Saturday, May 19, 2018

What the Eighth Century looked like around the World

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 used either facts I'd learned while visiting archaeological sites or looked up when I was writing blog posts about them. While making some additions to this timeline recently, I noticed I have painted archaeological sites from the Americas, Asia and the Middle East dating from the eighth century CE, but didn’t have anything from Europe for that time period, where the time from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries was referred to as the Dark Ages. The first painting below fills the gap.  It and the other paintings posted here do not in fact show ‘what the eighth century looked like’ at all.  They show what some eighth century sites look like now.
AachenThe Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle in Aachen Germany, is one of the oldest in Europe. Construction started in the late eighth century by order of Charlemagne.  It was heavily damaged in the ninth century by Vikings and restored in the tenth century. Originally Carollingian in style, with Gothic additions in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the cathedral was again heavily damaged, and restored, in the twentieth century. 

Copan, in what is now Honduras, known as the Athens of the New World, was founded in the fifth century and construction continued through the 700-year Golden Age of Mayan Culture.  The Hieroglyphic Stairway shown here, which has enabled historians to decipher the Mayan language, was completed in the eighth century.

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is an example of Umayyad architecture which developed in the Middle East in the seventh and eighth centuries, at the beginning of Islam. Completed at the beginning of the eighth century, the Dome was built on the Temple Mount, site of Herod’s  Temple in the first century BCE and a subsequent Roman temple in the second century CE, and may have been an addition to an existing Byzantine building.  It collapsed and was restored after earthquakes in the ninth and eleventh centuries, became a Christian church after the Crusaders captured Jerusalem at the end of the eleventh century and was re-consecrated as a Muslim shrine in the late twelfth century.

Meanwhile in the Far East, the Bulguksa Temple was completed by the Court of Silla in the eighth century.  Considered a masterpiece of the Golden Age of Buddhist art, the temple encompasses seven National treasures of South Korea, including two stone pagodas, the Blue Cloud Bridge and two bronze statues of the Buddha. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Maquinna Marine Provincial Park

Maquinna Marine Provincial Park

Incoming Tide at Hot Springs Cove
Watercolour and oil pastels
©2018 Charlene Brown

This park is located northwest of Tofino in the Clayoquot Sound region of the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Twenty-five years ago the area was widely known as the site of the ‘War in the Woods,’ a series of protests related to clearcutting in Clayoquot Sound, which culminating in the arrest of 900 people in 1993 the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian History.

Hot Springs Cove is only accessible by water or air plus a slippery two-kilometre hike through old growth rainforest. The geothermally heated water starts out at 50 C degrees, then cools down through a series of pools and waterfalls.  Unlike the folks shown here, very few people actually get all the way into the top pool.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Overlaying Archaeological Sketches

Antikythera mechanism

Antikythera mechanism
Watercolour, oil pastel, marker
©2018 Charlene Brown

An intricate mechanism, considered to be the world’s first analog computer dating from the first century BCE, was found in 1900 in a shipwreck near the island of Antikythera in Greece. The recovered fragments of what became known as the Antikythera Mechanism are in the National Archeological Museum in Athens. I have reassembled these fragments and overlaid the result on a sketch I made at the archaeological site of the school where Poseidonius taught in Rhodes.

There are many theories as to who designed and built this ingenious mechanism. Our tour guide on a shore excursion from a Black Sea cruise in 2007 was a firm believer in the hypothesis, based on x-ray computed tomography and notations about solar eclipses, that it did in fact originate at this location in Rhodes.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Virtual tree-planting

Lake McArthur

Lake McArthur
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

I’ve never been to Lake McArthur, although it's quite close to Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park.  This painting is based on some pictures of Lake McArthur I found on the internet. I had assumed the stunted timberline-type trees were larch, a deciduous conifer that changes colour, spectacularly, in the fall. After looking more closely at various photographs, I realized they were spruce, a regular conifer. But I had my heart set on orange trees, so these are transplants from the Opabin Plateau, behind and below the mountain on the extreme left. I’ve been there and I know the plateau has lots of larch, because I've painted them. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Elevate viewpoint and telescope perspective

Victoria new bridge

Springtime in Victoria
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

Here we are in Victoria, complaining about  our late spring while the rest of the country is still enduring ice storms and record-breaking April snowfalls. Our snow storms are pink, and consist of petals from plum and cherry trees which began blossoming in March (should have been
February) and the tulip magnolias are now in full bloom.

The title of this blog post hints at how I composed this view of Victoria Harbour. It is based on a panorama photograph taken from a much lower angle, which only hints at the various details. Individual blossoming trees cannot actually be seen in the original, and putting three cruise ships at Ogden Point was a bit of a stretch.  The cruise season is barely underway and so far we’ve only had two ships stop here on their way from the Caribbean to the Alaska run.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Industrial Symbiosis Haiku

Ottawa, the view from Gatineau
Watercolour and crayon
©2018 Charlene Brown

The ultra modern National Gallery of Canada, far left, was designed to reflect the design of the Gothic Revival Parliamentary Library across the Rideau Canal from it, just to the left of the Peace Tower in the picture on the left.

Quantum computing, working with qubits, is different from (well really, much better than) binary digital computing which can only have two values, 0 and 1. Qubits can hold exponentially more information than bits. 

The enhanced capability of quantum computing will be handy for designing something as complex as industrial symbiosis, which is an association between two or more industrial facilities or companies in which the wastes or by-products (such as CO2) of one become the raw materials for another.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Haiku beyond Fossil Fuels

Off Bonavista
Watercolour and crayon
©2018 Charlene Brown

At first glance, this haiku doesn’t seem to relate to icebergs directly, but may hint at a connection to climate change...

Inductive charging uses an electromagnetic field to charge a battery-powered device wirelessly.

A zero-carbon emitter is an energy producer that doesn’t give off CO2 or CH4 – something beyond fossil fuels, in other words.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Expanding Archaeological Sketches

Palastruine at Carnuntum
Watercolour, oil pastel and marker
©2018 Charlene Brown

This painting is the second enlargement of one of the sketches I made during a Travel Study Program in theBalkans in 2014.  As I mentioned when I posted the original sketch, this part of the Roman archaeological site at Carnuntum, about half way between Vienna and Bratislava, was so large and elaborate that it was mistakenly labelled the palastruine (Palace Ruin).  It is, in fact, a spa complex, possibly the largest Roman Baths north of the Alps.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The added dimension of time

Pincher Creek wind turbines
The area shown in this painting is a particularly windy part of ­Alberta, the province widely portrayed as the source of the world’s dirtiest oil.

A liquid battery is one that stores energy in liquid salt solutions which can last for over a decade, using modified molecules in the electrolytes so that they’re stable, water-soluble and resistant to degradation over (the added dimension of) time. Storage batteries such as lithium-ion packs can easily become useless after a few years of heavy use.

Post that explains this haiku project can be found by clicking on Computer-Generated Clean Energy Haiku 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A ‘randomly chosen’ haiga

Egypt Lake

The word 'divide' in the last line of this haiku, suggested overlaying the poem on this computer-stylized version of a painting of Egypt Lake on the Continental Divide.
The connection of Lines 2 and 3 to Clean Energy Haiku may be mystifying:
·       titanium dioxide is used in dye-sensitized solar cells to improve efficiency
·       divide and conquer by looking for possible ways to separate aspects of a problem that have always been together, and assumed to be inseparable

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Illustrating Creative Nonfiction

Carleton University from Vincent Massey Park
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

This computer-stylized version of a painting (which was based on a Google Streetview of Carleton University) will be used to illustrate Chapter 3 of the multi-generational creative nonfiction journal I’m writing. It occurred to me just after I’d completed the painting that, as Chapter 3 begins in 1958, before most of these buildings on the Carleton University campus were built, I’d been a bit too creative. So, I will have to render them into an ethereal future projection and work that into the story. Somehow.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The joy of figuring out haiku non-sequiturs

Consolation Lake

Richard Feynman was famously motivated by the joy of figuring things out. His scientific journey earned him a Nobel Prize. Let’s see how joyfully this poem can be figured out.

Line 1 is a little less enigmatic if you Google eponymous laws: Many scientific phenomena are defined by eponymous laws or principles or rules, named after the person who first discovered or defined them – Avogadro, Newton, Mendel, Planck – and most of us can’t remember them (with the notable exception of Murphy, whose law everyone remembers). The line still doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is less enigmatic.

Most Canadians will know the meaning of line 2 – Wayne Gretsky was known for his uncanny ability to take control of the puck by getting to where it would be. Everyone wants to be like Gretzky and skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.

It’s been a while since I explained what this haiku project is about.  If you`d like to read that post again, click on Computer-Generated Clean Energy Haiku.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Virtual Return to Palm Springs

Palm Springs

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

When we were in Palm Springs for Christmas in 2016 and we went up the tramway – a truly spectacular trip along the Chino Canyon – I made a couple of very small watercolour sketches. After returning home, I produced a larger painting of one of them, the view from the top.  Now that we’re not going to the States so much, I found myself getting a little nostalgic and decided to do something with that other sketch. This view back up the mountain, when it was starting to get dark includes palm trees at the base, silvery-white ghost trees in the ravines, and finally the huge Christmas tree at the top.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A surprising place to find great pictures

Bow Lake
Bow Lake
Watercolour and oil pastel
Charlene Brown

I have a few Pinterest pages so I get a lot of suggestion from those people with pictures of mountains, especially the Canadian Rockies.  Sometimes it seems like 40% of them are Moraine Lake, which is fine (it’s quite spectacular) but usually what I’m looking for is a place I haven’t already painted. When I started looking for pictures of Bow Lake, I was surprised they were few and far between until I thought of looking on Google Streetview. The ‘street’ that the Google camera was viewing in this case is the Icefields Parkway (one of my favourite streets) and here is a link to my favourite Streetview on the Parkway.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Blue ocean haiku

Lake Minnewanka
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

This of course isn’t the ocean at all – it’s a very deep blue lake in Alberta. It’s in the front range of the Rockies and it’s not glacier-fed so, unlike most of the lakes and rivers in the area it doesn’t have the famous turquoise colouring.

The phrase in the third line, blue ocean thinking, results in ‘blue ocean’ innovation – non-disruptive innovation that doesn’t take anyone else’s market share or make them obsolete. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

They replaced the bridge despite my orders

Victoria new bridge
The Songhees Bridge
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

In a 2009 blog post entitled, ‘Don’t replace our bridge!’  I mentioned how fond we were of the 85-year-old bottleneck between us and downtown Victoria. In fact, I was simply following some blogging advice about ways to get people’s attention when I decided on that title for the post. Unlike many Victorians, I wasn’t that upset that the old bridge was going to be replaced. 

And I think the new one – the largest single-leaf bascule bridge in Canada and one of the largest in the world – is beautiful.  BTW, it doesn’t have a name yet Songhees is just my preference among the many names that have been suggested so far.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Libyco-Punic Mausoleum and other newer ruins
watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

Dougga, located in northwestern Tunisia, is considered to be the best preserved example of an Africo-Roman town in North Africa. 

I have rearranged and condensed the city in this painting in order to fit the Libyco-Punic Mausoleum the only monument of this type known in the ancient world into the composition.  It is the tall structure in the upper right hand corner of the painting.  Originally built in the second century BCE when the area was a Phoenician colony, the mausoleum had an important bilingual Numidian and Punic-Libyan inscription that enabled archaeologists to decipher the original alphabet.

Dougga was annexed into the Roman province of Africa in 46 BCE and flourished under Roman rule with many important structures built during the second and third centuries CE.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Tidal power haiku

Pangnirtung Fjord

The northern end of this fjord is in Auyuittuq National Park, the most accessible of the ­National Parks in Nunavut – which is to say, it’s hardly accessible at all.

It lies within an area said to have the second highest tides in the world which, combined with its remoteness, makes it a good candidate for tidal power. On-site power generation would provide electricity to charge electric cars, trucks and ATVs, reducing the need for expensive fuel shipments.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Traditional Berber designs
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

Ghadames is an oasis in Libya, about 450 km southwest of Tripoli, near the Tunisian and Algerian borders. The old part of town, which I visited in 2006 as part of a University of Victoria travel study program, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The buildings inside the walled part of the city are remarkably cool, because their thick, nearly-windowless walls are painted bright white. 

The intricate red decorations that I have added are actually inside the houses and are, as far as I know, unique to Ghadames. The Berber designs used include elongated triangles, diamonds, the sun, the moon, palm trees and the Tuareg cross.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Traffic congestion haiku

Rush Hour in Squamish

This is a spectacular place to be stuck in traffic, half-way between Vancouver and Whistler, with an Emily Carr-inspired ­forest and Mt. Garibaldi catching the last rays of the setting sun – contemplating what all the idling vehicles are doing to the atmosphere.

A Google search of the term in the second line, disruptive discovery, produces one million results! There’s even a free weekly Disruptive Discoveries Journal that is focused on uncovering and interpreting both the opportunities and challenges in the natural resources, biotech, and technology sectors resulting from the convergence.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Remote site power haiku

Thor Peak

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... with which I certainly agree, given that its 1250 m west face is the longest purely vertical drop on earth.

It is also a great (not particularly random) choice for a background to a haiku poem beginning with ‘remote site power.’  The next line, ‘using emissions …’ could refer to combining carbon dioxide and water using the energy in sunlight to form hydocarbon fuels – a process which has been developed, but is not likely to prove economically viable, except in really remote sites. This haiku comes closer to making sense than most…

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


Cyrene libya

Looking north from the agora
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

In Tunisia and Libya on a University of Victoria travel study program ‘Exploring Roman Africa’ in 2006, I painted tiny sketches in a spiral-bound watercolour book. Recently I have started expanding some of my favourites. Cyrene is one of them.

Originally a Greek colony, situated in a lush valley near the Mediterranean coast in eastern Libya, Cyrene was one of the principal cities in the Hellenic world.  It was Romanized and remained a great capital until the earthquake of 365 CE. The agora is an excellent illustration of the claim that more mosaics have been preserved in the Roman provinces of North Africa than anywhere else in the empire, and the North African mosaics exhibit more vibrant colours than their Italian counterparts. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Illustrating Creative Nonfiction

Glasgow 1897
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

A computer-stylized version of this painting, which was based on old photos of the Tolbooth Steeple in Glasgow Cross, will form the underpainting of a computer collage illustrating the ‘young adult’ or YA novella I have started.  

The novella is multi-generational journal being written in the ever-evolving genre of creative nonfiction. Chapter 1 (a draft of which is the only part I’ve actually written) begins in Glasgow, just before the electrification of the tram system.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Persepolis Iran

Gate of Xerxes
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

Unlike last week, I know exactly how much of this ruin is still there, as I took the photos this painting is based on last April.  Most of the damage to Persepolis was done by Alexander the Great when he invaded Persia in 330 BCE.

The background and the gate from this angle were in separate photos.  The mountains were actually off to the right quite a bit, but of course I wanted to include them in the painting.  And I also wanted to paint the gate from this angle because of the two Assyrian-style Lamassu supporting the pillars, compared to the relatively ordinary bulls at the other end.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

How much of this is still there?

Watercolour and crayon
©2018 Charlene Brown

There was a great deal of speculation in 2015, when ISIS was known to be trying to destroy the ‘Venice of the sands,’ that they might succeed in leveling Palmyra and other ancient sites completely. It’s hard to say just how much of the portion of the ruins  shown here might still exist, even when ‘before and after’ pictures of the ancient caravan city  are available.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Abstracting landscapes I’ve painted before

Beaver Pond at Third Lake
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2018 Charlene Brown

To achieve an abstracted landscape, I’m using a technique employed by oil and acrylic painters – instead of doing a pencil drawing, I’ve ‘roughed in’ the basic shapes using oil pastels, then gradually refined the overall composition with boldly-applied layers of paint. 

As usual, this painting ended up quite a bit less bold or even ‘rough’ than I’d hoped it would be, and more detail than I wanted found its way past the ‘resist’ of the oil pastel. 

Despite this, I will continue to try to abstract familiar scenes, mainly from the Rockies, possibly  allowing my inner ‘Hundertwasser’ a bit more leeway.   

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review of 2017 + Plan for 2018

Many Springs Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park
©2017 Charlene Brown

Here are some highlights of a review of 1150 Words in 2017 and my plans this blog in 2018:

·       Travel journaling:  I completed a project begun in 2016 to expand on the sketches and paintings my grandchildren and I produced during the trips I took with them between 2004 and 2013.  There were 30 blog posts in total which I compiled, with additional photographs, into a 29-page booklet.

·        Clean energy haiku/haiga project:  I have produced 50 poems using ‘found’ haiku and computer-stylized versions of landscape paintings from all the Provinces and Territories of Canada. So far I have compiled 14 of these illustrated poems, with a plan to include up to 50, in a book, ‘Inventing the Future with Clean Energy Haiku.’

·       I attended a workshop in Writing for Children at Camosun College here in Victoria, during which I completed a first draft of the first chapter of a YA novella. I hope to complete a first draft of the whole book in 2018. The illustrations will be computer-generated.

·       My blog metadata indicates that in 2017 I added 20 archaeology-related blog posts to the 77 posts I’d written previously.  Three of these were from Virtual Paintouts, two from a trip to Ireland with my daughters, ten from a trip to Iran with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and five from My Travels with Our Grandkids. I plan to begin compiling the ones I like into an archaeological review.