Sunday, June 5, 2016

Art Is Everywhere

My college friends Leo (from Brazil) and Ana (from Equador), who both now live in London, were here in Bulgaria for a quick vacation. We traveled around for a couple of days, visiting cities, nature reserves, monasteries and old towns, but throughout the trip, the one trend that emerged - apart from the nice weather, good food and great company, of course - was the beautiful art we encountered everywhere. Whether it was frescoes in a church or graffiti on a wall in the neighborhood of Kapana in Plovdiv, I soaked it up and enjoyed it all. I am loving the way street art can transform a place; the kind of art that embraces the city and is embraced back by it. I get quite annoyed at the aimless scribbles that vandalize buildings, but these works of art are something else.

It's interesting to go from street art to religious art, but they are both gorgeous in their own way. I'd been to the Rila Monastery and Bachkovski Monastery back in the day, but I'd actually forgotten how beautiful these places are. The frescoes are exquisite, and as an artist, I couldn't stop looking. It was a feast for my eyes!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Easter Impressions

I am enjoying the Spring weather this year, even the rainy days. There is something very soothing and rejuvenating about the green grass growing an inch overnight, about the clouds rolling in front of the mountain outside my window, to be chased away by the sun in the afternoon, about the smell of wet earth and the sound of birds chirping. It reminds us that we are alive.

This year I am very very happy with my Easter eggs - normally I can sort of get nice colors in the end, but only after an exhausting afternoon of cursing the egg dyes that refuse to color the eggs, the blue that turns muddy or the yellow, which dyes my hands, but nothing else. This year there were a few dyes that I wasn't so happy about, but all in all, egg painting was surprisingly easy and mishap-free, and it took me only about an hour. Yey!

This Easter was also special because I have now been to Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, an exotic and very engaging company team building that featured also a tour of Tel Aviv and some beach time at the Dead Sea. I brought back the 33 candles that you are supposed to light from the holy fire in the church and then extinguish, so this year I lit one of these special candles in my house, wishing for love, health and harmony in my home. I need it.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Morning Rain Is Falling

After an extremely productive Saturday - two presentations written, three loads of laundry done, the first layer of a new painting finished, and my nails manicured :) - my Sunday dawned rainy and slightly lazy. Of course in this case the best thing is to cuddle under a blanket with a book and a cup of tea, which I did for a bit before heading out to lunch.

I was shopping for a gift for a friend of mine on Thursday evening, and after hours of going from store to store and not finding anything she would like, I took a short break and headed to the bookstore to clear my head. I ended up buying a couple of books, and one of them was an amazing edition of E. E. Cummings poems in Bulgarian, published by Жанет 45, which became an instant favorite. The poetry is great (which I knew already), but I was also really impressed by the design of the book and the illustrations by Liuba Haleva. Luxurious paper that feels like satin, a matte laminated cover and thoughtful graphics in red, black, white and gold make the poetry book an experience for all your senses. I loved curling up with it and listening to the rain pattering gently.

Also, I couldn't refrain from sharing a photo of my savory plant - I bought it from a garden store two weeks ago and ever since then it has been growing like crazy, much to my dismay and pleasure, of course. It has brought a definite springtime spirit to my house, and I love it. It smells of new beginnings, and herbs, and nature, and home.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Long Time, No See

So I've been gone for a long time...I know...

Every time I fail to update my blog for an extended period of time, I usually excuse myself with my job, but this time it is only partially my excuse. I did get a big promotion, so work is taking up quite a lot of my time and, what is more important in this case, a lot more of my mental energy. But it's not just that; it's my personal life, too. Things are a bit messy, and if I'm honest, I feel like a bit of a mess myself - curly hair straightening and emotions flying everywhere. Add that to the fact that I just turned thirty, and you get what I'm going through :)

Actually, my thirtieth birthday bash was a lot of fun - three bars in one night to celebrate the fact that I've made it through three decades. It was a black and red theme, and as party favors to all those brave souls that joined me on this epic bar crawl, I made small abstract paintings in red, black and white. In fact, they turned out really great, so I am thinking of making a series of different colors and maybe turning them into an art show some time in the future. Check them out below, and wish me a great 30th year :)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Saturday Trip to the Flower Market

If you are an early riser even on weekends, one of the best places to be on a Saturday morning in Sofia is the flower market Dimitar Petkov. This Saturday was relatively cool, but the sun was shining, so it was a delight to be out and about shopping for veggies and flowers at the market. This past Sunday was Palm Sunday here in Bulgaria, so there were a lot of people buying flowers for their homes or for friends and family that have been named after plants and celebrate their name days on Palm Sunday.

I was actually too busy to take photos, but I snapped a few here and there, and I also have some of the flowers that I arranged in the vases at home. I also got some herbs to plant, but I will go back sometime in the next few weeks to buy more, once the weather warms. Last year was very rainy and my basil died relatively quickly, probably thinking that fall was coming, but this year I'm hoping that there will be enough sun for it to survive longer.

Since today we woke up to a bit of a snowstorm, I thought I'd post my flower snapshots with the hope of chasing away the last cold days and ushering in warmer weather for Easter this weekend. It was a bit depressing to have to dig out my warm fluffy jacket again when it's already April.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

My Art Shelf

I have been looking around for artwork for my house ever since I moved in a few years back, and I never seemed to have any luck. Rarely did anything catch my eye, and if it did I usually found some small detail that I didn't like or the work was simply too expensive. As much as I would like to, it would be hard for me to pay thousands of dollars for a painting. I have also browsed Etsy for hours at a time trying to find something for my living room to no avail...until this past December.

It all started with the painting in the middle, an abstract ink on paper, that I randomly saw on Etsy and loved at first sight. Because my living room is in coffee, chocolate and cream colors, this work fit perfectly with my decor and the other pieces that I have painted myself for the room. After that, it seemed that great pieces of art were simply falling into my lap from Etsy's pages, and I ended up with this small collection at very reasonable prices. I am very pleased with my new art shelf, so I thought I'd give a shout out to the artists:

from left to right

Forest - art print by Schall Eszter
This shop has really cute art by the Hungarian illustrator Schall Eszter - birds in the forest, drunk foxes singing, elephants jumping rope, orange frogs and Eskimos fishing. I chose this adorable print of a bird near a cherry tree to keep up with the bird theme I have going on at home.

Autumn Treescape - linocut by Giuliana Lazzerini
I took some printmaking classes in college, so I couldn't pass up on a hand-pulled linocut with tiny birds hand-drawn in ink. Another must-have for my bird theme. There are also a lot of fox and hare prints on her Etsy shop as well.

Moon and Stars - watercolor by BluePalette
This is a real favorite of mine. I have worked with watercolor since my first art class when I was four, so I can appreciate the delicate beauty of this technique and the craftsmanship it requires. BluePalette's shop has these amazing circle watercolors that are truly great finds. They are little gems, and I wish I could buy a bunch of these and make a whole gallery wall with them. Not saying I won't at some point :)
I love the night sky, especially in the summer when it is full of stars and everything is quiet in the dead of night, but you are awake and basking in its serenity. This is what this painting reminds me of, so I had to get it. At 20 dollars, I think it is a bargain.

Abstract Ink Drawing - ink drawing by ComArt
This is the painting that started it all, and I still love it. Some people have asked me what is it that I see in it, since it is basically a splotch of ink, but I tell them that it is beautiful. I don't know what it is, but I find it truly beautiful and harmonious in its composition. This artist has some great stuff.

Minimalist Modern Linocut - linocut by Toni Point
If you are looking for something minimalist, this is the place to go. I really like the play of shapes and positive-negative space in the print I bought. It is dynamic and simple at the same time. This goes to show that linocuts don't have to be ornamental, but they can play in the abstract realm as well.

Watercolor Illustration- glicee print by Victoria
There was no actual title given to this piece by the author, as far as I've seen, but I call it my "Sun painting", so that in my collection I have a sun and I have a moon (the little round watercolor). This abstract piece also looks great, and it has an incredible richness of colors. The fact that it's not all bright jewelled tones makes the depth of hues even better - the neutral background in beige, cream and cappuccino flows to beautiful little speckles of gold, navy, sea blue and aubergine. I would have loved to own the original, but since it was not available, I decided to get the glicee print and enjoy the painting anyway.

So there it is, my modest little collection, but one that I now love to look at every day. As an artist myself, I find that having art in one's home makes it cozy and unique, and I hope that you all can find something that you like out there - there are great little galleries around Sofia and abroad, and there is always Etsy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Surva Festival of Masquerade Games 2015

It is no secret that I love festivals, and ethnic festivals are definitely among my favorites. This is the fourth time I've gone to the Surva Festival of Masquerade Games, and it was probably the best one yet. The costumes, the folk music, the crowds - it's all incredibly fun and intricately beautiful. This year I got a reporter's badge and I could once again be in with the performers, having the wonderful opportunity to photograph them up close and personal. But that wasn't what made this year the best. Maybe it was the longer festival route, starting at the church "St. Ivan Rilski" and moving to the main stage, then passing through the Survakari village with the food court and finishing at the stage next to the Palace of Culture. Or maybe it was just that I let myself wander around more and photograph a little less, immersing myself in the joyous spirit, the loud noise and vibrant colors. I had a marvelous time among the scary monsters, the men masked as Baba Yaga, the clang of the cow bells and the embroidered skirts of the Bulgarian national costumes. Even the fires are welcoming.

The Tradition 

For those of your who don't know, or have not read my previous posts here and here, I should explain that the kukeri, mummers dressed in scary masks and costumes made of animal furs, horns, feathers and adorned with bells, gather at the beginning of every year to honor an ancient Thracian ritual of scaring the evil spirits away. This festival in Pernik is one of the biggest in Bulgaria - hundreds of kukeri of any age flock here to become a part of this long-lasting tradition. In fact, the little kids are my favorite, so every year I try to photograph at least a couple of these smallest participants in the craziness. 

Animal Kingdom 

This year there was also an abundance of animals, both real and fake - from donkeys and mules to this stork guy with red tights and a rope-controlled beak that snaps when pulled. The stork even carries a martenitsa! The masks were also great, as usual, horned, toothed, hairy and even with nests on their heads (my favorite), and some were ridiculously tall and made of a variety of game (crazy). 

The only downside to the costumes, besides the fact that the bells and masks usually weigh a ton, is that they kind of smell like a sheep / goat / cow / bird. Not everyone had that problem, though. The group from Kazanluk, the town that is famous for its rose oil production, was the best smelling group of the whole festival. They had dabbed all their costumes in rose oil, so the luscious scent was around them like a flowery cloud. Maybe this is why they were mostly girls :)

The Food Court - Bulgarian Style

In the West it's McDonald's or fish and chips; in Bulgaria it is roast pork or lamb on a spit, sausages hanging from a rail, kebapcheta and kiofteta sizzling on the grill and special festival wine in every glass. If I have to say one thing that Bulgarians will always do on a holiday, it's enjoy their food. Eating is a long and rich social affair, accompanied by generous amounts of liquor. This festival did not disappoint in that regard, either. I'm pretty sure that at least half of the participants and the audience were indulging in more than a little wine or grape rakia. By the way, notice how the pig is being turned on the spit...yes, that's a steering wheel :)

And what is the other usual staple at festivals in Bulgaria? The street stalls with Turkish Delight, traditional pottery, and souvenirs. You could definitely find some treasures among the usual junk this year, and the painted pots always remind of delicious home-cooked meals. All in all, it was a good day!

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