Friday, September 28, 2012

The night my Dad decamped to Paris

I'm not a person who readily remembers my dreams when I wake up, but last night's was still with me in the warm dawn of early spring.

It was about my Dad.

I could count the number of dreams I've had about Dad throughout my life on my fingers - probably using only one hand. He left us when I was 2 in favour of an Amazonian air hostess, and my childhood was a mix of longing to see him and have him be a real Dad to me instead of a Dad who only corresponded with presents twice a year, and anger at him ditching Mum and me. Mainly anger at him ditching me. Kids are very self-centred.

But I digress.

Back to this dream.

I had a phone call from Dad, who said he was calling from Paris. He'd left the Amazonian and their two children and buggered off with someone called Cathy who was apparently French.

"Merde," I giggled obligingly and appropriately, and he chided me.

"You mustn't swear, Cathy doesn't approve of swearing."  In the background I could hear a woman speaking French.

Soon after that he rang off. I'm not sure if we talked about anything else. I had never had a long phone conversation with Dad in real life so why on earth would I have one in my dream?

Ooh, I was a bit envious though. Paris! What a place to run away to!

So I went to Mum's house to tell her the gossip. She was in the kitchen, wearing blue trousers and a blue and white top, putting saucepans away in the cupboard. "Oh,"she said, "You know Cathy."

"No, I don't."

"You do. I'm sure you've met her. Or at least spoken to her."

"The Amazonian must be ropable."

"She is. She can't believe he left her and the kids." Mum had a 'now SHE'LL know how I felt' look on her face.

But Cathy was a mystery to me. Dreams are peculiar as we all know and ages and times were all a bit confused here. Dad, in this dream, was about 60, still fit, with greying thick wavy hair. I didn't see him in my dream but somehow I knew that. Mum looked younger too, somewhere about the same age. I'm not sure about the Amazonian but if Dad was 60 the kids would have still been at primary school, maybe the eldest in high school. The reality is that my stepsister and stepbrother are both in their thirties now. In the dream, they were in their twenties or close to the age they are now.

Dad died 21 years ago this month. Shite, it might have even been today, which is why I had the dream. I'm hopeless with death anniversaries. I prefer to remember birthdays, when the person was alive and we celebrated. So if he's in Paris with someone called Cathy, bonne chance Papa!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A painterly weekend to myself

I have deliciously sore muscles in my legs, back and arms from weeding my Mum's lawn on Saturday morning. She has a weeding device which is supposed to pull dandelions out easily without you having to bend down, but some of her dandies were too well-established so I was bending and pulling and yanking for an hour and a half in the spring sunshine, until I felt too sweaty, my hair dripping with salty sweat, and too thirsty too. I'm surprised my muscles aren't complaining more, but then I do try and do stretches most days (when I think of it).

Last weekend was a computer-free weekend aside from social media updates and chatting online with some friends. And oh boy, was it good!  G was away until last night so I had the luxury of a weekend to myself with my own company and no interruptions.

After I'd done the lawn I did some cleaning at Mum's house then came home and got stuck into more drawings. I had a scene in mind of the view from Mum's house, across the river to the great school which graces the top of the hill on the other side. It would be the view from my childhood, before the trees grew and obscured most of the building.

I also tried a scene from Paris. I had taken a photo of a languid Parisian girl with a red-lipped, bored face toiling up the steps at Montmartre, and decided it would make a funky landscape with the buildings leaning in and out, and the curves of the handrail exaggerated.

I got stuck in.

My paintings didn't turn out quite as I'd hoped, so late in the afternoon I gave up and treated them as drafts. I was tired though - I draw/paint standing up and I'd been on my feet most of the day. After a hot bath I sank gratefully into bed at 9.30. This is the time that 20 years ago I'd be setting out for the evening - how times change!

On Sunday, after getting a couple of loads of washing out on the line and cleaning the house, I brought out the pastels again.

The second attempt at Mum's view was better, but I think I buggered up one of the jacaranda trees I'd placed in the foreground. Now I definitely know what I'm doing with that scene; one more attempt should see it as I intend it to be.

My sulky Parisian girl turned out better, too. On Saturday I'd painted her with too subdued a palette. This time I went mad on gold and oranges, taking the soft sandstone and hyping it up into summer colours. I'm much happier with the result.

These two paintings are both the same size: 9" x 5" (don't ask me what that is in centimetres, I can work it out... eventually!). This is specific as there is a class in an art show I have entered in the past in which all the entries must be that size. They can be any media or subject. This dates back to the Heidelberg School in the early 1900s who held an art show where all the paintings were that size.  The art show isn't until next May but heaven knows I need some practice!

I'm buoyed up as my nudey rudey and Parisian building both made it into the art show in the area I'm living in at the moment. I'll be going to the opening this Friday night. I'm stunned and delighted as I really didn't expect to make the cut, I'm so out of practice.

So now all I want to do is draw and paint. Work is an invasion when my fingers are itching to grab hold of a pastel!

G is home again so that intrudes on my creative space a bit, particularly in the evenings when it's my only real chance to paint during the week. But don't knock the muse, never knock the muse...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To carb or not to carb....

Yesterday I felt like a slug. Today I am bursting with energy.

I think the culprit for the sluggishness is carbs. On Saturday night I had pasta, delicious ravioli bought from Orange Grove Markets, as fresh as can be and quite irresistible. Sunday lunchtime I had the rest of the pasta. On Sunday night I had a pasta salad and couscous salad my neighbour gave me.

Yesterday morning I had toast for breakfast as I couldn't be bothered making anything else - only one slice as I wasn't hungry, I think I was still full from the carby dinner - and scoffed the rest of the couscous salad for lunch. I was tired, lacking energy and lacking enthusiasm. Couldn't be arsed taking the dog for a decent walk. Didn't want to tackle the ever-growing stuff in the inbox and was glad when a storm crashed overhead and I had to turn the computer off, just in case there was a lightning strike.

Last night I eschewed all the carbs sitting in the fridge and had a sausage, a baked beetroot (oh yum!) and some cauliflower with cheese for dinner. I woke up this morning feeling thinner, hungry and alert. Not that I weighed any less, but I certainly didn't feel bloated as I did the day before. This morning I had a slice of bacon and an egg fried in a non-stick pan, with some baby spinach leaves on the side.  I am raring to go!

Ageing is a bastard. I turned 50 last month. I don't feel it but my body isn't what it used to be. I used to be able to eat carbs and not put on weight or feel like I needed to curl up with the cats and sleep. Now my body runs better on protein and veggies, with only a few carbs per week. Considering mashed potato is one of my favourite comfort foods it's been a hard slog cutting down on the carbs, but I can see and feel an improvement without them.

Wheat is a big problem in our society in general these days. Over the last 50 or so years different varieties have been bred for high yield, and this breeding also includes an increase in gluten, far more than in the wheat my mother ate as a child.  Wheat ain't what it used to be. I don't think I tolerate the gluten like I used to; it bloats me. More and more people are exhibiting gluten intolerance it seems if the increasing number of gluten-free foods on the market is anything to go by.

Too much processing is a problem too. When I go to the supermarket just about every biscuit, cracker and crispbread is either wheat-based or rice-based. Not great. The best cracker you can eat is an oatcake; oats are low gluten if not gluten free, and fantastic for lowering cholesterol. You find oatcakes everywhere in the UK but here in Oz they were on the shelves for a few brief months last year then discontinued. I complained. Apparently not enough people joined me. So now I make my own oatcakes, and they are dead easy to make.

Cutting down on processed food including bread has helped me feel more energetic. I might eat a slice of bread a week; some weeks not even that. All the additives in a modern loaf have turned good old simple bread into an over-processed food. I was baking my own for a while there but since I cut out the carbs I haven't bothered; G still likes his toast with home-made marmalade and we try and buy sourdough from good bakers who don't load it with too many preservatives etc.

The last few weeks have been temptation-laden though as there is leftover mud cake in the fridge from my birthday. I'm rationing it to thin slices as it contains heaps of the other thing I've cut down on too - sugar.

I've tried to go sugar-free but I'm not a saint. I love dark chocolate. I love wine. Those are my weaknesses.  I am at an age and a stage where I'm likely to gain weight - menopause, anyone? - so am being bloody careful not to as excess weight isn't good for your organs and is seriously hard to shift during menopausal years apparently.

I'm planning another delicious carb-free dinner tonight. Another sausage (bugger the fat content!), asparagus and another little roast beetroot. Mmm.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What you can do on your own

G is away for a week on a business trip, so I'm once again batching with the animals. While I'll be painting some evenings (even some days if I'm lucky) there are other things I do and don't do when I'm on my own for a bit:

  • Take up the entire bed. Yes. If I get too hot in one spot, simply roll over to where it's cool. Fling my arms out wide. And my legs. Be a starfish. 
  • Fart in bed. Girls do fart. Even in bed. But now there is no pretence about carefully lifting the covers and letting a silent one out very slowly. Blow, wind, and crack your cheeks!
  • Don't set the alarm. I work at home. Without having to wake up at 6.30 for the morning rush that sees G out the door at 8, I can laze in bed until around 7, when the cats demand breakfast and the dog demands a wee.
  • If it's yellow, let it mellow. Yup, saving water by not flushing the loo after each wee. They can build up for a bit. 
  • Reheating food and eating it out of the container. Hmm, the thin end of the wedge. The slippery slide to slovenliness. But hey, it's less washing up. 
  • Showering with the bathroom door open. It lets out the steam. G and I both value our bathroom privacy so we generally shut the door when we're in there. 
  • Not turning the telly on at 7 to watch the news. G loves the news. I love the silence without it. But I do enjoy the weather.
  • Cook beetroot. Mmm, roast beetroot. No use cooking it for G, he loathes it. I love it. I don't usually bother cooking it for one, but this week I picked up some delicious little small beetroots at the local markets. I shall feast. 
  • Eat lots of vegetarian meals. G loves his meat, I enjoy a few veggie days when he goes away. He doesn't have the same enthusiasm for quinoa with carrots, spinach, rocket and spices cooked in veggie stock that I do.
  • Most importantly, paint. I can't paint with other people about. I don't get the concentration and imagination, I'm always conscious of others being 'there' and one thing I do hate is anyone looking over my shoulder. I work at night after dinner, with a wine or two. I know I should be working in daylight but don't always get the opportunity particularly during the week.

So that's my 'alone' list... I'm sure I'll think of more things and add to this. What's yours?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nudey Rudey's off to the show

This morning I'll be dropping off two paintings to the local art show. The Paris landscape I painted several weeks ago, a nude. Of me.

Shit that sounds pretentious! As if I stood in front of a mirror painting myself and admiring my boobs or something.

But no, I set up a tasteful self-portrait in the apartment in which we stayed in Paris. In the living room was a sofa with a throw over the back which was a tapestry of a Gainsborough portrait. I lay on the sofa in the same pose as the naked lady in the tapestry, as a kind of joke.

I don't as a rule take nude photos of myself. I don't have the bod any more; although the extra curves are probably artist model materials these days! But I was surprised when I looked at the back of my camera afterwards. The photo was artistic, not slutty or sleazy. I knew at that point I'd try and make a painting/drawing of it.

The resulting painting - technically a drawing as it's oil pastels but the pastels are so thick on the paper it's just about a painting - is 6 inches by 6 inches. I might be willing to put a nudey rudey of me on paper but not on a large scale!

Here it is:

Not only is it my first nude but the first time I've painted or drawn a human as the key focus of a painting. I usually do landscapes and still life. Or my cats. I have a great portrait of Hamish MacFlea which is life-sized and captures him perfectly, but I haven't tried capturing the human soul.

Here's the one of Hamish, although it's not going in the show.
I painted this for myself and my Mum; it's not something that's going to sell anyway. I did this one about 7 years ago, when I decided to start drawing again after many years.

So here I am, feeling nervous about putting these two paintings in the show, hoping like hell they get selected for hanging, hoping they sell and hoping they don't as I'm rather attached to them (which is why I will never become a cat breeder, you can sense the Crazy Cat Lady aspect of it from here, can't you?). I doubt they will win any prizes as the competition will be super-fierce - it's a big show - but if I don't try, I'll never know. 

If the paintings don't get selected for the main show I have ticked the box to allow them to be selected for the Salon des Refuses, for paintings that didn't make the main cut. It may sound loserish, but it isn't. It gives them another chance at getting a gong and/or a sale. 

I'll know in a couple of weeks if they have been selected for either show, or whether I will be taking them home (and putting them in the Hunters Hill Art Show next year!)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The diminishing dollar

I had a rather disturbing meeting with my major client earlier this week. She heads a not for profit association for which I maintain the website, create graphic and DTP documents as needed, run the marketing campaigns and press releases, and some of the admin and events. I'm assisted by her sister who applied for a traineeship with us and was awarded the role. Now her sister is gradually taking on more and more of the work as her dollar rate is far less than mine.
This role pays me about $2500 a month and with my other design work tasks few and far between right now, it's my bread and butter.
My client has now asked me to review tasks and make sure her sister and I are not doubling up. She wants me to do less and her sister more. In addition, I can't claim hours that I spend at the functions this organisation runs, where essentially I help with meet and greet, take pics etc. That's a good five or six hours a month I've lost. Since I'm only getting $27/hour (and my usual rates for graphic and web design and marketing campaigns etc are $120/hour) my dollars are diminishing.
I suspect she wants to get me down to about $1500 a month on which I can't sustain myself given my company's bills, small though they are in relative terms - about $1200/month.
Thankfully G my husband is in a good job at the moment and we are now talking about income splitting to save him some tax and give me enough money to buy groceries and pay bills, particularly when he's away, which is quite often. I still want to be able to support myself and pay my share though, however it's getting increasingly harder. I'm earning the same money I earned 25 years ago. Ugh.
If I have to cut back my hours for this NFP organisation, I can be positive: it will give me more time to paint and write, even though that won't bring in an instant income, if any!!
I have started a CafePress shop with a couple of my designs and will add one a week - well, that's the plan. I am trying to sell on Zazzle too but am having trouble uploading and getting stuff into my shop there. I will also be putting designs on Dreamstime image library and getting paid every time someone downloads one. I don't expect to earn a six figure income from this lot, but frankly anything would help right now.
And I have to plot then write a novel. I have some material for it already, based on jokey newsletters/magazines I used to create and mail to my friends in the early 90s, those pre-internet days. Now I just have to weave a story around those and create fictional characters or rather fictional versions of ourselves, and make their lives somewhat more interesting!
I was in a reasonably depressed state yesterday thinking about my lack of funds, and feeling sick at the thought of having to look for part time work outside the house to make my ends meet. More than anything I need to be successful with my own creative enterprises, not work for someone else and be worrying about whether I'm meeting KPIs and having to deal with people in my space and the subsequent interruptions that are a part of office life.
G wants me to write and is willing to help me financially with that, so I suspect that writing, drawing, painting and graphic art will be taking a bigger part of my week for the next twelve months as I really concentrate on building an income stream out of it. I'm lucky I have someone so supportive. I do hate asking him for money though; it's against my nature.
Herbert, a plea: let me be successful. Send people my way to buy the goodies my artwork will be on. Most of all, send me a bloody plot!