Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kids in a Cherry Tree!

One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Kids in an Okanagan Cherry Tree, April 2011. 11x14 " Ink on Paper

In preparation for the Cafe Nevermatters exhibition in Naramata this summer, I'm putting the Turkey sketches aside for a little while and focussing on Canadian/Okanagan themes. The next two paintings have to do with my childhood and growing up in Naramata (And arguably every childhood which has ever had the privilege of spending a little time in our idyllic little town.)
Since the painting is fairly orderly, I decided to add a little chaos with the birds- different colours, different angles, unlike the way I usually paint birds, orderly and in unison.

Summer for us really started when the summertime neighbours showed up. Grandchildren of Gramps who lived across the street, We'd spend the summers running around the beaches, jumping off the old train docks (which are sadly gone now) and stealing cherries and whatever fruit was in season for a quick free snack when we got hungry. We also stole fruit from the boxes at the packing house, which sadly met it's demise last week after being a landmark in Naramata since the 30's. But that's another story (and perhaps another painting!)

Reaching for that perfect cherry.One think I like about working with the transparency of the ink is that I was able to work that overlapping technique in the leaves successfully.

Strangely enough, I started out painting generic children, but as I progressed, the kids began to actually look like me, my sister, Tiffany Andrew and Billy- My sister actually pointed it out. It's funny how my subconcious can sneak into a painting from time to time! Undeniable!

Since the weather can still be chilly in cherry season (The first fruit of the year) The kids are in varying degrees of clothing. (The ones in shorts could be pushing the season!)
Though I will miss cherry season again this year (last year I was in the Emirates, this year I'll be in Vancouver, I think) I have enjoyed the frozen cherries my mom saved for me last year. There really is nothing like a fat juicy Okanagan cherry!

One thing we used to do is lay our beach towels on the ground and gently drop the cherries on it so we could take some to the beach. But often the cherries would burst upon hitting the towel, staining our lovely towels much to my mother's chagrin. (Come to think of it, it was probably the first form of natural dying for me!)
It comes as no surprise with the demise of the packing house that fruit is quickly being replaced with grapes for wine production, which is booming here in the Okanagan at the moment. But it's sad to see the fruit trees go; the Naramata Bench which is now famous for it's wineries were once a twenty minute drive of fresh spring blossoms, the first sign that spring had arrived. I think now there are really only two or three orchards that are in full blossom at the moment along the Naramata Road. The rest have been converted into vineyards already.

We also used to eat the cherries and spit the pits at each other. Kids will be kids!

The one downside of switching to vineyards is that we can't live off wine but we could live off fruit. But I can't blame a farmer in the Okanagan for wanting to make more money out of their crops. Being an Okanagan farmer can be a hard row to hoe, pun intended!

My sister says this little girl looks like me when I was young. But you couldn't catch me dead in a dress!
But I did have a bike similar to this (only blue).

Luckily there are wineries around such as Naramata owned and operated Elephant Island who make really delicious fruit wines. I was lucky enough to be invited by owner and operator Miranda Halliday to watch a discorging of Cassis and Apple sparkling wine/champagne yesterday. Mess, stained hands, wine puddles, machinery and rain gear. Melanie's painting subject heaven! Stay tuned for some fun drawing from my visit there in the coming weeks! It was super fun and I almost wished I worked in a winery for the sheer fun of it. Hell yeah, I could work a corking machine! And I've had the wine and it's extremely good.

And the ever loyal dog waiting for us to be finished and on our way for more kidly adventures in the Okanagan!

Now back to painting!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Eyal and the Great Banana Adventure!

What you've done becomes the judge of what you're going to do-especially in other people's minds. When you're travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don't have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.

~William Least Heat Moon

So far untitled, though I do kind of like the title, "Eyal and the Great Banana Adventure." Sounds like a kids book series, where we are sure there are other Eyal adventures out there to be had!

Way back in 2006 I was sitting in my Shanghai apartment, sweltering in the heat. Having just ended my job and bored with summer in Shanghai, I considered taking a three week trip to Bali. Should I go? Should I stay? I looked up flights, and decided if there was a flight for 500 bucks, (unlikely) I'd go. Luckily, it was not the high season for Bali and three days later I was off to Denpasar! It was obviously meant to be!

Things seems to fall into place when I arrived in Ubud. I signed up for a random yoga workshop and had a brilliant weekend bending and Om-ing with Desiree Rumbaugh, one of the most inspiring people I've come across until this day. And there I met a girl. Some random girl, I can't remember her name, and it isn't important. What is important is that one day, while eating lemongrass and coconut sherbet in the Bali Spirit Cafe, this girl of no name introduced me to Eyal.

Eyal took this picture of me in Seminyak near the end of my spontaneous vacation. Coffee, beach in a foreign country, good company, a restaurant where I can be horizontal, this is my slice of heaven!

Eyal seemed very quiet, very shy, and looked like he just couldn't have been bothered to meet a new person since the book or newspaper he was looking at at the time was fulfilling every need. But he put it down, and we gently eased into interesting conversation. And by the end of the day, we were happily tromping together through Ubud's Monkey Forest! (I'm deathly scared of monkeys- with good reason. I am scared of getting bitten by one of the evil little things who like to grab shiny cameras, earrings, necklaces just for the sheer hell of it. But Eyal offered to keep me company, assuring me the monkeys would be sleeping having been fed by the morning tour groups. He was right!)

Eyal reaching enlightenment in Elephant caves. If I hadn't included these pictures in another blog, I would have lost them all when my hard drive crashed. (Still in pain over it several years later!)

Eyal was my new travelling partner. We chatted through morning coffee, explored the areas of Ubud and Seminyak with our good friend Ray who sadly died in a drowning accident two weeks after I left Bali. Eyal was experimenting with fasting and the raw food diet. I'm so sad my hard drive crashed and I can't show you the video of Eyal waxing on about the taste of a tomato after weeks of deprivation. (I'm sure Eyal's not quite so unhappy about it!)

Eyal and I, and Ray and Eyal.

Anyway, Eyal is really one of the coolest people I know, and sometimes cool people inspire me. I love Eyal for many reasons, but these are the things I truly admire about him:

1) He's always happy, even when he isn't. (He's still happy!)
2) Eyal tries everything.
3) Eyal gets inspired and passionate about things and shares his ideas with me. And when I get inspired and passionate about something, he's there listening and I feel he's right there with me.
4) I never know what Eyal is going to do next.
5) sometimes I think Eyal is more like me than anyone I know on this planet that I am not actually related to.
6) He makes me laugh. A lot.

Sketching and chatting.

Since Eyal lives in New York, we often spend long hours chatting on Skype, wandering around the house doing our thing. (Eyal once watched me cook dinner. I once watched a bald eagle that landed on his balcony in the middle of New York.) One night while chatting I did a crazy little sketch of Eyal, and decided to paint it for him.

Waxing poetic about the banana!

The story behind this is that when Eyal was on his raw food experiment, we once went hunting for the special Indonesian banana that still contains seeds that you can plant and grow a tree from. (Our regular bananas are so genetically modified you can't grow a banana from the seeds anymore, the banana tree has to be grafted, as far as I understand it.) They aren't very tasty bananas, and I imagine they are more like a plantain. In Bali they use this banana in ceremonies and it's not a very common thing to grow. We went hunting for it anyway, people telling us to talk to this person and that person, go this way and that way, and at the end of the day, we found the best source of information, Bananaman, as I liked to call him, who told us that finally, our journey had come to an end.

It wasn't the season for this type of banana!

In honour of Eyal, who loves adventure (the banana), music (the headphones), and travel (the skates) I painted this little painting this week for fun. Eyal is also wearing warm clothes because he lives in New York and just like me, HATES to be cold!

So now when I look back at that afternoon spent sweltering in my Shanghai apartment and I had the option to stay or go, I am so so so glad I went!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Two Quick Little Studies!

"I have a horror of people who speak about the beautiful. What is the beautiful? One must speak of problems in painting!

~Pablo Picasso
April Showers bring May flowers!

One of the problems with travelling so much is that I often get caught between two (or in this case three) places. Paints are in one place, brushes are in another. Before I left for Vancouver the last time I decided I wouldn't bring any art supplies with me in order to focus on writing. That resulted in a trip to the art store and a duplication of art supplies because I was hit with the inspiration bat. And like a home run I landed far from the writing field and firmly in front of the inks at Opus!

I started painting in gouache in Turkey. Why? Because that's what my sister had on hand, and truthfully, it seemed like a safer bet than watercolour, which has the reputation for being transparent and tricky. But as I started delving deeper into painting, I switched over to watercolour because that transparency was something I wanted to work with. And I don't really find it much different than gouache to tell you the truth, and most people don't notice the difference. But then my artist/writer friend Chris Wikman suggested I try ink. (Chris does seriously nice work- check him out here.)

I can't resist trying new things, as you may have notices from the spazzy nature of my blog. One week it's block printing, the next week it's glass, the next week I'm back to painting. So I went to the Kelowna art store, and they only sold one shade of colour of each bottle of ink. Hmm. I'd never really looked closely at inks, so I bought the shades in front of me, brought them home and started to play. Painting straight out of the bottle, I messed around, adding a little water here and there, wondering what got Chris so excited. I liked the transparent nature of the inks, but I hadn't really worked out what I wanted to do with them, and I had to pack the inks away anyway because I was on my way to Vancouver.

But in Vancouver, I found myself down in the vicinity of the art store. This was dangerous territory for me. I didn't need any art supplies, knowing some were in storage and some were in the Okanagan. But it wouldn't hurt to look right?


Opus Vancouver had not only three different brands of ink, they had a multitude of colours! (All except alizarin crimson. What's up with that? Surely these inks are synthetic! Mix me up a batch, please!) I tried to limit myself to three. but then I'd need brushes, right? And what would it hurt if I bought ink colours I was pretty sure I didn't own already? I've been looking at Rie Munoz paintings lately, and she makes a lot of use of the overlapping technique and she does an amazing job. These inks would help me study Rie's paintings! What colour suits trees the best? Sap green or Oive green? Or green gold? Oh the selection!

So I spent a lot of money on inks and I started to play with them. Of course, I came back to the Okanagan for a week and didn't bring my Vancouver supplies with me. And I can't show you what I did because it's a surprise for someone who may read this blog from time to time. But I do have my orignial (limited) Kelowna inks and here's what I've done between organizing my stuff for the big Vancouver move now that I have a place.

First: These are studies, So I've painted them to play with how the inks work. I don't think I'm there yet. But so far I've learned that inks are even trickier than watercolour in the sense that they are so transparent and permanent that you need to work pretty confidently. This meant I worked quite small and controlled, using tiny brushes. (I also only have a few hours at a time to work right now so I'm keeping it small!)
Little Peach Tree! I have a story about a peach tree I may try to paint this spring. But you can see in the branches and the leaves that the inks are darker where the inks overlap. This also means that trying to paint something and shade it with anything other than water can be difficult with a limited palette. But I did get red and yellow in those peaches. But the leaves were painted and thinned out with water and overlapped a la Rie Munoz (Who does trees like this too.) I like this technique a lot. Thanks, Ink! Thanks Chris!

But after I was finished, I decided that I am too controlling, and that the inks are pushing me to be more spontaneous with my decisions. I haven't quite caught any spirit in these paintings- this is what makes Rie Munoz's tiny paintings fun! They are full of spirit! The inks are also full of spirit. It's just me I need to get on board.

Flowers in a mason jar. I was trying to think of things that spell spring in a small town. But now I get why our teachers in art school would say, forget the mason jar. Paint the spirit of the mason jar. This here, is a study of a mason jar. Though I still think it's a cute little painting!

So though they may be tiny studies that were done on a kitchen table at night, these little studies have taught me how to be a better painter. I can't wait to see what they teach me next time.