Friday, 28 May 2010


The three elements in Moroccan architecture are tiles, stucco, and timber ceilings. Taking photos of the ceilings and the stucco was quite difficult because of the light, but here are three of the stucco work. Beautiful.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Life Drawing

I've been doing a little bit of life drawing in the last couple of months. I started with casual life classes at Tate Modern, which were a lot of fun, and not really traditional life drawing as such. In the pictures I've posted here for example, the models were set up in the Van Doesberg show, and we were encouraged to use Dada methods/ideas, and were limited in the materials we could use, eg just paper and glue for the exercise on the left. [I should note here that the model consented to being photographed, and that the works on the right are not by me - they're impressive though, I think! The one on the left is mine, but incomplete.] Unfortunately I discovered these classes right at the very end of the programme, so I only made it to 2 classes.

The Tate classes inspired me to finally enrol in an evening course, and I'm now half-way through a 10 week course at Central St Martins. I chose Life Drawing with Colour, which is new for me. I've only really ever worked in black and white, so mixing colours on the page is a new challenge. We started with earthy tones, then introduced blue, then introduced red, then yellows, greens etc. It's fun, but quite difficult - for example, trying to re-create flesh tones using only red, green and white: difficult! But I think part of the idea is just to get a feel for the kinds of colours and tones you can create. I'm enjoying it a lot. These photos are from the class where we introduced blue to the mix. So I used burnt umber, raw umber, yellow ochre, white, and cadmium blue. The first shot was taken half-way through, and the second was taken at the end of the class. We're just using pastels at the moment, and because time is limited and the focus is on colour, I'm having to let go of my perfectionistic tendencies (in terms of getting the figure exactly right), which is actually quite liberating. I might be adventurous and try some water-colours next week.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


These were taken at Volubilis, the Roman ruins outside Fez. The site was originally inhabited by Carthaginians in the 3rd century BC, and then by the Romans until it was destroyed by an earthquake towards the end of the 4th century AD. It was reinhabited for a while in the 6th century AD. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it's very pretty and peaceful. The mosaics are wonderful: the close-up in the second to last picture shows a three-headed dog with a serpent's tail.

Monday, 24 May 2010


Broadbeans are everywhere in Morocco. Love.


Friday, 21 May 2010


We were greeted with Moroccan tea and sweets on arrival in Marrakech. I'll show you the hotel, which was a-mazing, later.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Atlas Mountains

We drove up and over the Atlas Mountains to get to Marrakech. They're pretty spectacular, and there was still some snow on the peak, even in April.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Where to Stay... Ouarzazate / Skoura

I want to show you a couple of the beautiful places we stayed in Morocco.

This one, at Skoura (near Ouarzazate) is a Relais & Chateaux hotel called Dar Ahlam. It's an old kasbah that has been converted to a boutique hotel. There was an option to go for a day-trip into the desert, but since we'd just come from our night in the Sahara, we decided to take the opportunity to relax by the pool. Mum and I had a massage in the hammam, which was lovely - exactly as you'd imagine a traditional hammam, with rose petals, steamy rooms, high ceilings, low lighting, a bath in the middle of the room, and lots of essential oils.

Everything about this place was understated and chic. At night they set up low tables around the pool, and gave us soft blankets to keep warm. You can see from my pictures below of the table settings that everything was done with such care and elegance. The dessert (after lunch) in the last picture was so delicious: finely sliced pineapple with lemon sorbet, and mint leaves which had individually been covered in sugar.

Here are some pictures taken after dark, in the lounge room and in my room.

Monday, 17 May 2010


An oasis, Marocco

Friday, 14 May 2010


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Thursday, 13 May 2010



Place aux Aires, mid-week on a sunny day.

I love a bit of history, and the most recent snippet I learned in Grasse was that the main square used to be the location of a tannery, which is actually how Grasse came to be the centre of the perfume world. The smell of tanned hides is pretty unpleasant (that's an understatement: the smell of the actual tanning process is putrid, and in the olden days, before things became more sophisticated, the tanned leather itself didn't smell too great either), so essences were used to mask the odour. Perfumed gloves became a popular local product, until the fashion for those faded in around the 18th century, and the focus became perfumes alone.

If you're interested in perfumes, I'd recommend both the Fragonard museum (do the tour, it's fun!), and the recently renovated Musee Internationale des Parfumeries. The perfume-making process is explained, and you get a sense of the history of perfume from ancient Egypt all the way to the 21st century. Perhaps my favourite thing to see is the collection of perfume bottles and labels, especially the Art-Deco era examples.

It can feel sometimes like Fragonard has taken over the whole of Grasse, but on the other hand, I absolutely love what they do. They make such beautiful things: sets of soaps in lovely decorated boxes, individual brightly coloured glycerine soaps, perfumes in the traditional tin canisters. Their homeware and jewellery stores (just up the street in separate stores from the museums) are also gorgeous, with beautifully selected linens, scarves, and quilts, amongst other things. Fragonard also owns the lovely Cafes des Musees (below).

One of these days I'll do a comprehensive visitors guide to Grasse and the surrounding area, since I go there so often!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


The fountain in the centre of Saint Cezaire


This is an incredibly beautiful and precious cashmere shawl owned by my French mum. It was her grandmother's and it's all hand-embroidered. I love the box it came in. It's from Kashmir and it's very old.