Sunday, April 5, 2020

Our expanded 1993 Christmas letter

Click on image to enlarge
Screenshot of a 3-page Christmas letter
Adobe InDesign™ document
©2020 Charlene Brown

Here’s another Christmas letter, with the addition of a sketch of the rock-cut tombs at Petra in Jordan, and an overlay painting of a caracal lynx.

As you may have guessed, I’m not actually doing any painting these days – the seniors’ centre where I normally paint is closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and I don’t have a space set up for painting in our condo.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Missing from 1994

Bidaya Mosque
Watercolour sketch
©1994 Charlene Brown

In our 1994 Christmas letter, I mentioned a trip to the emirate of Fujeirah on the east coast of the UAE with visitors from Canada. There was a photo of our friends at the tiny Bidaya Mosque, and I am planning to add this watercolour sketch of the mosque to the expanded letter, which I will write a blog post about in a few days.

The entire UAE has been pretty well covered by Google Streetview so I took a tour along what was a winding coast road in 1994, to see what the mosque looks like now. As you can see below, it looks much the same, but the winding coast road has definitely been upgraded.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Our expanded 1992 Christmas Letter

Click on image to enlarge
Screen shot of a 3-page Christmas letter
Adobe InDesign document
©2020 Charlene Brown

Here's another Christmas letter, with two paintings added: Active Pass between Galiano and Mayne Islands, and the Fort at Bahla in Oman.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Gardens as Art: Aesthetic Journeys around the World IV

Imperial East Garden in Tokyo
Watercolour and crayon
@2015 Charlene Brown

The fourth of this year’s Sunday Art Lecture Series, Shibusa Aesthetics: Spontaneity in Japanese Gardens” was to have taken place March 29, but has been postponed to October 4.

According to Dr. David Young, who will present this lecture, "The goal of a traditional Japanese garden is to re-create nature in an artistic way that improves upon nature. But can something be natural and artificial at the same time? This interesting challenge was met in Japan with the concept of shibusa, which can be translated as ‘restrained spontaneity’ and has been used to create gardens that are not really spontaneous and natural but appear to be so."

I sketched this part of the Imperial Gardens during a tour of Japan with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in November 2015.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Gardens as Art: Aesthetic Journeys around the World III

Sculpture Garden
Watercolour and oil pastel
Charlene Brown

The third of this year’s Sunday Art Lecture Series, Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Giardino dei Tarocchi” in Italy was to have taken place today, but has been postponed to October 25.

This park-like property in Tuscany is filled with enormous otherworldly female figures assemblages made of bizarre collections of objects, evoking a sense of the absurd.  A stroll through the garden is apparently “a magical experience” that I have never had. The painting above is based on several photos found on the internet

I’d like to see it for real (some day when we’re able to go back to Italy) so I looked up its location. It’s shown on the map on the right should you too be wondering.                          

Friday, March 20, 2020

Gardens as Art: Aesthetic Journeys around the World II

Matarea Garden
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2020 Charlene Brown

At the second Sunday  Art Lecture, on March 8, Dr. Marcus Milwright described many aspects – artistic, medicinal and religious – of this fabulous but elusive botanical wonder in Egypt.

According to legend the garden sheltered the Holy Family after they fled to escape the persecution of Herod, and early Christians considered the area sacred. Thus, in medieval times, even though it belonged to the Islamic Sultan, only Christians could harvest the valuable balsam oil.

The garden’s actual appearance is open to speculation as most of the early illustrations of it were done by European artists and mapmakers who had never actually been there. Most agree that there was a large sycamore, traditionally the ‘Virgin’s Tree,’ and an obelisk nearby (although I think the one I included is far too tall, making the garden look more like it’s in Washington DC than Cairo) and there was some sort of water mechanism, and the precious balsom shrubs (to which I’ve added orange trees) were surrounded by a wall with a guarded gate.  The detail on the right is from an illustrated map, from the 1575 edition of Sebastian Munster`s Cosmographia.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Gardens as Art: Aesthetic Journeys around the World I

Monet’s Garden
Watercolour and crayon
©2013 Charlene Brown

This year’s Sunday Lecture Series at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria opened March 1 with a beautifully illustrated presentation on Monet’s Garden at Giverny by Dr. Melissa Berry of the University of Victoria.

When Claude Monet moved to Giverny in 1883, his objective was creation. Unlike previous artistic ventures, he no longer seemed satisfied finding inspiration for his canvases in a world in which he had no control. Thus, Monet’s largest, most immersive masterwork was born, or rather cultivated. He approached his land with an artist’s eye, and continued to develop his garden, adding to and drawing inspiration from it.  It served as his subject matter until his death in 1926.

I sketched the water garden at Giverny seven years ago, after I had been there with my granddaughter on a Road Scholar Intergenerational program.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Gardens as Art – the COVID-19 Interruption

This year’s Sunday Lecture Series, an annual fundraiser organized by the Associates of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, got off to a great start with lectures on Monet’s Garden at Giverny on March 1, followed by the Matarea Garden in Cairo on March 8.  

Then came COVID-19.  So far only one case has been found on Vancouver Island, but the third and fourth lectures of the series have been postponed indefinitely – as has every large public gathering.

At least the lectures will be easier to reschedule than, for example, ‘A Conversation with Michelle Obama’ which was to have been in Victoria, her only Canadian stop, on March 31.

I will go ahead with my planned blog posts of paintings relating to each of the gardens to be featured in the series, starting on Wednesday.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Predictive Analytics

Click on image to enlarge
Just One Slide
Watercolour, oil pastel and marker
©2020 Charlene Brown

The inspiration for this painting was the Three Minute Thesis Competition one of the most popular events at the University of Victoria’s annual Ideafest. This competition challenges Master's and PhD students to describe their research “in a clear, engaging and jargon-free presentation using just one slide - in 180 seconds.” 

The graduate students’ single slides are properly annotated and labeled, but this painting of ‘Just One Slide’ is more of a ‘visualization’ and it’s going to have to speak for itself. I will just say it is a predictive analysis of three policy alternatives in transitioning off fossil fuels, and it uses data visualization rather than rigorous algorithms. Data visualization distills large datasets into visual graphics to make it easier to understand complex relationships and predict trends

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Our expanded 1991 Christmas letter

Click on image to enlarge

Screen shot of a 3-page Christmas letter
Adobe InDesign document
©2020 Charlene Brown

Here’s another Christmas letter with a painting from the Canadian Rockies added, and a bit more detail about why 1991 was the worst of times, and the best of times.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Another painting missing from 1992

Exiting Active Pass
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2020 Charlene Brown

Our Christmas letter in 1992 mentioned a stay on Galiano Island with our daughter and son-in-law and their son our first grandchild who was not quite a year old at the time. There were no photos or paintings of Galiano in the letter, so I’m going to add this view from Bluffs Park on Galiano of a ferry exiting Active Pass and heading toward Victoria.  

BC Ferries give the western tip of Mayne Island a wide berth because sea lions and orcas frequently gather at this point. I’ve included a few in the painting, though we did not actually see any orcas or sea lions when we hiked along the bluffs back in 1992.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Our expanded 1990 Christmas letter

Click on image to enlarge

Screen shot of a 3-page Christmas letter
Adobe InDesign document
©2020 Charlene Brown

One of my plans for the coming year, outlined in my blog post of January 5, was to add paintings, in this case a painting of Neuchatel Switzerland, to the photos already in the Christmas letters I wrote beginning in 1990. 

Like most of my Christmas letters, this was actually post-Christmas, written in early January 1991 in Dubai, a few days before the outbreak of Gulf War I though it is unlikely you will be able to (or want to) read these details in this thumbnail version of the letter.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

An asset worth billions

Boreal wetland
Watercolour and crayon
Charlene Brown

According to the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices publication, Don’t drain the swamp, wetlands are an asset worth billions of dollars, and fully one quarter of the global supply is found right here in Canada. 

Besides their massive economic and ecological benefits of water cleaning and flood control, wetlands are instrumental in our struggle against a changing climate. Peatlands, for example, store twice as much carbon as forests. This means that Canadians can have a robust carbon mitigation strategy simply by protecting remaining wetlands. Conversely, if wetlands continue drying up, then not only will we lose our ability to sequester carbon, but stored carbon can be released back into the atmosphere—increasing our emissions.

Click on image to enlarge
Over 13 per cent of Canada (1.3 million km2) is classified as wetland ecosystem, a term that includes marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens. Almost two thirds of these wetlands are found in the Boreal zone.  A smaller percentage is located in Montane zones, such as the fenlands in Banff National Park in the painting on the right.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Another place in Mexico I won’t be seeing (this year)

San Miguel de Allende
Watercolour, oil pastel and marker
©2020 Charlene Brown

The historic Chichimeca War (1540–1590) signalling the beginning of the end of the Spanish Empire, centered in San Miguel.  In the twentieth century, its Baroque/Neoclassical colonial structures have attracted a significant number of foreign artists, writers, retirees and tourists, including many Canadians. It’s been on my bucket list for many years.

In a 2010 VirtualPaintout blog post, I mentioned that I’d avoided painting this church because it looked too difficult (I thought about that sort of thing more back then.)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Back to Plan A

Watercolour and oil pastel
Charlene Brown

Although Plan A, a UVic travel study program, ‘Journey to Israel’ in November, is looking a little doubtful, a decision about Plan B, ‘Mexico City to Oaxaca’ in April, had to be made at the end of January. I decided not to go on the Mexican trip and the location of this painting is one of the places I won’t be seeing – so I’m painting it now instead.

Cholula, one of the stops on the Mexican trip, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas. In the painting is the Virgen de Los Remedios church, which is located at the top of the Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl (Nahuart for made-by-hand mountain), originally an Aztec temple. The church was built by the invading Spaniards who mistook the vegetation-covered pyramid for a large hill.  In the distance is the Popocatépetl (smoking mountain) volcano, about 50 km away.  

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Transitioning off fossil fuel – step 1

First hybrid-electric ferry arrives in Victoria
Watercolour and oil pastel
Charlene Brown

BC Ferries have taken delivery of the first two of several hybrid-electric ferries that will go into service on some of the short runs between the mainland, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. They came from Romania via the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean and Panama Canal on a partially submersible transport vessel, then were towed under the Johnson Street Bridge into the Upper Harbour Shipyards where they will be prepped for service.

(Their working routes will not in fact take them under the Johnson Street bridge as shown in the painting above, which is based on a photo by Darren Stone of the Times Colonist newspaper.)

The new ferries are designed to be configured for full-electric operation, but until the infrastructure for on-shore charging is in place will operate on diesel-generated, battery-stored electricity. So, not a complete switch to clean energy, but one of many important first steps in transitioning to net zero emission of GHGs that we must accomplish by 2050.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Famous Canadian Volcanoes

Mount Meager
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2020 Charlene Brown

Spoiler alert: There are only two famous Canadian volcanoes and this isn’t one of them.

Along with New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, and the American states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, we are in the Circum-Pacific belt of earthquake and volcanic activity known as the Ring of Fire.

Although we on the west coast have recently become earthquake-aware, and are (very gradually) becoming earthquake-ready, there is little awareness of the many volcanoes here in British Columbia.

Most, including one of the famous ones, Black Tusk, are extinct. Black Tusk is the upper spire of a stratovolcano, visible in the background of the Whistler Inukshuk postcard painting on the right.

Among the potentially active Canadian volcanoes, the most recent eruption occurred about 150 years ago at Lava Forks in northwestern British Columbia near the Alaska border.  

About 100 years before that, in 1775, an eruption of the Tseax Cone killed almost 2000 of the Nisga’a people.  I wrote about this eruption last year.

I have also painted the other famous Canadian volcano, Mount Garibaldi, which last erupted 8000 years ago.

As for the subject of this week’s painting Mount Meager has the distinction of being the site of the most recent big explosive eruption in British Columbia, about 2350 years ago. And a fumarole field venting steam has recently been revealed by the receding glacier on top of this dormant volcano. 

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.