Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Glass squirrel
26x 51 cm (10" x 20")
Acrylic on Canvas

Many years ago I gave my mother a smokey glass squirrel. It sat on her kitchen cupboard for a long time and now sits on mine, eternally eating its acorn.

I painted the squirrel over the top of another painting which had words written on it. In the finished painting you can  see through the squirrel to the words beneath. Just!

I particularly like the effect. It will be an inspiration for the next painting. Funny how these things happen. Happy accidents.

I write this on the cusp of the new year - so happy new year for 2015. I wish heath and all the acorns you desire.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday morning beach

View over to the Palm Beach headland, the most northern tip of Sydney.
The turquoise water that turns pale green as it forms an incoming wave, the splash of water as it reaches the shore, the footprints in soft wet sand. That is the NSW Central Coast on this lovely Monday morning.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Have a merry Christmas (whereever you are perched)

It is the season to ...
be laid back
be laid

 Have a Happy Christmas
and may we all be on our perches
this time next year.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 cm
Finally the nectarines made it onto canvas and this time they stayed there.

The jug and hibiscus paintings which originally included nectarines are still sitting expectantly on the second easel, waiting for additions. Hmmm, they may be waiting some time. In the meantime I am drawing white fleshed peaches.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The smaller the coffin ...

"The smaller the coffin, the heavier it is to carry. It's a very, very tragic day." Defense Minister Khawaja Asif.
Such dreadful news this morning of the massacre of children in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. I worked for some time in Pakistan and visited Peshawar and just like Emma Ayers whose book I am about to buy, my visits left me with a great regard for the Pakistani people. My heart goes out to them.

A Pakistani commentator writes that it is not about religion but about power.

The 'Sydney siege' was not about religion but about one man's delusion. In Pakistan both perpetrators and victims are Muslim but the obvious implications are no doubt lost on the host of racist commentators who continue to exploit the Sydney event to spread racial hate messages.

To his credit PM Tony Abbott is refusing to blame Islam for the tragic turn of events in Sydney, but the Pakistan massacre should give our government pause to think. Our Government sending people back to their home countries even when they are clearly unsafe. This has nothing to do with 'saving lives of boat people' and shows the government's asylum seeker policy is just vindictive and mean-spirited.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Sydney-siders have been transfixed this afternoon by the hostage drama at the Lindt chocolate shop in Martin Place. It is extraordinary the media coverage that one lone gunman can engender. Some reprehensible (you can guess which) media outlets have been exploiting the drama to fan the flames of Islamaphobia but the response of ordinary Australians has been swift.

Someone (tweeter sirtessa) offered to travel with people wearing religious clothing who might feel unsafe and labelled it with the twitter hashtag #illridewithyou.

Within 3 hours 65,000 (yes, sixty five thousand) other people offered to ride with those feeling threatened. People are writing tags for their bags so they can be identified and someone is printing buttons.

One tweeter wrote " hate can't win against hate, but love can."

Addendum (Tuesday morning): This is Russell Brand's take on the events yesterday.

Overnight Rupert Murdoch has been online praising the efforts of his newspaper the Daily Telegraph but most are appalled by the fear-mongering of this publication.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Travel shenanigans

Imagine being on a plane for a long haul flight to Sydney, not being able to land there because of debris on the runway, then being diverted to Canberra where you have to wait a further eight hours before a plane from Sydney can come and collect you (the crew had exceeded their maximum flying hours) so  you can be flown back to Sydney to go through customs. That is exactly what happened this week - and the passengers were understandably upset.

There are worse things that could happen of course, but that can't have been much of a consolation.

This little sketch was painted in Sydney in 2007 while I was waiting for a flight.  My subject has a real 'airport' look about her hasn't she?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Brian Wood ceramic (3)

Brian Wood jug
The painting of Brian Wood's ceramic jug has gone through many iterations (see two of them below). I tried putting several items in the picture with the jug but none of them worked. The jug sat there throughout, surviving the several over-paintings. It is a very determined jug.

Finally I decided to make the painting a colour study and now I rather like it.

I painted some pink Hibiscus flowers in a vase with similar colours. I like using a similar colour combination over two or more paintings as they look good on the wall together. 

The vase with Hibiscus flowers originally sat on a draped white cloth and there were two nectarines in the picture. Once again the nectarines didn't survive the painting process.

Vase of pink Hibiscus flowers.
In the meantime the nectarines have all been consumed but they are still in season so today I bought some more.

The next painting is going to be of a plate of nectarines.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Australia Piano Quartet at the Utzon Room

Australia Piano Quartet
There is a small concert room at the Sydney Opera House called the Utzon Room. It is well named as it is one of the nicest spaces in the opera house. It is small so the concerts are intimate and you listen to music while looking out over Sydney Harbour.

Last Tuesday the Australia Piano Quartet played their last concert of the year in the Utzon Room. The quartet comprises  (Rebecca Chan (violin), Thomas Rann (cello), Evgeny Ukhanov (piano) and James Wannan (viola).

They are vibrant, young and virtuosic and their program included Mozart, Saint-Saens and the new commissioned work In Search of Asylum by Pozniak. Rebecca Chan explained how the challenging Pozniak piece put the musicians into the mind-space of the asylum seeker and a spokeswoman from the Asylum Seeker Resource Center spoke about how they are trying to help those arriving on Australian shores.

The view is spectacular  even without the huge cruiser that was tugged past the window. Once the musicians started playing however, all eyes were on them.
Before the concert began
Cruise ship is tugged out of the harbour

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Misogyny in Australia

One women is killed every eight days in Australia by her partner or former partner.  They call it the silent epidemic. Why is it silent? Why are we blind?

We are a society where the pay gap between men and women is now 17% , where business characteristically overlooks women when appointing board members (still less than 19%) and where half the population is represented in the Federal Government Cabinet by a single solitary woman. That solitary woman is vocal about 'not being a feminist'.

Misogyny has become so much part of the political fabric that parliamentary commentators were caught on the wrong side of the fence when Julia Gillard defended herself from charges of misogyny by Tony Abbott in Parliament. They wrote articles chastising Gillard for her speech while the speech video went viral, shared by men and women across the country who were sick of the misogynistic venom that Gillard had faced. Later a choir made music to the speech and I like to think this might be the turning point, a point where we start to rethink our values. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

Brian Wood jug

Brian Wood jug.
My painting of the Brian Wood jug is morphing. I painted it first with a bowl of nectarines and a jug of lavender but it was unbalanced, the jug got lost, the lavender didn't fit and the nectarines took over. That was a long list of deficiencies and although I had spent a long time painting the nectarines (so delicious they looked too) in the end I couldn't retain them and painted the whole lot out.

At the moment the jug stands on its own on a back background. I am not sure what the next step will be. Painting is a battle, as one of the art school tutors said. At the time I had not believed him, but increasingly, I do.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The State of Victoria Changes Government

In Australia the State of Victoria has just voted and is making history by changing government after only one term. The toxic federal Government is being partly blamed for the more than 3.5 - 4% swing to Labour but there have been lots of local issues as well - including the reignited and very polluting fire in a coal mine in Morwell where the people feel forgotten by their government and where there was a >13% swing against the government. Both major daily newspapers in Victoria told people to vote Liberal/National, but the people have obviously not listened. Many are probably like me and, facing increasing right wing stridency in the main stream media, have migrated to online news.

Not only has the government been changed (from Liberal/National to Labour) but the Greens are in the lower house of parliament for the first time. At the moment it looks as if they have won at least one and perhaps two inner Melbourne seats after a campaign based on climate, public transport and fairness. That is a significant win in a 'first past the post' system like ours.

Greens candidate  Ellen Sandell has just commented to cheering supporters: "You have told us you don’t want an $18 billion toll road ripping up our city, you want a 21st Century Public Transport network"
Kissing reluctant baby
The most commented photo of the election has to be this one that is being shared around twitter. It shows the Foreign Minister, Liberal Julie Bishop and Victorian Liberal State Premier kissing an unimpressed child. Ms Bishop is known for her pre-political career as an aggressive lawyer fighting against those seeking compensation for asbestos poisoning. One of the first things she did when becoming Foreign Minister, before even being sworn in, was to rescind  Steve Bracks position as consul General in New York. He had been Premier of Victoria for eight years and was eminently suited for the job. It was a portend of things to come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

'Brian Wood' jug with nectarines

White ceramic 'Brian Wood' jug with nectarines
Acrylic on Canvas
30 x 40 cm

The Otago Art School in  Dunedin  (NZ) has an excellent ceramics department with original and inspiring teachers including, when I was there, Jim Cooper and Maddie Child.

The white jug in this painting was made by Brian Wood who was a ceramic expert and curator even before he was an art school student. I bought it at a final-year student sale.

It has an unusual and graceful form and although it is not completely waterproof  I have kept it and admired it ever since. It is an art object but I use it as an  utilitarian object - I keep my paintbrushes in it. (Eat your heart out, Peter Voulkos.)

Jug with brushes

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Classical music lovers among those weeping

Governments don't like to be criticised and both sides of politics have sweated under the even handed but critical reports of our national broadcaster. Well, even handed until now - at the moment the ABC seems to be frightened of contentious issues.

I love our #ABC T-shirt
I love our #ABC T-shirt
A report written under the Howard liberal Government (not immediately released) said that the ABC is efficient but underfunded. The current Government had a report written too (unreleased), but it seems, despite all assurance before the election that they would never cut ABC funding, that they had already decided to  do so.

Now millions are going to be docked from the ABC and SBS budgets, a move that is being reported as pure vindictiveness. The much loved ABC is set to loose hundreds of workers and this weekend thousands of people have been out of the streets protesting.  Some of them will be classical music lovers who, like me, have their radio dial permanently tuned to ABC Classic FM, a station reportedly about to be severely cut

 It beggars belief, but one Cabinet member started an online petition to save the ABC Adelaide office (his electorate) and several other members of the government have gone public about saving the bit that they like.

I hope the tidal wave of disgust at our current leadership washes all of them away (especially the member for Adelaide) at the next election. It can't come soon enough. In the meantime, I'll get the T-shirt.

Addendum: there are so many cuts, including Bush Telegraph and lots of regional positions. It is confirmed that Classic FM will cut back on concerts, meaning if you can't go you wont hear them.
I feel so sorry for all ABC staff in this toxic political climate, not only the 400 (one in ten) staff and their families loosing their jobs just before Christmas.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Forty One degrees

Forecast of 41C on the NSW Central Coast tomorrow
I remember about 10 years ago hearing a talk on the radio about high temperatures. A woman from Alice Springs was asked what temperatures of 40C felt like, and we in Sydney listened in awe as we had never experienced such temperatures.

How times have changed. Last year we had a day at 40C and this year we have already had 42C and it is only November. Tomorrow is forecast to be 41C.

The Australian Liberal (actually Tea-Party) Government is clinging desperately to coal as the world finally gets into gear to tackle climate change. I would leave the whole cabinet out in the town square tomorrow and only supply a water hose when they came to their senses.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays Mantovani (and others)

Waiting for Jean-Efflam Bavouzet
I subscribed to the Sydney Symphony International Pianists  series this year and wondered as I did so whether solo piano  would maintain my interest. I realised  during the first concert (Alexander Gavrylyuk) and that piano is entirely sufficient when you have an expert at the keyboard. Each of the four concerts has been very different and each interesting

Last night we heard Jean-Efflam Bavouzet play Beethoven, Mantovani and Ravel.

The Beethoven (three Sonata's including the Apassionata) was wonderful, but then I am always a sucker for Beethoven.

Mantovani is a friend of Bavouzet and wrote the next piece we heard,  Le Livre de JEB, especially for him.  I remembered a friend's records of  'Mantovani (b.1906) and his Strings'  which I had not liked but the music of Bruno Mantovani (b.1974) bears no resemblance to that of his namesake. Le Livre de JEB was astringent, descriptive and altogether enjoyable. In his excellent pre-concert talk, David Garrett had told us the piece was not only written for Jean-Efflam Bavouzet but was a portrait of him. Is it as confronting having a musical portrait written as having a visual portrait painted I wondered?   As I listened to this volatile and changeable piece I couldn't help thinking that it would be.

The last piece was Ravel's Mirrors and what can be better than a Frenchman playing Ravel? It was like hearing Ian Bostridge sing Benjamin Britten's music.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ceramic pots with hibiscus

Ceramic pots with Hibiscus
This is the same painting at different stages - the background morphed several times in the painting. First it was light, then the shelf under the pots was dark (bottom photo), then the background was all dark. I painted in some foliage in a vase at one stage, then painted it over. Nothing seemed to work with these pots.

Finally I added a Hibiscus from the garden.

 I have now rearranged the shelf next to my easel so there is enough space for me to create an arrangement before painting it. It's my little 'Margaret Olley' corner. I should have done it before I started my current spree of painting domestic items, but better late than never.

I have put my recent 'porcelain paintings' online at

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Anthony Marwood's Serenade in Sydney

Anthony Marwood playing Enescu

A concert hall was a good place to be in Sydney yesterday with temperatures of 33-38C forecast and listening to star-violinist Anthony Marwood play with the ACO was a particular pleasure.

They played Stravinsky, then a very beautiful Serenade for Strings in E Major by Dvořák. Truly a serenade.

The second half of the program was the Octet by Enescu. Marwood is championing music by Enescu and when you hear the Octet you understand why. It is romantic and dramatic and well worth a place in the repertoire.

Marwood and the ACO are playing around Australia until the end of November.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Journalist whistleblower

The respected journalist  Dr Udo Ulfkotte, a former editor of one of Germany’s main daily publications, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has written a book accusing the media of being 'bought'. He gives some examples in the interview in English (below) from German media coverage of the Russian/Ukrainian issue.  (His interview in German is much more detailed and gives many more examples. See it here)

Dr Ulfkotte details exactly how journalists are corrupted into telling lies. He has long been under pressure not to reveal these secrets, but has finally had enough. He wants to save his country from another war.

"I don't care what happens to me", he says, "I have had two heart attacks and I don't have children. And I am sick of the lies."

Brave man.

What he says about media-bias makes sense to me because a German friend told me in September that she just didn't understand the current media bias against Russia.

"Germans and Russians understand each other because we are so similar," she said. "We both carry the worries of the world on our shoulders. We cry easily and tend to be maudlin. But the press is acting as if  the Russians are completely different from us."

If you listen to the video below you will see why the media does not reflect reality.  You can also see why people have drifted away from the mainstream media. If what they are reading does not accord with their own experience, then they will look elsewhere for their information.

The issue of media bias against Russia is pertinent in Australia today, with our Prime Minister Tony Abbott one of the first to blame the Russians for shooting down MH17. Later he said he would 'shirtfront' Mr Putin when he sees him at the G20 meeting. In Beijing this week told the Russians they should apologise and offer compensation. What information is he basing his actions on I wonder.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The green 'Ampelmännchen'

Twenty five years ago since the Berlin wall came down, and I celebrate with a photo of a green  'Ampelmännchen' - little walking green man. My version is a rubber, bought in Berlin in September, but the real versions help people cross streets safely. 

The Ampelmännchen is from East Germany and was designed in 1961.

It was replaced by a western designed 'little green man' when west and east were integrated but then brought back because of nostalgia for things lost and because pedestrians find the East German version of the walking (or stopping) man easier to read than the one designed in the west. Besides which the East German version is charming!

East German Ampelmännchen were re-introduced into Berlin in 2005 and they have become a city icon.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Vale Gough Whitlam

A memorial service for the recently departed Gough Whitlam was held Sydney's Town Hall yesterday.  It was an emotional day for many because although he was Prime Minister for only three short years (1972-1975), in that time he changed the face of Australia.

These are the words Gough Whitlam specifically asked that we be reminded of:

 “That grand vision to promote equality, to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land, and to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people.”

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Australia Piano Quartet

Rebecca Chan, violin
Last night the Australia Piano Quartet played at the university of Technology Sydney in collaboration with journalism students who presented their work on asylum seekers. The students were engaging and how refreshing it was to hear asylum seeker issues
presented in an informed manner.

The Quartet played Bordersongs, a new work by Pozniak between student presentations. It was impressive and complemented the spoken texts well. Then we heard Strauss' Piano Quartet in C minor written when Strauss was 19 years old.

Australia Piano Quartet
(promo photo (Eamonn McLoughlin)
The concert made me think that we could do worse than to give the running of the nation over to young idealistic Australians. It would make a very nice change from the current mob.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Tognetti's Beethoven (and Greenwoods' Water)


The Sydney Opera House was full today for the concert Tognetti's Beethoven.  The concert was a winner, delighting the audience. (And for those who wondered what that extraordinarily touching  encore was, it was Janáček ‘Goodnight’ from On an Overgrown Path.)

One of the pieces featured in the concert was Water by multi-talented Radiohead lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, a piece which got great reviews when it was premiered in London a month or so ago.

Personally I loved the Beethoven, all three pieces played: Coriolan – Overture, Symphony No.1, Triple Concerto.   If I had to choose between them, I would choose the Triple Concerto which I found very moving. The instrumental 'conversation' between violin (Richard Tognetti), piano (Yevgeny Sudbin) and cello (Timo-Veikko Valve) was inspirational and I kept thinking how much fun it must have been to practice.

Below is a great little video of Tognetti talking about the Beethoven and then the Greenwood collaboration.

And here is an ACO blogpost about Greenwood and the ACO

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Ceramic pots for spices and herbs

Blue/black spice jars with eggs
Acrylic on Canvas
38 x 76cm

Spice jars seem to have gone out of fashion, perhaps because people use so many different spices now and plastic shakers are easier. Herbs and spices are better kept in the dark though so ceramic pots might make a come-back.

I have had these pots for a very long time and have carried them with me on every move. It was only when I started making ceramics myself that I realised that a lot of the small items I treasure are ceramic ... like these pots.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Blue Duck

Blue Duck
Acrylic on Canvas
30 x 30 cm

The blue porcelain duck looks down at me from the shelf and smiles. Quack!

I make cards from some paintings to sell at my local coffee shop (below). Originally I made cards with paintings of local places as they seemed to fill a gap.

Then I discovered that birthday cards were really what was wanted, so I added them to the collection. Of course they can be bought online as well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A patient duck at the bus stop

Duck waits at Woy Woy bus stop

This duck was waiting patiently at the bus stop in Woy Woy yesterday.  She seemed to know that although the buses may not always be on time but they do come eventually.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The old eggbeater

Acrylic on canvas
38 x 67 cm
My 'domestic items' painting spree continues, this time my mother's old eggbeater which I remember being used when I was a child.

Mother's passion was gardening, but she was also an excellent cook and her eggbeater got a lot of use, right to the day she died.I don't think she ever owned one of the more modern mixers.

I painted over an old picture of two life drawing models done at wonderful a Michael Taylor workshop held in Grafton nearly 10 years ago.

The eggbeater is an improvement on the original painting!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Hunter: cup and saucer (with books)

Blue and white cup and saucer
30 x 30cm, acrylic on canvas
This cup and saucer was bought from an op shop ages ago. It has been on my 'discard' list for some time but it seems to survive all purges. It is English china made by MYOTT, with a blue and white pattern called The Hunter.

You discover when you attempt to make a ceramic cup how important handles are. This cup has an elongated handle and although you can't get your finger through it, you can balance the cup between your second and third fingers using the bottom of elongated handle.It might sound complicated but our hands do it naturally. Try holding some of your own cups and see what I mean.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Twelve ducklings

A month in the northern hemisphere has thrown my seasons instinct out of whack. Yesterday I saw these ducklings and part of my head was saying to itself 'ducklings in autumn?' Of course, here it is spring, as this brood attests.

Ducks are my favorite bird, but they are notoriously bad mothers. This one and her twelve little ducklings were splashing delightedly in a puddle on the side of the road. Lets  hope at least some of them survive the traffic and the cats.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sketches of the Gypsy Devils

Silvia Šarköziová of the Gypsy Devils

The Gypsy Devils are a fantastic band who played with the Maribor Festival Orchestra at the Maribor Music Festival in Slovenia, September,2014. They played with verve and received an enthusiastic ovation. Sketches from the festival are online at the artsmitten gallery.
Štefan Banyák of the Gypsy Devils

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Orange cup 'n' saucer

old cup and saucer,
acrylic on canvas, 25 x 25 cm.
There is a lot of purple in the pattern on this old cup and saucer, but somehow I think of it as orange.

There is a chip on the saucer, but I love it anyway.  It was in my mother's cupboard and I think it once belonged to my grandmother who loved and collected old/antique ceramics; most of the pieces she collected were chipped or mended as she had a robust family of four.