It’s Not What it Seems – China

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White winking Buddhas.

A vegetarian dinner of fish, eel,

chicken, and pork.

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The Clan of the Cultural Revolution:

portraits in red, pink, and black.

Cloudlike rocks riddled with holes.

Straight-cut stones hiding the view.

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Flaming Sun Day, Feet, Comfortable City,

Flexology: Foot and Body Massage.

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The Temple of Marvelous Mystery.

Scholars revealing a little at a time.

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Bitter melon, minced snails,

fresh young ginger with duck.

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A very auspicious number like five.

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Yin-yang, push, pull.

Holiday Spending Zone.

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Cicadas make the woods more silent.

Birds make the valleys deeper.

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Neon palm trees: electric yellow and green.

Two thin bamboo rafts floating silently down the Li.

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Rainy summer night.

A street-cleaning truck playing

“We Wish You Merry Christmas.”

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Getting Locked in the National Library – Bhutan

One morning I took a taxi up the hill to see Mynak Tulku, the archivist at the National Library in Thimphu. He wasn’t there so I spent hours between the stacks painting all alone. Manuscripts are imprinted using wood blocks. The prayers are printed or written on long strips of handmade paper. These are stacked between two pieces of wood and  are wrapped in brilliantly colored cloth or in silk cloth held together with a leather thong. When I was hungry and tired I packed up and went hunting for the exit. All the lights were turned off. There was no one in the building. I wondered if they would come back after lunch or if they were closed until the next day. I had no phone with me. Deciding I’d better find an alternative way to get out I checked windows and any other possible exits. No luck, so I went back to the huge tall main door, went up to it and unlocked it, pushed and it opened quite easily. I was out in the bright sunshine, still all alone. So I started walking down the hill, eventually finding Thimphu. Click on the image to see the transfer print and sample of traditional textiles used for Bhutanese clothing.

Painting with a Three Year Old in a Prayer Room – Bhutan

After buying a gift of sugar and powdered milk, my friend took me to her mother’s home to meet her family. A taxi drove us outside of town where we were dropped off near an old wood bridge;  someone was giving the bridge a new coat of paint. It was a beautiful day. Peach trees were in blossom Player flags on high poles were fluttering in the breeze. We walked the rest of the way past water fountains, past pigs and a cow in bamboo pens, past hunting dogs tied up in front of a home and past clothes hung up in the sunshine. Looking ahead of me, sitting up on top of a hill, was Karma’s mother and sister traditionally dressed with their black hair cut in the traditional style. Not having a telephone, they didn’t know we were coming. I was offered yak butter tea or tea with milk and sugar and maze, “corn picked, fried and pounded.”

After tea my friend took me into a beautifully decorated prayer room which, among other things, had a photograph of the Dalai Lama, an altar and a cabinet filled with twelve holy books collected between carved boards, wrapped in orange cloth with blue, orange and gold ribbons. The older ones were made up of pages of calligraphy wrapped in silk and tied with a silken ribbon or leather. The classification system consists of tiny satin flags, color coded to match subjects. I painted with my friend’s three year old niece. She was shy, but I gave her a few crayons and paper. In a few minutes she was drawing, too.

They didn’t know I was coming, but my friend’s sister had prepared a full meal. We ate in the livingroom with her mother, sister and niece. The meal consisted of red rice, spinach, cheese potatoes cooked with onions and chilis, pork and green ferns from the forest. I asked how they had prepared our meal since they didn’t know I was coming. They grow their own potatoes. The rest of the meal was prepared from dried foods they had in their home,

This day was special, never to be forgotten.

Playing Around with Ideas – Bhutan

I’m working on three other scrolls, playing around with ideas.

Or this? I’m thinking of having a scroll that, when opened, transparent delicate pieces would hang loosely from the surface. Maybe I’ll attach the paper with thread. Glue or wax would be too rigid. I’d like to be able to take a scroll out and hang it in a place where the sun would shine through showing the transparency of the waxed areas and use of mulberry paper. Click on images. You will be able to see the audience at the Paro Dzong watching a 250 year old silk appliquéd thangka being unfurled.

Wind Horse – Woodblock with Print – Bhutan

The Wind Horse, shown on the the imprint of a prayer flag is a luck-bringing symbol. This horse can bring good luck, life force, health, influence and merit. On his back is the Flaming Jewel, a spiritual warrior, capable of fulfilling all wishes. The spiritual warrior is carried past the many obstacles leading into the sacred world. The word for Wind Horse (Lungta) has come to mean luck.

I found the wood block in Thimpu, when I was snooping around the shops near the contemporary art school. Using printers ink, and stamps on mulberry paper I made up some small pieces. I started to make an limited edition of five Artist’s Books on mulberry paper. They are scrolls about 62″ high. Now there are only four.  I tore up one last week while working on an idea. The torn pieces may be incorporated in the finished product. This print shown above may be added to one of the scrolls. It’s a work in progress.  (As usual click on the image to see it bigger)

Varnish and Ink from Bhutan Cover my Hands

Yesterday I did pick up a brush, but it was for polyurethane varnish. I went over to a friend’s studio where I met her daughter, a blogger I had been following. http://thegirlinthehat.wordpress.com/ While we kept our hands busy making something, we quizzed each other about wordpress and blogging. It was great fun – fun to see each other’s faces and to have a conversation in person.

Seeking suggestions on what to add to the Bhutan scrolls I had made earlier, I brought them with me. Along with the scrolls, I brought prayer paper from Thimpu. When I was visiting Thimpu, I spent an afternoon at the saturday art school; we looked at each other’s work and painted together.  After school, one of the students took me to a store where I bought some prayer books. Actually, the books were separate pieces of printed handmade paper. Yesterday, I felt close to Bhutan. My wet varnish stained hands were covered with Bhutanese ink from the prayer paper. What will become of the box? Maybe it will become part of an Artist’s book about that part of the world at the base of Mt. Everest. Mt. Everest is so high; the white mountain was above the clouds on a clear day as we were flying towards the Paro airport. As usual, click on the images to see them bigger.