Rende and the lens baby

January 31, 2013

Rende takes his camera for a walk on a grey day here in our little village in northern Holland. He stays with a few routes and stops at places I pass by with the dog daily and see but don’t really see. And he comes home with the loot.

There is a dry dock on the other side of the canal which pulls him like a magnet with all the boats up on supports, stranded out of the water, their encrusted bottoms revealed. There is rust and peeling paint, layers of boat life which he manages to transform into paintings.

The lens baby is a lens that gives you one ‘sweet point’- a point of focus while everything else becomes blurred. One usually sees it used in a  clichéed way, like one rose in focus and the leaves out of focus. But Rende seems to easily bypass that and create a new context for focus and out of focus areas.

As an artist I am continually inspired with what he brings home every day. I love the backgrounds in these, they make me want to paint large areas of blurred and rhythmic colour.

The photos are not just used straight from the camera, he spends lots of time carefully tweaking the Raw versions in Photo shop, mostly to just bring out certain details or rebalance contrasts or colour relationships.

I have to share them here because I get to see these little miracles almost every day. He is so humble he doesn’t push his work, but I feel like it is a real gift to see these creations and get to see the world through his eyes.

Classic still life Jan 27, 2013

Classic still life Jan 26, 2013

It has seemed like a long time, but really, there has only been a month’s work on this one. By now, the apples had started to rot and the lemon dried to a hard little yellow  rock, but luckily I had the photo to work from as as well.  I didn’t work on this every day. I think there are maybe 15-20 hours of actual painting in this.

Here is the progression, though many steps have been left out between January 5 and the painting’s completion on the 26th.

It is hard to know when to stop on a painting. You need to be clear about your end intention.

Mine wasn’t to create a hyper realistic replica of what I saw in front of me. I wanted to appreciate it through paint really. I think that is what painting is for me, a way to make tangible my love for being on this Earth at this time, and gratitude for all the beauty contained in even the simplest objects. That is probably where Rende’s work and my work meet, though we work in different media.

I wanted to enjoy painting with a minimum of worry about whether things looked ‘right’ or not. Of course with realistic paintings you run into some of that, but my main aim was to explore what the paint and colours and textures were doing.

The other way I know when a painting is done is very simple: when it doesn’t bother me any more, and I can leave it alone.

When something is unresolved, I’ll keep going back to it and changing it. The changes may be unnoticeable to someone else, but they glare for me.

The consequences of rushing the last bits and just leaving unresolved problems is that I can never look at the painting with satisfaction that I gave it my absolute best. It will always bother me.

And of course the disadvantage of this, is that I have to keep from perfecting every little thing, because that leaves no room for mystery or for others to fill in their own interpretation.

This painting is complete event in itself, but it also has been a step toward greater understanding of the media and what I would eventually like to be able to do with it.

I want to thank Liam Rainsford for his site and his generosity in sharing his painting knowledge. One of his tips- to put thinned layers of paint on before applying the white,  pulled me through a stuck place I was in with the bowl.



Rende (my husband) has been making some beautiful photos lately. This latest one is of a favourite house plant of mine, ‘Ceropegia woodi’. The flower you see is in reality only about 1/2″/12mm long.

For Rende’s portfolio go to his site on ephotozine .

Sonia Demetriou’s new book

Sonia, whose blog I’ve been following for awhile now, has recently self-published a truly beautiful hybrid cookbook. It is a great mix of reminiscences as well as new discoveries of her family’s heritage on the island of Cyprus.

Androula’s kitchen, Cyprus on a plate, contains a wonderful variety of  personal anecdotes and practical information about current and lost ways of life on Cyprus. Sonia also follows up her passion for the island’s traditional skills such as pottery, weaving and basket making, letting us see current examples of the crafts through beautiful photos accompanied by informative explanations. You really get a taste of daily life on the island, and we haven’t even got to the recipes yet.

The second half of the book is given over to ‘Food glorius food”.  What makes it unique is the personal element- nearly all of the traditional recipes were either made in Sonia’s cousin Androula’s kitchen, or given by relatives and friends in the village. Where the recipes are more general, various friend-cooks give handy tips and snippets of history and anecdote to accompany the bread, soup or pudding being made.

I love to read cookbooks, and this one is my favourite kind to have- you get all kinds of background stories that put the dish in a context and add so much more to its enjoyment.

In Sonia’s own words….

‘…this book is a record of my journey in search of some of the island’s local traditions and crafts, which have been integral to the Cypriot way of life for centuries. It is a tale of the people I met, the food we made and enjoyed in Androula’s kitchen, and some of the Cypriot’s best loved recipes, which I collected along the way. The ancient history of Cyprus is well documented; I wanted to find out about the mundane life of yesterday and its place in modern Cyprus’.

This book is brimming with spices, landscapes, stories, characters, seasonings, sweets, art, and handwork, but most of all a lot of heart and soul. It is a  real gift, and it makes an ideal one as well.

No I’m not getting a cut, this is an unsolicited endorsement of a fellow writer’s worthwhile and beautiful creative product.

Classic still life, January 3

Not done yet! Just working patiently on developing areas across the painting. The glass, the fruit, the bowl, the cloth, all have their own challenges. It is a process of understanding something through painting it.

I’m aiming for a luminous, colourful whole and especially trying to avoid muddy greys, using instead short colour strokes to visually mix grey on the canvas. It is close to the way I work in oil pastels, and when got right, the areas glow as if with their own inner light.

One is always adjusting the various ovals in a painting, the bowl keeps morphing in and out of perspective, but that ‘s just ongoing and should pull together at some point.

I’ve left a lot of the original under-painting showing in the foreground, I may add some glazes over it, but hope to preserve it.

I’m still enjoying it, but it is hard work at this stage, trying to keep the original freshness and not get too finicky, while still developing the volume, depth,  and colour.