Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas greetings from an OCR poet

3. a r,ilgiggq
Watercolour and Photoshop™
©2010 Charlene Brown

Four years ago I ‘abstracted’ a painting of Butchart Gardens using Photoshop.   Then I made it into a 1-minute video showing what this magical place looks like year-round

This picture, which appears at the end of my video, shows the sunken garden with the Christmas lights featuring the Twelve Days of Christmas, including the five gold rings floating on one of the ponds. 

I’ve run it through the CamScanner app on my iPad that generates OCR poetry… and works about as well as most OCR readers. The cheery greeting it found in this Christmas picture is shown above – 3. a r,ilgiggq


Monday, December 1, 2014

Virtual Paintout in Rome

(click on image to enlarge)
But I’m still in Luxembourg
Watercolour
©2014 Charlene Brown

I painted the City Hall in Wiltz  a couple of weeks ago, when the Virtual Paintout was in Luxembourg.  When I posted it on the Virtual Paintout site, I discovered that at least two people had painted this lovely scene and decided to try it myself.  What with one thing and another, I didn't finish the second Luxembourg painting until today – too late to post it to the Virtual Paintout, which has moved on to Rome. 
I also took a few minutes to motor around Rome on Google Streetview, to see what I’m going to paint next. Not surprisingly it didn't take long to find several great locations. I hope I can paint one or two of them before December runs out…  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Return to Kananaskis Country

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Sunrise at The Fortress
Watercolour, crayon and CP
©2014 Charlene Brown

I’m not implying that I’ve spent a lot of time in Kananaskis Country by using the word ‘return’ in the title. I've written blog posts here and here about a couple of paintings I did at Rawson Lake, and another about the view of Kananaskis Country from just outside its eastern boundary and I’ve flown over it lots of times. But – I’ve actually gone into the park only about five times – odd, considering I grew up in Banff National Park, which is right next to it! Of course Kananaskis Country is very new – created in 1976 – compared to Banff, at almost 130 years, one of the oldest national parks in the world. I don’t think there was what you’d call a drivable road into Kananaskis when I lived in Banff.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Victoria Flower Arrangers Guild Christmas Show

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This is Victoria (It is so!)
Watercolour, marker and Photoshop™

We enjoyed the Christmas Show put on by Victoria floral designers last weekend, well ahead of the holidays so we’d have time to organize supplies and put to good use some of what we learned about decorating with combinations of evergreens, flowers and – would you believe – strips of arbutus bark. I probably won’t even try, but painting some of what we saw appealed to me.

Attempting to copy exactly all the details and nuances of any one of the truly splendid designs on display didn’t seem right (or even possible) but I decided that an incorporation of some of my favourites into a ‘landscape’ painting of Victoria could be an appropriate way to interpret this wonderful show. The picture includes the Provincial Legislature (which is in fact completely outlined with hundreds of lights) on the left, the city gardens for which Victoria is famous, a couple of boats on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and, in the distance, the base of the mountains on the Olympic peninsula. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Virtual Paintout in Luxembourg

(click on image to enlarge)
L'hôtel de ville, Wiltz
Watercolour, crayon and marker
©2014 Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout is in Luxembourg this month. As you may have noticed, I often go in search of mountains for my Virtual Paintout pictures...

This didn’t seem promising in Luxembourg, so I sought out nice-looking castles instead – specifically, the Château de Wiltz. After quite a bit of cruising about trying to find a good Streetview of it, I came across this architectural gem, the Wiltz City Hall. Here is a link to the Google Streetview of it.  In the background, a corner of the Château can be seen.  I think this is about as close as the Google camera got to it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Artistic license to operate a cable car

(click on image to enlarge)
Peak2Peak at Whistler
Watercolour, crayon and marker
©2014 Charlene Brown

The artistic license mentioned in the title refers to the fact that, although the P2P gondola spans the distance between Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains, you can’t actually see the towers, let alone the cable, from the spot the reference photo for this picture was taken on the other side of the valley.

I’ve included the Olympic Sliding Centre, just to the left of the centre of the painting. Not surprisingly, it can’t really be seen from that distance either.

I wrote about the Peak2Peak gondola back in 2009 (the title of the post was ‘72 days to go!’ referring to the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics held at Whistler). Here’s the picture I painted at the time – I used to paint more carefully.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why should oil painters have all the fun?

(click on image to enlarge)
Banff Springs Hotel
Watercolour, and crayon 
©2014 Charlene Brown

My first impression of red underpaintings was that they were something of a make-work project for artists working with oils or acrylics. But then I noticed that there are wonderful effects to be achieved by leaving just the right flashes of an underpainting exposed, and of course, I wanted to try one.


As this technique is not really open to watercolour painters, I decided to try something that might simulate the result… Starting by drawing the picture in a complementary-coloured wax (paint-resisting) crayon. Given the colours I planned to use to complete the painting, orange seemed like a better choice than red for the fake underpainting, and Banff Springs Hotel is the result.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Virtual Paintout in County Kerry, Ireland

(click on image to enlarge)
East of the Leahill Bog
Watercolour and crayon
©2014 Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout is in CountyKerry  this month. I found this lovely scene, looking east toward Bantry, very quickly after a short drive along a promising-looking stretch of coastline. Here is a link to it inGoogle Streetview


After adding a few people and dogs to the small group that was already there, I decided to put in some heather as well.  There wasn't really any heather that close to the water – it came from the Leahill Bog, which is inland a ways.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Another great day in the Gulf Islands

(click on image to enlarge)
Saturna Vineyard
Watercolour and crayon
©2014 Charlene Brown

The Associates of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, a fund raising group to which I belong, organizes several events throughout the year. These include an annual house tour, interior design lecture series, fashion shows, antique appraisals and auctions, and my favourite, the art travel program.
Our group has organized two to three week art tours to St. Petersburg, S.E. Asia and India & Sri Lanka, tours of up to a week’s duration to Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, New York and San Francisco, and day-trips or over-nighters closer to home to Vancouver, Seattle, all over Vancouver Island and throughout the Gulf Islands. Previously I have written about Campbell RiverQuadra IslandHornby IslandDenman IslandSaltSpring Island, and the west coast of Vancouver Island.

On most of these shorter excursions, many of the participants have visited the locations many times previously but enjoy our unique perspective and an inside look at artists’ studios. Saturna Island, however, being some distance off the main Victoria-Vancouver ferry route, was new to almost all of us.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bridging the gulf of mutual ignorance II

(click on image to enlarge)
Multi-disciplinary bridges
Watercolour, marker and Photoshop™
©2014 Charlene Brown

My first post about bridging C.P. Snow’s ‘gulf of mutual ignorance’  included the introductory paragraphs of Chapter 5 of ‘The Fine Art of Physics.'  

Here is the Table of Contents listing for what is currently in the rest of that chapter.

(This could still change. The file containing the book is still labeled ‘First Draft.’)







Bridging the gulf of mutual ignorance         

Educational Institutions
  • Interdisciplinary Programs
  • Applied or Integrated arts and sciences
Private Sector Firms
  • Internships/career assignment programs designed to reward breadth of experience
  • Multi-disciplinary research and development teams
  • Innovative organizational culture
  • The next Leonardo
Individuals: Being the next Leonardo
  • Education
  • Interdisciplinary teams and work-study programs
  • Tangential thinking capability
  • Intuitive abilities
  • Predicting the future of work 

Friday, September 26, 2014

The 'straight-up Lake Louise' view of Mount Lefroy



Sunrise, 13 July 2014
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2014 Charlene Brown

This view of Lake Louise and the glaciers above it doesn’t reveal the near-perpendicular faces of Mount Lefroy visible in the view I painted last week. Nor does this, one of the most inviting scenes in the Canadian Rockies, reveal the totally uninviting Abbott’s Pass (named for the first climber to fall to his death on it) also shown in last week’s painting, between Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria.

‘Sunrise, 13 July 2014, is based on a photo I took from a third-floor room in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. I took about forty photos over a one hour period that morning, and I think this one and the photo below, taken about a half hour earlier, were the best of the bunch.




Full moon setting on Victoria Glacier
Photograph
©2014 Charlene Brown

Friday, September 19, 2014

An unusual view of Mount Lefroy












Not the $1,667,500 Lawren Harris sketch
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2014 Charlene Brown

This painting is based on photos of Mt. Lefroy taken from the same direction, but at a slightly higher elevation than an iconic 1930 Harris painting.  A sketch for this painting recently sold for 1,667,500 CAD – yes, a sketch!


Mt. Lefroy looks quite different from this angle than in the much more famous view of the northeast face of Lefroy and Victoria Glacier framing Lake Louise.  I’m going to paint this ‘straight-up Lake Louise’ view next. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Virtual Paintout in Gothenburg

(click on image to enlarge)
Trädgårdsföreningen
Watercolour, oil pastel and crayon
©2014 Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout is in Gothenburg, Sweden this month and I think this botanical garden is the nicest place in town. 

I first landed here, as I motored about on Google Streetview, right beside the free-standing espaliered fruit trees (seen here just to the right of the greenhouse), and was going to have only the lily pond and these trees in my painting.  But then I decided it would be a real shame not to include a little bit of the rose garden as well...

Here’s a link to the real thing, so you can have a look at the whole spectacular expanse of Trädgårdsföreningen.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Carnuntum III

Amphitheatre Bad Deutsch-Altenburg
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

There are two sizable amphitheatres, about 5 km apart, at Carnuntum.  Part of the seating area of the one at Bad Deutsch-Altenburg is currently being restored, and the translucent protective covering has an image of the expected result, including a couple of rows of people in the ‘standing room only’ section (included in the sketch) above the rows of seats.

There was a very significant find in September 2011 adjacent to the other Carnuntum amphitheatre, Petronell, near the Heidentor. Aerial photography followed by hi-res, non-invasive ground-penetrating radar led to the discovery of the totally buried contours of an ancient Roman Ludus (gladiator school) almost 3000 m2 in area. Details of this exceptional complex, including accommodation for 80 gladiators, reveal that it is unique in the Roman Empire for its size and completeness. Excavation is expected to begin this year.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Carnuntum II

Heidentor
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

This triumphal arch was built in the 4th century CE and was heavily damaged later that same century. An up-ended part of the top of the arch remains by the ruin – the only significant structure left standing when Carnuntum was abandoned. 


As the years went by it remained as an isolated monument in a natural landscape which led medieval people to believe it was the tomb of a pagan giant. Hence, they called it Heidentor (pagan gate).

Now, it is an isolated monument in an agricultural landscape, surrounded by crops and the ubiquitous wind turbines that dot the plains of Lower Austria. The crop on the right was only a few inches high when we were there, but the plants looked pretty much like they were going to be sunflowers so I added them to the sketch.


The wildflowers that were actually blooming in the area looked like this. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Our last Roman Ruin – Carnuntum

Palastruine
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

Carnuntum, which we explored on June 12, is about half way between Vienna and Bratislava.  It originated as a Roman army camp during the reign of Augustus in the early first century CE.  During the second century, especially under Tiberius, Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, it grew in importance, becoming the centre of Roman fortifications along the Danube and a major trading centre on the Amber Road from the Baltic Sea. However, it was destroyed in the 4th century and eventually abandoned during the subsequent Barbarian invasions.


The public baths at Carnuntum, part of the ruin of which is pictured here, were among the largest Roman Baths north of the Alps. When first unearthed, these remains were named Palastruine because the complex was so generously proportioned and lavishly equipped, it was erroneously thought to be the governor’s palace (palace ruins). In Carnuntum’s heyday colourful marble imported from every part of the Roman Empire decorated the walls, and the floors were covered with impressive mosaics.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Aid in all distress in Zagreb

Mother of God of the Stone Gate
Watercolour, crayon and marker
©2014 Charlene Brown

Fearing yet another Mongol invasion in the middle of the 13th century, citizens built defensive walls and towers around the highest part of present-day Zagreb. Of the four original gates, only the Stone Gate, consisting of a vaulted corridor that makes a right-angle turn through a gatehouse, has been preserved. 

According to legend, a great fire in 1731 destroyed most of the gatehouse and all of its contents, except for a painting of the Virgin and Child. When it was reconstructed in 1760, the painting, believed by then to possess supernatural powers, was given a place of honour, with an inscription, ‘Aid in all distress and against fires.’ The altar was opened to the public, and the painting could even be touched – until 1778 when an artistically-forged Baroque iron enclosure was built to protect it from the steady stream of grateful citizens.

At various times, the demolition of the gate was considered, given that it ‘no longer served any purpose’ but those who believed the painting inside the gate was in fact serving a vital purpose always prevented it. In 1991 the Archbishop of Zagreb proclaimed the ‘Mother of God of the Stone Gate’ to be a special protector of Zagreb and the whole of Croatia (and foreign travellers too, according to some tourist guides). She is there today, surrounded by tiles with inscriptions of gratitude. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

You can't get there from here...

(click on image to enlarge)
Rastoke
Watercolour, crayon, gouache and Photoshop™
©2014 Charlene Brown

I can’t begin to describe, let alone paint, the entirety of Rastoke, a complex stack of waterfalls, mills, alpine houses, beer terraces, vegetable gardens, and restaurants at the confluence of two river canyons in northern Croatia. The guide who had been arranged for us didn’t show up, and it quickly became apparent our bus couldn’t possibly get through. 


I walked down through the most interesting part of the town as far as I dared (knowing I was going to have to climb back out – remember this was the same day we did the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls) and took lots of pictures…

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Plitvice Lakes National Park

(click on image to enlarge)

Waterfalls all over the place
Watercolour
©2014 Charlene Brown

On June 8, we drove from Biograd to Zagreb, via Zadar, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and Rastoke.


At Plitvice Lakes we embarked on a three-hour tour, on foot up and among an incredible sequence of waterfalls – you can walk right across the top of the twenty metre waterfall shown in about the centre of this painting… in fact you sort of have to as that’s where the boardwalk takes you – then by boat along one of the upper lakes in the chain.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bridging the gulf of mutual ignorance

(click on image to enlarge)
Intersections of diametrically opposed disciplines
Watercolour, marker and Photoshop™
©2014 Charlene Brown

Half a century ago, C.P. Snow said the ‘two cultures’ of scientists and artists were separated by a gulf of mutual ignorance.

Traditional separation of art and science disciplines at universities has resulted in degrees that are ‘knowledge silos’ producing graduates with a deep, but narrow, expertise, prepared only for highly structured specializations.

Given that breakthrough scientific developments and innovation are often seen to occur at the intersection of disciplines, most universities have developed interdisciplinary programs. 

Unfortunately, the disciplines selected are often closely related, and the bodies of intersecting knowledge are not so much complementary as overlapping and redundant. I think that the intersections of diametrically opposed disciplines would be most likely to be productive. Graduates need to be able to see problems from other, often divergent, perspectives and they have to be able to communicate with previously-mentioned experts in narrow, highly specialized disciplines. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A tour of the Archipelago

Sea bass pens in Kornati National Park
Watercolour and crayon
©2014 Charlene Brown

We were fascinated by the amount of commercial development, including wide expanses of pens for raising sea bass, in this protected area. The dolphins seemed to find them pretty interesting too.  


BTW, The tiny little Roman ruin I’ve shown here, thought to have been connected to an ancient salt factory and/or fish cultivating pond, was added to my painting for historical context, and is actually on the Bay of Spinuta, not on the islands near Biograd where our June 7 boat tour took us.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Working waterfalls

The mills at Krka
Watercolour and Photoshop™
©2014 Charlene Brown

Krka National Park was established in 1985 to protect the Krka River in Central Dalmatia. The park is ‘intended primarily for scientific, cultural, educational, recreational and tourism activities’… and a little light industry, as we discovered when we toured this remarkable – and very paintable – location on June 6.

Unlike the waterfalls in Canadian National Parks, which may occasionally be used for a little discrete power generation, Krka’s waterfalls drive several tiny milling operations whose intricately partitioned millraces provide an additional feature to enjoy in this multi-facetted complex.

Monday, September 1, 2014

An ironic placement at a Roman palace in Split


The bell tower of St. Domnius at Diocletian’s Palace
Watercolour sketch
Charlene Brown

Diocletian had a palace built in Split, Croatia, in preparation for his retirement in 305 CE. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and has the distinction of being the world’s most complete Roman Palace.
 Considering that Diocletian probably put more effort into obliterating Christianity than any other Roman Ruler, it is ironic that his adjacent mausoleum was eventually enlarged to become the Cathedral of St Domnius. It was consecrated at the turn of the 7th century CE, and the Temple of Jupiter he had built became the Baptistery. The cathedral bell tower shown in this sketch, considered the main symbol of the city of Split, was added in 1100 CE.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Alchemy for beginners

(click on image to enlarge)
The Ascent of the Mons Philosophorum
Watercolour and Photoshop™
©2014 Charlene Brown

Alchemy was a medieval chemical science or speculative philosophy that aimed to achieve perfection. Its specific goals included the transformation of base metals into gold or at least silver, and the discovery of a universal cure for disease.

It evolved as an art - not as a science. Processes developed by alchemists never succeeded in producing gold or even silver, but they did produce building materials such as plaster and mortar, tar and asphalt, fuels for heat and light, artificial gems, medicines, soaps,  cosmetics, beer and wine. Many alchemical processes were discovered by accident, but once mastered, were passed on by an apprenticeship system.

The words ‘alchemy’ and ‘chemistry’ were used interchangeably during most of the 17th century. During the Enlightenment, however, a distinction was drawn because of the rise of modern science with its emphasis on rigorous quantitative experimentation and disdain for ancient wisdom… and the increasing disrepute of alchemists, who claimed through trickery, to achieve perfection – the ultimate goal of alchemy.


Using Photoshop, I have overlaid the sky with some popular alchemy symbols for metals, processes and measures – pounds, ounces and my personal favourite, the scruple. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The most touristy part of the Dalmatian Coast

The Makarska Riviera
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

Makarska is presented apologetically as the most touristy part of the south Dalmatian Coast… Compared to some Rivieras, it’s not bad at all. Though over 60 kilometers in length, the whole region is only a few kilometres wide, jammed picturesquely between the Dinaric Alps and the Adriatic Sea.

Monday, August 25, 2014

An oddly placed wall

Ston
Watercolour and crayon sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

On June 4 we journeyed from Dubrovnik to Split, with a stop in the fortified town of Ston. The walls of Ston are considered to be outstanding examples of medieval fortification. Originally over seven kilometres in length, they form the second longest wall in Europe. (Yes, Hadrian’s Wall is the longest.)

The outer wall, shown zig-zagging up to the right in this painting, goes beyond the ridge and extends across the entire width of the isthmus of the peninsula on which Ston is situated.  This strikes me as the only part of the wall that makes sense, as it was intended to protect the valuable salt pans at Ston, as well as acting as a second line of defence for Dubrovnik.


Studying the rest of the wall for the fifteen minutes it took to start this sketch, I was unable to figure out why it was draped as it is in the cliffs above the town, so I read up about it when I got home.  I learned it’s laid out in what is described as an ‘irregular pentangle.’ They didn’t say why. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Maybe the most beautiful Islamic bridge in all of Europe

Mostar Bridge
Watercolour and Photoshop™
Charlene Brown

This is a reconstruction of a 16th century Ottoman bridge at Mostar, in Bosnia & Herzegovina.  The original bridge stood for 427 years but was destroyed in 1993 during the Croatian-Bosnian War. The rebuilt bridge opened in 2004.


It is probably well guarded now, but armed guards are not so much in evidence as a solid protective coating of tourists! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Croatia in time for Dinner

Dubrovnik
Watercolour
©2014 Charlene Brown

We arrived in Dubrovnik just after sunset, and the iconic view of the harbour from the approach along the cliffs looked about as serene and peaceful as any city could be.


(click on image to enlarge)
We got a quite different impression in the following days when we toured the fortifications and were reminded of the turbulent history of this part of the world – especially some very recent history.  Some of the now-restored buildings within the walls feature pictures of the night of December 6, 1991 when Dubrovnik was attacked and burned by the Serbian and Montenegrin Army. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Virtual Paintout on Kinmen Island

(click on image to enlarge)
Jinsha Township
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2014 Charlene Brown
The Virtual Paintout is on KinmenIsland this month. This island is part of a small archipelago administered by Taiwan. As such it is part of the Republic of China (ROC), but it is also claimed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This issue hasn’t been raised too vehemently lately, as far as I know, and all appeared calm when the Google car was making its rounds.
Here’s the link in Google Streetview to the peaceful scene I selected.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

No longer on the 'Road Less Travelled'

The churches of St. George and Our Lady of Skrpjela
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

Having filed through the narrow streets of the last couple of walled cities with a growing number of tourists, we knew we were no longer on the road less travelled… and when we headed for Croatia along the beautiful Boka Kotorska, we found ourselves on a route parallel to several huge cruise ships. We were all focused on a striking feature of this bay -- two churches uniquely situated on an artificial island created by sinking old and seized ships loaded with rocks.  According to legend, local seamen, keeping an ancient oath sworn after an icon of the Madonna and Child was found on July 22, 1452, would add a rock upon returning from each successful voyage, and the custom continues… Every year on July 22, local residents go out in boats and add some rocks to make Skrpjela just a little bigger.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Another day, another UNESCO World Heritage Site

Fortified city of Kotor
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

Kotor is spectacularly situated on the fjord-like Boka Kotorska, beneath and surrounded by massive fortifications built during the Venetian Period (1420-1797 with intermittent Ottoman occupation). During the nineteenth century Kotor was ruled by the Hapsburgs and the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, then was captured by the British and eventually restored to the Hapsburgs. After World War I, during which Kotor had been one of the three main ports of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, all of Montenegro became part of Yugoslavia

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On to Montenegro...

Stari Bar
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

On June 1, we traveled through Montenegro to Croatia, stopping at two spectacular and historic cities. The first was Stari Bar (meaning old Bar) an ancient city with a violent history.

Originally Byzantine, the town came under Serbian rule in 1054, later was in a brief union with Venice until taken back by Serbia, and was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in 1571. The Montenegrins eventually got rid of the Ottomans by blowing up their own aqueduct in 1878, but then had to abandon the city when the re-built aqueduct was destroyed in an earthquake in 1979.

The new town of Bar was built and is flourishing far below on the coast, and restoration of Stari Bar has begun.



Monday, August 4, 2014

Islam in Albania

Tabakeve Mosque
Watercolour and CP
©2014 Charlene Brown

In Tirana, the capital of Albania, the Tabakeve mosque and lovely Islamic Tabakeve bridge are now situated amidst a deteriorating apartment complex, begun in 1959 by Russian engineers and completed by the Chinese government after the Soviet Union cut off aid to Albania. Multi-coloured panels were pretty popular everywhere at that time, but most didn’t age this badly.

After a walking tour of Tirana, we continued on to spend the night in Sckoder, where huge Catholic and Orthodox churches were also in evidence, but were reminded by our guide that Albania is the one country in Europe where Muslims form the largest faith group.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Hoxha Bunkers of Albania

Three of many thousands
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

On May 31 we crossed the Albanian border and got our first look at a few of these odd structures, installed during the communist rule of Enver Hoxha (1944-1985) to protect Albania from its enemies. The people believed, with some justification, that their enemies were pretty much the rest of the world after Hoxha fell out of favour with the Soviet Union.

Almost three quarters of a million Hoxha bunkers were built, and their removal has proved to be economically impossible for this nation as it slowly recovers from all the years of repression and isolation from the world economy.  Most remain in place, concentrated along the borders and the Adriatic coast. A few have been repurposed as fruit or souvenir stands, and at least one has become an art installation in a park in Tirana, positioned with an equally-elegant piece of the Berlin Wall. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Eleven years after the Kootenay Burn

(click on image to enlarge)
Marble Canyon
Watercolour and marker
©2014 Charlene Brown

We were in the Rockies a couple of weeks ago and I had a chance to hike up Marble Canyon, which had been closed for some time because of fire-damaged bridges.  

This view, looking south down the canyon, shows some significant and encouraging changes from when I painted this same area two years ago. Some of the silvery-mauve patina of the burned forest on the higher slopes remains since my blog posts, ‘Purple trees’ and ‘More purple trees’ but the colour that really jumps out now is the startling green of the fuzzy new pines – now almost a metre high.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Meanwhile, back at the lake...

The view from our hotel
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

This tranquil view of Lake Ohrid (even the swans and their cygnets were dozing off – within a few metres of the shore) belies the often-violent history of the area.

Samuil’s fortress benignly overlooks the iconic Macedonian Orthodox St. Jovan Caneo church, thought to have been built in the 13th century prior to incursions by the expanding Ottoman Empire, and the lake itself, which Macedonia (then Yugoslavia) shared with Albania through many tumultuous years. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

West toward the mountains


Friday, July 18, 2014

Macedonia: Victim or Perpetrator of Identity Theft?

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

(click on image to enlarge)
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

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…

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!