Who said this? None other than the great master creative, Pablo Picasso. When I read it (…it actually ironically came up as the quote of the day on my Bloomberg screen of all things!!), I felt immediately inspired! #qotd! What a wonderful reminder that our lives are filled with hopes and dreams, with desires and imaginings. To remember that what we hope and dream of can become real, can be made real, is a very empowering statement. As an artistically minded creative, it was also a reminder that our creative pursuits and creations bring something alive. They can represent something living and vibrant – in the way a photo can capture a moment, or a portrait can capture the essence of a heart or a soul.
It has been some time since I have posted on my artsy blog – life got busy, I went home to Australia for some sun, I felt uninspired, I didn’t allocate time to being creative. Don’t we all sometimes feel flat or overwhelmed? Too busy and overscheduled to really meditate properly on our intention to create. It had been a while since I have felt really creatively inspired. My easel and my camera have been quiet. Until recently – this past week or so has been a moment of frenzied motivation in the aide of some animal portraits!
I never really grew up with pets. I was allergic to their shedding hair and had a failed series of pets including a set of reproducing mice (so much for being de-sexed!), a fat stray lazy white cat which we gave away, a fluffy rabbit and some other random visitors (including ducklings which even got eaten by local cats!), after which we decided that pets weren’t for our family! But I must admit that seeing 2 of my friends – C a colleague at work and K a great friend of mine through soccer – express passion and childlike enthusiasm when sharing photos of their beloved pets – a beautiful golden retriever Summer and a badass cat Oscar – I felt inspired. Nothing like the pure and unconditional love of a dedicated pet to start one imagining and wondering how to create an image of the essence of these animal souls. To give a permanent image in watercolor and pastel to enshrine their personality, their warmth, their vulnerability – their neediness that makes humans adore and cherish their loyal animal companions.
I tried to capture the essence of these furry friends – their cheeky watchfulness, their windswept cute messy fur, their eyes as their window to their soul. I hope you can see it, or imagine it.
I have a very animated way of talking which involves waving my hands around a lot. Not a big surprise if you take into account my Italian background. Then add in a pinch of enthusiasm, a hint of energy and a drop of flamboyant personality…and you have a recipe for knocking over many glasses of water! Yes, I have spilled a lot of water in kitchens and at restaurant tables in my adult years, not to mention my childhood ones. Recently, I managed to knock over a series of full glasses of water in fancy New York establishments onto the lap of my great friend MC. In both cases I had barely touched my glass of wine, so I really had no excuse other than my own over enthusiasm and excessive gesticulations to blame! Thank you MC for being so patient with my water spills!
Water glasses are not the only casualty from this intensity in communication style – I have (accidentally) knocked people in the face with my elbows on the dance floor (to the chagrin of their boyfriends nearby!) and practically and unintentionally tripped myself over, rifled phones to the floor and ruffled many feathers.
The unintentional “knockout” moment. It is amazing what you discover when it happens. Some people laugh as you collect yourself and clear the spillage. Some people respond as if distressed by the invasion of their peace and personal space. Some people start up a conversation in the wake of the damage, as if you broke the ice and opened yourself up to a fresh, genuine interaction. It is impossible to be inauthentic in that (embarrassing) moment! Caught off guard by your own imperfection and unconstrained passion for the topic of the day.
That “knockout” moment is not always bad. In fact – in the creative process, it most often manifests itself as a moment of inspiration, of eye-opening wonder. When you suddenly seize the moment, filled with a sense of vision. It happens in writing, it happens in art, it happens when you get that perfect shot, without trying. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does – it’s great. I find travel often wields these artistic “knockout” moments, more than normal life. Maybe it’s because our hearts are more open to them. We are more relaxed, more liberated. Maybe it’s because what we see is somehow new and makes us feel renewed, novel and different. Bill Bryson put it beautifully:
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
I share a couple of “knockout” visions. They are by no means the best photos ever taken at all, but I can remember feeling a sense of satisfaction when I took them. A random selection to inspire over the weekend.
The art of gelato: it was too good to pass up, the moment of dripping, melting gelato in the Springtime sun on a backstreet in Milan with my sister’s bright multi-colored necklace shining in the background!
Seal Rocks: the most gorgeous outlook to the Pacific Ocean on the north coast of NSW, Australia. The turquoise waters shimmering in the summer sun and the green shrubs in the foreground, both a lovely contrast to the deep, dark blue hues of the watery expanse.
2. Intense color and contrast
German tulips: brightening your day and the tiny dew drops topped off one of my favorite flower photos.
African sunset: it doesn’t get any better than an African sunset along the Chobe River in Botswana. It took your breath way.
Micro China:red, the color of fortune and royalty. These slippers from a market stall in China were a bright reminder of a regal past. I love the messiness of the close up, entangled tassels and all.
3. Ambience / enigmatic human interest
Rainy reflections: stuck on a rainy night in the backstreets of the charming, quaint town of Suzhou, China about an hour or so outside Shanghai, the reflections of the bright lanterns with these lone girls huddled under their shared umbrella just captivated me. The blur of the photo felt in tune with the drizzly outlook from underneath my own umbrella.
Old fashioned Shanghai street: This is by no means the most fabulous set of photos, but it felt like I’d capture a moment of humanity passing by me in those moments. I was standing still and alone on a standard back street somewhere in the metropolis of Shanghai, with people, cars and mess passing by me. In those moment, two elderly gentlemen cycled slowly past, and 2 elderly ladies wandered in the opposite direction. Each a slow solitary figure in this overcrowded city. Each simply going about their own daily business and happening to have intersected with my own travels, in a moment when I too had stopped to take stock.
4. Nature: stunning scenery
Antarctic ice sheet reflections
Spot the penguin
5. Great smiles
Colca CanyonJoy: traveling through the Colca Canyon in Peru, we would stop along the road to look at the beautiful local scarves and textiles, occasionally buying something or chatting with the locals. This mother and daughter captivated me – in their traditional colorful patterned dresses and hats of the local area. The warmth of the mother’s expression, the hand of the daughter leaning close to her mother. A great smile lights up a portrait like nothing else. We all look better smiling!
Maria de Arequipa: I managed to garner from my basic Spanish that this lady’s name was Maria as she sat smiling on the sidewalk of the old town of Arequipa, Peru making small dolls and keychain dolls – artisanship slowly being lost. Her positivity was palpable.
Sometimes I wonder if I was meant to live in another era. An era before smartphones. Or iPhones. Whatever you want to call them! I have had a tendency in the last 18 months to destroy, lose, have stolen, or simply mistreat my phones (one instance involved spilling coconut water all over my phone…yes, I drink coconut water…and I’ll have you know the phone recovered!). I have gone through 4 phones and 2 blackberries since I moved overseas (one snatched out of my hand by a road bike burglar of all things!). My mobile destruction capabilities have become infamous among my family and friends! I am even used as an example of why insurance is so expensive. In fact, I used up my phone insurance – only 2 new phones were covered. I was very unimpressed when I found out! And I swear that I wasn’t this incompetent at maintaining my communication devices in the past! Not sure exactly what happened after I moved to New York. I believe it’s because I have small hands, and the Samsung Galaxy S3 is really quite big (a little bit like the iPhone 6), so my propensity for dropping phones must be higher than the average person. I also think it has something to do with the fact that the phone is my most important accessory (and now most expensive one…my a long shot) because I love being in touch with family and friends all the time, I love correspondence of all sorts, I am an active (or hyperactive) messager, and basically I believe that if everyone carried the phone around as much as I do, they too would need a new phone every 3 months too! I am waiting for when Apple invents a phone that slips onto your hand like a glove, or an implanted chip. Then maybe my phone karma would improve!
Despite my addiction to my phone(s), there is nothing quite like a holiday that allows you to disappear from your normal, daily grind. That allows you to escape. To stop time. To live in the moment. There is nothing quite like a great adventure holiday. And there is nothing quite like escaping the unrelenting pressure of work in a big city where everyone gets so uptight and caught up…on everything. In response to this pressure cooker, I sometimes seek solace in the wilderness without wifi. That’s right, I have spent the last few years becoming a passionate wilderness traveller and have fallen in love with remoteness. Looking for places that remind you of lost worlds that are waiting to be discovered. And while I might mistreat my cameras, drop them, get water, rain and snow on them, take them kayaking in Antarctica (not recommended) or trek with them…at least they are usually too big to lose and usually come with a strap that you can stick around your neck or across your shoulders so they are attached to you. They are more reliable than phones when it comes to photography ;).
And so I share below some of my favorite wilderness shots.
Lake Viedmar Glacier outside El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina.
The reflections of Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
How about a stop for lunch at the Torres del Paine?
The dawn view at the Poon Hill trek in Nepal, part of the Annapurna Circuit, about 3800m high.
Streams of light…and rhododendrons. Rhododendrons were a recurring theme in my photos in Nepal. I couldn’t get enough of them, to the great mirth of my travel buddy, B!
The beauty of the Australian countryside. The Megalong Valley near the Blue Mountains…a path to heaven. Whispy clouds and windswept trees.
The salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia are like a never ending sky. The 4WDs we were in looked like they were hovering in the milky sky.
The desert landscape of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile was also a stark and glorious view. Burnt oranges, yellow skies. Silhouette valleys.