Category Archives: things of beauty

Main Railway Station, Helsinki

It’s three years since I was last in Finland – I’d say it was far too long but there was a 14 year gap prior to that.

Anyway, for various art related reasons I wanted a picture of an icebreaker and I knew there had been one near the hotel where I stayed the last time and given I was still dragging a large camera around then, I would have been surprised if I didn’t take a picture of it. So I rooted out the relevant hard drive to find the pictures from Helsinki, and while I was scrolling through them, I found this.

 

IMG_1080Basically, this is the railway station in Helsinki. It’s a rather austere looking building – a lot of discussions online suggest it’s a bit Soviet Union. The day I got the train to Tampere, there was, however, a train to Saint Petersburg on one of the quays. Finland does share a border with Russia. I’ve always remembered the other picture I took of the train station, or made anyway as the processing was rather unique IMG_1083

So I’d forgotten about this. Whether it is the passage of time, or the mood I find myself in now, I suddenly find I love the black and white picture now, and particularly, in full screen version as my desktop image. Helsinki is a lovely city. I really do want to go back.

For what it’s worth, I did take a picture of the icebreaker too. Here it is.

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the VW T1 Campervan, bus, variations on a split screen theme

I started a painting project last week, part of a project to make me more comfortable sketching things and making it easier to paint, called, rather unofficially, the vw campervan project. I have a sketch book and most days, I set aside half an hour to do a picture of a VW Campervan. I favour the T1 for some reason.

If you asked me what my favourite car was, I probably would never have answered VW Campervan. All my driving life I have driven Fiestas, for example.

But on the other hand I own one biscuit box and one moneybox and several keyrings which are basically T1s and while I don’t get the whole thing with the Beetles, I have to say somewhere buried under me is a liking for the T1. I think it’s a lifestyle thing with the whole VW campervan thing – they are closely aligned with an element of the surfing lifestyle.

So anyway, I decided to have a go at a campervan, and this was the first one.

A photo posted by Me (@wnbpaints) on

This wa the first one. I have cheerfully called it Rust bucket because well, let’s face it, a rust bucket is what it is. The T1 is both easy and hard to paint at the same time. You can get a flattened impression of the camper quite easily and that V at the front along with the split screen is iconic. Most of the time though I get the impression that if I painted it as a Tube train, most people would get the impression I was painting Tube trains. The thought does occasionally occur to me. The few people who get to see these things on my Facebook, twitter or instagram feed have rather liked this one.

A photo posted by Me (@wnbpaints) on

and later on this afternoon, I will be painting it for the third time following a family request. I don’t quite know why it appealed to people so much but apparently the cyclist…don’t you know?

Anyway, I do, as it happens, have a sketching blog which I am going to do something about using more often once I figure out a low hassle way of getting decent pictures of the vans onto flickr.

The thing is, the T1 especially, and the T2 (no split screen, no V) are rounded, shapely vans. My hope is that when I get to the end of the project in about 6 months time, that the vans I draw will be significantly less boxy.

In the meantime, I’m struggling to identify iconic cars from any later than about the 1980s.

Brunch @ Brother Hubbard

My plans for today fell apart at around 3.30 this morning and in the end, I wound up in the Capel Street area having discovered that Evans Art Supplies sell Copic markers while actually spending money on other stuff. This is a good, if potentially extremely expensive discovery for the future.

Anyway, this trip took me past Brother Hubbard and having heard great things about it, I decided to see if brunch could be procured. People who are awake making decisions at 3.30 in the morning usually welcome other people doing the cooking. I am aware they are popular so I was surprised when they said yes, but in their premises next door which I think is known as Brother Hubbard’s Little Brother.

Foodwise, I wanted something more substantial than granola so I went for one of their cooked breakfasts – they have a lot of great looking options and menu wise, it’s probably the best brunch menu I have seen in Dublin – and made the choice with some difficulty. Eventually, I went for Breakfast of Champignons, I think it was called, which was basically 2 poached eggs, three large field mushrooms on sourdough bread with I think, onion marmalade. Along with that, I ordered Irish breakfast tea and some orange juice.

The orange juice was freshly squeezed (hardly surprising given the reputation of the establishment) and probably the nicest freshly squeezed orange juice I have had. I don’t know who their orange supplier is, but they chose well on the orange front. Not a hint of bitterness that ever was.

The main event, the breakfast for champions, as the waiter said he took it, was excellent. Everything was cooked to perfection – I might have given the poached eggs a moment longer but that’s the subject of the wider debate on boiled eggs – runny or hard – either way, beautiful. And the bread was gorgeous.

They provide pepper in a beautiful grinder which doesn’t look unlike a mini Turkish coffee grinder, and the salt is in flake format. I liked that, in particular the grinder.

The tea was meh. I’m not sure what tea provider they use and arguably I could have drunk it a bit sooner, but I’d argue it was one of the weaker elements of the universe. It absolutely wouldn’t put me off going there again – the food was excellent – but I wouldn’t necessarily have tea the next time. Would, perhaps, experiment with their hot chocolate.

The one thing that would put me off going back is I didn’t find the table/chair/seating arrangement very comfortable in the little Brother premises. To be blunt, it felt very squished in – I was seated beside the glass wall between the tables and falling down the chairs and this left my arm shoved into my body with nowhere to go. The tables were small and put me in mind of school desks, and if I’m honest, they were probably smaller than that again. It is not a place you would feel tempted to linger, which, I suppose makes good business sense if you’re aiming for fast food level volumes. I don’t think they are. So, if I were going back there, I would prefer to try the main premises before making a final call on it.

On the other hand, their wait staff were unfailingly polite and friendly – I somehow managed to deal with at least four of them during the course of my business there – and the service was unobtrusive and relatively quick. I bought one chocolate pastry as I was leaving just to taste as I hadn’t ordered any with my breakfast. It was gorgeous.

I’d strongly recommend the place for the food. As somewhere to relax, where I ate today really isn’t an option.

Boxed Lives

I have an ongoing struggle to organise stuff in my life. I own a lot of stuff. I own a lot of CDs, a lot of notebooks, a lot of books. And I’m limited in how I can organise things to keep them under control. In my wardrobe, there’s a box of yarn, and a box of tapestries. Yesterday, I emptied some boxes of stuff.

Over breakfast, I was thinking about this. All this stuff I have, arguably, some of it isn’t necessary. But some of it, I don’t quite want to let go and, if I am honest, deep down, I don’t like having it in boxes. For example, I have 10 years worth of personal journals. Now people have different views of diaries/journals/whatever term you’d like to apply. In past lives – of which I’ve had a few at this stage of my existence – they weren’t kept in boxes. They were kept on shelves. They were a living testament to me, the things I did, the things that made me happy; the things that made me sad. This is not a eulogy of my life, more a feeling that when I box up my memories, I box up me.

One of the dangers with putting things in boxes is that they slowly become irrelevant to your day to day living. One of the boxes I emptied yesterday was a box of tins.

Pretty tins. Some of them came with tea inside, some of them were picked up on travels. Two of them I know I bought in Belgium which means I definitely had them at least 16 years, and possibly closer to 18. I won’t say I wasn’t slightly sentimentally attached to them. But…they had been in a box for at least a year; I have no where to store them and, more importantly, I wasn’t using them. I had two boxes of tins. I now have less than one box of tins. I won’t be adding to the collection beyond the tins which are in circulation in my kitchen until I can actually use the tins.

Boxes are handy for storage. We go to IKEA, we buy boxes and temporarily put stuff away. Sometimes, temporarily…becomes long…

I want to limit the existence of boxes in my life. I don’t know how to fix it all immediately, but I’m not really in a hurry to box up all my books and CDs, my bottles of ink for some indiscriminate time in the future when it will all be grand. The things we keep in boxes slowly migrate from our lives and when that happens, we’ve already lost them.

First impressions: Kusmi

Most people who know me are aware there’s a tea thing going on in my life, and if you know me at all well, you’ll know that the default choice if I have access to it is Marco Polo Noir from the Mariage Freres range. I can’t get it in Dublin.

Last week, one of my friends gave me some Kusmi tea, a sampler box if you like, of 24 teabags. Brown Thomas sell (or at least used to) sell some Kusmi tea and they are well known, apparently for detox teas.

I’m not going to review the tea right here, right now, as I only have one mug of tea beside me here (in a beautiful Dunoon china mug notable for the presence of at least one lighthouse painted on the exterior). I will say this though: the aroma on ripping off the crinkly transparent paper from the outside is utterly gorgeous. I am very happy with it.

review: Beautiful Goodbye/Richard Marx

So, somewhere amongst my possessions there are a few Richard Marx cassettes. I was a fan when I was 14 years old and of all the music I was listening to nearly 30 years ago, he’s one of the few I’m still listening to now.

Sometime last year, he put out another album – there haven’t been all that many of them in the grand scheme of things, for all he’s been plying his trade for more than 30 years now – which is probably more rnb than soft rock. I was never sure soft rock worked as a label for him. Not sure any label did to be honest.

Anyway, I like this a lot. I don’t know if I would have liked it when I was 14. It’s extremely glossy. You could work your way through any artist’s output if their career is long enough to get a feel for how production values in general have changed over time. But the voice hasn’t changed much since I was watching the video to Right Here Waiting on MTV. It’s a touch bass heavy and tending very much to what I always called adult contemporary until I discovered I had arrived in that demographic myself. I like the soundscapes of this (okay (I’ve been a bit distracted from the point of view of lyrics). They are like very expensive chocolate, probably because the string sections here and there, matched up with the very contemporary bass lines.

Highlights are obviously going to include the title track, and then also on regular play here are To My Senses and Have a Little Faith. It is the sort of music I like to sound track my life to. When I’m not listening to big orchestral stuff anyway.

 

Schleiper Creative

I was in Brussels a few weeks ago looking up the European Union’s open house event. When I was europeanunioned out, I took a trip to an art supply shop called Schleiper. When I say it was by some distance the best art supply shop I have ever been in, I am being deadly serious. None of the art supply shops in Dublin come even close. Schleiper is heaven to someone like me.

Schleiper covers my notepad needs, my coloured pencil needs and my watercolour and sketch pad needs. If I hadn’t flown hand luggage only, I’d most likely have done quite a bit more damage than I did. As it was, I picked up two A5+ notebooks that I use for my diary but with MOAR pages (note to self: well stocked up on diary notepads for around 5 years) mainly because I just can’t get them here. I gazed wantingly at the wall of Atoma notebook supplies. I really wanted loads of that too but the purposes for which I’d want them isn’t yet clear and there’s no point in doing the shopping until you know exactly what you want.

They had the best supply of painting gear that I’ve seen. Easels, canvases, paints, the lot. And they were good on coloured pencils too.

In the end, I bought what I call a handbag sketch book (because the ones I like are not commonly obtainable at the moment). This is a sketchbook that I keep in my handbag and basically sketch into with a fineliner pen when I’m, oh, queuing to get on a pen, wandering around a museum and such. I’m not very good at drawing and so I need to practise. It’s easier to do that if you have a sketchpad to hand all the time. A5 is the biggest I get in my handbag but it’s that bit too big. The next size down that I find in Ireland is too small.

This is somewhere between too small and too big so I like it. I haven’t finished out the current (fiasco of a) A5 but I’m getting close and so…I had to force myself not to buy several of these small ones but I’m angling to go back there within six months (by which time I should have run out of handbag sketching supplies) and will…do the needful at that time.

On the coloured pencil front, I was prudent and with the balance of hindsight, this was a mistake as Schleiper had a discount sale the day I was there and I think they knocked 20% off what I bought. I really should have gone straight back in and … I bought an 18 pencil box of Pablo pencils as I wanted some dry coloured pencils. In truth, I should have bought all the other things I have.

My personal view of the staff in Schleiper is that they are unfailingly polite and very helpful. In addition to the pencil and paper stuff I wanted, they had notebooks (which I didn’t know I needed and which makes any stationery shop in Dublin look like a village store) and supplies for absolutely every other creative activity you could want including cake decorating, knitting, chocolate making sewing, and every type of paper based art.

I fully recommend the place if you can find it. It’s not too far from the European Parliament in Brussels.

Neolithic monuments in Ireland

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Newgrange is one of the highest profile historic sites which we have in the country and when most people talk about going to Newgrange, they mean they want to see this one.

When I go to Newgrange, I always go to Knowth as well. Yes, you can actually go into the passage in Newgrange, and yes, it’s extremely well done but it’s always very busy.

Knowth is generally much quieter and, on occasion, no matter how busy Newgrange might be, you might have the site at Knowth more or less to yourself. There’s a lot to be said for this.

Knowth is bigger than Newgrange, but it does not look anywhere near as perfect. It hasn’t been restored (or reconstructed) in the same way as Newgrange was, and some different decisions have been made about the site. A key one is the question of the quartz stone. At Newgrange, this was built up as a wall. At Knowth, the view was taken that it was probably a terrace around the entrances. I’ve mixed feelings. Certainly Newgrange looks more complete but….

That aside, the reason I would still favour Knowth over Newgrange is the art. Knowth has significantly more external art than Newgrange and it is stunning.

Yes, the entry stone for Newgrange is iconic:

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but then, there’s this:

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and this:

20150415_160718I find what’s around the base of Knowth simply to be on a scale which is borderline unimaginable at Newgrange.

I didn’t have time to go to Dowth yet and it’s not included amongst the options you can get to from Bru na Boinne. However, if you are interested in neolithic art in Ireland in that area, I would strongly recommend Knowth as a seriously underrated site. It is wonderful. You can actually look down the passageway although access down it is not permitted to the public and you can see some public access work done on the eastern end. You can also walk to the top of it and the view from it is quite impressive.

I find the whole idea of pre-history in Ireland fascinating. If you go to the National Museum on Kildare Street, you’ll find examples of 3 and 4 thousand year old jewellery which contains carvings not dissimilar to some of the carvings on these stones and it’s extraordinarily beautiful. I really do wonder about the societies that were able to access the gold, shape it, carve it. It seems to me those societies, however on a smaller scale than is currently on the case, must have been extremely sophisticated, particularly with respect to their ability to use tools to achieve tasks which would probably challenge us today.

 

 

 

little gems we should value more

I went to the National Museum in Kildare Street yesterday. It was busy enough, and a significant number of people were tourists, so I guess that is all good.

If I had to leave Dublin in the morning, the National Museum in Kildare Street, and possibly the National Gallery, would be in the top five list of things I would miss. Entry to both is free, and both have places of peace where I can go and find an escape from the messy city outside (seriously, have you seen the condition of the road surface at College Green? The city is aching and in pain  these days).

My favourite individual exhibit in the National Museum on Kildare Street is in the Treasury. It’s a little gold model of a boat and it dates from around the first century of the common era. That’s what we used to call the first century AD but anyway. It is a beautiful delicate little piece, with I think, 7 pairs of oars, and a tiller, and a cross hold for a sail. It is lovely. In my view, for beauty, it out does everything else in this room.

The main body of the museum is made up of Or, Ireland’s collection of historic gold items. Much of that display is up to 4000 years old, particularly some of the torcs, the sun discs and some of the earrings and dress clasps. I never fail to be utterly amazed by the work, the delicate tooth engravings. I could walk down Grafton Street and look at some of the jewellery in our high end jeweller shops and nothing even comes close.

I remain amazed that 1) these things were created and 2) these things might even survive so many years.

I dip into the museum as and how I wish, and while I’ll admit I’m strongly attracted to the Or and Treasury pretty, the point is, we’re very lucky to have it, and have that extent of a collection here.