Sunday, December 26, 2021

How my 2021 plans for this blog worked out

 One of the places I might travel to with my daughters
Watercolour and Photoshop™

Travel painting: We’ll see how that goes – bound to be better than 2020, I declared at the beginning of this year.  To my surprise, my travel remained almost entirely virtual, or even bucket list, like the one above, and when I finally got out and painted a landscape, it was only 10 k from home.

Graphic novel: I wrote several blog posts about producing a graphic novel based on a screenplay, but only added six new paintings to the graphic novel I had started in 2020.  It is based on a by-election in a constituency in Alberta… and when the Canadian government called an unnecessary general election in September of this year, I realized there was little interest in elections of any sort, and put that project on hold.

Creative archaeology: In case my travel plans don’t work out, I planned to re-interpret some of the photos and sketches I accumulated in past archaeology-related travel with the University of Victoria travel study program.  I actually added 16 posts, throwing in re-worked paintings from Art Gallery of Greater Victoria trips as well.

Data analytics: I didn’t even mention this out loud in my plan for this year, but during 2021 I ended up following this ‘suggestion’ by the late Robert Genn: 

“There’s always something to get on with, actually one damn thing after another.”

One of the things that I ‘got on with’ was data analytics. In trying to convince some of my grandchildren that data analytics skills will be important for everybody, no matter what their field of study, it’s occurred to me it might be worthwhile to update my own understanding of the various concepts. There are four main kinds of analytics – descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive.  I’m interested in predictive analytics, especially extrapolating and visualizing (and painting) unanticipated outcomes. I actually completed 14 blog posts that I tagged as ‘predictive analytics’ seven of which had original illustrations.  The other seven were re-posts of pages from my book, “Inventing the Future.” 

Next week I will post my Plan for 2022.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A final favourite post from the past (August 2014)

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 added some popular alchemy symbols for metals, processes and measures – pounds, ounces and my personal favourite, the scruple.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Another favourite post from the past (August 2020)

Heli-painting in the Bugaboos
Watercolour and crayon
©2020 Charlene Brown

A call for online entries to an Artist & Selfie Painting Competition included an ‘Artists en Plein air’ category so I decided to enter a painting based on a photo of me taken on the heli-painting trip in 2012.

There was no requirement to mount, frame with glass covering, pack and ship the painting, and the entry fee was only USD 37. That ended up being CAD 50.78, which had risen to CAD 51.06 by the time it was posted on my Visa bill, but still… not having to ship the thing, usually a big problem with watercolours, was compelling.  And, there was no requirement to have your face appear in this portrait, also compelling.


Sunday, December 5, 2021

One of my favourite posts from the past (January 2016)

A Parliament like no other
Watercolour and crayon
©2016 Charlene Brown

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 a tour bus I was 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 missed most of it.

I got another chance to paint it, when the Virtual Paintout (where participants used Google Streetviews for reference) went to Edinburgh.  I like the unique look of this building but couldn’t find a Google Streetview that gave any sort of idea of its overall appearance, so I settled for this glimpse of what I thought might be the front.  (I realized later that if, instead of painting this Streetview, I’d rotated the camera to the right I would have gotten this rather better view and I’m guessing the flags are at the front door.)

Sunday, November 28, 2021

More really old time travellers

Standing stones at Ballymeanoch
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

The tallest of this group of standing stones in Kilmartin Glen is four metres high.  Two of them are deeply carved with cup and ring marks.

Cup and ring marks are a form of pre-historic art found on the Atlantic seaboard of Europe and on the Mediterranean coast. And, of course, in the mid-twentieth century paintings of Friedensreich Hundertwasser 

Like the Druid’s Stone I wrote about last week, these cup and ring markings were likely made many centuries after the stones were originally placed more than four thousand years ago. But not as recently as the mid-twentieth century.


Sunday, November 21, 2021

When time travel is measured in Millennia

Druid’s Stone on the Island of Gigha
Watercolour, crayon and gouache
©1995 Charlene Brown

The Standing Stones of Scotland were likely erected in the third millennium BCE during the Neolithic Period.  Many, including this one, were associated with the Celts’ Iron Age priests in the early first millennium BCE.  

Some of these pre-historic stones were inscribed much later, in the fifth and sixth centuries of the first millennium CE, using an alphabet created specifically to represent the Gaelic language.  Then in the ninth century a few had Celtic crosses added.

The Druid’s Stone, shown here with the Paps of Jura in the distance, doesn’t have any of these inscriptions, so I’ve overlaid a few on the painting.


Sunday, November 14, 2021

Finally getting out and about

Mt. Baker from Mill Hill
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

 As you may have noticed, I’ve been on lots of virtual hikes and camping trips in the mountains with my daughter and her family in the last 20 months. At long last, they’ve come out to Vancouver Island and I climbed Mill Hill with them!  So – Mill Hill at 200 metres is not what anyone would call a challenging hike, but it was Real!

My son-in-law took lots of pictures and I used one of them to paint the view from the top.  In order to identify some of the other features (Mount Douglas, Esquimalt Harbour, Cadbora Bay) in my reference  photo, I drew a line from Mill Hill to Mt Baker on a Google map of the area.  I’d always thought Mt. Baker was straight east from Victoria, but discovered it’s more like ENE, so a bit further north than we are. 

And, as Google helpfully added the distance, only 128 kilometres away! This also led to the discovery that the distance from where I live in Victoria to Mill Hill is only 10 kilometres.  Not only was our elevation gain only 200 metres, I wasn’t out and about very far. But for me it was still a Big Deal!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Time Travel in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

St George’s Monastery in Wadi Qelt
Watercolour and crayon
Charlene Brown

Wadi Qelt, said to be the valley of the shadow of death mentioned in Psalm 23, parallels the old Roman road to Jericho, the backdrop of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

St George’s Monastery was originally built in about 500 CE, destroyed by the Persians 140 years later, then rebuilt by Crusaders but abandoned after their defeat.  Restored by Greek monks in the twentieth century, it is now a site of intense Greek Orthodox pilgrimage.

This picture was originally published on this blog two years ago, in anticipation of a Travel Study program in Israel I planned join in November 2020.  Like most plans for 2020, the program was ‘postponed’ to 2021, then 2022.  I’m hoping it will happen in 2023.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Time travel in the 12th century with a 21st century solar clock

Garden at the Sorkh Dome
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

The Gonbad-e Sorkh, or Sorkh Dome, the red brick structure on the right in this painting, is an important historical building in Maragheh, Iran. It is one of the oldest buildings of the Islamic Period in the East Azerbaijan Province.  In typical Razi style, the north-facing entrance to the tower is adorned with intricate brickwork and exquisite turquoise tiles. Built in 1147 CE, it is now set in a garden with pools and floral landscaping featuring Islamic designs.  

A huge vertical solar clock on the East-West wall of the garden was set up on the occasion of the World Year of Physics (2005) in a collaborative project of the Maragheh Astrology Research Centre (dating from 1259) and the office of the cultural attaché of the French Embassy in Teheran.  BTW, although this clock is pretty new, the concept of the sundial was understood as early as the 15th century BCE. 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Time Travelling with a Very Old Computer

15th century Incan agricultural research
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

The Incas and other Andean cultures had no alphabetic writing system – they used the quipu to keep records and communicate information.  This device, composed of knotted string, was truly ingenious, easily carried, and surprisingly accurate and flexible – though calling it a computer is a bit of a stretch. It was widely used throughout the Andean region from 1400 CE until 1532, when Spanish writing systems took over.

The colourful quipu above was overlaid on a painting of the Moray Agricultural Terraces, a location developed by the Incas. The terraces simulated a broad range of microclimates and were used to find the ideal strains of vegetables for different mountain regions.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Time travelling again

Akrotiri, Santorini
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

Santorini, one of the most important archaeological sites in the Greek Cyclades, changed suddenly with the volcanic eruption of the island in about 1600 BCE and more gradually, but completely, in the 3650 years since, as shown in the painting on the left.

The top portion shows present day Santorini, looking north from Akrotiri to the densely populated cliff-top town of Oia.  The lower portion shows the ash-covered ruins of Akrotiri, the excavation of which began in 1967. The landscape painting pulling the two views together is based on one of the Akrotiri frescoes which were carefully removed from the site and are now on the display in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.





Sunday, October 17, 2021

Time Travel with a bag of crayons

Diptych in the fourth dimension
Watercolour and crayon
©2013 Charlene Brown

This is the beginning of one of the projects in my ‘Plan for 2021’   Creative archaeology: reinterpreting some of the photos and sketches I accumulated in past archaeology-related travel with the University of Victoria travel study program.

I’ll be painting some new pictures, and recycling some old ones, such as ‘Diptych in the fourth dimension’ using one of my favourite sketching techniques: Drawing with crayons as a resist before painting with watercolour.  I’m going to call this series ‘Time travel with a bag of crayons’ because there are usually at least two different time periods combined in each picture.

If you’re interested in the detail of this diptych The right panel is based on a photograph I took on a UVic trip to Egypt in 2008. It shows a relief sculpture (reassembled from shards) on a wall in Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri, across the river from Luxor. The mural illustrates an expedition to the Land of Punt, an exotic country on the Red Sea coast in what is now Northern Sudan. Because I think any picture of the Upper Nile has to include the pyramids of the Black Pharaohs, they are shown on the left side. They are smaller, more sharply pointed and far more numerous than the more famous pyramids near Cairo. The fact they were built in about the 5th century BCE nine hundred years after the gardens of Punt were sculpted at Deir el-Bahri in the 14th century BCE, and are near the Nile, rather than the Red Sea, stopped me briefly…  until I thought of presenting the time/space divide as a diptych.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The last missing Second Millennium BCE painting


Tamgaly Petroglyphs
Watercolour and crayon
Charlene Brown

There are thousands of Bronze Age petroglyphs of animals, sun gods, and warriors in the Tamgaly Gorge, about 170 km northwest of Almaty, in Kazakhstan. This watercolour sketch is a composite of several of these rock paintings, some of which are about 3500 years old. Found in 1957, the gorge was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

This is the fourth site highlighted in the design timeline for the second millennium BCE, below.

Click on image to enlarge


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Another missing Second Millennium BCE painting

Olmec basalt head
©2021 Charlene Brown

I’ve finish another of the paintings of archaeological artifacts from the second millennium BCE that I mentioned in a September blog post

The Olmecs, believed to be of  West African origin, were the earliest known major meso-American civilization.  They lived on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the area now in the states of Veracruz and Tabasco.  The colossal heads the Olmec people carved, 17 of which have been un-earthed so far, ranged in height up to almost three and a half metres. They were made from volcanic basalt boulders transported some distance from the Sierra de los Tuxtlas mountains.  


Sunday, September 26, 2021

The first of the missing Second Millennium BCE paintings

The Lion Gate at Mycenae
©2021 Charlene Brown

In a blog post a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I only had one painting of an archaeological site from the second millennium BCE, and that I was going to start painting the other three highlighted entries in the timeline for that millennium. 

The Lion Gate was the entrance to the Citadel at Mycenae in Southern Greece. It was built in about 1350 BCE and featured a relief sculpture of lionesses, symbolic of Mycenean royalty and the goddess Hera.  The now-missing heads may have been of composite beasts, possibly sphinxes.   

Sunday, September 19, 2021

One of my first computer-painted videos

The Garden at Government House, Victoria, BC
Watercolour sketch
©2009 Charlene Brown

Using this mid-October sketch as a starting point, I have computer-painted in both directions through all seasons and put the series together in a video that runs just over one minute. If you’d like to see it, click on  A Year in a Victorian Garden 

I haven't had time to paint much lately, so we're into reruns. Happily, this is because my family is making up for many lost months of travel and get togethers, and have been visiting us here on the island in waves for the past few weeks. This post is a repeat of one of my favourite blog posts from 2009, the first year I produced this blog.  


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Cross-cultural Time Capsule of the Second Millennium BCE


Click on image to enlarge

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.  Three years ago I painted pictures of some of the entries in the pages of that timeline

Then I highlighted the illustrated entries in the timeline to show where these ‘time capsules’ fit into the big picture. 

Recently, I noticed that I’d left the second Millennium BCE out of that series of paintings, so I have started it now.  I looked through my files to see what paintings I might already have of that period… and found exactly one Deir El-Bahri, as seen from KarnakThis painting is based on a photo of the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri on the west bank of the Nile.  I like the idea that Hatshepsut’s temple lines up with the huge Karnak Temple across the river, and took the photo from the entrance to Karnak. In fact, you can barely see Deir el-Bahri from that point, and you can’t see the Nile at all – but it seemed a good time for some artistic license.

Starting next week, I’ll paint the other three highlighted entries in the timeline above.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Heuristic input to Predictive Analytics

Cover Illustration for Inventing the Future with Haiku: Whistler P2P
computer painting
©2016 Charlene Brown

Because Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the ability to process ‘big data’ it can be applied to huge problems involving complex systems.  However, in order to be reliable in forecasting the future, it needs to incorporate the intuitive aspect of human intelligence.  

We need to find ways to build common sense into artificial intelligence.

It is possible that properly coded ­algorithms might eventually enable a computer to execute heuristic processes, but it is more likely that heuristic processes can serve as a good first step in data analytics by synthesizing data into a form AI can handle.

Glean as much as you can intuitively before you start quantifying and fitting number-crunching formulas.

I figured this out almost fifty years ago while studying what is now called business analytics.  It was called management science when I got my MBA, and operations research before that.  There was probably a lot less data to mine in the early `70s, but it seemed like a lot at the time. 


1.      The Delphi Technique is a method of arriving at a group opinion or decision by surveying a group of experts (usually in diverse fields) who respond anonymously, then have an opportunity to reassess their answers after seeing the aggregated response. It is especially useful when there is no true or knowable answer, such as in policy decision-making, or long-range forecasting.

·         There are apps that make political forecasts by using AI to comb through Twitter – sort of like a really big Delphi study without having Delphi participants’ opportunity to reevaluate their input.

·         The World Economic Forum Global Risks Analysis, “Visualized: A Global Risk Assessment of 2021and Beyond describes a rigorous method of quantifying expert opinion that sounds similar to a Delphi study, except input is not anonymous. See box below.


2.      Debating at a Policy Workshop: Policy resolutions were raised at the Liberal National Convention, held April 8 – 10 on Zoom. Resolutions had originated with various Commissions and Provincial branches, and were presented and workshopped on the second day. Several dozen were put forward for debate and voting on the final day. 

There were over 6000 of us attending the convention (virtually) and, for each resolution put forward, everyone had a chance to request debate (four debaters were selected and debates were conducted only if there were at least 50 requests – a necessarily arbitrary process) and then vote on whether or not to advance the resolution to the Election Platform Committee. That Committee finalized the Liberal Platform for the September 20 Canadian General Election.

 3.      Visualization: Data visualization, which can distill large data sets into visual graphics, can make it easier to understand complex relationships.  However, as determined in Visualizing Unforeseen Results, visualizations are seldom 'stand alone' documents.  Annotated visualizations may provide more easily understood explanations than detailed text-only analytics.

4.      Ideation Sessions: By employing ‘design thinking’ which considers input from experts in different fields – marketing, design and  engineering – working together, disruptive innovation ideation sessions can enrich discussions.  These sessions help participants to imagine 'what if?’ disruptions such as black swans, wild cards and events such as tipping points occur.

o   Black swan events: unpredictable, massive impact, highly improbable, – eg. 9/11, collapse of the Soviet Union, Covid-19

o   Wild cards: imaginable, low probability, high impact   The difference between Black Swans and Wild Cards is that Wild Cards are imaginable because they have precedents (ie predictable to a certain extent – temperature increases, Halley's Comet, 2008 financial crisis, religious conflicts, financial unicorns or alicorns).  

o   Tipping points: action of a system which has become unstable – eg. effect on crop yields of temperature increases.

Conclusion: Synthesizing information through soliciting wide opinion, debate, visualization, pattern recognition, trend analysis and extrapolation, in other words, going as far as you can in parsing the problem intuitively (heuristically), increases the likelihood of formulating a solvable optimization – and increases the chance the answer will actually make sense.


Saturday, September 4, 2021

Visualizing Unforeseen Results

Exponential Interactions
Computer sketch
©2021 Charlene Brown

In trying to convince some of my grandchildren that data analytics skills will be important for everybody, no matter what their career choice or field of study, it’s occurred to me it might be worthwhile to update my own understanding of data analysis -- and to explore the advantages of data visualization. 

Much has been written in recent years about the unexpected results of climate change. And during the current wildfire season even more has been written about the unforeseen results of climate change exponentially combined with other factors such as decades of fire prevention policy. Too much to comprehend, sometimes.

In Limiting data in search of information, Seth Godin points out, "It’s easy to be in favor of more data. After all, until we reach a certain point, more data is the best way to make a better decision. But then, fairly suddenly, more isn’t better. It’s simply a way to become confused or to stall."

Could data visualization, which can distill large data sets into visual graphics, make it easier to understand complex relationships?

The computer sketch above attempts to show some of the factors in the flow of results, both expected and unexpected, of the following.

Interactions between Forest Policy and Environmental Conditions

One of the unforeseen results of many decades of successful forest fire prevention in North America has been thousands of square miles of overmature, tightly packed, highly combustible conifers, particularly in National Parks — a perfect storm of wildfire hazards.

Climate change is also worsening wildfire conditions, in every possible way — increasing temperatures (especially in the North), heat domes and other extreme weather, dry lightning, pyrocumulonimbus clouds, and a longer fire season.

Meanwhile, over the twenty-year period of significant temperature rise in the Arctic, an unexpected phenomenon, a conifer-to-deciduous shift, has been detected in the taiga region of Canada. This increase in the proportion of deciduous cover has also been noted in Alaska as well, following severe and frequent fires in the boreal forest.

Quite possibly, this vegetation shift will reduce wildfire susceptibility because, as a rule, deciduous trees don’t burn as quickly or intensely as conifers, as I mentioned in my blog post, A word about deciduous trees. Over time this shift to deciduous forest may even mitigate the rate of climate change by improving carbon sequestration. Deciduous trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere much faster than conifers.

Another eventual good outcome of worsening wildfire conditions is the gradual elimination of problematic reforestation practices.

In the past, for reasons of cost effectiveness and efficiency, timber management policies have allowed:

  •       herbicide destruction of uneconomic deciduous trees
  •       clear-cutting 
  •       reforestation by planting softwood (conifer) saplings in evenly spaced rows on clear-cut land.

Instead of this, multiple species should be planted in clusters (to allow each species to develop and benefit from fungal networks among their roots) with deciduous clusters acting as fuel breaks interrupting vast swaths of conifers. The result would be a healthier, more fire-resistant forest — at a much higher cost than the old way.

Annotated computer sketch
©2021 Charlene Brown

Conclusions: The visualization at the beginning of this article, ‘Exponential Interactions,’ helped organize my thinking but is not exactly a stand-alone document. Annotations are required.

Annotated visualizations may provide more easily understood explanations than detailed text-only analytics.


Sunday, August 29, 2021

And the Words of the Prophet Are Written on Her Blog Each Year

Palm Springs from the top of the Tramway
Watercolour and marker
©2017 Charlene Brown

Here’s a good reason for having an art blog – it enables you to write self-fulfilling prophecies

Mostly, when friends or people I meet hear I have an art blog, they will express surprise (at YOUR age!)  They’ll ask a couple of polite questions but generally they don’t interrogate me about the thing.

Sometimes however, they’ll want details. Muttering vaguely that I enjoy painting and posting a painting every week requires that I make time for painting regularly will barely slow them down. They’ll ask what I’m doing with my blog.

If they look interested after I say a few words about paintings I’ve written about on my blog, I try a little strategic extrapolation about what I’m going to do next.

Then, in order to avoid having my extrapolation turn into an outright lie, I actually have to do something — resulting in the renowned self-fulfilling prophecy.

In early January each year I publish* these extrapolations on my blog as plans for the coming year. These plans can include any activity, really, that might result in a series of paintings, or even a book.

*Publishing my extrapolations pretty well guarantees that they will become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Should you be wondering about the painting above: My first blog post each year (the one with the prophecies) is usually illustrated with a painting of the place we’ve just spent Christmas -- such as Palm Springs.



Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Summer of Excessive (Virtual) Camping

Maligne Lake
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

My daughter and her family were camping in Jasper National Park recently. They weren’t at Maligne Lake, but I’ve painted it anyway, because the place where they were actually camping had so many trees you could barely see the mountains.

They camped in Banff National Park the next weekend, and were happy to include their ‘Ontario’ son that time as inter-Provincial travel restrictions were lifted.  But the daughter who still lives at home and has been on every single camping trip, has declared this the Summer of Excessive Camping.

She may have a point, and I suspect their dog feels the same way.  But I'm finding that excessive virtual camping is pretty easy to take.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

A word about deciduous trees

Banff Firebreak
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

One of the unforeseen results of many decades of successful forest fire prevention in North America has been thousands of square miles of overmature, tightly packed, highly combustible conifers, particularly in National Parks – a perfect storm of wildfire hazards as climate change worsens conditions around the world. 

Beginning about a hundred years ago, firebreaks such as the one in this painting were cut to protect inhabited areas. This firebreak is now pretty well filled in, and can no longer be easily seen, and a multi-year plan to improve and expand it was launched last year.

The original break was a clear-cut on the north face of Sulphur Mountain, with no replacement of trees.  I understand the new one will extend over a much larger area on the west slope of the mountain, with some thinned clusters of trees left in place, and additional deciduous plantings,  so that’s the way I’ve painted it.  Deciduous trees provide shade for groundcover as well as acting as fuel breaks because they ignite much less readily than conifers.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Decimation doesn’t begin to describe what happened in Lytton

BC Interior, July 2021
watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

Decimation was a form of Roman military discipline in which every tenth man in a group was executed by members of his cohort. 

At the end of June, after three successive days on which the highest temperatures ever recorded in Canada were reached in Lytton, British Columbia, 90% of the town was destroyed in a firestorm.  This was described in one TV interview as ‘decimation.’ 

There is no sufficiently horrific word to describe the near-total ruin when all but 10% is destroyed.

The Lytton fire continued to spread and more wildfires ignited so that by the end of July the smoke from hundreds of fires in the hills above vineyards and orchards of the interior of British Columbia reached across North America.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Leftover vegetables

 Developing good eating habits 











 Backstory of the Illustration above





Shamrock Farms cauliflower



I used the top square of the painting above to illustrate an article about developing good eating habits I published recently on Medium. The article was about a lot of things besides developing good eating habits – that just happened to be the only part of it that had anything to do with any paintings I had on my computer.  

The previously-used part of ‘Developing Good Eating Habits’ is from a 2009 blog post, and is my interpretation of a photo of a vegetable arrangement on a painting challenge called ‘Different Strokes from Different Folks’ (the photo is shown to the right of the previously used painting). 

It didn’t occur to me until after I went to a lot of trouble to find these leftover vegetables that three vegetables didn’t look like a particularly good variety to be called a good eating habit, so I added a turnip, an eggplant, some carrots and pulses, a handful of new Yukon Gold potatoes and a very paintable cauliflower I happened to see on the Shamrock Farms Facebook page.


Sunday, July 18, 2021

My Recent (Virtual) Camping/Kayaking trip

Upper Kananaskis Lake
Watercolour, crayon and computer
©2021 Charlene Brown

Like all of the Alberta paintings I’ve done since the pandemic confined us to Vancouver Island, this painting is based on photos taken by my daughter. She and her family camped at this idyllic location, a 4-kilometre kayak trip along the lake, a couple of weeks ago.

I have been to that lake for real, though not in a kayak actually I’ve never been anywhere in a kayak and wrote about a spectacular climb up from there to Rawson Lake

BTW, my daughter mentioned that the Rawson Lake trail is closed this year because there are grizzlies in the area.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Call for Entry!

Shirakawa-go, Japan
Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed, Canada
Takht-e Soleyman (Throne of Solomon), Iran

Call for Entry! notices for competitions and juried exhibitions are always exciting.  And when the entries being called for are to be online no framing! no shipping! my enthusiasm is boundless. I did hesitate for a couple of days before starting to look for paintings to enter in the ART2LIFE International Juried Art Exhibition 2021, however, simply because all of the demonstrations I’ve watched on Nicholas Wilton’s ART2LIFE series are totally abstract, and my paintings aren’t.

But then Mr. Wilton himself pointed out that with any huge competition, “There is so much art being looked at, only the most compelling and different work has a chance to stand out.” I inferred from this and other things he said that even the most experienced international judges may doze off from time to time. 

I looked at my blog, intending to hit ‘abstract’ on the ‘What This Blog is About’ list, but hit ‘archaeology’ instead (it’s nearer the top of the list). The three paintings above are my first selection for possible entry.  That could change.  We’ve got until July 23 to decide.  


Sunday, July 4, 2021

What are you missing the most about not being young anymore?

Squamish, British Columbia
Watercolour and crayon
Charlene Brown: Painting based on a photograph credited to Destination BC/Mitch Winton that appeared on the cover of the Summer 2021 issue of Right Sizing magazine 

I recently read a terrific article in Crow’s Feet  by Ruby Lee.  She had surveyed her friends on Facebook and compiled a list of the 10 things about being young that they miss the most. I think most of the replies came from people approaching 70.  

You may want to go through them to see how they compare to your own observations about aging.  I know I certainly did.

I’m happy to say that there are several things on the list that I’m not yet missing, like:

·         being able to get up off the floor (although I’ll admit I haven’t tried it ‘no hands’ lately)

·         having my original body parts, except for small parts of most of my teeth. (I’m not counting other missing things like a gall bladder or my wisdom teeth because they haven’t been replaced)

·         being able to eat anything I want (but then I never did want to eat spicy stuff that started to hurt before you even swallowed it)

·         having good eyesight and hearing (in fact, since I had my cataracts done, my eyesight is the best it’s been since I turned forty (in 1982)

·         being able to walk barefoot

 One thing on the list that I’m sure I’ve lost (but don’t miss) is:

  •          being able to stay up all night and still function the next day.

Throughout my fifties we lived in Dubai, where a lot of things didn’t even start until well into the cool of the evening.  When we returned to Canada, I was happy to revert to dining at unfashionable hours in broad daylight.

The list also mentioned:

  •          thinking that I knew everything

I think they meant that, although they realized many years ago that they didn’t know everything, until fairly recently they continued believing they could figure out anything they didn’t already know.  At that time, it became apparent (to me anyway) that there are certain things that millennials were born knowing and the rest of us will never figure out.

I’m hoping that one of the things on Ruby Lee’s list that’s also on my ‘missing’ list was more pandemic-caused than age-related:

  •          being impulsive and deciding to do things on the spur of the moment

I used to go to Squamish and Calgary, where our daughters and their families live, a lot – not exactly on the spur of the moment, but pretty much whenever I felt like it. This applied especially to Squamish (pictured above) which is only 90 miles from here as the crow flies  (much longer via a 2-hour ferry, three bridges, one tunnel, downtown Vancouver, and the Sea-to-Sky Highway, but still… )  Now that the barriers between Health Regions are being lifted, I’m about to find out if I can resume being impulsive.

Finally, there are a couple of things on the list that I too am definitely missing:

  •        having infinite energy (not that I ever had that – what I miss is having any energy at all some days).
  •        the feeling that the world is at my feet and that I have all the time in the world to explore it.  Okay, this is a scary one, but I’m pretty sure I still have time and enough energy to explore quite a few more things.

I inferred that there were some things about being young that Ruby Lee doesn’t miss at all, from her summary statement:

 “It took me a long time to get to the place where I am now. Even though my body is starting to have issues and I can’t lose weight, I don’t want to go through those life lessons that got me to where I am now.”

And with that, I agree completely.


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Painting my horse collection

A selection from the collection
Watercolour and crayon sketch
©2021 Charlene Brown

I’m the layout editor for a publication called Happenings put out by the Associates of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Besides writing about the group’s fundraising activities, we have always invited members to submit stories about their own art-related international travel. But those stories dried up about a year ago, a few weeks after the pandemic got a grip on ‘happenings’ of any kind.

Fortunately someone suggested we invite people to write about their collections. This series has been very popular, with stories about collections ranging from Western Canadian paintings and Inuit stone cut prints, through opera LP covers and jail keys to ceramic vegetables and illuminated manuscripts. More and more Associates have accepted our invitation to write about their stuff as they discover that the collections don’t need to be particularly valuable (though some are) just interesting. My collection is scheduled for publication next year.

People often include stories about the variety of circumstances that got them started on their collections. Here is mine.

When we moved to Dubai and I was planning to do a lot of travelling, I thought I might collect elephants from various places. We already had a very good ‘starter’ set. My husband had several huge rosewood elephants he got in India in the 60s and I had a tiny brightly painted herd from Sri Lanka given to me in the early 80s. But then it occurred to me that many of the countries (like, every country not in South Asia or Africa) to which I hoped to travel would be unlikely to have a typical elephant that I could add to my collection.

Collecting horses made more sense — lots of countries have iconic horses. Also, I am a Horse — it’s my Chinese Zodiac animal.

From left to right, beginning in the top row, the horses in the painting above are:

· Etruscan horse and chariot: the Etruscan civilization in Northern Italy was assimilated by Rome in the 6th century BCE. However, this particular stylized version of Etruscan sculpture, although obtained in Italy and identified as a Riproduzione Archeologica, is a mid-20th century CE American design.

· A 21st century Native-American themed ‘collectible’

· Authentic replica of the Flying Horse of Gansu (200 CE) also known less poetically as The Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Pigeon

· Arabian show horse purchased from a vendor who had dozens of them spread out on the sidewalk beside the El Djem Roman amphitheatre in Tunisia. Probably not an authentic replica

· Traditional Dalecarlian carved and painted horse obtained in Stockholm

· Traditional Oaxacan wood carving of a flying unicorn or alicorn obtained in Huatulco.

· Sharjah Horse: traditional wood carving with inlaid brass and copper armour, from the Emirate of Sharjah, near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

· Authentic replicas (larger one has a seal from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens) of a bronze horse from the Greek Geometric Period (900–700 BCE)

The reason I decided on this montage, rather than a grouping of the whole stable, is that they are by no means the same size. A couple are about 15 cm high, and most of the rest are from 6 to 8 cm high — except for my favourite, the Sharjah Horse, which is 60 cm high.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

An introduction to my horse collection

Oil and gasoline
Abdulwahed Al-Mawlawi

The second medium listed above for ‘Arabian’ is not a typo.  When I first saw this painting I was struck by the intensity of what I assumed was watercolour because of the wet-in-wet effects. Abdulwahed explained he achieved this watercolour ‘look’ by painting with oils thinned with gasoline, then dripping undiluted gasoline onto the wet painting.  Don’t try this at home, kids!

Arab horsemen
Patricia Al Fakri

I met both artists whose work is shown here, Abdulwahed, a Qatari, and Patricia, who is British, at the Dubai International Arts Centre when I worked there in the 1990s.

We all bought a lot of each other’s paintings at the Arts Centre, and the reason I selected these two for this blog post, is that I’ve just embarked on a project to document my collection of horses - paintings, archaeological replicas, carvings, and just plain collectables.  

I haven’t ever painted any horses myself, so what I’d planned was to do one now depicting some of my most interesting carvings, sculptures etc and then to write a blog post about it.  That painting is taking quite a bit more time than I thought it would, so these paintings are introducing the topic. Maybe my (somewhat less professional) horse painting will be ready in time for next week’s blog post.