Art History for Real People

If you’re super intimidated by paintings, or if you *gasp* find art galleries boring, then I’m out to change your mind. My friend Payal is an amazing artist, and a makeup blogger on Fifty Foot Lashes. We’re conspiring together to write about art in an normal way- so for me on here I talk more about the history of the painting, why it’s important, why I like it, the museum it’s in, the city it’s in… stuff like that. Payal will be doing a makeup look inspired by the painting and talking about art in a way more intelligent way than I ever could. Some paintings will inspire a DIY on my crafts and sewing blog bows and buttons. DIY is expensive, my resources are limited.

Why are we doing this?

Simple. We love art. So much. Nothing kills an art lover more than people who say they think art is boring, or that they don’t understand it. And you know what? It’s not their fault. Art education is a bit of a joke the world over. It’s not some hoity toity crap where you need to wear a monocle and top hat- though monocles and top hats do sound fun. We have no format ideas, we’re just going to kind of do it until we hit a swing that works. So, with that spirit let’s talk about art.

This is a painting called Charles IV of Spain and his family, painted by Francisco Goya.

It’s displayed at the Prado in Madrid.

So what are we looking at?

First off, the dimensions of the canvas are three by four metres. This thing is huge. Imagine, if you will, walking down the aisles of the Prado then just BAM. Holy fejula! So obviously this is something super important because well, who puts that much effort into something that’s not. *This was before bronies.

Well, when you look at the plaque you see it’s Charles IV and his family. Spoiler: On the left there’s a sneaky self portrait of Goya lurking in the shadows.

He was the king of Spain in the 1780’s. There’s a lot to know about him. Fun fact, he cared more about hunting and left politics to his prime minister and his wife. I recommend the biography.com link for non-academic purposes. He loved Goya.

But let’s get back to the Prado.

Most museums publish a guide, and if you’re into art I’d definitely recommend the Prado guide. It’s incredibly well written and  the pictures are beautiful. I read through the things for the rest of my trip. It’s so good.

But that’s not what we’re here for today. Today we’re just going to talk about how to look at art. More specifically, how I look at art. I did my field school in art history, and I take any art history or museum studies class I can now. Keep in mind, I’m probably not the most technical person in any of these aspects; I just really, really love art and want to share it.

Sandy’s Steps to Sort of Maybe Understanding Art More Than You Did Before But Definitely Enjoying it a Hella Ton

  1. Read the plate at the museum or gallery. See all that information? It tells you the artist, the approximate year(s) it was painted, and what it was painted with. In this case, it’s 1800 and oil on canvas. This is good information for many reasons.
  2. Consider the material. I have a thing with materials. I like to know exactly what something was made with. It’s also a great way to make yourself sound like you know more than you actually do because you know materials. Also, it’s fun to see how a medium plays on different surfaces. Oil on canvas looks very, very different than oil on wood. Sometimes things impress you. For example, any time anything is pastel or watercolour I get super impressed by the artist because I think of elementary school and playing with both of them and just full on sucking. Sometimes materials get weird.
  3. Consider the time in history. So here we have 1800. This gives some context. Look at how they’re dressed. How they stand. Even the body types of the figures. Having a guide or really nerdy friend with you usually helps with this a lot.
  4. Consider the subject matter. This was commissioned as a royal portrait, so we’re looking at the king and his family. This isn’t always that obvious.
  5. Ask a ton of questions to yourself. Or out loud. Depends how comfortable you are being the crazy person in public. This is literally 80% of looking at what might be the most subjective subject in the world.

What do I mean by ask questions? I find that the two most important ones are….

What do I like about this painting?

I love the dresses. Damn, there’s something about the way they dressed back then. Would I have been able to afford to dress like that? Probably not. Definitely not. Look at the shoes on the guys, too. Guys don’t dress that flashy anymore. I love the navy and the gold together, it adds a ton of richness. I love how the gold and crystals really look shimmery and life like.

What don’t I understand?

I don’t get why they look like they all have super old people faces. Even the kids look slightly middle aged. I also don’t get why the one girl is looking away. Who is she?

Wait, What?! A SIXTH STEP?!

6.Write down the painting and google it later. Most museums have websites with tons and tons of info. I also find that the masterpiece cards blog is amazing for giving information without shoving it down your throat. Find the answers to things you don’t understand.

What did you like about this painting? What didn’t you understand? Let’s talk about it.

And make sure to check out Payal’s much better analysis and the makeup that she’d better be popping on my face soon at Fifty Foot Lashes.

Art History for Real People

Quick Little Request…

Hi All,

So the other night I went to pub quiz, had a few beers to celebrate not coming in dead last. On my way home I fell on some ice right on to my bad hip. I didn’t notice that my wallet fell out of my purse from the impact.

I spent all of yesterday having people tell me that it was as good as gone, that no one would return it, basically people suck.

I didn’t care about any of the cards, the main thing was I had a ring I bought in salzburg in it, and a ring my mom bought when she was 18 in Hawaii. I took them off to eat and put them in wallet to keep them safe.. I almost lost faith in humanity and was starting to accept I’d never see them again while still doing everything I could think of. I was seriously going to wake up at like 4 am tomorrow and sit on the corner just asking people who walked by if they had seen a wallet wednesday morning. I had posted a facebook status that one of my friends had seen and apparently one of her friends had posted something looking for someone who knew me so they could get it back.

I literally picked it up from her parents place on my lunch break at work.

Not only did it have my rings, but it had all the cash, it even had the damn scratch card I bought on the way to the pub.

Now, I’m a little bit creepy curious, so I decided to check up on her facebook. I saw she had started a go fund me because her parents cafe has been flooded by the trump tower construction (ugh.) and obviously someone so amazing has some badass parents. I’m going to donate as soon as they send me my new credit card. If you can, even like, a dollar would be amazing. God knows this girl deserves it.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-raise-money-for-damages

Also, the cafe got some really badass reviews, so when it reopens I’m so going.

I’m seriously in shock and like joy and elation over how amazing people are. So, donate and share it because this girl 100% deserves it.

See you in the new year x

Quick Little Request…

2016: My Year in Review

This year. Many argue the world went to hell quicker than a basket of chinchillas falling off a wagon into a bay of unicorns. The good thing is it’s inspired a lot of people to post things like, “despite the world pretty much imploding, there’s a lot of good that happened to me!” So, my year?

Well, first off, I finally came to terms with my pain and took steps to help it. I got K Laser therapy on my feet and calves, and I’m doing really, really well with it. It’s basically a cold laser that goes “hey cells! You know how to cure yourselves! Let’s do that!” I was super scared when I first got it because I thought it would be like laser hair removal which doesn’t hurt hurt, but it’s not comfortable. The K Laser is literally the most painless thing. It was great, and I recommend a chat with your doctor about it if you’re in chronic pain. Seriously, there were days I couldn’t even stand without being in excruciating pain. I still get issues, but I think that’s due to the fact that I have to rebuild my fitness and strength.

This year I also went on an awesome trip. It was my first short trip to Europe, and my first time there with friends. I stayed in my first (and last) Airbnb. It was a great trip that recharged me just enough to want to go on an even longer trip.

I also had a stay at a wonderful hostel in Shuswap and rediscovered my nature side. I’m already planning on going back for the Canada Day long weekend.

I got really into cooking. I’m loving cheese making and homemade bacon is amazing! I’m also really happy that you guys seem to like those posts!

This will also always be the year I got engaged. Wedding planning is going well, but there’s still so much to do.

Also this year I had a super big milestone in that I published two listicles on Matador Network. One on growing up in Vancouver  and one on learning to drink in Vancouver.  I’ve loved Matador for years so being able to type my name into the search bar and having stuff come up is actually amazing. I feel all proper and writer-y. I also did a guest post on my friend Tom’s blog, Something Pagan. I’ve really loved putting writing into a more collaborative space. It’s been great seeing the support that came when I put myself out there.

So, what’s happening for 2017?

I’m obviously getting married, so that will take up a big chunk of time. We’re at the point where we have a church, a reception venue complete with a menu, and my dress so that’s a pretty good start. I’m also looking forward to the honeymoon- we’re going to Australia so we can see Adam’s family before we move to Ireland. A big move and a big trip will also both take a ton of planning.

I’m also continuing with my degree and am adding a big museum studies tilt to it. I’ve always loved going to museums- in Paris I’ve been the first in and last out of the Louvre more than one- and so I’m thinking that it might be something I should look into.

I have some collaborations in the works with other bloggers, and I hope to write more. I also hope to be a bit more personal- I feel like I’ve lost a lot of that lately.

I’m finishing off the year by making a batch of my amazing eggnog so it’s ready for Christmas Eve. Between that and my signature cocktail of Crabbie’s I think I’m ready to bid this year adieu.

 

2016: My Year in Review

It’s Been How Long Since We’ve Talked About Books?!

FAR too long. I haven’t been keeping up with my round the world challenge as I’ve had some great books fall into my lap that I couldn’t resist. Also, the fun in reading is the spontaneity, so I want to keep that!

As per usual I’m not going to get tooooo into plot points here because you can definitely read better plot summaries written by other people. Know your strengths guys, know your strengths.

Let’s start this!

Please Look After Mom – Kyun Sook Shin

I asked my friend for the best book in South Korea and he recommended this to me. It’s about a mother who gets lost at a train station, and the book switches between narrators. There are parts of it that are written in second person, which I’m not generally a fan of, but… I can’t even talk about this book without getting a bit misty in the eyes. Guys, this book is SO good. It will make you cry and also really, really want to travel to Korea. But read it. Ah! SO GOOD! Just be prepared with tissues.

Smart Women- Judy Blume

My Mom picked this up at the library and I just can’t resist anything by Judy Blume. This book is about Margot and her getting over her divorce and bonding with her kids. Basically, if you’re like me and need some Judy read this.

Undermajordomo Minor- Patrick DeWitt

This book is about a guy named Lucy who’s a bit of a wimp. He travels to another town for a job and discovers that this town is weird as fuck. It’s set up in it’s own universe, it’s own time, but feels like medeival-y but not. This is one of those that I just could not put down, and can’t describe. I just needed to know what was going on; I needed to know why. This just… it’s good.

Cooked – Michael Pollan

I bought this because of the Netflix series. Now that that’s out there, have you seen the Netflix series?! I loved this book. It manages to be very detailed and precise but not preachy or text-booky. It feels like you’re just genuinely on a quest with someone who wants their questions answered. Also, the cheese nun is my new hero.

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Lily and the Octopus – Steven Rowley

Wow, okay, so this one… it got to me a bit. Like a lot. Full disclosure I got it free on goodreads and wow am I happy I did. This book… they don’t even really describe the plot anywhere because “the fun is in the read”. Don’t get me wrong, the read is fun, and I want to talk about this book but don’t know how to without spoiling it. I lost my dog last November and this book… it made me cry and miss him but also made me feel okay at the end? I read it on my weekend in Shuswap. I needed some alone time so when my friends went to town I stayed at the hostel to read. They came back to me sobbing but like… damn this book is good.

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

I had seen this book flying around with it’s swirly print and wondered what all the fuss was about it. It wasn’t until my Mom got it as a gift from a student (she’s never got a book as a present before. We were both confused, but happily intrigued) and said I should read it. She told me it was a light read. In one way, it was. But… okay, I can’t give away the end, but I’m mad at this book. Like actual anger is radiating from me thinking about this, which is really good. Books that make you feel strong emotions are the best.

Tell me what you’re reading since I need more books to devour!

 

 

It’s Been How Long Since We’ve Talked About Books?!

Drunk in Costume

There’s a sociological concept called ethnocentrism. My prof introduced this by telling the class a story about a community in Central America. They’ve basically made a neighbourhood in a dump. There’s apparently even a school. Since there aren’t many options after graduation the people who are born there tend to die there. Every single nose in that classroom did the thing where one nostril just gets twitchy and rides up slowly. The prof noted that we were all judging based on our standard of culture. It can be as real as landfill living, or as random as Italians turning off the wifi when it rains. It’s unavoidable, we all do it. Part of the amazing thing about travelling is seeing what’s universal and what’s not. If you’re aware enough of your ethnocentrism to realize it and tuck it away, you can end up with some pretty cool habits. Also, if you’ve been doing it all along you can now tie it to actual sociology and use it as a stepping point to learn more about sociology because it’s awesome and not enough people study it.

Basically, that was a really, really heavy intro for a not heavy topic. What I’m going to be blithering on about for a while is my biggest point of ethnocentrism. The one thing I refuse to check because honestly, while Thanksgiving is the best North American holiday (the real one in October. November is too close to Christmas, like do you even finish your leftovers before you make another turkey?!) , the most fun has got to be Halloween.  While I do admire that other cultures may have more kind of random dress up parties, these seem few and far between after one leaves college. Halloween is a beautiful time when everyone’s just like, “yeah, let’s wear a costume and have some drinks and eat some sugar.” It’s fantastic really.

If you do end up celebrating Halloween, or any fancy dress occasion on the road because well, hostels try, you end up in a weird spot. You’ve packed light. What do you wear for a costume? I

What do you even want to be? I have some basic guidelines:

  1. Don’t be an asshole. Seriously. Don’t. Don’t make jokes about other people’s culture. Do not, for the love of all that is good and holy, attempt to change your skin tone. If you even have the thought of, “hey, is this going to make me an asshole?” Then abandon the idea because it probably will.

Actually, that’s it. That’s one basic guideline. I feel it’s sadly not as observed as it should be.

Most of the ones I’m showing here don’t involve much- I’m trying to keep them without really any sewing. If you want to see my costumes that I’m making hardcore for this year, my friend and I have a sewing blog. I’m posting a few tutorials within the next week. They’re simple this year, and would be achievable while on the road… but I’ve learnt that while everyone carries a sewing kit, very few know how to use one.

Bank Robber

I’m actually doing this one this year, so it mayyyyy be a bit of a cop out, but it’s a good costume. Basically all you need is a striped shirt, and a pair of black pants or leggings. A black tuque and black gloves would be great to complete it, but not 100% necessary. If you have an old black t shirt, you could even make the mask.

Literally any animal

Claire’s is pretty multinational, but look for anywhere with jewelry for kids. You can usually find some sort of ear headband. Wear whatever colour top matches with jeans. It’s a bit of a cop out, but always works in a pinch.

Roman God or Goddess

White sheets and safety pins work wonders.

A Kid

Wear PJ’s and put some eyeliner or washable marker freckles on your face. If your hair is long enough pop in some pigtails, if not give yourself some bedhead.

 

Sports Fan

I have a thing where I try to buy a rugby jersey for every country I go to. If you have, or are carrying some stuff from your hometown, deck it all at once. The thing that makes it costume-y? Pop some face paint on. Having “GO SPORTS TEAM!” on your cheek makes it.

Tacky Tourist

Just being yourself tbh. Wear that camera on its neck strap and some socks with those sandals.

Lumberjack

Flannels are everything and you should pack tons of them. Pop one on with some jeans, a tuque if you have it, and sing some Monty Python for full effect.

Laundry Bag

This one take a bit of effort. Wear a comfy outfit, and safety pin a bunch of your other clothes to you.

Beach Goer

Wear a swimsuit. If you want to put some effort in, 60’s hair and makeup always looks cute with this.

A Mirror

This is the costume that proves you can never be too lazy to dress up. I also had to think of all the other costumes above so I could write about this, which is why some of them are super weak. (actually, upon my pre post reread, I’ve determined they’re all pretty good.) Procure a cosmetic mirror on a handle with a hole (easily found in any grocery store) and some string (dental floss works well.). Thread a length of string that fits well over your head through the mirror hole, and get yourself a necklace. When someone asks what you are, say what they are. Note that a LOT of the time people won’t get this right away, but will come back and tell you you’re a genius.

Any dress up party is only as fun as the enthusiasm you put into it. You know who isn’t having a good time?

Sulky McSulkertan in the corner who is trying to be cool.

I make sure to pack a few things I could incorporate into a costume just in case, and I’ve never regretted it. Look at all the things you can do with basic suitcase stuff. Imagine how creative you’d get if you raided the school supply section of the supermarket. Put the effort in, feel the passion, have the fun.

What are you being for halloween?

Besides a person having a shot for me 😉

Drunk in Costume

Fall!

So fall happened in Vancouver. It went from 26 degrees to 14 pretty much overnight. I’m starting my cicerone (essentially a beer sommelier) journey, so I’m studying like a fiend. Also, I’ll be blogging more on my DIY blog as I’m going to be non stop crafting in service of planning my wedding (!!!). Adam finally proposed and it changes some things. The most applicable being….

The amazing around Canada trip has to be postponed.

We want to get married in Vancouver and many of his friends and family want a big trip, so for the most part it all works out. The thing is, not everyone can make it, so we want to have a reception in Melbourne, where Adam’s from. So, instead of planning just a trip I’m we’re planning a honeymoon, which by the way, is super weird. The tentative plan is to fly in to Brisbane (Air Canada just opened up a direct route) and then drive down the coast to Melbourne where we’ll spend some time with the family, and do the Great Ocean Road. After that we’ll hop on another flight and head to Ireland where we’ll spend an indefinite amount of time.

So, that’s what’s been going on. It’s going to be a very interesting year, but I’m happy at the end of it I get to spend the rest of my life with someone who thinks that packing up and moving to Ireland is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Fall!

Say Yes To Cheese

One of my favourite parts of travel is eating.

Actually, it’s probably my favourite. Specifically, eating cheese. This is Adam’s favourite too, and is one of the many reasons we work well as a couple. Seriously though, cheese and charcuterie are our things. If we’re eating at a restaurant that has a charcuterie platter, we automatically get it. If we don’t know what to cook, we make a charcuterie and cheese platter. So, when shopping for his birthday present I got him none other than:

A home cured bacon kit! 

We started it yesterday, and I haven’t tried the bacon yet, but it looks amazing. It’s pretty easy so far- you put the included Prague salt in with a pound of salt and a pound of sugar and then dredge 0.9kg of pork belly in it. It sits for a week, then you infuse it with liquid smoke. The amount of the base cure- the salt/sugar mix- that you get out of this is actually hella impressive. We have enough to make many a slab of bacon. We made this one plain without additives and we’re using the liquid smoke, then we’re going to make another additive free one in the smoker. After we compare that, we’ll get fancy with recipes from one of the books I got him…..

 

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Charcuterie!  Literally just a book with recipes for meat, salt, and accompaniments to them. We were looking through it and are super excited. On the book front I also got him…

 

Artisan Cheesemaking at Home. I’m not going to lie, I really don’t think we’ll be able to pull of the level of beauty in this book. I mean, there’s burrata recipes in here. BURRATA! If you’ve never had it, it’s literally a ball of mozzarella hiding a delicious, creamy centre. Also, it might be the most delicious thing in the world. The biggest problem is that one ball costs $16 at Whole Foods. I first encountered it while working in Taranto. My host family took me to this restaurant that was literally just all about mozarella. There were knots of it, balls of it… anything imaginable. But the star was burrata. I’ll keep you updated on my experiments. Speaking of experiments….

I also got him a 4 Cheese Making Kit!  Honestly, I think if you don’t know what to get someone, get them a cheesemaking kit. I’m going to start with a quarter review of this- it makes ricotta, paneer, chevre, and cream cheese. Since it was Adam’s birthday, we had a bunch of people over. We created a simple menu. We wanted to keep it delicious, easy and cheap since we had 9 people. Homemade pasta with a simple marinara, garlic bread, and homemade ricotta. We started with the sauce. I didn’t want a super fancy sauce because I wanted to really focus on the ricotta as the special area. So, I put in a stick of butter, 2 cans of tomatoes, and a quartered onion. I used one can of crushed tomato and one can of diced. There’s really no reason for it either, it’s just what I had. All the big bits broke down pretty well, so I think it’d even work with whole tomatoes.

This is it bubbling away after a few hours. It’s seriously as easy as bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer. I added a little salt and pepper at the end.

Then we started on the ricotta. Apparently it’s SO easy to make. You literally just heat the milk….

Then add lemon and strain. Why do we buy this stuff?! The kit came with cheesecloth, some cultures that I guess are for the cream cheese and chevre, and a cheese mold.

Yeah. We made this cheese. Like made it. Making cheese is seriously magical. When the curd separates it just looks… bewildering. I can’t wait to make the rest of this kit. So far, it’s a 10/10 would definitely buy again.

One of the best parts of cheesemaking? Whey. I read somewhere you could cook pasta in it, and man was this stuff amazing. It added a whole layer of flavour too it.

I forgot to take a picture of my first plate which would have been better and less pasta on a dirty plate, but man… I totally forgot because I got so into how amazing this pasta was.

Now fingers crossed that next time I’ll be making homemade carbonara with some amazing home-cured bacon….

Say Yes To Cheese