Sneak peak into my upcoming sale…

So after selling my worldly possessions (or at least attempting to), I’m now completely focused on preparing for my ceramics sale. I have a glazing deadline (Tuesday 9th), which always helps in order to get things done. This also means I have  A LOT of painting to do in the meantime! Here’s a picture of my latest painted piece unglazed:

Yes, it’s the gorgeous Brideshead in the background with Sebastian and Charles driving in the middle. The porcelain is the ever-so difficult frost, but when fired a second time, will be beautifully translucent white. Here’s the sketch I did beforehand:

I now have a date and venue for the sale! And it will be on Saturday, October 13th from 2pm to 6pm at 50 Portland Street. Details on new poster will be posted soon.

Bemelmans

In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines… the smallest one was Madeline.

This is the opening line for all of the Madeleine books which made their author, Ludwig Bemelmans, famous. Born in 1898 in Meran (Austria-Hungary, now Merano, Italy), he lived in Germany before moving to the United States in the early 1910s. After struggling as an artist and dabbling in writing for years, it wasn’t until 1939 that the first Madeleine book was published.

In my last trip to New York, I went to Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel for drinks and phenomenal live jazz. Here I was able to admire Central Park, the mural Bemelmans painted on the walls of the Bar, his only artwork on display to the public.

It was a terrific evening, our waiter made it even more memorable:

And naturally, there had to be a wink to Madeleine:

Below is a watercolour finished by yours truly while on holiday this summer. I bought the first Madeleine book for one of my neices who is an avid reader. The book was a success as she loved me reading it to her, and I was also able to rip off be inspired by one of its illustrations.

NOTE: All photos by Araceli Robledo

Harlem & Columbia

On our last day in NY, we visited Columbia University and Harlem. I took the highest number of photographs that day, so I guess that shows quite accurately how much I loved both areas.

Columbia University campus (pictured above and below) is simply stunning. If the architecture alone weren’t enough, the notable list of its alumni is impressive enough to leave anyone bewildered. Jack Kerouac, whose On the Road I’m currently reading, is part of the list.

From there we walked to Harlem. The closer we got there, the cleaner and wider the streets and the friendlier the people. I saw many a brownstone:

But this is my favourite:

Probably because it reminds me of West Side Story and I was somehow expecting Bernardo and his gang to appear (and dance).

Naturally, as with things I really REALLY like, I had to do a watercolour of it:

NOTE: All photos by Araceli Robledo, except from the West Side Story clip, which is via On the set of New York

Wuthering Heights

Perhaps the most modest of all Great Houses of English Literature I have been talking about, Wuthering Heights is actually a farmhouse and “… the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather”. And so the house is introduced in Emily Bronte’s novel.

But it’s its most recent film adaptation that has me mesmerised. Directed by Andrea Arnold, the trailer alone seems to capture the spirit of the Yorkshire Moors, where the novel is set. Some critics have even called it “a beautiful beast of a movie”. Apparently it screened here at the TIFF last September, but there’s no sign of it coming back to Canadian theatres any time soon… Sigh.

This is actually the last of a series of posts about English novels whose titles are the houses where they are set. The idea of turning my drawings of these houses into a silk screen print has been brewing in my mind for a very long time. Partially influenced by my own books and education (my undergrad was in English Philology), my life in the UK and also the fantastic blog by Lisa Borgnes Giramoti A Bloomsbury Life. The image for the print was finalised a couple of months ago and the screens are ready to rock and roll. Only need ink + paper and a lazy Sunday of printing. I must add that none of this could have happened without the help of Alanna, who’s been such a wonderful mentor all throughout the entire process: from designing the print itself + super photoshop advice to getting the screens done.

Stay tuned for the prints themselves which, once completed, will be for sale in my online shop, together with my ceramics.

Bleak House

“That’s Bleak House!” [the driver] put his horses into a canter and took us forward at such a rate, uphill though it was, that the wheels sent the road drift flying about our heads like spray from a water-mill. Presently we lost the light, presently saw it, presently lost it, presently saw it, and turned into an avenue of trees and cantered up towards where it was beaming brightly. It was in a window of what seemed to be an old-fashioned house with three peaks in the roof in front and a circular sweep leading to the porch. A bell was rung as we drew up, and amidst the sound of its deep voice in the still air, and the distant barking of some dogs, and a gush of light from the opened door, and the smoking and steaming of the heated horses, and the quickened beating of our own hearts, we alighted in no inconsiderable confusion.

Again, the BBC did a fantastic job of choosing a location which perfectly represented the house in its 2005 series adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel: Ingatestone Hall.

Ingatestone (which I cannot help but initially read “Inga’s testosterone” every time I see it…)  is a 16th c. manor house in Essex built by Sir William Petre (secretary of state to Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I) where his descendants have lived, and still live, to this day.

Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, the entire BBC series can be watched online:

NOTE: The image of Ingatestone Hall is via VisitEssex.com.

Mansfield Park & Northanger Abbey

My favourite Jane Austen novels are, and in the following order: Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility. Why, then, is this post about Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey you may ask? Well, just in case you haven’t noticed a certain tendency in my recent literature posts here and here, they are both names of novels AND names of houses. Genius.

Not surprisingly, the best Jane Austen screen adaptations have been made in the UK. The BBC’s 2007 TV adaptation of Mansfield Park chose the gorgeous Newby Hall in North Yorkshire as the filming location for Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram’s estate. Currently the home of Mr and Mrs Richard Compton, Newby Hall was designed with the assistance of Sir Christopher Wren.

Also in 2007, ITV produced a TV adaptation of Northanger Abbey and Lismore Castle played the fictional abbey. With foundations that date back to the 7th century, the Irish castle has been linked to an array of historical figures, from Henry II to Sir Walter Raleigh, as well as Fred Astaire! It has been the Irish home of the Duke of Devonshire since 1753.

NOTE: The photograph of Newby Hall was taken by Roberto Tomei for Panoramio and that of Lismore Castle is via Guide to Castles of Europe.

Howards End

Howards End,
Tuesday.

Dearest Meg,
It isn’t going to be what we expected.  It is old and little, and altogether delightful–red brick.  We can scarcely pack in as it is, and the dear knows what will happen when Paul (younger son) arrives tomorrow.  From hall you go right or left into dining-room or drawing-room.  Hall itself is practically a room.  You open another door in it, and there are the stairs going up in a sort of tunnel to the first-floor.  Three bedrooms in a row there, and three attics in a row above.  That isn’t all the house really, but it’s all that one notices–nine windows as you look up from the front garden.
Then there’s a very big wych-elm–to the left as you look up–leaning a little over the house, and standing on the boundary between the garden and meadow.  I quite love that tree already.  Also ordinary elms, oaks–no nastier than ordinary oaks–pear-trees, apple-trees, and a vine.  No silver birches, though.  However, I must get on to my host and hostess.  I only wanted to show that it isn’t the least what we expected.  Why did we settle that their house would be all gables and wiggles, and their garden all gamboge-coloured paths?  I believe simply because we associate them with expensive hotels–Mrs. Wilcox trailing in beautiful dresses down long corridors, Mr. Wilcox bullying porters, etc.  We females are that unjust.
I shall be back Saturday; will let you know train later.  They are as angry as I am that you did not come too; really Tibby is too tiresome, he starts a new mortal disease every month.  How could he have got hay fever in London?  and even if he could, it seems hard that you should give up a visit to hear a schoolboy sneeze.  Tell him that Charles Wilcox (the son who is here) has hay fever too, but he’s brave, and gets quite cross when we inquire after it.  Men like the Wilcoxes would do Tibby a power of good.  But you won’t agree, and I’d better change the subject.
This long letter is because I’m writing before breakfast.  Oh, the beautiful vine leaves!  The house is covered with a vine.  I looked out earlier, and Mrs. Wilcox was already in the garden.  She evidently loves it.  No wonder she sometimes looks tired.  She was watching the large red poppies come out.  Then she walked off the lawn to the meadow, whose corner to the right I can just see.  Trail, trail, went her long dress over the sopping grass, and she came back with her hands full of the hay that was cut yesterday–I suppose for rabbits or something, as she kept on smelling it.  The air here is delicious.  Later on I heard the noise of croquet balls, and looked out again, and it was Charles Wilcox practising; they are keen on all games.  Presently he started sneezing and had to stop.  Then I hear more clicketing, and it is Mr. Wilcox practising, and then, ‘a-tissue, a-tissue’: he has to stop too.  Then Evie comes out, and does some calisthenic exercises on a machine that is tacked on to a greengage-tree–they put everything to use–and then she says ‘a-tissue,’ and in she goes.  And finally Mrs. Wilcox reappears, trail, trail, still smelling hay and looking at the flowers.  I inflict all this on you because once you said that life is sometimes life and sometimes only a drama, and one must learn to distinguish t’other from which, and up to now I have always put that down as ‘Meg’s clever nonsense.’ But this morning, it really does seem not life but a play, and it did amuse me enormously to watch the W’s.  Now Mrs. Wilcox has come in.
I am going to wear [omission].  Last night Mrs. Wilcox wore an [omission], and Evie [omission].  So it isn’t exactly a go-as-you-please place, and if you shut your eyes it still seems the wiggly hotel that we expected.  Not if you open them.  The dog-roses are too sweet.  There is a great hedge of them over the lawn–magnificently tall, so that they fall down in garlands, and nice and thin at the bottom, so that you can see ducks through it and a cow.  These belong to the farm, which is the only house near us.  There goes the breakfast gong.  Much love.  Modified love to Tibby.  Love to Aunt Juley; how good of her to come and keep you company, but what a bore.  Burn this.  Will write again Thursday.

Helen

And so E.M. Forster’s novel beings… Though my first introduction to Howard’s End wasn’t done through Helen’s letter to her sister Meg, but through Vanessa Redgrave’s walk during the opening titles of the Merchant Ivory film adaptation.

Though Forster based his description of Howards End on a house at Rooks Nest in Hertfordshire (his childhood home from 1883 to 1893) the film’s location for the house was the gorgeous Peppard Cottage in Rotherfield Peppard, Oxfordshire.

For more information on Peppard Cottage, as well as some fantastic pictures of the house, click here and here.

Brideshead Revisited

I’m a big Evelyn Waugh fan. Always have been, since my first year at University (I did English) where I read A Handful of Dust. I was captivated by Waugh’s witty prose and his account of my favourite era of all time: the period between WWI and WWII.

Waugh was  one of the Bright Young People, the young bohemian aristocrats and socialists who lived, somewhat amorally, in London between the 1920s and 40s. Though not born into the aristocracy himself, he joined the club by marrying Evelyn Gardner – and later, left the club by divorcing her (she was unfaithful, how DARE she?!), converting to Catholicism and starting a new family with his second wife Laura.

Once Waugh divorced Gardner and embraced Catholicism, his work incorporated his newly-found faith, which is one of the main themes of Brideshead Revisited. The novel is narrated by the main character – Charles Ryder – and deals with his relationship with the severely flawed but deeply Catholic Marchmain family. Their estate, Brideshead, is the main backdrop where most of the novel takes place and has such a presence that it is almost another character in the novel.

For both the 1982 TV series and the 2008 film adaptations of Brideshead Revisited, Castle Howard, a stunning 18th c. stately home in Yorkshire, was the chosen fictional “Brideshead”.

 

NOTE: The 2 page spread which contains the photographs of Evelyn Waugh is from the book The Same Man, by David Lebedoff (a brilliant book which compares the lives and similarities between Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell)

New Year’s resolution

A few months back, I was asked the classic question “if you had super powers, what would they be?” I didn’t have to think for a split second to know the answer: to have the ability to eat whatever I like and never get fat. There, simple and blatantly honest. Nonsense like flying, invisibility, time-travel, etc. didn’t even come close to the sheer joy of eating vast quantities of delicious food a la Pantagruel and never having to face the consequences. Today, if someone asked the same question, my answer would be very similar, but with one addition: that the food I ate were magically anticancer. You see, over the holidays I read this book, and now my life has completely changed.

The book explains how the food that we eat can make our body a playground for cancer cells or the most desolate place for them. Therefore it is a guide as to what food we should eat to combat the development of cancer and what food we must eliminate from our diet altogether. Fascinating and a real eye-opener. If reading this book weren’t enough, on New Year’s Eve, I was sick with a horrible cold and on the sofa just like Marguerite in The Lady of the Camellias – I do get rather melodramatic when I’m ill… Anyway, I watched a documentary which also opened my eyes regarding food: Food Inc.

It was there and then that I decided my new year’s resolution would be to COMPLETELY change my diet to make it more anticancer and healthier. Step one, make my own food as often as possible. So last week I made my first casserole of butter beans, carrots, celery, onion and a touch of pimenton (Spanish paprika, so delicious).

Step two: tell EVERYONE I know about this new book and nutritional lifestyle. Step three: endure with Stoic resilience the constant temptations I got from my food-obsessed family back in Spain. Not only were pretty much ALL the conversations I had with them about food and how delicious everything was, but I was also bombarded with photographs of delicious yet forbidden dishes, such as the one below, “morros de cerdo” or pork scratchings:

It’s important to note that the Anticancer book says that the Mediterranean diet is very healthy indeed, and it’s the one I have been following pretty much all of my life. However, yours truly has been a bit of a pig these last few months and needs to get rid of her “winter fat suit”. So I am staying as far away from fatty food as possible for a while… sigh…

(*) The calendar above is the 2012 version of last year’s calendar. Not as pretty, but I wanted to use some leftover recycled paper I had around the house.

Christmas in Quebec City

My interest in Quebec City was born a couple of years ago on a rainy day in London in October (as they usually are). I was in Trafalgar Square and the front door to the iconic Canada House was actually open. Couldn’t let this opportunity pass so in I went. Through a majestic hallway, I found myself in a 19th century atrium, with wooden panels and decorated with paintings in a  Krieghoff style which depict Canada in the 18th century. I saw there was a sign than indicated that there was actually a book launch on the first floor which was just about to begin. Simply couldn’t believe my luck so I raced upstairs and managed to grab a glass of Niagara wine before heading into the presentation hall. The book was Death or Victory: the Battle of Quebec and the Birth of Empire, written by Dan Snow.

Before moving to Canada I was extremely ignorant about my new country. Very little, if anything, is taught at school and aside from the various Olympics (Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver) I really didn’t know much else. What’s more, I thought Quebec was a separate country from the rest of Canada. And to make matters even more convoluted, in Spanish, the word “America” refers to both North and South America, and the term “North America” refers to the United States.

So there I was, in a gorgeous building, listening to a gorgeous man (Dan Snow is gorgeous) talking about, quite possibly, one of THE most important battles ever fought in history. Dan was extremely passionate about the subject, being half-Canadian himself. We were silent as he explained the gazillion coincidences that occurred during the campaign before the battle (the battle itself was over in just a few minutes) that enabled the Brits to win. Equally extraordinary were the consequences of the battle and how it shaped the world as we know it today. It was after this talk that the idea of Canada started growing inside my head. I KNEW I’d made the right decision to move here when a year later, on my first flight to Toronto from London, who was seated a mere 2 seats away from me on the Air Canada flight than Dan Snow himself?!

But back to Quebec City, I spent Christmas there with my mother. After having spent a few days in Toronto first, she appreciated the old architecture and history of Canada’s first capital. We visited the Plains of Abraham and I really didn’t do much research as to where the battle was held. It’s a park, AND covered in snow and I hadn’t a clue as to where to start – nor the energy, it was snowing and minus 20.

Some of my pictures were taken with Instagram and others with just the camera on my iPhone. The problem is that did I mention it was snowing and minus 20? And iPhones have touch screens, so I had to take off my much-needed gloves before each shot. Taking pictures with Instagram takes longer and so I was unable to do that many of the fancy ones.

Quebec City has obviously inspired me in many ways, but all I’ve been able to draw since coming back are scribbles that a 3-year-old would consider beneath him – perhaps the cold that has accompanied me like a faithful sidekick since last week has eaten up my ability to produce visually appealing paintings. However, in lieu of one of my works featured in this post, I actually have something better. Much better.

Dominic Boudreault is an extraordinary photographer from Quebec City who has had the sheer brilliance and patience to create beautiful timelapses. Below is the one he did of Quebec City.

And here’s The City Limits, which features Montreal, Toronto, Quebec City, New York, Chicago and Quebec National Parks. Truly magnificent works of art.