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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