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Art live

I don’t own a television and mostly I don’t miss it. This is because I spend more time watching stuff online, on my phone, than anywhere else. 

One of my treats are living sketching videos on Instagram and especially, Alex Hillkurtz’s channel. I did two workshops with him last year and basically he is great. 

His live sketching evenings are lovely to watch, lovely to listen to and his output is always gorgeous. I’m envious although to be fair, he puts in a lot more time than I do. 

His website is here. His instagram is here

Brexit et al

There was a time I used to comment on political and day to day stuff but at some point, it got far too tedious, around the time the UK voted for Brexit and the US voted for Trump. 

As long as I live, I will never understand why. 

However, apparently there is an upside to Brexit. It will put up the cost of Lyons Tea in Ireland. Apparently a load of people in Ireland, many of them Dubs, believe Lyons Tea is Irish. Well it isn’t, any more. 

If you want true Irish Tea, Barrys is where it is at. Never without it. 

Piling up the planners

Some time last year, after a  bunch of failures, some stress and a lot of stuff I’m not used to, I capitulated and bought a Filofax. It was a beautiful aquamarine Finsbury because I wanted a “good” one (ie, leather rather than faux leather) and also, because I wanted an aquamarine one. I liked the texture of the Finsbury and it had 30mm rings. 

If you aren’t really into planners or Filofaxes, these are boring details. Anyway, I wanted to use it as some sort of a bridge between work and personal life and also because really for someone like me who has a degree in artificial intelligence and has worked in IT for nearly 20 years and who loves gadgets, but who has also been keeping a diary for more than 25 years and who writes most days, it really was the case that trying to keep several different digital tools in sync was a balls. I *think* everything eventually reaches the calendar on my iPad but that is the only place. So the idea was to be able to book flights for the correct weekend when I wanted to go to Ireland as opposed to having to write of a set of flights because I booked them the wrong weekend, for example. This worked like a dream until it was obvious that my personal life and work life together were way bigger than one Filofax so I gritted my teeth and acquired second Filofax. This too was a Finsbury, albeit some deep pink colour. Raspberry, apparently. I’ve checked the blog entry I did at the time. I applied that one to work and the aqua one to personal. It’s a measure of my contrariness that I wanted to keep the aqua one which I love most for my personal life but it’s the pink one I used most often because I use the tool most for work. 

However, that’s irrelevant. The problem is that not long after I got it, it became obvious that one Filofax was not going to be enough for work. I struggled on for a month or two; resolved to buy another one but preferably not another Finsbury because beautiful and all as they are, they aren’t exactly inexpensive. I could have a new iPad for the money I have spent on organiser related stuff in the last 6 months. 

But, frankly, a new iPad isn’t going to solve any of my problems really. If it did, I’d never have needed a Filofax in the first place 

So I was lucky enough to find another leather Filofax, a Holborn, in a sale and it will join my pink Finsbury and together, I will rule supreme over my workload and related paperwork. While I was at it, I also bought an A5 clipbook which is one of Filofax’s various other related products. It has the benefit of being that aqua colour I like, and it’s possible the cover is leather. It should take A5 Filofax refills, but I am intrigued because the ones which came in the Clipbook are really really nice in many ways and may enable me to drop preprinted calendars next year. The plan for it at present is to come to work and enable me not to have to drag around 2 other Filofaxes. 

But deep within me, there is Disappointment in myself. I spend a lot of time on instagram and youtube watching planner related videos and leaving aside the very huge problem with planner related stuff on both sites, one thing I never really got was why anyone would have more than one planner. It’s been easy for me to say this because for years, I never needed one. I was working on one project, I had a notebook with a to do list and I didn’t have to manage more than one project at a time and the stories of work I had to manage over more than a day or two tended to be simple enough to keep track of. Buying the second planner hurt. Buying the third one is just beyond the pale for me. 

When I look at some of the planners on instagram – no, wait, nearly all of the planners – what strikes me more than anything is the sheer amount of time people spend administering their planning system. I need the system to be practically invisible. If I have to have an invisible system across 2 Filofaxes and a clipbook, grand; but I do not want it to take hours of my life administering the system itself. It needs to “just” work. Most of the social media planning gurus put significantly more work into the appearance of their planners than the content. 

And they have loads of them. Libraries full of planners. As I now have three, I can’t actually comment any more. 

The issue is more, I look at a lot of these planning videos, blogs, vlogs, instagram accounts and even though someone might have 30 different planner colours, and planners in different sizes for different occasions, it never seems to me that they have to coordinate a whole lot. My daily to do list can run to 60 items on occasion and yes it spills over. But it’s no use to me someone demonstrating their wonderful system for handling 8 items on a daily to do list (“Collect the kids”, “Clean the bathroom”, “publish my youtube video”) when I could do that in my head. I don’t need a planner for 8 items. No one needs a planner for 8 items. 

So one of the things that really grates on me around the whole planner industry – and it is huge in a cottage industry kind of way – is that it doesn’t reflect reality for me. It clearly reflects it for a bunch of social media influencers but that isn’t my life. I work in IT service management, in a big organisation and currently my life is a mixture of urgent stuff, really urgent stuff, spectacular stuff I need right now, a bunch of projects I shouldn’t be involved in but am because stuff, and a bunch of projects I am planning strategically, a bunch of projects I got pulled into and then there will be, because there always are – a bunch of projects I never saw coming because in theory they are someone else’s wonderful opportunity to shine. I love my job but sometime in September I ran out of the capacity to remember everything I had to do over time. 

It’s at this point I should produce a tastefully well styled picture of my pile of planners. But I’m not a social media guru and I’m not planning the release of my carefully timed posts, carefully planned in my monthly spread. 

I’ve already whinged about the online planning world, so at this point, I want to talk a little bit about why I will use 2 planners to organise my work. 

My work is broadly split between administration and delivery. I used to use a slightly personalised version of Ryan Carroll’s bullet journaling method which has been consistently simplified over and over such that I have three main symbols: Empty box: this is a to do item. Tick in the box means it’s down, X through it means it’s cancelled for some reason and arrow pointing right means I have decided today to postpone it to some other day. I keep two main to do lists: a) the immediate needs of today b) the stuff that I need to do at some point in the future or don’t have time to do today or is interesting strategically. I struggle to keep a lid on that list but at least I’m getting stuff noted which I previously wasn’t always managing to do. 

If managing a couple of to do lists was all I wanted to do, then I wouldn’t need 2 planners. I also keep a work log or journal. It’s a basically a record of things that got done, particularly for other people, of information that comes my way, particularly organisationally, of changes of rumours, and some personal views on them. I don’t often refer to it but it is there for me basically to get stuff out of my head and not distracting me. I also keep an overview of each major project or piece of normal business. I have less control over that (who are these people who do not have customers to serve, I ask myself, in the IT world) and as a result, the categorisation and structuring of that can be a bit fluid. Some things might belong in two places. Fixing that only comes over time. Each overview has meeting notes and actions or progress. 

I use colour to some extent – mainly because Filofax has a pile of useful coloured paper. So the to do lists are generally blue, meeting notes are generally yellow. Mindmapping exercises are generally kept together unless they absolutely belong with a specific project or work piece so I want to add some more effective weekly objective/goal planning. I could do that as part of the journal/worklog. I also know there are fixed periods that I cannot work directly on things because I’m stuck in meetings moving direction forward if not production. I miss personal planning schedules a lot around this so I want to try and get a better picture of why that balance is not working for me. I want to track output and follow up that output where possible. 

When I started thinking of my workload in those terms, it seems obvious to me that the technical deliverables, despite the issues in categorising them sometimes could be stored together, and things like the agenda management, goal setting, journal, management related tasks can be kept together. 

Review of the year 2018

In 2018, I did a couple of nice things. I went to Venice (and got bitten by any mosquitoes), I went to Paris and London for Alex Hill Kurtz workshops. I got better at drawing and painting and I bought fewer pens. I was hoping for a zero pen year in 2018 but Lamy are not allowing that to happen so there are 4 pens on the shopping list. I don’t need them of course. 

I discovered 7-Up Free Mojito. Great, great stuff. 

I read a lot more than I have done on average in the 10 previous years, even allowing for no new Terry Pratchetts. 

2018 was not, on average, a bad year, but it closed out with a death which cast one hell of a damper on everything at Christmas and so, it will probably always be coloured by that. Prior to that there was some other family events which might have preferably been avoided. 

Work was enjoyable too. Without going into the details, I changed jobs and lifestyle a few times in the last 5 years and where I am now suits me. I pass through Dublin every once in a while and wonder how I did that for so long, and how anyone does it now. I’m not sure things won’t change again this year. But not back to Dublin, that’s fairly clear.

I’m not a great fan of new year resolutions; I’m not a fan of the whole flagellation thing at all. I grew up in Holy Catholic Ireland so low level guilt of some description is a constant companion. I read an article this morning from a few people who seem to have frankly unrealistic lives in terms of their clean living habits. 

But I am a fan of reevaluating the things I do versus the things I want to do and identify the gaps. It seems twitter and facebook are things I do, without actively wanting to, all that much. Comments on Ars Technica articles about Elon Musk as well for some reason. Against that I want to swim, run more often, and paint more and buy fewer art supplies, for example. Finish that doily. Write more. Read more. Do more. Buy less. 

When we were very young

I started blogging on livejournal about 15 years ago, and then went to blogger, and then, got my own domain and set up a Drupal site on a host that has since gone bust, and then moved the whole lot to WordPress and another (still my current) hosting company. 

I ran a few sites, covering photography, general stuff, art, more photography, ore general stuff. I got nominated for a couple of original of the species Irish Blog Awards. It was fun; I didn’t win and I never wrote a book but I got profiled on RTE at some point, and assorted photos turned up in newspapers and magazines. I’ve been thinking about how it used to be lately as Facebook and Twitter have been infuriating me in different ways. 

I never really loved Facebook. Twitter, I sort of got, but Facebook was a bit meh. Its network however means it replaces functionality from personal correspondance that I’m not sure I’d get back. I’m looking at paring it back (but cannot find the time). Twitter is more problematic because the network changes as people come and go and so, while I’d probably benefit from dropping it, the truth remains I don’t get what I used to get. I used to get interesting information and reads and conversations. Now I get flagellation about whether I’m right on this, support that cause, aware of this other cause complaining about this action by one of about 140 different governments and am I outraged by this view by some plonker in central Missouri whom I have never heard of and could not care less about. 

So in a way, I prefer blogging and then I wonder if part of the issue is I’m just getting older and not getting with the way social media has changed. As Damien and I are much the same age. I hope he’ll forgive me for wondering if he has hit a similar wall

I built a new blog for the first time in a while last year (the piano practice one) and I am toying with an art one. I don’t take so many Photographs lately (I point a phone at it and if it works good if not, well I’ll not be seeing any more sports photos published, anyway). But I don’t expect the world to be the same as it used to be. Most of my online life is on a phone lately and that sucks to write anything long on. I don’t spend much time sitting at a computer lately, not outside work anyway – because I’ve found life essentially much better fun, and also, because I’m not talking 10000 photos a week I don’t have to spend time on Photoshop. But I could make time, like I think I do for the piano site. 

It is just, some of the admin side of blogging wrecked my head. Almost all of my sites now have comments switched off. For every one valid comment I was getting here, I was getting about 10,000 spam comments. I don’t have time for this, even allowing the automation of a whole pile of it. It takes away a lot of the plus points of blogging. 

Also, the whole label blogging is another thing. There are individuals out there who think that blogging is getting free stuff and reviewing it. It is not. 

Anyway, the point is, I want to write more and here is as good a place as any. If I’m going to do that, though I probably need to rethink the social/comments side of things. The downside to all that is my hobbies are as follows: 1) painting/drawing 2) playing the piano 3) needlework and so, they’ll probably feature heavily. I don’t cook much so Experiments with a Cookbook is dead. 

December Blitz

I have this shiny new editor experience and frankly, the jury is out; what can I say? I don’t know. 

It’s 19 December. Less than a week to go before Christmas. 2 days to go before my Day of the Year. The Shortest Day of the Year. The turning of the year. 

I find the dark evenings hard; although this year I barely noticed them; December is as though it never happened. It may be a factor of age; it may be a factor of this year’s workload. But normally, I am attached to the shortest day of the year; for me the start of the lengthening of days is more in line with making me feel happy, and more a starting point than Christmas or New Year 

Last weekend I went to Basel to see the Christmas market there. I occasionally drop into Switzerland; I love the country although I find it terribly expensive. I loved the Christmas market in Basel, in particular the MarchenMarkt section where all sorts of craft stalls were teaching kids how to do things like wood turning, glass etching, soap making and the like. Brilliant idea. There were also a couple of guys demonstrating woodsculpture using chainsaws but not necessarily letting the kids try that. 

I went to Basel in the hope of finding snow; but it did not materialise; had I stayed in Luxembourg, snow would have found me. 

Happy Christmas. 

Paints and stuff

It’s a reflection of how the last few months have been that today, I finally got around to swatching out a paintbox which I bought in London on 8 September. The paintbox is an 18 pan quarterpan box from CassArt. They don’t say what paint is in there which is a pity; it would be nice to know whose paint they do use. I’d guess Daler Rowney though as their set looks almost identical.

Anyway, I don’t know why I wanted it only Shiny, I guess. I like the idea of the little quarterpan box; it’s an enamel box and I have carefully been avoiding buying it. I also own a lot of other paint boxes and mostly use my 12 pain (with three extra added) Sennelier box lately. The fact that it was there, and was instant gratification, was probably a factor.

I haven’t done any sketches with the little Cassart box though. I did manage to make a mess of it, ironically, while cleaning it after doing the swatching but past experience has taught me that’s no big deal.

Quarter pan set

You an see the swatch that comes with the box, plus the little swatch I did as well. There are a bunch of the colours which look a little different for me – the permanent rose and the viridian green for example – but I can see use I would get out fhtme. The Prussian blue is a bit deeper than I am used to with my Senneliers. The selection of colours is not bad at all.

The palette comes in a little case (to the left of the picture above) and a small sable brush which is a bit bigger than the travel brushes which Winsor & Newton include with the sketchbox.

I’m not totally sure what I am going to do with these though. It’s only ever going to be used for small stuff because the pans are so small; so more likely than not, things into the A6 sketchbooks, or postcards, or even the artist trading cards. But it’s probably too small for most of my brushes – I already struggle with the half pans in some cases.

For comparison, here are my three main commercially available small watercolour palettes:

Small watercolour boxes.

Clockwise from Left:

  1. Sennelier 12 half pan set with added quin gold, quin red and light yellow ochre.
  2. CassArt 18 quarter pan set, as delivered.
  3. Schmincke 8 half pan set – in fact I own this and the waterbottle version of this – colours as delivered.

The Sennelier is in my toolbox but my toolbox is causing me trouble as it has missed the original plan for being a toolbox – ie, being portable. The Schmincke is in a small travel kit with a couple of liners and pencils.

Quarter pans are not available so the question will be what I do with the 18 pan set if and when I get to use it – and the speed with which I am going through pans in the 12 pan set suggests this will not be long – the obvious answer is tubes. I own the Schmincke granulating tube set and I use tubes when I am painting with gouache. But I cannot see myself making a wholesale switch to tubes – I simply have too many paints in half pan format that I want, for environmental reasons, to start using.

Small pleasures

I went bookshopping today. This does not automatically mean spending money although that happened today – but it is one of the few browsing pleasures left to me since all the record shops closed. I hope the pleasure is not lost to the children of the future.

I have a long book queue at the moment and I am gradually switching from twitter to books again. I have a kindle full of books and have come to the conclusion that while it’s handy to drag around 300 books with you in your handbag, the truth is, there are disadvantages. I tend to know that I am reading a book about something or other but these days, because I never see a book cover, I often might not know what the actual name of that book is, or who wrote it.

I don’t like this.

And okay, the instant gratification thing is good with the kindle but then I have three hundred books on it and I definitely have not read 300 books. The interface for managing those books sucks too. The interactive design of a bookshelf has yet to be improved on by the nice engineers at Amazon. I’d prefer the books.

Against that, I cleared a house in Dublin and books are heavy. I cleared out a lot of them – Chapters got a pile of my fantasy books, for example – and I dumped some more. It pains me to think of it. I’ve accumulated some books here but most of my books are in Cork, such as are left in my collection. I read the last Philip Pullman on my kindle; I regret not buying the physical book and probably will, when the next book in that trilogy came out. But buying books, because of the hell that was clearing out the house, is fraught with guilt. I will most definitely move house again, at some stage. I regret not having my own personal library, a lot of bookshelves and a gorgeous grand piano. But such is life.

The downside of e-readers, I think, is that it changes people’s relationships. As it happens, during the week, I received The New Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, and read it while doing some business travel. I have since loaned it to someone whom I hope will find it as fascinating as I did. But…the only reason I could do that was because I had the physical book. You cannot do this with ebooks. And yet, actual books can create so many conversations.

It is never just the words on the page.

I spent some time reflecting about the difference in my life now (usually stressed, too much to do) and my life 20 years ago (Saturday’s lasted a long time and the summer seemed full of weekends) and realised that when I was 25 years old, I spent my time in FNAC and Virgin, perusing books and CDs. Well one of those pleasures is gone.

Amazon cannot replace this pleasure; the smell of new books. Its recommender has been desperate lately, and the curated selections of my local booksellers fascinate me. Alinea, possibly the most dangerous of the bookshops in Luxembourg, does a sterling job. If I had shelves enough, I could have spent 1000E on books. When I might find the time to read them might be questionable. But they had many, many books I wanted, many books which tugged at my heart.

Somewhere on Facebook, I saw a comment that said that buying craft supplies and actually crafting were two separate hobbies. I could attest to that for yarn, crochet hooks, paint, paper. I think it’s true for books as well. There is something very special about wandering around a bookshop, exploring. For this reason, on the short list of things I miss from Dublin, Hodges Figgis is up there after the Pen Corner and Pichet. Bookshops cannot survive on browsers along – one bookshop in Luxembourg closed last year and one of their managers told me they needed to be selling three times as many books.

The easiest way for me not to lose the other of my simple pleasures – browsing bookshops – is for me to buy books as well as browse bookshops.

For this reason, my Christmas present to myself will probably be some more bookshelves.

little idiosyncracies of mine: Mappa Mundi sketches

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This is from one of the 17th century globes in the Museo Coreo in St Mark’s Square in Venice. I took a lot of photographs of what I could find on what are basically hard to read 17th century globes.

These things fascinate me. They are remarkably beautiful but simple illustrations which you find on a lot of maps and globes of the era. We don’t put much effort into making our tools look beautiful these days I think.

 

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Anyway you’ll find an album of them in various stages of bluriness here.

they. are. lying.

It is just 25 minutes. 25 minutes out of your day. Can’t you just find 25 minutes to do a bit of sport and live better?

Argghh

Every time I go running, I think about this utterly predictable conversation. I had it with a gym instructor in Dublin too. It’s only an hour out of your day, Treasa.

It never is.

I spent most of the day cooped up in the apartment today and I hadn’t slept well last night. Eventually I decided to go out for a “run”. If my  Garmin were a human they’d be balled over in fits of laughter at my notion of a run but it’s a couple of months since I tried and that, along with the fact that wet leaves made a skating rink of my usual route meant that I wasn’t running very fast.

The actual run itself amounted to 27 minutes which is like yay. Usually I target around 25 minutes. It’s only 25 minutes.

But.

From the point that I decided to go running and put that decision into action, to the point that I was back dressed in human level clothes and ready to continue with the non-running focused part of my day took from 5.58 to 7.20.

The point is this: when you decide to go running, you have to change into running gear and when you come back from running, you have to change out of running gear, usually via a shower. Today the changing into running gear bit was fast. I’ve yet to meet a male running/gym instructor who has understood that getting into a sports bra is hard work. Today it took 30 seconds and that is ca 10 minutes faster than usual. I have breasts, end of.

The run itself wasn’t bad mostly because the yardstick I judge runs by, ie, this one run I did in August 2017 in a thunderstorm where I got drenched and wanted to hit many people by the end of it, was so much worse. This was a benign run, marked only by passing a police car at some stage, and realising that running on wet leaves on concrete was a bad idea. I didn’t run a whole pile of it; maybe more than I expected, a lot less than the last time. My reward was 3 blisters across both my ankles. I’ve run with the shoes in question before but in truth, I don’t much like them which is annoying as they are the latest model of the previous pair which I loved.

The run itself was 27 minutes, apparently 2.8 KM, and yes I know that’s basically walking pace, but it’s faster on average than the previous one even if I ran less of it. I’m not sure how I might be fitter as I haven’t been walking much since the whole tram thing came online.

I’m an organised person so the whole getting ready to go out running is sharp. The running gear is hanging at the end of my wardrobe, and my shoes are within reach. There is always a sports bra to hand along with running trousers and a top. I do not have to dig for anything. The running bag which I use to carry my phone, a bottle of water and  a copy of my identity papers just in case I ever get raped and or murdered is to hand and always ready. I always have a bottle water. Aside from getting into the sports bra, the prep is seamless and takes ten minutes.

The far end of the run involves a shower, drying up and tidying up the sports gear, making sure that there is a running kit ready to go the next time.

If you’re going to say to me that it’s only 25 minutes I can only assume that you don’t change out of normal clothes to go running and you don’t have a shower afterwards.

In other words, have you considered that you might smell at all?