Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An update on the Musical Front!

I had an awesomely creative day!  I’ve had such an inspiring rehearsal with MsMack – the all-girl vocal group that we started last year.  We are planning and preparing for a show that will be staged in September this year, and the creative ideas and concepts for this show just flowed freely. Amazing! I can’t wait to see it all come to life on stage.

So much has been going on musically that I have not shared on this blog yet. I have just completed a successful solo show, “Jazz & the Gypsies”, and although it was quite a stressful way to start the new year, it was the best way to kick start my musical gigs for this year.  

With my solo gigs, I feel that I have finally found my “signature sound” in terms of the mix of musical instruments (my vocal with piano, accordion, upright bass, acoustic guitar, violin & percussion) as well as in terms of my repertoire.  I love what we’re doing on stage – and it definitely has a very, very positive effect on the audience according to the feedback I’m getting.  I am so grateful!  

Essentially, the musical style is gypsy jazz, but it goes back to the roots of where gypsies originally came from, which is India via the Middle East – so I bring Middle Eastern songs and instruments (darboukas, tablas and an oudh) into the show as well.  It creates a refreshingly different vibe from what the local market here in South Africa is used to – especially the Afrikaans community.  Incidentally, I’m still not sure if this is actually the right audience for this type of music.  However, I am very excited to see where this is going to take me….

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Travel Collages

I promised to show you the travel collages that I’ve been doing.  Seeing that I get pretty trigger happy when I travel, I just do not have the time to print and display the best photographs of 1200 plus frames after each and every trip.

Instead, I use my travel pictures as source material for various artworks.  It becomes an endless body of work – a huge, original source that I can tap into – and with every trip, that source just becomes more expansive as I now have about 10 years of travelling to 35 countries behind me so far. 

To commemorate a trip, I allow myself 1 layered collage on a blocked canvas of 20 x 25 cm.  Each collage has about four layers – I cover every finished layer with a layer of resin, and then collage again onto the resin once it has dried.  I continue in this way until I have 3-4 layers.  With each layer, the collage starts to have a clear 3D effect, with a distinctive background, middleground and foreground.

The materials that I use are all ephemera from the specific trip – business cards, boarding passes, images from local magazines, newspapers, brochures and photographs.  I include things that I would like to remember like names of shops, museums, restaurants, website addresses, colours, etc.  So the collage becomes a condensed visual notebook of the trip. It also takes a lot less space than albums filled with pictures.  So here are some of them – enjoy!

Travel Collage - Netherlands

Travel Collage - Prague

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Inspiration from Israel

I have just returned from a trip to Israel. It was wonderful to be back in the Middle East again. And, as always, I got totally trigger happy with my camera! There is little else that energizes me as much as exploring new spots on the planet – the faces, the sounds, the tastes, the smells, the music.  My travel pics are a constant source of inspiration – for sketching, painting, writing music and prose.  

I have discovered that my memories of a particular trip are always tied to a specific colour palette, and these tend to come out unintentionally when I do collages involving found objects from the trip. For example my Prague collage turned out to be a deep cerise pink, Taiwan came out jade green, Amsterdam turned out a bright orange – and it wasn’t planned!  It was quite a surprise to me. More about these collages in my next blog…

To get back to the topic – I have decided to do the exercise consciously this time, and create a colour palette of the Israel trip by using some of my pics as colour swatches.  I am quite happy with the result, so I will be doing this after every trip from now on.

Colours of Israel - Cool

Colours of Israel - Warm

While I was collaging the colour palette, the muse arrived, so I ended up grouping some of my other pictures from the trip as well – one is a collage of people on the street in Israel, and the other is a collection of graffiti that I saw on the inside of the Berlin-esque concrete wall that divides the Palestinian area of Beth Lehem from Israeli territory.  Enjoy!

Israeli Street Life

The Wall around Palestine

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Just when I thought there was very little goodwill left in the world....the mysterious paper sculptures of Edinburgh appeared

I came across this beautiful true story of mysterious anonymous paper sculptures appearing in Edinburgh. The artist left these 10 sculptures in various libraries in the course of 2011 and chose to remain anonymous.  Each sculpture was accompanied by a note of appreciation and support towards libraries, books, writing and creative ideas.

The first one was found during March 2011 in the Scottish Poetry Library.  It was carved from paper, mounted on a book and with a tag addressed to @byleaveswelive – the library’s Twitter account – reading:

It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree.… … We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)

Next to the ‘poetree’ sat a paper egg lined with gold and a scatter of words which, when put together, make “A Trace of Wings” by Edwin Morgan.

Then, in late June, the National Library of Scotland found themselves the recipient of a similar piece.
A gramophone and a coffin, sculpted from a copy of Ian Rankin’s Exit Music, and again deposited anonymously. The tag in this case read:
For @natlibscot – A gift in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. (& against their exit)

Mysterious paper sculptures

The third one appeared in the Filmhouse.
This time the sculpture is a complex scene in a paper cinema; punters arrayed on seats watching men and horses coming alive from the screen and charging outwards. The tag said:
For @filmhouse – A gift in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. and all things *magic*

Mysterious paper sculptures

Then in early July the Scottish Storytelling Centre found a dragon nesting in a window.
The tag:
For @scotstorycenter – A gift in support of libraries, books, works, ideas….. Once upon a time there was a book and in the book was a nest and in the nest was an egg and in the egg was a dragon and in the dragon was a story…..

Mysterious paper sculptures

Having been on display in the Scottish Poetry Library for a few months, the poetree is now kept behind the counter for safety, but if you ask nicely I’m sure they would let you have a look.
The National Library’s gramophone is in a display case near the front door.

After 10 sculptures were left all over the city, the artist made it known that the project was now completed with a farewell note saying:
Goodbye Edinburgh! It was fun!

What a beautiful soul this is! It is extremely rare that a person would pour out so much of themselves into a series of exquisite artworks just to uplift and encourage those around them and still choose to remain anonymous.  Are there any more similar stories of inspiration out there? Let's hear them!

Scottish photographer Chris Scott has documented the sculptures in photos and in this comprehensive post on Scottish art site Central Station.
Photos by Chris Scott

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Inspiration from Crete and Ferran Adria

Its time to get back on track!
I've had a very good excuse for not updating my blog.  I managed to create a beautiful baby girl, and she is now 13 months old.  It is time to pick up again where I left off!  It may sound like I view this experience as a distraction to my creative pursuit.  On the contrary, I see it as part of this journey.  A very, very precious part! 

So much has happened during this past year, and I am very excited to share some of these adventures and creative pursuits! It includes visual journaling, music and traveling.  So keep watching this space....

In September 2010, during the 6th month of my pregnancy, we visited Crete and stayed in Saria – a town on the east coast of the island.  Although this is an extremely arid and remote area, farmers were able to reclaim the land after virtually all life was wiped out due to the volcanic eruption that made nearby Santorini the spectacularly beautiful place that it is today.  After centuries of patience and perseverance to create something with extremely limited resources, this area is now renowned for its wine, olives, olive oil and fruit. Today it is known as the food basket of Crete.  It seems that centuries of perseverance and outrageously creative problem solving were the behavioural elements that made it possible for these farmers to thrive in this harsh environment against all odds.

A while ago, I watched a CNN documentary about the work of Ferran Adria, creator, food alchemist and chef of the world famous El Bulli Restaurant in Spain. Adria decided to close the restaurant at the end of 2011 in order to venture into new projects.  This was a decision that took everybody by surprise.  But something that he told a group of creative consultants during a brainstorming session resonated with me. He said, "If its not revolutionary - I don't want it."  It seemed to be this very ability to be unsentimental and leave behind his present success story when still at its height, that propels him forward to fresh and exciting ventures. Although his new venture seemed somewhat undefined at the start, he took himself seriously and was not shy to express his ideas.  

I found the Crete adventure and Adria’s approach extremely inspiring, and I took 6 pointers from these incredibly creative and determined individuals:

1. Don't compromise - if it's not part of your vision, say it and don't settle for less
2. Be unsentimental - don't hold on to old successes
3. Embrace change - move forward, it is refreshing and energizing
4. Take yourself seriously - only then will others do the same
5. Be confident about your ideas – your view of the world is unique and it counts
6. Be relentless in your determination and perseverance to make your dream a reality

“When you have something to say – the world will listen.”