This Week In The Studio – playing like a child

This Week In The Studio

This Week In The Studio (TWITS, teehee!) is an ongoing series in which I share what I’ve been working on recently and give you a sneak peek into my process and works-in-progress. Click here to view all posts in this series.

Jupiter, my recently turned 3-year-old, likes to be involved with doing art because it’s what he sees me doing. However, I find it VERY hard to let go and let him be messy. We have carpeted floors, I’m sure you understand =p I’m just not ready for the randomness of painting with him. The other day I tried and I ended up putting it all away again after 5 minutes.

Then I had a brainwave… I knew he liked using my brayers, so I could get out my Gelli plate and do some prints with him. BINGO!! Super awesome idea and it worked a TREAT! The bonus is that it’s a much more targeted painting exercise so a lot less mess and it also seems to hold Jupiter’s attention for much longer.

Jupiter using the brayer on the Gelli plate

Now I’ve created a monster though, he wants to do this at EVERY opportunity!! I’m getting loads of Gelli prints out of it.

Jupiter using the brayer on the Gelli plate

Look at him! He’s so into it! Love a toddler’s total commitment to what they’re doing. Don’t ask me to do art with Zephyr though (he’s 11 months) =p

In the studio I’ve been working on a number of 8×8 canvas boards. I’m loving working on canvas, the texture is so nice and it lends itself really well to creating washes and rubbing paint over it to make interesting layers.

I’m experimenting with a shabby/grungy style in an attempt to develop my own techniques and preferences a bit. Up till now I’ve done a lot of online classes and tutorials. This has been great from the point of view of getting started, not having a fear of the blank page and adding skills to my arsenal, but right now I feel like I’m very ready to take that next step and start working on my own stuff without a blueprint or following someone else’s idea.

You Cannot Fail You Can Only Learn - mixed media on canvas board - © 2014 Iris Fritschi-Cussens

^ You Cannot Fail, You Can Only Learn. I was walking along near Charing Cross Road the other day where there are tons of second hand book shops and this shop had boxes outside with every book for £1! So I picked up a music dictionary and used it in this piece. Loving it!

Bonded By History - mixed media on canvas board - © 2014 Iris Fritschi-Cussens

^ Bonded By History. This piece was inspired by something a friend of mine was telling me. You can view step-by-step pictures and more information about supplies used in this post.

Embrace Your Fear - mixed media on canvas board - © 2014 Iris Fritschi-Cussens

^ Embrace Your Fear. The grungy shabby backgrounds I was creating called for some contrast and what better than the red from Little Red Riding Hood?

What have you been up to this week in your studio?

It’s Not Automatic – Deserving To Do Art

deserving-to-do-art

From a young age I feel I have always been given the message that if you’re not good at something, you shouldn’t do it.You are only ‘allowed’ to pursue something if you’re already magically good at it. Kids who are good at drawing should keep drawing. Kids who are not good at drawing shouldn’t bother.

We say things like: “Oh I can’t draw” or “I will never be good at painting” or “So and so is much better than me”. You didn’t wake up one day speaking your native language the way you do today. You learned over time. It was most likely an automatic process that you didn’t notice, but it took TIME and you were LEARNING. However, when it comes to anything creative, it’s as if we feel that the ‘talented’ are deserving of pursuing their art, but the ‘untalented’ are not.

deserving-to-do-art-quoteA friend of mine in primary school loved drawing. She was ‘good at drawing’. I put that in inverted commas, not because she wasn’t, but because it’s a problematic label. She drew a lot and consequently was ‘better at drawing’ than many of the other kids. She got a lot of praise for being good at drawing and I compared my drawings to hers and felt disappointed and why should I bother as I wasn’t as ‘good’ as her.

As an adult she’s a rather accomplished artist now. I love her art. It is very rich and technically detailed. She didn’t wake up as a 28-year-old who could suddenly create amazing art. If she had stopped doing art as a little girl and picked up a pencil now, she wouldn’t be creating what she is right now. She’s had a lifetime of practice.

The above example shows how incredibly logical it is that you need practice to get better, and yet we tell ourselves we are not talented enough or not good enough as a reason not to do it!!

On the parenting forums/blogs I read there definitely seems to be a trend towards praising the effort rather than the result. It’s the approach I cognitively believe in and is how I’m raising my kids. And yet… that message from my childhood runs deep. It runs deep in my thinking, and I can see it runs deep in a lot of other people’s thinking as well. These wounds created in childhood are hard to heal!!

When I think back to my childhood I can think of a handful of things that happened that stopped the creative soul inside me in its tracks. My teacher laughing at a drawing I did. My mother telling me I needed more practice when I showed her a painting I’d done (not a horrible thing to say in itself, but that was the only comment). I think every child encounters these types of moments but the importance lies in how these moments are handled. How can a child be encouraged to move past these painful roadblocks? Hopefully not like me, with the decision that I shouldn’t bother drawing or painting.

I feel resentment because of these things that happened to me as a child. As a child you don’t have the life experience or emotional maturity to put things in perspective, ignore the haters or question the validity of a statement/opinion. Especially when the voices are those we trust (parents, teachers) to tell us ‘the truth’. I feel sadness for my child self and what I went through and the consequences that spill over into my adult life. It is very very hard to unlearn the patterns of thinking we learned as a child.

However, and this is the big turning point, as an adult I now do have the benefit of life experience and emotional maturity (ish *grin*) to start doing something about this. I can’t turn back the clock and undo the scars, but I can think to myself ‘Hey, those people so long ago, they don’t need to dictate my thinking in the present’. I can tell myself this every day, and believe me, I need to, in order to quieten those voices in my head that tell me I don’t deserve to do art because it’s not inherently ‘good enough’ or I’m not inherently ‘talented enough’.

I have the power to choose to do this and I empower myself by deciding to create art despite the emotional obstacles and negative voices in my head. Every time I decide to do something creative I am not just ‘getting better’ in a technical sense (i.e. by practicing), I am also growing as a person. I am recognising that I myself hold the power to start to heal my own wounds.

Spinach Quiche

spinach-quiche

Information

Serves approx 3¼ (3 adults & 1 toddler), prep time 30 mins, cooking time 30 mins

spinach-quiche-ingredientsIngredients

  • 450g fresh spinach
  • 200g grated Emmental cheese
  • 3 medium eggs (yolks & whites separated)
  • 200ml of (half fat) crème fraiche
  • 1 sheet ready puff pastry

Method

1. Put a large pan on a high heat and fill with boiling water from the kettle. Add the spinach blanch for 4 minutes with a lid on the pan. Afterwards drain the hot water and run the spinach under the cold tap until cooled. Drain well and chop roughly (or finely, dependent on the texture you want). Transfer to a sieve and press any excess water out thoroughly.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 200C (fan 180C). Put the spinach in a large bowl with the egg yolks, crème fraiche and cheese. Mix together and season with pepper. Line your quiche dish with the pastry.

spinach-quiche-beforeoven3. In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they turn white and fluffy. To check whether you’ve whisked enough gently start to upturn the bowl. If the whites move, keep whisking. If you can upturn the bowl fully without them moving, you’re done. Fold the egg whites into the spinach mixture very gently (no stirring!!).

4. Transfer the mixture into the lined quiche dish. Put in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Check and give it another 5 minutes if it needs it. You want the puff pastry to be done and the spinach to be lightly browned on top.

Tips

Serve with a simple tomato salad with olive oil & balsamic dressing.

I never blind bake the puff pastry, but therefore it’s essential to press as much water out as possible (step 1) or it will become soggy.

You can replace the cheese with other cheese. Try Gruyere if you want your whole house to smell (tastes good though). Or blue cheese.

You could make this with frozen spinach. No need to cook it, but thaw before use and remove excess moisture as described in step 1.

spinach-quiche-zephyr-enjoys
Zephyr, 7 months old, enthusiastically stuffed his face with it

Creamy Tuna & Sweetcorn Pasta Bake

creamy-tuna-sweetcorn-pasta-bake

Information

Serves approx 2¼ (2 adults & 1 toddler), prep time 5 mins, cooking time 35 mins

Ingredients

  • 200g pasta shapes
  • 2 small onions
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • tin of tuna (approx 200g)
  • small tin of sweetcorn (approx 195g)
  • 100ml half fat crème fraiche (half a small tub)
  • 100g grated cheese

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C (200C for fan assisted ovens). Chop the onions and sauté them on a medium heat, a non-stick frying pan works well for this. Once the onions are slightly seethrough, add the chopped tomatoes and the crème fraiche. Turn the heat down a touch and let it simmer to get a thicker consistency. Meanwhile put the pasta on for the amount of time indicated on the packet.

2. Add the tuna and sweetcorn to the sauce to heat through. Drain your pasta and mix in with the sauce. Transfer everything to an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the cheese.

creamy-tuna-sprinkle-cheese

3. Put in the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Serve with cucumber on a plastic Winnie the Pooh plate for that extra professional touch.

creamy-tuna-served

Tips

To make the dish more flavoursome you can add things like: a splash of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of dried dill, a tablespoon of tomato puree, a tablespoon of capers, and of course salt & pepper.

To make it more creamy you can use full fat crème fraiche, use a whole tub instead of half or use single cream instead.

The quantities in this recipe are easily increased or reduced.

I don’t add salt to my recipes, you may wish to add salt (it doesn’t need it in my opinion).

Definitely let your toddler help himself with the serving spoon.

creamy-tuna-eating

Why I Don’t Add Salt

why-i-dont-add-salt

When I started weaning Jupiter (he is 2.5 now), along with the onslaught of weaning information you get thrown at you, I encountered the NHS guideline that a 6-month-old baby’s RDA of salt is 1g (as in, should not be exceeded). When you put 1g of salt on the scales it looks like a lot. When you start looking at the salt content in all the regular food you buy and eat, 1g is not very much indeed and is easily consumed (even by a baby).

Salt is often a ‘hidden’ ingredient, added to make things more flavoursome. Something without salt will taste bland, and with salt tastes nice (but not necessarily salty). Especially processed foods have much more salt in them than you realise. I wasn’t planning to wean Jupiter on pizza and ready meals, but even if I cooked my own meals without any added salt, there were plenty of other things in which it occurred. For example a single slice of bread has 0.8g of salt.

Often on packaging salt content isn’t listed, but instead you will find sodium. Sodium ? salt. To find out the salt content you need to multiply the sodium content by 2.5. So if something has 0.2g sodium, it really has 0.5g salt in it. It’s annoying because misinterpreting the sodium content can easily make you think you’re consuming less salt than you are.

When weaning it’s easy to get completely salt obsessed, which is tiresome and not much fun. I try to keep an eye on the quantities of foods with added salt (bread, cereals etc) that I give my children and in situations where I am in control (i.e. dinner cooked from scratch) I don’t add salt.

I do still add things containing salt to my cooking such as cheese, soy sauce or capers but only if it makes sense (I don’t cover every meal in cheese… honest). However, now that Zephyr is starting solids (we started at 6 months and follow the baby led weaning route) I will leave those things out for a while.

Some tips for reducing salt in your cooking:

  • if you must use salt, use lo-salt
  • don’t add salt as a matter of course, taste your dish first
  • buy unsalted butter
  • get low salt stock cubes
  • when you buy tinned goods go for the low/no added salt option (this goes for fish, vegetables, beans etc)
  • use ground black pepper, fresh herbs or lemon/lime to add flavour to your food

An Update

If I wait until I have something interesting to say I don’t think I’ll ever write another blog post. I should really set aside some time every week to write something.

Jupiter

He is now about 10.5 months and a real delight! Don’t all parents say that though? I’m not a big fan of other kids (lol I actually feel much more comfortable saying this now than I did in the past) but I absolutely adore Jupiter and could talk about him 24/7.

I’m glad I’m not a full-time mum though (it’s a mixed blessing). Being with a baby all the time is really tough and working full-time (from home though, so I see him a lot, which is great) allows me to have a much better mental balance.

We’re currently introducing a bit more of a routine for him. Mostly focussed around his sleeping at night and napping. He’s really at that point where he needs it (and so do we!).

He’s very chatty, although doesn’t say any specific words yet with any consistency (he may have said ‘dad’ a few times and ‘byebye’). He’s crawling like a trooper, SO FAST. He loves chasing the cat. He’s also pulling himself up to standing along the furniture and ‘cruising’. He can stand by himself for a couple of seconds at a time, so I think he’s well on his way to walking soon!

Violin

My violin playing has really gone up a gear. My friends and I had a little performance before Christmas where we played a few pieces we’d been working on and loads of Christmas carols to which the audience sang along. I was very nervous but it was lots of fun!

We’re currently aiming towards another concert during the Easter weekend and we’re playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D. It’s bloody hard! Having two lessons a week currently, plus trying to get in 30 minutes of practice a day. I’m really excited as I love this piece but also totally feel I don’t have enough time to really get it into shape.

It’s so nice to have a goal to work towards though, it really helps with the motivation.

Misc

Taking Jupiter to visit my aunt in Holland in a few weeks. Very excited about this!

Signed up for horse riding lessons again (I had to stop when I got pregnant). I’m on a waiting list though, so I have no clue when I’ll be able to start.

Playing a bit of Star Wars online. The single player aspect of it is very strong and immersive, which is good as I only have about 2-3 hours a week to play so it’s pretty much a single-player experience for me at the moment. I miss grouping up and raiding from back in the day when I played World of Warcraft a lot but I just don’t feel I have the time needed to invest in this, nor the desire to be honest. The biggest thing I miss is the people I used to play with. My WoW subscription expired a month ago or so and I don’t see myself renewing it. *small tear*

I am learning to drive!! Been taking lessons since September. I passed my theory test the other month and have my practical booked in about a month’s time. I’m nervous, but still have quite a few lessons booked to really brush up on everything and practice lots.