A different kettle of fish : : Sopa de Sirena

Sopa de SirenaWhen Kris brought this old brass cauldron home from the flea market, I knew that I would paint it. After I had lovingly painted the cauldron (and the bas-relief wooden flowers in the background) the question was then: What would one cook in such a special pot? Something mythical and rare…

I’m afraid a black sense of humor took hold of me, just then, and I ended up making a poisonous-looking green soup in the brass kettle…along with recognizably fishy pieces, and sinister bubbles. A sprinkling of iridescent blue-green scales in front of the pot completed the brew. Voilà, Mermaid Soup was born. Except that it’s called Sopa de Sirena, because it was born in Venezuela (and was partly inspired by all the Sopa de Mariscos that we have been enjoying here.)

I managed to get the image uploaded to my Society6 shop, too, and there are 30 hours (or so) left to avail of Free Shipping via my Artist’s Promo link. You can also click on the image, above. I’m so pleased to be able to offer something new along with the free shipping, in one go.

Tuck in!

Personalised canvas tote bag

personalised canvas toteWas binding a dozen or so journals today, for a craft market later this month; at some point the books went between boards for pressing, and waiting for the glue to dry I started on this little project. It was so much fun that the books are still in the book press, several hours later! I just decided to keep going with the canvas bag until it was done.
personalised canvas toteThese handy canvas artist’s bags were on special at work, so I bought one. They’re a good size (you can fit an A3 sketchbook into one of these, as well as lots of art supplies) with three roomy pockets, and a whole row of narrow brush or pen pockets on one side of the bag. I want to use it as my art tote when I am traveling (I am going to make more of an effort to paint, or draw, while I am out and about, than I have before now. Yeah, right.) But the bag needed some colour, I thought…all that plain canvas just begged for some paint.
personalised canvas toteI used a black Posca brush-pen to doodle the designs, then painted in with acrylics. I fooled around with glitter fabric paints, too. When the paint was dry, I loaded some flow acrylics into a gutta applicator bottle, and put in fine details like faux stitches and stems and leaf veins. (Note: want to give this a try? Everything you need for this project is available at Jackson’s Drawing Supplies)

personalised canvas toteI used the same applicator bottle to write the text on the reverse side of the bag…after trying to use a Posca marker and not getting the desired results (you can see the pink lines here and there).

personalised canvas toteThis is just going to be something that I drag around with me, getting dirty, battered, and worn, so I was just playing around with the doodles, not planning ahead, and not trying to get anything perfect…I acknowledge that my writing could have been spaced better!

personalised canvas toteI couldn’t resist giving the little painter dude an easel, a canvas, and an unimpressed nude model…and throwing in a bit of naughty humour, too.

personalised canvas toteBefore you try something similar, please note that I broke all the rules about painting on fabric with this one: I didn’t wash the bag first, and I didn’t mix textile medium with my acrylics, or use fabric paints. No idea whether it will all come off when the bag is washed, someday. I will let it dry for 24 hours, and then iron the bag underneath a layer of baking parchment, for what it’s worth, to try and heat set the paints. But it doesn’t have to last, so I don’t mind; it was just a bit of fun, and something to do while my books were in the press. ;) 

personalised canvas tote

The Pocket Alpaca

pocket alpacaCouldn’t resist sharing this funny guy with you…he’s one of 9 strange-ified animals I’ve done, so far, for a group show in the middle of the year. Other characters are a Spangled Jerboa, a Scaly Marmoset, an Arctic Salmon, an Omniscient Raven, an Elizabethan-Ruffed Lemur, a Panzer Wombat, a Wooly Armadillo, and a Firehaas (or Firestarter Hare). They all began life as a left-handed drawing, which I wrote about in the post Sinister drawings. (They were painted with my right hand, though.)

A playful bunch, and so much fun to make!

So it hasn’t been all family drama and birthday cake…I’m chugging along steadily, making things, doing things…just not blogging about things, much, because we’re still having problems with our solar power on the boat. If you see the sun, tell him we miss him in Darwin.

A few more…


Whatever is happening is the path to enlightenment. —Pema Chödrön

More feathers, because it’s what I happen to be doing at the moment. A path lined with feathers is not a bad path to be on!


Getting a bit bolder with the color combinations…orange thread over yellow green paint, complementaries, that sort of thing.


May have over done it with the red-violet feather on emerald green…that one looks a bit muddy. Too many different kinds of thread. Too many colors.


When the work starts to get slick, polished, ornate, precise, or needlessly intricate, it’s time to step back and empty the mind of what it knows, again: time to dig up the real feather that started all this, and really look at it.

Starting from zero, studying the feather as if for the first time, and proceeding with attention and praise for it as an individual and miraculous thing. Which, of course, it is.

Don’t ask. I don’t know what it means, either.


I just had a hankering for a color palette of mustard, white, and mauve. Weird little set. “Ode to A Dentist”?

Oh well, at least I painted something today…

(Crams both a chocolate seashell AND a chocolate seahorse into her mouth…)




The Flowery Cake Shoppe of Compromise

A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.

 — Ludwig Erhard

for Mick's mum
I talked myself into an ambiguous state in my last post. See, although it is just a painting in exchange for some canvas that Mick probably would have thrown away if I didn’t take it, I have to admit that I wanted Mick & Mother to really love the painting. I wanted him to feel that the debt had not only been repaid, but had been handsomely recompensed. I wanted to give him something that was a little better than what he was expecting.

When I sat down with a resigned sigh to start the painting, I knew that I would do my best to produce something that ticked all the conventional “Still Life With Flowers” boxes.


As it turned out, I managed to strike a compromise between those conventions, my technical limitations, and my abhorrence of a certain kind of impasto oil painting with soft-edged, ruffle-daubed, faintly muddy-colored and impressionistic flowers. I was so out of my depth, tackling this subject matter, that I really thought long and hard about what I wanted, and how it should look.

When I am unsure of myself, I tend to splat a lot of gunky paint on, every color I have, aiming for “texture” and “interesting” messes, hoping that I will manage to “save” it all at the end by some well-placed motifs and a bit of stitching; these are leftover bad habits from the scrapbooking/mixed-media school of art that was such a rage for a few years. My approach is usually very heavy-handed and, yes, why not say it?…lazy. I’m too lazy to think things through, to pay attention to composition, values, line, and order; and the rare times when I do, I drop them all by the time I have the brush in my hand—and then spend as many hours trying to cover my mistakes up with yet more paint, ending with a really hopeless sludge of splatters and childish shapes, the color of mud.


I was so determined to steer clear of this approach, here, and so I very atypically kept to a strict palette of about 5 colors. I took three separate photographs—two of flowers growing around the yacht club, one of an empty olive oil bottle in my kitchen—and used them to sketch an arrangement. I decided on liquid acrylics with some gloss medium for glazing, and aimed for a painting that evoked watercolours rather than oil paints, leaving areas of white canvas exposed to serve as the highlights, rather than painting them in later (which never quite works)…I wanted the whole painting to be simple, almost graphic, in its shapes and colors. I wanted clean hues, with lots of transparency and the illusion of light through glass and water. At the last minute I rejected the idea of patterned tablecloth or lace-curtain backgrounds, and I am so glad that I put a very pale, neutral background in, instead, as it doesn’t compete with the rest and the feeling of the painting remains one of clean spaces and light.

*breathes out in relief* Surprisingly (to me) the time I devoted to really thinking very hard about what I wanted, until I could see it in my head, and what I woud have to do to get that look, paid off in the end…because the washes were kept thin, translucent and minimal, the actual working time of this painting was about 6 hours, not counting drying time…and no time spent covering up, scraping back, or trying to right any wrongs with cheap tricks.

This experience has been another valuable lesson to me! I am pretty sure that Mick will be happy with it, and I am happy with the way it turned out, myself. Many big wobbling slices of pink and white cake for everyone!