My sketching rate is slowing down. Now that I am teaching rather a lot each week, I don’t sketch aimlessly like I used to. It was all very well to sketch and blog throughout the entire lockdown period: as regular readers know, I posted a sketch every day for over 70 days straight. In a way, I miss it, but I am also ready for something new. Read on and find out what.
Here’s Paddy (18) and Liv (15) following cooking instructions from my laptop in the kitchen. Cepta Mahon is the talent behind Cookalicious: she teaches people how to cook. Cepta is running a Teen Cooking Summer Camp last week and I’m delighted when I discover Paddy will be free on the mornings she is doing it – and not a minute either side, as he’s now a bona fide sailing instructor in our local sailing club. Cepta teaches the classes via Zoom and it works an absolute treat. From her beautiful kitchen in Oranmore, each morning Cepta shows Paddy and 18 other teenagers how to make delicious recipes: I fancy myself as someone who makes every dining experience a happy one for my family, but Cepta teaches an old dog a few new tricks and I take my hat off to her.
Paddy is a little frantic about heading off to teach a bunch of pre-teens how to sail after the cooking class, so persuades me to help him with his prep to keep his nerves at bay. The first morning has an Italian theme, and the kids make Chicken and Chorizo Bake, Carbonara and Cheat’s Pizza: who can’t make those, you say? Not the way Cepta makes them! She adds little touches to make sure everything is as tasty as possible. For example, I didn’t know that adding tons of parmesan, yolks-only and nutmeg made Carbonara come out like it does in Italian restaurants. I didn’t know that a good shop-bought naan bread could make a delicious pizza base.
The second day is Street Food and this time I step back and let Paddy’s sister Liv act as sous-chef. They turn a calm and efficient cooking session into a party – it never ceases to amaze me that when teens get on well with each other, even preparing a meal can take on a festive air. The kids make Mexican Quesadillas dressed with guacamole and Greek yogurt, Moroccan Chicken Burgers served with sweet potato oven fries and a gorgeous coleslaw.
Day Three is Healthy Snacks: Liv is sous-chef again and this time they are on their A-game. When they occasionally find themselves anticipating Cepta’s next instruction. they crow and flaunt so that I am glad they are on Mute. I don”t object – nothing wrong with confidence! They make Peanut Butter Flapjacks, Honey Brownies and Granola with Berry Compote. The granola is divine. it’s all a flurry of activity!
The classes are well worth it. They are excellent value (€45 for three mornings) apart from the fact that Paddy got back to cooking at the perfect moment. He has been cooking his school meals until the lockdown, and then weekly from April onwards. But I know the time is right for him to have some instruction from a professional (so different from being taught by your mum). He is once again passionate about cooking and his self-confidence is rising. I would recommend these classes to anyone – as long as they suit your time zone! Just look up Cookalicious (the Irish version with a .ie at the end, as there is another in the UK). As a bonus…your meals will be served to you for three days and evenings. Don’t hesitate to tell the teens you know!
I have one more page in my “Loosely Locked Down” sketchbook. I decide to fill the pages with cows and go in search of some. I already have creamy Charolais and russet-gold Limousins so I head for a field of black and white Friesians. They aren’t at all shy. I love their shapes, their broad backs, their bony hips. They stand and stare at me, some more than others (guess they’re just not into art). I love their tufty heads and the delicate hairs that rim their ears. The farmer turns up and drives his tractor around the field very fast: the cows must be used to it, as they ignore him. I feel a bit guilty being “caught” drawing his cattle. Absurd.
I’m teaching my students how to draw people. I believe that copying can take you a long way. We are starting with black and white vintage photos: this Mandarin gentleman is one of a group of pictures I sent them for homework. One student said she would love to see how I approached it first before attempting it, so I get busy, and this is the result. I have a few more to do. If you’d like to join my classes, there are still a few spaces on some of the days. Get in touch and see if there’s one to suit your time zone.
And my new direction? I have the urge to go bright acrylic gouache, to go intense acrylic marker, to go colourful. I have a clear path in my mind.