Category Archives: extra curricula

Watercolours á la Raoul Dufy

The painter, Raoul Dufy, was what they call a French Fauvist. My mother and I are quite keen on his colourful palettes and charming scenes – not at all fashionable or deep but just lovely to look at, really (at home we had a print of The Harvest above our dining table for years). Well, on a fine, spring Sunday  down at Morley Collge, SE1, we had a go ourselves. Mum brought along her private collection of Dufy stuff: a book, wrapping paper, various postcards, (the book especially got some envious looks as it’s now out of print), and so, suitably inspired we turned to our still life subject matter.

Spring flowers – the subject


We splurged right in and started painting a part of the arrangement. Our efforts were, of course, pretty dreadful.

Crap!

The tutor duly did her stuff for the next few hours and instructed us in the ways of the watercolourist. We got tips on colour mixing and for testing out your palette on a spare strip of paper, several different brush techniques and ways to mix materials (coloured pencil and wax).

Mum's colours
Practically blindfolded!

To help us with our composition, we tried a few exercises with just a coloured pencil. We tried sketching what we saw using our non-writing hand, and then we stood so that we could not see the drawing board itself as we drew, but only the flower arrangements we were representing. Both liberating and challenging.

If you look the final achievements of the class I think we made remarkable progress throughout the day:

Mum: A little bit Day of the Triffids?

Mum: Note the use of wax crayons on the flowers
Me: Note the Dufy-style patterned backdrop, using thumb-and-finger splayed brush strokes, and the blue pencil in the daffs
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NYC Highlights

With our current placement in the US coming to an end, here are some highlights from New York City, baby.

Bowery Ballroom

www.boweryballroom.com

We took a whole bunch down to this LES music spot to see Tragedy, a heavy metal Beegees tribute band (yes you read that right), lots of spandex. I seem to remember it was cheap, like $14 dollars including four support bands (they were all fun-weird too).

Tragedy

Brooklyn Flea Market

www.brooklynflea.com

My sis and I picked up some unique finds on an icy cold Sunday over at the Brooklyn Flea. She bought a red retro, circular suitcase, me a huge enamel pie tin ($10). Other wares included vintage clothes, rugs, furniture, and of course… pickles.

Cafe Wha?

cafewha.com

wha

I’d been told good things about the resident covers band at Cafe Wha? by my friend, Sloane, who readily admitted a huge crush on the guitarist. And it was great, too. Waitress service at a table within spitting distance of the tiny stage was a bonus.

wha2

Cafe Habana

www.cafehabana.com

Tasty, good value Cuban food with the  main problem being getting a seat or even a space to stand in – it’s so insanely popular. Ridiculously cool people, lots of models or artists with beards, tats and hats, so M really stood out whenever he met me for a mohito after work. Going solo for a beer one hot day, I remember hanging out with a wannabee scriptwriter who was totally coked up and going on about his latest film exploiting Heath Ledger’s recent death, nice. NB. Menu pick – fish tacos.

habana havana

What’s cooking?

I have tried for a few months to get a place on the local Whole Foods’ cookery class on Morrocan cuisine and finally got in there tonight. I think there were about 13 of us; a young, laid back crowd.  Well apart from the lady who turned up without booking – she was pretty uptight about being told the class was full, better luck next time, darling.Chef explaining

We had an introductory talk on kitchen do’s and don’t’s, and an overview of Morrocan food with tastings and much smelling of various spices and pickles – pickled lemon is surprisingly tasty. We were talked through the recipes before being split into three groups to attempt about 2 dishes each.  Disappointingly we were the only group with all vegetarian dishes whilst the other groups got to play around with raw chicken and lamb.  I basically cut onions, mint, and kept things neat and tidy but I did learn the technique for peeling tomatoes, not a difficult skill I know but just something I’ve never tried before.

At the hob

Anyway, I took it upon myself to take some photographs so that I could loiter around the other groups to see if I could pick up what was going on with the more interesting recipes.  Lots of onion grating and tentative checking of steaming pans. Serving
up time came quickly and the dishes were quite good, but we agreed that at home we should cook the meat for longer.  I’m going to give it a go in few weeks when the hot weather is over and Menno’s parents are visiting.  If I take a picture and sent it to Whole Foods, I’ll get my next class for free!

The finished products

Freedonia?

booksign

When I was a young girl or maybe even a teenager, one of my favourite things was to take my school atlas and, using only the pages showing North America, transcribe all the place names into a separate little book with a freshly sharpened pencil, crossing them off as they were recorded.  I loved the sound and the look of the placenames on the page and for some reason they seemed the most exotic and characteristic of all of the nations included within the atlas, despite the fact that I had probably not even made it to France at that stage. Walking by the local bookstore this morning brought that name-affection back to me with a notice for the evening’s book-reading, ‘Names on the Land – A historical account of place naming in the United States’.

I was absolutely satisfied.  A variety of readers (some better than others) treated a good-sized audience to snippets of the book and opened up about bits of their land-connections and musings on nomenclature.  And normal people asked straight-forward questions without any pretentiousness.  For the country itself, I learned that some of the alternate names offered instead of the United States of America were: Freedonia, Alleghania and Columbia. The writer, George R Stewart, scorns the one that was settled for in the end. Needless to say, I bought the book and read three chapters in one night which, by the way, is really good for me.

Stewart writes,

‘No one knows when man came, or who gave the first names. Perhaps the streams still ran high from the melting ice-cap, and strange beasts roamed the forest. And since names – corrupted, transferred, re-made – outlive men and nations and languages, it may even be that we still speak daily some name which first meant “Saber-tooth Cave” or “Where-we-killed-the-ground-sloth”.