22 December, 2013 at 12:09 am (art, blue-eyed crow, books, life, work) (, , , , , )

BF_fernbirds sketch underpainting a

Revisited an old composition this afternoon and started the underpainting in oils. The materials have that lovely ‘library smell’ and are nice because they dry slowly (the drawback also being that they dry slowly).

I listen to fluff mystery books while painting and picked the audio of Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds’ because it doesn’t involve murder and I was surprised by some coincidences. In the book are musings on Georgian architecture, which I’ve been reading up on, the art expert in McCall Smith’s story is a controversial figure in a non-fiction book I’m also reading (about a set of possible forgeries), the family in the story lives in a country house in the exact area of Scotland that I’ve been researching for genealogy, and their ancestors were also Jacobites (I only recently found this out about my family).


Permalink 2 Comments


27 January, 2012 at 9:56 pm (art, books, friends) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Although I have a hard time even writing in the margins of a book I love book art. Add a hint of mystery and I’m enchanted, so I was thrilled that although all ten of the secret paper gifts to Edinburgh’s libraries have been found the anonymous giver left the option of future gifts open. I was surprised to read that the artist had not made paper sculptures before, the sculptures were so different than each other and so imaginative. Isn’t the texture of the feathered cap below (found in the Scottish Poetry Library) gorgeous?

Then there are Brian Dettmer’s book autopsies, I was initially conflicted because they’re made from older books, but the look has since won me over:

Finally today a wonderfully creepy video my friend in the belfry found for a wonderfully creepy nursery rhyme book:

Permalink Leave a Comment


8 May, 2010 at 8:30 pm (art, books, friends, life, local) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I just finished with the flame-thrower and am waiting for the encaustic to warm up again so that I can pour yet another layer on to the piece I’m working on, while I wait I thought I’d post what Ron Black, who takes great nature photos, just sent me – pictures of our brand new pond, it’s just a baby, less than a year old.

Standing next to this pond, a small cone-shaped hill lurks in the trees to the south-west, there are acres of forest on all sides and unless a small plane flies over head you can’t see anything man-made here, even the part of the trail that is visible was made by animals. It is also the quietest part of the property.

Sometimes, standing there, I think about how much industrialization has changed the sounds we hear almost every moment of the day, even in the quiet of the night I can hear human sounds I couldn’t hear over the noise of the day – vehicles on a distant road, a train on tracks eight miles off.

I love human sounds, I live in more than one place and where I sit writing this now I can hear my old clock ticking, the neighbours to the east singing prayers, and the girls to the south happily shooting hoops. But just as looking at the ordered chaos of nature is somehow calming and energizing at the same time, the layers of sound around this pond make it hard to walk away. The soft natural sounds (when there are no tractors growling downstream) are meditative and somehow invite further listening.

As a kid I always wondered why sounds can affect the mind and emotions so much, why can music make us feel triumphant or despondent? I was reading an article about preserving areas of natural sounds, and some book reviews about silence (also this) recently, and, predictably, I thought about noise a lot when I stayed in this Buddhist monastery for a while, but this Radiolab show is my favourite exploration of sound. The range it covers in one hour is incredible, and the part where they talk about why there were angry riots when Stravinsky’s ‘Rites of Spring’ was first performed but adoration when it was performed a year later is amazing. I haven’t been able to embed the program for some reason, but here is another link, there are three parts (‘Behaves so Strangely’, ‘Sound as Touch’, and ‘Musical DNA’), they are each fantastic.

Permalink Leave a Comment


7 March, 2010 at 9:18 pm (books, quote) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I was so happy to find this film, I just love Saki (H. H. Munro). The first thing I’m going to do with my new time machine is prevent him from returning to the front (he signed on as a foot soldier in the ‘Great War’ in his 40’s, and kept going back to fight even when considered too sick or injured to do so), and give him a long-lifetime supply of pens and ink.

I enjoyed hearing ‘The Open Window’ read on National Public Radio‘s ‘Selected Shorts’ years ago, it was a good pick for a short film. The Reginald stories are so incredibly funny, I wish someone would make some of them into a movie. Starring Johnny Depp. Somebody call him, quick!

Waldo is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death.

  • ‘The Feast of Nemesis’

Reginald sat in a corner of the Princess’s salon and tried to forgive the furniture, which started out with an obvious intention of being Louis Quinze, but relapsed at frequent intervals into Wilhelm II.

  • ‘Reginald in Russia’

Reginald closed his eyes with the elaborate weariness of one who has rather nice eyelashes and thinks it useless to conceal the fact.

  • ‘Reginald’s Drama’

Think how many blameless lives are brightened by the blazing indiscretions of other people.

  • ‘Reginald at the Carlton’

Reginald in his wildest lapses into veracity never admits to being more than twenty-two.

  • ‘Reginald’

We all know that Prime Ministers are wedded to the truth, but like other married couples they sometimes live apart.

  • The Unbearable Bassington, ch. 13 (1912)

Permalink Leave a Comment


30 October, 2009 at 12:08 pm (art, books, friends, life, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


These are details of one of the paintings in the stash that inspired Barbara Levine (former director of exhibitions, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) to write ‘Finding Frida Kahlo‘. The trunks of materials (diaries, letters, recipes, paintings, stuffed hummingbirds, and so on) have been called forgeries by some interested parties in Mexico (ArtSlant article, NY Times article, Christopher Knight’s take), and I am curious to see how this all plays out.

Detecting forgeries is a difficult art, because the science can be faked (although sometimes people are so sure of their ‘eye’ that they refuse to believe scientific evidence to the contrary, e.g. de Groot insisting that ‘Merry Cavalier‘ was by Frans Hals despite the fact that some of the paints used were not developed until long after Hals had died), and of course mistakes are made both ways (a collector of Rembrandt burned one of his paintings thinking it was a forgery, later it turned out it probably wasn’t).

Both those claiming these were Frida Kahlo’s belongings and those crying fraud have a stake in the outcome, influencing the way they see these pretties.


I do love Frida as a deer, a friend almost bought this version years ago, but didn’t, because it would have been a quite a stretch financially – of course looking back he thinks it would have been worth the sacrifice. So often in life it would be nice to have the benefit of hindsight ahead of time, eh?

Click the link below to see more:

“Finding Frida Kahlo” by Barbara Levine from Princeton Architectural Press on Vimeo.

Permalink Leave a Comment


7 November, 2008 at 9:05 pm (books, work) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Even though a huge variety of bits and pieces covers the shelves and fills the drawers of my workspace, of course this morning I needed something that was not here.  And somehow whenever I have to run errands the whole day disappears.  I hate that.

I’m listening to ‘People of the Book‘ while I work and the narrator, Edwina Wren, is fantastic.  I love science and history (and books) in novels, and a map that reflects the story is always welcome, so I’m looking forward reading more of Geraldine Brooks‘s work. A few dramatic bits in this narrative are predictable, which makes those parts slightly less enjoyable, but she carefully, casually puts in unusual details to make the different historical and geographical scenes distinct which makes people’s motivations clearer.  The part that is playing now is painful, listening to wartime hardships and the awful choices people are forced to make is so difficult.

Another good, challenging story along those lines is ‘Still Life With Animated Dogs‘.  Fierlinger tells his story in an unusual and effective way.

Although it was sad hearing that Studs Terkel died last week, it has been great listening to clips of his stories and interviews on NPR.  What an interesting man – I love how open and aware he was, like in this StoryCorps recording.  ‘Hard Times‘ was the first book of ‘oral’ histories I ever read, I loved it.

Permalink Leave a Comment