Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Moroccan Ceremony That Went to Calgary

I've posted most of my paintings here under the headings at the top of the on Art for the Cabin Walls above for instance, or Art for Fawns and Sprites to see some of them! However, I had not until today posted the painting that is featured as the cover art for my blog, the one titled "Moroccan Ceremony", and here it is (slightly cropped in the photo I'm afraid):

Moroccan Ceremony ~ Oil on Canvas 24" x 20"

I painted this bright fanfare in 2011 during the soggy downtrodden wet dirt road to nowhere dwindling winter, while feeling wistful for more exotic, lively and colourful places in the world. Couldn't I just BE there, in Morocco, or Istanbul or, or....anywhere but here? Spring was coming but not quickly enough!

Surely you would think, being surrounded by glorious Canadian flora and fauna, I'd be tackling landscapes featuring arbutus trees and the brooding grey oceanic beauty that seeps onto the canvas of the seasoned west coast island dwelling painter! When it is all around you the lure is inevitable and it's true that there's nothing like local nature to bring out your most exacting and vivid palettes. The truth is, though I madly love where I live, my mind goes off in the wildest most far fetched other-continental other-planetary places when it sits conjuring up the next painting....and I can't help it, I dream of Africa, the Orient, Old Europe and the Middle East a lot.

Tom Waits once described how his songs come to him, and a famous author also mentioned Tom's process in a fantastic TED Talks lecture on creativity (don't you LOVE TED Talks, and if you haven't heard  of it, click the coming link and discover it, right now!!). The author was Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. Anyway, as Elizabeth described Tom's creative process, and also her friend the poet's creative process, I nodded and said "yes, that is basically it", and I'm sure I wasn't the only one to connect. How I start my own works is not always entirely explainable, a vision of an image just suddenly forms or appears or I even dream of it, but the spark is fleeting and I need to be alert to it. I think my tendency is more towards portraiture and creatures than abstracts and landscapes. And I am also an illustrator more than I am a painter...moving an illustrative hand to the painting canvas, I always battle uptight restraint, and measured planning, my two weaknesses. When I sketch, it flies like wildfire and I am left dazzled, but when I paint it's slow and desire to apply discipline and technique sometimes stifles the wild journey and stream of consciousness I long to follow. For me, painting Moroccan Ceremony was to become a meeting of all of those elements face to face, a new beginning, a new dance, a new celebration of colour and splendour waiting to burst forth from order and precision.

Once I have my vague idea, I begin to search through art or photography books and magazines for a colour or a scene that will further ignite my "spark"....I was flipping through a book titled "Moroccan Interiors" and thinking of ornate birds and tapestries, and from the tiniest corner of a photograph of a living room, on page 263, there were two framed prints of birds facing each other in a mirror struck my fancy to attempt a symmetrical painting, and to make it vividly colourful and celebratory.

I began with a sketch, and from there, it went:

 And then from there, it went again...

And even though I thought I was going to paint certain light colours, I was taken more and more into a deep chocolate background and earthy tones mixed with brights. I used a set of quick drying Pebeo oil paints, and felt like experimenting with lots of different tubed colours. When it was completed, I left it without a varnish, as I enjoyed its luscious and rich matte finish enough. I hung the painting in the entrance to our kitchen, and from time to time I would think of working more on it, or adding a varnish to give it sheen. But the birds would sit there pleasantly and say "We're happy this way, absolutely happy as ever". And I'd agree, and smile.

Then one day in November I got an email, a really lovely email, from a woman in Calgary. She had come across my blog while searching for things to remind her of Vancouver Island. She wrote me to ask if the cover art for my blog was actually for sale. I told her yes, it was! She was also interested in my original sketch of Queen Noushin. I felt as if she'd been guided to my art, and it was looking for her too.

After a few emails back and forth, and a trip to the framers to frame my sketch, I was ready to mail the art to my customer in Calgary. Calgary, my home town where I was born and raised! My art was finding it's way to a wonderful Calgary home where it would emanate grace, healing and joy, and be appreciated and loved in return!

December arrived and with it a few setbacks...K's accident was the final blow in a series of family hospital visits, me having hurt my thigh at work and winding up with a painful hematoma, and K's daughter having gall bladder surgery. All of these things delayed the packaging and shipping of my art, and, running out of mental and physical steam, I decided to look for help from a professional. Jeff Molloy came to my aid. I visited his studio with my two pieces and he wrapped them to perfection. This man has sent huge pieces of very valuable art overseas, and so getting my smaller babies safely to Calgary was for him a whiz. He taught me some handy pointers as he carefully worked away. He prefers to use sheet styrofoam rather than bubble wrap, and to keep the work flat and even, he uses hard thick cardboard, and saran tape going both length and width-wise. Brown parcel paper was used for the first inside and final outside wrap. I was able to send them off looking perfect, and soon heard from the new owner that they had arrived in fine condition. Hooray!!

I created both pieces with love, gratitude and happy energy, and my prayers are always with their owner to flourish every single day!! xoxoxo

Thursday, 10 January 2013

2013 and How We Got Here

I haven't written for months, so now I'll likely drum out several posts all in a tumbling row! It's difficult to justify my online absence other than to say it has been an eventful fall and winter. After my now almost dreamlike trip to the family reunion in France (did it really happen? Yes, I will cherish it again and again for the rest of my life!!!), I returned to my job as a casual library worker, however my holiday had set me back on the seniority list of casuals and I returned to virtually no work. You'd think this would open up a world of painting time but I tend to fret and procrastinate and obsessively clean the house when I'm worried about paying the bills. I irksomely focus on making our house tidy ~ a huge waste of time as we are rural dwellers, where domestic chaos is an accepted, no expected, state to present to visitors!!

Toward the end of the year I pulled together a few of my old Christmas Card designs (eventually you will be able to see all my watercolour greeting card designs on my other blog, Thumb & Thistle) and I took part in two local weekend markets, my favourite being the Christmas at the Commons. We've had so much to thank the Commons for throughout this year, and it's there that I've met some of the most real and down to earth people - people whose hearts and souls are far bigger than even the daily challenges they have to endure, and quite a few have lived on this island since much simpler times before their circumstances diminished...these are the people I feel the most at home with, and an ever evolving way of living has emerged for K and I as we now serve frequent shared dinners, offer our hot shower as a drop-in option and our sofabed as a respite to the same friends who give us a ride when we have no gas, drop off chopped wood to keep our fire along, lend us flashlights or come running if someone is sick, and so it goes round and round as we all find our equal footing and establish a lifestyle that nurtures the abundance we can collectively manifest in our small community. I never knew anything like this in the city. Here, the economic currency is the free time that is filled with open, unconditional favours traded between neighbours.

Just past mid-December K was driving home on the first snowy and icy evening of the winter and as he rounded a bend a deer appeared in his path. Although he knows not to swerve for deer, the timing of its placement at the apex of the curve was sudden and visibility low in the pitch dark....what he thought was shoulder room on the road was only an illusion created by ice his fleeting horror he discovered it was in fact a ditch.... as he skidded into it, he hurtled toward a huge tree and flipped on his driver side just in time to avoid a head on smashup and sure death. I was meanwhile at home snoozing, although even in my floating sleep I sensed an excessive lapsing of time, unconsciously unsettled that he should be home by now. I was soon woken by a friend knocking gently on our bedroom door (we never lock the house in our quiet neck of the woods)..."Ranza, you need to get up now and dress, K has been in a little accident". His overly calm manner betrayed his tentative words. My heart racing, I tore on my jeans and we drove down to the accident we approached, and I saw that a road crew was actually enforced to slow traffic (what, here? That never happens!!), my stomach churned, and I nearly threw up across the dashboard of our friend's car at the sight of our hefty Forerunner on its side, the hood ravaged open by the metal-gnawing machinery of the paramedic rescue team, and my man nowhere in sight, already extricated and whisked off  by the ambulance. 

K survived, in the opinion of the police and the emergency crew, by the skin of his teeth and the grace of his huge physique. And above all, in our humble opinion, under the protection of the Mysterious Great and Grander Entity. After a long night in hospital undergoing tests and xrays to rule out spinal and brain injury, he came home with a compound fracture and stitches to his nose, lacerations and tissue damage, a throttled knee and a bruised arm. 
K and Seeker in the Fall of 2012

Why had K driven out that icy cold evening? Leaving me at home to rest after an exhausting day, he was on an errand down mid-island to pick up a space heater for my studio from a woman who had a spare one to give me. It wound up coming at a much steeper price. I never thought the resulting comfort of a cozy warm studio would infuse me with such guilt and gratitude at the same time. 

No Longer Freezing, My Studio is Awake Again

Today we were having a laugh at the fact that K's otherwise boxer-like lumpy nose has actually healed much straighter than before.....and knock on wood we're back in the saddle again dealing with life's other simple struggles and exorbitant joys.

K and I met on New Year's Eve 2007, so it's our anniversary of course! We have stayed in to celebrate quietly all the Eves since, and this time as it passed uneventfully into the new enlightened era, I coined our shared motto for 2013:

"Carpe Diem! Fear Nothing, and Force Nothing! Get on with it in 2013!!"

I do have inspiring stories to tell and art to reveal, coming up soon!! And if I stick to my own words I will put the final brushstrokes to all the half-started paintings I began last year, including the yet to be titled oil below:

Oil Painting in Progress
                                      Happy New Year everyone, from our house in the woods.

The Road Ahead