Monday, April 26, 2010

Raw Like Sushi

Whenever we walk into Takahachi, our favorite local restaurant, the chefs behind the sushi bar hail us up, bump fists with the King and then
say, "So whose birthday is it tonight?" 

We're not high rollers and rarely eat out - I know my way around the
kitchen and the king is a first-rate chef -
 so we're happy to eat in 95% of the time. But if we 
can find a good reason to celebrate, whether it's a birthday, an anniversary, first
day of school or last day of school (!), a special holiday, any excuse to treat ourselves to a night out, we head straight to our cozy
Japanese favorite on Avenue A. 
Last month, our youngest and I both shared the honor since our birthdays are just 3 days apart. This past week, she and I both pointed to the King. 
Much laughter and hailing up from behind the sushi bar. And a conspiratorial whisper to me about what they might prepare as a special treat.

We've been treating ourselves to a meal at Takahachi since our girls were
babies, holding them on our laps at the sushi bar, enjoying a few hot sakes or the occasional cold sake-in-a-wooden-box. I could eat sushi  5 times a week but the King, well, that's another story. 

As much as he prefers Takahachi to any other restaurant in the East Village,
he won't go near the raw fish. Won't even consider it.
"Mi teenk mi gwan troh up, if mi eat dat." Charming. Nevermind then.

So his favorite restaurant is a sushi bar. But he won't eat the sushi. That
makes about as much sense as anything else in our family.  Pour another hot sake and throw some more chicken yakitori on the fire, it's the King's birthday!

Our youngest took some photos, natch. Her dad chose to try out the new jacket
we bought him -- a commemorative World Cup South Africa 2010 Adidas with a beautiful illustration on the back. 

Let's see, Mother's Day is just around the corner -- we'll be back.....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

All Quiet on the Western Front

4" x 6"   "All Quiet On the Western Front", oil on gallery-wrapped canvas

I spent several hours this weekend working on some small oils, mostly some prosaic
landscapes. The occasional coconut, of course.  The above painting is a view of a
deserted Negril Beach with slightly stormy seas -- a rare sight.
This beach is usually crowded with tourists and the seas typically have as
much wave action as your bathtub.

As far as the other  paintings I started? Nothing too earth shattering,
just some pretty views and a good way to loosen up with oils.
And avoid the several large portraits looming,  virtually staring 
at me, from my studio walls. They need my attention but I've been avoiding the challenge.

These small landscapes give me some immediate gratification. Sometimes I am
just such a lazy painter. I want to paint and have it finished and DONE. 
And soak up the satisfaction on the spot.

But no great thing is created suddenly.

Oils demand waiting time to dry in between layers. Watercolors move so much
more quickly, I've become spoiled. Marks made are marks played, washes of color dry in 
a few minutes, ready for the next. Oils? Not so much.

Patience is not one of my virtues.

The above painting is the only one I consider finished. Here are a few more
in various stages of completion. I juggled several at once, moving on to
another when one simply became too wet and layered with paint
to make any more changes.

Here's another beach view, in stages, from the opposite direction.This
one will have still waters and a handful of figures. It is also 4" x 6".

Next step.......
Going to let this one sit and dry for a few days before I go back to it.

Here is yet another beach view,  IN PROGRESS -- note the big white blob in
the center - which is waiting for me to add some chaise lounges. This is
slightly larger, 6" x 8" on canvas board. My youngest daughter has
first dibs on this one when it is finished:

And, shocking surprise, I worked on some coconuts. I dragged out an
older painting which had just pissed me off and frustrated me. It's an
8"x10" canvas. I last left it in this dreadful state:
I decided to really change it up, use a palette knife and slather on
the bright colors. The coconuts have gotten a little misshapen and
lumpy in the process, but I like the direction it's heading:

 Hard to get a good photo without the lights causing the wet oil to glisten
and create some glare. Here's another shot from the side:

It's funny but I've found that taking photos of these helps me see
the problems I've inadvertently created for myself. I can refer to
an earlier stage of the painting, some of which was correct, and
see where I went down the wrong road and adjust.

I started another painting of the same bunch of coconuts but on a
smaller 4"x6" canvas:

First stage, blocking in shapes:

Then slathering on the high key colors, primarily with a palette knife, but 
the coconuts got lumpy and misshapen again. I just don't
have the control with a knife that I would like:

I mixed these two photos in Photoshop
to see where I lost some of my definition:
It helped me see where I have to define the forms more when I go back to it. 

Well, that was a lot accomplished in one weekend. Or, better said, 
at least I got a lot started. I'll be adding these small oils to my Etsy shop
as soon as they are finished and fully dry. They'll be a nice,
affordable alternative to the other items for sale. 

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Family Affair

Daughter does the reading, mommy does the drawing and
daddy does the grilling. 

That would be a Clique book, a watercolor sketchbook
and roasted salmon wtih spicy shrimp. Best afternoon this week.

Maybe spring has finally arrived.........

Friday, April 16, 2010

Published - Harvest Magazine

I just received this copy of a new independent literary magazine in the mail today, all the way from Melbourne.

Several months ago I was contacted by the publishers
of this literary magazine from Australia -- they inquired about using
one of my portraits to illustrate a short story for the upcoming
issue of their quarterly magazine.
I submitted a few choices and they selected this one, a portrait I 
painted of a friend of ours from Negril, Jamaica. 

I'd originally posted that portrait here on the blog 
over three years ago, with a story entitled "Heard it Through The
Seagrape Vine." Interestingly enough, it was used to illustrate
a story about a young man living in Brixton in the U.K. 
I was thrilled to see that they used the 4" x 6" image as a
full-page illustration to accompany the story, approximately 8" x 10." I just got
my copy of the magazine in the mail this week.

You can read more about Harvest here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sag Harbor

The Bay in Sag Harbor, 10" x 5" watercolor in sketchbook

We got out of town this weekend and spent time with friends
at their lovely weekend home in Sag Harbor. Sunny but cool,
it was a treat to get out
of the city. I finally broke out my
sketchbook and painted this
watercolor (above) one afternoon on the bay.

I was a little rusty. I spent the first few hours warming up by
simply drawing my coffee cup over and over again, as I sat outside
on the terrace:

I started with just an ink pen (far right, below) and also some
Faber-Castell Big Brush pens (left and center, below) to
fill out the form of the cup.

It was a good warm up, just drawing the same simple
form over and over again. And then I added
some color, using my
small travel watercolor set:

Just a simple series of drawings but they loosened me up enough
to tackle the beach landscape.

I'd invested in a travel watercolor kit, just 6"x4" in size,
with collapsible brush. When brand new, they look like this:

After a few hours of painting, however, mine now looks like this:

Worth the mess. I think I"m going to try and use this kit and
sketchbook during my
lunch hours at work, now that the sun
has begun to shine in NYC.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Wall to wall Part 2 - and yeah, my walls are indigo

As promised, and in response to an email asking me,
"What do you hang on your walls, Victoria?"
I'm sharing a look at more of our home in the East Village.

Well, it should come as no surprise that the first thing we hang
on our walls is COLOR.
(You can see the first look-around here.)

So Let's move upstairs, where a deep indigo rules.......

The first photo, above, is taken at the top of the stairs, looking
towards the children's computer/DVD space
(no real tv) and work room beyond

The walls in the main open area/master bedroom are a deep indigo. My husband groused about it at first -- "mi no like eeh. I' look black." But when the lighting is right, both daylight and incidental lighting, it is a rich hue, and the perfect backdrop for more photos and art. It's deep, inviting and embraces you.

To the rear of the space is the workroom, where the
girls cut loose --they can dribble glue, spill paint,

spray glitter and generally unleash
their creative whims without worry. The space is the former
kitchen of our original one-level, 2-bedroom apartment
(we've expanded into the 2-bedroom unit below)
and the tile floor remains, the perfect surface for creative kids.

And a neurotic mother.

I wanted the kids to be inspired in that narrow space.
So we took a trip to Ikea and easily furnished the room with tables,
chairs, bookshelves and an overhead light, all at a reasonable cost
(it's for a good
time, not a long time, to quote Kid Shilleen).

And then I really got inspired.

I re-created a Matisse painting,
The Wine Press, on the long
wall facing the tables.

I turned the reference image, which I grabbed online, on its side:

and then drew a grid on both the reference image and the
wall in order to scale up
the shapes.

Because the room is so narrow, I can't take a good pic of
the entire wall straight on. I think you can get an idea of how
faithful it is to the original by this section:

For the far end, smaller wall, I simply made up a
Matisse-like abstract shape to fill the wall. This is a close up:

Now pulling further back, with the open master bedroom behind me -
again, a wall full of art work, photographs and sentimental souvenirs:

Starting from the back, here is a close up/reverse view
of another one of my favorite pieces -

an original 1940s travel poster, printed in the UK, for South Africa.
I picked it up for a few dollars at a flea market in
Rhode Island over 20 years ago, before the end of apartheid -

It's not in mint condition. There is some visible water damage and staining
through the
letters "S" and "A". I'll never forget the look on the
framer's face when
I insisted upon having it preserved in a
a high quality frame - she thought I was a fool.
She didn't recognize it's ironic and historic
value at the time and
thought the frame was worth 10x more than the poster.
The tables, as in much of African history, have decidedly turned.

Land of Sunshine and Adventure indeed --- the illustration is
beautiful. An "Ndebele Girl", from "Transvaal."

Further on down the line, a quintessential Providence, Rhode Island
poster by the infamous "Mad Peck Studio".
It sums up Providence for just about anyone who has ever lived there.

Here's a special series of captures for my Providence friends who I know read my blog regularly -- each panel is true, no? Literally and metaphorically......

Next up -- a beautiful soft sculpture tapestry, entitled "Selva", or
"Jungle," which I bought in Peru while traveling in the Amazon in the late '80s.
These hand-sewn tapestries were piled waist deep at the outdoor markets,
each depicting a different local scene. I dug deep to find one that
highlighted the Amazon jungle, my favorite.

Here's a close up -

Of course, our children's creations occupy central real estate. I've found
it so hard to pick and choose among favorite pieces
that it's often best to include several in a
collage of art work and photos......

Lastly, another flea market find -- a hand tinted photograph from turn-of-the-century Paris, or so it seems. I dont' know much about this photographer ("Reublinger, Paris") nor this particular subject.

But I thought she was sublime.....

Ok, that about does it, with the exception of our
children's rooms and the loo! I'll respect our kids' privacy
and say only that one bedroom is painted in lime,
the upstairs loo is a deep fuschia, and the other child's bedroom
is painted in a rich coral.
Sort of like these colors:

Hope you've enjoyed this abbreviated tour. I haven't shown you ever nook and cranny nor item hanging on the wall but it's a good representation of how we live.
Back to drawing and painting. I have some lovely sketches I
made in Battery Park this week to share with you........

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Jamaican Easter Bun and Some-Would-Call-It-Cheese

A bredren surprised us early this morning with the delivery of one Jamaican
Easter Bun and the requisite slab of "cheese".

"Happy Easter, Veektoddyah," he said, as he handed over the heavy dark
brick loaf of glistening bun. The surfeit of molasses in your average Easter Bun
gives it a perpetual sheen. Kind of like an oil slick. He then handed over a
half-circle slab of melon-colored cheese, wrapped tightly in saran wrap.

It was a sweet gesture, really, even tho' Easter Bun is not really my cuppa tea,
so to speak. The loaf is much like a traditional North American
Christmas Fruit Cake -- dark and dense, with pieces of minced dried fruit. The
dessert that seemed to show up every holiday but one which I hardly
ever recall seeing anyone eat. It was not unusual for one Fruit Cake to make
multiple appearances over the holidays, being shuttled from one party to the
next. The ultimate culinary re-gift.

But Jamaicans love their Easter Bun. And cheese.

Don't get me wrong. I love Jamaican cooking. Thanks to the King, we have some
variation of Jamaican cuisine 5 days out of every 7. But I draw the line at
traditional Jamaican "cheese." A pale orange, slightly spongey, it is reminiscent
of Velveeta. Or what the government would call "cheese food." It smears nicely
on top of a dense piece of Easter Bun, providing a nice pseudo-dairy
counterpoint to the sweet, syrupy molasses of the bun.

Or so they say.

As for me, I say pass me the manchego with dried fig and a piece of toasted
walnut bread....and whatever you got in your Easter basket, sweetie.