Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spassky fair part 1

Saturday 21st Spassky Fair part1

First free day, the spassky fair. Sadly the weather had by now completely turned from heat wave to Scottish temperatures and rain, everyone was freezing but it was still mild for us Scottish lassies and later the sun came out and dried everything lifting the mood. Friday had been such an overwhelming fairy tale it was almost a good balance to have the driech start to Saturday. It was another frustrating start to the day with much shilly-shallying about and members of our group wandering off, no focus, despite the best efforts of Anna to make the best plan possible, we spent 20 minutes going 10 meters back and forth “ I want the shop, I want the bank, what day is it, where are we going ? “ . group dynamics!

Eventually the bossy ones ( probably me) frog marched everyone to the fair where we were due to watch the opening ceremony. As it was relatively cold, Gulnara had bought blankets to sit on, but it was decreed that we should keep moving to start warm as we’d get cold on the seats.

The opening ceremony is still going on I think, 3 days of music, dance and song, very colourful, tickertape flying, young people in bright bright costumes, overseen by the police in capes and big hats. Ah, the police women? You wouldn’t mess with them, but they wear  non standard high heels! And carry handbags!?

Very surreal. The one photo call Shinod couldn’t get was with the Politzi as they were on duty & take it very seriously. The fair is huge, I took my chance, and after watching over Meena for a while took my leave and zipped around taking in everything as much as I could, keep not to miss anything when there was so much.

Handicrafts are alive and well in Yelabuga, they are not merely the  hobby of the elderly, resigned to history and hospital therapy rooms, derided and considered little value. At the museum there are master classes in weaving , lacemaking, knotting, macramé, wooden crafts etc. So at the fair there was a wonderful variety of of course Russian dolls, icons, enamelled folkart cups and pots, smoke fired pottery, beadwork, crochet, lace work, leather work, paintings, pewter cast jewellery, Tartarstan style hats, birch bark crafts, Russian fur hats, all quality work. Smells of glorious cookery and bakery emerged from tents all around, smoke from fires,  qnd the demonstrating blacksmith, yurts, horses and a camel gave people a ride, the performers sang on .

 On the main stage a mixture of folk music and pop songs sang by ladies in Barbie dresses. On a couple of smaller stages folk music from different regions with people in a vast array of magnificent traditional costumes. Its not so much like travelling back in time, its just that the past never got separated from the present like it has in the UK. It feels like we only have vague memories of the cultural heritage, of folk ways, shadows in the stones. Here it is a continuous thread very much alive and vibrant.
to be continued;

Monday, August 30, 2010

Artwork for Exhibition at Inverness airport

Today visited Galleries to collect and redistribute artwork in preparation for a show at the Inverness airport. the show is organised by Tore Gallery and will run until New year. It features my representational figurative work, including the firefighter paintings. There is also two new large canvases which will be on display in the main part of the airport, these are 56 x 44" one is 'Wedding Dance' and the other 'Paddling on Skye'. The smaller works will be on show in the lounge by the restaurant area-
also today picked up a copy the the autumn/ winter Art News Scotland Magazine with an article about our trip in it.

we have reports to write up, Lynn has already submitted some, so expect more press cuttings and articles yet.

I've also been mailing a Highland-Russia charity as I'm keen to foster any links possible, they are having an exhibition of Scottish paintings in Siberia early next year, so get involved & send one in !

Other news, still working on final Mosaic panel for the Heritage centre, there is an open day, workparty and BBQ this Saturday 4th, I will be doing a willow rag eco-arts workshop, so come and join in anyone in Lochcarron area.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The value of Handicrafts and Culture

 still Friday 20th Yelabuga;

At the hotel here was a massive  press conference/ discussion, with many people attending the Spassky fair which was setting up in the Shishkin gardens.

We were as usual after so many photo calls, running late. Taking our seats, Olga struggling to answer our questions and hear the speeches to translate.

 Around the table speakers were discussing how to preserve handicrafts, and how my working in partnership with the museums and cultural bodies, history could be bought forward to create more tourism for the area. But the museums are central to this process, and the handicrafts are seen as important, they have not been replaced by the equivalent of our nessies made in china to be sold in tartan tat shops. I believe the debate went into localised specific details of distribution, price setting and so on. It appears to me that these large discussion groups are fairly common place and certainly include everyone, makers, artists, up to the minister of culture. Can you Imagine Fiona Hyslop MP climbing down from the upper echelons sitting down in Inverness with artists and crafts workers to talk out the future of crafts?

 The gulf we have between the creatives and the descision makers appears insurmountable, yet here in Russia peoples voices are heard in a calm, intelligent, democratic descussion. Meanwhile the non-Russian speaking ‘children’ were getting fidgety so we made entertainment with pen & paper, sketching each other and swopping drawings with the charismatic artist Anotoli sat near us, he showed us his portfolio and a book about his life and considerable catalogue of diverse work. ( some of his work was exhibited at the Hotel )
( photo by Alex, or Luda )
 He appeared to be somewhat anarchic, making occasional heckling noises to the speakers, he stood up at one point and gave someone important a talking to for boasting about buying artwrk for his wife instead of making real changes to support artists and provide them a decent state funding lively hood, his suggestion being that  the state should purchace a couple fo pieces of artwork a year  off each artist and maker to build solid public collections and give artists the freedom to work. It may seem a ridiculous dream from a UK perspective where everything is catergorised, judged and given a price tag, but here remember ‘Artists are a gift from God’.

Another walk down town, more photos with us in our hats clutching our goodies, another lovely supper more vodka and more toasts. The mood joyful..this day in particular had been a fairy tale.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Symposium Art exhibition opening

( some of Lynn's and my works at the Exhibition)

( my Boudicca painting underneath one of Anna Silvonchik's gorgeous works )

so to continue the Russian adventure;

FRiday 20th afternoon- the Art exhibition opening

Another wonderful lunch, we never realised we were hungry until meal times, and never felt full or bloated, just replenished. So with underware wet from the shower at the forest spring we changed into our posh frocks for the official exhibition opening, the exhibition hall buzzing with important guests, TV cameras, last minute activity and nervous artists. Many more photos of each other with each others work, so many fantasic works, the smell of oil paint hardening. A sudden heavy rain shower “ you are not afraid of the rain?! “ asked Olga “ nyet, ye Shotlander ! “
( greeted in traditional costume, with sweet Chuk chuk- artist Bulat on the right " William Wallace!" - one day I'll explain why Scots are embarrassed by the film )

First there were Speeches,then Shinod performed the dance that goes with his art work- without vodka! Good man!

More speeches from the Minister of Culture for Tartarstan, the exhibitionm the theme ‘Breath of the Epic’ then we were asked to stand up as foreign visitors and say a few words with Olgas assistance. I said something about how ‘back at home in the Scottish mountains the culture and stories from the past seem to be mysterious shadows hidden in the stones, here I had found a culture alive and thriving living in the people everyday, etc etc thanks very much wonderful time, hope to return, the visit had given me new life’, the others said their heartfelt words of Thanks and how much they loved Yelabuga too.

 then we were very touched to be presented with traditional Tartar hats, beautiful framed hand made paper certificates/awards, and the Elabuga soft toy emblem of a woodpecker.

(Lynn and I with our gifts - photos Alex or Luda )

 then Champagne. the traditional tartar Chuk chuk which is traditional representing hospitality and is presented to guests at the door- photos, awards given to artists selected for best quality of art and interpretation of the theme, I was pleased that one went to Dyulustan, of the Yakutsk state and head of the Arctic institute painting department. As I loved his work it was among my favourites along with Anna Silvonchik's stunning colourful pieces.

No sooner was this all done then we were whisked along the road to walk to the big newly built hotel, which is not something locals could ever afford to stay at but if it brings business and tourism to Yelabuga it will benefit all. It looks like Hotels across the world, whereas I am glad the one we stayed at had more of the local character and warmth. Here there was a large conference/ discussion group with again more tv cameras. more on that later.

This exhibition and our artworks now belong to the Elabuga State preservation area, and will hopefully be shown internationally. There will also be a substantial book/catalogue produced.
(talking about my work with Olga translating and the Minister of Culture for Tartarstan in pink - Photo Alex or Luda )

( more photo calls with artists Anatoli and Bulat )

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three highland dancers

Hoots mon. second painting for today, both off to framers now. 1 big canvas, a mosaic, 32 colouring pages & then I can relax & do some inspired epic based art for myself.

drumming girls

Russian blogs aside, heres the first finished painting of today - 'Scottish and figurative' was the brief. I am eating shortbread & wearing a Hi Jimmy hat as I type.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yelabuga cathedrals

Friday 20th

before and after? ( the details are mixing up now ) the forest  walk we also visited two catherdrals. The catherdral of St Nicolas and the Spassky catherdral. The first was awaiting renovation and even Olga had never been inside it before. The women have to wear an apron over trousers and something over their head upon entering churches, there is usually a selection to borrow at the door. So beautiful, the crumbing plaster work adding to the sense of history and timeless devotion.

 The church of t Nicolas has two floors so that they could accommodate the big congregation, to get upstairs we walked across dry crumbling timbers, through narrow walkways and up tiny narrow stairs. Health and Saftey would not have allowed us at home, nor is their any wheelchair access for visitors.

The top floor contained a high dome with faded murals, Shishkin ( or his father ? ) had gathered all the finest and best artists to work on this. There was a philosophy that if you do works oof charity you do them for your sould, not for advertisment ( good PR ), so it was only many many years later when going through archives that people discovered what large sums of money that the rich merchants of Yelabuga had donated to the churches and town projects.

 During the communist era they had used the buildings as store houses and let them crumble. Seeing the religious devotion in people it seems to me that they never broke with their religious it must have continued underground just waiting to burst free again. At the moment the buildings Are all requiring reonovation, slowly slowly to bring them back to their former glory.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shishkins forest

20th? Friday .

Incredible day, again! All the art finished first thing in the morning a symposium, ah I forgot to mention that the weather had broken yesterday, thunder and heavy rain came.. So the excursion via coach was to a national park that Shishkin used to frequent and drawn inspiration from.

 Imagine a coach tour which then required a 15 minute walk, many of the ladies in sandals and nice dresses, normal for Russians. No sooner than we wee in the wood that I saw a snake, the equivalent of a grass snake. Everything here is - like a parallell universe - the same but different, a dark grey snake with yellow spots by head. Late I saw a greater spotted woodpecker. No sign of the boar. Beavers and moose which also live in this forest, the forest was gorgeous. Pines, spruce birch and deciduous trees, their birch are taller, the hazel leggier, the elderberry red. As if the forest Wasn't beautiful enough, and the tales of Shiskin carrying his 17lb easel into the forest, we then arrived at a bronze age site with a holy spring which now has a shrine, with icons, flowers , a cat, and beautiful wooden piping to allow you to drink from the clear crisp water. The trees were all bedecked with ribbons, like our Scottish Cloutie wells, it was so magical.

 I used my teeth to bite off part of my top so I too could make a wish, the same wish I made when I placed my hand on the tower at dawn, and when I saw the shooting star. We then saw the small lake nearby. There was also at the spring a place where you could shower in the cold clear holy water an enclosed wall, our guide led the way stripping down to shorts and going into the freezing water with woops, a couple of the guys also went for it, and with the place being so special and magical I couldn’t not also take my baptism in the spring, kind of weird with 35+ people watching! So I stripped down to nickers and bra and dived in there, so so alive and simply reborn in the moment! Moments after coming out the skin and whole body tingling refreshed fantastic! Of course I had the task of trying to pull clothes on pull wet underwear off with dignity. Lynn, Meena and some more of the men went inn one by one, when the crowd moved on a couple of the Russian ladies also. It was fantastic.

I stopped for a moment and felt something I hadn’t felt in a long long time, a sense of something else something bigger something beyond, then ..Shinod wanted his photo taken with me. AGAIN!   Thinking about it I wondered why we need solitude for spiritual peace, why can’t we let go also in a crowd?: all the western insecurity and fears, are they not borne of egocentricity ironic though it seems, it we were not so wrapped up in the pressure on the individual then we would not feel so inadequate, to immerse ourselves in the whole, in others, to let go, then we become free of the judgement we suffocate ourselves with. Talking of philosophy , as we walked back through the forest our guide discussed with the group, the question of what Shiskins work and the environment invoked, what it means to us… very russian, taking pride in thought and wisdom rather than cynicism and ignorance of the UK

Thursday, August 19, 2010

LAst painting day

Thursday 19th . Last day to paint

can’t believe the way the time has flown in,

Slept like a log last night & feel groggy today as a result/ normally at home I suffer allergies all the time , aches and pains and IBS. I’ve still got the aches, feet ae killing me from starting painting all day and all the walking and heat, but in all other ways I feel healthier than I have done in a long time dispute the lack of sleep. With the food here there isn’t that stuffed bloated feeling after a meal. There is much less carb’s, maybe one small portion of rice, potatoes etc a day, much less bread, some pastries, pancakes, dairy is not so much in the form of milk or cheese but sour cream and curds ( or whatever the yogurty thing we drink in the morning is ). Will have to re think diet at home.

Trying to put my finger on how it is so different here in art, hard to get to the bottom of  how their system works, how they are taught, attitudes, we are coming from such different angles its hard to find the right questions to ask. So I’ve found out that they study different disciplines, first the study drawing, which they translate as ‘graphics’ ( which lead to confusion ) this appears to be seen as a completely different thing to painting whereas of  course we study drawing and painting. When I went to art college there was very little technical input as to how to weild a pencil or mix paint, very little skills based teaching , one lecture on colour theory, one lecture on composition and perspective then that was it mostly we were expected to dig into ourselves take something we saw with out eyes in front of us and reproduce, develop and push it into something else , not so much an impression, but starting from an impressionistic methodology then express the impressions in a developed or abstracted form? Its hard to define because this is just the way it is, but its clear here that something is very very different. One of the artists we were told is a master of composition and teaches this, we are asked who is our favourite 20th C artist, of course I don’t have one as I look back to archaeology, folk art, illustration, and the pre-Raphaelites as my influences. I’m not sure if illustration is seen as a different art form here, much of the work here is illustrative, interpreting ancient epics but still true to the original mythos without the need to distort and personalise that we seem expected to do. ( more on the theme later ).  I get a sense that there is styles and people follow their master or teacher, an art student explained to me that they are free to choose their own path, but also that they copy old masters to learn. There is a daugher here with her father, he is a famous and respected artist, her work echos his, and the way she walks and listens to him seems to carry a great respect, rather than rebellion and seeking a different identity that you would expect. I wonder if women artists garner the same respect as men? There is a good mix here, the mens work is bigger and bolder, some of the womens is intricate and delicate. There are some very famous artists here I will have to look up when I get home, everyday they walk about everyone nodding approval at each others work, I think the Russian speakers maybe are getting quite in depth comments and critiques. I wonder how they find out work which is so different? There of course is the huge chip on shoulder which comes from never fitting in at home, from existing in too many genres, but I think Uk culture in general is one of criticising, jaded, cynical, having to categorise, specialise, everything has a price tag on it. Handicrafts are considered very low culture and of no value at home, only an elite of crafts makers ae slowing gathering recognition for their work, but only after it has been pushed to abstraction and concepts layered within it. At the moment here there is an exhibition of gem jewellery in the fine art gallery across the road. Its all art. One academy teacher bought in some of his students work, it was hand made books, incredible, everyone gathered inspecting them with great reverence, font and illustrations had been computer printed then the books were bound or created in various creative ways, illustrations from photos of quilling…imagine suggesting to a tutor at our colleges that you were quilling? One book was match boxes in lines, sewn into pages, each page had images, each box had more images, all very creative, without rules and definitions. They reminded me of some mini-comics, which again are seen as low culture. Ideas foe when I get home.
The lady next to me, Maria, or ‘Masha’ paints with pressed flowers, this isn’t a granny at a craft fair with decoupage hobby kit, but beautiful folk art which everyone ooo’s and aaahh’s at . So much respect from all the artists to each other, not a sense of hierarchy, status and value.

Now I must crack on with painting! More later.


What a bonkers day rollercoaster. The organisation of this whole symposium has bene incredible, smooth proffessional and we haven’t had to think for ourselves at all. Today however was a frenzy of activity and mixed communication. I thought I had until mid afternoon to finish the two paintings, there was an excursion for an hour in the afternoon but I thought I could do that and finish the paintings after, but it turns out they had to be in and delivered to the gallery for voting before the excursion.

Alex & Luda presented us all with beautiful books, cleverly chosen to be the perfect choice for all of us, such perceptive, wise and kind people! ( yes Alex I mean you ! ). My book is about the ) artist Vasnishav ( sp ? Who specialised particularily in epics and myths, its sort of pre-Raphelite, Arthur Rackham, John Duncan style but with a Russian twist and just the art book I would have chosen! Perfect, Oychin Spasiba!

 despite this pressure to paint I wanted to catch a chap who was rumoured to be leaving today as there were only flights once a were to his state, so I nabbed Anna translator & headed to look for him, as usual the studios were deserted I don’t know where everyone went & how they finished their work as I was glued to the easel a week! The gentleman I was looking for wasn’t about but we found Bulat so I sat with him for a chat. Bulat Gilvanov is a young artist who’s work I’d seen on the Yelabuga website before we came so I was keen to see the exhibition. I think it was the first day here we were shown it and I was blown away, one painting had me struggling to hide tears. There was an army of 40 Women who faught together as all the men had been lost, he is painting one by one these women with great historical accuracy using local artifacts from the museum. He is also a musician, a tartar. At the conference/ discussion/ press conference held earlier in the weke he had asked me about fantasy art and celtic traditions, I had rambled on can’t remember what ( will try to wrote more about this event later ) but I didn’t really understand the question and what he meant by fantasy art. So we had a good chat today, although it is always really formal going through a translator, it seems things are not so different in many ways. I felt if I painted a historically accurate cuchuillin or such, no matter how well or big the canvas, it would not be considered fine art, it would be illustration or fantasy art which is considered popular low-brow culture, he is keen to get the details correct to capture and bring to life the past rather than fantasy work. He then showed me photos of some previous GIANT canvas paintings one of which is in the national tartarstan museum, unbelievable, completely indescribable! Like a renaissance battle scene- without shonky perspective, painted by a Glasgow colourist, impeccable composition, colour palette, accuracy, style, detail stunning, he showed me details like his own musical instrument ( traditional Tartar string mandolin type thing ) the horse bits- wow ! Emotional again, even paintings he did as a 19 year old were incredible pre-raphealite ( but not ) makes my work feel very vey small. However he says he still has to do commercial work, its rare to get the opportunity to paint what he wants, its hard sometimes to get the materials. If I win the lottery I think I’ll open a gallery of Russian artists, these artists deserve to be seen! So I explained how his work had moved me and how the image of a warrior woman on the steppes, like he paints,  is what I dream about being when life gets hard- He told me that he feels the same about history and culture but he day dreams about being William Wallace in the Scottish hills! The grass is always greener in mysterious far away lands. But actually I think it not just be a delusion, if you leave your own place you leave normal expectations and constraints, plus as a ‘foreigner’ you gain more quodos, respect, peoples curiosity, you can be who you want, and your exoticness gives you freedom, and of course to impose UK values upon it, its good PR , a good USP. ( urg, how disgusting such thinking seems from here ). So fired up from speaking to Bulat it was back to work - and quickly quickly ! Time running out fast. Quick lunch back we go, and OH no time was nearly up ! Goal post kept moving…

Sinod who has been a chatterbox and socialising the whole time went completely into the zone in the last 30 minutes he was painting with two brushes dancing singling in a complete trance like a madman oblivious to the cameras and everyone laughing, some cookie! They’ll not forget him in Yelabuga in a hurry!  This performance took the attention off me for a bit as I was by now in a panic trying to finish, no time to appraise the work think about what I was doing take breath or anything, it was getting very stressful! I am not particularly happy with the results, its just such unfamiliar work, I think the drawing stands on its own feet but the paintings are neither one thing nor the other. They are certainly different from the Russians work, strangely enough people often ask me and Lynn whos picture is who’s as if they look the same, whereas to us they are a completely different style, just like I guess we don’t  think we  look like brits, but of course we do in a
wider context. So stress mounting painting furiously with people saying oh you can finish later, its time to go, you mist finish now, etc, I realised I’d have to try & skip the excursion and just finish the things with the bare minimum, no time to appraise. Frazzled I finished, deserted studios, headed down town to catch up with others, I got rather lost in translation!  Ah I wish I had a list and photographs of everyone to remember their names, I can’t put the sound, the faces , the Cyrillic and English spelling together at all. A wonderful egentleman who is a museum designer, painter , mural painter, ceramicist showed me where everyone was eventually. The ever patient and graceful Olga had come out to greet me.

Folks were by now at the police/ military training college, the others more relaxed and full of laughter but I was still fried after so much painting! A very interesting visit - I hope to write more of the history  & museums later. Then collect last work, take to exhibition hall, and we had forms to vote on a scale of 1 - 10 about everyones work. And how well they had interpreted the theme ..ARGH!!! This was horrible A) I couldn’t read the names on back of paintings and translate back into English b) I had to ask for help so everyone would see what I had voted c) to vote at all ! D) that they wee voting my work which looks so incongruous & crass. Over Supper Olga explained that normal this is done by a jury of judges, but as an experiment and to demonstrate to artists how difficult it is to judge art they wanted us to do the first round. I am not sure if all our pieces will be selected. Eeek. Also at supper we were joined by the afore mentioned respected artist, who with Olga’s help reassured us that he feels the same and is also unable to relax until after the grand opening tomorrow. It was very helpful to hear this from such an amazing artist, he said he would be winding down by doing some more art, which was genius! Normally when a project is finished I get a great sense of relief and clarity like coming out from under water, but this process has left me hungry to do more art but at a slower pace. The others drank beer & larked about back in the studios as we tidied up our spaces, eventually I just sat quietly with Masha ( who gazes at one in a disconcerting fashion but is so lovely I try not to get too embarrassed ).

Winding down by writing, but do need to get washed and make effort to socialise despite being in quiet peace seeking mood. How many artists to change a light bulb? Don’t know but 30 together is one crazy lot of emotions!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Wednesday 18th august,

Last night caught up with rich on skype for the first time since my adventure, so strange to hear and English ( irish ) voice! Lovely and strange to be so far away,  so much to convey. Wi fi was a pain, up too late trying to upload some of the many hundreds of picrtures, then sleep until 2.45am, we had been invioted to go fr a walk to see the sunrise, we met at 3am at the hotel, three of the English speakers and 3 of the Russian speakers. It was a perfect clear starry night, cool crisp air made a pleasant change from the stiffling heat we have become used to.

Around 3.30? We heard the call to prayer from the main mosque echoing through the city, venus shone down, first glimmer of dawn through the birch trees   venus shining down, deserted streets except some road sweepers, by hand cleaning with short brooms. We walked at a brisk pace for a good 45 minutes to the Bulgar tower, sky yellowing, mists rising from the Kama and Tolma ( toima? Ap ), a dredger grinding away relentlessly in the Tolma, barges avoiding the large rocks where the rivers meet, one story about where Yelabuga got its name is connected with this large rock. To the West the lights and gas flames of  Nizjnekamsk, to the south Neberezjnye Chelny where our flight came into the other side of the massive river Kama. The north, the direction we had come looking through Birch woods to the new city, the Mosque tower over the white birches.

 In front of us to the East the old city of Yelabuga where we work, sky lightening up. We were at the site of the old bulgar fort, nearby a wonderful statue of the first man who formed the city. We drunk a little wine, played a little music, took many photos,  mostly with Shinod in! one of the gentlemen with us ( unfortunately it is very difficult to remember so many strange sounding names when the are written in Cyrillic as well ) he dressed up in tartar traditional dress and posed with the sunrise at the ‘devil’s tower’ . there was a Big shooting star behind the tower. A sleek tabby cat came and spent the dawn with us. We have been communicating in pigeon words, funny noises, silly faces, sign language and enactments, which makes for much hilarity , “  rarr rarr Loch ness monster da da da! Oi oi ! “ the sun rise was stunning, photos will not do justice, but just imagine the vista spread out before us. As we headed back the town was sparking into life at 6am, workers queuing for buses, more street sweepers, dogs , the sun glinting off buildings, a song of “ what shall we do with the drunken Shinod, early in the morning !“. 40 minutes half sleep dizzy, then wakey wakey a plate full of salad and fruit for breakfast and off we go again., No sign of Shinod!

Just learn that the tower was only half standing and was rebuilt in 1858.

Had to finalise the titles of the pieces I’m submitting today.
Pleased with the finished pen & ink drawing I’ve done, its away to be framed. ‘The Guardians ‘

Am ambivalent about the finished circular painting ‘Among the waves’, different to anyway I’ve painted before, combination of subject matter freedom circular canvas and the speed the acrylics dry in the heat, which has resulted in me painting in an even waterier way.

‘The journey’  is a bit naïve &crude, need to give it some oomph to finish. But simple enough in its symboligy people from all the cultures nod and point approval.

‘Boudicca- a mother’s duty’, is a challenge, kind of thing I’d be comfortable painting digitally, plus its figurative and I started with no mirrors photo refs or models, thinking I’d stylise it enough to avoid worrying about such things, but nope, I’m not sure what it is or isn’t- but the great thing is here it is accepted “ celtish - Boudicca! “ onwards & upwards. More relaxed today although there is still a lot of painting to be done.

It was lovely to be presented with a couple of gifts today from the other ladies in the studio, despite language barriers. Some typically Russian looking earrings, Slovenian ? Design that might be a mistranslation on my part of another Russian state, milli flori design. And the other gift a mother of pearl bracelet, because it suits me as I paint the sea, from a lovely artist Masha who paints with pressed flowers and smiles all the time.

Lunchtime Wednesday. Despite 3.5 hours sleep we are all in better humour today, after all tired and emotional yesterday. Me & Lynn are realising how much we are creatures of solitude, mountain girls who need just a little time alone each day, it was difficult trying to explain this to the other English speakers without them feeling rejected. Anyhow, chatting and laughing at lunch with Anna our translator we explored table manners of our respective countries, etiquette, womens dress & mens attitudes, class and caste systems, all very educational, in so many ways we are all modern evolving societies with the same attitudes and ways of life, in some ways though there are great differences.

later we sadly had to miss supper with the rest of the artists who were eating in the courtyard a traditional meal from I think kazakstan or Kurdistan? ( when the paintings are finished I'll spend more time with the translater getting to know the other artists! ) - we had an appointment at the english group who meet once a week and were keen to have the opportunity to talk to us. It was completely surreal, they have seen about us and the symposium on the news every morning, they are all keen to get their photos taken with us, and so good at english!  sleep deprivation was by now making me gabble, but talk about being treated like royalty or celebrities, every time we turn the cameras are on us, given the lack of sleep! I wish these folks could afford to come to Scotland, it is horrible that we are seperated by economics and visas, but prehaps its is this seperation that has preserved this place to be as pure and honest as it is ?