Sunday, January 19, 2020

King Herod’s Fortress

Diptych, watercolour and oil pastel
©2020 Charlene Brown

The fortress of Masada is on an isolated mesa high above the Dead Sea. It is renowned for the palaces and fortifications of Herod the Great, king of Judaea prior to the birth of Jesus in nearby Bethlehem, and for its resistance to the Roman siege in 72–73 CE. Masada is one of the most important archaeological sites in Israel because it symbolizes the determination, heroism and eventual martyrdom of its defenders during that siege. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001.

Climbing the Masada at sunrise, by the winding ‘snake path’ that can be seen in the painting on the left, has become something of a tradition, and our trip to Israel next November will include an ascent (by cable car and not at sunrise) to ‘King Herod’s Fortress’ – if the trip ever actually happens... Perhaps I will know next week if it's still on.  

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Israel is starting to look even further away than next November

Sea of Galilee from Mt. Arbel
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2020 Charlene Brown

Besides being very scenic, the area between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee is of great significance as the location of many historical events, from Biblical times to modern day conflicts.

The University of Victoria trip to Israel I hope to participate in next November will touch on several of these but is unlikely to present such paintable views as I have cobbled together (from photographs on the internet) for this painting.

Unfortunately, the whole trip is looking less and less likely to take place, following last week’s horrifying developments in the Middle East.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Review of 2019/Plan for 2020

First light in a winter wonderland
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2020 Charlene Brown

This is the view of The Three Sisters, Ha Ling and the snow-covered evergreen and larch trees, from the hotel in Canmore where we spent a few days during our Christmas trip to Alberta. (Specifically, it’s the view from the hot tub.)

This post is a review of progress on various blog projects during 2019 and my plans for these projects in 2020:
·      Travel painting: I continued to paint mostly landscapes, writing about out-of-the-way British Columbia landscapes ‘less painted,’ as well as writing 10 blog posts about a June 2019 UVic travel study program trip to Newfoundland + Labrador  I also explored the painting possibilities on seven trips that are only in the planning, or even bucket-listed’ stage.
·      Clean energy haiku/haiga project: In November, I published ‘Inventing the Future with Clean Energy Haiku,‘ a book containing 50 illustrated poems using ‘found’ haiku and computer-stylized versions of my Canadian landscapes. It’s available on Amazon. 
·      I completed a first draft of an autofictional novel about the career planning and launching years in the lives of young women in six generations of my family. In 2020 I plan to complete this book – as a collection of six short stories beginning in 1898, 1925, 1958, 1987, 2017 and 2042 – as recommended in an editorial evaluation by Friesen Press here in Victoria.
·      A few years ago I put together a cross-cultural 'History of Design' timeline covering art and architecture from prehistoric times to the beginning of the twenty-first century.  I linked tables from this History of Design to six cross-cultural ‘time capsules’ I compiled in 2018. 
·      Compilation of Christmas letters since 1990: I plan to add a few paintings to the photos already in these letters, before editing them and putting them all together. Several 2019 blog posts were about 'missing' paintings of places I visited but didn’t paint at the time, and I plan to continue painting these additional pictures.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

One more for the Bucket List

Mulafossur Falls
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2019 Charlene Brown
This spectacular waterfall is on Vagar, one of the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. These islands form an archipelago north of Scotland about halfway between Norway and Iceland.

The uniquely stark landscapes of the islands work well as computer-stylized designs. On the right is a design based on this painting with an overlay of some interesting facts about the extensively developed system of tunnels through mountains and undersea between islands that links almost 90% of the population of the Faroe Islands.

Sunday, December 22, 2019


Star Fountain
Watercolour and oil pastel
Charlene Brown

The fountain shown here is on Star Street in Bethlehem near the Church of the Nativity which covers the grotto believed by most Christians to be the location of the birth of Christ two thousand years ago.

Bethlehem is about ten kilometres south of Jerusalem. The area was occupied by Rome at the time of Christ’s birth, and has been invaded and occupied many times over the years since.  Although control of the region has alternated between Arabs and Israelis in recent years – it was part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank after the Six-Day War in 1967, but was turned over to the Palestinian Authority following the Oslo Accords in 1993 it is mainly Christians who come to see Bethlehem, especially at this time of year.  I hope to be one of them next November.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Travelling wave reactor haiku

Black swans and alicorns
©2019 Charlene Brown

When putting together 'found' poetry for Inventing the Future, my book of clean energy haiku,  I somehow missed ‘travelling wave reactor,’ a potential source of clean energy with seven syllables!  So here it is – the most enigmatic poem yet.
An allegory
Travelling wave reactor
Alchemy balance

An allegory is a device used in ­literature and art to ­signify a meaning that is not literal. It may be symbolic of a concept such as:
  • a black swan, which is an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences, or 
  • a mythological creature, a mixture of pegasus and unicorn, referred to as an alicorn - the Latin word for the horn of a unicorn in alchemical texts.
Alchemy is, of course, the medieval forerunner of chemistry - a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation or combination. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

National Geographic list of Best Trips

Jiaxiu Tower, Guiyang, Guizhou
Watercolour and oil pastel
Charlene Brown

A recent email from National Geographic featured a list of 20 Best Trips, so I opened all the links looking for possible additions to my Bucket List. I’ve been to a few of the places listed, Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Abu Simbel in Egypt, the Grand Canyon in the United States and Tasmania in Australia, and I’d heard of all the others except Guizhou Province.

It turns out that, “Historically one of China’s most isolated and undiscovered provinces, southwestern Guizhou is gaining global notice as a cloud computing and big-data centre. The mountainous region’s plentiful water and cool climate are draws for Apple, Huawei, and other tech powerhouses that have established or are building facilities in the provincial capital, Guiyang.”  Who knew?

The word ‘mountainous’ caught my eye so I tried searching for something paintable… But this striking juxtaposition of the 14th century Jiaxiu Tower and some 21st century towers was the only location that caught my eye. I probably won’t be adding Guizhou to my Bucket List.

But Puebla in Mexico, another place on the list, could be a possibility.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Climate change?

Yellow-browed Warbler
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2019 Charlene Brown

Warming temperatures are causing the habitats of some species of plants and animals to shift to higher latitudes and altitudes.  In Canada we are seeing insect and bird species, until a few years ago only found in the United States, moving further and further north.

The recent and very rare sighting on Vancouver Island of a Yellow-browed Warbler was not one of those however.  Exciting as it was – birders came from mainland British Columbia and Washington state –this was simply an example of an Asian resident blown off course.

This warbler – there was just the one, not the flock in the painting – is referred to as a ‘vagrant’ and, considering how far he is from his normal migration route between Russia and South-east Asia, likely a ‘hitchhiker’ as well, for at least part of the distance.