Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day 9

 "Lake Vembanad before a storm" by Hilary J. England, oil on canvas, 8" x 10", 2015

It's been a peaceful day, and the first one I've really been able to work.  It started off nicely, with one of our artist residents, a young artist named Grace (and also my roomie) giving a very nice presentation of her work, which was very interesting.  She does "projection mapping" (I'm not quite sure what it is still, except that it involves scanning found vintage pornography images into your computer and making an animated collage that comes out looking a bit like a weird cartoon) and she gave a demonstration on this.  Again, quite interesting, but way out of my depth.  I'm just a simple gal who loves to paint, so I felt a little unable to completely grasp the concept of this medium, but that could also be because I'm old least compared to a 20 year old ;-)  Anyway, it is nice to see other artists and their creative processes, no matter what medium they work in.

I went out and painted this little study of Lake Vembanad from the edge of our property.  There were many reeds and the dense lilypads seem to form surface so solid on the edge of the lake, it seems you would be able to walk on them!  Obviously, that would not be a good suggestion, as you would wind up drowned in lilypads at the bottom of the lake, so I will just stay where it is nice and solid, and paint this lovely little scene at my leisure.  It took about 2 hours, but that was with breaking for lunch and talking with Ru Ru.  For a 2 year old, he has some definite opinions about painting!

So, the others went out to the market, and being that I was still not done with my painting, I decided to stay behind.  The compound is nearly empty, so floating in the pool was quite relaxing and quiet, as I listened to my own heartbeat through the water, I felt I could have been back in the amniotic sac, floating in uetero...the layers of stress just slowly peel away like a snake shedding its skin.

I am looking forward to more work tomorrow, I've made a pact with myself to get "x" number of paintings done (I won't reveal the number in case I miss the mark haha).  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this little window peek at  Lake Vembanad~

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Day 7-8

Day one of the residency, and the property is splendid.  We came into the place at all hours, in dribs and drabs, as we did in the Romanian residency...stories of missed connections, and flooded train tracks, and all the other little mishaps that happen along the way during international travel, but in the end, the outcome is a good one.  It has been well worth the hiccups along the way.

We are an eclectic group of 8, we would have been 9, but the other artist, an Australian artist staying behind for extenuating circumstances.  Our hosts, Triparna and Shivajee, have been most acocmmodating, and their little son, "Ru Ru" is most adorable.  He reminds me of home, and my family, thinking of our babies, Maddie, Bronson, Amelia, and Isaac, and Nicole and Wade.  He makes me smile, as he is only 2 and 1/2 and is just as mischievious as a all little kids are.  He will add a touch of lightness to our group, as little ones do.

It's been a leisurely day, one of introductions, both formal and informal, hammering the "kinks" out with the technology and staff, sleeping arrangements and arrivals, and getting to know one another, as both artists and people.  I didn't get much work done in terms of beginning to paint, but that's OK, since tomorrow is another day, and that's my plan.  I was able to get a full night's rest last night, the first in nearly a week, and that was wonderful, I was able to refresh and reset, and feel nice and ready to do some painting tomorrow...also, the soak in the pool helped, I'm sure.  

The landscape here is fabulous...the views of Lake Vembanad are lovely with the soft blues, grays and cool greens that conjure thoughts of timeless and primieval continuity...just freshness of heart and mind.  I sit and watch the warm spot on the lake, a sinewy man, his dusky skin vibrating warm against the cool landscape of the rippling surfaces, fishing in his canoe, and you feel it could be now, or 100 years ago, or maybe even 1,000....the landscape evokes a timelessness that is palpable and comforting.  It will be a lovely experience to paint these sights, and to feel the truth of the landscape.  

The weather here is sublime, and the moisture of the day, which seems to be at 100% humidity at times even though the temperature does not seem to move out of the mid 80's F, is just hot enough to NOT be overwhelming, and now, in the evening, has given way to soft, clean and cool breezes off the water; the soothing sounds of the gentle waves, the swaying lilypads, and the tree frogs are enough to lull me comatose--a true tropical paradise.  I haven't been anywhere tropical in a bit, so this is a trip that is well overdue :-)  .

Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 6-7

It is sunny...I had my night shades on, but still the rhymthic swaying of the train was not enough to hold me asleep.  Once I peeled these off, it was like being unmasked for a surprise party! The sights of the Southern Indian countryside are just spectacular, to the point of my heart leaping with wonder.  This train ride, in itself, gave me hope for what beautiful landscapes I will find in Kumarokom.  

The wait to get on this train was an exercise in pain, no doubt.  Seven long, somewhat nailbiting hours waiting for it to arrive, as yes, it was very overdue because of monsoon flooding, among other things.  The station was glutted with people, sleeping on the floors, chairs, anywhere that their bodies could fit, in a sight so bizarre, I began to think I was actually hallucinating it.  I overheard snatches of broken English, about "trains being canceled" and my heart caught in my throat....Margao was not exactly the most stellar place to be caught off guard--kind of like getting stranded in Jersey City.  I just took a deep breath and said a quiet prayer.

As I was sitting there, trying to retain a calm facade in the face of mounting pressure, a disheveled man, obviously a drunkard or a bum, came up and began yelling in my face for money.  I waved him off and then calmly looked straight ahead, and ignored him, but he was very persistent, and began to get more agitated and louder.  The young Indian man sitting next to me promptly looked at me, and then at him, and began to yell at him in Hindi.  I heard the heated exchange, including the threat of "police," and the bum grudgingly walked away.  I sat there for a moment, and I looked at him, and he at me, and then he said, "I'm sorry for that.  Unfortunately, there are bad people no matter where you go in the world." We smiled, and began to converse.  He was a very nice person, waiting for his wife, he was an engineer, he had been to Europe but not yet to America, and we talked of the snowy winters in the Northeast, and of the droughts in California, and all things American, and I was so grateful for the nice conversation, it was most certainly a godsend.  

After about an hour, the train his wife was arriving in (it was 12 hours late) was finally pulling in to the station, and he continued to assist me, by bringing me to a women's only lounge (which I was not aware of), and arranging with a porter to assist me with my luggage when (and if) the train arrived.  Here we parted company, and I went to sit with the large group of Indian women in the ladies lounge...which was guarded by a sleepy looking porter, and a bored looking police officer.  It was open to the main platform so I could still see the departure board, and every hour that ticked by, I watched my train departure getting rolled back yet another hour, until midnight, when it disappeared off the board altogether!  Alarmed, I asked the young Hindi lady sitting next to me to watch my suitcase (yes, a foolish chance, but the suitcase is huge, and no one was going ANYWHERE at that point), and walked over to one of the porters to try to communicate with him.  After a completely broken conversation, I gathered the train was finally arriving for us at 1:20 pm, and once again, blessing for me, it would be on the track/platform I was sitting on, and I would not have to lug myself over to the more desolate part of the train station, that honestly, had me a little frightened.  I had even took my box cutter out and tucked it into my bra just in case.  But now, I could literally just board right from the ladies lounge.  I was elated.

Many of the ladies rushed the toilets in anticipation of the trains arrival, and actually so did I, since I literally had not used the bathroom in 7 hours due to the delays, and the stress of leaving my luggage unattended and it getting stolen, so I was in desperate need at that point, because even though I had not drank any water in all that time either, so this way I wouldn't need to go, after 7 hours, water or no, you gotta go.  I quickly went into the bathroom, paid my 2 rupees to use the hole in the floor (quite literally--aim and go ladies) and then ran out, found the porter, and scurried to the train that was now, FINALLY, pulling into the station.  I was exhausted but fervently relieved, as it least it was finally here, and I wouldn't be sleeping the night in the train station, etc.  

Plus, there was a very young American couple sleeping in the mouth of the door for the ladies lounge, neither of them being more than 21 or 22.....both very blonde and Midwestern, she with her natural bright blonde hair and fair skin (a BIG deal here), he with his sandy hair and blue eyes, sleeping on their backpacks, but attracting ALL the stares.  I know it's terrible, but what a relief to know I wasn't the only white person in the station, getting stared at like an animal in the zoo.  The little blonde girl (obviously feigning sleep on the floor because her boyfriend was out cold) noticed me looking down at her, and we locked eyes and she managed a weak smile...I could tell she looked confused and exhausted.  I smiled back, and with that little reassurance, she snuggled back a little closer to her snoring boyfriend, and put her hoodie over her entire head.  Good move.  I wondered why she hadn't done it before...after all, the mosquitos were on a rampage (Margao is an outdoor train station) but lucky I must taste bad.  Not a single bite.  Maybe the wasp's venom is still lingering in my scent hahaha.....

So, now I sit in my train cabin, looking out the window, immensely enjoying the sights, and have this moment of happiness.  I don't know what comes next in terms of things beyond my control, such as delays, and mishaps, and other unpleasant things that tend to get us feeling defeated, but the sights of the lush watery pthalo green fields, with the raging gray ocean in the background, the swaying palms, and the cows  and herons calmly grazing together, are enough to make me feel the pall that was cast over me this week start to lift...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Day 5

It's wild here...and no, I don't mean "nightlife" wild, but I'm sure that's the case too, as I have heard from the waiters about the "good clubs" to go to, and it was "nice" I don't go, because I am "nice lady."  Haha.  More like reclusive and unmotivated to go to a disco filled with crazy English tourists :-D  
The monsoon has been knocking the power out more often than not, so technology is basically foiled for a good part of the day, which is fine.  I did bring two books to read, along with my Kindle on my iPad, plus working--I have managed to find a way to work from my balcony in the rain, but the wind has become quite heavy making outdoor work unmanageable today, so I am just prepping for tomorrow's departure to Kerala, and all that entails.  As I sit here in the quiet, I hear the monkeys screaming in the trees...initially I thought they were children playing, but now I know better.  At night, some of the birds make the oddest sounds...I thought it was a car alarm for one night, and then I realized where I was, and what it was, and just laughed.  First World programmed....

I had several issues with my Vodafone that I purchased here, and that took nearly 24 hours to hammer out, and was quite frustrating.  I am just starting to feel remotely like myself, after the jetlag is finally beginning to abate, and my leg is about 75% healed.  It is now just a big reddish purple area like a giant bruise, not swollen, etc., and the sting itself is healing nicely, not too ulcerated, but healing.  What a whopper of a sting....I have never experienced anything like it, and hope to never again.  I have prepped all my canvases in my downtime during the storms, so I won't have to bother grounding them when I reach the residency, I can just get to work.  

I also had an issue with my bank cards when I went to use them here, which was pretty horrifying, especially when you are exhausted, feel like sh*t, and have no cell phone or wifi access...but, after trial and error, found out: A.)  American Express is NOT welcome in most stores and hotels, despite their commercials LOL  and B.)  HFDC, a major British bank, DOES accept them, and like a squirrel finding a precious nut, kept having to return to the one ATM about .5 a mile a way, but there is a young man named Rhual (probably misspelled that) who drives the shuttle, and he was very nice to bring me there several times for nothing.  Now, I have to make sure I make one final stop at it before heading to the train station tomorrow, so that I am not short-strapped in Kerala should I not be able to find one there, etc.  

With all of the adjustments, I do feel like India is beginning to grow on me, which is why I would never make a trip like this and stay less than two the time you get adjusted, it would be time to leave, and with the added trauma of the leg injury, it would have been a complete bust.  I do enjoy their cuisine, but yesterday, I was feeling a little under the weather in my stomach, so the smells of curry etc. was overwhelming to me, and I hid in my room for most of the evening, ordering room service, of Continental cuisine: just a plain chicken breast with a slightly spicy mushroom sauce that I promptly threw away as I couldn't even bear the slightest odor of it, and some french fries, with a ginger ale.  Fixed me up pretty well, so that this morning, I went to the cafe and had an egg over easy and some buttered toast and a side of fresh papaya, and now I feel pretty good.  I still haven't completely recovered all of my around 3 pm, I feel extremely tired, but lucky thing it rains so I almost don't feel bad taking a nap.  Almost.  I still can't unAmericanize myself in that aspect of feeling like a lazy loser if I am not busy at something ALL the time, or mostly, for taking a nap haha.  That one is an offense that is hard for me to overcome, but I've been being "kind" to myself because of my leg and my terror of the injury escalating, so I allowed myself this leeway.

I am very much looking forward to the train ride for some reason--it seems like an exciting journey down through the Indian countryside, but I remember it will be mostly at night, so I will have to remember to wake up a little early, so I can really enjoy the landscapes before we reach Kerala.  I am still somewhat hazy about what my gameplan is when I reach there, in terms of the landscape, landmarks, etc. for my paintings, but I am sure that Triparna, the head of the residency, will know of some interesting sites for me to paint at.  I have high hopes for the beautiful and exotic landscapes and culture, and to paint and interpret that.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Day 3

I am still undecided about how I feel about India.  After the long travel here, the delays, the conversion problems, the hellride through the desolate roads with the taxi driver and stranger, and then literally walking into my hotel room and immediately getting stung by a giant wasp, and having a hideous and continuing reaction to the venom, I was pretty sure I was not getting out of Goa alive, and if I actually did, and made it home to the USA, made a promise to myself to have my head examined quite thoroughly.  

After spending the entire day in bed yesterday nursing my ailing leg, and laying about in the spacious air conditioned room, listening to the soothing rain, watching HBO between dozing on and off, and taking a lukewarm shower that at least washed the travel away, I felt a little better.  I ordered room service, a very nice roasted lamb dish with new potatoes in a brown garlic sauce, that was very good.  And, a 7-Up with an old fashioned straw....made me think of home.

The food here is amazingly good!  For breakfast, I had a delicious omelette masala, which is a spicy omelette with hot peppers and other veggies in there, along with a light yet dense rice cake with a sublime cucumber sauce that accompanied it, and the waiter called "Cumar" insisted I try a nice little sort of porridge, delicate and milky, yet sweet, with slivered almonds and golden raisins, which was truly delicious.  You can't help but eat all of these amazing local and native's so easy, as they are there, and so casual the way the food is given to you.  It's different from any other "foodie" state or country I've ever visited.  Say, for instance, Paris, the food is sublime, but the approach is aloof, and the Parisians offer no help there, are left on your own, overwhelmed with decisions, and for someone like me, I usually go with the safer choices...but not here in Goa.  For some reason, the atmosphere of this place is just conducive to partaking of all the native foods...or maybe it's just the bee sting that gave me brain damage!  No, I will give Goa high marks for delicious and interesting foods.

The people here are also very accommodating.  The men, who were severely demonized Stateside by well-meaning friends, have been very gentlemanly, and I appreciate that, since I was wary of them to the point of paranoia.  Now, don't think I will get too comfortable, but it's refreshing to know that for the most part, they have been very genteel and polite, and helpful to me when I have asked them to help me, directions, locations of certain stores and resources.  And, it's needed, because this place can be overwhelming...The chaos of it, extreme poverty and squalor, with pockets of civilization, on the outskirts of Goa, while Panjim City seems to be a wealthier area, with narrow streets jammed with taxis and rickshaws, and many different shops which would prove a real treat for those who love to shop, but I, either fortunately or unfortunately, am not one of those people, so just observing the place, the people, and the architecture was enough for me.  There seem to be many influences here, from the different groups of invaders that left their marks upon this place, leaving it fascinating in it's chaos and crumbling beauty.  

I came to observe and to digest this place, and I hope I am up to that task.  I finally have my mineral spirits, so I will sit on my lovely little balcony tonight, and paint the exotic flowers until the torrential rains return...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Day 2

In Mumbai awaiting my transfer flight and I'm totally punch drunk from lack of sleep...I feel my mind starting to shut down, and I still have this last leg of the journey get to Goa, and we are delayed because of the monsoon rains. I have no internet access, nor phone access, so I don't know how I can get in touch with the hotel and make sure they have a shuttle waiting at the appropriate time now that we are delayed, so I will probably have to just take a taxi and hope for the best.  That's all I can do, unless I can get some access to wifi in Goa and call them from that airport.  

I am physically spent at this point.  The trip was long but thankfully uneventful until we reached Mumbai, and then it became quite a torturous process to change/transfer planes.  I had to go through customs, and it was very thorough, and the agents were nice, if just a little slow.  Then, I had to retrieve my luggage, and deliver it to another part of the airport, and then, catch a shuttle to a secondary airport, or a subairport, which is several miles from the main airport.  The sites were stunning, even if everything was quite blurred out by the torrential rains and my bleary eyes....the chaos, filth, and human bondage, all amix with space age digital billboards touting the newest Jaguar, literally in the middle of a ruin that resembled the movie "District 9."  The huge colonies of shacks, with rusting tin roofs and oceans of blue plastic tarps to "waterproof" these dilapidated structures was both shocking and mind boggling.  Masses of people living in sheer quagmire, unlike anything I've ever witnessed, even in Jamaica  I was held hypnotized by the sight of it, until the rains made it impossible to see more than a few feet ahead.  I just closed my eyes and listened to the cacaphony of horns (amidst a sea of no honking signs), and watched people scurrying by in the deluge, open taxis with drenched women trying desperately to close the flimsy little curtains that would block the sun in a vain hope of staying dry, others taking shelter under the numerous rotting and moldering edifices in every direction....

After reaching the secondary Mumbai airport, it was like a cattle call with all people being herded off the buses, like down a cattle chute.  I was moving on autopilot at this point, but lucky thing God had his angels with their eyes open, or iI would have been shuttled onto another bus to a flight to Hyderabad, and this could have been a really strange tale from that point forward, lol.

So, then through more security--women in one checkpoint, men in another.  That's another thing--this culture is sex obsessed, and I mean on every level.  Here, there is segregated seating marked "ladies" everywhere...for a culture that seems to revere "ladies," they certainly do a whole bunch of leering and ogling...not very gentlemanly.  But for me, an indifferent look has pretty much shut any frisky looking male down, so I feel fairly safe, but totally alien.  I am literally the only "white" Western woman on this flight....there were a few on the other, but none on this one.  Oh well, I am the odd man out.  

I can't wait to just get to the hotel, and lay down. Take a nice shower, and relax.  The air here is unlike any I've ever experienced--the humidity was so dense, it's like being in a sauna.  The inside of the airport is airconditioned, so I don't know what to expect in terms of Goa.  I guess I can only wait and see...
I am finally in my hotel room after what seemed to be the longest day ever.  I could barely keep my eyes open on the connecting flight.  The flight served up a sandwich that was really vile...made me nauseous just watching people eat it.  It seemed to be some kind of curried pickle relish on a spiced roll, and people would then drizzle ketchup all over each bite they took...was enough to make me a little ill.  

After landing in Goa, I wound up taking the LAST cab available for the evening from the airport, and had to share the ride with a young Indian guy.  I was exhausted, and then when we started heading into the dark jungle, flying down desolate roads, I was convinced the cab driiver and the young man were in cohoots together, and I was dead--never to be found after they raped and robbed me.  But, luckily, he was an honest driver, he dropped me off at the resort, and I thanfully checked in to my room.  Not bad, until I used the bathroom and got stung by a giant wasp on the inside of my thigh, that must have been hiding under the toilet seat.  No joke, most painful bite, thought I was getting stung by a scorpion and freaked out.  Now, this bite is all swollen, right at inner mid thigh level, so I took some benadryl just in case, as well as an ibuprofen, and will try and get some damn sleep.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a nice day even with this sting.  I guess it was better than getting bitten by a snake LOL

Monday, June 15, 2015

So it begins!

So it begins!!

The journey begins today, officially.  All of the little plans, and little details, the work up to it, everything, is enough to give one butterflies, as this is the furthest I’ve been away from home yet, and for some reason, that thought made me slightly nervous yesterday.  I don’t know why, yet it did.

In reality, I am in even a better position to travel this year than I was last year when I went to Eastern Europe, yet the more relaxed pace previous to this trip gave me more time to think, and to digest all kinds of scare-mongering from well meaning loved ones, hahaha.  I refuse to give in to fear.  It’s against my nature.

So, now I sit here in Newark airport, waiting for the long flight to Mumbai, and then the layover, and then the short flight to Goa.  The check-in process in Newark was incredibly smooth, which is why I really love this airport.  JFK is a nightmare on every front, from the grueling cross town traffic, to the ineptness of the whole check in process…no thank you.  Every time I get tempted by a slightly cheaper ticket over there I just think back to the various nightmares I have endured at that airport, and shudder, and then go with the Newark ticket LOL.

This waiting process is not very hard right now, and I am surprised at the number of women travelers, both solo or as mother/daughter teams.  That is a reassuring observation to me, for whatever reason….maybe it assures me I’m not really freaky for traveling to India solo ;-)

Now, I will change some currency, and just wait to board…I have my books, movies and various games downloaded to my iPad, and I am hoping the smooth trip continues nicely and God remains with me on my travels, and I can lay my head comfortably on my pillow in my air conditioned room in Goa!!  I will update in Mumbai…or maybe even up in the air if I have wifi access!

Monday, June 8, 2015


"Study of curving hedge after a sun shower" by Hilary J. England, 8" x 10", oil on canvas, 2015

Back to plein air....just getting limbered up for India next week.  I plan on doing plenty of painting, to be sure.  I had fun doing this quick little oil sketch...the curving hedge and crazy sunlight plus rain made for an interesting juxtaposition, not to mention tactical conundrum haha.

I plan on a few more local landscapes before India next Monday, then the next will be of the exotic Indian landscape :-)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Studio work

"Portland Head" by Hilary J. England, 2015, oil on canvas, 24" x 36"

I just completed this painting today, it was a little project I did just for myself.  I have a large space in my bedroom, on the wall straight ahead, and I was completely sick of looking at a blank wall there, so I decided I would paint myself a scene, something that was lovely and close to my heart, and would bring me some nice dreams when I feel asleep meditating to it.  So, I looked back through my old studies, and knowing I wanted some kind of water scene, found some interesting drawings and sketches of Portland head, and decided to paint that lovely lighthouse.

I had been wanting to do this for a long time, and the beauty of being a painter is in the future, when I want a different scene, I will just paint another one! ;-)  So, there are perks to being an artist, haha. 

I hope you enjoy this painting as much as I enjoyed creating it!

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