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Thursday, 6 October 2011

Trip to Downing Street!

That's me delivering my painting to the Cameron's at 10 Downing Street.

Link is to Richard Kay's article on the painting. Scroll down.. scroll down to see..


Friday, 23 September 2011

Willow strikes a pose

I have just spent the last few days with little Willow, a tiny Manchester terrier, who came to have her portrait sculpted in clay, for a bronze.

Here are some pictures of Willow and the sculpture in clay. I'll post another picture of the bronze and of the casting process when ready.

Ok so here are the steps of the casting process:

Ingredients needed:
Runny silicon and catalyst (Find at Tiranti on warren street)
Putty Silicon and catalyst (Tiranti)
Casting plaster (Find at Travis Perkins- get the same plaster you use for cornicing)
Casting wax (Tiranti)

Step 1: Make a tray out of clay to catch any drips.

Step 2: Mix the runny silicon with the correct amount of catalyst and pour over the clay starting from the highest point.

  Step 3: Blow on the silicon to make sure it has entered into all the nooks and crannies. Leave to dry over night.
Step 4: Repeat step one and two and leave to dry again. Then remove any drips once hard with a knife.

Step 5: Take the putty Silicon and mix with the catalyst. Then using your hands push small pieces about 1 ½ cm thick all over the form.
Step 6: Decide where your seam will be, you must be careful when you choose this that you do not have any undercuts. I.e. you must be able to remove the silicon and plaster mould without breaking any of the cast form. Then using the putty silicon make a wall around where you have chosen the seam.

Step 7: Make a clay wall around the seam.
Step 8: Mix your plaster in a clean bowl. First pour the water then gently spoon the plaster on top. Do not mix until you have added enough plaster that it forms a peak in the water. Once you mix you can no add any more plaster or you will get air bubbles in the form.

Step 9: Sprinkle some of the runny plaster onto one side of the mould then wait for the rest to start to harden before pasting on the rest creating a wall around the silicon of about 2 inches.
Step 10: Remove the clay wall and before it has hardened using a tsp carve out some keys into the plaster so that the two sides can lock into each other. Smooth down the mould all over so you are not left with spiky bits.

Step 11: Glaze the inside of the plaster wall with some clay slip or Vaseline. This is so you can part the mould easily.

Step 12:  Repeat the process on the other side

Step 13: When you have the complete mould you need to crack it open using a flat-headed chizzle. The sides should part easily to uncover the silicon.
Step 14: With a Stanley knife cut through the middle of the seam and open the silicon.
Step 15: Remove the clay and clean the silicon mould under the tap so it is spotless.
Step 16: you now have a silicon mould that you can use to cast a wax version of the sculpture that you can then use for bronzing and the lost wax technique. You can also use this mould for casting in resin and plaster.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Camping at Punta Alla

Last weekend I went camping with friends from Florence, at a place called Punta Alla on the Tuscan coast.  We set up in our usual spot, looking out over Elba, in the pine wood that lines the edge of the beach. We tied up our hammocks, so that you can see the sea, but remain comfortably shaded by the tall and decorative trees, that threaten you with their precarious pine cones, jutting out from every branch. Here are some of the paintings I made from our camp.

Photos by Giuseppe Citino

Thursday, 1 September 2011

My Sculpture and the lost wax technique

I have just come back from Siena where I was sculpting a portrait in clay, which I am taking to the foundry, tomorrow to be cast in bronze. Here is a picture of the clay and the lady you sat for me, Dominique S-J.

To make a bronze, using the lost wax process, is quite a complicated practice. Firstly a mould has to be made from the original, in silicon from which you can cast a hollow wax copy. Next one works on and re-touches the wax. In the case of this sculpture I will be paying particular attention to fixing the neck of the piece, as you can see the armature has got in the way, but this can all be corrected at the wax stage.
Once the wax has been corrected and signed by the artist you hand it back to the foundry where the lost wax process can begin.
 Each hollow wax copy is then "chased": a heated metal tool is used to rub out the marks that show the parting line where the pieces of the mold came together. The wax is dressed to hide any imperfections. The wax now looks like the finished piece. Wax pieces that were molded separately can be heated and attached; foundries often use registration marks to indicate exactly where they go.
 The wax copy is then sprued or gated with a treelike structure of wax that will eventually provide paths for molten casting material to flow and air to escape. The carefully planned spruing usually begins at the top with a wax "cup," which is attached by wax cylinders to various points on the wax copy. This spruing doesn't have to be hollow, as it will be melted out later in the process. A sprued wax copy is then dipped into a slurry of silica, then into a sand-like stucco, or dry crystalline silica of a controlled grain size. The slurry and grit combination is called ceramic shell mold material, although it is not literally made of ceramic. This shell is allowed to dry, and the process is repeated until at least a half-inch coating covers the entire piece. The bigger the piece, the thicker the shell needs to be. Only the inside of the cup is not coated, and the cup's flat top serves as the base upon which the piece stands during this process. The ceramic shell-coated piece is placed cup-down in a kiln, whose heat hardens the silica coatings into a shell, and the wax melts and runs out. The melted wax can be recovered and reused, although often it is simply burned up. Now all that remains of the original artwork is the negative space, formerly occupied by the wax, inside the hardened ceramic shell. The feeder and vent tubes and cup are also hollow. The ceramic shell is allowed to cool, then is tested to see if water will flow through the feeder and vent tubes as necessary. Cracks or leaks can be patched with thick refractory paste. To test the thickness, holes can be drilled into the shell, then patched. The shell is reheated in the kiln to harden the patches and remove all traces of moisture, then placed cup-upwards into a tub filled with sand. Metal is melted in a crucible in a furnace, then poured carefully into the shell. If the shell were not hot, the temperature difference would shatter it. The filled shells are allowed to cool. The shell is hammered or sand-blasted away, releasing the rough casting. The sprues, which are also faithfully recreated in metal, are cut off, to be re-used in another casting. Just as the wax copies were chased, the casting is worked until the telltale signs of the casting process are removed, and the casting now looks like the original model. Pits left by air bubbles in the casting, and the stubs of spruing are filed down and polished. Then to change the colour of the bronze, to your preferred patina the cast is heated with an open flame until scolding hot and various chemicals are applied, which react with the metal and change the colour accordingly.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Painting outside in the Tuscan sun

Up early and painting before the sun gets too hot. Such a lovely day in the countryside.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Handmade wall paper

I have an Italian artist friend called Leonardo Magnani who moved to london last year and has started to make hand painted wall paper. It is fantastic work, I love his style. He was recently commissioned to design some new wall paper for a beauty salon in East london, which I think looks awesome.

Check out his website to see the examples of his amazing work!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Home made Scotch eggs

We arrived in Cornwall on Saturday and have been enjoying the fresh air and country walks. Unfortunately the weather has not been the usual Cornish sunshine and blue skies, but we have still braved the waves (without wetsuits!) and found it was not as cold, once we were in, as we had initially anticipated!

Yesterday with true English, holiday spirit, we decided to plan a picnic and make some scotch eggs, for a treat to eat outside in the drizzly rain!

This morning, I walked down to the local farm shop to buy some delicious sausages for our scotch eggs. I left the house, with the eggs boiling on the hob and Nicholas, under strict instructions, to remember to turn them off! Luckily, when I got back he had done it and the eggs were cooling in cold water. He had even done some washing up!

Ingredients- Makes two

275g sausage meat
3 slices of bread
3 eggs
tsp dried herbs
salt and pepper

Step 1: Boil two of the eggs (we used fresh farm eggs!) for 9 minutes. Once boiled, pour out the hot water and leave the eggs to cool in some more cold water.

Step 2: Shell the eggs and roll in some flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper and a pinch of herbs.

Step 3: Take the bread and either with your hands (more rustic) or with a magimix, make bread crumbs.

Step 4: Remove the sausage meat from the skin of the sausage. Season and mush together with your hands. Divide into two equal parts and place on a plate, flatting the meat down.

Step 5: Put the boiled egg on top of the meat and wrap the sausage around it. Pat together into a ball, with your hands.

Step 6: Crack the last egg into a little mug and whisk with a fork. Next, take an egg brush and glaze the sausage meat with whisked egg.

Step 7: Mix the herbs with the bread crumbs and sprinkle all over the scotch eggs. I repeated the egg glaze over the first layer of breadcrumbs and went for it again. I think it covers them better and helps to get them more crispy!

Step 8: Heat up a baking try for 10 minutes at 180 degrees, with some sunflower oil and then place the scotch eggs into the tray.

Step 9:  Cook for 25 minutes at a medium heat, turning occasionally. For quicker results you can simply fry them on the hob.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Menu of the week

Monday 25th July

Crostini are a fantastic way to start a meal or to have with a glass of wine. The smell of the warm bread in the oven welcomes your guests at the door and they make a change from boring oily crisps and peanuts.
In Italy they are traditionally made with unsalted ‘Tuscan bread', but at home you can improvise by making your own fresh bread or using a baguette (the half baked ones are quite good for this).

Soft Cheese and Sundried Tomato Crostini

Wine tip: White – light & fresh ( Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, Soave)

Stracchino is a soft and mild Italian cheese with a silky texture, ideal for this recipe. You can find it in any local Italian delicatessen, or else it could be substituted with Philadelphia, or even a goat’s cheese.
Sundried tomatoes are easy to get hold of in jars, but you can also find them dry in Italian specialist dried-fruit markets. It is far tastier to marinade the sundried tomatoes yourself, using your own good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh ingredients, they will  definitely impress!

Serves 4
Half-baked baguette
200g stracchino cheese
25g sundried tomatoes
Fresh parsley to garnish

Step 1: Slice your baguette or Tuscan bread, glaze with olive oil and then toast on both sides. Spread your cheese over the top.
Step 2: Roughly chop your sundried tomatoes and place on the cheese. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve at room temperature.

 Octopus Salad

 Wine tip: White – Crisp & Elegant (e.g. Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc)

Serves 4
1 large octopus
3 small dried chillies
2 sprigs parsley
I knob ginger
Green olives
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Step 1: Take your octopus and if it is fresh from the sea, (like it was for us) the first thing to do is to remove the mouth.
Step 2: In a pan boil up some water and add plenty of dried chilli, a large pinch of salt, a sprig of parsley and the grated ginger. Next add the octopus whole into the pan.
Step 3: Cook the octopus for 30 minutes but depending on the size it can take a little bit more. You can test if it si cooked by sticking a knife into the flesh and if ready it should be tender and the knife will slide off easily. At this point take out the octopus (you can save the water for stock) and drain in a large colander before placing it on a surface where you have enough room to  cut it into small pieces. Leave to cool down in a large dish, in a dry place.
Step 4: Once the octopus is cool, pour over some extra virgin olive oil; throw in the rest of the fresh chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper. Finally, pour in the lemon juice. Toss and serve with a potato salad.

Lemon Mousse Tart

Full of zesty lemon this tasty dessert was inspired by an old friend of mine from Northern Ireland who also loves cooking. This recipe was very handy and served me well, when I was hosting my first Italian dinner parties in Florence!
Pure melt in your mouth, light and fluffy, lemon zingy dessert!

Wine tip: Sweet White (e.g. Muscat de Beaumes de Venise)
3 lemons
300 ml double cream
30g sugar
3 eggs
Raspberries (for a garnish)
Shortcrust pastry
250g plain flour
125g butter, chilled
60g ground almonds
50g caster sugar
3 eggs
1tbsp cold water
Pinch of salt

The Pastry
Step 1: Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl and add the ground almonds and sugar.
Step 2: Dice the chilled butter and rub it gently between your thumbs incorporating the flour and sugar. Try creating a consistency of small crumbs.
Step 3: Add the egg yolk and water to the flour and mix with a fork until it forms a ball.
Step 4: Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Step 5: Roll out the pastry to 4mm thickness and put onto a greased tart tin, pushing lightly into the sides. Cover with greaseproof paper and fill with some dry lentils or rice, to stop the pastry rising.
Step 6: Place in a pre-heated oven at 190˚C/370°F for 10-15 minutes, or until is starts to colour.
Step 7: Take out of the oven, remove the paper and lentils and place the pastry to one side.
The Mousse
Step 1: Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the cream, then fold them together.
Step 2: Now add the lemon juice from all three lemons and the grated rind from one lemon.
Step 3: Pour the mixture over the pastry in the prepared tin and cook in the oven for 20mins at 180°C/356°F Leave to set for a couple of hours in a cool place or in the fridge before removing the tin.
Step 4: Carefully remove the tin and arrange the raspberries on top. Sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Stealing Italy

Recently I returned to a project that was initially started in Italy after leaving Art School in Florence.

 The book begins when I move to live in the Tuscan hills after my studies. Inspired by the surrounding countryside I was able to comprehend for the first time the true essence of country life.

Brimming with respect for the Italian culture, so wonderful and diverse I re-discovered my love for food.

As I wrote this book, I noticed how interesting it was, to note how each person has a different relationship with food and how our eating habits tell us so much about our character.

 I started to write this book as a journal with all the recipes that inspired me to cook for myself and others. It was important to me that the book would be helpful to improve our relationship with food and discover ones inner creativity.

To help me describe my journey and paint a picture of Italian life, I have illustrated the book with a range of landscape and still life paintings.

 A chapter on wine was also essential to help inform others (and myself) on how to choose and match wine to food. So I employed the help of sommelier Valeria Rodriguez who grew up within the italian tradition of cooking and has provided wine recommendations for each recipe.

Thanks to living with Italians and people from different cultures from my own, I discovered I could stretch my expertise from cooking English roasts and pies, to learning how to make breads, pasta, soups and stews. I began to enjoy eating salads, shellfish, cabbage, anchovies and all things I thought I disliked before. I tasted tongue and intestines and learnt to make homemade olive oil soap. I surprised myself by how much I was able to pick up and wanted to harvest the moment.

So I set forth collecting all the recipes that I could gather and as I practiced I scribbled and as I watched I drew and flexed my brushes, teaching myself to break loose from my classical training in art and paint more freely, which was true to me.

3 years later, having left Italy I have returned to this book. How often do you have to think about something before you make it a reality?

We are all creatures of creation and reflect our talents in our different ways. This book is about embracing creativity through art and food.

Above are some of the images on sale that I have done to illustrate the book  

If you would like to see a sample of the book please contact me on
              07884 431 194