shots thanks to being able to delete. i am now going to use the digital photos as the starting point for new drawings, thus bringing the process full circle. Great fun. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

every mark matters

My art teacher was saying recently that we ought to be braver and less timid with our art. She said we ought to remember that 'every mark matters' and then just go for it. Her words were inspiring, if a trifle daunting, but i decided she was right and that i would give it a go. i could hardly wait to get back to my easel where i splashed around ink and watercolours, and layered chalks, charcoals and pencil with a delicious sense of abandon. This was it - i was an artist now, my materials flowing onto the page as i created my master work. i stood back from the easel, having really enjoyed applying my marks so deliberately and confidently, to find myself looking at one of the most appalling unappealing messes i've ever had the misfortune to put on paper. i was stunned at how childish and amateur it appeared. i saw teacher heading for me. Usually i think of her as a friend, someone i'm rather fond of in fact, but now i felt like i was back in school - how could i hide from her or at least hide this rotten drawing? Would she be cross with me, i'd been doing exactly as she asked hadn't i?! She looked at it in surprise, made a few suggestions (i think rubbing out over half of it was the main one) and then mercifully moved on to the woman next to me who was paralysed by the thought of every mark mattering and so couldn't begin. Thinking about it later i realised that my teacher is right - we should know every mark matters, we should be less tentative. i also realised that the huge gap between our intention and our abilities is hard to bridge. When i watch my art teacher draw i marvel at the confidence of her line, her sureness of execution. For me, what my brain wants and what my hands can do are two very different things. i try to practise as often as possible in the hope this will change, but for now, i must live with it. It was nice to draw for a day as if i believed i could, even if the results were as flawed as ever! 
One good thing did come out of the lesson. My terrible drawing (even my teacher, usually gentle in her admonishments asked why on earth i'd made the arm look like a sausage) was rescuable. Taking her advice i rubbed out, drew over, rubbed out and drew over until i at least had something i didn't feel had to go straight in the bin. i decided i would photograph it and post it here first. At home i would have given up, but i found that being told to keep reworking until it was better is a possibility. Learning to push through and redraw was a good lesson.
Every mark matters, and if you don't like the ones you've made you can always make new ones.

top: the offending drawing, post rescue
left: detail of the face which i quite like and other drawings from the same day in class.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

hands (EDM 10)

My art teacher gave everyone in the class a lovely long accordion style sketchbook and told us to draw the same thing everyday until it is full. Such a simple idea and so useful. So i've been drawing my hand everyday, trying to use different materials. This process is great to promote a daily drawing habit and hopefully it will help me see an improvement too (i still have a lot of pages to fill, so that's a lot of hours of drawing practice). Also it has helped me realise my love of line is partly a fear of shading (!) so i need to get past that. When the book is full i'll post the last four hands. It will be interesting to see how different they are, if at all, from these first four attempts.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Cup (EDM 4)

Not the greatest drawing of a cup but this is part of my new resolution to post regularly whatever the shortcomings of my drawings, otherwise i'll never improve. So here it. A cup. by me. Hmm! 

Thursday, 26 February 2009

my first drawing done in public

Well, here it is... not the best drawing i've ever done, but the first one i've done in public since i was a child. This is my husband in a cafe in Paris a couple of weeks ago. Fortified with a glass of Kir and my beloved's faith in me i got out my moley and voila! The really great thing was nobody even noticed. So, next time won't be as bad and i might even get finish the drawing!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

the smell of the metro

Is there any smell sweeter than the smell of the Paris Metro? That musky dusty indefinable whiff that fills your nostrils as soon as you descend into the white tiled tunnels listening for the trains, for the sound of French people (talking French!!) and reveling in the knowledge you are back here, about to get on a train in Paris, France. 
This is the question i posed to my old man on our arrival at Gare du Nord last Friday. 
'Plenty' he observes dryly and i know he's right. The smell of a baby, milky and sweet. The smell of a stew that's been cooking gently all afternoon whose wine rich aroma greets you from a cold winter walk. The smell of baking bread or fresh coffee. The smell of the sea all briny and fresh scouring you with the knowledge you are oh so alive. The smell of jasmine tucked into the dark oiled hair of women in South India perfuming the air around them, a moment of olfactory bliss for a traveller's nose still getting used to the pungency of a place with a less than perfect sewage management system. The smell of your Mother so familiar. A tiny white chocolate scented fist held up by a child to be kissed so that you guess she's stolen a bit of the Easter Egg she bought you. The smell of your love as he lies next to you in bed, a smell that long ago made your knees weak and your heart turn over and is now a sleepy safe man aroma between the warm sheets. The calming smell of tibetan incense as you climb onto your meditation cushion and prepare to be with your own breath again. 
Yes, there must be many smells nicer than the Metro. But for me it is one of the sweetest. As i stepped onto the train last Friday i listened to the music of the droning note signaling the doors are open and waited for the silver doors to close with that satisfying metallic click. And i filled my lungs with the smell of Paris. A smell that takes me back to when i was 19 and lived here, here in Paris, for a year. A time when i believed anything was possible and perhaps it was. 
On this visit my Mother has asked me to find a Guerlain perfume for her she'd read about in a book. In the beautiful Guerlain shop on the Champs Elysees we found it. We squirted, sniffed, saw the price and put it back on the glittering glass shelves. It was nice but far too expensive. Yet i admit i would pay the same for Eau Du Metro should any parfumier ever decide to make such a scent. But perhaps it wouldn't be the same bottled. It is a smell that places you precisely in a specific geographical location (though not precisely in time, as for me it transports me back to many memories of falling in love with an exciting foreign city for the first time) and that is why it is so special. Perhaps, like that interesting new liquor discovered on holiday and tucked in a suitcase to be shared with friends on our return, it just doesn't taste the same at home.
After our lovely weekend of museums, food, wine and love we parted. My husband went off to a conference on the edge of Paris and i headed back to Garde du Nord. i took a last long inhalation of the Metro and climbed up to the main concourse. There was a sign for the 'Salon de Grand Voyageurs'. That's why i love Paris. As i looked for the Eurostar Terminal i took comfort in knowing i was no mere tourist, but a grand voyager, and one who has not just casually sniffed but has fully inhaled the heady scent of the Paris Metro.  

Thursday, 12 February 2009

shoe (EDM 1)

EDM challenge no1!
well, i've got to start somewhere, though i doubt i'll do them in strict chronological order. In fact i think i've done this one before but something about it being a new year and a new me made me want to start again...
i've been admiring everyone's drawings and blogs and have been working hard drawing and writing, but it's still daunting to post sometimes. The idea of having artistic aims for the year instead of resolutions appealed to me, so i formulated a few of my own which include:

1.Being brave enough to draw in public e.g. cafes.
2.Continuing to draw AND being brave enough to post the results whether good, bad or indifferent - it doesn't matter. 
3.Acquainting myself with a wider variety of materials and experimenting more. 
4.Enjoying the process of drawing, photography and writing, just playing and not worrying too much about the end result until later.
5.Meditating daily. Writing, drawing and photographing often, daily when possible.
6.Not worrying about what anyone else thinks. This is hard!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

I got tagged on Facebook to  do this '25 things about me' and, like  the person who tagged me, i originally thought it was a bit of a pain, but actually found doing it was great fun. i also loved reading hers and it was interesting to see how people reacted to mine. Now i'm looking forward to seeing what all my friends write. Ezra Pound said that many people do their best writing in letters because they are just writing  from the heart and from their real experience, not trying to create great or perfect art. i was surprised how this flowed and was so enjoyable, maybe because i just saw it as a bit of fun, and so didn't fret over it. This is the beginning of me writing more i think. i've included the rules here so you can see what was sent to me. And if you feel inspired, consider yourself tagged! Don't forget to send me a link to your 25 things - i'd love to read them!


Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1. I'm a Saggitarius, apparently freedom loving, optimistic and honest, and intellectually and spiritually advanced (ha ha) but also overly expressive, subject to frequent burn out and known for a lack of tact (yes!). As a free spirit i demand not to be fenced in in a relationship but am also big hearted and passionate. And my symbol is that man/goat thingy. So i'm half human/ half beast. Hmm. Not sure i believe in star signs.

2. I fluctuate between being extremely hard working and incredibly lazy, and enjoy both these states immensely. 

3. In 1977 when someone stole the silver jubilee celebration banner from the hall in Fairlight Middle School, i confess, it was me. It was meant to be an anti-royalist statement. I've never forgiven myself for not standing up in assembly and admitting it but i got scared. Sorry everyone. I loved that school...

4. Until the age of about 5 i was almost completely happy in my own skin apart from being plagued by nightmares. I really believed the world was an abundant joyous place. Then i turned 5. Since then things have been harder.

5. I've been a journalist, playwright and a social worker. Now i'm a photographer. Wonder if i should've been a doctor?

6. My dream job: i'd like to be the woman who is the voice of Bart Simpson.

7. Sometimes i love my friends soooo much i have to rein it in a bit - you know, play it cool in case they guess how much i LURVE them. Still don't know if anyone else feels this way?

8. If i had to choose between Frank, Johnny Depp, and David Bowie i wouldn't. i'd just have them all. i'm greedy i guess. (Frank, if you're reading this i turned the other two down flat - that's why i'm with you Babe)

9. I read too much. If i read less i might DO something, maybe even write myself. Reading is my drug. When i was a kid books more real to me than life and infinitely more pleasurable.

10. i meditate most days. 

11. Sometimes i think i'd like to have been a man. Especially Picasso. He just drew and shagged all the time, never had to wash up, make the packed lunches or remember people's birthdays. He was totally selfish and everyone adored him. oh, and he was a genius of course. How cool is that? My kind of life. 

12. At college i used to write letters to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Pretentious? Moi? Never.

13. When i was pregnant i ate tuna and banana sandwiches. 

14. I was far too good when i was younger and now it's too late to be naughty. I missed my chance and i do regret it. Someone please remind me of this when my girls start being teenagers...

15. i often feel a wave of pure joy when i hang out the washing and see it against the blue sky and think how lucky i am to have people who go in those clothes, and a home to wash them in, and a sky to hang them up against. Bliss. 

16. I'm an agnostic but i wish i wasn't. I'd like to have the confidence and conviction of atheism, or the comfort and security of belief. I have neither, and if i accept God may or may not exist, i must live my life as if either possibility may be true. It does my head in sometimes. How much easier to be born something - jewish, muslim, quaker, buddhist; i'd like to be any of those!

17. i often feel a complete failure. i struggle with this almost daily. 

18. i didn't used to be vain and now i look in the mirror and realise it's too late! 

19. i hide chocolate from my family and eat it at 2pm when i listen to the Archers.

20. i can't understand why anyone watches brain rottingly awful soaps or reality tv. (The Archers isn't a soap - they're real people ok.)

21. i can't bear the 'C' word. i think C***ts are lovely so it shouldn't be used as such a vicious word. Gay friends say they can't comment on the loveliness or otherwise of C***ts so they're allowed to use it. I say one may not worship at the altar of the Sacred Yoni, but one can show a little RESPECT. 

22. I love drawing even though i'm not great at it. i want to push myself as far as i possibly can by drawing daily, so when i die even if i'm still not great at it i'll be the best i can possibly be, and i'll have had all the joy of those hours of drawing... 

23. i think about things too much 

24. i want my children to be happier and more secure than i was (am?) i don't want to hand my insecurities on to them. i want them to see themselves for the talented, clever, beautiful creatures they are. I know the only way to teach is by example. i'm trying really hard.

25. i've searched my heart and i genuinely don't care about money and fame, but i would like to do something worthwhile. So this year i'm trying something new - no goals, no pressure, just a bit of creativity and play, and relishing everyday, minute by minute.