Archive for February, 2009

More African Diaries…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009



I’m feeling more nostalgic than usual tonight I guess.  This trip I took 12 years ago, over 9 countries in East and Southern Africa, shaped my visual language as well as my written. I spent rattling bus rides looking out the window trying to imagine the mixing of colours and how I would describe the shapes of the trees. 


Feb 24, 1997

Our Zanzibarian friend Joseph told me his friend had whispered to him last night, “that woman you are standing with, she took my heart away.” How lovely to find this second-hand love poetry, even the day before leaving.


Marie and H playing chess with the wee boys from down the beach.

Marie and H playing chess with the boys.


Feb 27, 1997

Our last day on Zanzibar has been strange, as are last days anywhere. We said goodbye to Marie after breakfast, and I felt the rising tension between us without her there. We walked around Stone Town and I got my chess set and hena. We went for red beans and rice at Passing Show and then to the Mahrubi Ruins on a dalla dalla. The pond was acid green in the light (not so much pond, but rather “circular pleasure pool” according to the sign) and there were a million fish who liked Marie’s biscuits she had unloaded on me, and strange water beetles that seem to breathe with their bums. The other pond was filled with lilies. It looked romantic  next to the old pillars that were once part the palace some guy had built for his harem. On the wall of one of the small toilet roooms in the palace was scrawled “this time tomorrow”. Hmm.


One of my favourite shots of the trip.

One of my favourite shots of the trip.

Speedo guy. This guy just drove the boat. Never said a word.

Speedo guy. This guy just drove the boat. Never said a word.


The Circular Pleasure Pool in all its glory

The Circular Pleasure Pool in all its glory

A New One

Thursday, February 19th, 2009


I’m working on a new painting in the spirit of this one, Blondie. It’s a commission from a grandmother of her very beautiful 14 year old granddaughter. I was thrilled that they went for this format as it’s pretty large for a portrait, 3 feet square. If I could do paintings like this all the time, I’d be quite happy. I won’t post the beginning of the commission, as they tend to be somewhat misleading–all greens and blues. The subject starts out looking quite ill. Though I may post a timeline series when it’s completed…


Sunday, February 15th, 2009



Okay, so I’m a bit of a sap, but months ago C and I watched Ratatouille and we liked it. Until the end. Then we loved it. If you haven’t seen it and intent to, read no further  *spoiler alert*  It was the serene voice of Peter O’Toole delivering this lovely monologue that struck a chord with both of us, as we’ve both been under the scrutiny of critics. I still think about it sometimes when I’m working.

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talents, new creations. The new needs friends… Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.

What this lovely speech doesn’t mention is that often the artist’s worst critic is herself, and if we can ignore that negative voice, we can often arrive where we hope to: somewhere new.

Africa Diaries: Stone Town

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Me in Zanzibar

To continue with my Africa Diaries, here is an exerpt from Feb 10, 1997.

Ah, Zanzibar. The water is the colour of ice, though I’m anticpating the temperature will be much more pleasing. Met friends who’d been to Indian cinema: Hoo-wah. Guy offered to take me to Bagamayo on his boat with paperbag sails. We were fortunate enough to be selected by Ola Ola Coka Cola, a self-professed guide who offered us his card and said Don’t worry be happy cool runnings. We dragged him around town and finally found a hotel, the Malindi Guest House with a scruffy skinny little kitty and what appears to be her daughter covered with fleas. The sweetest little things. Walked about Stone Town, ate red beans and rice spiced with coriander seeds, cinnamon, cardamom etc–all for a buck! Went to Africa House for beer at sunset with other mzungus. I thought I was getting a tan but it’s just dirt.


Small alleys and bicycles with horns (they don’t stop for anyone), mangoes, mangoes and more mangoes & sistah can I shake your hand? At the nightmarket, I nearly die of happiness: table after table of samosas, beef kababs, chicken (a little dodgey, gave mine to kitty) potato balls, chips, ‘pizza’ Zanzibar style, chapati and peanut bean balls…yum! I was vaguely aware that the travel clinic would have been rather upset by my blatant disregard for any hygiene rules I so diligently agreed to before leaving. Hacuna matata is all I have to say, though I do feel almost knocked out. Maybe the heat.






A Little Bit of Spring

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009




C & his mum planted Nasturtium seeds on our dining table. These little babies came up overnight and each morning we check on them. I can’t wait to plant them in the garden! Sigh, it really is the little things in life.

Klimt & Clichés

Friday, February 6th, 2009

I came across this image recently in a Google search. It’s a Klimt painting, and I used to have the poster on my wall (oh, yes, trés cliché) but I loved it. It’s actually quite a lonely image, but artists spend so much time alone (and with cats). It’s when we lose ourselves in what we’re making, I guess. Then we must refuel by letting down our hair and swirling about naked with friends and big white bubbles & stars. At least in Klimt’s world. Not so much in mine.




I actually dragged my film-loving friend to see Klimt, with John Malkovich (who else?) and though it was visually stunning and made me want to run to the easel, it was rather on the bizarre side. I actually wanted to rent it again and cue it to certain spots to stare at those luscious paintings. The person who got to copy those things for the movie must have been in heaven.