Spring? … Maybe

Right now it’s about 10 degrees above and feels like Spring is here; however, we have been warned that, from the time when it first seems like Spring, there will be 6 snowfalls until Spring actually and completely arrives. It’s definitely thawing, though; the snow is melting, huge ponds are forming everywhere, mud is proliferating, and dust is blowing – freshet!

Here are a couple of photos from the beginning of March when it was still deepest winter; snow on the ground and cold with the wind chill factor.

On Ty’s week off we headed out to Charlie Lake again, to take one last walk on the still-frozen, beautiful white snow-surfaced lake. On our way down to the water we saw the tracks of a snowshoe hare being chased by a predator of some kind – fox? cougar? quien sabe?

Once again, as before, we were the only ones out there; the sound of us marching along breaking through the icy crust started to worry me as I wondered whether the ice was thin enough for us to break through into the icy cold water below.

We survived the walk, although Ty was quite bushed and had to have a little rest … haha.

We have been very busy at the studio this month; several shows are upcoming in this area for the Flying Colours Artist Association and everyone was trying to get work finished for display.

Mary did a couple of classes on linocut with stencils and brought in an abundance of beautiful coloured stencils, papers, and other odds and ends to make prints with.

A really fascinating thing we participated in on March 3 was the annual Rod and Gun Club Fundraising Dinner and Auction. This was an experience totally out of my usual sphere and much of it made me feel quite queasy.

Where the art gallery auction had only taken up half the Pomeroy Hotel ballroom, the Rod and Gun Club took up the entire space, with a huge amount of stuff related to the catching and killing of animals: a silent auction, a regular auction, bucket draws, door prizes … And I must say, the buffet dinner was expansive and excellent.

Lots of guns, including junior rifle sets for the kids; butchering equipment, shooting tables, big boys toys for chasing and transporting game, clothing, guiding packages, and the like. Also, art work by members of the Flying Colours.

Below, a volunteer is holding one of Sandy’s donated paintings aloft for bidding. I was absolutely amazed at the amount of money being spent; the bids on everything were huge – they must have raised tens of thousands of dollars, maybe a hundred thousand dollars, putting the art auction haul to shame. It’s too bad that folks can’t get as exited about art work as they do about guns and animal hunts … Charlie told us that Fort St John has the highest number of millionaires per capita in BC and perhaps in all of Canada, 4.75 per 100 people – who knew?

Somewhere around the first week of March the days became longer quite abruptly. Rather than getting light at 9:30 am, it now gets light around 6.

While it was still cold, Ty had to wear two hats rather than just one. Here he puts his woolen touque over his BC Hydro camoflague cap.

Here I am at Fish Creek Urban Forest, the last time I wore my snow suit. I have to say that I am pretty happy not to have to wear the ol’ snow suit again this year!

Irene Gut, below, is an encaustic artist who was preparing some pieces for inclusion in the North Peace Gallery’s Points of View show coming up in a week.

She uses a small iron to paint with, rubbing tiny chunks of coloured beeswax onto its surface, then runnning the iron over a smooth plasticised paper to create her works.

The coloured chunks of wax look like candies.

I have not made prints for quite a few years but I got inspired by Mary’s demos to make a mixed-media linocut for the print exchange on the theme of Our Home and Native Land. Ten artists are participating and the show is travelling around to several galleries in the Peace region of BC and Alberta. At the end, we will each get a portfolio of 10 works from the other participating artists.

I made a linocut of flowers, printed on origami paper collaged onto a collograph support, in progress above.

Carolyn is hard at work on her moose painting for the Points of View show, based on Miep’s wildlife photography, opening at the North Peace Gallery next Friday night. This moose, inspired by one of Miep’s photos, appears in quite a few works to be displayed.

We still walk along the trail north of town; just recently these condo buildings have risen from the dirt; they follow on the same design as the one we occupy; however, they are selling for considerably less than ours was going for a year ago. Such is the economy here, very dependent on the fortunes of oil and gas.

Another day, another art work … Here are a couple of my works in progress; above linocuts on origami paper and below, digital images collaged onto wooden cradle boxes.

The piece below isn’t finished yet but so far it is textured acrylic paint and collage on wood, featuring endangered birds of the Peace region and Miep’s Canada Goose photo, made small and colour-manipulated.

My home workspace is getting more and more crowded; somehow, things always seem to get out of my control and proliferate – will have to have a purge one of these days. But putting the card table in was an excellent idea so now I can work on pieces while standing – I get very tired of so much sitting!

Ty and I took a walk last weekend out along the Eastern Bypass Trail, its concrete length mercifully free of most snow and ice. My hiking boots, very warm for the dead of winter, unfortunately have very slippery soles so I have to tread extremely carefully on the still-remaining slick pockets of snow and ice.

Sandra, freshly arrived home from a month in Australia, invited me to come with her and some friends out for a hike to the Hudson’s Hope steam vents west of Fort St John. We set off about 8 in the morning for the 2 hour trip up into the Rocky Mountain foothills past Hudson’s Hope on a beautiful sunny and relatively balmy day.

On the way out we stopped at a rest area to take some photos of the Peace River Valley, soon to be inundated by the Site C dam. Fog was lying low across the river; before coming here, I had no idea that rivers could be foggy. We stopped somewhere along the way to pick up Sandra’s friend Debra, who lives with her husband in a large wooden-beamed cabin and riverside acreage far from the madding crowd. Ross hunts and collects antlers, into which he will be carving various scenes.

Along with their main house, Debra and Ross also have a wooden cabin, currently occupied by a friend and her dog.

Our route took us up past the WAC Bennett dam, seen below (this dam created one of the largest lakes in BC, Williston, the expanse of white in the middle of the image below) and onto a logging road up the mountain.

After pulling over to the side of the road, we strapped on snowshoes, just in case we needed them on the way back if the snow had melted too much to hike the trail.

The valley is beautiful and it was very nice to see some mountains once again.

The trail to the steam vents is marked in spots, although I’m not sure I would have been able to find it on my own. Much larger coniferous trees occupy this area, along with some larger aspen.

A covering of about 4 inches of snow still obscured the trail, making it quite slippery to traverse in spots; below Dora is navigating down a muddy trench.

One we emerged from the forested area, the land dropped off to the Peace River canyon. The ground was quite green, with a variety of green, orange, and yellow mosses and small groundcover.

To get down to the steam vents requires picking one’s way along a steep, narrow track that hairpins down the hillside. I made my way very carefully in my heavy boots, putting one hand on the hillside for support. I definitely did not want to trip over my feet and roll down over the cliff!

In 1793 before settlers reached the Hudson’s Hope area, Alexander Mackenzie explored the Peace River and described this geothermal area with its ever-emitting steam coming from burning underground coal seams in his journals. These steam vents reminded me of the Chimera ever-burning hilltop flames that we visited in Olympos, Turkey.

The two doggies who accompanied the group plagued us for food, always on the lookout for any dropped morsel. I was a bit worried that one of them would go over the edge in their excitement but luckily that did not happen.

The view was spectacular!

I’m not sure how long the hike is; it took us about 2 hours to hike in and a bit longer to hike out again. I was very tired after about an hour of the trip back and struggled a bit with my heavy pack and heavy boots, each one feeling like it added ten pounds to my feet. Sandra and Debra very kindly helped me out by carrying my pack and snowshoes for the last little bit. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and collapsed on the couch almost senseless. But what a great day it was!

Below is an example of some of the media things I am doing for Community Bridge, a wooden plaque with a collage thanking one of our sponsors for their support of our 2016 Haunted House. I have created four of these plaques so far – fun.

Here’s another (not very good) photo of what the plaques look like:

See more photos here.

Snow, Trees, and Art

This just in:

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It does not get light here until 9 am and this little part of the world does not do Daylight Savings Time; the time never changes here in FSJ.

At its highest point this time of year, the sun does not come very far above the horizon, meaning that the shadows are always long, even at noon or 1 in the afternoon. That makes for good picture taking! Downside: we only get 7.5 hours of sunlight at this time of year; it gets dark at around 4:30 pm; upside: it’s often sunny.

When the sun is out, and it’s -17 (as recorded by my car’s dashboard), and the trees are covered in hoar frost and snow, the landscape is absolutely stunning.

I stop my car every second block and take pictures of the trees – I have never seen anything like it before. In the morning just as the sun was rising, the trees were gilded pink and purple.

I thought -17 was cold … and it is … but it’s going down to -31 in the next couple of days. This wonderful news gave me the incentive to empty, put away, and clear out our garage of all the still-packed boxes that we haven’t bothered to open since we got here. One of the reasons we decided to rent this place was because of its tandem garage, a garage that takes two vehicles in a row (those of you who saw Ty’s video of this place before we moved in will remember his joy about the garage …). Since it will be so cold, Ty’s truck can’t be parked on the road anymore; it needs to be plugged in if it sits outside overnight. So, now we have room enough in the garage for both vehicles.

The parking spots here are enormous, seemingly twice as big as the ones down south, making it much easier to park the ol’ car. This is because the big truck is king in this part of the world. (My friend Sandy told me that the truck is the sports car of the north). Amazingly, though, some people still manage to take up two spots when they park … (There actually is a Facebook page called “I live in Fort St John and I park like an a**hole” devoted to images of such parking jobs). Also, when the temperature goes down to -17 or below, people leave their vehicles running while they go about their business, some with dogs inside – coming from a “no idle” city, I have not gotten used to this practice – still find it disconcerting.

Eliza and I hiked through Beatton Park the other day on the snowshoe trails. These trails are maintained by the FSJ cycling club and the Whiskey Jack ski club, both very active in this area. We spent about two hours walking through the forested area and noticing how the vegetation changed from aspens to birch to spruce trees depending on the elevation and amount of light.

Eliza also pointed out strange bruises or craterous indentations in some of the trees; these were the marks left by moose eating chunks of the trees.

We also saw evidence of woodpecker holes in many of the trees. Apparently there are also snowshoe hares in these woods, although we did not see any this day. (Miep has seen moose up close on her acreage near the park – apparently they are enormous beasts).

Charlie Lake is frozen and covered with snow and its flat white surface is absolutely gorgeous. It’s not yet frozen deep enough to skate on but will be soon.

A friend from yoga invited me over to her place for lunch and a walk in the country near the FSJ airport. Sandra’s property is huge and fronts the Beatton River – on a sunny afternoon it was absolutely gorgeous.

Christmas time is busy in this part of the world with many craft and artisan markets. I took in three of them the other day, at the North Peace Cultural Centre, The Peace Gallery North, and 10,000 Villages above the MAC Thrift store. Lots of soap makers, wood workers, jewelers, bakers, clothing makers, and artists had their work out for display and sale for a bustling holiday crowd. I felt a bit sorry for the people whose booths were upstairs at the Cultural Centre, especially the soap vendor near the back, because most folks did not venture up the stairs.

Patrick, Ty & I took in the Canadian Country Christmas show at the Lido Theatre. Originally the town’s movie theatre, the Lido has been converted into a dinner theatre and show space with booths and tables on a tiered base.

We had seats right down close to the action, but on the side so we did not get blasted by the music speakers. Country legends (none of whom I knew, not being a country music afficionado) and a couple of local talents serenaded the sold out crowd with western music on a mightily cold – 23 night.

Sandy & I headed out to Dawson Creek for the second day of Sandy’s 2 day workshop of tree portraits a la David Langevin. We stayed overnight in Dawson with Mary and Charlie in their delightful wooden cabin-like house on 10 acres overlooking the city, a house filled with art and warmth.

Almost everyone we’ve met here has a house whose wall are covered with art – it is really great to see. Mary and Charlie are printmakers and have, in addition to paintings, an excellent collection of prints.

On the main floor Mary has her studio, with three presses – makes me want to make prints again! (Maybe I will …).

Oh, and three fat pheasants were roosting in a tree outside the house for the night. And there is a ski hill just down the road. And they have X country skiing and snowshoeing trails on their property.

The workshop was held in a decomissioned elementary school classroom that has been given over to the Dawson art group. Sandy showed us how to complete the trees we had begun last time.

I am sort of happy with mine – at a certain point in the process I just did my own thing instead of what I was supposed to do so I did not get the results that I anticipated. Below you can see it just after I added snow to the branches.

And here it is so far (slightly out of focus …):

However, I can continue to add layers if I want to, to achieve something more like what I was supposed to get. Or not – I haven’t decided yet. Part of the problem is that I did not put enough texture on my piece and I did not do some of the glazing layers correctly. My tree ended up being sort of a cartoon tree. But it is fun to be learning some new painting techniques after all these years.

And here it is more in focus:

Please take note of the weather forecast – going down to -32 but sunny for Ty’s week off …

See more photos here.

Winter in November

Already halfway through November and the time seems to have gotten away on me – I had hoped to do an update before this! Well, we both took at least a week to recover from the Buddy Holly play – so much fun but needed to rest and relax after that. Everyone I spoke to said the play was fantastic, the most successful production that Stage North has ever done, and the best thing in Fort St John ever, and that was nice to hear. Since then, I have gotten a part-time job working 2 mornings a week at a local social service agency a three minute drive from our place, as their social media and training assistant. I update their various web pages and keep track of training modules and other duties as assigned.

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One of those other duties was to help prepare the building for their annual Haunted House, in which the whole place is decorated to be scary and spooky. Along with a few others, I taped black garbage bags to the walls to create dark tunnels along the hallways. Various local companies sponsor some of the rooms and this year about 950 brave souls made their way through the display. Ty & I thought that we’d probably have quite a few kids come through our complex for Halloween so we stocked up on quite a few boxes of tiny chocolate bars. It was snowing that night and we did not get a single kid … so, of course we had to consume those little goodies ourselves!

The artist group that I’ve joined spends a few days a month in a studio out at Charlie Lake, about a half hour drive along the Alaska Highway into the country from our place. The last time I was out there, the beginning of November, quite a few folks were there painting and making prints.

Mary, from Dawson Creek, was introducing a couple of people into the joys of linocut, very successfully.

Others were working on their tree portraits, the results of a painting workshop on the use of veils and glazes and other “old master” painting techniques by Sandy.

Since the results of this way of working are very cool, another group in Dawson Creek decided to have Sandy repeat the workshop there and I was lucky enough to be able to take it, too. We have completed the first day of the two day workshop and will finish it in December. I am pretty excited about the possibilities! Although I was trained as a painter many moons ago, painting has always been a bit problematic for me. The most difficult thing about it is deciding when a painting is finished – I don’t have that problem with printmaking, photography, or film, for some reason.

Here’s what I’ve done so far – it is ready for the next layers of colour.

I’ve had some success with my short films lately: The Fire Ceremony is an official selection for the Leicester City Film Festival this November and a Semi-Finalist for the Los Angeles Cine Fest, while Requiem for the Birds is an Official Selection for the 14th International Short & Independent Film Festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh from Dec 3 – Dec 10, 2016. I’ve also been selected for a photography show at the Grant Berg Gallery in Grande Prairie in January so I am working on stuff for that.

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Eliza and I had a great snowy walk a week or so ago with her old lab Tensing in Beatton Park, also at Charlie Lake, where a group of local people have made 15 kilometers of biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoe trails through the forest. Eliza knows these trails like the back of her hand but I got completely turned around and lost; I haven’t figured out the lay of the land here yet. In between the trees, in the shade, there was still quite a bit of snow and ice.

Ty has begun shift work and has completed his first 14 days of night shift pretty successfully – we set up one of the bedrooms as a “dark room” with blackout curtains so that he’d be able to sleep during the day and that seems to be working pretty well. The transition to days off was a bit rough but he seems to be figuring it out. Below is a picture of the “super moon” rising out beyond our complex.

I’m still going to yoga but not as much – working is cramping my style a bit! I also signed on to do a volunteer project with the BC Seniors Advocate. They are interviewing every resident in long term care in British Columbia with an eye to improving care services for seniors. Along with about 10 others, I attended an all-day training session and have done 2 three hour shifts at the local residential care facility so far. Some of it is pretty heartbreaking. Our senior cat Aran is adjusting well; he was skin and bones for a while with the trauma of the move but he has resumed eating and seems pretty comfortable now.

I forgot to mention last time that at the art auction we attended there were several door prizes that we bought tickets for and, unbelievably, I won the last and best door prize – a helicopter ride for 4 over the area which can taken anytime in the next year! We will wait until warmer sunnier weather to give that a whirl.

Take note of the temperature … minus 9 – 10 now. My new snow suit is getting a good workout! On our walk a couple of days ago, in the beautiful new, and cold, snow that had descended on the city overnight, we saw a large hawk at the top of a tree – magnificent!

At first I thought it was a bald eagle; it had a golden head and a dark feathered body. I was able to take a few pictures of it before it hopped away from tree-top to tree-top looking for its next meal. On that walk both Ty & I realised that certain parts of our bodies were not warm enough: at -9 Ty’s feet were freezing and so were my hands! So we headed to the Mall and he got some snow and rain boots good to -40, I got a pair of very nice mittens, and we both got snowshoes so hopefully we should be good to go for the winter! We shall see …

Please take note of the snow on the bench here … about 6 – 8 inches, I figure. On our walk through the Fish Creek Urban Forest yesterday, Ty regaled me with tales of glorious woodsmanship, how to avoid getting caught in the bite and crushed by a falling tree, how to sidestep down the hill so as not to tumble on the ice, how to go around the base of a tree without grabbing hold of it and causing it to topple on top of me, etc. All good to know!

We sidestepped down a long narrow trail through a slide area of fallen trees to the river,

then up again to the flats, only to see at the top a sign declaring that trail closed …however,  there was no sign to be seen at the other end where we had entered, which I thought a bit odd. The forest was beautiful with its variety of trees – spruce, aspen, willow – and meandering stream not quite yet fully frozen.  The landscape is beautiful – it reminds me of my childhood in North Vancouver when we got snow every winter. Although it’s -9, it does not feel as cold as Vancouver at 5 above – it’s a dry cold rather than a heavy, wet, piercing cold.

Last night, with new friends Sylvia, Danielle, Tina, and Patrick, we piled into Good Old Daze, an ice cream parlour-restaurant-live-music-venue, to catch the return of Deere John, a local country music band, featuring Jim, our fearless media and microphone leader on the Buddy Holly show, rockin’ out on the keyboard. Good Times! (And a wee bit chilly for this new-to-the-north-newbie!).

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Here’s a couple of short videos of their tunes:

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See more pics here.

Selfies vs Self-Portraits: Expanding the Genre at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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In conjunction with the exhibition The Artist Herself: Self-Portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists running from Oct 2, 2015 to Jan 3, 2016 at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the gallery organised a parallel show entitled Selfies vs Self-Portraits: Expanding the Genre. The premise of the selfie exhibition was articulated as follows: “We want you to think about more than just your face representing the self. Taking inspiration from the artists featured in the exhibition, we are looking for images that explore the definition of the self-portrait and representations of identity. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to redefine the genre by looking at the spaces you occupy, the things you create, the objects that surround and/or adorn you; all the things that create the likeness of you as an individual”. 

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I was happy to have two of my Double Self-Portrait in a Burning Room works included. For more info on the Historical Portraiture show, click here. For more on the Selfie exhibit, click here.

See a video about portraiture, with some shots of the works included in the show, below.

Painters at Painter’s, Campbell River

Every year art aficionados gather at Painters Lodge in Campbell River on Vancouver Island to rub shoulders with local artists. This year, the 21st year of the Painters at Painter’s art extravaganza, saw yours truly and seven of the Turkish Ten converge on Campbell River for this event.

The Lodge is very nice, situated on several waterfront acres facing Quadra Island, with gorgeous gardens (and flowers blooming several weeks ahead of schedule – global climate change, anyone?) and several buildings worth of rooms. Another nice feature is the pool, a real sun trap on what turned out to be a fabulous hot summery weekend.

Lidia was kind enough to invite us over for drinks and nibblies to her waterfront room on Friday night and we convened at Kathy’s home on the hill overlooking the ocean on Saturday night. While the art work on display at Painter’s was mostly not of interest to me, I did appreciate the skill evidenced and some of the technical info dispensed at the various workshops.

The weekend consisted of presentations, demonstrations, and panel discussions by painters, mostly local and mostly associated with the Federation of Canadian Artists, held in several different venues around the grounds. First up, in the big tent on the tennis courts, was “Face to Face”.

Four artists demonstrated their varying approaches to portrait painting, with fellow artist Rick McDiarmid the willing model and Andy Wooldridge the MC. Kiff Holland opted for pastel, while David Goatley & Catherine Moffat used oil paints and Alan Wylie acrylic. The tent was very well set up, with two large screens on either side of the stage displaying close-ups of the paintings as they progressed.

It was very interesting to see how each artist began the project. It was obvious watching David that here was a man who does this for a living. He very quickly drew out and blocked in the bust of his subject, using swift and sure brush strokes.

Catherine was more tentative and worked from the outside of the face in with light, grey strokes.

Kiff’s pastel portrait began with what looked to be a not very promising sketch of the model’s features but soon resolved into something finely realised. From my vantage point it was not possible to see much of what Alan was doing.

Master of ceremonies Andy Wooldridge was both amusing and informative as he commented on the proceedings and answered questions from the audience. In fact, the commentary seemed to me like that heard while watching a snooker championship or a poker game.

That this event continues to get such a large audience every year is testament to the abilities of these folks to engage onlookers in their process.

Up next was Country Mouse, City Mouse, an account of the careers and studios of Nanaimo artists Grant Leier and Nixie Barton, whose work I do enjoy.

Nixie works in encaustic, executing semi-abstract images of flowers and patterns. Grant’s work is unabashedly decorative, highly detailed and colourful; his intent is to give pleasure and that obviously works for the many people who buy his paintings.

Ten of us convened for the famous brunch in the main building and consumed quantities of seafood, roast lamb, salad, roasted veggies, and a vast array of sweets – fabulous.

The afternoon saw several of us poolside, baking in the heat and dipping in the water, after checking out a few minutes of Keith Hiscock’s still life demo and before a panel discussion with six of the artists moderated by Nicholas Pearce.

Since I have heard, and participated in, these sorts of discussions about art more times than I can count, their conclusions didn’t particularly grip me. However, the rest of the audience seemed to appreciate what these artists had to say and gave them a warm round of applause. It must be very satisfying for these folks to have such an enthusiastic following of art lovers.

On Sunday morning three of us took the water taxi across to the April Point resort and had a stroll around the grounds, with a nice view of the islands and mountains of the coast, before another fabulous feast, after which we rolled back down the highway and onto the ferry.

In the waters around April Point orange sea urchins are very plentiful, but very few starfish, only a couple of ten-armed orange seastars clinging to the rocks.

See more photos here  Painters at Painter’s.

Strawberry Festival

If it’s June, it must be Strawberry Festival time in the West End. Last Saturday was a beautiful sunny day for the annual West End Seniors Network strawberry extravaganza. This event, involving multitudes of volunteers, pounds of organic strawberries, and old time jazz music, happens at Barclay Heritage Square and includes the Manor, the Weeks House Diamond Centre for Living, and the Roedde House Museum, a collection of Victorian era restored mansions. The seniors art group for which I am the volunteer studio facilitator has participated in this event for a few years now with an art show and sale of paintings and cards.

The group is always excited to display its recent creations, mostly landscapes of Vancouver and flower paintings.

Many, many pounds of organic strawberries go into making the very popular strawberry shortcakes sold at the Festival, put together by a large team of volunteers.

New this year was a crafts tent where visitors could decorate wooden bird houses and make puppets, led by West End Seniors Network members.

Many attendees were quite interested in the works on display.

I am always amazed at the stylish outfits on display at this event. The Happy Hookers run one of the most popular booths, selling knitted and crocheted hats, scarves, and socks.

I love being a part of this energetic older group; it gives me hope that so many of our elders maintain active and productive lives well into their 80s and 90s.

See more pics here.

Watercolour in Gumusluk

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One of our last painting excursions here at the Stone House was the afternoon trip to Gumusluk for water colour painting of water and reflections to practice the techniques Eljay had discussed in the morning. The fourty minute drive took us along the coast around the peninsula from Yalikavak to the small former fishing village of Gumusluk, in antiquity the Carian city of Myndos, ruled by Mausolus, he of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus fame.

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Gumusluk is lovely and, because of its heritage status, relatively unspoiled. No mega developments are allowed here and excavations are ongoing. Some of the old city walls and foundations can be seen under the water in the bay and archeologists are excavating Rabbit Island, just over the causeway.

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Maggie, Janet, and I picked a spot at the first beach loungers we saw, and set up our painting gear there with a great view of the headland and the Greek islands beyond. On the beach I was delighted to see several gigantic korek plants painted white festooned with hanging kabak lanterns.

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After a hard afternoon of watercolour painting, we assembled and straggled into the beachside restaurant for a nice fish dinner before rolling back to the ranch satiated.

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From Acrylic Painting to Ephesus

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Monday’s art activities included “breaking the rules”, fauvist still lives a la turca. Eljay broke out the kits of bright acrylic colours and everyone proceeded to revel in the sun and the glory of unadulterated colour. Several people made more than one painting; it was very enjoyable to spend the sunny day in the garden painting.

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Tuesday morning dawned grey and not too hot, a perfect day for experiencing the large ruin site of Ephesus, the crown jewel of Turkish ancient cities, billed as the best-preserved site in the Eastern Mediterranean. I have been here on a couple of previous occasions; this time the somewhat poor weather meant a more pleasant visit, with fewer visitors and less discomfort from the heat and blazing sun of previous years. We boarded the bus at eight am and hit the road heading north, with a stop in a Guvercinlik village harbour tea shop for tea and pastries.

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After a drive of about two and a half hours we arrived at Ephesus and spent a further two and a half hours wandering through the ruins, spending some time atop the highest rung of seats in the bouleterion and the great theatre. I saw a few more areas of the site this time, including the inscription museum section. Barb and I also spent a bit of time in the Church of Mary, where the octagonal adult baptismal font fascinated me. It was a keyhole shaped pool with stairs at either end, allowing the person being baptised to immerse herself in water up to about neck depth. Surprisingly, Lidia and I both ran into Mete, our guide from a previous visit to Turkey, now based in Kusadasi and leading day trips to Ephesus.

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Our ruin visit concluded, we drove to Selcuk for lunch, scarfing down a huge pile of pide, kofte, and tea while watching a beautiful and large van cat, white with one blue and one green eye, watch us. After lunch shopping was necessary for most of the group, including purchases of jewellery and green leather boots. Overhead we could see gigantic storks winging their way around the city. Selcuk is known for its storks; the huge birds roost on almost every tall post, including light standards and mosque minarets.

 

 

 

Gobbling Down Gypsy Chicken in Gokpinar

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People continue to put out some great stuff here at the Old Stone House – here are some samples of the collage work our group executed on the theme of the four seasons of our lives, led by Hikmet.

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Another day, another great feast of food – Eljay treated the group to a typical Turkish village breakfast at the local Kahvalti Yeri (Breakfast Place), an eatery know far and wide for its great big breakfasts. We were there right when the place opened at ten in the morning and seated around one big table were fed dish after dish of tomatoes, cucumber, olives, cheese, bread out of a stone oven, borek, eight different kinds of jams, and eggs. When finished with this, we were whisked off in a midibus for the ride out to Hikmet’s place in Gokpinar (Green Spring in English), in the hills past Mumcular.

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Gokpinar is definitely well off the tourist track, up and down a winding path through farming terraces and pine trees. Although our driver had to stop several times to ask for directions, we arrived without incident at Hikmet’s Guesthouse at the end of the road through the village. Her place is also an old stone house which she has fixed up for guests; it includes three bedrooms, a beautiful big dining area and a sitting area with many colourful rugs, kilim, Hikmet’s bright abstract paintings, and lots of different objets d’arte.

The house faces west and is situated on a terraced property overlooking the rolling hills dropping down to the Aegean Sea beyond. Below the house, which has a lovely outdoor eating area, is a large garden and chicken run. Our plan was to make and eat some traditional Turkish food. Her neighbour Gunda came over to show us how to make “Lazy Ladies Baklava”, a dish which involved rolling out special dough into very large thin circular pancakes, topping them with crushed walnuts (which we crushed ourselves), and then popping the rolls into a large pan, drizzling them with sugar water, and baking them in the oven.

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While we were waiting for the baklava to bake, Hikmet took us on a tour of her small village. Just past her place is an enormous new home in the process of being built, a marble palace with pseudo-Greek pillars and a huge marble wall encircling the entire property. It is ghastly, in terrible taste and completely inappropriate for the area. Lidia and I wondered what the neighbours thought about it.

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Just across the path from this monstrosity we visited the oldest house in the village, a small, dark, very humble abode in which a one-eyed man sat carving wooden implements while his ancient wife watched.  I was very surprised to be told that she was seventy-seven, since she appeared to me to be at least one hundred and fourty. Several of our party purchased some of his wares and then we were off down the road to look at the old Roman walls, a couple of big rocks that Hikmet thought might have been graves, a village woman chopping wood with a gigantic ax, and a female shepherd with her cattle.

Once back at the house, we gathered vegetables from Hikmet’s huge garden – peas, potatoes, peppers, cucumber, and eggplant – and made cold mezes by chopping and grinding the vegetables into different purees for dipping. At one point there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm with torrential rain, at another point the power went out and we cooked in the dark, and finally the piece de resistance, Gypsy Chicken, was ready to be prepared. This involved creating a fire pit, pushing three multi-pronged sticks into the ground onto each of which was pressed a whole raw chicken, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Over top of these food pillars Nihat put three very large metal olive oil cans which were then surrounded with grass set alight. Usually this meal takes about 20 minutes to cook, but because the ground and grass were wet from the rainstorm, the whole process took about an hour. In the meantime we sampled the local village vintage and chowed down on mezes. The food flowed non-stop, each person getting a quarter chicken and veggies, as well as a generous helping of meze. Fantastic! Finally, we took pity on the poor old bus driver who was waiting all day for us and headed back down the dark highway back to town for a midnight arrival.

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Art in Iassos

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Friday morning we had an all day excursion to the ruined Greco-Roman city of Iassos, about an hour and a half north of Gokcebel. We rolled out in a convoy of two vehicles, heading through Torba, past Guvercinlik, past the atrocious monstrosity of an illegal hotel put up by Erdogan and his people, up and over a mountain, down the other side to the back of beyond – Iassos – passing forests of dry brown korek plants on the way. A former Roman city with a small harbour, Iassos is only partially excavated. Apparently it will rival Ephesus when it’s finally done many moons from now. We had a cup of tea at the fish restaurant fronting the harbour, with a view of the Byzantine Palace floating on the water, and then headed with all our painting gear to select a site for the next painting project.

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People stationed themselves throughout the agora, picking a place from which a good perspective view could be seen. Eljay wanted us to execute a small thumbnail sketch, and then a painting or pastel drawing focusing on perspective.

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I found a spot under an olive tree facing the bouleterion, a small theatre-like space used by the senate in Roman times, and did a painting of the recession of columns and the green hills in the distance. Most found this assignment a bit tricky, perspective being something that usually does not come easily. However, everyone gave it a go and it was interesting to see the variety of results. A couple of small tortoises wandered through our group and I saw several black lizards darting among the rocks; while walking across the stones, I was stung by some kind of insect but luckily it did not swell up – just hurt for a few moments.

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Due to its location, its marble and fishing, Iassos had been inhabited since the earliest days of the history. The city was founded by Greek colonists coming from Argos in the 9th century BC and then inhabited by immigrants from Miletus. In addition, Italian archaeologists have found Minoan houses and Mycenaean pottery which indicates that the site had been inhabited at much earlier date than arrival of the Greeks.

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The digs started 1960s reveled that oldest part of Iassos was on the top of Acropolis hill, later taken over by the Byzantine fortress. These show some similarities between the Crete, Greece and Anatolian cultures. The chief divinities of Iassos were Apollo and Artemis. One of the inscriptions discovered in Iassos mentions Artemis Astias, apparently a mixture of the old Carian deity Goddess and Artemis the hunter. Her temple had an unroofed cella. As well, the theatre and festivals arranged for Dionysus show the importance of the god Dionysus in Iassos. More info and pictures of Iassos here.

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Later in the afternoon, after a huge meal of meze, salad, fries, and fish, some people walked up to the acropolis to see the mosaics, others dipped their feet in the harbour, and Lidia, Eljay, and I drove to the little museum, hoping to get a look at the artifacts removed from the ruin site; however, it was closed and no-one about to open the door. After gathering everyone up, we were off down the road in the setting sun to close another great day here on the peninsula.

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