Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Behind Closed Doors – By Sherri Hayes

Behind Closed Doors – By Sherri Hayes

Elizabeth Marshall spent the last nine years doingall the things she was supposed to do. She went to a good college. Married aman with a promising future. Elizabeth even had a nice house in a respectablepart of town. There was even the promise of 2.4 kids in her future. From theoutside everything looked picture perfect.
Then one night, the world she lived in camecrashing down. Six months later with her husband dead and her friends gone,Elizabeth moves to the small town of Springfield, Ohio to start a new lifewhere no one knows who she is or about her past.
Christopher Daniels enjoys the simplicity of hisbachelor life. After his divorce three years ago, he swore off women. He has nodesire to change that philosophy.
When Elizabeth Marshall moves into the apartmentbelow his in the small Victorian house, she makes him reconsider the motto he’slived by for the last three years: women are trouble. She is everything hisex-wife is not, and it doesn’t help that she is his fantasy come to life.
He is determined to resist her charms; however, when someone sendsthreatening messages to Elizabeth, he finds himself in the role of protector.Can he protect Elizabeth and still resist the pull she has on his body and hisheart?

My Thoughts
Features – What worked
A single linear story effectively described through the dualviewpoints of both the hero and heroine – a holistic view to the development oftheir relationship.

A generally well-paced story line, with enough clues strategicallyplaced to allow the reader to solve the mystery as it unfolds.

Flaws – What didn’t work
Some characters are referred to but not adequately described
Some questions left unanswered

I quite enjoyed this book and would happily read more work fromSherri Hayes

BehindClosed Doors” describes two people Elizabeth and Chris, who are separatelytrying to pick up the broken pieces of their lives. This endeavour is made muchmore difficult by past hurts that have caused them to doubt others andthemselves and is further complicated by their growing awareness of each other,and their burgeoning relationship that neither one is prepared for.

I really enjoyed reading about their relationship as it progressed andfelt that Sherri Hayes was quite successful in rendering it’s blossomingnature, with all the necessary angst and unworthiness that generally burdenstwo mature people with emotional baggage. The sexual tension is also builtovertime and is particularly nice when you can read about this from bothperspectives.

Our main characters have a lot to overcome before they can hope torebuild their lives they must each face their own pasts and those who withmalicious and anonymous intent seek to obliterate any happiness they may find.How much will they have to endure before they can rest and will theirrelationship survive the constant bombardment from outside forces?
As the intrigue unfolds, Sherri presents many suspects to help buildthe suspense. The clues, are all there for an observant reader to discover andI was able to peg the culprit with relative ease. I did feel that the motivewas not totally believable, either that or perhaps more effort could have beenspent on detailing the pathological nastiness that would have been simmeringbelow the surface.

Overall “Behind Closed Doors”, was a great read and will keep youturning the pages; even if you guess the identity of their tormentors, you’llbe invested enough in main characters that you’ll continue to read, hoping fora happy ending. A happy ending that seems more and more unlikely as the storyunfolds.


You can purchase this book from The Writer's Coffee Shop
You can follow the author on Twitter using @Sherri_Hayes

*** Please read my Disclaimer

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Last Keeper - By Michelle Birbeck

The Last Keeper - Michelle Birbeck


Fifteen hundred years ago, Serenity Cardea took the life of the only vampire she ever regretted killing—Henry, her sister’s husband. With her sister brutally murdered, Serenity had little choice but to grant Henry the only request he had: death.  Centuries later, Serenity is no closer to discovering who betrayed them or instigated the massacre of her brothers and sisters.
The vampires want dominance—over their food, the other races . . . the world. To get it, they’ve systematically hunted down and slaughtered the only ones standing in their way. The Keepers.
As a Keeper, Serenity is tasked with protecting the delicate balance between the creatures of the world: Vampire, Witch, Were, and Human. Her kind exists to ensure that no single race sways the balance, dooming the world to destruction.  
They're on the brink of extinction, with no sign of return. Now only two remain, and Serenity’s last brother is facing death, leaving her standing alone against a never-ending tide of vampires, all wanting one thing: power.
Then she meets Ray Synclair, a history professor in training with a passion for centuries past, and the harsh reality of her limited time comes crashing down on her. He is her weakness. His mortality is the countdown on Serenity’s life, and with each passing second, it comes closer to the end, for both of them.
She must uncover the secrets of her people’s past and find out who betrayed them—and who is still doing so—before it’s too late.
Serenity’s days are numbered, and Ray will be drawn into a world of myth and legend, where just being alive is enough to get him hunted down.
Because the only way to kill a Keeper is to kill their partner . . .

Arthur Streeton "Fires On (Lapstone Tunnel)", 1891

Reference: Figure 1
Artist: Arthur Streeton
Title: Fire’s On (Lapstone Tunnel)
Date: 1891
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Dimensions: 183.8 x 122.5cm; 204.7 x 142.7 x 6cm frame
Collection: NSW Art Gallery

“Completed on site at the mouth of a railway tunnel under construction in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, the painting depicts the death of a railway worker in a premature explosion. However, the human drama is overshadowed by the heroism of the landscape itself.”[1]

Arthur Streeton produced the painting “Fires On” in 1891 at a time when there was a dawning awareness of the greatness of the Australian Landscape and it’s people. A century had passed since the English settlement and the birth of the Australian Federation was eminent. The harsh life of the bush along with the resilience and sheer necessary creativity of it’s people had been romanticised in the works of Henry Lawson (1867–1922) and Banjo Patterson(1864–91), the shearers, the drovers and the swagman where becoming legend, there was intense curiousity and fear surrounding the indigenous Australians and the uniquely beautiful native flora and fauna were being illustrated and published in scientific journals. All of this led to a sense of pride in the Australian way of life and a desire to represent the country in all it’s harsh beauty accurately, it was no longer acceptable to mix nostalgia with fact and paint the Australian landscape in a Brittish attitude.
In 1886 there was a nationwide call to “fill our National Gallery with representative works of our artists and our nation, its early historical scenes, and pictures of the true rude life that must have and did exist in the early days of the colony.” This led to the development of a National School of Australian Painting and plein-air landscape artists were being “urged” by their fellows to leave ‘the suburban bush’ and ‘paint the national life of Australia’. Arthur Streeton like many other Australian artists had been entranced by the landscape and demonstrated a desire to represent this “sun burnt country” and it’s occupants in a genuine manner capturing “the light, colour and character of the local landscape”
With regard to the painting “Fire’s On”, Arthur Streeton, the artist spent many days at the site of the Lapstone Tunnel as it was being constructed, sketching and completing studies in watercolour, often lamenting the medium drying too quickly in the heat. In a letter to Frederich McCubbin he described the landscape and his subsequent choice of pallet as “a perfect blazing glory of white orange cream and blue streaks here and there where the blast has worked its force”, as he endeavored to capture this initially in watercolour and later in oil. He appears to have established a rapport with some of the workers throughout the time he completed his studies, commenting on their interest and appreciation of art, and of taking cover together from the blasts “work a while -then again "Fire! Fire's on" - and off we go, and then work again”. 
The landscape itself was dramatic and the life of the workers he was befriending was harsh and unpredictable, Arthur Streeton had no way of knowing that on one particular day as he arrived “at his cutting (sic)”, he would encounter tragedy. He wrote that all was “serene as I work & peg away ... 12 o'clock ... & now I hear 'Fire! Fire's on!', from the gang close by ... BOOM! & then rumbling of rock. The navvy under the rock with me, & watching, says, 'Man killed' ... more shots & crashing rock we peep over; he lies all hidden bar his legs. All the shots are now gone except one, and all wait, not daring to go near; then men, nippers, and a woman hurry down, ... and they raise the rock and lift him on to the stretcher, fold his arms over his chest, and slowly six of 'em carry him past me ...”
The surprise death of a worker became a subtext of the final painting, an unexpected addition whispering from the mouth of the tunnel amidst the scale and prominence of the mountain.
“Fire's on” captures the essence of a distinctly Australian theme, and is “possibly the artist's greatest evocation of Australian heat and sunlight”. It is successful in depicting the landscape’s harshness in the sheer exposed rock faces and the stoicism of the Australian people, seemingly insignificant but ever forging through and into the heart of Australia.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Quote

"In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire"
Ralph Waldo Emerson - American Poet

My Only - by Sophia Duane

My Only by Sophia Duane
Published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop

Adam James’s life is far from perfect. A talented drummer from a small suburb of Chicago, he keeps to himself, downplaying his abilities, thinking that he is less than all those around him, including his popular twin brother, Aaron..

When a free-spirited new girl with a troubled past moves in across the street, Adam’s eyes are opened to a new world of possibilities. Olivia Cartwright’s philosophies on life give her a deeper understanding of the world. An instant connection between Adam and Olivia draws them closer, but he wonders why anyone would choose him when a better version exists, particularly when Aaron also takes an interest in her.

Will the friendship with Olivia change Adam, or will he continue to close himself off in his own world?

Adam has a choice to make: risk his friendship with Olivia or fight for something more. 
It seems Adam has a lot to learn about love….and life.
I started this book believing it to be a romance. When I opened the first page and realised it was also of the young adult variety, I groaned, even worse. So, I was surprised as I turned the pages, at the depth of emotion and the sensitivity evident in every aspect of this book. The teens represented in the pages are broken, damaged. Even, apparently well adjusted and popular Aaron… All of them have faced death at an age when they should have been invincible. They had faced death but had not dealt with it, because after all, “how do you process that?”

My Only, is also the story of a love triangle that divides twins, pits brother against brother, fact against theory (this analogy is brilliant) and sadly there can be no winners. The angst between the brothers is well rendered as they vie for the love of the new girl in town.
Adam is “theory”… He likes a girl, but does nothing about it.
Aaron is “proven fact”… He likes a girl and “acts”.
They are twins and have been compared all their lives but it is their differences that alienate them now. That, and Olivia. One is inherently nicer than the other and I’d like to tell you that the good guy wins… But that would diminish the actuality that makes this story especially profound.

I came to a point in the story where the conflict was such that I couldn’t see a way forward for the brothers as a family unit, if either if them continued in their pursuit of Olivia. It seemed that neither brother was going to be able to accept the other being with her, and have it be believable. It was only through the quirky and honest character traits of our heroine; “Experience. People. Figuring things out. Being a good person.” Those are the things matter to her, that this crisis is successfully overcome and Sophia Duane should be acknowledged for this.

Don’t fooled, it’s not a happy story, but it’s not overly heavy either. Reflective… And philosophical? “Life’s too short to let sadness overpower you for long periods of time”, is a major theme of the novel but that doesn’t quite encapsulate it either. It should be triumphant but it’s not. It’s much more complex and rightfully so. I think Adam best describes the overall emotion of the novel when he said “The thought I’d just expressed felt heavy and I wished I’d felt lighter after having released it, but I didn’t.”

I loved almost everything about this novel, except the epilogue. I am characteristically never ready for those and contrarily to the ideas expressed in My Only I didn’t want to make my peace and move on. I found myself wanting to process it!

*** Please read my Disclaimer

Georges Seurat - A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Gande Jatte

Georges Seurat: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte 1884-1886

Figure 1
Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte 1884-1886
Oil on Canvas (207.5 x 308cm)
Art Institute of Chicago Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

Georges Seurat was a revolutionary artist who is remembered for his many exquisite drawings that dramatised “the relationship between light and shadow” (*EN1), for his “invention” and use of pointillism (divisionism), for his contribution to the foundation of a neo-impressionistic art movement and for his monumental and initially highly controversial painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. He was born in Paris in December of 1859 and lived, in rather unexceptional and simple circumstances; he was a private man with a conservative background, an artist with a scientific bent, consistently experimenting with and applying new knowledge in colour theory as well as methodically perfecting his painting technique. He, in all probability did not envisage that he would set the art world on edge with his innovative yet concise painting style, that particular conflict occurred as a result of Seurat’s own inner tension, the contradiction between art and science, a battle between emotion and reason, visually evident through his highly emotive drawings and his remote and distant masterpiece that invites the viewers’ curiosity but leaves every question unanswered.

Seurat was born to a middle class, conservative family, his father a Municipal Bailiff, sent him to a Municipal School where he began to take classical drawing classes, making studies of antique casts and live models (*EN2). He soon after entered Ecole des Beaux-Arts attending the studio of Henri Lehman – a devotee of Ingres and “defender of the classical tradition” (*EN3), here as a student, he produced several drawings and begins to paint, whilst admiring the work of Eugene Delacroix who is described by the poet Baudelaire as being “passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion clearly”(*EN4). These drawings, though technically constructed, lacked the ambience and emotive qualities of his later sketches.

Figure 2
Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)
Satyr and Goat 1877 - 1879
Charcoal (63.5 x 48.3cm)
The Museum of Modern Art Dian Woodner Collection

Seurat’s major development in drawing occurred during his time in the military (1879 - 1880), where the shortage of live models and sculptures lead him to draw what was readily available, fellow recruits at rest and his own hands. His sketchbooks throughout this time also depict the local parks and plaza’s where he made quick drawings of “people on park benches, city wanderers and architectural detail” (*EN5).

Figure 3
Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)
Seated Soldier, and other studies 1879 - 1880
Coloured Pencil and Graphite on Paper
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

Gradually Seurat refined his drawing technique and limited his materials, eventually centering on the sole use of two main elements, a paper support and a dark conté crayon which he used to create “a dazzling array of effects, from the bright lights of the outdoors to the intimate interiors of homes” (*EN6). He was also known to use both sides of Michallet paper, the wire side and the felt side to enhance the various effects he’d created.

Seurat’s drawn portrait of his close friend Aman-Jean was accepted to the Salon in 1883 and became his first publicly exhibited piece. It was large, exceptionally constructed and described by critic Claude Roger-Marx as “a meritorious drawing that cannot be the work of a newcomer” (*EN7). Aman-Jean himself, also admired the work calling it “very, very beautiful” (*EN8). It was a beautiful portrait that succeeded in cementing Seurat’s work firmly in art history, it also exemplified some of the key characteristics; the “velvety blackness and glowing luminosity” that have become a signature of Seurat and his drawing style (*EN9).

Figure 4
Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)
Aman-Jean 1883
Conte Crayon on Paper (62.2 x 47.5cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bequest of Stephen C. Clark

Drawing was an important activity for Seurat and he continued to apply himself to the task throughout his tragically short lifetime (he died aged thirty one, while his career spanned a mere eleven years), producing more than five hundred drawn works, two hundred and seventy of which were produced after his maturity. He was described as being “a young man crazy about drawing” and that he often “took refuge in pure drawing” (*EN10). The majority of these were individual pieces, but many were created as studies for larger projects and formed the foundations of these well-considered canvases.

“There are fewer than 60 surviving oil sketches and drawings by the artist that are directly related to the painting” (*EN11), La Grande Jatte which debuted at the eighth annual and final impressionist exhibition (*EN12) in 1886 and created a new confusion in a culture that was only beginning to accept impressionism. There was debate as to whether Seurat was an artist or a scientist; and concern that his application of colour theories espoused by Ogden Rood and Charles Blanc (*EN13) created painted tapestries where dots of colour were blended by the eye and not on a pallet. Seurat chose his colours carefully and made his strokes deliberately believing that certain combinations of colour and strokes created differing moods. The technique is often called “pointillism”, though the term “divisionism” is more correct referring to the “separation of colour and its optical effects” (*EN14).

La Grande Jatte, though exhibited in an impressionist exhibition was nothing like impressionism, it was “an un-Romantic exercise in measurement, objectivity, logic, control, with formal decisions made and conceptually resolved before brush touched canvas” (*EN15). Seurat was joined by Paul Signac, Camille Pissarro, Lucien Pissarro, and eventually Henri Matisse, who all produced paintings using the divisionist technique, and so in an effort to describe the new movement that arose from the interest and controversy of that final exhibition the term Neo-Impressionism was coined by Felix Feneon, a French art critic.

Figure 5
Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954)
Luxe, calme et volupté 1904 - 1905
Oil on Canvas (37 x 46in)
Musée d'Orsay - Paris

The painting La Grande Jatte was submitted by the Art Institute of Chicago (it’s owners) for extensive technical testing prior to it’s exhibition “Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte” in 2004, the findings confirmed that Seurat reworked the painting prior to it’s exhibition, and revealed some fundamental alterations that suggest “he wasn't a scientific prodigy who happened to end up in art, but a prodigious artist learning on the job” (*EN16). Figures were added, altered and removed from the final canvas; the painting, initially comprising of strokes of varying lengths and directions was over laid with the complimentary coloured dots for which the work is renowned. He then added a painted border, until the canvas is complete with it’s many characters (3 dogs, 8 boats, and 48 people (*EN17)) as it is known today.

We can conclude that Seurat’s extensive study of colour theory and of the artists he admired like Delacroix, ensured that he harvested and developed new understandings and skills. His diligent practice and preparation hints that he was a perfectionist, and that he strove to produce works that were satisfying and complete. The evidence of multiple studies and reworking suggests that he perhaps agonised over these projects, that he wished to produce works that would be appreciated by his artistic fellows, the mere fact he exhibited his work implies a desire to share his creations. The controversy that arose from La Grande Jatte, although initially unexpected is a natural consequence that arose from his determined exploration. He did not set out to create a furore, but it was inevitable that he did so.

End Notes:

http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/seurat/ cited 19th February 2011 
2 Robert L. Herbert, “Chronology” in Seurat, Drawings and Paintings, eds. Yale University Press (New Haven and London 2001), ix 
3 Jodi Hauptman, “Introduction” in Georges Seurat – The Drawings, eds The Museum of Modern Art (New York 2008), 11 
4 http://www.eugenedelacroix.org/ cited 29th March 2011 
5 Jodi Hauptman, “Introduction” in Georges Seurat – The Drawings, eds The Museum of Modern Art (New York 2008), 10 
6 Karl Buchberg, “Seurat: Materials and Techniques” in Georges Seurat – The Drawings, eds The Museum of Modern Art (New York 2008), 31 
7 Claude Roger-Marx, quoted in Robert L. Herbert et al., Georges Seurat, 1859-1891 (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991), p49 
8 Aman-Jean, letters to Gustave Coquiot, published in Herbert et al., Georges Seurat, 1859-1891, Appendix B pp377 (emphasis original), 376. 
9 Jodi Hauptman, “Introduction” in Georges Seurat – The Drawings, eds The Museum of Modern Art (New York 2008), 9
10 Gustave Kahn, Les Dessins de Georges Seurat, 1859 – 1891, vol 1 (Paris: Bernheim-Juene, 1928), n.p.; and Gustave Kahn, “Seurat”, translated and excerpted in Alain Madeleine-Pedrillat, Seurat (New York: Rizzoli, 1990), p.206. Originally published in L’Art moderne (April 5, 1891). 
11 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/arts/art-review-how-seurat-worked-up-to-sunday.html?src=pm cited 29th April 2011, Article by Holland Cotter, published August 20, 2004 
12 http://www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/seurat/seurat_themes.html cited 29th March 2011 
13 Charles Blanc’s Grammaire des arts du dessin refers also to Eugéne Chevreul’s principles of optical mixing and Delacroix’s practice of using colour opposites in defined areas to produce lush greys
14 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1430924/divisionism cited 1st May 2011.
15 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/arts/art-review-how-seurat-worked-up-to-sunday.html?pagewanted=2&src=pm cited 29th April 2011, Article by Holland Cotter, published August 20, 2004
16 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/arts/art-review-how-seurat-worked-up-to-sunday.html?pagewanted=2&src=pm cited 29th April 2011, Article by Holland Cotter, published August 20, 2004
17 http://www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/seurat/seurat_themes.html cited (29th April 2011)

Image Sources
Figure 1: Art Institute of Chicago. http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/27992 (Cited 17.3.2012)
Figure 2: The Art Tribune. http://www.thearttribune.com/spip.php?page=docbig&id_document=609 (Cited 17.3.2012)
Figure 3: Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide. http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/index.php/spring08/101-georges-seurat-the-drawings (Cited 17.3.2012)
Figure 4: "Georges Seurat: Aman-Jean (61.101.16)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/61.101.16 (October 2006) (Cited 17.3.2012)
Figure 5: Musée d'Orsay. http://www.musee-orsay.fr/typo3temp/zoom/tmp_b6f61cfb62547d4c1094c2371f5550b7.gif (Cited 17.3.2012) 

http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/seurat/ cited 19th February 2011
Herbert Robert L, “Chronology” in Seurat, Drawings and Paintings. Edited by Yale University Press, ix. New Haven and London, 2001
Hauptman Jodi, Georges Seurat – The Drawings. New York: The Museum of Modern Art 2008. Published in conjuction with “Georges Seurat – The Drawings” shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 28 October 2007 – 7 January 2008
http://www.eugenedelacroix.org/ cited 29th March 2011
Buchberg Karl, “Seurat: Materials and Techniques” in Georges Seurat – The Drawings. Curated by Jodi Hauptman, 31 – 41. New York: The Museum of Modern Art 2008. Published in conjuction with “Georges Seurat – The Drawings” shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 28 October 2007 – 7 January 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/arts/art-review-how-seurat-worked-up-to-sunday.html?src=pm cited 29th April 2011, Article by Holland Cotter, published August 20, 2004
http://www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/seurat/seurat_themes.html cited 29th March 2011
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1430924/divisionism cited 1st May 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/arts/art-review-how-seurat-worked-up-to-sunday.html?pagewanted=2&src=pm cited 29th April 2011, Article by Holland Cotter, published August 20, 2004

Vincent van Gogh - Quote

"I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process"

Vincent van Gogh

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Gallery Update

I've just updated my gallery page with three photos of life drawings that I completed in 2009.
There will be more to come.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Legacy of A Dreamer - by Allie Jean

I'm currently reading "Legacy of A Dreamer" by Allie Jean, for Pre-Release Review.
Published by The Writer's Coffee Shop 
Release Date: May 3rd 2012 
Pre-Orders Available March 22nd 2012 


Chantal Breelan is a ward of the state, living under the care of a woman who is cold and heartless. Her past is a mystery, and her future is even more uncertain. She can’t recall why she had been taken from her parents and so she’s left with nothing but an empty hole where her childhood should have been. When she awakens from her nightmares, she’s left with terrible, violent images, as well as a boy whose face is oddly familiar, yet can’t be placed.
Scared and alone, Chantal begins to confide in an imaginary friend – a shadow in the shape of a man who stands in the corner of her room. She is comforted when she believes he listens to her.
On her eighteenth birthday, Chantal is forced to leave her foster home. She moves to New York City, but the start of her new life doesn’t begin as smoothly as she’d hoped. In this environment, she faces a whole new set of challenges.
One night at a subway station, Chantal meets a young boy who runs away from her, and she’s compelled to follow him down into the tunnels. But this Rabbit Hole reveals a world where reality is a nightmare. Her dreams are clues to her future, and her life becomes twisted and dangerous when she learns that things that go bump in the night are not just in fairy tales and childhood stories.