Photo Essay

escape with me

I have a treat for you today. Come and join me on my morning walk yesterday and escape for a few minutes from the hate, the anger, the despair, and the noise that we are all being pummelled with each and every day. I don’t know about you but my troubled soul needed a little healing and when the sun rose yesterday on freshly fallen snow with the mountains stark against the bluest of skies, I knew all I had to do was dress warmly, put on my boots and venture out into the crisp air and morning sunshine.  I’m happy to say it worked.

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It didn’t take long to enjoy every magical moment with everyone else who was out and about.

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This gallery, which I have also made into a slide show, I hope will help sooth your soul too.

This next photo is for Cheri and her Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadow

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As I came closer to the trees  in Vanier Park I was greeted by a symphony of sound that made me stop in my tracks and listen for several minutes, joined by others who were equally as enthralled.  Here is a short excerpt from my post entitled Birdsong for today’s Daily Prompt: Heard.  If you feel like pausing for a minute or two and hearing more visit the post and listen to it all.

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I hope this has made your day as much as it did mine.

branch majesty

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I rescued this majestic branch whilst walking home one day last summer and brought it back to the studio. It was about to be pulverized in a wood chipper but like the photinia that you will remember from my yard work to art work story, it became my model.

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Using the small branches from the photinia as drawing tools it started to come to life transforming my empty sheet of Arches watercolour paper one warm July day.

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Finally, as I completed the painting today with the brushes from the Gift of the Four Treasures, the spirit of the branch filled the studio once again and its story was complete.

first day of fall: the story

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For those of you who enjoyed yesterday’s post for the first day of fall, I thought today I would tell the story of its evolution. Two days ago my wife picked up this beautiful fallen maple leaf as she was walking home knowing how much it would appeal to me, and how right she was.  I immediately went outside and held it up against the clear blue sky, and as I turned it in the bright morning sunshine its glorious colours came alive.

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Several photographs later I was happy with what I had captured, but now how best to use them. Using Photoshop Elements I created a different layer for each of the images, some of which were duplicated, reversed and re-sized as I placed them around the central leaf.

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I could have gone on for a while but felt the need to stop, as it magically became the perfect image with which to celebrate the first day of fall.  I hope you agree.

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The Gift of the Four Treasures: Part One

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The First Treasure from the Gift of the Four Treasures

Last week I received a beautiful gift from a very special person who has returned home to Vancouver from China to complete her studies. Her surprise gift to me from Beijing could not have been more perfect and timely, as I have fallen in love working again with ink and watercolour as those of you who follow my blog know well.

The gift has also introduced me to a piece of Chinese culture and history with which I was not familiar and which I would like to share with you today: The Four Treasures of the Study, which is the translation of the Chinese characters on the top of the presentation box.

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When I opened the box here were the Treasures of the Study beautifully displayed: brushes, ink, inkstone and carved paper weights representing paper and used to hold the paper down.

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This discription of the Four Treasures, and others to follow, are from the China Online Museum:

“Four Treasures of the Study (文房四宝 wén fáng sì bǎo) is an expression used to refer to the ink brush, inkstick, paper and inkstone used in Chinese calligraphy and painting. The name stems from the time of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 AD). Brushes and ink are two of the legendary “Four Treasures of the Study” tools of Chinese calligraphers, painters and poets over thousands of years. The other vital elements of culture are the rice paper (zhi), and the inkstone (yan) for grinding the solidified inksticks.”

Here you can see the inkstone and inks in greater detail.  The larger ink stick has two engravings on its surface, a dragon and a phoenix. The second and smaller stick has an orange blossom motive.viii

“The ink (mo) is commonly made by burning pine or another wood in an earthenware container, mixing dense ash with glue, and compressing it into an ink stick, or another form. An unusual antique piece of ink is shaped like a ruyi, a scepter tribute offering, that conveys wishes for happiness and good fortune. After shaping, it takes about two years for the ink to dry, in a totally dry and dark environment.”

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“An inkstone is literally a stone mortar for the grinding and containment of ink. Traditional Chinese ink is usually solidified into sticks for easier transport and preservation. Water is usually kept in a ceramic container and sprinkled on the inkstone, which has a generally flat surface. The inkstick would be ground with the flat surface of the inkstone. By mixing ink with different amounts of water, the calligrapher or artist can create different densities and innumerable shades of black and gray.”

An additional box of five different coloured inks was included with the gift, each with a dragon motif once again.

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The beautifully carved paper weights have engraved into the wood, bamboo, chrysanthemums, cherry blossoms and orchids

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These carved ink seals were specially made for me, one for my library books and the other for my paintings. How lucky am I?

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As you can imagine I was eager to begin using the Treasures, to grinding the ink and to letting the brushes sing and dance across the paper, and what better way to start than with the bouquet I had picked from the garden and posted on the First of September.

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“The traditional brush (bi) can be traced back to the neolithic age, but became recognized during the Warring States Period, in 476 to 221 BC. It was improved by Meng Tian, a general of the Qin Dynasty, in 221 to 206 BC. Brushes are made of animal hair, usually attached to a bamboo stick. Various kinds of animal hair were once used, like goat, ox, rabbit, sheep, marten, badger, deer, wolf, each having certain properties. They can be categorized by their size: large, medium and small; and also by the strength: soft (usually taken from goat), medium (taken from rabbit, or a mixture of goat and weasel hair) and hard or stiff (taken from weasel tail). Hair of different animals can be combined to create different textures.”

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Thank you Charmaine for this beautiful gift, which I will treasure always.

This First Treasure is for you.

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a mini retrospective

“A studio is not only a place, it’s a state of mind” Tony Smibert

On July 1st I set out to work my way through Tony Smibert’s Painting Landscapes from your Imagination, and as those of you who followed my progress know, yesterday I completed the project that I had set myself. July was also World Watercolor Month thanks to Charlie O’Shields, so this was the perfect fit.

It’s always fun to look back sometimes so I thought today I would give myself a little
mini retrospective for the month of July.

My thanks to Charlie and to all of you who joined me on the journey, and of course a big shout out and thank you to the great Australian artist Tony Smibert whose books are a source of such great inspiration to so many.

Tony dedicated his book to his two children, so I would like to dedicate my “retrospective” to my beautiful granddaughter who is really the greatest inspiration of all.

Studio 365: Day 287

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What could be better than the perfect day in London, beginning with a latte on Waterloo Station before walking to Tate Britain, with so much to enjoy on the way: the London Eye, Westminster Bridge, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Churchill’s statue, Richard Coeur de Lion in Old Palace Yard, and then along Millbank to my favourite gallery and a return to the Turners’ and so many other memorable British artists. Come and join me and enjoy the day…

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…on to France and the Dordogne in the morning. See you there.

Studio 365: Day 283

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Never Again II 10.10.15

Yesterday’s post came about after receiving an email from Stephen Cornish, Executive Director of MSF Canada asking for support for an independent investigation into the bombing of their trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. To accompany today’s images I thought I would reproduce in full Dr. Joanne Liu’s statement that was released on October 6th, together with the testimony of MSF nurse Lajos Zoltan Jecs who describes his experience the night the hospital was bombed.

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Never Again III 10.10.15

Dr. Joanne Liu is a Montreal physician who currently serves as the international president of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Here is her statement:

“For four years, the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)trauma centre in Kunduz was the only facility of its kind in northeastern Afghanistan, offering essential medical and surgical care. On Saturday, October 3, this came to an end when the hospital was deliberately bombed. Twelve MSF staff and 10 patients, including three children, were killed, and 37 people were injured, including 19 members of the MSF team. The attack was unacceptable.

The whole MSF movement is in shock, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those affected. Nothing can excuse violence against patients, medical workers and health facilities. Under International Humanitarian Law hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces. Until proven otherwise, the events of last Saturday amount to an inexcusable violation of this law. We are working on the presumption of a war crime.

In the last week, as fighting swept through the city, 400 patients were treated at the hospital. Since the facility’s opening in 2011, tens of thousands of wounded civilians and combatants from all sides of the conflict have been triaged and treated by MSF. On the night of the bombing, MSF staff working in the hospital heard what was later confirmed to be a US army plane circle around multiple times, releasing its bombs on the same building within the hospital compound at each pass. The building targeted was the one housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms and physiotherapy ward. Surrounding buildings in the compound were left largely untouched.

Despite MSF alerting both the Afghan and Coalition military leadership, the airstrike continued for at least another 30 minutes. The hospital was well-known and the GPS coordinates had been regularly shared with Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials, including as recently as Tuesday, September 29.

This attack cannot be brushed aside as a mere mistake or an inevitable consequence of war. Statements from the Afghanistan government have claimed that Taliban forces were using the hospital to fire on Coalition forces. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital, which amounts to an admission of a war crime.

This attack does not just touch MSF but it affects humanitarian work everywhere, and fundamentally undermines the core principles of humanitarian action. We need answers, not just for us but for all medical and humanitarian staff assisting victims of conflict, anywhere in the world. The preserve of health facilities as neutral, protected spaces depends on the outcome of a transparent, independent investigation.”

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Never Again IV 10.10.15

MSF nurse Lajos Zoltan Jecs was in Kunduz trauma hospital when the facility was struck by a series of aerial bombing raids in the early hours of Saturday morning. He describes his experience:

“It was absolutely terrifying.

“I was sleeping in our safe room in the hospital. At around 2am I was woken up by the sound of a big explosion nearby. At first I didn’t know what was going on. Over the past week we’d heard bombings and explosions before, but always further away. This one was different — close and loud.

“At first there was confusion, and dust settling. As we were trying to work out what was happening, there was more bombing. After 20 or 30 minutes, I heard someone calling my name. It was one of the Emergency Room nurses. He staggered in with massive trauma to his arm. He was covered in blood, with wounds all over his body.

“At that point my brain just couldn’t understand what was happening. For a second I was just stood still, shocked. He was calling for help. In the safe room, we have a limited supply of basic medical essentials, but there was no morphine to stop his pain. We did what we could.

‘There are no words for how terrible it was’

“I don’t know exactly how long, but it was maybe half an hour afterwards that they stopped bombing. I went out with the project coordinator to see what had happened. What we saw was the hospital destroyed, burning. I don’t know what I felt – just shock again. We went to look for survivors. A few had already made it to one of the safe rooms. One by one, people started appearing, wounded, including some of our colleagues and caretakers of patients.

“We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds. We looked for some staff that were supposed to be in the operating theatre. It was awful. A patient there on the operating table, dead, in the middle of the destruction. We couldn’t find our staff. Thankfully we later found that they had run out from the operating theatre and had found a safe place.

“Just nearby, we had a look in the inpatient department. Luckily untouched by the bombing. We quickly checked that everyone was OK. And in a safe bunker next door, also everyone inside was OK.

“And then back to the office. Full — patients, wounded, crying out, everywhere. It was crazy. We had to organize a mass casualty plan in the office, seeing which doctors were alive and available to help. We did an urgent surgery for one of our doctors. Unfortunately he died there on the office table. We did our best, but it wasn’t enough.

‘We saw our colleagues dying’

“The whole situation was very hard. We saw our colleagues dying. Our pharmacist — I was just talking to him last night and planning the stocks, and then he died there in our office.

“The first moments were just chaos. Enough staff had survived, so we could help all the wounded with treatable wounds. But there were too many that we couldn’t help. “Somehow, everything was very clear. We just treated the people that needed treatment, and didn’t make decisions — how could we make decisions in that sort of fear and chaos? Some of my colleagues were in too much shock, crying and crying. I tried to encourage some of the staff to help, to give them something to concentrate on, to take their minds off the horror. But some were just too shocked to do anything. Seeing adult men, your friends, crying uncontrollably — that is not easy.

“I have been working here since May, and I have seen a lot of heavy medical situations. But it is a totally different story when they are your colleagues, your friends. These are people who had been working hard for months, non-stop for the past week. They had not gone home, they had not seen their families, they had just been working in the hospital to help people … and now they are dead. These people are friends, close friends. I have no words to express this. It is unspeakable.

“The hospital, it has been my workplace and home for several months. Yes, it is just a building. But it is so much more than that. It is healthcare for Kunduz. Now it is gone.

“What is in my heart since this morning is that this is completely unacceptable. How can this happen? What is the benefit of this? Destroying a hospital and so many lives, for nothing. I cannot find words for this.”

Day 282

Never Again.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Boundaries

Yesterday, on another inspiring early morning walk along the Admiralty Trail on the boundary of the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, the sunlight filtering through the high overhanging branches created a canopy of colour that at times simply took our breath away.

We stepped aside for the joggers and then met the two little Papillon sisters Cricket and Bella, aged six and seven, who kindly pawsed and posed for me.

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Autumn in all its glory, once again, I hope you agree.

From Bean to Brew in Peru

Did you know that today is National Coffee Day? I certainly didn’t, particularly as everyday is National Coffee Day in our house. But it really is as I discovered on my Twitter feed this morning when I saw the hatch tag #nationalcoffeeday.

And so to celebrate this important day in the life of my fellow coffee drinkers everywhere I thought I would look back to our coffee plantation visit on Day 5 of our trek to Machu Picchu with Mountain Lodges of Peru in 2013, a day on which we all enjoyed a memorable cup of strong aromatic coffee having witnessed its journey from bean to cup…

…and a great way to respond to Kristin who asked us to show “a change in progress” for this week’s Photo Challenge: Change

Canada Day Muse

Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver has been featured many times on thechangingpalette. It is a definite muse and constant source of photographic inspiration, from the crisp clear days of Winter, to the glorious hot days of Summer…

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…with the wonderful colours of Spring and Fall in between

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….and breathtaking skies and sunsets all year round.

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Today was a spectacular Canada Day to walk along the beach to Granville Island

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…and the perfect way to celebrate this special day

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…made even more special for this newly doting Grandpa.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Canada Day.