Sunday, 18 August 2013

Challenging my creativity

Underwater (V.Gemmell)

I've been working my way through a couple of more tasks on my '50 Things' list this weekend. Number 7 on my list reads, 'After watching Andrew Thomas Huang's Solipsist, challenge your creativity.'

Solipsist is a short, 10 minute film, which can be found on the artist/film maker's website. You can see it here:

It demonstrates amazing film making; so creative and inventive. I absolutely love the last 3 minutes or so, where the colours explode. Huang's website also features a 'making of' extract and a couple of interesting music videos. The Sigur Ros one is especially worth a watch, mainly because his visuals really suit their haunting sound towards the end.

I noticed at the start of Solipsist that the females had paint on their hands so that got me to thinking about how I'd wanted to paint a picture consisting mainly of a blend of colours for a while, ( I really love Darren Waterston's work - he does dreamy colour canvasses very well), and how using my hand to create a base of colour might be interesting. The results are in photos below: 

Painted hand
The base by hand (literally)

Rubbing the paint across the canvas using the palm of my hand was a messy and freeing experience but I have to say I enjoyed building up the colour and texture more when I swapped to brushes. The end result, Underwater, is at the top of the page.

And this is what it looks like with an Instagram filter on it, to intensify the colour:

With instagram filter

I've got an idea for a photograph too, but that one requires a lot of tea light candles and a companion to ensure I don't set my local park on fire. I'll keep you posted on that one...

Monday, 12 August 2013

Up a mountain

View from near the top
Views from the top of Dumgoyne
A while back I blogged about receiving a list of ’50 things to do this year’ from a complete stranger somewhere in the world. I thought it was time to start focusing on it again or I’m never going to complete everything before the year’s up. So this weekend I ticked off number 39, (I’m not going through the list in order – I’m not that far on with it!!), and ‘went on a mountain hike’. Even although I live in Scotland, where there are plenty of mountains/hills, I’ve never been up a proper big hill – no matter how many times friends/family have tried to persuade me otherwise. For about ten years I’ve stubbornly refused, saying I’m happy enough just enjoying the views from their photographs. So haha, stranger from somewhere in the world – you’ve finally broken me and introduced me to a new experience, which was the whole point of this 50 task thing really... 

I have to confess I went to a lot of bother questioning which hill I could get away with calling a small mountain in order to complete this task. Dumgoyne, on the edge of the Campsies, fitted the bill for me as some online blurb refers to it as a ‘mini mountain’, and a seasoned hill walker (accidentally I think) referred to it as a mountain. According to Wikipedia Dumgoyne is 1,402 feet - a reasonable enough challenge for my first attempt (see that use of ‘first’ attempt – my subconscious is already telling me to get back up another, bigger one).

So off I set with an experienced hill walking friend in tow, who mocked my rubbish hill walking (sorry mountain walking) attire – ie. jeans (they were stretchhhhy) and no waterproof (it was sunny when I left my flat). The walk up to Dumgoyne is very pleasant; up a winding path, past a few farm houses and through a field with weird and wonderful trees, up over a fence and stream...then the real walk began.

Dumgoyne is a rather steep climb. I was grateful for the worn ‘footholds’ imprinted into the hillside, as there were a few moments where it would have been easier to slide backwards, than move forwards. One of my favourite things about being up high was being able to see which towns in the distance the rain was falling on; it formed blankets of mist, curling down from the clouds, and it spurred me on to walk faster . ‘Get to the top before the rain reaches us’, was my half beat mantra. The rain caught me before I got to the top of course, probably at the steepest point of the climb, (the part of the climb where I was a bit out of breath and wondering why people did this for fun). It was a horrible drizzly rain that seeped into my jersey hooded top. Seasoned hill walkers probably saw me coming a mile off, wondering what the hell I was wearing and why I was half clinging, half walking up the mountain at this point.

But then I got over the steepest point, and the top (the end!) came into sight and I turned to look at the view behind me and it felt good, clambering up this mountain, with only miles of trees, lochs, fields and clouds in the distance. Reaching the top felt even better- as I climbed the last steps I was rewarded with a hauntingly beautiful image of mist surrounding the hills to my right. Here’s a photo of me at the top to prove I really did complete the walk!
Me at the top

I was stupid enough to think that getting up Dumgoyne would be the hardest part, but actually getting down was more difficult, due to the steep drop. I did that thing of half sitting, clinging onto grass, attempting to slide down some of the way on my bum etc, to avoid falling head over heels and rolling all the way back down to the car. My ankles bent at such strange angles it reminded me a bit of a painful snowboarding experience from years back.

Once I was upright again at a decent angle, the walk became pleasant once more. I’d half joked earlier to my walking companion, “Ha, can you imagine mountain biking down a hill like this?” and couldn’t believe it when we passed two teenage boys on their way up, carrying bikes. 

They smiled hello and I stared at them. “You’re not seriously going to cycle back down are you?” I said, like I was their mother.  “Yes,” They scoffed. Haha, stupid me-of course. Enjoy your suicide mission, boys. We didn’t stick around to find out if they made it. How they even managed to keep balance to carry their bikes up there I don’t know...

So one of my favourite parts of the day, I have to confess, was going to a great little cafe afterwards and drinking this amazing chocolate milkshake.Yum!

One mission complete, only another oh, 40 odd to go...

Monday, 5 August 2013


Casa Batllo
La Pedrera

Sagrada Familia

This is turning into a bit of a travel blog of late, but one of the fun parts of having a blog is being able to re-live enjoyable trips through constructing posts such as this! Last month myself and a work bud headed off to Barcelona for 5 nights where we sampled lots of tasty food, cocktails, sunshine and a little bit of culture... This was my fourth trip to Barcelona, (all brief encounters), and I never tire of this vibrant city. There's something special about the mix of art/culture, beach life, and general buzz which makes this place indefinable.

During past trips I'd visited the spectacular Gaudi buildings (Casa Batllo, La Pedrera, Sagrada Familia) and was happy enough to snap the exteriors this time without venturing inside. Taking the tour bus one morning provided interesting angles to capture photos of these buildings. I personally wish they would just stop adding to Sagrada Familia and leave it an unfinished building as I always feel the scaffolding/cranes detract from the breathtaking architecture. I attempted to zoom in on some of the detail and cropped out the construction work!
We hopped off the bus at the Park Guell stop as this Park is a must see for anyone visting the city and we got some tasty pasta salads for lunch in the restaurant there.
Parc Guell

El Bosc de les Fades
On this trip we came across some quirky places; topping this list was the amazing bar, El Bosc de les Fades. I'd read about this online, then someone later told me that it was a must see, with the chance of witnessing a lightning storm in the bar...The bar is beside the Wax Museum (Musue de Cera), just off La Ramblas. The exterior of Museu de Cera is worth a look itself  (spectacular architecture with superman poised to fly off the top of the roof.)
Fairy Cave
Stepping inside El Bosc de les Fades is like stepping into another world; with lantern lights strung between the branches of fake trees, a fairy cave hidden around a corner- complete with a wax work of a fairy crouched beneath a waterfall. To the rear of the bar we stepped through a curtained door, walking into what looked a Brothers Grimm vision of a child's bedroom. The photos capture more than my words ever could! There was also a 'haunted mirror' hanging on the wall where an image of a tudor man would fade in and out of view and a flickering chandelier. Unfortunately there were no lightning storms during our visit.

Weird bedroom

Our hotel (the amazing Barcelona Catedral ) was situated in the Barri Gotic area, just across from the beautiful Barcelona Cathedral (hence the name of the hotel...). I love this part of the city - it's full of little winding streets with quirky shops, gothic architecture and lots of great cafes/restaurants and bars are within walking distance. A highlight of our hotel was the spectacular roof top pool - very welcome after walking around in the sweltering heat!! Below are some photos of this area.

We found the quirkiest sweet shop ever just a few minutes from our hotel called Happy Pills. It was a tiny sparkling white shop, with rows and rows of sweets laid out like pills as if it was a sugar themed medical centre! It was great - such a simple, yet unique idea. The sweets tasted great too. Here's a snap of the interior below:
Happy Pills
One of my favourite bars we visited was called First Bar, a very small and funky place, situated down a side street off Las Ramblas. The walls were plastered with drawings and notes scribbled onto post-it notes by customers from all around the world. The owner made me the most amazing frozen Strawberry Daiquiri. Cocktails in Spain can be dangerous as they free pour their measures - the younger guy who made my second Daiquiri looked like he poured in half a bottle of rum...yum!
Here's a photo of a skeleton hanging above my stool in the bar and our post it note added to their wall...

Barcelona is very hot in July, although the breeze from the sea takes the edge off a bit. A couple of afternoons we couldn't face the long walk from the beach back to our part of town so we hopped onto the handy Rickshaw 'tours' which are offered along the port side. A guy pedals behind whilst you sit in a carriage at the front - it's a quick and fun way to save yourself from a long, sweltering walk. One of our rickshaw 'drivers' was a very friendly man from Venice, who was eager to tell us lots about Barcelona during our 15 minute journey (I think I caught about 20% of what he actually said!) Here's a photo of us on the Rickshaw, after our beach trip:

Ah, Barcelona! Already I want to return...