Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Report from Prague

Charles Bridge, Prague
Watercolour and crayon
©2011 Charlene Brown

Over the next couple of months, I will be writing about our “European Grand Tour,” an almost totally unplanned excursion that took place over the same May-June period eleven years ago. The text (running longer than my usual 150 words) for the posts will be based on excerpts from emails we sent at the time. Some of the illustrations will be paintings from postcards I sent, and others, such as ‘Charles Bridge, Prague,’ will be recent paintings based on photos from our trip.
On May 1, 2000, the day after my husband retired from Emirates Airline, we arrived at the Dubai airport at 3 am for a 6 am departure. Suddenly we were tourists, so we took lots of pictures of the splendid new terminal (they’ve built two more since then), Abdulqader Al Rais murals, four-story palm trees made out of gold bricks, and other wonders of Arabia – and the next thing we knew we were at the Volvo factory in Gothenburg (time flies when you’re in shock) Sweden. We got a very complicated briefing on our new car – cruise control, diagnostics, locking, alarms, and some other stuff – and took it for a spin on their test track. A pretty careful spin, as I recall.
The next day, we crossed into Denmark at Helsingor, had a quick look at Hamlet’s castle – it was too cold for anything else – and headed south, crossing into Germany the following day on the ferry from Rodyhavn, where we found the menus printed in Danish, German, and Swedish and managed to order parsnip pie for dinner.  And it was really good!
We then took the scenic route via various computer repair places and the Harz Mountains to Meissen, where we found such a great hotel, with a huge biergarten overlooking this magnificent Medieval city, that we toyed with the idea of just staying there for the two months we’d allotted to this ‘driving into the sunset’ grand tour…
But then we proceeded to Prague, getting lost more than once (remember, this was in the dark days before GPS).  It helped a little, but only a little, when we finally found out that Umleitung (usually abbreviated to an enigmatic ‘U’) means ‘Detour.’ Our new car behaved beautifully, unlike the laptop from hell which we had purchased in order to be able to send emails throughout our trip (remember this was in the dark days before iPhones). Fortunately, one of the wonders of Prague turned out to be an Internet Café, where a lovely young man walked us through the Czech instructions for setting up a Hotmail account.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another twentieth century flashback

The Fort at Bahla, Sultanate of Oman
Watercolour and crayon
©1996 Charlene Brown

A couple of people have asked if I’m going to post more of the ‘alphabet of art’ series I did for the Khaleej Times youth magazine in Dubai… Yes, there will be a few.  Although I used other Dubai Arts Centre members’ artwork to illustrate many of the letters, several were my own work, and here’s one of them.  No, it wasn’t called ‘B is for Bahla’ – it was ‘A is for Abstract,’ and here’s some of what I said about it:
Art is called abstract if it doesn’t look very much like what it’s supposed to be.  It can be completely non-representational art, which doesn’t look very much like anything at all.  Or it can be a real object or landscape converted into a pattern which may still be a quite recognizable picture of what it’s supposed to be.  Or it can be somewhere in between.
Abstract painting only got started since the invention of photography, when some artists decided to break with the traditions of realism, proportion and perspective. 
One of the ways to create abstract (or semi-abstract) art is to start with reality and ‘abstract’ it. Apparently,Pablo Picasso said, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.”  I like that concept, but if I’ve gone to the trouble of going somewhere to paint something, I like to leave in enough ‘reality’ for the location to be recognizable. That’s how I painted The Fort at Bahla.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My postcard arrived this time!

Inukshuk at Whistler
Watercolour postcard
©2011 Charlene Brown

This is the postcard I sent to Pat Reese in the United States – my ‘April’ contribution to the international postcard exchange we joined.  Unlike my March postcard to South Africa, this one actually arrived, and Pat wrote a very nice post about it on A Postcard From My Walk  last week. There’s a new post every couple of days on this blog, and the quality and variety of the artwork is fascinating! Have a look…
I am absolutely thrilled with the three ‘original’ postcards I have received so far.  I’ll be writing about the beautifully detailed card Liz Steele sent me from Australia tomorrow (April 14) and wrote about the other two here and here

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Virtual Paintout in Japan

Joshin-etsu Expressway
Watercolour and crayon
©2011 Charlene Brown

When I first read that the Virtual Paintout is in Japan this month, I pinpointed Mt. Fuji and found a nearby lake with a blue road (indicating it had been ‘streetviewed’ by the Google cameras) along the shore, with an apparently unobstructed view of Mt Fuji. Sure enough, I found that you can drive for miles along the north shore of Lake Yamanaka with a perfect view of Mt. Fuji, sometimes with a perfect reflection as well, and almost painted this view.  But then, thinking that a lot of other people would be painting somewhere along this road (there were already two when I checked this morning) I set off north of Mt Fuji, until I found this spectacular bridge on the Joshin-etsu Expressway. This toll-road goes through some very rugged terrain including some long tunnels and this stretch is one of the few places where you get a great view in all directions.  Here’s a link to it.