Painting step by step

I have been continuing with my feather series, as you can see from my Instagram feed, but, due to popular demand (drumroll, please), I will now describe the process by which I create the layered ones. Here’s one:

I started with watercolor on a piece of cold-pressed, 300gms paper.

 

Added random pieces of aluminum foil, glued on with a glue stick.

 

Which I painted over, with watercolor, so the paint is still transparent. Anything with foil is notoriously difficult to photograph, and I’m no photographer – I use my phone!

 

Then I added pieces of cut up newpaper

 

More paint

 

I glued on a sheet of crumpled tissue paper, which I painted over with white gouache.

 

Made a rough drawing of a feather

 

Added color, and another sheet of tissue paper. And now for the fun bit, gouging bits out with a cutter.

 

Ta-dah! (more drumrolls). You can zoom in to see more detail.

Original mixed media art by AthensLettersArt.

 

The process is quite random, since I follow my imagination and whim of the moment. I have lately been inspired by artists who use collage and layers, such as Anselm Kiefer, whose wonderful paintings I wrote about here. Sadly, I do not have the means to use molten lead, so I have to fall back on the humble aluminum foil.

Here’s a différend feather:


Original mixed media paintin by AthensLettersArt

 

In this case I used torn bits of pages from an old book, and glued a strip of red tissue paper on the left side. I’m tentatively planning to create more feathers to make a up a large mosaic.

Other artists who have inspired me lately are Romare Bearden, Derek Fordjour and Njideka Akunyili Crosby.  l was thinking of writing about them in a future post.

What’s in a name?

Yesterday a crowd gathered in the center of Athens, waving flags and chanting to protest a Greek compromise over the naming of a neighboring former Yugoslav republic. Macedonia, which is what the republic wants to call itself, is the ancient name of the region where Alexander the Great was born, and Greeks feel it belongs to them. Most call the republic by the name of its capital, Skopje.

The name dispute has been going on for years: it broke out after Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. The country is recognized by international institutions as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, even though about 130 countries refer to it simply as Macedonia.

 

Flags make for a pretty sight. Syntagma Square. Source: Kathimerini

 

Greece argues use of the name implies territorial claims on its own province of Macedonia. Officials in Skopje counter that their country has been known as Macedonia for a long time.

The easiest solution would be to add a modifier such as “New” or “North” to the republic’s name, but this proposal has triggered protests in both countries.

It is debatable how many people attended yesterday’s rally: the organizers claim to over a million, whereas the police estimated around 140.000 – not a small difference. Politicians of all parties had their say, 92-year-old legendary musician and former minister Mikis Theodorakis put in a appearance and called for a referendum [oh no – not another one…] Everyone accused the everyone else of using the event for their own interest, and of faking attendance numbers. Left-wing and anarchist protesters, bearing banners calling for Balkan unity, took the opportunity to set up a counter-demonstration nearby, which suspected far-right supporters attempted to attack. The riot police had a field day.

About 100,000 people attended a similar protest last month in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, the capital of Greece’s province of Macedonia.

What do I think about it all? Hard to say. I do think the choice of the name was provocative in the first place – surely they knew it would not please Greece, so why not opt for something else and avoid opening that particular can of worms. However, as usual the issue is obscured and transformed by political interest on both sides, and used to funnel people’s frustration and despair away from the real problems that desperately need to be solved. The endless squabbling is inelegant, to say the least. As to the referendum, no thanks – I’m sick of being dragged out to vote, knowing nothing will change in the long run. Let’s not forget that in the last referendum, we voted NO to stay in Europe, or YES to not leave Europe. Ridiculous.

Dear reader

Dear reader,

After a surge of posts at the end of last year, things seem to have gone quiet. Or rather, I’ve been both very busy and a little uninspired. I see now I only managed a single post in January – horrors! So let me hasten to reassure you, I have not died or gone away.

 

 

However, I do find myself at some kind of crossroads with this blog. It’s difficult to write about Greece at the moment – things are no better, and do people want to keep reading about the refugees, the hopeless politicians and the unending financial crisis? I feel I’ve also covered the various traditions, feasts, etc – this is not supposed to be a travel guide, after all. Interviews seem to have dried up, a couple of people never having come up with the goods.

 

 

When I come across something amusing or worthwhile, or think of someone fun to interview, or have time for a road trip, or visit an art show, inspiration is easy. However, this does not make for regular output – on the other hand, I don’t want this blog to turn into a kind of homework, there’s no point to that.
So, suggestions are welcome. What would like to read about? Any special interests, more interviews, more art, less art?

 

 

Meanwhile, I am planning a trip next weekend, to visit a facility for people with special needs, in the beautiful seaside town of Galaxidi. The Estia Agios Nikolaos is a unique place, the beloved project of a good friend of mine, where people live in a family-style environment and are allowed to thrive at their own pace. They are having their vasilopitta, the Greek tradition of cutting a special cake each New Year. So there is a post to be written soon, which I feel sure will be interesting.

 

 

The photographs are of a series I’m working on at the moment, Feathers. They are small paintings, which will make up to a larger installation, and at the same time I’m using them to experiment with different techniques in mixed media. As well as working with watercolor, collage and gold leaf, I’m  also layering pieces of newspaper and silver foil with paint and crumpled tissue paper in various combinations. Sometimes I draw or paint over the top, sometimes I gouge bits out with a cutter. It’s really fun to do, and I’m hoping to use these techniques on larger pieces eventually.

 

Don’t forget to comment and egg me on with your suggestions!

Best wishes and a super moon

Stepping  outside at night on January first and seeing a huge moon shining behind the clouds felt like a good sign – an omen of a great year ahead?

 

 

Best wishes to all of you who have been reading my ramblings all year.
But so as not to be too complacent, I will share a cartoon frrom the New Yorker that someone sent me.

 

Season’s wishes

Athens has put on its glad rags as a general effort is being made to celebrate the holidays.

SYNTAGMA (Constitution Square) decorated and lit up for Christmas. Photo: tornosnews.gr. Source:Google.

 

There is a lot going on, despite the continuing problems, which remain huge. Art shows, music, dance, parties – and people just walking the streets, enjoying the season. Athens remains one of the popular destinations for the winter holidays.

As always one must spare a thought (and perhaps a little money) for the people whose finances or personal circumstances make the holiday more of a worry than fun. Also the homeless and the refugees, who are spending another winter without heating or running water.

However, I would like to end this post on a positive note, and send my best wishes to all of you out there, who have been following and commenting all this time. I really appreciate your friendship (even when virtual!) and hope you will enjoy the days to come, with friends and family.

 

Christmas gift: Trying out a new toy, a Duke Confucius fountain pen – it makes the most interesting marks and is a lovely object in itself. Made from bamboo.

If any of my more recent followers are interested about Christmas celebrations in Greece, I wrote a post about it some time ago – you can find it here.

A season for dance

For ballet lovers, Christmas is often a time of indulgence, with a lot of dance companies putting up festive shows. In Athens,  The Nutcracker is on at the Megaron, one of our opera houses, featuring principal dancers from the Bolshoi.

I do not consider myself a connaisseur of ballet but, as most people, I do love a performance by an outstanding artist.

 

Laura Morera and Sergei Polunin at the Royal Ballet Triple Rhapsody at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Source:Google

 

Some years ago, I watched Baryshnikov dance at the ancient  Herodion Atticus theatre in Athens, on a moonlit summer night. To see him literally flying across that stage was a breathtaking spectacle, and I’ve not seen a male dancer of that caliber since.

So when I came across this video of Sergei Polunin, performing in a barn to the sounds of the song ‘Take me to church’, I thought I’d post it here as a little Christmas gift for all you ballet lovers out there.

 

 

Sergei Polunin was born in the Ukraine and started dancing at age three, pushed by his mother who hoped it would be a way for him to escape their difficult existence. The pressure put upon him by his extraordinary talent made for many ups and downs in his life, including quitting the Royal Ballet at just 21, despite having had the best roles laid at his feet. Fortunately, after trying different things such as acting, he always seems to return to ballet.

The ‘Take me to Church’ video went viral, but it is a showy piece of work for someone who is, above all, a true purist of classical dance. That is why I am also posting a more conventional clip of him dancing in Swan Lake.

 

Enjoy.