2008/07/19

(1) Purple Carrots and (2) The Sipping Mouse

Has anyone told their grocery store manager yet about the Purple cabbage (or purple onions or purple berries)? There seems to be something about “purple” through the ages which creates this problem of incorrectly calling things red or blue when they are really purple.

Did you know carrots were originally purple? They didn’t become orange until the 1500’s, when growers in the Netherlands used a mutant yellow carrot seed from North Africa to create a carrot the colour of the House of Orange. Begin to see what’s cooking? Purple = Vatican, Archbishop, Amethyst ring of the Pope. Then under Willem of Orange, purple carrots turn orange. Hmmm?
We were asked if any of my travel experiences stand out. One which comes to mind since we’re on the topic of food took place near Cadiz, Spain. It was a stopover during an assignment aboard “Marco Polo”. I went to Jerez de la Frontera and visited La Bodega Tio Pepe sherry winery. We were shown around the huge vats of sherry. Some had names painted on them such as Napoleon, Somerset Maugham and many movie stars, indicating their favourite vintages.
Suddenly I spotted something from the corner of my eye. It was a mouse. He was climbing up a tiny ladder, and began to sip from a terra cotta bowl. I asked my guide what was happening. She laughed, “Ah, Senor, he’s just having a sip of sherry.” Turns out many years ago, the owner caught a mouse in the act of nipping from his sherry glass, and nibbling a piece of cheese. Clearly a man with a sense of whimsy, he was tickled to see not only did the mouse enjoy an appetizer, but an aperitif as well. [When I tell this story, it reminds me how when you say to someone there are billions of stars above them, they say, “Oh yes, isn’t it wonderful.” Then, if they see a sign on a bench saying “Wet Paint”, they go over to check if it’s true.]
Anyway, management of Tio Pepe now have a few terra cotta bowls with Lilliput ladders scattered around the Bodega, so their little friends can imbibe. And now a picture of their sherry-sipping mice, ladder and all, can be found in their brochure."Cheers!” Or as we say back home, “May your children have rich parents.”

2008/07/18

The art and economy of cooking

You could say my love for cooking started many decades ago as a child in the Lowlands when I was “Mother’s little helper” in the kitchen. We had no fridge, no electricity and no running water. Duties in summer included helping to shift the milk, butter and cheese in the moving shade. By age four I had my own small garden plot, and also rabbits.
Later in my teens during the war, having experienced real hunger and struggle, this added even more to my respect and economic approach to food. A good training ground for an artist with a bohemian, nomadic lifestyle. Maximum results with minimum ingredients. Cooking is an art, as is grocery shopping. Both require patience. We need to choose and select, not grab the first thing we see. 

For instance, selecting a nice, firm Purple Cabbage (which is not a Red Cabbage, that’s a habitual misnomer.) While cooking we need patience, especially “slow food”. Then there is the art of staying within your budget. Especially these days with the cost of living going up and up. It seems only the Sun gives us energy, warmth and life without ever sending a bill.  Today with harvests from around the world readily available, menus can be dished up in great variety. Although we try to stick to buying produce grown within a 150 km radius. Fish is another story. For the moment at least, we have a good selection of mostly fresh fish here on the Pacific coast.
Because you’re such a faithful reader of my blog, here is a recipe of mine. (And for those of you who know me, it’s not one of my Slow Food extravaganzas, so don’t worry). It’s a tasty, nourishing appetizer. You need only two ingredients: a kiwi fruit, and smoked oysters or mussels. Peel the kiwi, slice in two or three cross-sections. Top with either a smoked oyster or mussel. Voila! Bon app├ętit! 

2008/07/17

Juan de Fuca Strait

We mentioned before we live right at the shores of Juan de Fuca Strait in James Bay village, Victoria. On a clear day like today, we see the snowcapped Olympic mountain range of Washington State. Our view is unobstructed so we witness endless activity both on sea and land. In spring the Camas fields (which the First Nations people cultivated for its bulb) create a carpet of blue-violet. Other than the November-March stretch when gales and storms prevail, with waves which pound right over Dallas Road, there is always a breeze.

Enthusiastic kite-flyers launch their colourful kites high in the sky, much to the dismay and annoyance of the seagulls. Also the remote-controlled glider planes, that really upsets them! The seagulls vigilantly dive-bomb those intruders of their domain.
There are benches all along the seawalk, mostly occupied by the elderly who chat about this, that and the other, reminiscing or simply observing the endless maritime activity. Freighters, floatplanes, sailboats, the “Coho” ferry to Port Angeles, Alaska cruise ships, helicopters, an odd canoe and many kayaks. Freighters are mostly container ships inbound or outbound to the Far East. And throughout the day, pilot boats travel to and fro to pick up or drop off the pilots.
The seawalk is used by joggers, young mothers with prams, elderly with their pushcarts, hundreds of walkers and dog walkers. Canines, in sizes from a small "ball of fur on four legs", to St. Bernard.


Last year the Blue Herons who had a colony nearby were chased away by a “Rambo” bald eagle. However lately we’ve seen quite a few right outside our doorstep. We love to observe their endless patience, standing like statues on a rock or in the water, waiting for their meal to swim by. A perfect study for the art of patience and concentration. Once in awhile we encounter quiet, friendly natives (or First Nations as we call them here in Canada), gazing over the waters to somewhere far away. After all, this was once the home of their ancestors. And the site where they would gather the Camas bulbs. But that’s another story .... Signing off, Henri

2008/07/15

Goodbye Irina


One of my daily routines, rain or shine, is grocery shopping. Natasha brings home the bacon, so-to-speak, and I love to cook the meals. The walk is a pleasant one. You can’t avoid getting to know some fellow shoppers.


One, a dapper and feisty lady with a pushcart always says a friendly “Hi Sailor!” to me. I guess because usually I’m wearing a cap related to ships and far-away places.  Here's a picture at the helm of "Ocean Explorer I":

Irina is her name. She came to James Bay village long ago from Russia, via Saskatchewan. (One of the many 'old European’ immigrants who live around here.) For the last couple of weeks, she did not show up on her regular outings. Yesterday I learned she passed away, “gone over the horizon”. The way we all have to go, sooner or later. She looked as if there was still stamina in her, the last time we spoke. You never can tell, can you? This made me think, as I often do, how we seem to take life for granted. Since you’re on the Internet I came up with more meanings for the acronym of the world wide web “www”: World-Wide Wait [at least for those of us not on highspeed connections], and What? (the cause) Where? When? (of our demise). I’ve had three very close calls myself over the years, and relish each moment of being here. Should we not all? Life is precious. Bye Irina!

2008/07/14

What's bad luck what's good luck

You never know what will come through the 'window' next. A question arrived from a curious reader, “I was looking at your website which shows your extensive career and was wondering why have we not heard of you, as an artist?” What is one to say? Maybe this question should be directed to the Canadian art establishment and the gatekeepers. Already 42 years ago, TIME magazine featured a full page article with two colour reproductions from my solo exhibition in Paris, May 1966. 

You can see one of the paintings here, "Light Sprang Forth", acrylic on canvas. Please note this photo is a scan of the picture in TIME Magazine; we are waiting for a higher-resolution image of the painting.



It was never my motivation to paint for fame, but rather for the joy of exploring and evolving. Here is photograph taken by the TIME Magazine photographer, 1966.


Sure, the policies and practices of the gatekeepers caused me a great deal of unpleasantness. On the other hand, this eventually became fuel to carry on, (together with the encouragement of my mentor), something like a reverse reaction. A spurring onwards. It has been quite a ride and I hope will continue to be. If I had been caught up in the wing-clipping and restraints of the professional art scene, I'd never have had the extraordinary depth of expeditionary travel experience under my belt. 

Five continents, the seven seas, remote and exotic islands including St. Helena, the Galapagos, Pitcairn, Easter Island, Komodo dragon island in the Banda Sea, Fiji, the Solomons, New Guinea, crossing Lake Titicaca, rainforests, coral reefs and Antarctica, to name a few. All thanks indirectly to the ill-will and negativity from the art establishment. So you see, from adversity to adventure. 

And evolving. Now, with my seventy-ninth "turn around the sun" on the horizon, this blog venture is yet another new direction set on the compass of my life. I hope this answers the initial question.

2008/07/13

Art at sea

Received a few requests after the July 8 post about our improvised floating art classes aboard ocean liners. (A concept I dreamed up ‘way back in the early‘70s.) Here are a couple of pictures taken on our recent and last voyage aboard QE2. 

You can see how diligent and focused the students are. Our motto is “Small is Beautiful” and the goal is: maximum results with minimum use of materials. Minimum, meaning in my sessions on colour and creative exploration we work with 3 colours. (Watercolour and watercolour pencils.) Not a box with 12, 24, 36 or 72 colours. Only the 3 primaries: Red, Yellow, Blue. You can create hundreds of colours with these alone. A footnote: QE2 has been sold and in November will retire in Dubai. Goodbye to this venerable ship. We have fond memories of QE2, which since 1969 has sailed almost 6 million nautical miles.