Introduction:

"This blog is not necessarily for lovers of art, it includes a variety of topics and whatever. I'm a painter who likes to know what's really going on in the world today. So you might find anything from Shamrocks to Salmiakki mentioned here on my blog. There will of course be some boring, factual and informational posts, but I'll keep them to a minimum, I promise!

And I might get a bit nostalgic now and then.

So you have been warned!"


- Alan Hogan



Saturday, February 15, 2014

WINTER IS COMING....or maybe not!

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I got up from bed this morning to find the temperature here in southern Finland had gone over to the plus degrees side again, +3° celsius to be exact.  This has been the norm now for the past few weeks.  Usually this time of year it would be somewhere between -7°C and -35°C.  We've had very little snow this winter so far.  Normally I would have enough snow-shovelling exercise finished by now to prepare myself well for the intoxication hit that comes with a certain green celebration in March.  Instead I find myself looking at reports of bad weather from abroad.  For example, torrential rain in the Caribbean, heavy snow and continued freezing temperatures in the US and Canada, and of course crazy floods and storms in the UK and Ireland.  At the moment I saw it's snowing in Ireland, maybe because it has probably been blown halfway up towards Greenland!!





Foggy February in Finland!














Instead of shovelling walls of snow I have to look at constant grey skies and think fog. There's even the occasional shower. I can't complain really, in fact I'm very happy! The less snow-shovelling the better, I'm not much of a morning person, especially anytime before 08.00 or when temperatures are -10C or less. 

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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.


- Alan 




                    





Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day in Finland .... not just for couples!

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Hyvää Ystävaänpäivää!

It's Valentine's Day once again, probably the biggest Hallmark holiday of the year. For those unaware, the term Hallmark Holiday originates in the US and refers to the greeting card manufacturers Hallmark. I'm not aware if the term is used here in Finland yet, but we commonly used it while I was living in Ireland. 

Anyway, the title of this blogpost is directed at Valentine's Day in Finland or as it's called here Ystävänpäivä. This long Finnish word literally means Day of Friendship, and that's exactly how it is perceived. So it's probably more common to receive a small token of friendship from a close friend rather than a partner. It's only a young tradition here in Finland which began in the 1980s, and still remains with the idea of friendship as it's core value. Here however, especially among young people I have noticed a slow increase in the influence of the US version of Valentine's Day. The same is even more evident in neighbouring Sweden. More and more restaurants seem to be taking 'romantic' Valentine's Day bookings and I have noticed an increase in newspaper adverts. Although don't be surprised if you still get an invite off one of your friendly Finnish inlaws!

Before I go, here's a nice photo of a Valentine's Day cake. It's made with raspberries and blueberries, yummy!  
The Finns have a cake for everything!
The recipe can be found by clicking the photo, but it's only in Finnish... sorry!!







This is my second Valentine's Day blog, my first back in 2011 was called The Unexpected Rose

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It would help me if you could give me your vote in a current blog poll. Voting ends on 17/02/2014.

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To Vote, just click on the image above to open the voting page. Then scroll down the list to find Hogan's Blog and click the small icon beside it. Finally, continue down to the bottom of the list and click the Vote button. And that's all!
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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.


- Alan
 



               
                                                             






Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Day in Hong Kong, Part 2 - Kowloon 九龍






... continued from 'A Day in Hong Kong Part 1'

After that, it was back on the bus to catch the Star Ferry to Kowloon peninsula. This short boat trip which was included on our bus tour package, is normally quite cheap anyway. It's a great way to see Hong Kong's impressive skyline and the many boats that occupy the waterways.

As soon as I landed in Kowloon it was off for a stroll into it's centre. Well, to be honest I don't think there is an actual centre. As soon as I got off the boat I felt like I had just stepped into the centre, and it was suddenly moving me along! Having walked through more and more people I decided it was time to find the Big Bus again. It hard to take in the atmosphere and sights when you have to watch where you're walking all the time. Kowloon seemed more busy than Hong Kong island, with more shops and markets. The most notable thing I detected was the difference between the executive business class and the normal working class. While on one road during my bus tour I was surrounded by big brand stores, modern high rise company buildings with luxury motor cars parked outside and many jewellery stores packed with young people. Then suddenly my Big Bus then drove me only five minutes around a corner to find stacks upon stacks of run-down and shabby apartment blocks. A sad and confusing sight.




The Chung King Hotel and the Hung Sing Hotel
... and many more easy names too remember!!!




I hopped off my bus again briefly when it passed by a busy street market. It looked like I might find a bargain or two there. To my surprise it wasn't as cheap as I expected, and I became tired of seeing the 'usual suspect' brands found worldwide, Goodbye Doggy etc.!!  Luckily I was saved when I bought a small wireless speaker with Bluetooth for €10, a bargain in my book! With so many people going through this market I became a little uncomfortable and claustrophobic. 'Time to find my Big bus again. But now, with so many people and all the signage looking the same and so unfamiliar, I couldn't quite figure out from where I originally got off my bus. Only for the odd western shop-sign I would probably have missed my bus or even my flight home. Thank you Hennes and Mauritz!!!






There's so much to see in this big city, even a week would be too short I reckon. I consider myself lucky to have had a chance to see just a snippet of it. Here's a good time-lapse video I found on YouTube featuring some amazing imagery of Hong Kong. 









It was good to finally see the Big Bus again, and lucky for me it was on it's last tour of the day. It dropped me off close to the Star ferry terminal, where I had an hour or so to find a toilet and look around at more shops and sights. I also got a chance to see the lights from accross the bay over Hong Kong island. Every evening an event called the 'Symphony of Lights' takes place. I had heard about this previously and wanted to see it. So I waited. And then I waited more. Nothing spectacular was happening. I got the feeling it would begin as soon as I was gone. I couldn't wait around any longer and had to dash for my ferry and train to the airport, it was getting late. I managed to see this lighting spectacle on YouTube when I got to the airport, and to be honest I wasn't impressed. The fact that this show takes place every night and the amount of energy it must use up is sad and a little worrying. The regular city lights were impressive enough for me.





   

I must say Hong Kong was very interesting and worth the visit, even if for just one day. I would have liked to stay a little longer and perhaps if I had known some local people, I think I would have loved to go out and sample some bars with them, especially a karaoke bar! 

Both Hong Kong and Kowloon were a bit of a culture shock for this easy-going european, but that won't stop me going back again if the chance ever arises again. All the time I spent walking around this city I never once felt intimidated or uneasy. 

I want to finish this blog with a video of my own which captures a small taste of this huge city. Sadly there's no karaoke bars, Big Buddah or even Bruce Lee statues. But it does have exciting escalators and me on the Big Bus!











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- Alan








             

                                                             

A Day in Hong Kong, Part 1 香港

















Last month I spent a day in the city of Hong Kong. It was primarily a stopover period of over 17 hours at Hong Kong airport which I decided to turn into a city day-trip. Luckily there is a good train link direct from the airport which only take 30 minutes. The airport itself is huge with plenty of places to grab a snooze if necessary. There's even a private area to rest and have a shower after your long flight for a payment. A range of packages are on offer, the cheapest being €18 for the use of a shower for an hour (there was no half-hour for €9 option available. I mean,who spends an hour in a shower anyway?)  The main feature at the airport for me was the long travelator or moving walkway which stretches from one end of the airport to the other!





After a 30-minute train journey into Hong Kong city  I immediately went for an early morning stroll outside. The first thing I noticed was the poor air quality. Having walked for a short while (30 minutes) I could feel a caustic-like irritation down my throat and I needed to cough a little. There wasn't a lot to see either as an early curtin of smog blocked any of the nearby views. This was not an early morning mist!


Early morning haze at Hong Kong airport


The air quality may not have bothered me so much a few years ago, but now that I have been living in a small rural town in Finland for a while this was a big change. I do recall experiencing days of poor air quality while living back in Dublin and visiting London, but this was different.

Anyway enough of the moaning, the Big Bus Tour awaited...Yayy!!! :D ... (said the hypocrite...)



I fully recommend this bus tour as it offers good package deals which can include tickets for the Star Ferry to Kowloon, Bus tour of Kowloon, Tram to Victoria's Peak including admission to the Peak viewing platform and lots of other attractions!  It's a chance to enjoy the city and relax in between long walks, especially if you're a daytripper like myself on this occasion. 
'Still early morning and having passed through the modern financial part of town (boring!) the first stop I got off at was for the tram to Victoria's Peak. My brother recommended this to me after he visited here a year or two ago. I wasn't disappointed either. I was even more surprised on discovering a multi-storey shopping mall was waiting to greet me when I got off the tram at the top. This was special, and the views were something else! ... Amazing! (luckily the smog had blown away just enough so not to hinder my view)



Impressive view from Victoria's Peak


On arriving back down from the Peak I noticed a massive queue for the next tram up. I felt slightly relieved that I had made this little excursion earlier in the day.
'Back onto the Big Bus tour and into the old part of Hong Kong city this time. Having stepped off the bus and strolled around briefly the sheer population density of this great city was becoming more and more evident to me. It's population of 7,184,000 is greater than the whole of Finland (5,454,444). It didn't bother me at all though as I quickly found the Central-Mid-Levels escalator, so I didn't have to hustle my way through any crowds. This is the longest escalator in the world covering over 800 metres in distance and elevating over 135 metres from bottom to top. At times it seemed like it would never end!  On the way up and down I noticed a variety of shops and restaurants, the air odour changing rapidly to one of delicious food and spices. I decided to stop and try out some food at a small Indonesian place called 'So Bali Bali'. The food wasn't cheap like some may think, but it tasted delicious and got two beers for the price of one during Happy hour. So a reasonable result!



A tower of marinated chicken at the So Bali Bali
Indonesian restaurant in Hong Kong.


During our stroll around Hong Kong I stumbled upon an interesting exhibition of photography called The Portfolios 10 Exhibition. Here I saw a fine collection of contemporary imagery, some quite unique and inspirational. There's a selection of images from this exhibition on a previous blog of mine called Hong Kong Hot Shots

After that, it was back on the bus to catch the Star Ferry to Kowloon peninsula. This short boat trip which was included on our bus tour package, is normally quite cheap anyway. It's a great way to see Hong Kong's impressive skyline and the many boats that occupy the waterways.

Read Part 2 of this blog in my next post HERE



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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.


- Alan
 



               
                                                             







Thursday, February 6, 2014

Society6 - product review





This is a short review for a Tote bag recently purchased for a friend from online store Society6. The bag features one of my own designs called 'Red Floral Decay'

Having removed the bag from it's packaging, I first asked a female friend for her opinion. The verdict was immediately positive as far as design and product were concerned. But I couldn't help but to have a closer look myself. 




Indeed, I was very happy with how well the design transferred to the bag's material. The colours were just as they appeared on my computer screen. The material itself seemed quite strong and the dark lining inside was good. It was good to see some double-stitching also and all-in-all I have to admit I thought the bag was satisfactory.

Here's a quick video of some hairy guy checking out the bag.






To quote Society6, these Tote bags are "hand sewn in America using durable, yet lightweight, poly poplin fabric. All seams and stress points are double stitched for durability. Available in 13" x 13", 16" x 16" and 18" x 18" variations, the tote bags are washable, feature original artwork on both sides and a sturdy 1" wide cotton webbing strap for comfortably carrying over your shoulder". 
I'm not sure what exactly poly poplin fabric is, but the bag felt like strong canvas-like material to me!

Conclusion: 

I was happy to see my design transfer well on to this material product. Colourwise it was perfect and fashionwise it got a thumbs-up from a female colleague.

Here are a few more of my Tote bag designs, and they are all for sale at my Society6 online store here



Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge



Click to enlarge



Thanks for dropping by my blog and feel free to share it with friends!







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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.


- Alan
 



               
                                                             






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The Art Garage, Finland

The Art Garage, Finland
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