Wednesday, July 26, 2006

good work

Doodles: Why is it that when I am cramped into a little moldy room on a mountain, teaching screaming children half the day and enduring children screaming at me through my window the other half, I make art I am happy with? And when I find myself in a giant, quiet house in Fiji with nothing to do except create amazing sublime pieces, I can't. For some reason--inertia?--I've lately been creatively existing only on the life support of illustration webpages that force me to make a piece once a week. But I want to get beyond that once more... so here are some pieces that I think are good, before I leave on my cross-continent adventures.

Thoughts: Yes, I'm leaving on Saturday to continue my journey around the world in a little more than 80 days. Schedule, starting point a month ago in Taiwan:

Taipei, Taiwan--Suva, Fiji--Tokyo, Japan--Kyoto, Japan--Osaka, Japan--Shanghai, China--Beijing, China--Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia--Lake Baikal, Russia--Moscow, Russia--St Petersberg, Russia--Helsinki, FInland--Syracuse, NY, USA--Boston, USA--Taipei, Taiwan

I'm looking forward to ger camps and Stroganov and awesome Japanese contemporary art! But until I reach Taipei again a month from now I'll have erratic internet access. I will try, however, to post some thoughts and maybe some sketches from the Trans-Siberian.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Illustration Friday--Opposites

For this week's illustration friday challenge I combined the topic "Opposites" with a topic from a couple weeks ago which struck me--"Sticky". For the Sticky topic I got the idea of lot of children blowing bubblegum balloons and the types of patterns that might emerge if I made an entire environment populated by them... and since then I've been obsessed with children and bubbles. So for the Opposites challenge I continued along this path, but Photoshopped this girl so all the colors are opposite. Interestingly, the atmosphere transforms to an opposite too--from quirky and cute to more scary. I know, pressing "apple-I" is a bit too easy, but I like the end product anyway!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Inspire Me Thursday: Child's Play

These pieces are collaborations between myself and my students. Anything that is done in black is ink work by me, but all the colored parts are done by kids grades 3 to 6. I used pictures they had given me, cards, and even worksheets I had assigned them. This means that I can make some interesting paintings really quick because the kids already did all the work--I just paste it all together. :) I particularly like the giraffe in the top left (2nd grader) and the alien in the bottom middle (4th grader). Enlarge the image to see their work better!

Two newly stretched old paintings

I did these paintings a year ago but when I painted them I was too lazy to stretch the canvas. Instead they looked sort of like banners. I thought of lots of abstract excuses for this at the time but in reality it was just laziness... so I finally stretched them here in Fiji. They look much better, about 8.5 ft high and 3.5 wide.


Sketches of ideas coming from the "Sticky" theme... I don't have watercolor paper here so I have to wait until I get to the States or back to Taiwan to make some real paintings of these.

Children and heads with shrunken bodies blowing bubblegum... it seems macabre but thats not what I was going for; I thought it just created an interesting environment.

War... But 64 years ago

I lived in Israel for 2 years and my parents have lived there for 5. Although I was an awkward teenager, I still have friends there and know people in the IDF, so now that I find myself in Fiji with nothing to do but study for the GRE and swim, I rather spend all of my time watching the news. For some reason, either Fiji or my parents' Puritanism, we only get three or four channels here, one of which is sports, another a lot of Christian programming, and the last being run by the American armed forces. This is the only watchable station, but unfortunately I find myself watching a lot of Fox news and inspirational paid advertisements about combating depression and eating a balanced diet. It's basically a 24 hour repetition of the conflict in Israel and Lebanon. I'm scared by the possibility of WW3, as so many pundits are calling it... But a few days ago I got to take part in a ceremony that reminded me that not everything associated with the military has to make me feel worried.

The remains of a WW2 pilot and his plane were discovered by Department of Defense people a couple weeks ago in the mountains of Fiji. I don't think every country would do this, and I'm proud that the US did--we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to send an air carrier and army personnel over to do a series of memorial services over these 64 year old bones, do DNA tests to find out who he was, contact his family, and fly him back to them. Right now the ambassador to Fiji is gone so my father (with my mother and I tagging along) went as the representative of the US. I've never seen such a moving ceremony by both the Fijian and the American army--a Fijian and an American carrying the wreath, the unfolding of the flag, and representatives from both countries carrying the coffin onto the plane. It may be trite but every life is invaluable, and the fact that we went to so much trouble over some powdery bone fragments reminds us of that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Island windows

Last week my parents took my visiting cousins from Taiwan and I to an island, one of the hundreds that make up the Republic of Fiji. There was one tiny village on the island, about 14 or 15 houses. I love Fijian houses and their bright colors, so I took pictures of the windows from this village as an example. The village has no school (children have to enter boarding school even for elementary on the mainland) and makes most of its living by baking coconuts in the sun and drying them for the oil. There's a nearby island that is almost completely inhabited by women who work for Bumble Bee Tuna, interestingly enough. And another that is currently (?) hosting Nicole Kidman and husband for thousands of dollars a night.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Illustration Friday: Skyline

An abstract interpretation of a more intimate section of city: just one street corner... I felt like playing with the lines of a cityscape and started from a sketch of a street corner in Suva.

Monday, July 10, 2006

coming back (sort of)

Doodle: an older piece... for graduation presents I made all the students in the 6th grade class (all 13 of them) watercolor portraits. we put them up as a graduation exhibit and then the students took them home after the ceremonies. I heard their teacher framed them for them later, which was very very thoughtful of her.

Thought: I haven't been posting as often recently--ever since I've arrived in Fiji--and the thoughts that I have posted have been pretty sedate, unbiased observations on this new country. I haven't posted as much because, really, there's not as much to post. I may be in a country I have never been to before, but I'm in a big, quiet house with my parents, and even though its Fiji, its just not as rich a life as it was in Datong. My parents will live here for 4 years, but I'll never get to know Fiji as I have Taiwan, never feel like it is part of me, part of my blood (ok, I'm half Taiwanese, but I'm referring to two distinct living experiences). Perhaps that's the cause of my feelings of ennui lately. I can't say that I'm experiencing reverse culture shock because I haven't gone back to my old culture yet... Rather, its an attempt to adjust to similar changes that I can't define as easily. I'm coming from a moldy concrete dormitory with children peeping through the windows to a spacious, extremely neat, air-conditioned house. I'm coming from a tiny village where everyone knew me and my students would compete to see who could hug me tighter to a country where I know two people. I'm coming from having freedom--a completely independent existence, where I was tied only by the thread of email and phone communication to the love and, yes, obligation of the people I love--to chores and physical therapy and living at home. I now realize that as a one year stint, living abroad inherently became a break away from the real world, even though I despise the thought of young people living in other countries as a sort of vacation before grad school. But the fact that the Fulbright lasts a year means that it will always be an isolated experience, an experiment in freedom. And now I'm back (well, sort of back) and I have to rebegin a life that was put on pause while I was away. Or perhaps a better way to think of it is to begin another life... Does going abroad mean that life must be a series of stops and starts...? Whether a revivification of an old life or the beginning of another phase, its a bumpy start. But a start nonetheless.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

rainforest fiji

Why do they have to put the capital on the side of Fiji that rains all the time? I think its a common phenomenon with islands--for some reason half of the island is dry and the other wet. I know some of the islands in Hawaii are like this. So Fiji is too...and my parents live on the wet side. It means that I don't get to do all the sunbathing I was planning for when I got here but it also means there are some beautiful rainforests in the area. Went hiking in one on a path to the communty waterhole, where there is a long rope hanging over this small, but deep, pool in the middle of the forest. I jumped in with all my clothes on and was about to make the trek home shivering and wet, but my father insisted on giving me his shirt... so he walked back, belly and all, shirtless. Its considered rude for a man to go bare-breasted in public here, though, so by the time we got out of the jungle I had to give the shirt back and wear a blanket for the ride home. I expect that's considered rude too... but I guess the rudenss of a girl wearing a blanket for a shirt is trumped by that of a chubby man without one. :)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

resort fiji

From my short time here, I can already tell that there are many differnt sides fo Fiji, and only one of them comes to mind when the average foreigner thinks of the country. Although Fiji's economy is largely centered on tourism, the problem with the industry here is that tourists are ushered into the country, and, with the exception of backpackers, spend all of their time in resorts. So the rest of the country doesn't benefit from their spending as much as it should--there aren't really restaurants or night clubs (or at least not as many as expected) because the tourists are holed up in their resorts. And with that comes the dual image of Fiji: tourists think of the country as beautiful lagoons and tourquise seas, palm trees and sand, when in reality it is much more. In fact, much of the landscape doesn't even fit that description (the Eastern side of the island is wet rainforest, the West is dry bushland. From what little I've seen, Fiji is brightly painted corrugated tin houses surrounded by haphazard flowers and lines of laundry, whitewashed mosques, hand-painted signs, buses withought windows blaring reggae music, boys schools playing rugby in crisp white skirts, streets lined with hitch-hikers and grubby children. But last week my family and Taiwanese guests went to one of the above described inclusive resorts and it was, nevertheless, absolutely beautiful. Here's a picture of the ocean.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Illustration Friday: Sticky

The topic this week got me inspired... I imagine this as a huge pattern covering a wall, all about the negative spaces created by a sea of floating people blowing bubble-gum balloons. Perhaps I could make it even flatter, just using one color or using Photoshop rather than watercolors, so as to make the piece more of a pattern, more graphic, less of a landscape or scene. This beginning (I hope) is made of big balloons of bubblegum and tiny children (I made one Fijian, a boy with a red flowered shirt and a recap, I'm in Fiji visiting my parents right now before returning to Taiwan). I want to make it more obvious that they are bubblegum balloons though.