Monday, September 26, 2011

what do animals mean to you?

I have been thinking about what constitutes 'refuge' and I always come back to animals and the environment. Birds have always meant a lot to me. There is something wonderful about creatures that fly through the air and nest in trees!!  The idea of a 'tree of life' is a psychological refuge for me, and birds,quite visibly, traverse and occupy that place.

pencil drawing
under painting 
pastel painting, nearly complete

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to make sourdough bread

or, how to go from starter to loaf in 2 weeks!
A couple of weeks ago I decided that I wanted another sourdough starter. When the girls were younger I kept a sourdough starter for 12 years, which was given to me by a woman living on a remote community in the Northern Territory (Haasts Bluff, we were living in Papunya), and she had had it for 6 six years. 
At some point I stopped making so much bread and let the poor sourdough, die. 

So I mixed a cup of white flour and a cup of water together and put them in a glass jar and covered it with a piece of clean cloth. Every couple of days I stirred the mix, poured half of it away and added another cup of flour and cup of cold water. After a few days it started to bubble up...

If I found a layer of darkish water on top of the mix I poured it off first, then stirred etc...

After a couple of weeks I decided that it was time to try out the sourdough on a loaf of bread. 
This is what I did;
I put these ingredients in a bowl,
1 cup of sourdough
I cup of water
3 cups of wholemeal flour (I used Kialla stoneground, organic flour, very yum)

Then I stirred, then kneaded the mix until it was a firm and smooth enough dough to knead on the board. The wholemeal flour absorbs a lot of moisture so the mix got firmer as a stirred.
Then I put it on some white flour on my kitchen bench and kneaded for about 6 minutes. Recipes always say to knead for 15 minutes but I can't do that. It hurts my shoulders.

Then I covered the bowl with a clean cloth and let the dough rise for about three hours. Unfortunately I didn't think to get a photo of that, but it about doubled in size. Then I punched it down, kneaded it on the bench again (more white flour) for a few minutes and then put it into an oiled souffle dish.

Here is what came out of the oven.
This is what we did with it.

 a fine crumbed, moist loaf

Sourdough bread is the best toast in the universe. I like mine well done :-)  And yes, that is homemade marmalade. The best orange and ruby grapefruit marmalade in the universe.
 Max didn't have marmalade, or burnt edges. She says that she likes the word marmalade, and she likes marmalade cats, but she doesn't like to eat it. Meh.

Best afternoon tea. Only problem is the loaf didn't last long and now I need to make another one. Just as well the sourdough is bubbling along politely by the sink.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to paint a tree....

I have painted this picture three times so far and am still working on resolving the foreground. I had thought that painting the main trees would be the problem, but it turns out that it is the elements of the picture that I hadn't really focussed on initially which are causing me the greatest difficulty.

I did a 'plein air' watercolour of the trees in Tasmania, then worked from my watercolour sketch and photos to do a black and white charcoal drawing to get some idea of tonal values. I find this a difficult concept to work with because I don't want my paintings to look like photographs (which can be the effect of trying to do a tonal picture from a black and white photo) but I want them to transport the viewer into the scene - which means having tonal values which are 'real' enough to convince the viewer, unconsciously, that the image they are looking at is possible (in a 'through the looking glass' sense).

Ah, the fun and games!

How am I going?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

one scene, three interpretations

I very much enjoy painting a scene quickly on site, then coming back to the studio and repainting, from my painted sketch. The original is a watercolour and the  other two are ink and watercolour on rice paper. This is a very free and immediate interpretation. Working on rice paper allows for no repainting or changing of the mind!   I might not be happy with any of these paintings tomorrow, but for today they have provided me with some interesting and enjoyable explorations.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On pursuing a creative dream..

Eleven weeks ago I resigned from my teaching job so that I could pursue a long held dream to work as a visual artist. I have been a drawer and painter for many years but never felt that I had the time or energy to really push myself to see how far I could take it. So, after visiting an exhibition of the work of William Robinson in Queensland, I finally decided that now was the time to leap off the end of the pier and do it.
Naturally I have given a lot of thought to all of this and was interested to find an article (Meanjin, winter 2010) by Ben OMara entitled 'This Is Not a Hobby', about his work as a writer and the kinds of thinking and doing that are involved in him being a writer. It is a very thoughtful and honest piece I think and I loved this quote from writer Thom Cho 'Can I complete my next book? I honestly don't know and of course, at present, there is no decisive evidence to say that I will.' If I substituted 'painting' for the word book, this comment would describe my own situation exactly. It is all 'out there'. But that is part of the thrill, the things waiting to be revealed, discovered.
The Pryor tree, National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tidbinbilla and rocks and clouds.

I drove to Tidbinbilla this morning and did this quick sketch. Quick because it turned out to be a longer drive than I expected and also because I got distracted having a look at the deep space station, so I only had forty minutes of painting time before taking a long drive back home to meet my daughter for lunch.
It was a lovely drive though, so much beautiful country. We are very lucky here in Canberra, to be able to drive for 15 minutes in any direction and find ourselves in the bush!

The sky was very blue with lots of big clouds pushing their way around and casting odd shadows over the hillside. I love the country out Tidbinbilla way because of the rocks. I love rocks.

I had two lovely treats today. Lunch with Em and then afternoon tea with gorgeous work buddies at Adore Tea in Gold Creek. The best tea and treats there, and it is hard not to buy something charming from the shop.