Monday, July 20, 2015

Holding the Line

Determined to give my grandchildren a day at the beach, I set off with them to Hammamet (Tunisia). Even though the wind whipped the waves around and blew sand in my journal, I watched them play in the water as I started a small sketch...

Then my daughter called: "Go home right now. There's been a terrorist attack an hour away from you."

That was that. Home we went. The news was not good. A man with a kalashnikov ended the lives of 39 tourists on a beach in Sousse. Panic all around. Most tourists got on the next plane home. The British government sent a team to follow the investigation and then told all British citizens to leave Tunisia. I can't blame them: government authority has been seriously undermined since the revolution, plus the long border with Libya is difficult to control and arms are flowing into Tunisia. An Etat de siège (State of Emergency) was declared until the end of August. The beach towns that depend on tourism now look like ghost towns.

In addition, the extent of corruption makes the enforcement of the law difficult and the judicial system suffers. Tunisians appear to be losing sight of the concept of civic responsibility. Garbage collection and refuse dumping continue to be problems. I regularly put on gloves and old work clothes to pick up garbage in front of my house--three big bags last time.

I remain committed to living in Tunisia, however, many unanswered questions now hang in the air. We take things a day at a time. We are holding the line...for the time being.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sitting in a Sidewalk Café in Tunis

It was a warm day so we met a friend in Tunis and sat in one of the sidewalk cafés on the main avenue where one finds a mixed crowd, both women and men clients. 

I whipped out my small journal and sketched for awhile.
I discreetly focused on a young man with his telephone, who was surrounded by numerous other young men doing the same thing. Sign of the times. 

Most cafés in Tunisia are male domaines. No woman in her right mind would go in. They are not particularly clean and are often filled with the unemployed. We jokingly call them Tunisia's "centres culturels." It would appear that it is the women who are out working and holding things together as best they can since the Revolution. 

A lot of wasted manpower there. 
What if they spent just a couple of hours a day picking up garbage? 

Tunisia is still on a slippery slope...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Inner Critic Speaks

The inner critic has been speaking loudly lately with the usual "This is the worst thing you've ever done." Most of the time, this does not disturb me because I know how to get beyond it, but, today, I think she's right.

I could not bend my mind around the inkblot assignment for Sketchbook Skool. Hated it. At first there was a face in the inkblots (left side). Hated it.  I was going to rip it out, but instead, kept going with some doodling. Hated it. I added gray watercolor on one side. Hated it. I added more line work. Hated it. I added some reddish scribbles. Hated it.

Then I realised that I was really describing my state of mind because I am battling corruption and filth on personal and professional levels. All the ugly, poisonous words poured out. I put the face back in-- maybe my face in the Acid Rain? Possibly. 

Then some friends came over and the mists dissipated for awhile. I went back to the paper towel with the original inkblots, sketched lightly onto it, and glued it on the right side. 

Maybe the worst is when slyness is equated to intelligence. Or maybe the worst is when people just don't think. Or maybe the worst is when people you know shrug and say they don't want to get involved...think of the consequences.

Well, yes, think of the consequences...
And yet, my blessings are many. I will not give up.
Such is the lesson of bad art.

Monday, March 30, 2015

It's in the Bag

Spring vacation has been productive. I finally finished my Jeans Bag, which has been under the needle for nearly a year. The main materials came from the rather tall stack of old jeans sitting on a shelf in my workroom.

 I sketched the pocket into my daily journal.

I love the soft blues and whites. The plaid fabric creates the illusion of colors fading in and out.

It slowly progressed down 

and around. 

I love all the pockets--four on the outside (plus the mini-pocket) and four back pockets sewn to the lining, which is a flea market fabric. 

Except for two brass rings and a zipper, the bag is entirely made of recycled materials.
The strap is long enough to go over the chest. I took a black nylon strap recycled from another worn bag and covered it in denim.
Hand stitching on denim may seem daunting, however, I sewed from the top and only caught top threads, so it was not any more difficult than working on other fabrics.

A few recycled beads and buttons attached to the zipper pull make it easier for me to find the zipper quickly. 

And most important of all, it holds everything
I will no longer envy other people's jeans bags.

 Linked to Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Friday."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tragedy at the Bardo Museum

First of all, I would like to thank all the friends who have sent messages of concern. We are safe and life continues as usual. 

Ironically, my previous post does not contain "a last thought" about the Bardo Museum--there is more to say. I have babbled on and on about its wonders for awhile, thinking that few people knew of it. And now the entire world has probably heard about it due to the tragic events on Wednesday, March 18. 

According to witnesses, three men with backpacks had coffee in the café across the street from the Bardo entrance gates. When they saw a couple of tourist buses arrive, they walked into the Bardo parking lot, pulled out Kalashnikovs and opened fire on the buses. Around twenty people were killed and forty people injured, mostly women. The men then ran into the museum and took hostages. It is Spring Vacation, a time when excursions for students take place...a lot of kids were around. 

The BAT (Brigade Anti-Terroriste) quickly arrived and had the situation under control within two hours with no further loss of life--except for two of the three terrorists.

This is a wakeup call for the newly-elected government. Terrorists have taken advantage of the continued "transition" periods that have dragged on for four years and that undermine government authority. Tunisians are not only upset and shocked, but truly angry. Nothing like this has ever happened before. The weapons flowing in from Libya on black markets have strengthened criminal groups, especially those that have a "political" agenda.

My sketchbook page today contains a distressed and perplexed Poseidon, which is based on a Roman mosaic in the Bardo. He is faced with a Kalashnikov and grenades.
Unfortunately, this attack can be interpreted as an attack on Culture as well as on foreigners, tourists, tourism, and the government.  It is a tragic event that parallels the attack on "Charlie Hebdo." So many Tunisians proclaimed their solidarity with the French in their hour of need with "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie"). We hope the French will reciprocate. "Je suis Bardo."

Monday, March 16, 2015

An Exhibit

A last thought about the Bardo Museum, which has inspired drawings in my sketchbooks. Last December, the Bardo held an exhibit of the artwork from Paul Klee, and Ausguste Macke, and Louis Moilliet's 1914 trip to Tunisia.  

Because cameras were not allowed, I sketched. I was surprised at the poor quality of paper they used when sketching. It looked like newsprint and was yellowed and very fragile.
This exercise helped me to closely examine the styles of Macke and Moilliet. Macke structured his sketches more carefully, while Moilliet had a freer hand.
And why was this trip so important? For Klee, this trip changed his entire way of seeing; it was a breakthrough. The white buildings and especially the bright light forced him to re-evaluate color and form.

Besides the fact that Klee visited Tunisia and experienced the bright light that has affected my work as well, he interests me because of his use of color and his geometric shapes that vaguely resemble patchwork. So I did a layout of his work (blatant copying).
Klee, Macke, and Moilliet visited Kairouan, which is famous for its rugs. Klee's drawing in the upper left was inspired by the designs of those rugs, however, it is actually an abstracted house with a window and steps to the roof. The watercolor is from his study of Kairouan. 

I had to throw in Klee's sketch of a man because of its interesting lines and proportions. He seemed to fit right in.

All in all, a most enjoyable artistic and intellectual excursion. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Blue & Green

The teaching job cuts seriously into my artistic time. On this 7 1/2" tall standing calendar (from a bank), I planned to create a fabric collage about once a month, however, it's been a year since I created the first page. 

Several colors do not occur often in my work and one of them is that wild yellow-green color that appears almost fluorescent. I don't know if styles have changed, however, I have seen a lot of it in recent years and have always thought "too wild." Then I looked at some surviving childhood artwork (in pastels) and realised that at one time it was one of my favorites. Revelation. When did I lose that affinity? When did I become so rigid?

Last Saturday, I decided to change the calendar, so I cut and glued fabric onto the next page. Rule of thumb: it had to be fast with no stitching.

Maybe this small calendar project will have a blue and green theme, which goes well with the hanging on the wall. On the other hand those childhood colors look tempting--those plums, purples, reds, oranges.....