Tuesday, July 29, 2008

From Maquette to Metal Sculpture

The top three pictues above are of maquettes James is turning into full size metal sculptures as I type, well not literally...he has passed out after a long slogging day nearing the end of their completion. He made the maquettes to show to Suzette McAvoy who is curating an outdoor sculpture show at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor. The maquettes were approved and now they are being translated into full sized sculptures made of mild steel weighing about 300lbs per piece (believe me I know how much they weigh having helped James drag them around these last few days!!, good job I'm not a wimp!) and ranging in size from 3' to 6' feet in height. The bottom picture is of the sculptures in progress....this picture was taken just before a thunder storm appeared out of nowhere and we had to scramble to drag everything inside before we were vaporized by lightning hitting one of these huge hunks of metal.... ahhh, the exciting life of an artist!!!
I will post pictures of the finished pieces in situ which we are delivering to the gardens this Friday...stand by!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A treat for you!

I have been somewhat remiss this week in my postings so in recompense I am treating you all to THE recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding...if you have never had this before go and make it NOW, if you have... this is better than any you've had before so go and make it NOW!!!!
I am giving the recipe in weights and an approximation of cups also, but try to weigh if you can, it will be better, honest!
By the by a 'pudding' in Blighty means any dessert so if you are not familiar with the term in that context think of this as a form of coffee cake with a toffee icing!

Pudding batter:
6oz stoned dates preferably medjool..they are stickier and gooier and just plain better
8oz flour sifted..about 2 cups unsifted
1 teaspoon baking powder sifted with flour
1 large egg, whisked
6oz sugar....prefably brown but fine, about 3/4 cup
2oz butter...surely you can work that one out!
10fl oz boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarb ie baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Toffee Topping:
2 1/2oz brown sugar...oops didn't figure that one out, I suppose a bit more than 1/4 cup
1 1/2 oz butter
2 tablespoons cream or half and half
NB I usually double the toffee recipe and you'll see why when you've eaten it!!

1. Cover dates with boiling water, add vanilla and baking soda...let stand
2. Cream the living daylights out of the butter and sugar
3. Add whisked egg gradually to the butter and sugar beating in between additions
4. Add flour in thirds and cream between additions
5. Add sloppy datey goo to creamy floury goo and blend well...you will have a nice runny batter
6. Pour into greased 9 x 9 glass pan and bake for 40 minutes or so at 375F
1. Heat sugar, cream and butter together in a small pan until sugar has dissolved
2. Pour over the baked pudding and place under hot grill 'til it bubbles.

Et voila....there's your sticky toffee pudding...wait until it is cool to serve...with vanilla ice cream if you fancy. BUT best of all save the corners for breakfast next day...if you can!!!
Let me know if you make it and how it came out...this recipe has never failed me and everyone I have served it to is hooked.
Happy Baking!!!

PS Saw a GREAT movie a couple of nights ago "Once"...didn't know what to expect, knew nothing about it but loved it and thought the music was excellent.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kitty cats on Cafe Press!

Here is the latest addition to my Cafe Press Online Store. As you regulars out there will know my eyeballs are now quite square after spending so much time in front of the computer screen due to our so-last-century lack of high speed connection but never fear after I have written this I am off for a cuppa and YES...a piece of cake...I kid you not!
This illustration of a Maine Coon cat amid purple irises was originally commissioned by a company in New York called Andrea by Sadek. They made beautiful porcelain plates, mugs and little teapots of the cat designs I painted in watercolour. Sadly they are no longer available which is why I decided to do my own version on Cafe Press. I will occasionally add in the other cats I illustrated including a marmalade, silver tabby and calico. I'll post the images here when I do.
Sweet dreams!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cake, finally cake!

Just so you don't think I am making bogus claims on my banner above, here, at last, is a photo of a cake...and one that I baked myself I am proud to say. It was a maple pecan cake and boy was it good (cakes don't last very long 'round these parts). You can also see a hint of English crumbly toffee hiding beneath the buttercream layer in the middle of the cake, a little extra delight that adds a nice toothiness and extra level of sweet flavour. The alchemy of cakes never ceases to amaze me...from creamy batter, which isn't so bad in and of itself, to a spongey crumbly slice of delight. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! ...and then the buttercream......the reason why I make cakes really.

Did you see "Marie Antoinette"?......A beautiful movie, mostly, in my book, because the desserts looked so spectacularly gorgeous. I spent half the night I rented the dvd trying to freeze frame the images of the cakes and confections just so I could drool...there was also one great pair of shoes in there but that's a whole other blog!

Happy baking! There'll be more cakes, and recipes, coming soon so stop by again!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Butterflies and strawberries

Here is a picture of the latest illustration design I just added to my Cafe Press Store. I spent most of the day yesterday going goggle eyed uploading this image to various and sundry items on Cafe Press because we only have dial-up where we are in the wilds of very slightly inland Maine, James likes to say we have propane powered e-mail which always makes me laugh but is not far off from being true. One day we may be able to figure out how to join the rest of you in the 21st century, until then...........

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Floating cherries and chairs

James Strickland has just finished two beautiful paintings which I wanted to share with you. The pictures above are close-ups of the paintings, I wanted you to be able to see the delicious detail he has captured in these particular areas. The floating cherry painting, 'Pure Land', is inspired by an Haiku by Issa which is written on the paper beneath the gorgeous cherry...

From the white dew-drops
Learn the way
To the Pure Land

......my photograph does not do the painting justice, it is delicate, luminous and has the feeling of the resplendent illustrations by Joris Hoefnagel from the Mira calligraphiae monumenta (the Model book of calligraphy).

The floating chair...do you sense a theme here?...is based on a Chinese poem by Wang Feng-yuan (1032-1059)...

In April flowers fade and fall and more appear
swallows fly below the eaves back and forth all day
the cuckoo cries at midnight as if it's voice would break
convinced it can still call the East wind back

In China the East wind represents spring or youth so this poem is quite melancholy pining for things that have already passed us by........to reinforce this sombre mood the pear (which also represents Autumn) refers to a day called 'The day of cold food' which in Asian symbolism celebrates wisdom and old age.

These two paintings are from James' latest series of paintings which he calls 'Skyscapes'...in reality the colours on these paintings are almost surreal in their brightness.....I'm excited to see where he takes us next. It is a great honour to see these paintings in progress but sometimes I think it dilutes my final viewing of the artwork because it doesn't have the impact for me that it does for someone who sees it fresh and new for the first time...alas, we cannot have our cake and eat it too!!!!

PS James says the next one may include cake...I'd better get baking!