Blog

In my blog I try to give a bit of insight into how my love for discovering new places over the years has done so and continues to affect me as an artist... and how my reflections upon returning to the studio affects the way I experience future travels.

Mayan Riviera

Alexander and I spent a short but relaxing time in the Mayan Riviera with our friends this april.

The highlight was Ek Balam – “Bright Star Jaguar” in Maya language, a Yucatec-Maya recently (and still only partially) excavated archeological site within the municipality of Temozon, from the Preclassic until the Postclassic period – the seat of a Mayan kingdom. In ancient times, it was a large city, controlling a populous and prosperous countryside. The Acropolis houses the possible tomb of king Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’, who ruled from 770 (the starting year of the “height” of this city) to 797 or 802 CE.

  
In this ball court there were a number of discoveries made, among them a collection of burnt stone balls that may relate to the Mayan ball game which we saw in a spectacular show at the Xcaret park.
The Xcaret Park had a numerous animals and a little boy in a red hat weaving in and out amongst the ruins scattered all over the huge park and resort.

The other highlight was a swim in the biggest of Yukatan’s 7000 cenotes. This one: Cenote  Maya, a great natural pool of 80 m diameter with beautiful rock formations and roots reaching down the had a wooden staircase or vines to down into. We opted for the former.

 

Pacific Coast

Alexander and I just returned from a trip along the Pacific Coast of beautiful Oregon. We started out in Victoria where his father picked us up and from there it was a ferry over to Port Angeles and then straight to Olympic National Park.

The idea was to camp and so, along came a borrowed pop up trailer. On the second night we tried to camp close to the beach but as it turned out it was actually a parking lot and so we had to take down the trailer which never opened up after that. It was motels all the way to Portland.

The weather couldn’t be better through the entire ten days; sun lighting up the foggy shores and rock stacks. Trailer or no trailer it turned out to be a good trip. Lots of water;  Pacific ocean, mist, crashing waves, tides coming in, tidal pools, hot springs, gushing waterfalls…. but no rain!

After the rainforest, waterfalls and hot springs of the Olympic National Park, US route 101 took us from one coastal town to the next. In between there were many stops, what seemed like every ten meters for scenic views and short hikes, wave crashing watching, and dodging the low tide waves along the rocky shores.

Of course wherever there was sand, and there was a lot, there was a castle waiting to be built.

Next was Siuslaw National Forest and then the Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. The beach there accessible through the sand dunes went on for hundreds of miles. One of the hikes we did was a grueling climb up and down dunes for about 3kms and then another 3km stroll along the beach to complete the circle back to the trailhead.

Just north of Florence we descended into a sea lion cave which seems to be the highlight of the trip for Alexander. He explains that “the sea lions stay outside on the rocks and only move into the caves to be safe, when the weather gets bad”.

In Willamette national Forest, the fall coloured  McKenzie Pass – Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway –  a windy loop that includes the highest concentration of snow-capped volcanoes in the lower 48 states, took us to a town called Sisters where despite promises of tonnes of motels we found one that was way over our budget and so continued on to Bend for the night. It was a well worth drive down the winding highway with the highest elevation reaching 5325ft, and a colourfull hike to the breathtaking 200ft tall Proxy Falls.

The pass was an unbelievable explosion of volcanic rock …literally.

 

 

Newfoundland 2012

Just returned from another amazing week leading up to the opening of my show titled Twig, in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland.

The first night’s view from our St. John’s hotel couldn’t be more “Newfoundland” than this sunset over Signal Hill.

And in Pouch Cove, the setting couldn’t be more fitting for my work, with the Newfoundland and Arctic inspired pieces facing the very view that gave them life. The opening day was a steady flow of friends and familiar faces with some new ones.

What makes this opening most memorable is the four hikers: two couples who emerged from the East Coast trail over towards the gallery. They had hiked four and half hours to my opening, and three of them just happen to be Polish, and one lived at the end of my street in Krakow.

My little assistant tried his hand at creating on The Rock, quickly learning about the importance of paper weights.

For me the highlight of this trip though was the fact that I could hike the trail with Alexander for the first time without carrying 30lbs on my back! To my great joy he took to the east coast hikes in his mother’s footsteps, like a fish to water: 6km, one day, 5 and 4 the others.

And for Alexander the definite highlight was the blueberry picking along the east coast trail.

The day before the opening was a foggy feast to the eyes. We stood for over an hour on the coast watching Pouch Cove be enveloped by whiteness and then reappear just as quickly.

On this trip Alexander tried his hand at photography and though started out a bit wonky was soon capturing what he actually set out to. And so, I got some pictures of myself finally…well, sort of.

And then there was the magical garden overlooking the ocean at Elke’s: The Points East B&B that we stayed at for a few nights. The goats if not in the fenced area were often tied to the picnic tables painted the colours of fishing  boats.

 

 

 

Ontario Parks

This year I found a great number of beautiful places close to home. I discovered provincial parks that I had previously disregarded in favour of portage trips in Algonquin and Killarney.

I got to absorb Ontario’s lakes and the Canadian shield in the Tobermory area, Pinery, Killbear, Presquile Provincial parks through my son’s eyes.

Kilbear Provincial Park surprised me with the pink colored granite of the Canadian Shield and the “Group of Seven”pines perched up on top, reminding me of Killarney. It has mixed hardwood and softwood forests and lots of wildlife. Every morning we were greeted by at least one deer on our campsite.

The park provides habitat for the threatened eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, Ontario’s only venomous snake. In fact there were many “Please Brake for Snakes” signs along the park’s roadways.

Bruce Peninsula Provincial park, in the heart of a World Biosphere Reserve, is a place of global significance. The rare limestone barrens and massive, rugged cliffs, inhabited by thousand year old cedar trees, overhang the crystal clear waters of Georgian Bay.

Pinary Provincial Park is home to the unique habitat of freshwater coastal dunes which we had to climb over to reach the shores of Lake Huron. The park also protects almost 50% of the remaining Oak Savanna in the world.

Presqu’ile Provincial Park or literally “almost island” was named by Samuel De Champlain on his second expedition. The park area, or tombolo, was formed when a limestone island was connected to the mainland by a sand spit.

The park’s location on Lake Ontario makes it a perfect stop over for migrating birds along the Michigan Flyway.

Arctic 2011

What a trip! I have to admit I hesitated when I got offered the opportunity to go to the Canadian Arctic with
Adventure Canada
this fall. I knew my two and half year old son travelled well, but I wasn’t sure how he would handle the closed quarters of a ship for almost two weeks. Then there was the question of how much I would get out of the trip; watching him while trying to absorb this new landscape and culture.

He did amazingly. I on the other hand found a lot of new inspiration in the new to me moody landscape of Baffin Island and Greenland, the many lectures on board of the Ocean Nova and encouters with various artists like
Andrew Qappik and Mattiusi Iyaituk, musician J P Hoe, as well as many local stone carvers, printmakers and tapestry artists, giving me new appreciation for Inuit art and the land that inspires its creation.

The trip started with a flight from Toronto to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, down the beautiful 168 km long Söndre Strömfjord, which is one of the longest fjords in the world, Evighedsfjorden towards Kangaamiut and the world’s smallest capital Nuuk.

Leaving the coast of Greenland the 1400 mile journey continued across Davis Strait towards Nunavut and along Canada’s largest: Baffin Island’s south coast, crossing over to Douglas Harbour in Nunavik in Quebec and ending in Iqaluit

Throughout the journey I experienced many firsts;  the rolling waves sometimes swaying the ship quite violently, the northern lights, polar bears, caribou, hikes through the fall covered tundra brimming with blueberries, scrambles up and down the arctic coast with my son on my back, a birthday zodiac ride through Savage Islands amongst icebergs, colorful coastal towns of Pangnirtung, Kimmirut, misty sunrises, Inuksuk in Mallikjuaq Territorial Park and Inuit archeological site covered with bones and antlers in Kinngait (Cape Dorset).

Exploring Kinngait  and Mallikjuaq Territorial Park with John Houston

Newfoundland 2010

I have been coming to Newfoundland since 2001 when there was an artist residency in Pouch Cove, run by James Baird whom I was introduced to by artist friends Dan Hughes and Richard Stipl. There was a great studio space in an old restaurant building right on a rock overlooking crashing waves and the foggy coast. It is now James’ home. You could watch the thin band of light appear over the horizon at sunrise around 4:30, then go back to sleep, then wake up to whales spouting water a few hours later right in front of that same window.

When the residency closed down I continued to return to Pouch Cove, painting at an old schoolhouse which he had also converted to studios and later at a small cottage a few minutes away, which once used to be a cod liver oil factory, and now stands alone at the start of the Bruce Trail. The window view inspired me to do a number of live sketches of the ocean which later rturned into studio paintings

This year I had an opportunity to share my love for this province with my son and my father as well as exhibit a body of work titled Ode to the Sea in st.John’s, based on the bond I developed with the Atlantic Ocean.

Newfoundland continues to be an everlasting inspiration to me as a painter and despite so many beautiful places I have been which could easily rival it continues to be my favourite place to spend summer and fall months.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Kuwait

After 20 years I returned to Kuwait, to the place that was my home from the age of nine until seventeen.
I visited my old highschool, K.E.S. (Kuwait English School). It was a complete time warp but a lot of fond memories came rushing back as I  walked the, what now seemed like tiny hallways, with my son Alexander.

Mrs. Muhmood, the principal greeted me recognizing me from years back, and showed me the new building which now houses the art department… not the single art classroom I remember.

The sand covered square I used to walk to school over is now a park which my father designed. The city is a lot greener and the sea front area developed to the point of non recognition but the ochre colors of the sand storms remain distinct, the ocean salty and warm and the Mullah’s call to prayer every four hours still echo through the city bringing me back to my fond childhood years in the Middle East.

Poland

I was born in Krakow and try and return there every couple of years, to the apartment that I grew up in till I was 9 years old. The view from the 8th floor is west; over the old old city, lots of rooftops and amazing sunsets through Krakow’s haze.

My favorite time to go is at Christmas when I really feel like I am returning to my roots amongst the family that I still have in Poland. One of my favorite places to visit is the cemetery, very much a Polish tradition and part of everyday life.
Two of my grandparents are buried in Krakow and two in Bochnia, and part of the Christmas visit is to light candles and lay flowers on the family graves like ever other Pole.

Cuba 2008

Cuba was the first destination really that was more of a vacation than a painting inspiration. Still, I found the architecture in Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site right in line with my interest in old doors and door series I started in Nepal.

It was my last “alone” trip for a long time, as I was 7 months pregnant. Contemplating how I would be able to keep traveling in the future with my son, I enjoyed this “transitional” time in a new place, which I found to be very family oriented and the people to be extremely respectful to pregnant women.

 

Yukon 2008

I spent most of the summer in northern BC and Yukon, going between Atlin, BC , Whitehorse for check ups, for this was the summer I was pregnant.

The landscape was breathtaking, especially of Kluane National Park in september with yellow ochre dominating the landscape. I painted a lot of plein air paintings under the influence of Domink Modlinski, which was a first for me, and so also quite challenging. I wanted to paint bigger and to produce studio paintings I set up a mosquito tent behind the cabin where I could have an outdoor fume free studio. It worked quite well and was the first that I was able to paint the subject matter of my immediate surroundings on a large scale. I subsequently brought back with me a whole body of work based on the expansive vistas of fall colors.