D[J]-Day Has Arrived

31 Mar

It seems like yesterday that DJ supremo, Joe Lindsay challenged me to take on life as a DJ for one of my 29 Lives. A couple of months on and several lessons later, the day of my DJ debut has finally arrived. Tonight Matthew, I will be DJ NotBadForaGirlLike.

I’m a little nervy. But excited too. Under Joe’s watchful eye, I’ve already played two half hour sets in front of actual real live people. But tonight’s a different animal.

I might just be playing the first hour but having frequented Joe’s Palookaville parties at the Oh Yeah Music Centre over the last few years, I know how quickly it fills up (the last club night sold out within 35 minutes of doors opening-so get down early if you want to get in).

I’m pretty confident with my track selection [still needs a tiny bit of fine tuning but I’m getting there], so hopefully it’ll all be alright on the night. I’ll post my set list tomorrow but suffice to say it’s in line with Palookaville’s friendly-funky-c’mon down to the coolest house party ever vibe.

This particular challenge has been one of my favourite to date and there’s been a few happy offshoots to it too. I’ve discovered new music; learned to listen to music in a different way; and met new people that have resulted in a lot of seriously fun times of late. I might have fallen behind with some of my challenges recently but this one really has opened up a whole new world for me & really, that’s what this blog is all about.

I just want to publicly thank Joe and also my music benefactor (you know who you are) for all their support and faith in me. ‘You’re just playing tunes you like; no one is going to die,’ is the mantra I’m taking with me when I get on stage tonight.

Now, Let’s Face The Music and DANCE.

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Spring in my Step

9 Mar

A week can change so much. While I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I’m decidedly chipper about the faint feeling of spring in the air.

Spring is without doubt my favourite season. The brighter mornings make it easier to get out of bed; you find yourself smiling for no apparent reason; and with each passing day you look a little less like the Michelin Man as another winter layer is shed. Everything’s better when the sun comes out. It’s the most dramatic transition; as if life turns from monochrome to technicolor. I’m getting a bit abstract here, but I’m coming to a point.

I’m about half way through my attempt to become ‘The Artist.’ After six weeks of drawing in grayscale, tonight I finally got the chance to experiment with colour – swapping pencil for paint. And as an apt ode to spring, our subject was the ultimate symbolic flora of the season – daffodils.

I haven’t painted in over 10 years, so my attempt is more than a little ropey but it was fun to experiment with a different medium. This was achieved with just three colours – black, white and yellow. It will be interesting to see how the results change as more colours are introduced and my technique [hopefully] improves.

I’m feeling a renewed enthusiasm for my 29 Lives challenge and this week have negotiated a number of new lives, which will keep me busy for the next month at least. More on those soon but one thing’s for sure; the winter hibernation is over.

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The Art of Being Still

23 Feb

When was the last time you sat in complete silence and paid absolute attention to one thing? If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a few things on the go at any one time – responding to emails whilst on the phone; tweeting while you’re watching TV; texting when you’re crossing the road; blogging in bed. We never stop.

That’s why I am relishing this particular challenge – my life as an artist. For just over two hours every Thursday, I switch off and focus on one thing and one thing only. It’s an exercise in complete concentration and control, forcing you to focus your mind on the task in hand and forget the rest.

Tonight’s class started with two warm-up exercises to put us into a deep focused state and shut out the outside world. We were given two outline drawings to copy, only we had to draw them upside down. My first – the horse (below) turned out surprisingly well for a first go. My Picasso imitation however was a little off kilter – I started from the left and ran out of space when I got to the right hand side – a lesson in itself – sketch the full outline before you drill down into the detail.

Next up was a still life. A mismatched collection of flowers, soft toys and fruit, this was an opportunity to play about with texture. I’ve never been great at still life drawing but I’m pretty pleased with how this piece turned out, particularly considering I spent less than an hour on it.

I’m not good at still life in a literal sense. I’m better on the go; when I slow down, I invariably get sick. Saying that, after my two hour art class each week, I’m at my most relaxed. I’m learning more than just drawing skills with this challenge – it’s teaching me to take time out. And I think my drawing’s improving a little too. Happy Days.

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DJ NotBadForaGirlLike

20 Feb

I read an excellent blog post recently about, well, blogging. It’s difficult to paraphrase the premise behind the fairly lengthy discourse on the commitment required for blogging (read it here on the Lake Superior Spirit blog) but the general sentiment is that it requires a lot of work and dedication.

This is a reality that’s beginning to hit home. With this particular blog, it’s not just the time required to actually sit and write but also to dream up the challenges to make up my 29 Lives; the time to negotiate and organise said challenges and then to report on them in a timely manner – the latter of which I’ve been particularly bad about of late. But I’m pledging to repent. Perhaps instead of giving up sweets and chocolate for Lent this year, I will aim to get better at blogging…

Anyway, I digress. You may be wondering why the lengthy prologue when the title of this post is about Djing, so I’ll get to the point.

Those of you that have been following my 29 Lives quest will know that I have accepted a challenge to become a DJ for a night (an hour actually) and perform a set at popular Belfast club night, Palookaville at the Oh Yeah Music Centre next month. DJ extraordinaire and organiser of the night, Joe Lindsay has taken me under his wing and is teaching me the tricks of the trade.

On Saturday past, I popped down to see Joe for an hour before his other monthly night, Rushmere at Love & Death kicked off. The idea was that I would get an hour’s practice in before the club opened. When I got there however, Joe informed me that after a quick refresher on how to use the kit, I would be playing the first 30 minutes of the set. Cue the panic!

His argument was that in six weeks time I’ll be playing to a crowd of 2-300 people, and playing to a tenth of that number to begin with is a good place to start. I protested but eventually conceded that his logic was sound and prescribed to the sink or swim mantra, swallowing the lump in my throat as people started to arrive.

Nervy, clunky and all fingers and thumbs, I plodded my way through the 30 minutes, which honestly felt like it lasted hours. There were a few touch & go moments, like when I actually forgot to press start on the next track I had cued up but all in all it was ok. No one demanded a refund, no one booed or laughed at me and Joe christened me DJ NotBadForaGirlLike, which I’m taking as a compliment!

I’ve a bit of tweaking to do on my choice of tracks for the big Palookaville debut yet but I feel a lot better about it now having gotten over the initial stage fright.

If you want to see me in my DJ glory, put the 31st March in your diary. My playing aside, Palookaville is a really great night and if you haven’t been, you really should come down.

Due to the shock of Saturday’s unexpected set, I didn’t manage to get any pics, but here’s a few from a previous lesson that I never did get round to posting. Note to Self: re-read that aforementioned blog post about blogging commitment.

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Standing Up For The Ulstermen

10 Feb

SUFTUM. There’s something quite ironic about the fact that just a few hours ago, I embarrassingly asked on twitter what this acronym meant and then found myself, quite literally, Standing Up For The Ulstermen for my first experience of Ulster Rugby.

My second experience of life as a sports fan was very different to my first. Ravenhill is a million miles away from The Oval and it’s fair to say the mood was somewhat brighter, though given Ulster’s 30-12 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons, that’s hardly surprising.

I’ll be honest though, I was completely lost trying to follow the game and figure out what was happening. But alas, I soon got into the crowd mentality & booed and cheered in unison with the throngs. Thankfully there was more cheering than booing though this time round.

What was missing was my expert fan sidekick, a la Rigsy at Glentoran. With all the will in the world, my friends and I, as complete novices, were simply dipping our toes in to the Ulster supporters camp. Four of our party of seven retired to the bar at half time and weren’t seen again until the end (they didn’t even watch the match on the TV, tut tut).

I stayed, with two of the girls and braved the rain to continue to SUFTUM. And I’m glad I did.

There wasn’t quite the same banter amongst the crowd as there was with The Glens – it was a very civilised affair – but the fans’ passion was evident all the same. There was also the added bonus that the food was edible this time round.

A friend has said I was Ulster’s lucky mascot tonight and another has challenged me to actually BE the mascot at a future game… What do you reckon? Perhaps I could be a lucky leopard – I am sponsored by leopard print, after all. (And yes, I did wear a leopard print fur coat to a rugby match).

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Don’t Look Down

6 Feb

So, here’s the photographic evidence that I completed yesterday’s abseil. Having left my phone at home yesterday morning, I only have this official photo to document my descent from Scaredy Cat to full on fear-facer. Helpfully, I left the picture in my friend’s car and have just got it back, hence the delayed post.

Looking at this now, I still can’t believe I went through with it, for a number of reasons but mainly because of the fear factor. My sincere thanks must go to my fantastic friend Lois who got me there yesterday – I couldn’t have done it without her and her moral support.

I’m proud that I managed to swallow the massive lump in my throat and make the metaphorical leap, as I more than doubled my fundraising target of £150 with the funds going to support Special Olympics Ulster – an extremely worthwhile charity.

It’s all a bit of a blur and was over in a matter of seconds, thankfully before I had a chance to look down. I can’t thank everyone who gave so generously with sponsorship enough – it really means so much, so thank you. Maybe I should do a skydive next… One step at a time perhaps.

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Losing Perspective

3 Feb

Sometimes it’s easy to lose perspective. Like when it’s dark, damp and dreary outside and your alarm sounds its shrill tones at 6.30am – you feel like there could be nothing worse than getting out from under the cosy confines of your duvet. When you do finally make the leap (after hitting snooze five times, if you’re anything like me) it transpires things aren’t so bad.

It seems the same goes with drawing. Tonight, our class focused on perspective. Instead of drawing the objects in front of us (chairs and stools, in case you can’t tell from the pictures below), we were tasked with drawing the ‘negative space’ around them. This is harder than it sounds – try it. So instead of drawing the outline of the object as you usually would, with interweaving or connecting lines, you draw only the space in between the physical thing you’re looking at. In the case of a chair, this means if you can see two legs but due to the perspective you’re looking from there’s no space between then, then they should appear almost as one – with just the outer edge of both visible. The image shouldn’t really appear 3D but more like a stencil of the shape.

I’m not sure I’m explaining this well. And from my pictures, you’ll see I didn’t really achieve this but it was a useful exercise in terms of how you judge empty space in drawing and the effect this has on the size and shape of the objects you draw.

I may need to put some practice in here – I don’t think this will be solved by hitting the snooze button.

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