Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023 Year-end Review

Maroon Bells*
watercolour, crayon and Photoshop™
©2023 Charlene Brown

In my August 27blog post, after exactly a year of not writing anything on my blog, I wrote, “At this point I’m going to pick up where I left off on the unfinished projects in my 'Plan for 1150 Words in 2022' as if it had been written in January 2023.”

Here’s how that worked out:

Graphic Novel:  I have stylized some of my representational landscapes to use as backgrounds for the book’s illustrations, added people and conversation ‘balloons’ to these stylized backgrounds, and published ‘By-election in Exceptional Pass’ in mid-November.

Paint Every Mountain: I have almost finished a small book about hiking and painting in mountains all over the world, working with what I have found to be the only truly portable plein air ‘painting’ kit, a bag of crayons. The above painting of Maroon Bells will be included in the section of the book on specific colours.

Creative Archaeology:  I have continued to build the series ‘Time Travel with a Bag of Crayons’ equipped with the same plein air painting kit I used for ‘Paint Every Mountain.’  The series, now in chronological order, will include some of the photos and sketches I produced during past archaeology-related travel with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the University of Victoria travel study program.

Predictive Analytics: I have painted several illustrations of the climate effects of the Anthropocene.  Some are straight-up landscapes and others are interpretations/extrapolations of data relating to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

*Maroon Bells: According to the U.S. Forest Service, these Colorado mountains received their distinctive maroon coloring from the weathering of hematite. I don’t recall that they were particularly maroon-looking.  In fact they were kind of liver-coloured until I applied some mauve crayon.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Two more shades of orange

 Midwinter afternoon in Pangnirtung
watercolour and crayon
©2023 Charlene Brown

 Situated in the shadows of a steep-walled fjord just south of the Arctic Circle, Pangnirtung doesn’t get a lot of sun during the winter months. The street lights are on most of the day. (I’ve relied on several internet photos to help me guess at the patterns and shades of orange for this painting, as I have only seen Pangnirtung in the late summer when it was still light most of the night).

The site is said to have been occupied regularly by nomadic hunter-gatherers for almost 4000 years. But life in the Arctic changed significantly in the early 1960s when Inuit were placed, often forcibly, in permanent settlements by the Canadian government.

Even though they then had access to schools, hospitals and social services, the move was controversial. In an attempt to ameliorate the negative effects of relocations and to create an economic base, the government funded arts and crafts initiatives across the Arctic. One of these was the hand-weaving cooperative where ‘Pangnirtung tapestries’ are now produced.  The Tapestry Studio of the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts was just getting underway at the time of my painting trip to Pangnirtung (then still part of the Northwest Territories) in August-September of 1990.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Crossroads of trade in the Yucatan

El Castillo at Tulum
watercolour and crayon
©2023 Charlene Brown

I will include this recently completed painting in the book, ‘Time Travel with a bag of crayons’ that I am compiling.

The main pyramid-castle at Tulum, shown here, is spectacularly situated on 12-metre cliffs looking east over the Caribbean. One of the few Mayan sites with a fortified wall, Tulum was the only one on the coast and thus controlled trade with South and Central America.  Because of its economic importance, it was one of the few cities that was still populated when the Spaniards arrived.

 There are two kinds of painting trips – those involving some hiking or even climbing, where you carry all your stuff and paint on location, and those where you stay in one place long enough to spread out and do a ‘proper job,’ letting the paint dry between layers and other refinements. 

The hike around the entire Tulum archaeological site can be completed in under an hour, but took my daughters and me close to two hours because I started a crayon sketch every time I found a shady place to sit down.  Here are two pictures that I completed after returning to Canada.

North side of El Castillo, from the base of the cliff
watercolour and crayon
©2010 Charlene Brown

Mayan sunrise (sun symbol copied from another building)
watercolour, crayon and Photoshop
©2010 Charlene Brown

Monday, December 25, 2023

Hand-painted Christmas Card: Take 2

Christmas in Canmore, the jpeg
watercolour, crayon and computer
©2023 Charlene Brown

On some of the hand-painted Christmas cards I wrote about in a blog post a couple of weeks ago, I tried the loose crayon and watercolour technique I often use for larger paintings.  These crayoned cards, including Christmas in Canmore, were among the ‘unacceptable’ ones I mentioned at the time.

I think I’ve salvaged this one by using another technique of which I am quite fond – Photoshopping it within an inch of its life!

The background, should you be wondering, includes some of the peaks on the southern flank of Mt. Rundle.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Another possibility for reducing food insecurity

The Mediterranean Diet
watercolour, crayon and computer
©2023 Charlene Brown

The increasingly-drastic impacts of climate change are already showing up in very different ways ranging from floods and rising water levels to droughts and wildfire.  What is common to all these conditions is the increased likelihood of food insecurity. 

Like the ‘adventures in agriculture’ I wrote about, the food required for a ‘Mediterranean diet’ can be produced by more sustainable farming methods than other more meat-intensive diets, thus mitigating food insecurity. 

In addition to its more widely-known reputation as a healthy diet for individuals, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to have a lower environmental impact (smaller per capita carbon and water footprints) making it healthier for the planet. 


Thursday, December 21, 2023

Tangential Adventures in Agriculture III

Seaweed at Work
watercolour and crayon
©2023 Charlene Brown

Regenerative ocean farming is a climate-friendly model of aquaculture where seaweeds and/or shellfish are grown in a way that requires no freshwater, feed, or fertilizer.

Seaweed and shellfish can absorb excess nutrients, and help mitigate harmful algal blooms, deoxygenated dead zones, and local ocean acidification. In addition, seaweed has been found to produce 70% more oxygen than land plants and, most importantly from the standpoint of climate change mitigation, absorbs carbon even more effectively than trees. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Tangential Adventures in Agriculture II

Food Forest
watercolour and crayon
©2023 Charlene Brown

 Wikipedia defines a food forest, also called a forest garden, as a diverse planting of edible plants that attempts to mimic the ecosystems and patterns found in nature. Food forests are three-dimensional designs, with life extending in all directions – up, down, and out.

Interestingly, there is no mention of a fungal layer in this definition, but we’ll just assume it can be fitted into the layer 5 defined in Permaculture: A Beginners Guide by Graham Burnett, which contains this diagram:

Last year, I wrote about another climate change mitigation possibility, Agroforestry  This program has the double objective of food production and restoration of the a deforested land’s vital carbon sequestration capability. 



Sunday, December 17, 2023

Tangential Adventures in Agriculture I

Fungi at work
watercolour, crayon and computer
©2023 Charlene Brown

Mycoforestry is the strategy of using fungi to improve soil and forest health. The benefits are delivered through the mycelium, the underground network of thin fungal threads that share nutrients to help saplings take root and ward off disease.

This painting illustrates the first of three ‘tangential adventures in agriculture’ involving sustainable farming methods which mimic nature, with minimal additional inputs of water, feed and fertilizer.  Such solutions may have to be developed to overcome or adapt to the ongoing and future effects of climate change on food production. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Hand-painted Christmas cards!

Trial Runs
©2023 Charlene Brown

In September I decided, with a burst of enthusiasm, to paint individual Christmas cards this year. After a month I had produced a total of six acceptable cards.

Five of the six are shown above, arranged in front of what will pass for a Christmas display on my dining room sideboard.  (Top row, L to R) Mount Cascade from Johnson Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Castle Mountain, (front row, L to R) Moraine Lake, and Mount Rundle all in Banff National Park.

We actually have more than six friends, so I admitted defeat, selected the sixth one (below), to be printed on card stock for the folks who don’t have computers and added to the email greetings for those who do.

 Lake Louise
©2023 Charlene Brown


Sunday, December 3, 2023

50 Shades of Orange

Bow Valley Sunrise
Watercolour and crayon
©2023 Charlene Brown 

As I’ve said before, there are many ways to use white crayons in watercolour paintings.  I’m also going to talk a lot about using neon orange in ‘Paint Every Mountain’ − the book I’m putting together about hiking and painting in mountains all over the world.

This deceptively warm-looking winter sunrise is one of my favourite examples of orange crayon effects.  In the coming weeks I’ll write about others, such as back-lit flowers, iron oxide or glints of iron in rocks or soil, manufactured items like clothing and, of course, fall colours (especially larch).  I’ll also be including in my book odd effects like I wrote about in this 2014 blog post