Tuesday, July 22, 2014

West toward the mountains

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Samuil’s Fortress on Lake Ohrid
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

Away from the capital, Macedonians seem less pre-occupied with the Greek question, but they have had to contend with various invasions over the years, and the remains of the imposing fortress of Tsar Samuil would seem to indicate this was never a simple matter.  The fortress was built during the Middle Ages, on the site of the original fortification built in the 4th century BCE by Philip II.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Macedonia: Victim or Perpetrator of Identity Theft?

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Mustafa Pasha Mosque in Skopje
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

On May 28 we crossed the border into the Republic of Macedonia, which until 1991 was part of Yugoslavia. When that country broke up, the ages-old dispute with Greece over the use of the name Macedonia was reignited.  The Greek government contends that Macedonia is, and always has been, a region of Greece, and although there are many true (Greek) Macedonians living in the Republic of Macedonia, that doesn't make the rest of them Macedonians.  Various compromises have been worked out with the EU, USA, etc. about how they are to be regarded internationally, and they seem to be dealing with it… but the Greeks have succeeded in forcing them to rename a huge statue in the main square of Skopje, ‘The Great Warrior’ instead of ‘Alexander the Great,’ as originally intended – because he was really a Greek.


Another interesting, though not particularly relevant, fact is that the mosque in this sketch was completed in 1492. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

first of the Roman ruins

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Theatre at Plovdiv
Watercolour and Photoshop™
©2014 Charlene Brown


Plovdiv was known as Philippopolis (and I kind of wish they’d left it at that) after being conquered by Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. It became a centre of great cultural significance during Roman times, with numerous public buildings, shrines, baths, and this theatre. Like Rome it was built on seven hills, and the remains of the theatre, still in use today, are splendidly located on a ridge between two of them overlooking the main part of the city.

Friday, July 11, 2014

On the road to Plovdiv

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European Poppies
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

We were in Bulgaria in time for the rose festivals, and the displays of this flower, for which Bulgaria is world-renowned, were spectacular… but what I liked even more were the brilliant wild poppies carpeting the roadside ditches, meadows and hillsides everywhere. These almost fluorescent flowers are found throughout Europe at this time of year. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The adventure begins…

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Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Watercolour and crayon sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

Our University of Victoria Travel Study Program ‘Balkan Odyssey’ began in Sofia, Bulgaria on May 26 at this Orthodox cathedral. Our tour was to go through eight countries, so to help remember where I was, I made a habit of including flags in my paintings whenever there happened to be any – there are four Bulgarian flags in this one.

The architecture of the other two faith groups strongly represented in the Balkans, Roman Catholics and Muslims, found its way into several of the landscapes and cityscapes I sketched during the trip – but I didn't try anything as complex and hard to draw as this cross-domed basilica again!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Virtual Paintout in Greece

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Santorini
Watercolour and CP
©2014 Charlene Brown


The Virtual Paintout is in Greece this month.  Having the whole country in which to find a good painting location was almost more difficult than having to work within a restricted area! 

First, I spent way too much time trying to get a good shot at the Acropolis from one of the nearby streets in Athens, and had no luck at all.  So I went to Santorini, to a spot at the top of the cliffs above the cruise ship terminal, where I knew I’d find great views of the rest of the crescent-shaped island plus the volcanic cone in its centre. Here’s a link to the one I selected. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Friedensreich Hunderwasser: artist, environmental designer and architect

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Hundertwasserhaus
Watercolour and marker
©2014 Charlene Brown

The unique and always extravagant artistic vision of Friedensreich Hunderwasser (1928-2000) expressed itself in painting, environmentalism, design of facades, as well as stamps for various countries and the United Nations. The common themes in his work are bright colours, organic forms, a reconciliation of humans with nature, and a strong individualism.  He was not fond of straight lines.
His architectural work is comparable to Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) in its use of colourful tile and biomorphic forms. He was also inspired by the art of Austrian painters Egon Schiele (1890 -1918) and Gustav Klimpt (1862 - 1918).
I love Hundertwasser’s work, and have previously painted one of his facades – a district heating plant in Vienna.  I finally made it round to see the fantastic Hundertwasserhaus, built about thirty years ago, after my recent University of Victoria Travel Study program in the Balkans.

Most of the UVic program involved much older structures – Roman Archaeology and Medieval and Venetian Renaissance architecture and I’ll be writing some blog posts about these as soon as I finish up a few more paintings. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Napoleon, not your average World Conqueror

Edfu
Watercolour and Photoshop
©2008 Charlene Brown














Luxor
Watercolour and Photoshop
©2008 Charlene Brown














In 1798, Napoleon landed in Egypt and proceeded to invade the country as he had many others.  This, however, was no ordinary invasion… Among his 54,000 men, Napoleon had included 150 savants — artists, scientists, engineers and scholars who Napoleon expected would give to their Egyptian contemporaries the benefits of the enlightened culture of Europe of the time.  This they did, but by far their most lasting accomplishment was to record meticulously the ancient Egyptian architecture, culture and history they observed.  
Napoleon is not remembered as a scientist, but he thought of himself as one. He was trained as a military engineer and had been elected to membership in the National Institute, the foremost scientific society in post-Revolutionary France. As it turned out, the cultural and scientific aspects of his 1798 expedition far outweighed its dubious military accomplishments, and the resulting publication of the Description de l'Égypte and the Scientific and Military History of the French Expedition to Egypt, revealed the vast extent of the achievements of this ancient civilization… In the opinion of one of Napoleon’s artists, Egypt had been a sanctuary of the arts and sciences and their feats of architecture and engineering in some ways surpassed that of the Greeks who later conquered them.