Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review - Smilla's Feeling for Snow

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Were you aware that the Eskimos or Inuit people of Greenland have many different words to describe snow?  Just as English uses a variety of terms for water eg: (liquid, lake, river, brook, rain, etc), so Eskimo uses the aput 'snow on the ground', gana 'falling snow', piqsirpoq 'drifting snow', and qimuqsuq 'a snow drift to name just a few. The intimate connection or “feeling” for the characteristics of the harsh arctic landscape is central to the story of crime, intrigue, and romance in “Miss Smilla’s feeling for Snow”.
 Like Greenland, the central character Miss Smillais cool, distant and reserved and gives off this feeling of loneliness. Growing up in the Arctic environment means that Smilla is a strong woman who struggles with trusting anyone, but who has also developed certain skills that enable her to solve a murder Police are convinced was as ‘accident’. A young boy falls from the roof of an apartment building in central Copenhagen. Did Isaiah jump or was he pushed? Secondary to the intriguing plot is the relationship between Danes and Greenlanders and it is an area that Høeg considers in this novel. The reasons for Smilla’s reserved nature slowly develop throughout the book by revealing pieces of her childhood in Greenland amidst the Inuits and the different social backgrounds from which each of her parents come.
“This novel is more of a feeling than anything else. Feeling of coldness, blinding whiteness and some fantastic warmness in between the two. It’s like a journey to far North where nothing but your senses remain. It’s as if you are sitting on Smilla’s coach wearing warm woollen socks and drinking hot cup of tea while contemplating the snowflakes whirling outside the window and feeling the intense cold of the winter.” (review)
Høeg’s novel was so surprisingly popular, it was made into a motion picture in 1997 starring Julia Ormond but unfortunately his subsequent novels aren't in the same vein. Still the success of the 'Smilla' movie and novel is something we could ponder about. Hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Telemark Rosemaling Tutorial

This weekend marks the 140th anniversary of a Scandinavian Association or club in this state. To mark the occasion, there is a street festival tomorrow and I have been given charge of a craft stall. Being primarily a painter, I have been busy preparing some items for sale. I decided to share the development of a Telemark Rosemaling project with you.
Telemark Rosemaling is the traditional painting of Norway. It reached its zenith in the early 20th Century after Norwegian independence, when a revival movement popularised everything that was Norwegian. It origins date back to religious art forms and the acanthus leaf. In the isolation of the Norwegian countryside, these new fart forms slowly developed  into an individual style that differed according to the valley or regions from whence they came. Examples include: Telemark, Rogaland, Hallingdal and others.
Telemark is characterised by free flowing, dynamic scrollwork, and asymmetrical designs.  A good introduction to Rosemaling is found in Aarseth's Rosemaling Designs, by Sigmund Aarseth. You will also find a free pattern and project on my website:
I painted a wooden Rubbish bin and  I will include a small tutorial on painting and designing freehand.

Telemark Rosemaling Tutorial
You will need:
Acrylic paint
Prussian Blue
Smoked Pearl,
Warm White
Filbert or flat brush, about 1/4- 1/2"
Good liner brush, say size 1 or a Quill liner
Sandpaper #400 - #600
Wooden piece
Palette: I make mine disposable for acrylics, by wetting some ordinary kitchen paper towel and squeezing it so it is damp, and wrapping greaseproof paper over the top.
Step 1. Basepaint piece chosen colour scheme. I picked Jo Sonja's Prussian blue and lightened it down with a creamy colour ( JSonja acrylics Smoked Pearl) Two coats. Allow to dry.
Step 2. With non powdery chalk or chalk pencil, chalk in some guiding points, like the root of the design and outside border. If you don't want to paint freehand, you could chalk in the main scroll lines and use a outline for the flowers. Once you get the hang of the shape of the flowers, and what your brush can do, then you can simply mark an x for where the flower will go and its orientation.
You will find a short video here:

N.B.When designing, keep in mind Balance of shape, size and element. If you divide the design in quarters, there should  be a part of the major elements in each. Each quarter should have an equal measure of postive and negative space. Look at the design upside down to distract your left brain from interpreting, giving you a fresh eyes to see any design faults.
Step 3. Load a filbert ( flat with rounded tip) or flat brush in size appropriate to the width you want the scroll to be in darkest value, on ONE EDGE ONLY. In this case: Prussian blue. On the opposite edge, load Warm white or your lightest value. Flatten the brush on the palette so that the colours mix. Repeat.
Step 4.  Begin painting the scroll from the top down, applying pressure as you go, so the brush widens, and releasing pressure as you near the end of the scroll, as this will narrow the stroke at the design root.
Step 5.  Repeat the stroke if needed, and add extra shade ( the darkest value) on the outside of the scroll, to enhance the contrast. Be careful: Acrylics dry quickly and you may need to use a retarder medium to slow the drying time, giving you more time to play with the design.

Step 6. Paint remaining scrolls in same manner.  Try to have them all merging towards the root point.
Step 7. Begin to block in the flowers using shape following strokes, comma, or leaf shape ( S and C strokes) as appropriate. These can be quite casual and double load your brush again with light value on one side and dark value on the other to give your project a natural blended look. Don't worry too much about shaggy edges here, as the liner work will tidy that up.
This is also a free style of painting, it is not Fine Art, and the peasants that originally painted these pieces had little or no training in artistic techniques. So don't stress trying to make it perfect when it is not meant to be so.
Try to achieve a balance of colour as you go. If the brush has blended really well and the light value is lost, add some extra warm white to your cirty brush (ie. don't rinse it clean in water, just wipe on paper towel to remove excess colour.)

Once you have blocked in the flowers, and are happy with the distribution of colour, you can begin the liner work.
Warning: Liner work is very addictive, and it is easy to get carried away with the embellishments and make the design too busy. Beware! You can always add an extra stroke, later, but rubbing out can ruin a design.
You may also like to try adding something like flow medium to your paint to do some liner work. This will help a beginner. Practise a little on scraps of wood or paper first to get the hang of the brush.
Step 8. Scroll Details
Begin by adding enough water to your paint puddle to ensure a inky consistency. Load the brush in the paint and pull it through twisting it gently a little before you lift it from your palette. Place tip on project and gradually increase the pressure allowing the brush to widen the stroke, then release the pressure as you direct the brush tip towards you.
N.B. For best results, liner work should vary in thickness. The last thing you want is for all the outlines to be the same thickness. Variation creates interest in the design.
Outline all the scrolls in a casual manner. Try to move your arm as opposed to just your hand. This helps to create a sense of movement. Be confident. You can clean up any errors, carefully with a cotton bud or Q-tip.

Step 10. Flower details
Outline flowers in same technique with your liner brush. Be individual and don't follow the same outline each time.
Step 11. Embellishments
Add some small detail strokes with a quill or liner brush. They are completed similar to a reverse comma. Starting off with very light pressure and pressing fully down on the completion of the stroke. I double loaded this brush in the picture here, first loading in blue and then dipping the tip of the brush in white. This gives a white stroke with a blue tip. This stroke is very typical of what you see in traditional rosemaling works. Know when to stop. Overdoing it can make a design look too busy!!
Step 11.Borders
Now you have it! Almost all Rosemaling works have a border design, which can be as individual as you like. I used s strokes around the edges of my box.
All you need to do is allow time for the paint to dry - which can be anything from 2 days to a week depending on weather conditions, oils can take up to 6 weeks to fully dry.
Then a coat of varnish will seal the deal! If you are wondering what type of varnish to use, that is a can of worms to ponder about. Experiment with  a few brands and types to see what works. I like to use a matte or a gloss spray varnish for speed. But equally good are the brush on varieties, or even final coat, which is a wipe on polymer. Oil based paints require oil based ( non yellowing ) varnishes.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hindeloopen painting

Hindeloopen painting -a Traditional Decorative Art

Hindelooper art is a type of traditional decorative painting originated in the northern province of Friesland, The Netherlands.
It is a form of folk art painted by the maritime community of Hinderloopen, (a small town on the Zuiderzee). During times of bad weather when there was no fish to sell, sailors/fisherman would turn to painting as a way to pass the time and make some money.
Hindeloopen sailors traded with other Hanseatic league member countries – especially Norway, and often brought home objects painted in other traditional styles that had developed from the Baroque  art, primarily Norwegian Rosemaling.
The presence of these styles in the community, in turn, influenced the development of the Hinderlooper’s own village painting, until it evolved into the Hindeloopen art that we see today. The following pieces are my interpretation of Hindeloopen, inspired by the Australian artist, Heleen Van de Haar.

Hindeloopen Mangle Tray

I have been painting Hindeloopen style of painting and only recently discovered an old family link to Friesland. NO wonder I was attracted to this elegant and very relaxing style of traditional painting.  Traditionally it was the men who did the painting in the village itself, but I so enjoy it. Perhaps the women were so busy with domestic chores they had little time for painting, and it was the men who were stuck ashore in times of bad weather that had time on their hands to create and decorate.

I will include a tutorial on Hindeloopen in the coming months. Something for those interested in traditional art, to ponder about…

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Quick Meals from Leftovers: Roast Vegetable Frittata and Chicken Vol au Vents

How do you turn some unwanted leftovers into a delicious meal and save yourself time, energy and food.Turn out a scrumptious meal in a little over half an hour.

Roast Vegetable Frittata

Pre Heat Oven to 190 degrees Celsius or 375 degrees Fahrenheit
What you need:
A quantity of Roast vegetables
I use Sweet potato or kumara, onion, potato, pumpkin, zucchini, choko, red capsicum, carrot or just about anything. (It is great to have a variety of green, orange white and red if you can.) I usually make up a large batch and if they are all eaten, fine. And if not: I have a delicious meal almost ready to eat the following night.
[Optional extras: Broccoli florets, mushrooms and 1 small can of corn kernels]
1/2  - 3/4 cup cream
2 eggs
1/4 cup  milk
1 cup of tasty cheese
1. Chop leftover veges roughly into 1 inch cubes and arrange in ovenproof dish so that they are evenly dispersed. Nothing worse than having all carrot in one portion and all choko in another! You can also add some broccoli, mushroom and a little tin of corn kernels as optional extras.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the veges.
3. Top with a your choice of tasty or flavoured cheese. I used basil and pesto Mersey valley cheese. ( you will probably only find this brand in Australia)
4. Cook in moderate oven for a little over 20 minutes till cooked.
If you also have leftover chicken, then you can make a complete meal as follows while the Frittata is cooking:

Chicken Vol au Vents ( using leftover cooked chicken)

Pre Heat Oven to 190 degrees Celsius or 375 degrees Fahrenheit
3 sliced mushrooms
1 diced onion
Quantity of shredded cooked chicken (leftovers) Approximately 1 - 2 cups
4 Vol au Vent pastries ( round pastry cases that have been pre cooked - readily available in supermarket)
Parsley or herbs as desired.
1. Saute onion in a little olive oil on medium heat in  a frying pan til transparent.
2. Add  sliced mushrooms and shredded chicken (leftover)
3. Place Vol au Vent pastries in moderate oven to warm
4. Add 1 cup of sour cream, and 1/2 cup milk to pan and stir through, slowly increasing the heat til sauce is thickened.
5. Place mix in warmed Vol au Vent cases and serve with portions of the above frittata.
A complete and easily prepared meal supplying Protein, fibre, vitamins and delcious taste, all under 45 minutes. We all eat and most of us work, so quick well balanced meals are something we need to ponder about.