Archive for April, 2012

Pie.

Monday, April 30th, 2012

As I mentioned in my last entry, one of the main reasons why I am uncertain about my ability to complete the 40-in-40 challenge is that I need to eat. However, I will claim baking and the invention of desserts as a creative challenge. Therefore my strawberry and rhubarb pie that I baked to take to my friends’ house for dinner counts.

Strawberry and rhubarb pie

Pie.

It was a bit of a flop. It tasted ok but the pastry didn’t turn out how I hoped and it exploded in the oven, so as far as baking successes go, this wasn’t really one of them. However, we learn from our mistakes, don’t we kids? Next time I know to be less lazy and make my own pastry rather than blindly buying pre-made pastry from the supermarket and choosing the wrong one. Oops.

A Very Big Challenge

Monday, April 30th, 2012

On day one of my 40-Creations-in-40-Days challenge, I realised it was going to be difficult to complete. On day two it all became scarily obvious that I am not going to be able to do it. No, wait, I take that back. I COULD do it, except the things that I would produce wouldn’t actually be what I want to make and hence, what is the point? I guess creative development is always good and I am still trying to do something everyday, however I don’t think I will make 40 pieces.

The reason is simple – lots of the pieces that I want to make simply take longer than one day, and when I have other things in my day that also take up my time (eg. eating) I am not able to fulfil the requirements of the challenge. SO, I am going to change the rules to be 40 days of intense creativity, resulting in as many creative pieces as physically possible. Yes, maybe I am making it too easy on myself, but I also don’t want to just create rubbish. I see no point.

So what have I been doing? Pure brilliance, is what. Allow me to show you in photographic form:

Ben stencil

Step 1. Take a photograph of your brother and use Photoshop to turn it into a black and white image.

Pencil transfer

Step 2. Go crazy with lead pencil on the back of the image for a cheap alternative to transfer paper.

Stencil

Step 3. Attach image to a piece of lino and trace over the lines.

Transfered stencil image

Et voilà! Magic.

Lino cutters

Step 4. Take your Lino Snijgereedschap and start carving.

Lino cut

Step 5. Cut away from you. Don't not put your hands in front of the lino cutter. Attach the lino to your work surface. Remove all white space.

Working outside

Step 6. Work in a lovely outdoor environment and enjoy.

And there we have it! I am still working on slicing my brother’s face, but I hope to finish within the next day and then I can make some prints. It is such an enjoyable experience – I love the tactile nature of the lino and the fact that my hands were starting to hurt by the end of the day. I haven’t made a lino cut since my year 8 art class so I am having to teach myself but I think it is going to look good. I will show you the final results soon.

40 Day Challenge

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Lots of changes have been happening recently and I am taking the opportunity to expand my skill set, take up some new challenges and experiment, experiment, experiment. I have become aware that I have put a bit of a self-inflicted roadblock on some of my inner creativity and I think it is time to let it out. Watch out world!

As a result, I am taking up a challenge – to create 40 different ‘pieces’ over a 40 day period. It can be anything – painting, drawing, knitting, découpage (because who doesn’t love découpage?), stencilling, baking etc. Yes, I’m including baking because it is a delicious form of creativity.

Yesterday was Day One of the challenge and to be honest, my creativity levels were not particularly high. I was more inclined to go outside and visit an art gallery (I went and saw an Art Spiegelman exhibition at the Pompidou Centre library) but I was determined to make something. The search was on for inspiration. Come on, Paris!

It was the weather man who eventually delivered – his insistence on producing grey, rainy weather day after day after day for the past two weeks has certainly been the topic of conversation and was now my inspiration.

Cloud

It is kind of a strange looking cloud, but I'll just say it is "French"

Now Gary has a reason to feel it is too wet for ducks as he lives under a cloud. A pretty, stripy cloud, nonetheless. It is a reasonable first attempt but I am keen to add some rain drops that hang from the bottom of it. Call it a work in progress.

French ANZACs

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

It is amazing how your pride for your country emerges when you are living overseas. Suddenly national holidays become very significant and I feel like marching and saluting and drinking VB. Actually, that last bit is a lie. I’d never drink VB. Anyway, today being ANZAC day was a great excuse to make biscuits. I have always been an ANZAC biscuit maker. They are so good. Essentially butter balls – who wouldn’t want to make and eat them?

Butter

Now that's butter.

Of course, France posed some problems for me when it came to gathering the ingredients. They are not complex things – butter, oats, flour, golden syrup and sugar. That’s about it. However, we’re talking about Paris where I usually visit two to three supermarkets every day in order to get all of the ingredients I need to make a very simple dinner. The two challenge ingredients – oats and golden syrup.

Essentially, I failed on both. I managed to find some quick cooking oats and added some “Toasted Flakes of Five Grains” that one of my ex-Canadian neighbours gave me when she left the Récollets. The golden syrup became impossible and I gave up after three supermarkets. Research on the internet suggests it is possible to find, but many ‘foreign’ ingredients are only found in certain areas of Paris, depending on who lives there. Clearly there aren’t many Brits living in Montmartre or the 10th arrondissement. So an experiment with honey and maple syrup was required.

After 12 minutes in my little Seb oven, deliciousness was created. Amazing!

ANZAC biscuits

Crunchy on the outside, chewy on inside.

Not quite a true blue ANZAC but not bad for a French version.

Round One

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

At 8 o’clock yesterday evening, the results of the first round of the Presidential election were announced. They had already been announced in every other country in the world, just not France. They like a surprise. Tom and I set up our computer-based television in the common room on the first floor and were joined by our friends Becky and Vivien to eat curry and watch the announcement. My curry was delicious. The election results were less great.

The results weren’t surprising – Sarkozy and Holland, the two strongest candidates were the leaders, with the difference in votes being a very small 1.4 per cent. This isn’t the end of the world, although Sarkozy and I have a mutual dislike for one another seeing as he’d prefer I wasn’t living in his country (damn foreigners).

Sarkozy

Creepy man.

The scary part was the fact that the third highest scoring candidate was Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen (notice their evilly similar names?), and pusher of extreme-right political views.

Marine Le Pen

It scares me that I have the same hair as her. Photo from abc.net.au

She wants to keep France for the French, kick all foreigners out and minimise trades between France and other countries. Her extremely racist views are quite horrifying – I would have hoped humans had learnt from their previous mistakes and could see the benefits in cohabitation by now.

It was disappointing to see Mélenchon miss out on a decent percentage of votes as he seemed to be one of the more level minded candidates in race. Plus he has such a happy smile. Who wouldn’t want that in a President?

Mélenchon

See? So friendly!

So now we must wait another two weeks and watch more debates between Sarkozy and Holland. There’ll be more posters scattered throughout Paris that will soon have new moustaches and deformities. Then on the 6 May, France will vote again. And there’ll be another election party at the Récollets!

Stencil Fun

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

An interesting challenge from a friend has prompted me to put more thought, effort and time into my desire to make ‘stuff’. So far the issue has been where to start and what ‘stuff’ actually is. I really need to work on refining this but on Friday I decided it would be a good idea to do some experimentation. A couple of weeks ago I had experimented with making stencils as ultimately I would love to create images that people want to hang on their walls but my drawing skills are non-existant. I therefore I am trying to find sneaky ways to get around this problem. My last attempts resulted in a collection of coloured keys which I rather like and immediately hung on MY wall (with masking tape. I need a frame.) Good start.

Key stencil

Keys. Keys. Keys.

On Friday I sat and pondered what exactly I should stencil next. My thoughts went back to my good sock friend, Gary, who I miss but I hope is enjoying his new life mud-walking in Tasmania.

Gary

I miss you, Gary.

When I send my sock creatures away to their new owners, I make little books containing the creature’s life story. On the front cover is a black and white image that I create in Photoshop with extremely complicated techniques. I would try and explain it to you but you’d be far too amazed by my Photoshop skills that your head might explode. We don’t want that.

Anyway, I took Gary’s black and white picture and added a sentence that has been hanging around in my head for about three weeks now. It doesn’t make much sense, but nothing I do really does. At least I’m consistently strange. Here was the end result after some careful knife-work:

Gary stencil

Good day for stencilling

After cutting out the stencil I then concocted a nice shade of greeny-blue and started painting. I need to invest in some better stencilling equipment as the paper I was using was too flimsy and moved around but I am still quite pleased with the result.

Gary stencil

What will lie underneath?

Gary stencil

Et voilà!

I loved Gary in sock-form and now I love him in stencil. I am really pleased with what I produced and can see how I can work on and improve my techniques. I want to start doing some different colour layers to add some more excitement. So stay tuned – new Zaum ‘stuff’ is coming to you soon!

Gary framed

He looks so good in a frame.

Tulips

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The skies of Paris may be grey, but the tulips are holding strong.

Tulips

Pretty, pretty tulips.

That’s Dutch blood for you.

“Good Things Come Out of Incomprehension”

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Today I discovered Maira Kalman, an illustrator and author who has a carefree and positive aspect on life, work and happiness. I watched her give a TED talk and felt particularly inspired by her easy and simple way of working. Her comment, “Good things come out of incomprehension” stuck with me as I often feel myself feeling particularly stupid and lacking knowledge when really it isn’t necessarily my fault that I don’t know the political history of a certain country or the entire work collection of an 18th century author. Her illustrations are funny yet reflective of the real world. You should check her out.

Good Translations

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

On Saturday I escorted Becky to the Running Expo – the pre-marathon event where all of the competitors collected their bibs, bought new shoes and sampled brightly coloured energy drinks. The expo was huge and there was a large range of sporting companies selling their wares as well as information stalls about up and coming marathons, long distance runs and cross-country adventure circuits.

As part of the bib collection, Becky also received a handy backpack full of goodies – free energy supplement samples, a nifty bandana, and information about Sunday’s run. There was an A5 booklet containing all of the information you need to do the marathon such as starting times and dinner suggestions for the night before (eat rice.) The booklet was in both French and English and it soon became obvious that the English translation was done by someone who can’t actually speak English. As we stood in line waiting to buy a coffee, we flipped through the booklet and discovered this page, the results of which had us almost falling on the floor with laughter.

Marathon information

I think I need to offer my editing services.

As the image is small and it may be hard to read, allow me to highlight the most interesting of the ‘Last advices before start’ – Don’t forget 2 small bandages for your tits. How exactly they got this from the French version which says “Two bandages to fix on the nipples to avoid abrasions” I’m not sure. There were many interesting translations throughout the booklet – I wonder how I get them to let me have a quick read through the translation before they press print. Considering the fact that a large proportion of the marathon competitors were from countries other than France I would have thought they would put more effort and money into checking the English translation. Or maybe they were wanting to slow down the English-speaking runners by making them laugh so hard they got stitches and therefore the French would win. Ooh… sneaky!

 

What a Champion!

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Sunday finally saw the arrival of the Paris Marathon – something my friend and running buddy, Becky had been wanting to get over and done with. I was also looking forward to the completion of it as it would mean less 30km runs on weekends.

The conditions for running 42km were less than perfect – a cold, overcast day with lots and lots of wind. Signs of spring were certainly about as pollen from the horse chestnut trees was flying through the air and getting up my nose and in my eyes. Not fun. Probably even less fun for the 40,000 runners who were killing themselves on the epic route through Paris.

I had planned on catching Becky as she passed through the Bastille but I mistimed my arrival and she had already sped past me. So, Tom and I caught the metro to the finish line where runners were already arriving having completed their race. Amazing! Becky had started further back in the pack and was therefore at a disadvantage and therefore still running. Definitely nothing to do with her abilities, speed or running finesse. Tom and I found ourselves a position with a good view of the approaching runners and waited…

Interesting fact: if you stare at a large number of runners approaching you, trying to spot a single tall, blonde female wearing a purple top, you will go cross eyed.

Just after the five-hour mark, there she was. And so we screamed! BBEEEEEECCCCKKKKYYYYY!!!!!!! GOOOOO BBEEEECCCKKKYYYYY!!!!

Paris marathon

I was too busy cheering to get a clear photo.

I don’t think I have yelled that loudly since my year 7 athletics carnival. She may not have come first, but Becky is a winner in my eyes. An absolutely amazing feat – I send my congratulations to everyone who ran in that race. It was insanely long and no human is really designed to run that far.

Another interesting fact: while waiting for Becky to arrive, we watched the security guards pull illegal runners out of the pack – people who had some how joined the race without paying to be in it. Most of them looked like they had only just joined as they weren’t red-faced like the REAL competitors. Clearly they just wanted the fame and glory of crossing the finishing line, and perhaps a free piece of fruit. I think these people should be FORCED to run the entire marathon as punishment because clearly they’re not good enough to enter it for real. That’ll teach ’em.