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Monthly Archives: August 2016

‘It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.’ Aesop.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

birdsI have spoken before about the surfeit of birds in my garden.  On any normal day I see dozens of them—magpies, noisy miners, wrens, sparrows, and pigeons along with their more colourful brethren—rosellas, lorikeets, galahs, King parrots, and even the occasional cockatoo.  And those are just the ones that frequent my garden.  If you go down to the end of the street and on to the river, then you have all the water birds—the waterfowl, the pelicans and the gulls.  There is just no getting away from them.  (I wouldn’t recommend you settle here if you suffer from ornithophobia . . .)

So when I found out that my art homework this week was to do several studies of birds I thought ‘You beauty . . . ‘ as I knew there would at least be plenty of subjects to choose from.  I didn’t expect the actual assignment to be easy though.  I have never even attempted to draw birds from life before for the simple fact that they are so beautiful, and so complex, I was sure I would never be able to do them justice. (That and the fact that they move too fast, and, of course, if they know you are watching them they move around even faster, just for spite.)  But I was willing to give it a go, and went and filled up the bird-feeder as enticement and sat down to wait . . .  and wait . . .  and wait . . .

So much for expectations.  I should have known better.  The word had obviously gone out that Sally would be out and about, sketchpad in hand, and so the birds had all got together and decided it would be a bit of a hoot (no pun intended) to stay away in droves.  Sigh.  I spent most of the weekend hovering by the kitchen window, peering out at the birdfeeder, waiting in vain.

Late on Sunday afternoon, just as the light was fading, one of my little rosella friends finally showed some mercy and came and sat for me for a while.  He even had the grace to look a little apologetic . . .

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Eastern Rosella

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.’ George Eliot.

nothing to sayI have nothing to say this week.  How sad is that?  (Well, sad to me, possibly not to you . . . )  Seriously, I have been sitting here for almost a full week (although at the moment it seems much much longer) fingers poised over the keyboard, determined to start my next post and . . . nothing.  Nada.  Not a single idea.  (Well—not a single idea that I think anyone else might be interested in reading.  I have been tired and cranky all week but I didn’t really want to write tired and cranky things here—there is enough of that in the world already.)

So, rather than berate myself, I am just going to acknowledge the fact and give myself a break (you could probably use a rest from me anyway) but I thought it only polite to let you know that nothing would be forthcoming today—just is case you thought I was being rude and ignoring you all.  (You don’t really think I would do that . . . do you?)

I don’t even have any new ‘artistic insights’ to share with you (I haven’t done my art class homework this week either—sigh—head drops to chest) but, by way of compensation (although I am not sure that is the right word) here is a quick sketch I did last weekend, before the malaise descended.  I hope it will suffice until I can drag myself out of the mire.  (A slow weekend of chocolate, wine and cuddles with my girls will work wonders I am sure . . . )

See you all next week.  X

P.S.
‘Word Count’ has just informed me that it has now taken 289 words to tell you I have nothing to say.
George Eliot must be turning in her grave . . . 

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Posted by on August 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Sometimes it’s best to hide in plain sight.’ David Estes.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

How cool would be it—to be able to change colour to match your surrounding like the chameleon?  

I could be in the office, getting on with my day, answering the phones, working on the database, dealing with the paperwork . . . but nobody would know I was even there.  

I might even be able to get just one job finished . . . 

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Posted by on August 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Manicures: Which are basically just holding hands with a stranger for forty-five minutes whilst listening to Enya.’ Miranda Hart.

manicureI have never had a professional manicure.  Not that I have anything against them—I love fancy nails and have myself worn artificial nails for years and years.  It’s just that there are so many great DIY products on the market now and I can’t see the point in paying to have someone else do my nails for me when I can quite easily do them myself.

wineAnd I have always enjoyed doing my own nails to tell you the truth.  I find it relaxing.  I usually do them on a Sunday evening, when the weekend is nearly over and I am ready to just sit for a while to get my head ready for another working week.  I gather all the necessaries around me (emery boards, false nails, glue, nail polish, glass of red wine . . . ) settle myself comfy in front of the telly and spend the next hour or so lazily buffing, gluing, polishing . . .  and sipping . . .

If I could only convince my girls that getting their own nails trimmed was something equally relaxing and pleasant to look forward to, but alas . . .

When the dogs were very tiny I decided I would take on the task of keeping their nails trimmed myself. I mean, how hard could it be?  I admit I was nervous using the clippers though, and worried about accidentally hurting them during the process—and they played on that fear from the start.  Maudie immediately developed an amazing ability to turn herself inside out and upside down with incredible dexterity, escaping my clutches with ease (and then dancing tantalisingly just out of reach and smiling smugly the whole time).  

barking dogsMabel, although not as strong as or wilful as Maude, developed her own guaranteed ‘release mechanism’—a series of ear-splitting shrieks loud enough to make your teeth ache (and which would also incite every other dog in the neighbourhood to start howling in sympathy).

Molly, by comparison, was a sweetheart.  She would quite happily roll over and let you work on her nails.  Unfortunately, she has miniscule black nails surrounded by black fur and most of the time I couldn’t even see her nails, let alone trim them.  It was just all too fraught. I started to look for alternatives.

getoverit‘Perhaps I could try emery boards instead?’, I thought.  The girls only have teeny-tiny feet and teeny-tiny nails, so why not?  HA!  Like that was ever going to happen.  The first time I tried to use an emery board on Mabel she looked at me as if I had gone stark-staring mad—and Maudie tried to kill it.

grinderA groomer friend of mine then gave me an electric nail-grinder to try.  She used it on all her dogs and thought it was great.  So I carefully read all the instructions, got it all set up and ready to go, turned it on  and . . . poof . . . the girls all disappeared as if by magic.  I found them all huddled together under my bed, and no matter how much I wheedled or cajoled they flatly refused to come out again.  Ever.  Sigh.  Okay.  I give in.  I know when I am beaten.

Dog-Chasing-TailSo from then on every six weeks it was off to the local Vet Surgery to get our nails trimmed.  It always starts the same way.  ‘Who wants to go in the car?’ is inevitably answered by a mad, joyous (and loud) rampage around the house, barking, running in ever-decreasing-circles and bouncing off the walls in their excitement.  I let them get on with it, quietly positioning myself by the back door, leashes in hand, and watch the birds at the birdfeeder until the madness abates.  Eventually they will all calm down and come and sit at my feet (although still emitting little wriggles and ‘yips’ of excitement, which I have to totally ignore because if I even look like I am going to smile they will get silly all over again).  I swear, it takes longer to get them all into the car than it does to actually drive to the Surgery.

The calm never lasts long either.  On arrival Mabel will suddenly realise where we are and push herself as far into the back corner of the car as possible, digging her little heels in and refusing to move.  Maudie will have already leapt out of the car and be dashing back and forth as far as her leash will allow, tangling everyone else up in the process, and Molly—well Molly just likes to make sure that everyone knows she has finally ‘arrived’.  She will puff herself up to twice her usual size, and begin to bellow . . . at the cars in the parking lot . . . and the plants in the garden . . . and the cat sitting on the Surgery step (who has heard it all before and is so not interested) . . . and once we get inside the Reception area she will gradually ramp it up a notch or two, just to make doubly sure that everyone in the back of the building knows she’s out the front . . . and waiting . . .

nailsHappily Gavin and the staff at CamVet are well used to such shenanigans and will brook no nonsense from three tiny dogs (kicking and squealing gets them no sympathy here) and we are usually in and out with our nails looking gorgeous in a very short time.

It’s a funny thing though.  Although I tell everyone that our six-weekly sojourn is worth every penny (and it really is) I can’t always shake the feeling in the back of my mind that somehow I’ve been conned.  How is it that I am so happy pay for my three little dogs to be professionally manicured on a regular basis but unwilling to do the same for myself?

Perhaps I’ll go put on some Enya and have a bit of a think about that . . .

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Everyone has two eyes but no one has the same view.’ Wael Harakeh.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

mr magooLast week’s homework from my ‘Seeing’ art class was to highlight the differences in how we see, what we see—and also what we don’t see—when we look at something really quickly as opposed to looking deeply and intently at the same object.  It was a ‘quick, quick slow’ exercise.  

The idea was to pick a ‘fairly complex’ object and to do a quick one-minute rough sketch of it in whatever medium we chose (I chose watercolour, just because it seemed easiest.  HA!  Shows you how much I know.)  Once the initial sketch was completed we were then to slow right down and to spend the next half an hour, longer if preferred, to really look at the object and to add in the detail on top of the original sketch—correcting it as we went. Sounds easy enough doesn’t it?  Mmmmm.  

Well, first of all I don’t really do ‘one minute sketches’, in pencil, watercolour or any other medium. Nothing I have ever drawn in one minute has ever looked even vaguely akin to what I was attempting to copy.  And this was no different.  In hindsight I didn’t really think through attempting to sketch a green plant in a green pot and I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised that I ended up with a fuddled green blur and not much else.  

But that was okay.  I had the detail to add yet and detail is what I like, so this should be easy—right?  Not so much.  Turns out that I actually found it quite difficult to look past my original sketch and not just ‘follow the lines’ that I had originally set down.  (Anyone else out there always taught to colour within the lines?  It’s a hard habit to break.)  

It took a couple of false starts but I eventually started to get the hang of it, although, as usual, the hardest part was knowing when to stop.  (Even now I want to go back and work on it some more.  I don’t like the pot . . . I’m not happy with the pot . . . Step away from the pen Sally—step away . . . )

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Posted by on August 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance.’ Samuel Johnson.

facebook-amigosA little while ago I overheard someone talking about the 200 friends who turned up to his recent birthday party.  200.  I am not sure I even know 200 people.  I wonder how many ‘FaceBook friends’ he has?  Probably thousands.  I have 26.  And some of those are friends-of-friends.  Now, if I could ‘Acquaintance’ people my numbers would undoubtedly soar . . .

peopleI am not a very social animal.  I have never felt the need to constantly surround myself with people (even online) and am happiest maintaining only a small group of good friends who know me well enough to not be continually offended by my propensity for spending most of my leisure time alone.  Although my close friends may be few, a recent odd encounter in the supermarket suddenly brought home to me the fact that over the years (and almost in spite of myself) I have actually managed to amass quite a large circle of acquaintances.

my-name-is11These acquaintances range through various levels. First there are the ‘nodding’ acquaintances—people I see almost every single day, and have done so since I moved to the area.  We nod, we smile, we occasionally say hello—but I don’t know any of their names.  (Nor do they know mine, although they might think they do.  I am ‘Sue’ to one old fellow and ‘Sandy’ to another.)

mr grumpyThis group includes people like ‘the sock guy’ (he always wears all black, except for wildly fluorescent coloured socks—this morning they were canary-yellow) . . . or the ‘lady with the hair’ (rain, hail or shine when out walking this woman always has a perfectly made up face and her hair immaculately done up in a French pleat topped off with a massive silk flower) . . . or the ‘grumpy old sod’ (need I say more?)  And I imagine if they were ever to have to refer to me I would probably just be ‘the lady with the three scatty little dogs’ . . .

Then there are those people I bump into on a semi-regular basis and whose names I actually know. People I stop and chat with when we meet—like my neighbours in the street where I live . . . or regular students who come in and out of the college . . . or Pat and Frank who live around the corner . . . Jo, Mary and Bob who I often see at the movies . . . or Diwho used to be ‘the lady in the flowery hat’ until we finally got around to formally introducing ourselves a couple of weeks ago . . .

dogfriendsAnd, of course, there are all our ‘doggie’ acquaintances, who are many and varied.  Old Harry and his tiny dachsund Rosie (she is half the size of my girls, and always manages to emanate an air of supreme indifference every time we meet).  Harry and I met years ago, started chatting and have continued to go on slow rambling wanders around the park with our dogs ever since. (And, to again prove that this is a very small town, in conversation we discovered that I now live in what was once Harry’s brother’s house.)

Paul and his dog Zoe and I met very early one summer morning when we rescued a young Tawny Frogmouth which had been injured in a storm the night before. (In truth Paul rescued the bird while I kept all the dogs from trying to eat it.)  Then there’s Sue and her boy Caesar-the-German-Shepherd, whose feet are bigger than Mabel’s head and whose booming ‘woof’ is loud enough to blow Maudie’s ears back from across the street.    Merv, Narla and Ty.  Bill and Jessie.  Phil and Rosie—and too many more to mention here . . .

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image17451479And, going back to that odd encounter in the supermarket, it appears I even have acquaintances I didn’t know I had.  I had gone into the supermarket to pick up a few things and was stopped by a woman who, smiling brightly, proceeded to tell me all about the fabulous cruise she had just been on.  We had a really nice chat. Lovely—except for the fact I had no idea who she was.  (‘Who IS this person?  Do I know her?  Should I know her?’)  I was at a complete loss. (Did she think I was someone else perhaps?)  I racked my brains. Nope.  Nothing.  We carried on chatting for a good ten minutes and she then went on her way, still smiling, and hopefully, none the wiser that I really had no idea who I was talking to . . .

snoopy&woodstocksAlthough somewhat bemused by the incident it did make me stop and think about all the people in and around my life.  (Perhaps I really do know 200 people after all.)  Although I cannot claim to know many of these myriad acquaintances well (or even at all it seems in some cases) I do now realise that every one of them, no matter how ephemeral, has value to me.  They are part of the fabric that holds my day-to-day life together and my life would be a sadder and lonelier place without them.  For that alone I think perhaps they deserve more of my attention and consideration.

I’m going to work on that . . .

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I always like toast in a crisis.’ James Goss.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

toast2This week one of my art homework exercises from SketchBookSkool was to draw toast.  Seriously. Toast.  But not just any old quick sketch of toast.  This was an exercise in slowing down.   (The class I am doing at the moment is called ‘Seeing’.)   We were to really look at that toast. Take our time.  Draw ‘every fissure . . . every nook and cranny . . . every peak and valley’.   Mmmmm . . . .

It turned out to be an interesting, and difficult, exercise.  The first problem I encountered was that I discovered it was extraordinarily hard to focus on drawing toast when all I really wanted to do was eat it.  I don’t think I had noticed before just how mouthwateringly good raisin toast smells.  I wasn’t even hungry when I started the drawing, but by the time I was finished (and the toast was cold and hard and horrid) I was ravenous.  Sigh.

Toast-B&WAnd then, as I progressed, I found that as I drew more and more ‘nooks and crannies, valleys and peaks’ the drawing started to look less and less like toast and more and more like random scribbles on a page (see right).  The teacher’s example of their black and white drawing was entirely recognisable as toast—mine less so.   (Although I admit, It looked a little more like toast when I added colour, and a lot more like toast after I added the lettering . . . )

Nevertheless, in spite of the result, I think I am going to try this approach again.  I really enjoyed the focus that it demanded—to really looking ‘inside’ what I was drawing.  I liked getting lost in the process.

Although perhaps next time I will try drawing something other than food.  I found looking up from the drawing and having my gaze drawn relentlessly to the three tiny little black noses stretched up and sniffing along the edge of the table really screwed with my concentration . . .

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 P.S.  The ‘toast in a crisis’ quote struck me as quite apt as the  SBS server crashed over the weekend and they have been madly scrambling doing upgrades and fixes trying to get it up and running again.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.’ Charles M. Schulz.

cleaningLast weekend with the weather as gorgeous as it was and being able to have all the doors and windows open again for a couple of days I found myself grappling with a serious urge to Spring-clean.  I wanted to take down all the heavy curtains and haul up the rugs and beat the winter out of them.  I wanted to scrub all the floors and clean all the windows and get into all the nooks and crannies.  I wanted to pull the heavy doona off the bed and throw on the summer linen.  I was even thinking about repotting some of my plants . . .

Happily, common sense prevailed and I did nothing of the sort. (I went out sketching and then to the movies instead.)  Spring is still (officially) a whole month away and the short burst of warm weather, although fabulous, was not quite enough to fool me into making any rash or impulsive cleaning decisions.  (Just as well.  The weather flipped overnight and the last two days have been non-stop torrential rain and howling winds. I would have been seriously pissed off if I had spent that whole precious weekend ‘de-winterfying’.  As it turned out all I felt was a bit smug—like ‘I knew that was going to happen’ . . . )

thinkingThe sudden bout of Spring Fever may not have lasted long enough to send me into a cleaning frenzy but it did get me thinking about how I was going to redecorate my house this year.  Because I redecorate my house every year.  Not by painting the walls, or resurfacing the floors or retiling the bathroom (I hear landlords can be a wee bit tetchy if you start doing these sorts of things to their properties) but by changing over winter curtains for lightweight floaty ones, rolling up and hiding away rugs, swapping dark cuddly cushions for summer brights—and just a little bit of general ‘titivation’.

piles-of-fabric-clipart-1I have always kept several (as in ‘more than two but fewer than many’) sets of curtains, ‘throws’ and cushion covers (not to mention doona covers, bed linens and towels) in varying colours, styles and patterns (the wannabe ‘minimalist’ in me is now banging her head silently on the wall) so changing over the whole look of my house can usually be done quickly and at minimal cost.  All it takes is an afternoon of delving into cupboards and drawers, dragging out things that I had forgotten were even in there (so much fun) and then swapping things over and moving things about—with possibly only the tiniest little bit of shopping involved.  (You know—just to fill in the gaps to pull a new look together . . . )

If I sound like a person who might like to watch the odd lifestyle or home renovation program on occasion, you’re absolutely right.  I love them.  Everything from the 60-minute-makeovers, all the way up to those shows where they spend weeks and weeks renovating and rebuilding properties.  You can learn a lot from these shows—including a lot of what not to do.  But although I love these programs I also struggle to understand why someone would willingly hand over the keys of their home to someone they barely know and say ‘Go ahead.  Make over my house.’   The actual building or renovation work maybebut the decoration?  That I don’t get.

img059I am a homebody, I admit it.  I like my home.  I like spending time at home and I like having my own things around me.  My things. Things that mean something to me.  The furniture and furnishings that I chose (ever-present dog hair notwithstanding).  The photos of people I know and the places I have been.  The artwork on the walls.  My books and ornaments.  Harry and Frank’s old dog collars hanging on a hook . . .

I am sure somebody with more design flair and an eye (and credit card) for more hi-end furniture and decor might well be able to turn my humble little house into a much flashier abode.  They could also probably (okay, for sure) make me appear much more interesting and exciting than I really am.  But then it wouldn’t be my home would it?  It would not be a true reflection of the person that I am.dogonrug

And when it comes down to it, surely that is what your home should be—a reflection of you, your family, your friends and the things you love.

Who better to decide on its decoration than you yourself?

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.’ Paul Klee.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

sunshineWe’ve just had the most stunning winter weekend.  The sun shone, the skies were a cloudless blue and the temperature went up to about 23 degrees (73F) both days.  I had all the doors and windows open hoping to lure some of the warmer air into the house.  (It’s freezing in the house—long sleeves and woolly socks inside, short sleeves and no socks outside.  Crazy.) The girls and I went for a long walks in the sunshine both morning and evening and it really felt like Spring was on the way.

(It isn’t of course—not quite yet.  The weather bureau tells us that we are expecting rain later today and the temperature is also set to drop 10 degrees, so this was just a short burst of winter warmth trying to lull us into a false sense of security. )

CafeThe weather was so nice I decided to take myself out of doors to do some sketching. This is not something I am entirely (or even at all) comfortable with.  I think I have said before that although I don’t mind walking in it (the outdoors I mean)—in fact I quite like it—my ideal outdoor experience is preferably an alfresco coffee shop, under an umbrella, in the shade, with a ‘Plan B’ to go inside if it gets too hot . . . or too cold . . . or there are too many flies . . .

watching-youI am also not at all comfortable with people watching me draw—even if they are not really watching me at all (which in truth they rarely are—it just feels like they are).  When I see fabulous drawings from artists who have sketched inside coffee shops or concert halls or at public events I always think how great it would be to do the same, but I just haven’t been able to work myself up to it.  (Yet.)  I need to get over myself.

So I decided I would start small, and packed up my sketchbook and a couple of pens and pencils and went in search of something to sketch.  I found myself a quiet corner of the local park where no one could see me (which was a feat in itself as there were people everywhere) and did a couple of quick sketches of some of the plant life I found lying around. I know I could just as easily have taken these bits and pieces home with me to draw, but I didn’t (one small step for man, or at least Sally . . . ) so it was definitely a ‘step’ in the right direction and I eventually came home quite puffed up and pleased with myself at my little outing.

And then I walked in the front door to be confronted my three cranky little dogs who did not care one whit that I had just had a bit of a sketching breakthrough but were very keen to let me know that going to the park without them was really not something they were willing to tolerate on a regular basis.  Sigh.

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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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