Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'll be Movin' On


St. Ives rooftops. From the sketchbook.

For the next week or so I'll be off the bloggy airways and in St. Ives. The first thought you may have is, "Well he would be, wouldn't he? St. Ives is famous for its artists." True, but that's not the prime reason.
Next week is my son's wedding anniversary and he and his family want to celebrate in St. Ives. I and my other half will be baby sitting. But not 24/7 as modern parlance says.
I'll be looking at a few galleries and putting some marks into my sketchbook in the meantime.

Cornwall in winter. This picture was taken last December in a howling gale. Quite a contrast to the Eastern Mediterranean. Mind you, even it has its moments! Never underestimate the sea.

So lets hope I get some more material for more "Sea Pictures". I need to replace the ones I've sold. Its a nice problem to have.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Heart that Sings


Some time ago I was asked to describe the heart of meditation and in reply I likened it to a stone on a beach being washed around by the sea. Sometimes it is caressed by the gentle waves and sometimes thrown about by the surges of a stormy sea. But when the tides and storms recede, it is still there.
But if we look into the heart of our own particular "stone" there is a heart that sings and if you listen to that song it is the song of the universe. A paean to all that IS.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Farewell Aphrodite, - until the next time.



Its time to move on. I have spent nearly a month re-capping on what I did during October. I left Cyprus on November 1 and returned to grey Lancaster. I'll be back, count on it.

This is a bit of computer trickery here where a drawing of the Aphrodite statue that is in the Nicosia museum has been grafted onto a photo of the sea at Larnaka.

It's not dissimilar to a painting I did a year ago which I posted on this blog which you can see here.

There are other images on The Draughtsman.

In a week's time I'll be down in St. Ives in Cornwall along with Brenda, my other half and my son and his family. The Atlantic in early December will be quite a contrast to the placid Mediterranean !

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cape Greco (Κάπα Γρεκκω)



This thirty feet or so high sculpture dominates the promnotory of Cape Greco, the south-easternmost point of Cyprus. Note that is is called Greco in Greek and not Hellenica (Ηλλενικη) as you might expect. Anyway it is a magnificent viewpoint from which to look out to sea where the Lebanese coast is barely 100 km away.

I couldn't make my mind up as to what the birds represented in the sculpture were. My first thought was of geese but these birds aren't really Mediterranean, perhaps they are flamingos. Flamingos do overwinter in the saltwater lakes near Larnaca and at Akrotiri near Limassol. The flamingo is also featured on the CTO website. So. that's probably what they are.

Note the small trig point on the right of the sculpture.

Biblical Tombs

One thing about the Cypriot landscape is it looks as though it has changed little over the centuries if not millennia. Geographically the island is more Middle-Eastern than Greek. There are areas where it looks just as it was in Biblical times. We went on a little tour and visited these (now empty) tombs near Agia Napa on the south-eastern corner of the island. A notice board says they are ancient Egyptian. They remind me of how the sepulchre must have looked where Christ was interred after the Crucifixion. They certainly fit the description.

There are steps carved out of the rock leading down to the entrance. The flat slab of stone would have been used to seal the entrance. Perhaps this cavity would have been filled with rubble or boulders, - who knows?
Inside is a ledge around three walls of the chamber. The fourth one is the doorway. The chamber is about six feet or so deep and the ledge is three feet or so wide.

All of these tombs have been cut into this flat area of limestone. Limestone pavements are a common feature of this part of Cyprus. A bit like the Yorkshire Dales but without the damp. These are just holes in the ground. Don't wander round here after dark!
Standing here one can easily believe we are somewhere in the distant past but only a 200 yard walk and you are very much back in the 21st. century. Protoras Beach with its sunbeds and tourists quietly frying in Piz Buin heated by a relentless Sun, and if not sunbathing then water skiing, paragliding etc.
After visiting here we went for a kafe, but not here, not at the inflated prices the tourist centres charge. Our guide for the day who lives near Famagusta took us to a Greek kafenion just down the road....
During our tour we got the chance to look over the Green Line at the deserted city of Famagusta. It is a large town and has lain empty since the Turkish invasion in 1974. This is the other face of Cyprus. The armed military presence of the Turkish army on one side of the Green Line and the UN peacekeepers on the other. There is a sense of menace in the air. The present political situation is unresolved.
Later we returned to the more relaxed air of Larnaca.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Artemis

A plaster copy of this statue of Artemis can be seen in the museum at the archeological site at Kition in nothern Larnaka. That particular statue is a pristine virginal white. This drawing I did is based of a photograph I saw of the original. What struck me at the time was the colouration of the statue. The self same colours whose pigments are native to Cyprus. The card describing the plaster cast in Kition states the original statue came from here but has now finished up in a museum in Vienna.
I made an entry about Artemis in The Draughtsman back in January where I gave a brief description of her role in the Olympian pantheon which is shown in part here:-

Artemis. Definitely the women's goddess. Were she revered today I have no doubt she would be the patron goddess of the feminist movement. Protector of women, upholder of female chastity and honour, patron deity of the Amazons of Ephesus, goddess of the Moon, protector of the wild places, (she has my support in that one). But us men need to beware in her presence. She'd kill you as soon as look at you. Just think of what happened to poor Aktaion who stumbled on her skinny-dipping in a Grecian glade. Find out more on Wikipedia.

Certainly not one for us men-folk to mess with. However she was highly regarded throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and on Cyprus was second only to Aphrodite. Cyprus is, after all, Aphrodite's Island.

One other interesting bit about the statue [of Artemis] is the caryatid supporting her right elbow. Was this just a piece of decorative art applied to an essential support for the sculpture or was this caryatid meant to be someone? And if so, - who?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cypriot Art

Cypriot artists tend towards the figurative rather than the landscape but a few still-lifes prevail. Steeped as it is in ancient mythology it is hardly surprising that much of the work harks back to that era. The cultural ideal of the goddess is never far beneath the surface. Below are couple of examples.

This one is by Phil Bird who is a British Artist currently living in Cyprus as an art tutor in CYCA at the Larnaka campus. His British work explored the Anglo-celtic myths and this current work has a very "Cypriot" feel to it. This work is about a metre square, oil on canvas.
Anna Georghiou's work explores similar themes but with a radically different approach. More of her work can be seen on her website. This work shown is about a metre and a half by a metre, oil on canvas. She too is a tutor at CYCA. Another prominent artist who also teaches at CYCA is Andreas Efstathiou whose work looks at the more modern scene in Cyprus but still has that distinctive Cypriot flavour. This is a fairly large oil painting on canvas.
The principal of CYCA is Stass Paraskos, a well known Cypriot painter whose work shows aspects of modern Cyprus but also looks back to its varied and sometimes stormy past.
This bookmark on the left is a by-product of mine developed from my work in Cyprus on the Caryatid figure as featured a few days ago.
I will probably develop this theme further while back here in Britain then refuel it at my next trip to Cyprus. I never know where these ideas will lead. That is part of the fun in art. We start with an idea, develop it and soon it gets a mind of its own as it were. Sometimes the final outcome, (if there ever is a final outcome), can be far removed from the original concept.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Harry's Inn

Harry's Inn is listed in the CTO guide as a traditional house. It has ten rooms and offers b&b at Cy£10 per night (approx €17.00) The accommodation is basic and clean. There's no swimming pool nor sauna. With the sea only a couple of hundred yards away, who needs a swimming pool and with Cyprus' climate you only need step outside for a sauna!
This was home for me for a month and very comfortable it was too. Being right in the centre of town it is handy for everything including shops, cafes and the seaside. The building is relatively old and the more modern (and soul-less) skyscraper hotels tower all around.
The garden is a pleasant surprise. The setting is not so urban as the first approach might suggest. The property is run by Mrs Androulla Samson whose family are also involved with a much bigger hotel in Protoras, about 40 km or so eastwards along the coast from Larnaka.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Arches within Arches


I featured this on my other site.
Αγιος Λαζαρός church of St. Lazarus in Larnaka. A cloister runs parallel to the south side of the church and it has a vaulted ceiling. It is interesting how we come to see more as we draw "from the life." The open arches in the arcading contrast with the solidity of the vaulted ceiling filling the spaces between the ribs. In this case, some of the ribbing is absent and the whole thing is held up by its own dynamic. Unlike English Gothic, the decoration here is minimal.

I thought it would be a good idea to show it here too as a supplement to the earlier entry (see below).
Every time I draw "from the life" it is a voyage of discovery. As the drawing progresses the subject reveals to me more than what I initially saw. This is the joy of art, the continuous unfolding or revelation. Like in this example, these arches show their "archiness" the more we look.

Lazaros

Just across the road from the Stoa cafe stands the church of Agios Lazaros (pronounced "Ayos Lazaro with the accent on the last 'o' in Lazaros). It is the same Lazarus as was raised from the dead by Christ in the Gospel story. However the Bible doesn't seem to elaborate on what happened to him afterwards. Fortunately the Romans were not only a great military people but were very beaurocratic too, - everything was written down. It seems that Lazaros needed to leave Judea rather hurriedly after his resurrection and subsequently settled in Cyprus and established a church in Kition, - modern day Larnaca. He became the first bishop of Cyprus. The Book of Acts in the Bible tell of a meeting between him and St.Barnabas.
Legend has it that St. Lazarus never smiled throughout his 30 years as bishop. He is depicted on ikons with a stern face. His tomb lies in the crypt of his church in Larnaca. You can find out more here.

The building itself is a mixture of early and late Byzantine architechture, had further modifications during the mediaeval Crusades and the the tower is Venetian 16#century.

The studios are closed on Sundays so I would have a coffee at a table looking at this church and listening to the Greek Orthodox chanting being relayed to us via loudspeakers. It is a haunting sound. The Sunday morning ceremonies run continuously from around 6-00am to well after mid-day. Congregation members come and go throughout this. Some in their Sunday best staying for an hour or so while others who have to work, such as those at the cafe, passing policemen and so on will call in for ten minutes or so and perhaps visit again later. Cypriots are a deeply religious people. After coffee I would sit in the cool of the cloister with sketchbook in hand drawing the complex arches of the vaulted ceiling and arcading. It is architecturally and interesting place.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sea Pictures

One of the "Sea Pictures" painted at Larnaka. It is A3 size (30 x 42 cms) done in watercolour and graphite drawing mixture. It is not intended to be a finished work but expoloring a few ideas.
This one was featured in "The Draughtsman" yesterday. A3 graphite drawing. After a long day in the studio, just as the sun is going down I sometimes walked back to the hotel along the sea front. In fact I sometimes walked to the studio by the same route in a morning. Invariably I would enter the water for a long plodge. Plodging* is great here in Larnaka. You can wade out to sea for 200 yards and the water still only reaches up to your knees. So there you have it, the clear Mediterranean waters, the sandy bottom and a solitary stone and the waves sparkling in the sun. Sums it all up really.

*"Plodging" is a Northumbrian term to mean paddling or wading.




"Sea Pictures" as regular followers of this blog probably know, was the title of my last exhibition in Merthyr Tydfil and is the collective name for that particular body of work. Part of my remit at CYCA was to do a presentation of my work. What I had prepared was a resume of sketchbook work over this last year to highlight what can be done when unable to use a studio. I had prepared a powerpoint show and knowing that Cyprus College of Art use a Linux system on their computers I set it up accordingly.

Of course I arrived to find no electricity and no computers. What to do?

One of the students let me use his laptop and we managed the college projector via a jury cable.

But near disaster! The lad's computer was not Linux compatible. But, as luck had it, I had brought a memory stick with me and on it I had a copy of a presentation of "Sea Pictures" as part of an exhibition proposal I had sent to a gallery before coming out to Cyprus. This was in Microsoft format. So at least the students got a slide show out of me.

The in-house lecturers also gave slide shows of their work from time to time and each time it was done something went wrong. Mine was no exception.


This is "Atlantic #9". One of the Sea Pictures. As can be seen, the image is in b&w at one end and full colour the other. It is my way of trying to show the sea's ever changing nature. The statement that accompanies the show says,

The sea is ever-changing: waves rise and fall, tides come and go, the light constantly shifts and its quality is in constant flux, objects on the beach are continuously transformed.
With multiple images and varied tone I try to highlight these constant changes.

This was the basis of my presentation. The following day I had a teaching "slot" where I had the students for a morning while we sat on the beach and did a "sea workshop."

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

Cypriots are warm and friendly folk and very kind. Its the little things that show. As I said yesterday, I walk from the Hotel to the Studios through the narrow streets of the old town and am greeted by the locals sitting outside their homes with a cheerful "Καλημερα" as I pass by. Sometimes the walk takes a little longer than 20 minutes. Well, everthing's on "Greek time" here! The Kalimera greeting sometimes extends to ending up sitting beside them and drinking a kaffe metrio as we watch the world go by.
There are other examples of their kindness, - and trust. I thought I would hire a bicycle and went to a place I'd been recommended to enquire. The price would be Cy£3 per day or Cy£17 for the week. "OK," I thought, "But I'll need to go to the "hole in the wall" for some money.
"No problem," he said, "you take bike and get money tomorrow or maybe next day." So off I went with the bicycle. No names and addresses exchanged, no questions asked. Just take the bike. Mind you, he did know who I was. Needless to say I duly paid up the next day.
On another occaision, I was sitting in my regular cafe having a quiet coffee when one of the waitresses told me she was married in St. Lazaros' Church just across the road, and could I possibly do a sketch of the church for her? No problem. I did a pen and wash drawing and gave it to her. That evening I went there for my evening meal as usual and the proprietor did me a huge vegetarian moussaka with all the trimmings and totally free of charge. He told me, "I make her daughter very happy." It was totally unexpected.
I could go on, there are so many examples.
The kindness of strangers, - unasked.

A street in the Turkish quarter during siesta time
The same street looking the other way.
....wind subsiding, the flowers still fall, bird calls, - the mountain silence deepens.

Fallen blossoms decorate the gutter, no rejection here. Just showing their beauty to all who truly look.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

In the Heat of the Afternoon Sun

Just south of Larnaka's town centre lies the Scala, a district sandwiched between Makenzi and the airport. Thankfully Larnaka airports flight path goes out over the sea and not over the town. The Makenzi and Scala districts are the old Turkish-Cypriot quarter. Since the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus in 1974 there are not so many Turkish living here but they are gradually returning. The streets have retained their Turkish names such as Mehmet Ali, Mendes Pasha, Okkular and so on but the signs are in Greek. Thus you see written, ΜΕΞΜΕΤ ΑΛΗ, ΜΕΝΔΗΣ ΠΑΣΑ and ΟΚΥΛΛΑ respectively. In the the Greek area where names like Athinon, Theopylus, etc. dominate then it looks natural but that is Cyprus.

The Turkish area is made up of old buildings that look as though they grew out of the ground and are now slowly crumbling back into it in a natural cycle. The occassional car parked round the back is likewise in slow decline, the tyres get flatter, the dust settles thicker. Elderly people sit out on the pavements always greeting passers-by with a friendly "Kalimera". They grow older in total harmony with their surroundings seeming to await an end that never quite arrives.

It is a hot Sunday afternoon. I'm wearing a broad brimmed hat to protect me from a sun that is so intense it burns through my tee shirt. I don't linger too long while doing sketches. The above is Bog Daz Street in the Makenzi. All colour is bleached out. This is a pencil drawing with added watercolour wash. One advantage of the hot sun is you don't have to wait for the painting to dry!

This next is of a house on Ali Pasha Street. You can probably make out the Greek note in the bottom left of the picture telling you where it is. Many of these houses look run down from the outside but often the interiors belie this as do often the gardens beyond. Everyone seems to have a lemon tree and a pomegranate tree. This painting is a watercolour and like the other was done in a small A5 sketchbook.

These single storey houses are usually single room affairs. Multi-storey houses tend to have the entire downstairs as a reception hall and the living quarters upstairs. It seems to be a tradition in most Eastern Mediterranean countries.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Life Drawing

I don't normally show any of my life drawings as I tend to treat life drawing as an exercise in observation and technique rather than an attempt at producing finished work. Rather like the way a musician practices scales and arpeggios but doesn't incorporate them into a performance.
Anyway, this one, above is an exercise in using graphite on wrapping paper. Brown paper in fact. The silvering is simply reflected light picked up by the camera as I photographed the work. This is done on better quality paper. The model has to travel in from Nicosia, some fifty miles from Larnaca. A couple of times she didn't manage to get to the studios so we used a male model, - me. Well... I needed the money and I have done it in the past.
Its quite a different experience being a life model in Cyprus. Its so warm, the chance to take off your clothes is almost to be welcomed. Unlike the freezing winters I've spent at
art college studios in Lancaster, Kendal, Preston et al in the past.
Life drawing is an essential, in my view, for cultivating good observation/drawing technique. We all think we know what a human being looks like untill we really look. Drawing is an eye to hand technique. Yes we need the brain to process the information the eye sees and tell the hand how to interpret it, but the brain likes to put in its own ideas and symbols. Its best to keep the brain out of it except for its purely neurological function. Perhaps this last paragraph should be in my other Blog, "The Draughtsman"?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Larnaka

Larnaka is a small town about the size of Lancaster without its Morecambe/Heysham appendages. It lies some 50 or so miles east of Limassol which is a much larger city about the size of Preston or even Manchester. Larnaca (to use the English spelling) sits on a piece of east facing coast so if you were to head straight out to sea from here you would arrive at Tel-Aviv after 100 miles. These tall palm trees are a feature of Larnaca's sea front promenade. There are sunbeds on every square yard of beach and the inland side of the prom is line with high rise hotels. But once you get behind that touristy facade, there is the old town, a veritable warren of narrow streets. More of that in a later entry.
A new town. New studios. What to do? At first, take a street map and quietly get lost and find your way around. There is very little crime in Cyprus. There is a high proportion of police per head of population and the ΑΣΤΕΝΩΜΙΑ - Police have a reputation for not messing about. You can safely walk the mean street at any time day or night and nobody will lay a finger on you.

Armed with a sketchbook and some paints etc. I found a relatively empty piece of beach and did the first sea study. The Mediterranean light is so bright that at first it seems all colour has been bleached out.
This figure, taken from a Caryatid was the first studio project I did. It is life size and made up of several panels of different types of paper ranging from high quality art paper to ordinary wrapping paper including a tissue paper used in bread shops. Different media was applied to different panels. Take the head for instance: the left half is on tracing paper and drawn with an ink pen, the right hand half is water colour on Bockingford paper.

On Retreat

I, along with a few other Lay Ministers took part in a retreat at Throssel last weekend. Rev. Master Mugo, (second right, front row) wrote a poetic entry in her blog which can be seen here
As always with these retreats I set off to Throssel with some trepidation which evaporates once I arrive there. None of us, as far as I could gather had arrived with any sort of agenda save keeping an open mind about it. we did a fair bit of meditation together, had some time to chat and on the whole have a relaxing retreat. I returned to Lancaster feeling spiritually renewed. Nothing heavy, just feeling fine.
Rev. Master Haryo, head of our Order, was there too ( 4th right back row).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Meanwhile.. back in Cyprus......

Well "Thole Man" has been offline over a month now. The plan was to keep you all posted about the Cyprus sojourn as it happens.
But... as it happened, things were a little different. I was told before going out that Limassol Studios move to Larnaka would mean new premises, living on site and internet freely available. Well new premises we got. See above. It is a big old building that once belonged to a very rich Greek and is ideal for setting up a College of Art

Which as the sign shows is exactly what it is. All approved with the tacit support of the government of the Republic of Cyprus plus a little help from the EU. The entrance hall is impressive. It doubles as a large art gallery. I arrived believing all would be well. Then it was revealed, there are parallels between Cyprus Studios experiences and Lunesides back in dear old Blighty. I left England with the use of our new studios in Lancaster still unresolved. We have the building but can't use it. But we do have electricity.

In Larnaka, we have the building and can use it; - but there is no electricity (apart from a temporary cable from an adjoining house). So yes, you've guessed it. We have computers but no electricity, therefore no internet. Hence my silence.

Having said that, and nothing daunted, quite a sizeable body of artwork was produced during my time there. I was free to operate during daylight hours which ran from 6-00am to 6-00pm.

One other snag, the Cypriot authorities would only allow the caretaker to be resident in the building. So I got put up in a cheap hotel, "Harry's Inn" in downtown Larnaka. Basic but clean. Cheap too but no self catering.


I became a cafe bum. I learned to live well and cheaply if I went native. Just keep away from tourist places and just go where the locals go. Stoa's here was the regular spot. They looked after the artistic community of Larnaka very well. My Greek's improved too, though my accent is terrible so I'm told. Just as well, It stops me getting out of my depth and we can always get by on an Anglo-Greek mixture, Ανγληλλικη.
I'll show some of the work and tell more about what I got up to in subsequent blogs.