Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just another Wat

M and I visited a couple more Wats on Sunday.  What we learned is not to visit Wats on Sunday.  So crowded!  The more interesting of the two Wats we saw was Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  That Reclining Buddha is one BIG BUDDHA.  I had no idea it was so big - I mean, I had seen photos, but dang.  The Wat is big, too, as I suppose it has to be, to house such a big Buddha.  The top of Buddha's headpiece looked as though it would pierce a hole in the top of the temple itself.
It's hard to convey the size of the Buddha here.  Trust me, it's huge.

Even though I like the glittering gold Buddhas, I think the highlight of this Wat for me was the mosaic tile.  Love that stuff.
M is very patient about waiting for me to take photos of everything.  I took over one hundred photos on Sunday.  When I return to the condo and put them on the computer, I find I am missing my fancy big camera.  Since I am not a photographer, I need all the help I can get.   *sigh*  I WILL get over it.  I will.

It rains nearly every day here, and on Sunday, we found ourselves waiting for a bus while tucked under the eaves of a big building during a downpour.  I admit, this desert girl likes the rain.  Oddly, the air in the city doesn't get that fresh, just-after-a-rain smell.  I guess the smells of the city are too much, even for a downpour to freshen.  I did get to see a pink taxi hydroplane to within inches of a turquoise Mercedes.  Made me happy we were taking a bus.  I didn't capture it on camera, but I did record a very short film of the rain, just for my desert friends.  (In case you are feeling like your life is too dry and too quiet.)  This was taken when the rain had actually subsided somewhat. 
Once the sun comes out, the humidity after a rain is impressively oppressive.

I tried to take a couple of videos of the Canal Boat ride, but M said they weren't exciting enough to post.  I will try again, never fear.  Until then, stay cool, crazy cats!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Bangkok has gotten rain nearly every day, complete with thunder and lightening.  Rain = green.  This post is for all my desert peeps.  I heard you had your own rain, but I don't think you have green like this.  Drink it in.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Walking in Bangkok

Despite the heat and sticky air, we do quite a lot of walking here in Bangkok.  It is about a 20 minute walk to the subway from M's condo, and I am getting to know that stretch of sidewalk well.  You don't see too many people walking here, at least not for great distances.  I don't know if that is due to the heat, or if it is just because the sidewalks here are somewhat treacherous.  The sidewalks are narrow, and right in the middle of the sidewalk, there is often a tree or a large cement sign pole.  It makes it hard to walk side by side.  Most often, I will trail behind M, camera at the ready.  If you encounter a person coming from the other direction, the sidewalk seems to shrink.  I will have you know that I have been able to master walking these narrow sidewalks WITH OPEN UMBRELLA.  (It helps keep the hot sun off, in addition to rain.)   It is important to have skills.  The skill I haven't quite mastered is being able to look in the correct direction before crossing the street.  I am getting better at it, but improvements could be made.
This hole was marked with an orange pilon, which helps.
In addition to the uneven parts of the sidewalk, and areas that are crumbling and cracked, there are often puddles from dripping air conditioners.  This is a common occurrence in Asia, not just Bangkok.  I know there probably isn't anything bad about the dripping water, but I hate it when I am not paying attention and I get dripped on.  For some inexplicable reason, it creeps me out.

I do not wish to imply that the sidewalks in the US are perfect.  Not by any means!  There is plenty of unevenness to American sidewalks.  I am merely observing what it is like here.  I do think sidewalks in the US are wider.  No matter what, I have always found that the best way to really see the world is on foot, sidewalks or no. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hello again, Bangkok

I'm back in Bangkok.  I have been here for three days, today being the beginning of day four.  The jet lag continues, although I was prepared for it this time.  It helps that there is no real schedule for me here, so it doesn't matter if I am awake or asleep during the daylight hours.  (Although I do think M is getting sick of being awakened by restless me in the wee morning hours.)

My beloved camera was lost on the first leg of my journey, and I am still mourning it.  It is only a thing, so one must not get to distraught.  It is my fault that it is gone, since I put it in the overhead bin and forgot about it until I had left the airplane and walked to the international terminal in San Francisco.  When I discovered my error, I RAN all the way back to the gate, dodging the swarms of fellow travelers the whole way.  Arriving breathless and sweating to my arrival gate, the gate agent got on the plane but could not find it.  She even got back on the plane and looked a second time, after seeing how my face crumpled when she returned empty handed.  Many tears were shed, but life goes on.  I am now relying on M's tiny pocket camera to capture images of my Bangkok visit.  It will suffice, but now you know why my photos will not be of the usual quality.

M has discovered a new way to get around the city, by way of canal boats on the Klong.  Not as expensive as a taxi or the subway, and you don't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic.  Being on the water is a wee bit cooler than tromping around on foot.  We still do plenty of walking in the steamy air, of course.  I found that the most abundant graffiti seems to be adorning walls and buildings near the Klong Saen Saeb.  Riding the canal boats makes for an authentic Thai experience.

 Each canal boat arrives in a cloud of exhaust, adorned with two agile boat workers who hop off the boat as it approaches the dock.  They wind their heavy ropes around a pole to hold it in place only long enough for the passengers to climb on or off.  It is a short stop, and climb is the operative word here.  The boat doesn't always stay obediently alongside the dock, and sometimes there is a significant gap between boat and dock.  The sight of the murky, brownish green water is enough to keep one from being careless about entering or leaving the river boat.  More than once, I saw passengers on the dock reaching out an arm to help their fellow female travelers disembark.  Once the passengers have nimbly stepped on or off the boat, the heavy rope is uncoiled from the dock post, and the boat is once more on its way.  It is a quick exchange, and the boats move fast.  The boat workers climb along the edge of the boat, taking money and handing out tickets.  One arm is always looped over the rope that runs along the top edge of the boat.  I found myself wondering if they ever fall.   

There is a blue tarp running along the edge of the boat that can be pulled up while the boat zooms along.  It serves as a splash guard to keep that funky water away from the passengers.  The tarp is lowered when the boat stops, so passengers can get on and off, and to provide a bit of air circulation.  You must climb out of the bottom of the boat, over that blue tarp and over the gap between boat and dock in order to leave.  It is not for the faint of heart.  (although once you have done it, there is a sense of triumph and a thought that it wasn't as bad as you thought.)  A note to those who travel to Bangkok and would like to try the adventure of canal boat travel:  the best place to be is probably in the front part of the boat.  Too close to the engine becomes VERY loud, and the last row of the boat has the unfortunate side effect of water splashing you from behind (upon stopping) with a coiling cloud of stinky exhaust to top off the experience.  It is advisable to hang onto the ropes for stability at all times.

I find it fascinating that the street art is predominately English, rather than Thai. 

I hope you stick with me, my dear blog followers, since I will be sharing my experience of Bangkok for the next couple of weeks.   As ever, you keep me writing, blog readers.  Thanks.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Flowers and paintings

I have been feeling a lot like the busy bees swarming around the purple blooms of the bush in my front yard these past few days.  Painting, getting ready to travel, drawing, and trying to teach Pono that he can go out the dog door even without me holding the doors open and coaxing him.  (Improvements with the dog door are happening, but slowly.)  Tomorrow I pack.  Sunday I get in the car with Pono and drive to Reno, NV.  M's parents will be granddog sitting, and that is where they are.  I fly out of Reno on Tuesday. 

A long "to do" list prevents me from rambling on and on today.  Two new paintings:
"Strings."  Oil on canvas, 14 x 14 inches.  ©Karine Swenson 2011

"The Ripening."  Oil on canvas, 14 x 14 inches.  ©Karine Swenson 2011
Have a terrific weekend!  (Terrific - a word I never use, but if Willem De Kooning used it, it must be a good word.) 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pack or Paint

Separation.  Oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches.  ©Karine Swenson2011.
A busy weekend has left me without much to say.  Too much talking already, perhaps.  The painting above is another one from the new series.  A smaller one.  In one week, I will be once again climbing onto an airplane heading for Thailand.  One week!  Sheesh.  I have a lot to do.  I wonder how many paintings I can paint in one week?  A difficult choice:  do I pack or paint?  Pack or paint?  hmmmm.....  PAINT!!!  I'll just throw my toothbrush, a tshirt and some clean underwear in the bag and go.  Right?  Right.

I leave you with an excerpt from Interviews with American Artists (David Sylvester):
Sylvester: "And what makes you feel that a painting is finished?  When do you leave a picture alone?"
Willem De Kooning:  "Well, I always have a miserable time over it.  But it is getting better now."
Sylvester: "But what is the criterion by which you know you can stop the painting?"
De Kooning:  "Oh, I really...I just stop, you know.  I sometimes get rather hysterical and because of that I find sometimes a terrific picture." 

Have a great week, all of you dear blog readers.  You know I just couldn't keep blogging without you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dog Door

I am in Bakersfield, California, at the very VERY exclusive Super 8 motel.  Children are playing in the pool, with shouts and laughter.  I will be heading for Metro Galleries soon for the First Friday event.  If you are nearby, I will be there from 5 to 8 pm with some new work.  Before I change clothes I thought I would write a short little message to all of you, my dear blog readers. 

Pono the fuzzy dog now has a new dog door.  We have played "fetch" with the ball through the door, so that he is accustomed to going in and out the door.  He isn't quite ready to use it on his own, just yet.  He still comes to find me when he needs to go out.  But I am confident he will learn.  Just a few fun Pono and the door photos to share:

He might be my angel, but he's still a dog.
I started another painting in the new series yesterday, but I was too busy running around, getting ready to leave to photograph it for you. 

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So it is

I have been gradually listing some new paintings on my etsy site.  Click here if you want to see.  I hope to add a couple more by the end of the week.

The weekend was filled with storm clouds, thunder and lightening.  We even lost power for a few hours on Saturday.  However, only 8/10 of an inch of rain fell on this dusty road.  What a jip.  All that bang and boom with nothing left to show for it other than a terrified dog and a couple of humid, sweaty morning runs.  So it is.

The studio hasn't been without its share of trial and error.  I have been wanting to work from a live model again, so I found one and arranged for her to come on Saturday.  I started two paintings and took many photos (both before and after the power went out.)  I woke up on Sunday, feeling excited to see what I could do with my material.  I worked and struggled, and finally, in a fit of frustration, I wiped the paint away from both canvases.  All that bang and boom with nothing to show for it but two canvases with a nice ground.  So it is.

The good news is that we are getting a fence and a dog door installed.  Soon, Pono will be able to go in and out as he pleases, and that will free me up for more focused hours in the studio.  I am so excited about it.  If Pono hadn't been driven to the safety of the master bathroom out of terror of thunder, he'd be excited, too.  I have taken him out to examine his new domain, and he seemed cautiously optimistic.  He did christen a few of the posts, in true male dog fashion.

Pono in the new fenced in yard.
I also had a rare visit from a bird that I think is a female Scott's Oriole at the watering bowl last week.  (I had forgotten to share it with you.)
Last week, I sent out my monthly newsletter.  If you did not receive a copy and would like to, you can subscribe on the first page of my website here.  It is supposed to be a monthly newsletter, but I don't always send one out every month.  To view my most recent newsletter, click here.

Thanks for all of your feedback about my recent work.  I hope to have more to share with you soon!