Walking, rolling and owling in Stanley Park

“APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain …”

Invoking the memory of TS Eliot, our April was a mix of torrential rain and glorious sunny blue-skyed cotton-cloudy days, all the better to stroll with Brubin along the seawall,

or skate with Barb and Christine.

Ty and I spent a sunny Saturday riding our bikes through the Flats Arts District, so-called, on the former Finning Tractors industrial lands between Great Northern Way and Terminal. The Capture Photography Festival is still on for the next weeks and we caught the last day of Colin Smith’s show at the Winsor,

I loved these camera obscura works in which the artist made the interior of his Boler trailer into a gigantic pinhole camera, recording  the external landscape projected upside down onto the walls of the trailer and rightside up through the windows. I also enjoyed the infrared images in the west gallery of Los Angeles’ canals (example below) by Jason Gowans.

and the photo shows at Monte Clark and the Equinox.

Our first Friday night roll of the season was a windy evening around the seawall, enjoying the bright yellow sulfur piles against the deep blue of the North Shore mountains.

This week is Bird Week in Vancouver and we took in the Night Owl Prowl sponsored by the Stanley Park Ecological Society.

After waiting for a bit at the Lost Lagoon Nature house, and intuiting that the event would not be taking place there, given the dearth of people, we hoofed it up past the Rose Garden to Pipeline Road, lost in space with a number of others who were looking for the owl venue.

We finally found it twenty minutes late upstairs at the Stanley Park Pavilion, where we joined about 70 others for an illustrated talk on the owls of the Park and a night walk down to Beaver Lake to try and locate some of the birds.

The bird specialist described the technique for the scientific study of owls currently being conducted: first one transcribes the weather, using a scale of 1 to 5, then the noise level, using the same scale. Then, one fires up the owl recordings and blasts the sound of virtual owls out into the forest, hoping to get an answering call and/or a visit from said bird.

On alternate evenings one calls in only the big birds, then only the small ones, since the small owls are prey for the big ones and one would not want to see a pygmy owl devoured by a barred owl.

This evening all 70 of us stood quietly in the dark and listened as the recorded call of a barred owl was wafted over the forest three times – no reply and no sign of any barred owls. Then we walked to a different part of the forest for one last kick at the owl-calling can. We waited while a birder held the recorder aloft and projected the call of a screech owl into the trees – amazingly, we received a call back.

A screech owl is alive and presumably well in Stanley Park! The bird experts were ecstatic because this was the first time since 2011 that a screech owl had been heard in these parts and only the third time in 20 years. Yippee!

See more photos here.

Turkey Art Adventure Sept 27 to Oct 10, 2015

I am really excited to have been asked to lead a small group tour to Turkey this Fall with Finisterra Travel. See the itinerary here.

See my blog posts here for my 2014 painting trip to Turkey here.

Read about my month as artist in residence at the Babayan Art House, Ibrahimpasa, Turkey in March 2009 on the blog here.

Read about my month as artist in residence at the Gumusluk Academy on the Bodrum peninsula in Turkey for May 2009 here.

Some of my favourite things …

DSCN5936

A few of my favourite Puerto Vallarta sights: colourful balloons on street food stands, this one on Insurgentes at Basillio Badillo,

DSCN5948

the bougainvillea bushes on Olas Altas and Basillio Badillo, day and night,

DSCN5950

DSCN5951

the gorgeous, gigantic trees in Lazaro Cardenas Park,

DSCN5953

skulls and skeletons,

DSCN5962

street art,

DSCN5963

DSCN5967

Art VallArta, the fantastic art studio run by the fabulous Nathalie Herling in which I created these two masks, with the great help of Mexican maestro Froylan Hernandez, worn below by Patricia Gawle and Nathalie. In the foreground you can see some of the works made by Patricia, a ceramic artist who has a studio and gallery in the old town on Basillio Badillo.

DSCN5974

DSCN5975

DSCN5977

DSCN5978

DSCN5979

DSCN5981

DSCN5982

I hope to add more colour to El Diablo at home, perhaps a brilliant red and some shiny green for the teeth.

DSCN5983

DSCN5986

DSCN5987

Amazingly, these pieces made it home intact. Ty did a wonderful job of packing them in styrofoam and several layers of bubble wrap. Below are pictures of the vessels that Froylan created.

DSCN5988

DSCN5989

The red tagine is not completed yet; Froylan is going to add highlights in darker colours with probably a couple more layers of glaze.

DSCN5990

 

Moroccan Cooking in Mexico

Ty and I joined Nathalie and eight other food lovers to create a wonderful Moroccan dinner, led by clay-cooking Maestra Nathalie, in the kitchen high in the sky above the Art Vallarta studio. Photo below by Debbie Berlin.

Here’s the description from Nathalie’s website:

Food is Art when prepared with heart and soul. We will explore every aspect of la comida international. Down to the vessel it is prepared in, selection of ingredients, how the sauce is stirred and the moments of presentation & enjoyment.

Cooking Classes and Events will be held in an handcrafted Mexican tile ART Kitchen in the Romantic Zone. Puerto Vallarta on the 8th Floor of the San Franciscan complex over looking the fabulous Bay of Vallarta. 213 Calle Pilitas, Emiliano Zapata, half a block off Olas Altas in the heart of the Romantic Zone.

Holy Mole Moroccan Cooking Class – The Menu:

Pomegranate Mint Cocktail

Moroccan Meatballs with dipping sauce

Chicken Almond Bastilla


Dried salted tomatoes, olives, preserved lemons and vegetable fish Tagine

Traditional Vegetable Tagine with Lamb Merguez Sausage and Ras El Hanout spice

Preserved Lemons and Pomegranate Molasses

Rose water and spices steamed couscous grain

Traditional Yogurt Cake, orange blossom ice cream with fruits (Photo below by Debbie Berlin)

Wine, Mint Tea and Coffee

Each of us contributed to making the dinner, from slicing the tomatoes, to grilling the meatballs and chicken, to preparing the fillo pastry, to slicing the fish and preparing the shrimp, to grinding the spices with mortar and pestle.

While we worked the multi-talented Froylan Hernandez serenaded us on his guitar.

All the dishes were cooked on the gas stove-top in clay vessels, including a beautiful tagine made by Froylan, topped with a delightful little ceramic blowfish.

After everything was prepared and cooked, we sat down to dinner on Nathalie’s delightful terrace overlooking Banderas Bay to enjoy the fruits of our labours – fantastic!

See more here.

For more info about Art Vallarta click here.

More Art Walkin’

Artists Austin Young and David Burns from Los Angeles are in PV to work on a collaborative art project entitled Fallen Fruit. The project is designed for people to reimagine their communities as “fruitful places”: “to collectively re-imagine the function of public participation and urban space, and to explore the meaning of community through creating and sharing new and abundant resources. Fruit Trees! Share your fruit! Change the world!”, as their write-up describes it.

We participated, along with dozens of others, in helping to create a Fruit Magazine in one night in the garden of the Oficina de Proyectos Culturales; it is entitled “¡Estás Como Mango!” and features collage images of fruit-inspired art and original texts and images about fruit and the history of Puerto Vallarta. Contributors were asked to bring photographs, stories, poems, drawings, recipes, and other visual material that connects with the subject of fruit in Vallarta.

When we arrived, several white tables and chairs were set up and people were already in the throes of creation to the inspirational sound of jazz music. Each table was decorated with a centrepiece of fruit and art supplies, including piles of magazines and advertisements to be used as collage material.

Ty enthusiastically jumped in to create a “fruit taxi” from the material provided, while my piece featured female figures, many with fruit heads. Fun! For more information on this project, click here. For information about the OPC Cultural Centre, click here.

After completing our offering, we visited some of the Art Walk galleries that we had not made it to last time, including the Mata Ortiz Ceramic Gallery (incredibly delicate and detailed small vessels)

and the Loft Galeria,

as well as a majolica shop selling many multi-coloured and costly ceramic vessels.

Our walk home to us back along the Malecon, where we saw a pirate ship floating on the bay, several sellers of spray can paintings, many crepe vendors, and the colourful lights of the boardwalk bars and restaurants.

Back in the ‘hood, and feeling a hankering for grilled shrimp, we wound our way through the streets to El Brujo, a restaurant well-reviewed on Trip Advisor, to sample some seafood.

The grilled shrimp was tasty, the octopus, not so much.

See more pics here and here.

Ceramics and other Fun in the Sun

While I wait for El Diablo to be dry enough to fire and glaze, I am working on a new creation.  This piece began life as an alien with three eyeballs and five tentacles, inspired by the octopus piece Froylan is helping Andy build.

First El Maestro threw a pot on the wheel which then became the rock on which the octopus sits. Then he and Andy crafted a hollow head for the beast and eight curling tentacles which I greatly admired.

I decided that my alien, too, would have curling tentacles; however, I didn’t have the skill to create as beautiful ones as those on the octopus.

The first two smaller tentacles I adhered in place of eyebrows, while three others were attached below the nose. These ended up looked like moustache whiskers. A further larger couple I initially intended to attach below the mouth but, upon further thought, I decided against it.

After asking me whether my creation was a predator or a vegetarian – vegetarian – Froylan had an idea for the mouth, based on a trumpet fish he’d seen while diving. He crafted me a very nice small mouthpiece on the wheel; subsequently, we decided that one of the smaller tentacles would be best placed coming out of the mouth for feeding purposes.

As I continued to work on the piece, it mutated from an alien into the Vegetarian Sea Santa you see here. The shape of the mask suggested a beard, so I carved wiggly lines into the clay to indicate wavy hair.

Scales were cut into the cheeks and algae into the area around the forehead; if I had time, I’d probably have made the algae hair more three dimensional by attaching separate fronds and leaves. Given that there’s not much time left to complete the piece, that will have to wait for another opportunity.

The other night Ty and I made our way down to the Sea Monkey beach bar to watch the pelicans swim and wait for the sunset.

While there we enjoyed watching a pair of golden long-haired dachshunds play on the sand, running and digging holes.

Other than that, we have drunk cups of coffee at various outdoor cafes – Caffe del Mar, also an art gallery containing the ceramic work of Rodo Padillo and the paintings of Angie McIntosh –  is a good one,

as is A Page in the Sun, a combo bookstore and coffee shop,

played a few games of pool at the Crowbar in our neighbourhood, run by a woman from Chilliwack,

had a few lunches at Mi Cafe, a fantastic spot around the corner from us,

and spent Sunday evening at a potluck film fest put on by Nathalie at Art VallARTa, watching Birdman and Gone Girl, while sampling some spicy chili, pasta salad (made by me from scratch), pizza, and lots of baked goodies – fun!

I really love the colourful streets here, with fabrics of many colours and stripes, beautiful flowers, and vibrantly painted cement buildings.

See more here and here.

Centro Art Walking

Here I am wearing the approved art opening outfit, on the foot bridge over the Rio Cuale on the way to Angeline Kyba’s art studio opening in Gringo Gultch. Her place is the last house on the street that runs right along the river and has a commanding view out over the town and mountains south of it.

There are many beautiful houses, and especially beautiful bougainvilleas, in this part of the world.

The studio is accessed up a fairly long, steep set of stairs to the top floor. Below is a photo of the artist.

After spending a bit of time inhaling the ambience, we headed back down the road to Centro for the Wednesday night Art Walk in the area past the main Cathedral.

I really love photographing the Cathedral, but its odd location makes it difficult. Unlike other cities here, in which the main Cathedrals are situated in expansive plazas, PV’s is off on a side street in a position that hides it from being seen in its totality.

We passed an interesting looking restaurant/ bar on the way and so stopped in for a glass of vino on the balcony. Florio’s is its name and it also has a lovely little brightly-decorated patio in the back.

Our first stop, just around the corner, is a new artists collective gallery operated by a woman from Vancouver, Nina I think is her name. I really like the painted wood free-standing devils and masks from Oaxaca made of wood and boar’s bristles. Fabulous! Now that I am a ceramicist (ha!) (not), I can really appreciate the skill that it takes to make these pieces.

Galeria Corsica, billed as containing “museum quality fine art”, was next on the route. This place, on several levels, occupies the former house of a famous old-time Puerto Vallarta artist.

It has a lovely sculpture courtyard, which looked beautiful in the light of the early evening.

Kitty-corner to the Corsica is the Galeria des Artistes (at least I think that’s the name), which had an interesting juxtaposition of abstract steel sculpture and semi-surrealist painting.

Ty always manages to find a good place to sit while indulging me in my art fetish.

One of the galleries that I find most interesting is the Galerie Omar Alonso; it often has good installation and contemporary sculpture.

This night they were setting up the work of Ireri Topete, the printmaking maestra I met last year. She runs the studio on Isla Cuale. Her beautiful mixed media works on paper deal with the environment and the sea and sky scapes of Puerto Vallarta.

Galerie Whitlow features the work of Michael Whitlow, a realist painter of still lifes.

Calle Aldama was partially blocked off for a piano recital by local teenagers, presided over by the ubiquitous skeletons found around here.

The Pacifico was one of the more crowded spaces, possibly because the drinks and nibblies are more lavish here than in some places.

This puppy dog, exhausted from a strenuous art day, could barely move to acknowledge visitors.

See more here. More information about the art walk can be found here.

El Diablo Rises

Another day, another beautiful walk to Art VallARTa to continue my work on El Diablo.

The devil was covered in a plastic bag overnight to be kept flexible for further operations this morning. The first order of business was to add a protruding chin to the face, using a separate piece of clay which was then massaged into the correct shape.

I cut lines into the forehead to prepare the surface for eyebrows. After rolling out two small amounts of clay to the correct size, the eyebrows were attached and Froyland helped me to shape and mold them.

We added lines to indicate the brow and wrinkles between the eyes.

El Maestro seems to have been pleased so far!

The next step was to affix the horns; first small holes had to be pierced in the temples of the mask, then the horns attached with slip.

Froyland demonstrated how to attach the horns, holding the mask so that it would not crack as the heavy material was added. I also added cheekbones.

So far, so good. Froyland is working on a couple of vessels featuring imaginary undersea creatures.

As we were working, others continued with their projects, scarves and silk paintings and glazing ceramics.

Since the devil is a master of the art of temptation, Froyland thought that he needed a cigarette …

Small towers of clay were placed under the horns to support them as I worked on the finishing details of El Diablo’s face.

 

The Devil is in the Details: The Evolution of El Diablo at Art VallARTa

I am so happy that Art VallARTa  studio in the Old Town is fully functional now and doing so well. Monday Ty and I went for a visit and Nathalie showed me around what is now a well-equipped large studio and gallery space.

The theatre is also well set up with cushions and blankets for the weekly life drawing sessions held there. The 2nd annual Romance in the Romantic Zone exhibition of art on the theme of love drew four hundred people to its opening night, offering, in addition to framed two dimensional pieces, ceramic and glass wear, and a gigantic wall mural of a heart, a tunnel of love installation through which visitors walked to gain entry to the show – fantastic! wish I could have been there. Nathalie’s piece is the Love Roulette wheel below.

On Monday a large group of folks were painting water colours in one part of the space while a few others worked on clay projects in the high-ceiling multi-media area.

I have decided to take a ceramics course offered by Froyland Hermandez, a Mexican clay maestro, and attended the first class today. Froyland is a very experienced artist who is very patient with newcomers to the medium.

He is able to explain all aspects of the technique clearly and is very patient, particularly with people like me who are not the best students. I have tried wheel-throwing before, and while I really enjoyed Charmian Nimmo’s class, realised soon that it was not for me, given that I don’t really have the arm and shoulder strength necessary to centre and raise the clay higher than about two inches off the wheel. Makes for a rather limited repertoire of objects that can be made, essentially small candy bowls. Although I did make one bowl that I was quite happy with, the only one that did not have walls that were way too thick and heavy.

I decided instead to try hand-building since I am interested in sculpture and particularly like masks. Froyland showed me how to wedge and prepare the clay correctly and how to roll it out like dough ready to be used. After deciding that I wanted to make a mask, Froyland prepared an armature of bubble wrap and tape around which we placed my rolled out piece of clay.

From this humble beginning the mask grew and took shape. After scoring the surface to indicate where the facial features would go, El Diablo, the devil, was begun by pressing indentations for the eyes and mouth, being careful not to press too hard so as to break or crack the clay’s surface.

For the eyes, I rolled two balls of clay which were placed into the indentations, then scored the surface around each eyeball to accommodate the bits of clay that would form the eyelids. These pieces were rolled out and placed above and below the eyeballs then massaged and stroked with wooden tools to create what eventually looked like a pretty decent set of eyeballs.

Next I created a free-standing nose from a separate lump of clay which was kept flexible by being covered with plastic. Two tusks and several teeth followed, each made by rolling out a cone of clay, first using my hands and then the surface of the table.

This process was trickier that I thought it would be; some of the teeth rolled out too long and thin, while others were too big and thick. Getting a few teeth the right size took quite a bit of time, as did getting the two tusks the right dimensions and curvature. These were carefully placed in the mouth indentation so I could get an idea of what the finished mouth would look like. Having decided that they were good, I then scored the bottom of each tooth, and the area of surface on which each would sit, and attached them with slip, very liquid clay.

I was very excited about the horns. These were made with cones of clay rolled out, like the tusks, first with my hands and then on the table top. Froyland and I had a bit of discussion about what kinds of horns would be appropriate. I didn’t really care but he thought bull’s horns would be best so I took his advice.

He believes that, when working on an object from nature, such as a face, one should look at the details of the face, or, in this case, the horns, to see what they are actually like, rather than simply making something up that doesn’t necessary correspond with the actual “thing”. So the horns took a bit of work to get the right dimensions and curvature. Froyland cautioned me not to put the horns on too quickly because they’re heavy and might crack the piece. I am looking forward to completing the mask tomorrow.

While I was crafting El Diablo, Kelly, a former air traffic controller from the States, was working on a wheel-thrown lidded vessel, on top of which she planned to affix a snail and two sea turtles.

To my right Rosemary, from Lethbridge, painted glaze on her projects, a head with small legs on top, and a mask, for her synchronised swimmer grand-daughter.

At another table several others worked with Carol Ann on silk-painting, a process that also looked very interesting. Some of those folks wore beautiful fused glass bracelets made at another workshop with Carol Ann.

Below, El Diablo so far!

After a hard several hours slaving over my clay piece, I met Ty down by the pier and we spent a very pleasant few hours under a palapa at the beach, including a refreshing dip in the ocean, the first one this year. Had the best guacamole and chips with hot salsa ever at the Mahi Mahi Beach bar with excellent service – highly recommended.

See more photos here.

South Side Strolling

Every second Friday night is the South Side Shuffle along Basilio Badillo. Some of the venues have changed from last year; Kathleen Carillo’s gallery has moved around the corner to Constitucion St and the Color Pod lady has packed up her palm fronds, left PV, and gone back to Florida.

However, the main galleries along here, Galeria Dante, Ambos Galeria and Contempo Gallery, are still rolling and bringing in the crowds, at least as long as the vino doesn’t run out …

Live music still gets the crowd going and adds to the festive ambiance. I particularly love the outdoor sculpture courtyard at Dante – I could sit there for a very long time – it is extremely pleasant.

I also really enjoyed meeting a small Mexican hairless dog in front of Cassandra Shaw’s jewellery shop. Poor old Ty has been fighting a cold for the last few days so unfortunately he was not well enough to join in this time.

Some of the things I love about this place are interesting roof lines, including this imitation Greek temple across the street from us, and cupolas;

skeletons and skulls, found all over the town;

angels, including this beauty at the Hacienda San Angel in Gringo Gultch;

dogs and cats, including these guys on Los Muertos beach;

and cold cervesas under an umbrella.

In my desire to be living “local” in PV, I had forgotten some of the idiosyncrasies of living in a typical Mexican neighbourhood. Let me give you an idea of what these are:

1) The small cluster of buildings in which we are staying which seemed so quiet when we arrived is now the site of a small-scale construction operation. Two guys showed up two days ago with jackhammers and buzz saws and proceeded to generate an enormous racket while presumably installing plumbing in two of the empty apartments. And, since PV does not seem to have any noise regulations, or at least none that are enforced, who knows how many days and hours this will go on.

2) Doggies and roosters I have already mentioned; there are several in the immediate vicinity. One rooster gets going at 2:30 am.

3) Our first Friday night in the Old Town was last night and it brought all new noise joys, above and beyond what we have already experienced. About 11:30 pm a blast of music startled us when a mariachi band, from the volume seemingly right in our living room, but actually on the street just around the corner, began playing at full volume to the delight of the local youth whose cries of joy added to the general mayhem. Then, around 3 am, when the mariachi band had finally finished their set, the tourist folks down the block, who’d obviously been having a few brews, began blasting their music at a thousand decibels, while screaming, yelling, and fighting, until 4:45 am. Even the animal noises disappeared into the background with all the commotion. Viva Mexico! Viva la difference!

** I realise that the whole noise issue is a cultural thing – we come from a culture of large houses (mostly) and concrete condos which mute neighbouring noises. Mexicans, at least those who are not wealthy, mostly grow up with lots of noise in the neighbourhood, houses that lie very close together with not much in the way of sound-proofing, and are accustomed to being surrounded with lively, noisy activity day and night.

One of the benefits of staying in this area is the plethora of local bars and restaurants; below is Que?Pasa just down the road from us. Here live music entertains the crowd seven nights a week and they do have delicious tortilla soup.

The Emilano Zapata farmers market is the place to buy food in this area, with several fruit and vegetable tiendas and a central area of butcher stands, as well as this little taco stand just outside.

Mid-day today, though, the scent from the meat stalls was too ripe for my sensitive nose.

While we were strolling around the area a tiny beautiful butterfly took advantage of my hat to hitch a ride. After riding around with us for quite some time, and showing no inclination to fly off, I gently swept it off my hat and onto a welcoming flower branch nearby.

See more here.