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My life is currently all about getting ready for the pub's first art fair next weekend - the Mad March Fair. If you aren't planning to come and could make it down, please consider it! Sussex is only an hour and a bit from London or Brighton on the train, and we'll have lovely foods, real ales and live folk music as well as arts and crafts by awesome people. Confirmed exhibitors/collaborators so far include Deirdre Ruane, Nikki Tompsett, Lucy Kennedy, Ailbhe Leamy, JV Mallory, Ara McBay, Lynnette Jackson, Laura Clark, Sam Kelly, Andrew May, Catriona Mackay, Laura Jayne Kemsley, Joldine Moate, James Hooker, Gemma Wells-Colyer, Pauline Louch, and moi.

The big messy making weekender I hosted t'other week (a trial run at the sort of art and crafts workshop I want to put on at the pub) went brilliantly - here's a write up with loads of photos if you're interested. We produced an astonishing amount in the time available, including several collaborative paintings (my first in a while - always something I find hugely energising) and I'm really proud of what we achieved.

Since we started planning the pub arts programme back in January, I've been motivated to spend my minimal spare time trying to produce a few more paintings to show at the fair, some smaller pieces to complement the bigger ones I already have.

Paintings so far this year! )
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I've had a couple of people round for dinner lately, and have been rocking the rice-based dishes.

Paella )



Butternut squash and goats cheese risotto )

Since I moved into the Snug, I've taken great pleasure from making my own stock. Someone on LJ ([personal profile] ailbhe?) shared an as-you-cook way of doing this which is pleasingly non-wasteful. When cooking, you save all your vegetable peelings, onion skins, carrot tops, pepper seeds, unused leaves in a bag in the freezer. This keeps for ages, so you can just keep adding to it. It starts to break down in the freezer, so when you open it it already starts to smell like stock. When you have enough (a bag the size of a bag of frozen peas), tip the lot into a stock pan and cover with boiling water. Add a quartered onion, a couple of sticks of celery, fresh rosemary, parsley and thyme if you have them, black peppercorns and salt. Boil it until the liquid is brown, then leave to simmer for an hour or so. The longer you cook it the stronger the stock will be. If you want stronger stock, leave the lid of the pan off and boil it to reduce. When you're happy, drain the stock into tupperware tubs and put the puply vegetable mash in the compost bin. The stock can then be frozen in tubs or ice-cube trays to make stock cubes.

helenic: (citylights; car window)

The delightful [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard came round for dinner on Friday night. I've wanted to paint her for a while (ever since I saw this photo of her, in fact), and the original plan was to invite her and [livejournal.com profile] wildeabandon for dinner! wine! gossip! painting! (I figured that sitting for me would be less dull with someone to talk to.) Except [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard had a headache, and then I didn't finish cooking until about 10pm¹, and then [livejournal.com profile] wildeabandon left and I was drunk and tired and we decided to do the painting the next day.

This was a brilliant plan. It worked out perfectly. I very rarely spend the day at home, cooking and drinking tea and fussing the cat and pottering. It was really really lovely. I had long chats with [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard, we had a delicious breakfast of muesli with banana and strawberries, and then an even more delicious lunch of all the leftover roast vegetables from the night before chopped up with pasta and pesto and grated cheese. And I discovered that the local cornershop sells real beer! How did it take me this long to discover this? Anyway, they have Fullers ESB Champion and Honeydew in the fridge for £1.90 a bottle, and I had some with lunch, because it was a sunny Saturday at home and I could.

The sunlight was perfect: [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard obligingly posed on my bed, bathed in light, and we chatted a bit while I painted. I kept meaning to take regular breaks but we'd suddenly realise half an hour had passed without me noticing. [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard was brilliant at sitting and didn't complain even though her wrist and back were killing her. I painted her in about four half-hour sittings, possibly slightly longer.



Persephone
28" x 18", watercolour on Chinese watercolour paper


Again my inclination was to shade with colour rather than black/white, although until it dried I had no idea the blue was that intense. I'm pleased with this. The anatomy is somewhat lacking - I've made her spine about six inches shorter than it needs to be - but I was having difficulty fitting her on the paper anyway, and if you didn't know she was taller it wouldn't necessarily be noticable. Given that I sketched in the hands and arms at the last minute while [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard desperately waited for me to finish so she could rest her screaming wrists, I'm quite pleased with how they turned out. I've never done proper skintones in watercolour before and it was fun.

In fact, the whole thing was fun. I had someone to talk to: I had a beautiful naked woman to admire. Having a sitting model forced me to work fast and efficiently; I didn't procrastinate (although we took leisurely tea breaks), didn't fuss, didn't dawdle and didn't get bogged down in perfectionistic detail. I could never, never have painted this in four hours from photos. At least, I don't think so; watercolour is faster than oils so maybe it's the medium that makes the difference. But this was fun. I want to do it again. I want to try to do a life-painting session like this regularly if I can, making space for it properly, with a model all to myself and enough time to do them justice. I've already agreed with [livejournal.com profile] cyrus_ii that we should aim to do art together every week, so that when one or the other of us inevitably cancels we'll end up doing it about once a fortnight, which is about right. I don't think I'm up to organising a group life painting session (and I don't have the space) but trying to do something like this twice a month or so would definitely be good.

wittering about materials/technical difficulties )



1. It was good though. Garlic bruschetta with pesto and cream cheese; heaps and heaps of roast mediterranean veg drizzled in herbs and olive oil and balsamic vinegar (OMG courgettes: I always forget how nice they are. Also sweet peppers, mushrooms, red onion); cannelloni stuffed with feta and spring greens chopped and cooked in garlic and pesto; lots of garlicy tomato sauce; salad with cherry tomatoes and fresh spinach leaves.

Making the cannelloni was less easy than it looked: first I wasted a whole bunch of lasagne sheets by cooking them stuck together and not being able to separate them without tearing them to bits; then [livejournal.com profile] wildeabandon patiently softened each one for me in boiling water and olive oil and I still had trouble making the rolls without everything falling apart. I had some of the leftover cannelloni and sauce with olives and LOTS of salad tonight though, and mmmmmm good food with fresh ingredients. I should do that more often. Next time I make the cannelloni though I will use goats cheese, and probably mushrooms or spinach instead of greens. Greens are cheap and good for you but not as tasty, and even cooked they were a bit tough and stringy to be a good pasta filling. Possibly I should have steamed them rather than stir-frying them.

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