16 July 2018

Birthday cake

A simple recipe, a wartime recipe -

It's from a book published for the Royal College of Art's 150th birthday in 1987, and ever since then I've used it for many a birthday cake. A simple filling of whipped cream, a topping of seasonal fruit - wonderful! 

The recipe is rather strange - it uses vinegar and bicarb as leavening, rather than beaten eggs, and I found that adding the liquid ingredients to the dry ones produced a lot of lumps ... and by the time they were sorted, the fizz had rather died down. (Perhaps this is why it's called Gunpowder Cake?)
Thin layers, waiting to be stacked up
With a bit (!) of whipped cream, and the contrast of the redcurrants, it was definitely palatable, delicious in fact.

The occasion today was Tom's birthday; we had a "special family meal", as you do...  Portuguese Pork with Peppers is a favorite - tenderloin is cut into medallions and pounded thin, then marinated in a mixture (made in a pestle and mortar) of garlic, peppercorns, coarse salt, and olive oil.

First the meat is cooked (it's keeping warm, in the photo, over the baby potatoes) and then julienned red peppers are added - in the cup is wine, which gets added next, the meat returned, and all simmered for 10 minutes or so.

 A squirt of lemon juice finishes it off, and if you want to be fancy, thin lemon slices are the garnish.

Along with the little potatoes, serve with a green salad or a green veg. Simple and delicious.
Birthday boy

15 July 2018

Another gardening weekend

It's been three weeks since work on the T&G's back garden started in earnest (see early stages here). It feels like it's come a very long way in a short time!

Gemma brought back some plants from a garden centre she visited with her parents - Fatsia japonica variegata, a curly hydrangea, a jasmine, and a rescued honeysuckle -
 They had to sit in their pots for quite a while ... until this heap of leftover bricks could be moved -
 ... which happened on Saturday. But first, brunch in the sunshine -
Croissants from the supermarket, and home made fruit salad
The handmade bricks, 256 of them, are now for resale on ebay -
Frequent pauses -
 but by 5pm, trellis had been bought and put up, and the honeysuckle tied on -
The fatsia and the hydrangea were in the ground, and the eucalyptus (bought last year and still in its pot) had been moved from the front garden, ready for planting -
The extra boards are for redoing a section of the fence (see previous photo)
Three weeks after purchase, the purple calibrachoa has spread gratifyingly and is blooming profusely, and the echinacea is looking pretty good too -
There wasn't much to do on Sunday, apart from buying a gas barbecue and assembling it - and burning some meat on it, sort of an offering to the gods ...
One man and his barbie
Beyond the folding doors, in the new extension, is where the kitchen will be, one day. Meanwhile the garden really does function as a room, or rather, rooms - sitting room, kitchen, dining room. Storage, meanwhile, is in boxes in the most distant rooms - we retrieved plates and cutlery; if the weather holds, they'll be in great demand for barbecue dinners -

All this is quite a change from "the early days" - 55 weeks ago -

14 July 2018

Studio Saturday

Gosh another week gone, three sessions in the studio and a couple of hours every morning spent sewing new pots while catching up with favourite radio programmes and podcasts, including: 99% Invisible, Five Live Science, The Inquiry, In Our Time, The Living World, Words and Music - so many interesting things are available! 

I also have the earphones in during the walk between home and studio, but in the studio I like to pay attention to what I'm doing, because the dipping and "tidying up the pot" are still fraught with little problems to solve. Once the problems are all solved, it'll lose interest??

While sewing is in progress, at home, the new pots tend to spread over the table -
New coffee cup, among the pots-in-progress
Monday - These four have dried and the bases have been trimmed, but a few cracks need filling -
Large plastic bottles are proving very useful - firstly, for holding my cobbled-together suspension system for holding up the floppy pots till they've dried. The strings get suspended on the skewer, the pot is carefully balanced. Ah yes, first the height must be adjusted - tiles under the (weighted) bottle do that -
And the notebook is for trying to remember to Make Notes
 These were destined for dipping -
 and kept under plastic to dry more slowly, in hopes of preventing cracks -
Wednesday - the bubble wrap had stuck to the wet pot and left some texture - let's see what it looks like after firing -
These are all stitched up and went to the studio -
and some larger pots were destined for dipping -
 What happens if some of the fabric is wet - will the clay be thinner?
 Careful with placement of plastic -
Friday - what came out of the plastic was ...
 The strings are carefully removed and the excess clay is chipped off the base and smoothed away with a little sponge -
Sometimes some of the fabric appears in a ring round the base ... what will happen in the kiln, will it fall apart? -
 Today's candidates for dipping -
 Experiment in double-dipping, to try to get rid of a myriad of cracks -
 The fabric for this was a thick cotton; the thin silks dipped at the same time didn't develop cracks. So does the slip need to be thicker or thinner on the thicker fabric?

Another use for cut-down plastic bottles: to cover individual pots and slow down the drying -

Diversion - What on earth is this then? The thread snippings fell into what resembled a primitive horse, a winged horse (maybe reminiscent of this "geometric" style) -

13 July 2018

Painting course at Camden Arts Centre

Five weeks of Thursday afternoons, following on from a course last term. Looking back, what did I learn.... Mainly, to enjoy the painting process more, and to be freer with the materials, eg add collage.

Week 1, using gesso and washes -
Attractive drips (dilute acrylic on a canvas board)

... but wet on wet disperses so quickly!
 Adding collage elements - I'd brought some origami tissue paper and some travel lines, and pasted them onto my wash-and-blobs -
 ... using paint as glue. This is the paste paper, can't remember if I kept it or made myself throw it away immediately -
 Week 2 - viewing the Sadie Benning exhibition - the more I thought about it, the more intriguing it became -

then back to the studio to continue with our personal projects.

Week 3 - the life model. First we did two continuous-line drawings; for me the challenge was to assess the proportions and mentally mark out the paper (in the absence of any physical clues!), then keep to that. As you work down the page (if you decide to start at the top) there's less and less room left for legs and maybe none at all for feet...

She was wearing bright colours and our second task was to use coloured paper -
I really enjoyed the finger painting, even though the result is rather dominated by the flooring -

Week 4, back to our projects...  Personal project 1 - the panel - adding more collage elements (cut from an old magazine), glued down with paint, which I hoped would make interesting ridges around the edge of the shape -
 and some string -
 Ouch, hurts the eye doesn't it!

Out comes the white paint, and the end of the paintbrush is used to scrape through it -
 Slightly different treatment on the other side - and the tissue paper colour bleeds through the paint -
 Unifying the two halves -
Some final touches, including several more layers over that bleedin' tissue paper -

Project 2 - the envelopes - working towards a submission for A Letter in Mind fundraiser. My piece last year consisted of travel-lines spread over 6 envelopes that were done in one journey on the Victoria Line - the work of an hour - this was so simple but took a lot of agonised rejection of complicated stuff beforehand. This year, more agonised making and still no simple idea... The theme this year is "A Way with Colour".
Some I prepared earlier -

 And what happened when they got near gesso and/or white paint -

 A bit more paint ...
 Another idea (it didn't happen, but I'm enjoying the colours and shapes as redefined by the accidental shapes) -
 Quite a lot going on -
These little bits are from the paint chart made for a book fair in November 2015 - they were so pretty I couldn't bear to throw them out -
 Some envelopes, with some travel lines - and Matthew's crow -
 Another crazy collage idea -
 cut from an old magazine; the layers of colour on the pages are rather good -

Bringing it all together in the final moments of the class, for viewing-

 Matthew did demos -
Oil pastel + solvent = oil painting

Finger painting for adults (wear gloves)
 ...and had inspirational images available each week -
Chantal Joffre and Matisse, for the session with model

Bringing it all together - 

Must say I don't have a "favourite" among the items done in the course - the fingerpainting (top right) was fun and so was the collage (top left), and the collage on panel got overlayered many times. I have some red ric-rac and might glue that on over the red paint; possibly the ric-rac was in the back of my mind throughout ... there came a point, after the paint had gone on, that I started thinking of it as "the ric-rac piece".

In the collage, the green paper that I'd picked for background had that corner cut out so I decided it was a window, and some of the other shapes hide joins in that paper. Some fill the space, in the sense of connecting the figure and the window - but I didn't want it to feel cluttered. 

While cutting and pasting, I felt I was responding to what was happening, rather than trying to get a likeness of the model. Perhaps the change of activity (picking up and putting down the scissors, the glue) gave just that break that allowed for "seeing" the work at each stage, rather than working blindly on a preconceived idea. Perhaps when the painter picks up a different brush and loads it with a different colour, there's that "seeing" moment before the brush adds the colour, that chance to respond differently.

After the collage, we put on gloves and moved on to fingerpainting the model - that was very liberating! Again there's a lot of space around the model on my paper, and I think it might benefit from cropping. (Lesson: think about size and placement, next time....)

We also did line drawings, or rather we did those first in that session with the model. Quite quick exercises. One continuous line each, a change of pose in between. It was only when it was finished that I realised how wrong the proportions are - the continuous line keeps you intent on the drawing rather than the looking and adjustment that conventionally happens. With the continuous line you have to "make the drawing" rather than "get it right".