Friday, 30 October 2015

Super Blood Moon

I bought a new camera quite a long time ago, either shortly after Christmas or for my birthday, I can't remember. It might have been for neither occasion actually, but either way it was thanks to my Dad. He has been wanting to buy me a DSLR for a while as he is enthusiastic about photography and can see I have quite a good eye for it. Unfortunately I have been so busy I haven't been able to play with it as much as I would have liked (not helped by the fact that I had my camera stolen whilst I was on holiday once so I am paranoid to take it with me). Part of the deal with the camera I bought (a Fujifilm X-M1 that I love!) was a free promotional zoom lens. I hadn't had a chance to use it until I saw that a blood moon was coming up. In order to take pictures of the moon you need a pretty good zoom lens and mine hit the lowest range of recommended zoom capacities so what a perfect place for a trial. After a quick research online for the recommended camera settings to take moon shots, and then a scour through my camera manual to work out how to set it up correctly, it had just gone midnight and I only had two hours to go to start watching the eclipse and try out my evenings education. I thought I was too excited to sleep but ...


A couple of hours later, I woke up to my alarm, thick with sleep, feeling slightly ill but looking forward to taking some photos. And click, click, change settings, click, click, move camera, jump into bed -  it is chilly, jump out, click, click and the spectacle was over. Well it was half way. I watched the eclipse from the start to the blood moon, but then didn't watch in un-eclipse or whatever the scientific term is. I needed some sleep.

I was pretty excited the next day to see how my photos turned out, and apart from the slightly out of focus blood moon (only 30 years to wait for another chance at that) I was pretty pleased with my first attempt at taking pictures with my zoom lens, using the manual settings, and taking pictures of the moon. All, in all, a good nights work!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


Firstly, if you are ever waiting for a show outside The Forum in Kentish Town, go to the Bull and Gate pub next door for some food. A great atmosphere, my kind of décor and very tasty, not too expensive food make this a place I will go to again, regardless of whether I am waiting for music or not.

This time, I was waiting for music in the form of Metric, a Canadian rock band, who were out touring to promote their new, recently released Album 'Pagans in Vegas.' As usual, I knew a bit about the band but not masses, but I was very glad they played one of their old hits 'Help I'm Alive' as it is one of my favourite songs.

The show was good, a bit enveloping with the excess of flashing lights and loud beating music. I had a brief fleeting thought that the show might result in me going blind and deaf at one point but fortunately not. It was good to see something a bit more energetic to what I usually see but a shame that at a few points the vocals were not particularly clear - this probably wouldn't have been a problem if I was more familiar with the lyrics but even so. A good, uplifting and energising gig though, and when I got home I had to listen to 'Help I'm Alive' again as I remembered why I loved it in the first place.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Nadine Shah

So I have two more music things to note about. It seems like a slightly off topic point for my art blog but as I paint to a CD I think it makes a difference. I guess the blog vaguely counts in terms of art/culture/music and well, I don't always want to write about myself. (I totally do, but I am trying to be modest here!). But if you don't believe that my mood and my music make a massive difference to my painting, then read this post from back in the day....

So anyway, Nadine Shah. I didn't know much about her before I went to see her at the Union Chapel in Highbury and Islington, London, except that she sounds a bit like Anna Calvi. Before I start talking about her though, I have to mention the venue. It is one of my favourite places - an intimate gig held in front of a beautiful backdrop of Church architecture. Apparently the venue can seat up to 900 people, but when you are in there it feels more like a congregation of about 300 max. You are so close to the artist, it is like they are singing only to you. Admittedly after 3 or so hours of sitting on the hard Church Pews, your backside likes the venue slightly less but it is still one of my favourites. I also like the ethos behind the Church (and I am not religious); The Church is liberal, inclusive, non hierarchical and non conformist. Everyone and anyone is welcome and they are open to new ideas and focus in on love in general rather than specifics or rules. I feel like that is what religion should be about, none of this blindly following sheep stuff.

But - Nadine Shah - that girl can sing! She blew me away a little - she really feels every song that she sings and makes you do the same. Her voice is so powerful and emotional in real life that her recordings are a bit disappointing as they lose a lot of the rawness that you get watching and listening to the live version. She is such a character - when she is singing you get this raw, dark, emotional, strong voice, replaced when she is talking with a happy, sense of humoured Scottish lilt talking about every day things. It was a fun night out, and if you get the chance, I recommend going to have a listen and getting blown away by her vocals. 

Friday, 23 October 2015

Renoir Sucks at Painting

I was going to carry on writing about my musical experiences, but I read an interesting article the other day about people protesting outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The best thing or the most interesting thing about the protest was what they were protesting about and who they were. They were protesting because they wanted 19 Renoir paintings currently in the Museum to be taken down. Why? Because they are a group known as 'Renoir Sucks at Painting'.

Now, Renoir, was and still is one of the most successful artists ever made. Prolific in his time and successful, and rich - unusual feats as artists have a habit of becoming richer and more famous when they have kicked the bucket. (I have been practising faking my own death). Personally, I am not a fan of Renoir, I never have been, and because of this I have never looked at his work with a critical eye. I would much rather waste an hour drinking in a Van Gogh or getting lost in the lines and marks of a Jackson Pollock, than looking at a delicately rendered Renoir image of 'real life.' I have always put this down to personal taste, I am not interested in his subject matter and his colours don't appeal to me, nor his style, which is interesting when I think about it as I like most Impressionists. Could this be because he isn't very good? I don't like Paul Klee's work particularly but I can appreciate it - the meticulous colour combinations, the attention to detail, the thin definite lines. Francis Bacon is really not my cup of tea but you can't not look at the rippling flesh, the tortured bodies and the horrified expressions.  Half the problem with Renoir is that he is too sentimental. Sentimentality is my kryptonite, it makes my brain sceptical and my heart harden. That moment when you are watching an action film and 400 people have already died but the focus is on the loyal dog that is just about to die saving a small boy, oh the tears, save me, my heart has broken, that poor brave dog. *sob* Stuff the small country load of people that have just been incinerated - more fool them.

Regardless of my opinions on Renoir, I don't think you can just eradicate him. He was a leading exponent of Impressionism, he was popular and in fashion once, and therefore still a part of art history, whether you want him to be or not. He also painted many pictures whilst badly afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis so I think that needs to be taken into account. How do you think your paintings would turn out if you had paralysed hands?  

Porträt des Charles und Georges Durand-Ruel - Pierre Auguste Renoir
I may not be an avid fan, but seriously - the painting above definitely does not suck. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


When I was talking about all the bands and music I have recently heard I missed one trip out. I went to Lovebox earlier this year, a music festival in London's Victoria Park. The festival is not necessarily a mix of my favourite type of music, but I can't really resist any music when it is live, you have to admire the artistry and the performance even when the music is not your cup of tea.

That said, I did like a lot of the music, more than I was expecting to, especially Raury. It was a shame on the day as his sound levels weren't set up properly so you couldn't hear him sing particularly well, but he was such a nice guy, even jumping down into the crowd at one point so he could say hello to everyone. He has a song out at the moment, that is playing quite a lot on the radio; It is definitely one of my favourite tunes of the moment, and I feel privileged to have seen him before he gets crazily famous. As I am sure he will.

Monday, 19 October 2015


I went to see a band the other day at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town, and a solo artist the week before, and another band ages ago at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith. I have been meaning to write about all of them, repeatedly. I also want to write about Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch and Dangerous Games - Lord of the Dance.

OH MY GOD. Why is there always so much going on?

I shouldn't complain really as I am spoilt most of the time, not everyone gets to do these things or experience such a wide variety of cultural activities. I just need an 8 day week, so I can do all of these things and then have a spare day to blog, or paint or update. I need to paint my Christmas cards for this year and I am well aware of the fact that I am completely running out of time. Just as well I work well under pressure. Kind of.

But I am going off point. Let's start with the first band I went to see at the Eventim. Pentatonix are an American acapella group consisting of 5 vocalists originating from Arlington Texas (thank you Wikipedia). They have been going for about 4 years and are beyond impressive. I don't really think I need to say much more other than 'watch this video' it does the talking (or the singing) much better than I could.

How can you do all of those things with just your voice? (One of them, also has the deepest, drool worthiest voice I have ever heard. Will probably ever hear. )

Friday, 16 October 2015

You Twit. Er

I am setting aside a bit of time at the moment to pre plan some blog posts as I am well aware that there haven't been any recently. I managed to get back on top of it all for a bit but it was disappointingly short lived. I have decided to sacrifice my evening and my sleep to get a few written up this evening to try and take the pressure off. I am also feeling a bit more enthusiastic this evening as I have had some free twitter publicity, and managed a proper art day earlier on this week which restored my soul a little. I have also managed to catch up with my Deviant Art messages for the first time in about a month. So all in all, a productive evening thus far.

Twitter has been on my to-do list for about ever. I have an account and I have tweeted about 6 times(?) and possibly thought about tweeting 6 other times. I recently got an interesting new follower (a crime writer!) who retweeted my St Pancras painting well enough that St Pancras International found it and retweeted it on their page. That seems like an impressive seal of approval to get a shout out from the actual building. As a lot of the things I paint are iconic buildings or places I could probably market them quite well on twitter. After all, the people following those pages are the ones that love the buildings and the ones who are likely to buy the painting. It makes sense! So much sense, I just need to master twitter and put all of my paintings up.

Seriously, does anyone want to offer to be my social media secretary!? Let's see if I can try and put up something every couple of days in the meantime. Please Laura. DO THIS! I need the ball to start rolling in a straight line again, it has been meandering a little aimlessly recently.