Friday, March 31, 2006

Sunrise in Nice

I've missed seeing the sunrise since moving to Nice. Most mornings i've been either too early or too late or walking in the wrong direction or the sun is obscured by 5 story buildings.

However, this morning i managed to take some photos on the way to the station with my daughter. Its her turn now to look embarrassed as her mother takes photos at odd times.

The street lights were still on which accounts for the orange circles.

There are some really interesting 'Belle Époque' buildings from the late 19th to beginning of the 20th century around here - the architecture was heavily influenced by Art nouveau -and they often have dramatic roofs and iron work on the balconies.

One strange shaped roof is in the photo below. I will probably take some photos of the interesting buildings in teh coming months once i have worked out where they are.

There are some lovely Art Deco buildings too, including a huge post office building that is a really impressive red brick building.

Its amazing how much the colours can change in just a couple of minutes, from rose pink and lilac to orange , peach and butter yellow.
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Photo Friday- metallic

I've been making sea-weed-like suncatchers with the sea glass that i've been collecting on my visits to the beach, so i thought a photo of some small pices of sea glass wrapped in gold wire would suit the Photo Friday topic, 'metallic'

I took a photo of a random selection of the sea glass collection plus the odd shell. There are large pebble size lumps and tiny rice grain sized pieces mixed togeher.Not a particularly brilliant photo of the sun catchers - the colours don't really show up very well- but it gives the general idea of what they look like, I suppose.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006


Yesterday was a beautiful day.
According to the pharmacy thermometer signs, the temperature was around 24C - very hot for March.

My son and I walked down to the sea and walked along the water's edge.

The sea was breathtakingly blue green, with the crests of waves frothing white and dying down to lacy edges.
The sea glass we collected almost seemed like seawater turned to crystal.

There was a fair wind by the sea, and i was surprised that there were so few yachts around and no windsurfers. On a similar day in Antibes, the sea would be covered with sails..

The beaches in Nice are pebbly - waves crashing and pebbles being swept back and forth is an incredibly loud rumble - and really difficult to translate into words.
As the sun started dropped in the sky, the sea turned silver.

A friend, Colleen Lambert , paints lovely atmospheric seascapes of the Pacific North west- so i hope she will enjoy seeing these photos from the Mediterranean Sea .

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Identity photos

My passport has expired so i need to get a new one.

However it turns out that I need to send off the papers before
the 6th of April or apply for a new
biometric passport with a
data chip.

Today and yesterday spent ages at photo booths trying to get a
decent passport photo. I always
seemed to look like an axe murderer
or sleepy or angry.

Anyway, I came home with some4 photos I liked and discovered
that the new rules for passport
photos meant that the face needed
to be between 29mm and 34 mm -none of these were
suitable- even
the grimmest ones!

So tomoorow i need to start all over again, but this time i have a handy
template in my
sketchbook so i will be able to see right away if the photo
will work or not.

Fingers crossed.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Illustration Friday- Monster

I thought this was quite a difficult I Friday challenge - it was really hard to decide on a single idea that summed up 'monster'. Plus i have a few of monsters in my portfolio already and i wanted to do something different from the other thinsg i've done.

At first i thought about cybermen, Autons, or daleks - monsters from Dr Who [a long running BBC sci-fi series thats recently started again after many years].
I remember finding the Autons and Cybermen particularly terrifying. The Autons becuase they were malevolent showroom dummies that could shoot people and of course the real 70s dummies looked like they could come to life at any minute and run amok = which made shopping trips worrying ; and the cybermen probably becuase they seemed so alien yet vaguely human in form - like Tin Man from Wizard of Oz gone bad.

The daleks , though , were in a class of their own. Bizarre pwepper pot machines with living creatures inside created by the megalomaniac genius Davros. They had weird weapons seemingly made from sink plungers and whisks and metallic catahrral sounding voices that shouted brusque phrases - like , "seek , locate, destroy" and "you will obey the daleks" -and especially "E_X_T_E_RM_I_N_A_T_E " before obliterating people with their whisk ray gun.

I realised how terrifying I'd found the daleks when I visited a Dr Who exhibition aged about 15 and screamed when a dalek came towards me shouting "E_X_T_E_RM_I_N_A_T_E ". I probably wasn't the only person with that reaction - the daleks were definitely well loved but terrifying monsters for a lot of people my age.

I decided against Dr Who monsters , though i had toyed with the idea of pop-art style daleks and cybermen.

I then thought about people that have been described as monsters- especially folk like Vlad the Impaler and Erzsébet Bathory both of whom had the reputation for incredible brutality and mass murder and were part of the insiration for Dracula, but i decided against them as well.

I thought about giant creatures next and even did some sketches of the South American giant centipede Scolopendra gigantea, which can grow to around a foot in length [30cm] and has a poisonous bite - enough to potentially kill a human [though apparently this is a rare occurance and usually people have severe pain and swelling and palpitations due to the action of the venom on the heart].
Not so long ago a British man found one roaming about in his house which must have been a shock.

I gave up on that and decided to do something different and imaginary - a child monster but not a cute one - well as much as i could make it. I also wanted to do some horns and multiple eyes as these are quite difficult to paint- at least for me.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Photo Friday - smooth

I took this photo of icecubes in a pub in Torquay where a friend and I were having lunch.
I'd asked for a jug of water to drink with the meal.

I don't think anyone had ever asked for water before since the server brought us an enormous jug that must have contained well over a gallon of water and ice cubes.

I was quite impressed wth the smooth floating ice cubes so i couldn't resist taking a photo.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Changes - Alexander Graham Bell to Vincent Van Gogh

I swapped the banner from Alexander Graham Bell to Vincent Van Gogh.
I didn't have time when i put the Graham Bell banner up to write anything about it.

Alexander Graham Bell was born on the 3rd of March 1847 [died 2nd August 1922]
He was born in Scotland and worked and lived in Canada and America after the age of 23. It seems he is the only person to have made the top 100 citizens of the USA, Canada and the UK [100 Greatest Britons, Greatest Canadian, 100 Greatest Americans]

He is often described as the inventor of the telephone [and there is some crontroversy about this - as is so often the case, other people were working on similar ideas at the same time and Antonio Meucci was awarded the honour by a US House of Representatives Bill in 2002.]

When I was a child someone told me that we were in some ways distantly related to Alexander Graham Bell [my original family name is Graham].

However I found out researching this piece that the 'Graham' middle name that was added as a mark of respect for an old family friend, Alexander Graham.

Alexander Graham Bell was interested in the telephone and similar devices due to a lifelong interest in deafness.
His mother and wife were deaf, he was apparently a close friend of Helen Keller and he spent a good part of his life teaching a special kind of elocution to deaf people [Visible speech] that had been developed by his father, Alexander Melville Bell.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Illustration Friday - feet- mudskipper

This week's topic is feet - which made me think immediately about mudskippers.

Mudskippers [also known as mudhoppers] are amphibious fish in the Gobiidae family who live in brackish water in mangrove swamps.

Mudskippers don't exactly have feet since they are fish ; though they can walk , jump , run and limb trees.

They use their modified pectoral fins as their feet and legs and can move fairly quickly on land -though their 'walk' is more like a series of small jumps or like someone using crutches.

They climb trees using their pelvic fins like a sucker while the pectoral fins grab the branch and pull themselves up.

They use their gills to breathe when under water . On land, they can breathe through their skin and the lining of the mouth [when its skin is wet] but they rely mainly on special water storage pouches which allow their gills to continue to collect oxygen. When there is no more oxygen in the stored water, the fish will refill the water pouches.

The need to keep the skin and eyes moist and fill up the gill pouches regularly with water means that the mudskippers don't stray far inland.

Having their eyes on top of their heads gives them an enormous field of view and these eyes can see in colour on land and black and white under water.

They can also see above and below water at the same time using their eyes something like a submarine's periscope.

This is obviously useful in avoiding predators [snakes and birds] and also catching prey [insects, crabs, prawns- though some species feed on algae.]

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Photo Friday- technology

The Photo Friday topic is technology, which was interesting since i'd been looking inside my computer earlier in the week and wondering about taking some photos of the wires, chips , circuit boards and power supply.

I took some photos today but wasn't too pleased with them. Then remembered the PCI adapter that is going to be added to give me some USB 2.0 ports and took some photos of that instead. I had been impressed by its glossy green colour and squiggly lines of the circuits.

On wednesday afternoon , my kids and i were on the beach searching for sea glass- glass that has been smoothed and battered into interesting shapes. We collected quite a lot and are now trying to decide what to do with the collection. Most of the glass is different shades of green or frosty white and might make interesting jewellery or sun catchers.

While i was wandering along, I found this tiny piece of circuit board washed up amongst the pebbles. The edges have been smoothed off by the wave action and the metal circuits look the worse for wear- i wonder what it came from.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Illustration Friday - tattoo

This weeks topic is 'tattoo'.

I briefly considered the military meaning of the word - signals by bugle or drum, continuous druming rhythm or entertaining military spectacles such as the Edinburgh Tattoo

I discarded these thoughts quite early on as i wasn't really sure how i would manage to convey the idea.

When i was thinking about tattoos in terms of permanent inking of the skin, I first thought of Oetzi the Ice man. He was a man accidently mummified by a glacier 5000 years ago on the border of Austria and Italy.

His body and clothing and weapons were amazingly well preserved and recent studies show that he was injured by an arrow shortly before he died. His body was found to have tattoos in various places- mainly lines which have been suggested as intended to cure in a way related to accupuncture or similar therapy.

His tattoos weren't very visually interesting so i dropped the idea of drawing Oetzi but I was reminded of a similar mummified body called the Siberian Ice Princess or Ice Maiden.

The Siberian Ice Maiden was found in a burial mound near the Altai mountains in 1993 by the archaeologist Natalia Polosmak. Her tomb was surrounded by the remains of six sacrificed horses and her coffin was covered in ornately decorated leatherwork.

Unlike Oetzi, this mummy was deliberately preserved in the 5th century BCE ; her internal organs and even muscles were removed and her skin stuffed with peat to help with preservation and the skin sewn back into place.

Her remains were additionally preserved by water seeping into her larch-wood coffin and deep freezing her in the permafrost.

The woman's clothes were well preserved- a shirt red woolen skirt and leggings and a sheer wild silk blouse that showed probable early trade links with India. She wore a huge headdress made of black felt decorated with birds and this headdress had been so important that the coffin was made long enough to fit!

She wore a necklace of wooden camels and dishes of coriander seeds were placed around her- which were probably burned to disguise the smell of decay before her body was finally buried.

Apart from being a unique female burial , this woman was discovered to be elaborately tattooed with intertwined horned beasts on her left arm and right thumb which may suggest she was a woman of unusual status -maybe a storyteller, a singer , or wisewoman rather than a princess or noblewoman.
The tattoos were thought to be made using needles dipped in soot which leaves a blue-black mark in the skin.

This woman fascinated me when i first heard of her and so i realised i wanted to to do something for Illustration Friday based on her burial and tattoos.

Reference photos of this mummy and her tattoos are not easy to come by and so i really went for something inspired by the description of her burial that i'd read rather than a slavishly accurate depiction of the actual Ice Maiden mummy

My daughter posed for me so i could get a reference photo of a woman lying on her right side - she was quite amused when she saw what i did with her pose and hoped that she didn't really look skinned.

The tattoos that i've painted are based on the beasts with floral horns design that were mentioned in the description of her tattoos and i have added in snow leopards in a cycle of predator and prey and rebirth that was inspired by early art. Snow leopards and deer entertwined were apparently carved into the leatherwork on her coffin , so it seemed right to make that my verison of her tattoo.

The necklace i've given her is of three wooden camels and some beads on a leather thong- I have no idea if it looks anything like the real one but it seemed right to me.

The wooden artefact is a 'mirror' that had major significance for these people - as all known burials from this culture contained these objects- all of the mirrors were inscribed with antlered beasts - so i have followed that. There were conflicting reports of the material the mirror was made of so i made this one of wood

btw I made no attempt to depict the headdress - i really didn't t have a clue about it apart from it being black felt and very very tall and covered with little birds and a griffin - plus i liked the idea of the composition focussing on the rounded shapes of the skull and mirror.

I'm quite pleased with how she turned out in the end.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Photo Friday - Red

This is a Fire bug or Gendarme -Pyrrhocoris apterus which seemed a good candidate for the topic 'red'.

The red and black colouration is very visible to predators but it works as a deterrant since it is mostly associated with a bitter taste or even toxins which the predators quickly learn to avoid.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Illustration Friday - praying mantis

'Insect' is the Illustration Friday topic this week. I like insects and have painted quite a few for Illustration friday over the months so I wasn't sure what to do for this topic initially.

Then i thought about praying mantises and realised i hadn't ever drawn one I was happy with.

They are interesting insects.
Their heads can swivel round by 180 degress to keep a look-out for prey which they catch wih their spiky modified front legs. Thes folded front legs are the origin of the name Praying mantis Mantis religiosa , since they were thought to look like a person praying.

There are about 2500 species of praying mantis and they tend to be well camouflaged with greenish or brownish bodies which ressemble leaves and limbs that look like twigs. Flower mantises hide in flowers so they have pale pink or white bodies.

Females are generally larger than males and in most species the male is eaten by the female after mating [and sometimes during mating. ] They mainly eat other insects but some of the larger species can manage to catch and eat small lizards, tree frogs, mice and even humming birds.

Birds, bats, spiders and snakes eat praying mantises and some species of mantis have special ultrasonic hearing chambers which help them avoid being a bat's meal.

I thought I'd trying a new way of doing things with today's praying mantis - ie instead of flat colour and line using some texture and shading with this topic and i'm reasonably happy wth how it turned out. I think I need to try a few other creatuires using the same techniques to see whether its worth pursuing or not.

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Photo Friday -feminine

The Photo Friday topic is Feminine. I wasn't sure what to enter until I remembered i'd taken a photo of a white dove sitting on our window ledge the other day.
For some reason doves, regardless of their actual sex, seem feminine to me.

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