Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Here’s what we did in Iran IV

Takhte e Soleyman UNESCO World Heritage site
Watercolour, crayon and computer
©2017 Charlene Brown

After spending the night in Takab in a memorable ‘basic’ hotel, we proceeded higher into the Alborz Mountains to the 1500-year-old Takhte e Soleyman fortress, spectacularly-located on a volcano crater rim. The surrounding snow fields, which included orchards beginning to blossom, made the place even more other-worldly than expected.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Here's what we did in Iran III

Mehri Temple
Watercolour, crayon and computer
©2017 Charlene Brown

The second remote archaeological site we visited was the ­subterranean Mehri Temple in Maraqeh, recently re-discovered and at this point still being excavated. The sketch above is a combination of photos taken in three directions (think of it as a Cubist approach) showing Quranic inscriptions around the walls indicating that, although it was originally built in the 3rd century BCE by sun-worshippers, it was used as a mosque in the 13th century CE.

Finally we toured the ancient Sorkh Dome, built in the late 12th century CE, now being restored and set in a garden with Islamic designs and a huge vertical sun clock. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Virtual Paintout in South Korea

Looking north from Seoul
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout is in South Korea this month.   I had originally planned to paint a Streetview of PyeongChang, which will be the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics next February.  However, that area, near the north-east coast, doesn’t seem to have been covered by Google Streetview yet.  Only the areas around Seoul in the north-west and Busan on the south-east coast, as well as some National Parks are included in the coverage. My painting shows the view looking towards Bukhansan National Park from Seoul.  Here is the link to it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Here’s what we did in Iran II

On our second day in Iran we flew to Tabriz, in the Northwest corner of the country, where we saw all the important sights, the highlight of which was the historic Blue Mosque of Tabriz. The picture on the left shows me inside this mosque, wearing the headscarf required at all times in Iran. We ended our day with dinner in a pavilion on El Goli, the famous square lake in the centre of the city. As it was Thursday evening, the beginning of the week-end, after dinner we joined hundreds of local families enjoying a stroll on the entertainment-filled perimeter of the lake.

Watercolour, crayon and computer
©2017 Charlene Brown

The next day we drove to some remote archaeological sites, the first of which was the still-inhabited 800-year-old conical cliff dwellings of Kandovan.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Here’s what we did in Iran I

Watercolour, marker, crayon and computer
©2017 Charlene Brown

From April 5 to 17 I was one of 20 participants on a marvelous tour ‘Treasures of Iran’ organized by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and guided by Barry Till, the Gallery’s Curator of Asian Arts.

I started (barely) several sketches while I was there, but we had so many places to go and things to do that I am only now actually finishing any of them.

This first sketch is the view of the Milad Tower and the Alborz Mountains from our hotel in Tehran ... except I have made it the view from nearby Laleh Park and included the hotel (the whitish building with the distinctive Y-shape) in the picture. Because I can.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids VI e – Paris

One day, after spending the morning in the Musée d’Orsay we had lunch in their palatial dining room.

I should mention that, except for the trip to Giverny and the garden party in the suburbs, all our movements around Paris were on the Métro  and we averaged six trains a day!  Can you imagine two guides shepherding 13 grandparents and 11 kids between platforms, up and down escalators, through turnstiles where you had to retrieve your ticket, and out the correct exits to get us all to the side of the boulevard we expected to be on  every time? Fortunately, the kids who leaped off the train at the wrong stop were all quite capable of leaping back on, and none of the rest of us who couldn’t leap anywhere had a heart attack!

On the last night in Paris, we went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkling, and I made a video of the show… on purpose, unlike most of the videos I make with my digital camera.
Then I decided to take advantage of our unique position to take some regular pictures in other directions, including the view I’ve painted here, looking up the Avenue de la Grande Armée and Avenue Charles de Gaulle to La Défense.

Begun in 1958, La Défense is Europe’s largest purpose-built business district, featuring many skyscrapers and La Grande Arche, a twentieth century version of the Arc de Triomphe we were standing on (and at 110 metres, twice as high).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Virtual Paintout in Tunisia

Punic Ruins at Carthage
Watercolour and crayon
Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout is in Tunisia this month.  It didn’t take long to find this location on Google Streetview, an archaeological site now part of the city of Tunis, with a view of the Jebel Boukornine in the distance,  as I’d been there before…

I did a computer painting of almost this exact location in 2009, based on two of my own photographs from a UVic Travel Study program in North Africa in 2006. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids VI d – Paris

We went on many excursions within the city, including Notre Dame, the Louvre the picture on the left shows Rachel and me with the Winged Victory and some of the other thousands of people who were there that day and the Paris ‘beach’ on the Seine, built for people who couldn’t get to the real French beaches on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

One evening we were invited to a garden party at the home of one of our guides in a suburb on the outskirts of Paris. The food was marvelous and the entertainment incredible. First, all the kids were taught how to paint ‘just like Monet,’ then a magician mystified us all.  We were told he was just for the kids, but he was really good and I don’t think anyone figured out any of his illusions. Rachel and I certainly didn’t. 

On the right, below, is Rachel’s ‘Lily pond, après Monet.’

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids VI c – Paris

Our day in Monet’s garden at Giverny was perfect in every way except I may have taken a few too many pictures of Rachel (check the expression in the one on the right, below). I even had a chance to start these two sketches, unlike the first time I visited Giverny, when I was so awed by the output of the dozens of other painters who appeared to have been there since dawn, that I didn’t even get my paints out. Even our lunch at Giverny was a big hit with both age groups les salades au homard for us and fish & chips for the kids.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids VI b – Paris

Statue of Liberty
Watercolour and marker
©2016 Charlene Brown

There really is a replica of the Statue of Liberty on the tip of the Île aux Cygnes in the River Seine, and it’s visible from the lunch level of the Eiffel Tower. I’ve exaggerated the apparent randomness of the tower’s ironwork, but I didn’t make up the statue, which you can see in about the exact middle of the top half of the painting.

By the way, when one of our group’s guides asked us if we knew how to say Eiffel Tower in French, about half of us did, but Rachel was the only one who pronounced it correctly! (So much for the ‘Calgary’ accent some of her cousins, who attended a francophone school in British Columbia, have teased her about.)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids VI a – Paris

Montmartre from Eiffel Tower level 2
Watercolour sketch
©2013 Charlene Brown

In 2013 I took my youngest grandchild, Rachel, who is Phil and Dan’s little sister on a Road Scholar trip to Paris. This sketch and the Painting I’ll post in a few days were done from pictures I took the day we went up the Eiffel Tower.

On our first day, we explored Montmartre, touching the hand of the original ‘Passe-muraille’ -- the Man Who Walked through Walls, climbing all the way up to Basilica du Sacré-Coeur and lunching in the square where artists have congregated for more than a hundred years. In fact dozens of them were painting or sketching en plein air while we were there.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids V e – Honduras

Just before our return to Canada we spent two nights on Utila, one of the islands in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. This reef, the longest in the Western Hemisphere, extends from the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula along the Mayan Riviera, past Belize and Guatemala to the Bay Islands of Honduras. Utila is the smallest of these islands.

The first painting I started on Utila focused entirely on what I could see of the coral beds looking down into the shallow water close to the shore (augmented by what I could remember of the underwater view I’d had during an inept couple of minutes of snorkeling.)

It wasn’t until the second morning we were on the island that I discovered this stunning view looking back toward the Nombre de Dios mountains on the mainland of Honduras. They’d had a fair bit of rain on the mainland, (we knew that) so none of this was visible when we first arrived. Pico Bonito, on the right, is the tallest peak in this part of the range.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Another Canadian landscape not in Alberta or British Columbia

Toronto from 20 km west
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2017 Charlene Brown

This was the view from the apartment in Mississauga just west of the Rattray Marsh, where we lived in the 1980s.
When I was thinking of a name for the painting, I determined the distance to Toronto using Google Maps, and will admit I had thought it was much further, as it took a full hour on the GO Train to get there.

I only ever saw this combination of black thunderclouds and luminous pale green lake a couple of times during the four years we lived there, but it’s what I remember the best.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids V d – Honduras

In the next couple of days, we experienced some extremes of tropical weather – blazing near-vertical noon-day sun at a museum near ­Copan, followed by drenching rain in San Pedro Sula.

At the museum we saw a full-scale replica of a Mayan temple, inside of which was a strobe-flashing presentation of some of the legends represented on the carved and painted exterior walls. After the show, the kids were invited to draw their versions of the stories. Here is Adam’s interpretation of the legend explaining the Equinox (I think).

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Can you guess where this is?

Tombstone Territorial Park
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

If you are thinking perhaps this is in the same part of Canada we were in the last time I asked you to guess, Yukon,  you are exactly right.

Grizzly Lake, shown here, is accessible from the Dempster Highway, Canada’s first all-weather road to cross the Arctic Circle. 

The highway is named after Inspector Jack Dempster, who joined the Royal Northwest Mounted Police in 1897 and went on to render outstanding service in Yukon for a total of 37 years.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids V c – Honduras

We spent a full (by which I mean really full) day exploring the extensive, multi-level archaeological site at Copan. Most of the time, the kids were at least two levels ahead of us.
When we were there the hieroglyphic stairway was under a protective tarpaulin, making it tricky, but not impossible, to paint – it was pretty much impossible to photograph! The reason for the tarpaulin was that the steps and sculpture were being cleaned and repaired in preparation for the end of the world. I will explain...
In the 8th century, a remarkably accurate circular calendar was devised (and carved in stone) by the Mayans. It defined lengths of years and the timing of seasons for more than a millennium into the future – all the way to what would be December 21, 2012 on the calendar we use today. This led some people to believe that the Mayans had predicted the world would end that day. In Copan.
By 2011 it was pretty widely agreed that this probably wouldn’t happen, but it was decided to proceed with an appropriate ceremony the following year anyway.

The painting is a made-up view of the site, and the photograph on the right shows what we could actually see of the hieroglyphic stairway.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Virtual Paintout in Ghana

St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica
Watercolour and crayon
Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout is in Ghana this month.    Ghana, Senegal and the Canary Islands appear to be the only parts of West Africa to have been Streetviewed by Google. The Virtual Paintout was in the Canary Islands in 2010. Here is a link to my entry.

As the whole country is available for the Virtual Paintout, I spent quite a while motoring around the countryside before I selected this very paintable scene just outside the Central Market in the city of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region. Here is the link to it.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids Vb - Honduras

We’ve all heard great things about shade-grown coffee – well, here’s another one. If you’re going mountain climbing on a coffee plantation, a shady one can be wonderfully cool on a hot July day in Honduras! I should mention we didn’t actually climb up the mountain, but were taken up in the truck in this painting (first coffee truck we’d ever seen with seating for 25). At the top the kids planted a couple of dozen coffee bushes, sort of ably-assisted by all of us grandparents – it couldn’t have taken us more than 10 times as long as the regular workers…  Then we climbed down 1143 steps carved into the steep slope, to the processing area, where we had a picnic of hot tamales and coffee (what else?).

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids V a - Honduras

In 2011, I took Keara and Nick’s younger brother, Adam, on a Road Scholar Intergenerational trip to Honduras.
I had big painting plans for this trip, but we were kept so busy – first hiking in the rain forest, swimming in rock pools, watching the kids learn how to prepare tostadas and play the marimba (not surprisingly, Adam was top of the class in both) and whitewater rafting on the Rio Humuya, that I didn’t actually complete anything!

I did paint and mail a couple of postcards I had promised to mail to friends in Europe, but I didn't complete the rest of my (barely) started cards, such as the Cannonball tree below, until after we returned to Canada.

This is what you see if you look up through the lower branches of one of the huge Couroupita guianensis lining the roads at the Lancetilla Botanical Garden in Honduras.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids IV e – Peru

Back in Lima for our return flight to Vancouver the following day, our Farewell Dinner was held in the best part of town. We were ushered into one of the townhouses of the Conquistadors near the Cathedral Plaza – except that our guide encouraged us to use the term explorer rather than conquistador, which means conqueror.

Here’s Nick looking around the spectacular gilded foyer of a home originally built by a ‘friend of the explorer Francisco Pizarro.’ 

The Cathedral Plaza was painted from photos taken at its spectacular best, the way it looks just after dinner – at about 11 pm!

As I recall, a surprising number of our inter-generational group would have joined the crowd around the fountain were it not for a bus driver who was pretty determined to get us back to our hotel before midnight!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids IV d – Peru

These salt-evaporation ponds are four kilometers north of the town of Maras, down a canyon that descends to the Rio Vilcanota and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The salt pans were built by the Incas almost seven hundred years ago and are still being used. An intricate irrigation system diverts an extremely salty (yes, of course we tasted it) natural stream into shallow dug-out shelves, and as the water evaporates the salt settles out.

The sketch on the left was barely started on location (well, back at the hotel) in Peru, as there is actually way more work involved in starting than you’d think. Just deciding how many of the 2000 odd salt pans to include in the picture took quite a while. 

This postcard shows the jagged walls of Sacsayhuaman, an Incan ruin on a mountainside above the city of Cusco, which can be seen in the background. The huge stone blocks weigh up to 200 tons, and nobody knows how they were cut, moved and fitted (perfectly) into place! The words ‘Viva El Peru’ on the far side of the valley are actually lighter than their surroundings and started out written in a white crayon resist on this postcard… but the resist lost its grip along the way, and I decided to use ink instead.
 And here’s Nick on top of the wall lest you get the impression from the postcard picture that the wall surrounding  the Sacsayhuaman citadel is of ordinary size at all.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids IV c – Peru

Moray Agricultural Complex – Incas used these precisely irrigated circular terraces for agricultural experimentation, taking advantage of the sharp elevation differentials and dramatic microclimate variation.

I found my GPS useful for identifying landmarks by plotting latitude and longitude and direction of view, and noting these figures in my sketchbook. The mountain peak on the right, seen from this viewpoint (located at 13 degrees south, 73 degrees west, looking WNW) was later identified as Veronique.

 Here is a detailed view of Nick’s version of Moray. He actually climbed down to the lowest (and hottest) level of the complex, so included the cantilevered stone steps between the terraces in his painting.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Virtual Paintout in Nashville

Music City from the Riverfront transit station
Watercolour and crayon
Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout is in Nashville this month. It’s the capital of Tennessee, so I first considered this telephoto streetview of the State Capitol from Jefferson Street, but then decided this shot of Music City from the Riverfront transit Station was quite a bit more interesting and, of course, more uniquely ‘Nashville.’

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids IV b - Peru

Whitewater rafting turned out to be much more fun than I thought it would be! This painting is based on a photo of a wonderfully calm stretch of the river. The waves are totally a product of my Masquepen-fueled imagination. But they did happen. Three times!

I used a surprising amount of masking fluid to preserve the white areas in both the paintings shown here, as well as using it to draw the quipu in the overlaid painting I posted February 9.

In this painting of Potato Farmers in the Andes, based on a picture taken almost directly into the morning sun in the northeast sky, masking was used to bring out back-lighting effects on the glacier and the figures in the foreground.

We learned that potatoes originated in Peru, and they have preserved and include in their diet hundreds of varieties of them. Surprises every day for my grandson and myself, accustomed to eating maybe two and a half varieties.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids IV a – Peru

In 2009, I took Keara’s brother, Nick, on a Disney Expedition to Peru. Our main objective was either to explore Incan archaeology or go white-water rafting on the Urubamba, depending on which one of us you were talking to...
I had actually starting writing my blog at that time so, rather than just repeating the Peru blog posts from May and June 2009, I’ll add some new pictures. This first is an overlay of three paintings from my sketchbook: 
  • a structure (part of the water system at Ollantaytambo) with a typical Incan step design, 
  • a quipu – an intricate knotted cord accounting system (base 10, apparently) used by the Incas and earlier Andean civilizations, 
  • and probably the most famous place in Peru, Machu Picchu. The last part was started on location just below the Guardian’s Hut near the top of the archaeological site – while I waited for my grandson and other energetic members of our group to return from a climb to the Incan Bridge.

The second picture is a photograph of an outdoor dance performance of the legend of Apocatequi, the Incan god of lightning. The dancers were all on two-meter stilts and the lighting was eerie and mesmerizing – and, as you can see, impossible to guess a good camera setting for!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Not even in a Province this time

Mount Thor
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

This huge granite spike is located in Auyuitttuq National Park on Baffin Island in Nunavut.
I’ve seen it described as the coolest-looking mountain in Canada... Okay, I can agree with that, given that its 1250 m west face is the longest purely vertical drop on earth. But it’s also been described as the meanest-looking mountain in Canada, which I couldn’t understand until I realized they were talking about climbing it! Apparently there were 30 attempts to climb Thor Peak before a team managed to scale it in 1985. It took them almost five weeks – what were they thinking?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Not in Alberta or British Columbia

Kakabeka Falls
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

Kakabeka Falls are on the TransCanada Highway 30 km west of Thunder Bay. At 40 meters, it is the second highest waterfall in Ontario.  (The much better-known Niagara is only 11 meters higher.)

Not only is it a very pretty waterfall, Kakabeka comes with a great story… An Ojibwe Chief instructed his daughter, Princess Green Mantle, to devise a plan to protect her people from an imminent Sioux invasion. She entered the Sioux camp along the Kaministiquia River and, pretending to be lost, bargained with them to spare her life if she would guide them to her father’s camp. Placed in the bow of the lead canoe, she instead led the warriors and herself over the falls to their deaths. The legend claims that one can see Green Mantle when looking into the mist of Kakabeka Falls, a monument to the princess who gave her life to save her people…

If I’d remembered that story when I was painting this I would have included her in the picture.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Another Canadian Landscape

Bow Valley
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

In my Review of 2016/Plan for 2017 blog post earlier this month, I said I’d produced 10 poems using 'found' haiku and computer-stylized versions of my Canadian landscape paintings, and I was going to compile up to 50 of these poems on computer-stylized landscapes.

I don’t actually have 50 Canadian landscapes (that I like) painted, so I’ll be adding to the supply between blog posts about my travels.

I hope to concentrate on parts of Canada I haven’t painted much before, and this isn’t a great start on that aspect of the project.  This location, Canmore, is just a few miles downriver from Banff, which I have painted many times.

My next one will definitely be in a province other than Alberta or British Columbia.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids III e – Edinburgh and Glasgow

From the outset, the Scottish Parliament building and its construction were controversial. Begun in 1999 with completion planned for 2001, it actually opened in 2004, £400 million over-budget. The design won numerous awards including the 2005 Stirling Prize, and, according to Wikipedia, has been described as a tour de force of Arts & Crafts design and quality ‘without parallel.’  It also placed fourth in a 2008 poll on what UK buildings people would most like to see demolished.

I think the driver on the tour bus Keara and I were on in 2007 might have been one of the folks who placed this building so high in the demolition rankings the following year. We drove by so fast that, by the time he even mentioned what it was, we'd missed most of it.

On to Glasgow, where I had been looking forward to showing Keara the Gallery of Modern Art.  It’s housed in the iconic former Stock Exchange building, the columns and façade of which had been undergoing a major cleaning the last time I was in Glasgow. It was a little disappointing to find that the cleaning had apparently gone so well that they decided to wrap the elegant Corinthian capitals snugly in layers of black netting to keep them clean and pigeon-free.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Travels with our Grandkids III d – Edinburgh

Verdigris stags rampant
©2013 Charlene Brown

Rule #1 for beginning urban sketchers: Do not attempt to draw fantastic architectural features such as the Crown Spire on the tower of St. Giles in Edinburgh.

Rule #2 (a):  If you have broken Rule #1, cover fantastic feature with ivy or a large tree, or failing that...

Rule #2 (b) Create a diversion by giving your picture a mystifying name, such as ‘Verdigris stags rampant.’

There really are some stags rampant guarding the base of the statue in front of St. Giles. Here’s a close-up of two of them.

And here's the picture of Keara I used to paint St Giles. She is wearing the soccer shirt we had just bought because we were freezing. In July.