I started painting my final pieces, after a wait that just felt like a small eternity. Annoyingly enough, I had to first prime the boards, so I can paint them without damaging the wood – that was resolved by a quick solution of watered down PVA from a massive tube in the studio. Next up was the black base – now that was tricky because I was running very low on black acrylic and I didn’t have money for supplies at the time. I had to turn to my friend in Fine Art, Arthur Jarvis, whose work pretty much focuses on dark and sticky substances and for it he uses a lot of black paint. Fortunately he had some left, which I thought would run out quite quickly but miraculously covered all the boards and there was even some left to spare.
After having experimented with wet on wet painting I started thinking of how to do it well with acrylic. The process of making the Space piece and the Cosmic Tree piece was the most satisfying experience – watching mesmerised as the paint flows through the watery layer, plays, settles, moves, swirls and makes unexpected shapes and mixtures. Such things cannot be achieved by the human hand but only induced by it and I liked having that idea add to my work.
I went back to the Lyric sketchbook I made at the start of second year (I might be mistaken, it was in 2013) sometime round mid September. I’ve been doing periodical updates, but I recently did a few big ones to pieces I’d already been updating and ones that I’ve finished before this summer.
A note on the Lyric Book – I wrote a lyric on each double page spread from random songs that I thought particularly interesting at the time. I thought it would be a good idea to try and illustrate bits of songs without being influenced by the song itself. It’s an curious process with surprising outcomes most of the time.
Easter in Bulgaria (or any other Orthodox Christian country) is like nothing you’ve seen or experienced before. It is probably the most important religious holiday we have (some may say more than Christmas, and they’d be right) and traditions are traditions.
Even though no one really takes Lent seriously (doing it right is giving up a lot of foods that the normal Bulgarian can’t cope without… mainly meat) there’s very specific rules around Easter. This year, by the Orthodox Church, Easter was on the 12th of April (last year it was on the 20th), Sunday. Before sunday there’s a few vital things that every self-respecting christian needs to do.
1. Sweetbread – either from the local bakery or homemade, it is a very important part of Easter morning and there’s always queues that go on for miles in front of the bakeries that whole week. People go crazy over that bread.
2. Eggs – That chocolate egg hunt… forget it. It’s a made up thing to feed chocolatiers after Valentine’s day. In reality what we do makes much more sense… (don’t be offended, friends, I’m just saying :D) Either on Thursday or Saturday before Easter Sunday (has to be specifically one of these days) we get a bunch of eggs, white-shelled, ideally, and we boil them. Easy as. White hard boiled eggs. What happens after, though, is the much more interesting and fun part. With little packs of dry paint (biological, so that we don’t get poisoning.. obviously) mixed with a bit of vinegar for stickiness and hot water, we put the eggs in to soak in the dye. What we get in just a few minutes are richly coloured eggs! They are perfectly good to eat after a day (Easter) or two or five…. or even…
3. The red egg of health and prosperity – it’s a very important tradition. The first red egg that is ready is taken by the oldest person and they put little dots on the youngest people’s faces – one on the forehead, one on the chin, one on the left cheek, one on the right, in the shape of a cross. That is to ensure the health and prosperity of the youth throughout the year.
4. Last year’s egg – somewhere on a high shelf in the house (for some reason with us it’s always in the kitchen) rests the first red egg from last year. Exactly right, from last year. As it has been hard boiled and dyed it doesn’t stink and it still looks nice and red (or at least it should, if it doesn’t you’ve done something wrong). The egg is then broken, to see what the inside of it looks like. The better it is, the better the house’s well being. Then it’s place is taken by the new egg, which will endure for the next year.
5. Good Friday – The Orthodox Bulgarians call it ‘Razpeti Petuk’ (Разпети петък) which comes from the word ‘razpyatie’ (разпятие) – crucible, so it’s not really Good Friday but more like Crucified Friday. As the story goes, Christ is taken down from the crucible and on the third day (Sunday) he would resurrect. On this day, Friday, people go into churches for a special service where they are blessed, they eat something given by the priest and then they go underneath a table and cross on the other side. I’ll be honest, I don’t completely understand that tradition but it is really funny to watch the people struggle (and I know how bad that sounds, but everyone’s having fun with it anyway).
6. Saturday night, midnight – The beginning of easter. Churches are filled with countless people and exactly at midnight the great service starts where everyone starts circling the church or chapel or whatever temple they’ve gathered in singing a specific traditional song, holding candles and some eggs to start the big egg battle royale.
7. The Greeting – From archaic Bulgarian, the phrase would literally be translated as ‘Christ resurrected!‘ To which whomever you said it to (which is everyone) answers ‘Indeed [he] resurrected!‘ For about a week from Easter, anyone you see you need to greet in this way according to custom. This year it wasn’t as bad as previous years, where everyone got about a thousand calls and texts and messages all saying that exact phrase.
8. The Battle – Easter morning, you wake up for some delicious warm sweetbread and then you get to choose your chapion, the egg you will fight with against everyone else, while you try to find the hardest, strongest egg out of all. the rules are simple. Every egg has a top and bottom – cupping the egg and leaving the top bit clear, you or your opponent tap one egg with the other. Obviously, the one that breaks loses. But all is not lost! Then the same thing is done on the other side. If the result is tied sometimes you can play top with bottom for the final score. By the end there’s about 10-20 broken eggs, ready to be eaten with breakfast or sliced up and put into the green salad for lunch. Which brings me to the final, most delicious part of Easter…
9. The Lamb Roast…. – it speaks for itself. Everyone that day no matter where or how, eats lamb for lunch and/or dinner. Traditionally it’s garnished with potatoes and there’s the green salad (salad, lettuce, radishes, sliced hard boiled eggs, cucumber and spring onions… or whatever but that’s the general idea). It is utterly incredible.
And that is how you get yourself a nice, proper, Orthodox, Bulgarian Easter. Something I believe any foreigner has to experience at least once, and I’ve got a few to to back me up on that. ;) Now, as we are artists, let’s see the most interesting and creative and artistic bit of the entire story.. the egg painting.
My nan has always had us over to dye eggs at hers (she lives in a nice remote house up the mountain) so it’s always a very pleasant experience being in their home. Usually they let me paint over the eggs, being artistic, but I never had enough time to do as many eggs as I wished. This time I had so much help I was worried we were going to run out of plain non-painted eggs. We had to use gouache (or tempera paint as they call it around here) and markers which I supplied. It was such an incredible experience having two of my closest friends there during this pure family experience… It made it seem more of a family! And getting to teach someone about how all this works really did help me see it all with new eyes.
So let’s hope next year it would be the same people there to break the house egg! :D
Something interesting happened when two girls went into the showers after painting performance. I was waiting for them outside the cubicles we were laughing about some things or other, and then I noticed something happening on the floor of the last, empty shower…
This is an edited detail from the photo I took then. The colours blend in a really fascinating manner, being pushed around by the slow advancements of the water and the fast drips and little waves coming from underneath the showering girls’ feet.
It is also interesting to look at the 3D image (or detail of it) as a 2D image or surface.
These two bits of acrylic paint stuck together in something like a plastic sheet of colour and textures interested me a lot and I decided to keep a few of them, which I stuck in my sketchbook. They were bits of splashed paint, left to dry down in the corners of the areas we used for our performance art.
I find it really interesting how something so unimportant, even in Painting Performance, such as the very final residual leftovers of chucked paint, which gather up secretly and unnoticed in unpredictable new patterns, producing colour combinations both unexpected and captivating.
“Caress the detail, the divine detail.”
– Vladimir Nabokov
I haven’t done realistic portraits in quite a while now and the other day I thought it was time that I did so here are the neon ladies. (the colours of the original are a bit softer but I think this works quite well…)
And this is the original magazine cut out from which I took the girls’ faces :)
It is interesting when you think about the colours of these images. None of them are what you’d expect to see in a rural environment so that, in a way, makes them city colours. I’ve decided to create a series of pieces using UV and neon colours and paint in which to capture the identity of different cityscapes, that is – to create characters representing the city. Looking forward to it already. :)
From the 3rd, to the 7th of February, I got to be artist of the week at the Howard Gardens reception. i had wondered for a while what artwork exactly to put up there but in the end I stopped at Alice in Wonderland. It has always been a favourite story and I believed it would be amazing for this to be my first official illustration that people would actually see.
Here below is a picture of the painting. I used watercolours and acrylic on a big canvas which was hung up above the reception desk all week. It received a lot of positive comments and some helpful feedback.
Now, since this is a course blog, I will also share the process of creating this finalized piece.
This first image is of the initial sketch that made me decide on Alice. I was sketching a random girl and then i sketched another one. when I coloured them after, the second girl just started looking more and more like the character and then I added the cat (actually two different versions of it, one where it’s more realistic, and another one which is more cartoonish, but still creepy).
I was ready to do a test painting on a 45x35cm canvas board. This image is what my mind conjured up.
The reason why there is such a big difference between the final painting on the big canvas and the small one is that I realized I wouldn’t be able to reach the same effect on the larger canvas (also, I was low on paint).
I can’t really remember a worse day for my entire stay. Maybe one or two, but they definitely weren’t as bleak and soulless as this one. Today “the sky was the colour of a chameleon”, an unrecognisable, dead colour that just stays there and does nothing. Static. Nothing feels right on a day like this. There is no feeling in the weather. There is no feeling to reflect anywhere – not on the canvas, not on paper and not on the computer… ugh! Dull weather like this makes me feel just as dull.
Not much pleasure filled me as I walked towards the campus. It didn’t fill me as I went into the elevator, as I stood inside, waiting, and as I walked out. But then, oh, sweet magic, Anna told us to take out our colours. Gouache paints, acrylics, watercolours, palettes, papers… it was incredible. The outside world disappeared and we closed ourselves off in the colourful bliss of the studio. The transformation was instant – a change in the light, a change in people’s faces, a change in perspective, a change in feeling! Oh, how much I love colour! I do!
I had fun today. When I walked to the sink to change my water I looked at what everyone had done and I just felt a warm tingly feeling inside because everything was so different from one another, yet we all had the same task…
All in all, I really enjoyed today’s workshop. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, to see what we’ll have to do then.
NotE: In Anna’s presentation there were a lot of big names mentioned. I took notes in my book (should check them out).