Saturday, August 16, 2014

An Open Mind in Istanbul – Nargile

Dear Art Lover,
Istanbul: exotic and fun, and full of shopping and imbibing. My friend Kumiko and I went there for a few days after we finished carving stone at a symposium in Bulgaria. How inviting some of the spaces are: so cozy and comfortable! I tried to keep an open mind or at least the mentality of “When in Roma…” I was delighted to experience the Hamam and discovered that a sauna of steaming marble is actually much more refreshing that the direct hot summer sun in a city.

We were in Istanbul during Ramadan, but also during the World Cup finales. That meant for a lot of people out in the bars and restaurants that had large or multiple screens. I had no idea of the close ties between Turkey and Japan, but Kumiko did not even have to pay for a tourist visa, while I did (it was only 25 euro for an American, paid at the border). The Japanese have built tunnels under the waterways to connect Istanbul to itself, among other wonderful business deals. Kumiko was spoken to in Japanese more often than I ever anticipated while she and I toured the city by foot.

So, it was no surprise when she made friends with some rug merchants near our hotel. One of the men had even lived in Japan for over 15 years with his Japanese wife and was returning this month.

So, we found ourselves getting taken to a nearby restaurant and offered things by this man’s friend. I had been curious of the Nargile, the Turkish water pipes one sees almost everyone sitting around and smoking.
It is legal and yet, I think that I had hoped it was something exotic by the expressions on consumers’ faces.

Admittedly, I have a hard time just sitting around and relaxing. During this trip, I was often distracted by thoughts of my work at home. However, when the restaurateur offered to let me try Nargile for only 5 bucks (normally about 15, I think), I thought, Ok, why not? Even my hero Audrey Hepburn made her long cigarette holder next to her lips look elegant and beautiful in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Yours truly on holiday.  Foto by Kumiko Suzuki - Istanbul

They had no coconut, so I tried strawberry. The man set the mechanism on the floor beside our table and lit it with hot coals, sucking on the end to get it going. Then he gave us two plastic reeds. We each had one to slip into the mouthpiece for our own use. I was sadly disappointed. I think some part of me wanted this to taste good, the way that I will drink Turkish coffee, but really have no affinity towards any other.

But … tobacco is tobacco. I have hated it even before childhood friends wanted to get me into it. And this tasted only slightly better than how splashing perfume over stale and horrendous body odor smells. I waited a bit, then gave it a few more puffs, hoping that maybe I was just biased against it. Nope, I just do not like the taste nor the smell of tobacco.

The next morning Kumiko and I walked under an open arch somewhere in the city. We found a bunch of Turks sitting around smoking. But for me, these next three gray images just reminded me of what tobacco puts in one’s body. And I am sure that I would be unhappy in a lifestyle of just sitting around numbing myself. But, I DID give it a shot.

Happy birthday wherever your energy be, Vasily Fedorouk.  You are missed!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bike Life Florence Italy

Dear Art-Loving Friend,
My father once suggested to me that I “go ahead and get this Europe thing out of my system and come back to live in the States.”  I think he has turned into my grandmother.  She worried constantly.  But that was years ago and while I still have not worked out how to have permanent residence here in Italy, and my life is in limbo, I think I have convinced those who care about me that I am not finished with Europe. 

One of the perks that is difficult to argue with is the wonderful public transportation.  I love walking and biking to most places in Florence, Italy, where I live now.  When I need to go somewhere else, I can usually take a bus or a train.  Some people complain about the services in Italy, but I have not encountered many problems and am amazed actually by how train, planes, and even motorways are all created and organized. 
Anyway, most of Europe basically dies in August, with most people heading towards the surrounding seas for rest and relaxation.  It is a bit bizarre, especially since August is the time when many tourists can visit, especially if they have school-age children. 

I have been doing my best to seclude myself in my new space here, at least during August. I have two easels set up and the doors to my balcony remain always open.  This is for my sanity.  I am working on many paintings, allowing the layers of oil paint to dry while I work on other images.  And sadly, I have not yet solved all of the Web site problems after I transferred in late June to a new host company.  My contact form and order forms do not yet work.  But I have discovered that there is only so much frustration I can take in one day and do not wish to spend more than a few hours each day on this.

In any event, I hope that you enjoy these snapshots I took around the Arno River in Florence… ah, the bike life!  I am shown here with my friend Biljana, visiting from her home in Serbia.  We took a day trip to the charming San Gimignano recently (the exception to my August rule).  You may see some of those images on my Facebook page, if you like. 
Thank you for sticking with me on this art journey and I hope August is good to you.  Me?  I must get back to my paintings.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Istanbul during Ramadan

Dear Art-Loving Friend,

On the night of the full moon, after my friend Kumiko and I finished up at the art symposium in Bulgaria, she and I were on our way to Istanbul.  I hope you enjoy these images.  We packed a lot in to the short time we were there, my first.  I will be writing about the experiences in Bulgaria in an art newsletter in August.  If you would like to receive a subscription to that publication (only 6-8 times per year), please send me your e-mail address with an add request (that list is different from the blog subscription list, which I do not manage).

Anyway, I would write more, but today is my birthday and I want to eat dark chocolate and cherries, some good food, and do some painting.  Hard to believe this journey thus far, and I am curious to know where and how the future unfolds… in any event, I am now:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hélène's Vase - still life oil painting and Australia Arts

Dear Art Lover,
I have been having some difficulties transferring my site to a new host and distributing my art newsletter.  It may be a focus issue, since I keep arguing with myself that I would rather be making art. ha. 
In any event, here is the newsletter that I recently published about my trip to Australia, including some lovely beach and Nature images.  I hope you enjoy:

Also included in my newest oil painting on a wooden panel, a still life titled "Hélène's Vase" She is available.  Just contact me at sculptor @  [minus the spaces].

Thank you for stickin' with me!  Happy days to you.
~ Kelly

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sarina Arts Extravaganza Australia

Dear Art Loving Friend,

I have spent the majority of this past week teaching workshops to children in the schools, as well as to adults in our makeshift atelier up on the stage in the community building that houses the Sarina Arts Extravaganza here in Australia.  In addition to that, I have been working in a local high school to help the kids learn how to create a mural.  I have been consulting with the class to show them how to take their ideas, expand them to fit the project and create a composition.  Because of the time constraints, I was only allowed to talk about several ways they can take their – to date – unfinished designs and enlarge them to create the cartoons needed to transfer their ideas to a much larger space.  [Cartoon as defined in Michelangelo’s time, not today’s definition of the word.]

One of the area schools was thrilled to let us guide the various age groups of their classes around the art exhibit while I spoke about the idea of art being more than “just a pretty picture.”  Art is the safe place in which we can express and explore our humanity … all aspects of it, as well as appreciating the Natural (or unnatural) world we inhabit. I also wanted to tell them that artists train as long as or longer than other professions, such as doctors and engineers.   THAT raised a lot of eyebrows as the possibilities began to open in their minds!  Several asked me if I make a living at art and I told them, “Yes,” and that my life as an artist is what brought me to their lovely country!

Thanks to a suggestion by local artist and art teacher Sally Cunnington, my hostess (and Sally’s artist mother) Janice Ailwood and I asked the children and teens to choose an artwork in the exhibition that made them feel some emotion and use it as inspiration for their own creations.  We were all thrilled at how well they took to this.  I really love the freedom and joy in young children’s art!

I include a few images (not showing any kid faces) and have a few more of Facebook.  I loved this little girl with pigtails’ posture as she drew a mermaid.  Not unlike my own, perhaps, although she is way more flexible than I, even before my spine injury.  [The image of me was taken by Ayfer Mills in March 2014 in Florence, Italy.]

The kids copied the grownups art, other youths art, and a few went off on their own way and drew what they wanted with the inspirations already in their heads.  We must have seen hundreds of kids over a three day span and it was wonderful!  In general, the response here has been overwhelmingly positive and I wonder what sort of long-term impact our work here may achieve. 

I asked a few of the kids in our last class if they could hold their art up to the artwork that inspired them, but not show their faces to protect their privacy.  Isn’t it lovely how different their designs are from the original? 

This last image is my last sunset for this visit to Sarina in Queensland.  Next stop . . . Tasmania!

Thank you for reading and sharing the journey.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Street Painting Australia

Dear Art Loving Friend,
I have been working Down Under these days, but it is not all hard times!  My hosts Ron and Janice Ailwood have been showing me some of the local sights… which tend to be of the natural sort (my favorite kind).  They have wallabies in their backyard; birds, too, and lots and lots of stars!  We have also been traveling around a bit through this sugarcane farming country.  And the image of the three of us was taken shortly before we spotted the resident platypus in the creek/stream behind us.

This past Tuesday, Janice and I created a small street painting on the sidewalk of an outdoor shopping mall to promote the upcoming arts festival this weekend. (The weather here is wonderful!)  Here are the results of our “joyous adventure on our knees and bums” – er… !  People loved it and stopped in the middle of their busy shopping to chat us up and take photos.

Yesterday I judged hundreds of entries in an arts competition that is open to all Australians.  Up until yesterday, I was a virgin judge.   I rarely do well in competitions myself [I see myself as only competitive with myself and loathe these sorts of situations] and I find myself disappointed by how unfair I think most competitions are. My biggest pet peeve is artists who enter professional competitions with student work ... in my book that means anything done while under supervision of a paid or consistent instructor.

I REALLY looked at each of hundreds of artworks and tried to choose pieces that showed honesty, thought, skill, and creativity. I was happy that I am in a community in which I know so few people and would not be swayed by any emotional or self-promoting motives, such as voting for my own students. Tonight (soon, in fact), the awards will be presented and then Saturday morning, the artists will ask me for feedback on specific pieces and why I made such-and-such decisions.  In the end, the choices are simply one girl's opinion on a certain day, but I hope that most will see the kindness and love I put into the effort (and the written feedback I gave) and that I took their work into serious consideration.

I have already done some teaching and consulting in local high schools and the workshops (adult and children) start on aturday, different ones on different days.  I hope to share something of what I have learned over the years and have some more fun with these kind people!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sarina Arts Australia

Dear Art Loving Friend,
I recently stepped foot in Oz, for the very first time.  It took four separate airplanes for me to reach my destination and I am still filled with the awe of flight!  Thus far, Australia was just what the doctor ordered.  I have put my toes in the sand, drank the purest collected rain water, soaked up fresh air and seen a spattering of stars in the night sky, and taken a gander at some interesting critters.  It is so lovely to be away from the city!

I hope you enjoy these images, especially the “fireworks” on Sarina Beach made by small sand crabs.  They make SPHERES of sand and push them out of their holes into these lovely patterns.  How festive!  From my hosts’ home, I can see a very red Mars and the Southern Cross (a constellation not seen in the Northern Hemisphere) dominating very starry nights.

I have been hired to work the 25th anniversary edition of the Sarina Arts Extravaganza, in northeast Australia.  Our first morning of activities were wet… and this little copy of a Marilyn Monroe in Andy Warhol style was just me goofing around to check the wetness of the sidewalk.  I later got the kids to street paint their version of Early Renaissance artist Botticelli’s “Primavera(cropped).  We got some gorgeous sunshine and again later, it poured rain.  However, the kids loved it and really enjoyed the vibrant colors of the pastels. 

I will be creating another street painting soon.  In addition to that, I will be judging the art competitions here next week, teaching a workshop in sight size drawing and painting to adults, several children’s workshops, and working with a local high school on a mural project.  The people here have been absolutely lovely.  It is going to be a great week.

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