Big Aperture, big difference …

Whilst playing with some images on my mac, I discovered that I can change the colour emphasis on some of my paintings. I’ve done it before with photos but have never thought to do it with something that I have created. I think my printer is going to be working overtime this week!

Here are the manipulated images of the Leez Priory painting that I did earlier today:

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A Lesson in Painting …

I decided, somewhat belatedly, to follow a ‘lesson’ in one of my watercolour painting books. I chose to use ‘How to Paint Colour and Light‘ by Jean Haines. Her lesson about celebrating colour really inspired me to try some new, never before used by me, colours. Painting a random building though, doesn’t inspire me too much, so rather than copy her painting of a castle, I chose to use the tower at Leez Priory in Essex as my inspiration. It’s a beautiful building and just so happens to be where myself and my husband were married.

This painting is not meant to be a like for like replica, as will be clear when you see it. However, knowing what a stunning place it is enthused me and made me determined to  do it justice.

I’m not sure that I have achieved the latter point, but I’m really pleased with my painting nonetheless:

Simply delicious …

I was looking forward to baking a cake today and I chose my husband’s favourite: Victoria Sandwich Cake. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, an amazing kind of baking alchemy takes place when the simple ingredients are combined with the straightforward instructions:

Here’s the recipe:

225g margarine

225g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

4 eggs

seeds from 1 vanilla pod

2 tsp baking powder

Using the ‘all in 1 method‘, put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix well. Divide between 2 prepared baking tins and bake in an oven, pre-heated to 180 C, for about 25 minutes, or until the middle of each cake is firm but springy to the touch.

Once the cakes are out of the oven and have cooled on a wire rack, sandwich them together with your choice of filling. Today, I used raspberry jam and buttercream made with 175g icing sugar, 50g butter and 2 tbsp milk.

A Curry in a Hurry…

It felt like a day for a curry today. Our favourite curries at the moment tend to involve the use of prawns. Tonight we had a particularly tasty Prawn Biryani:

Here’s the recipe:

1tsp saffron threads

50ml warm water

2 shallots

3 garlic cloves

2cm fresh ginger

2 tsp coriander seeds

2 cloves

seeds from 2 green cardamom pods

2cm cinnamon stick

1tsp ground turmeric

2 dried, red chillis

2tbsp olive oil

1tsp mustard seeds

500g raw prawns

300ml coconut milk

basmati rice, cooked, ready to serve

Soak the saffron in warm water for 10 minutes. Put the shallots, garlic, ginger, coriander seeds, cloves, cardamom seeds, cinnamon stick, turmeric and chillis into a grinder or mortar and grind to a paste.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the prawns and cook for a minute or so. Add the spice paste followed by the coconut milk. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer, cook for 20 minutes.

Before serving, drizzle the saffron water over the rice and stir through. Serve the Prawn Biryani over the rice.

A Palindromic Pancake Day…

that is to say, Pancake Day on 21.02.12!

Being a real francophile at heart, I make pancakes/crêpes far more frequently than once a year on Shrove Tuesday, much to the delight of my family. We’ve tried them with a variety of toppings but it has to be said that nothing can beat a squirt of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar. Maple syrup comes a very close second, with various combinations of ice cream drizzled with a favourite liqueur coming in third:

The recipe that I use is a very simple one, just 125g of plain flour, 2 eggs, 315ml of milk and 3tsp of butter melted. The eggs, then milk, then butter are gradually whisked in to the batter which is then left to stand for about 30 minutes – don’t worry if you don’t have the time to do this, it won’t end in disaster. I tend to mix the batter and leave it to stand whilst we eat our main course. Using a soup ladle, pour just enough batter to cover the base of a frying pan (tilt the pan so that the base is evenly covered), then cook on a fairly high heat for about a minute, flip the pancake with a palette knife and cook for a further 30 seconds. This recipe usually makes 8 pancakes. When all of the pancakes have been made, use your choice of topping to create a delicious desert.

Bon appétit!

Princes Street Swing Bridge, part 2 …

Trying to paint in a more abstract fashion was my goal for today. I wanted to use the picture I painted yesterday as my starting point, but I wanted to focus much more on the interaction of the colours instead of painting simply what I saw.

This is the result:

I really like the way the colours have mixed together to give the picture a more ethereal quality. That said I’m not sure which painting I prefer. Opinion is definitely divided in this house. I’m going to try putting some of the lovely paper, that I acquired recently, alongside them to see if there is a combination that I’d like up on a wall somewhere.

As for painting in abstract, I find it much more difficult than painting what I see. There’s a real element of ‘letting go’ and being more relaxed when painting. I believe that with a more relaxed painting style comes a sense of confidence and that’s what I need to work on. There’s going to be an ‘arts market’ nearby in March and I have to decide whether or not I’d like to take part.

Princes Street Swing Bridge, Bristol …

I decided to attempt to paint this photo today:

I think that this photo sums up much of what makes Bristol a great place to live. Every year there is the Ashton Court Balloon Fiesta in August, if we are lucky we get to see a great variety of balloons take to the skies over Bristol. This lonesome balloon had clearly missed the fiesta by a few months but it made a beautiful sight over the docks. Another annual event here is the Bristol Harbour Festival, this is usually in September, over a long weekend. Bristol Docks become filled with every conceivable shape and size of boat, all of them elaborately decorated with flags and bunting. We often have some tall ships pay us a visit during this festival and for them to gain entry to the docks, the above bridge needs to swing open to let them through.

Anyway, I digress, this is my interpretation of the scene above, I’m thinking of attempting an abstract version of it tomorrow: