Sweetness from Failure

Posted in personal, thought with tags on May 28, 2009 by inspirexpire
Dreamlike Honeycomb

Dreamlike Honeycomb

A verse from “Last night, as I was sleeping” by Antonio Machado:

“Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error! –
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.”

[full version]

When I first encountered this verse of the poem, I was going through a dramatic and traumatic change to my life and how I experience it. I was on the bus, reading “Radical Acceptance…” and… there was something about the imagery of golden bees and white honeycombs that brought me to tears.

It is pure.
And the thought of having that purity inside you… of creating it out of your failures and misgivings and wasted fear and doubt… it still evokes such a powerful reaction in me, that I really can’t properly describe the visceral feeling that the words create.

I also love the juxtaposition of “marvelous error!” The poet’s delight at the inventiveness of his dream vision, as well as the action described, is palpable and so completely expressed in that one phrase. There is a sense of disbelief, almost of “I can’t believe I never thought of it this way before; it’s so simple!”

It is amazing that a few lines can be such a powerful source of – ongoing – inspiration: Everytime I read this verse, I get something new out of it.

I look forward to the bees continuing their work.


Shadowscapes: Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Posted in art with tags on May 27, 2009 by inspirexpire
Memory of Divinity

Memory of Divinity

Shadowscapes is the portfolio website of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, an incredible artist and illustrator. Stephanie focuses on depicting fantasy scenes and creatures, working mostly in luminous, multi-layered watercolours. I’ve been following her progress for close on 10 years now, and am constantly amazed at what she is able to achieve with such a difficult medium. The detail she packs into each piece is impressive.

I’ve always been more than a little “anti” watercolours. I think a lot of it has to do with the subject matter most watercolour artists choose – landscapes leave me cold, cold, cold – but it’s also the way the paint behaves: so fluid and loose and uncontrolled. When I draw or paint it’s usually highly-detailed, executed with a mechanical pencil, ink drafting pens or 000 paint brushes. Nothing loose or fluid about that!

Lately though, I’ve had the urge to paint.

With watercolours.

No one is more shocked than me! So I’ve done the only logical thing and ordered Stephanie’s painting guide, “Dreamscapes”. Stephanie’s ink drawings are equally beautiful and I am eagerly awaiting my copy of “Inklings” that I ordered along with “Dreamscapes”. And now there’s “Inklings II”!

Shadowscapes Tarot: Temperance

Shadowscapes Tarot: Temperance

What I am most excited about is the release of the “Shadowscapes Tarot” sometime… whenever! The paintings are exquisite, capturing the meanings of the cards in a style and manner that is very true to the Shadowscapes world, while still remaining faithful to the tarot tradition. I’ll definitely need to buy 2 decks: one to look at touch and examine hundreds of times until the cards wear out, and another to frame. I don’t know how the details of each piece are going to translate onto small cards, but hopefully whoever manufactures the deck will have enough experience to do them justice.

Whether you’re a fan of watercolour or fantasy art or not, I highly recommend spending an hour… or two… or three… browsing through the many enchanting pieces in the Shadowscapes galleries [most are available for purchase as prints – good luck choosing a favourite!].
It might just change your mind.

Vintage Stock Photo Love

Posted in art with tags on May 26, 2009 by inspirexpire

Vintage Eve. Or maybe Snow White?

[This was originally posted on my blog at PinupLifestyle.]

Whether I’m in need of inspiration, figure reference for drawing or just plain something-yummy-to-feast-my-eyes-on, I am never disappointed with vintage stock images. Even though some of these images are 100 years old (or more!), there is something timeless about them. The women seem to be unfailingly beautiful – even the “plain” ones – graceful and poised. Maybe because the images are so distant and therefore somewhat foreign, it is possible to look at them more objectively? The different physical types represented is refreshing too; very true to the “pinup creed”! What is especially interesting is to see how little things have changed; the same titillating scenes are played out then as are popular now, often quite graphically.


Quintessential flapper sass!

While these images are decades before the 40’s-50’s pinup era, they are definitely a useful reference source. Artists, models and photographers alike can find inspiration for both for poses, as well as themes and scene ideas. There are newsgroups and websites dedicated to vintage stock; some free, some pay sites. These are a few of my favourites from deviantArt, a quick and easy place to begin (you might need to sign up for an account if users have marked the images as “adult content”):

PostcardsStock [nude & clothed]
GentlemansClubStock [nude & clothed]
Menschenmaterial [mostly nude]
AngellesStock [nude & clothed]
LoriVintage55Stock Nude-Risque [clothed & nude]
Inspyrestash-stock Females [click through for pinups]
Inspyrestash-stock Risque [nudes]

Macarons: So round, So French, So perfect.

Posted in food with tags , , , , on May 25, 2009 by inspirexpire
A perfectly pink strawberry macaron by bittykate

Strawberry Macaron by bittykate

Behold, the simple splendour of the macaron.

Not macaroon (which are delicious in their own right); macaron.

Who is this mysterious cookie with the smooth, shiny, ever-so-slightly rounded top and crispy little foot that fills the windows of la p√Ętisserie with a rainbow of colours and flavour sensations?

Wikipedia says:

Dating back to the 18th century, the macaron is a traditional French pastry, made of egg whites, almond powder, icing sugar and sugar. This sweet pastry came out of the French courts’ baker’s oven as round meringue-like domes with a flat base… Macarons are sandwich-like pastries made with two thin cookies and a cream or ganache between the cookies.”

The basic recipe for a macaron is so simple, but attention to technique is vital for proper results. Serious Eats spoke with Dorie Greenspan about how and where the macaron craze began, complete with a diagram of the ideal macaron.

An extra draw for me: they’re naturally gluten free! I’m ashamed to admit: I’ve never had the opportunity to try one! Nor have I made my own, with no way to grind my own almonds and nowhere to buy them already ground. I really should rectify this inexcusable situation, but for now, I fantasise…

Pecan pie macaron with caramel sauce by Tartelette

Pecan pie macaron with caramel sauce by Tartelette

I have found some of my favourite macaron flavour ideas and photographs at Tartelette. Helen is French and has worked in restaurants and bakeries. If anybody knows macarons, she does! Just reading the recipe titles is enough to make me drool:

Violet & Vanilla Bean
Saffron Pumpkin & Cream Cheese
Pecan Pie & Caramel
Creme Brulee & Pistachio
Espresso & Toffee

… it’s too much!

ETA: Nutella macarons! Made with hazelnuts, instead of almonds. Guess who has a 2kg bag of hazelnuts in the cupboard?! [Hope they’re not stale…]

Hey, Oscar Wilde! It’s clobberin’ time!!!

Posted in art on May 25, 2009 by inspirexpire
Thalia by Craig Elliott

Thalia by Craig Elliott

“Hey Oscar Wilde!” is an art blog (of sorts) by Steven Gettis. Now in its tenth incarnation since being launched in June, 1998, it is:


Barbarella, Noam Chomsky, Phileas Fogg – they’re all there, and the list of artists who’ve contributed to this collection is astounding. You’re sure to find something by one of your favourites AND discover a whole new set of artists to explore further. A complete index of artists and subjects is divided into 2 linked lists for easy searching and each image post is followed by links to the artist’s website (where available) and further information on the subject they’ve chosen.

This 10 (and a bit) years old collection guarantees days’ and days’ worth of inspiration!

Raison d’etre

Posted in personal with tags on May 24, 2009 by inspirexpire

Inspiration :  Expiration
Inhale : Exhale
To Do : Or Die

I am a Professional Hunter-Gatherer of Information, especially of the inspirational kind.
I have Gigs of visual triggers, dating back to the mid-90s, that I have carried with me across continents and oceans.
Until now, there has been no purpose to this, other than that I am compelled to collect anything and everything that appeals to me or makes me think or makes me squeal with delight.
I’ve tried to quit.
I’ve told myself there’s no point, unless I do something with it all.
I’ve felt shame. Oh, the Shame! And guilt, for wasting time and never producing anything.
But then, a lucky link click lead me to this: “Refuse to Choose”, by Barbara Sher.

And it changed the way I think about myself, completely.

I’ve been holding my breath for so long, I can’t remember when I didn’t feel constantly weak and lacking;
dying a little every time I right-click-save;
judging judging judging myself as I am surrounded by an ever-growing pile of evidence to my failures;
punishing myself by denying access to books and supplies and beautiful things that would fill me with joy.

There is greater detail in the “about”, but in short, I have Permission now.
Permission to collect,
to gather,
to amass
VAST quantities of visual stimuli,
eye candy,
muse juice,
brain porn
and to SHARE it.

And whether I post once a week or 10 times a day, it doesn’t matter.
I will only do what gives me the good feeling.
And whether it is purely for my own reference or changes the life of somebody else, it doesn’t matter.
It is enough to simply be.
And whether it lasts a week or 10 years, it doesn’t matter.
It is finished when I say it is.

This is the sound of me INHALING.

[Created to the sounds of the Transformers score by Steve Jabonsky]