Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Painting with leaves

"Whoever loves and understands a garden will find contentment within" Chinese proverb

Abstract picture made with natural materials

My artworks celebrate nature and the environment. I created my abstract natural-pictures out of nothing but natural materials found in my garden or gathered in my walks - driftwood, stones, pine cones, (of course) scented  leaves, flowers, sticks, sand, seeds... you name it.
Abstract natural-picture

I'm trying  to lay down our ancestral roots in an eco-friendly way. When I'm working with materials, is to share the complexity of natural world: leaf and wood textures and shapes, rocks durability and to create images of water flows and wilderness.
Abstract picture with ginkgo leaves

I’m trying to understand, not a single isolated object but nature as a whole, recording on canvas vibrant landscape's spots of absolute beauty, to be seen by viewer in a new way. Hope you like my paintings with leaves!

"Nature is the art of God. The landscape belongs to the person who looks at it."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, October 25, 2010

A-Maze-ing Mazes around Vancouver

Vancouver's streets maze - view from Empire Landmark tower

Did you ever travel around the world?  Of course you do ... Then you know how easy it is to get lost inside the maze of the city's streets, with or without a map. What about something very challenging now ... a maze ... a real Maze. Ho do you like it. I loved it.
In Vancouver I found some special mini-mazes, loved by young and mature alike,  wonderful public pieces of art which allows people to engage with the art and nature in a playful manner.

Vancouver - view from Empire Landmark tower
Vancouver - view from Empire Landmark tower

In the autumn of 1981, VanDusen natural Hedge Maze, has been created with up to 3,000 pyramidal cedars, Thuia occidentalis "Fastigiata" 

VanDusen Hedge Maze
VanDusen Hedge Maze

The living labyrinth from VanDusen Garden depict the Elizabethan style of English hedge mazes.

Amazing hedge maze at VanDusen  Botanical Garden
Amazing hedge maze at VanDusen Botanical Garden
Near the maze entrance, on the plaque, you can see some puzzles of the past and read the following text:
"Amazing Mazes
Do you enjoy solving puzzles? Hedge mazes, such as the one here, are especially delightful because you can exercise your mind while savoring a walk in the garden.
Hedge mazes have challenged and captivated both children and adults for centuries. The History of mazes and labyrinths is an ancient one and extends through most countries and cultures of the world. The derivation of the word maze is the same as that of amaze: from the Old English amasen - to stun, confound, astonish.
The first mazes were unicursal: people simple entered the maze and followed the prescribed path to the exit. It wasn't until the Renaissance that mazes became a popular item in gardens, and garden designers began to create more challenging mazes by making them multicursal, which means "having many paths" At this time designs began to incorporate junctions, dead ends, islands and taller trees to obstruct vision.
In early multicursal designs, perceptive observers noted that it was possible to solve the maze by keeping exclusively to the left or to the right. More sophisticated designs evolved to defeat this method. In these designs, keeping to the left or right exclusively might lead around the maze to the exit without reaching the centre.
Visitors must discover for themselves exactly which type of maze exists at VanDusen. The VanDusen Maze in 60 feet (18 meters) in diameter and is constructed of 2000 to 3000 pyramidal cedars (Thuja occidentalis 'Fastigiata'. It is multicursal and has a separate entrance and exit. In the worst case, it is possible to become so confused that you retrace your steps and emerge through the entrance!"

VanDusen maze plaque
VanDusen maze entrance

There are so many living works of arts, gardens with rose and lavender mazes, corn and meadows mazes everywhere around Vancouver. Lose yourself in the maze and become a child again. Laugh and hear laughter, turn a corner, watch the shadow cast and meet again! At many farms you can explore the nature and enjoy walking through corn mazes and meadows mazes with their challenging trails design cut into stalks of crops. Usually for a small fee you can get access to incredible peaceful meadows,  pick up your pumpkin for Halloween, have a hayride, experience scareshows or pet farm's animals.

Last year in Vancouver, part of Vancouver Biennale 2009-2011 was installed another maze, spectacular and "a-maze-ing"  labyrinth of human expressions, where you have to exercise your ability to identify the true feelings hidden under the smiles of the sculptures.

A-Maze-Ing Laughter, by Yue Minjun , guards the ocean at Morton Park /Triangle in English Bay area, near the corner of Davie and Denman.

A-Maze-Ing Laughter, by Yue Minjun at Morton Triangle
A-Maze-Ing Laughter, by Yue Minjun at Morton Triangle

This group of sculptures  in patinated bronze is a fascinating collection of laughing self-portraits of the Chinese artist Yue Minjun.

 A-Maze-Ing LaughterA-Maze-Ing Laughter, by Yue Minjun

People feel happy walking around and looking at their faces with closed eyes and strange or hysterical smiles and laughters. The inscription on the plaque is:
A-Maze-Ing Laughter plaque at english Bay
Plaque for A-Maze-Ing Laughter, by Yue Minjun 

 "Yue Minjun uses his own iconic face in a state of hysterical laughter as a signature trademark. Recognized  universally as a sign of happiness, the 'smile' raises questions of intent and interpretation.
One of the most influential contemporary artists in China, Yue Minjun represents the new wave of Chinese artistic freedom. 'SHI XIANG SHENG' marks Yue Minjun's Canadian debut." 

A-Maze-Ing Laughter, by Yue Minjun - Vancouver Biennale Sculpture , 2009-2011
A-Maze-Ing Laughter, by Yue Minjun - Vancouver Biennale Sculpture , 2009-2011
So many things to see and wonder for all ages, hidden in so many a-maze-ing places! Whenever you can,  breathe the fresh air and enjoy the  ride through them from one end to the other! 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

October dried flower sale at Vandusen Gardens

 Fall pumpkin decor at Vandusen Entrance Pavilion
Fall pumpkin decor at VanDusen Entrance Pavilion
Do you want to see a funny Fall pumpkin decor? This weekend you can enjoy Canadian fall foliage with a brilliant show of October's color in many parts of theVanDusen Botanical Garden and Fall decorations in the Entrance and Shop Pavilion.

Phyllis Bentall Garden in October at VanDusen Botanical Garden
Phyllis Bentall Garden near the Entrance of  VanDusen Garden

Also is another chance to buy  dried flower topiaries, wreaths, bouquets and arrangements made from materials gathered in the Garden, because in Entrance Pavilion, in 23-24 October from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is another Dried Flower Sale.
In September's event they had amazing Thanksgiving wreaths for sale.

Alma Area in October at Vandusen Garden
Alma Area in October at VanDusen Garden

Friday, October 22, 2010

Vegetarian Cannibal ?

I was browsing for some ideas for Halloween costumes, accessories, crafts and decorations...  After a dozens of Draculas (read my post about Dracula's legend here), monsters, skeletons, zombies and other scary creatures, just happened to find this collection of jokes with cannibals:

I follow a strict vegan diet. I eat only vegans.

9 out of 10 cannibals agree, vegetarians taste better!

If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat? 

One cannibal to another:  I never met a man I didn't like!

If humans aren't supposed to be eaten, then why are they made out of meat?

Asmat handcarved statue_with Rober's Lemon RoseAsmat handcarved statue_with Snowflake

Any idea if vegetarian cannibals exist? Let me try to answer as correctly as possible...
Yes - "Vegetarian Cannibals" is a pop - rock band from Washington, USA which were formed in 2003...
Roughly speaking, might sound like a contradiction in terms, a cannibal is defined as a person who eats human flesh, or any creature who eats their own kind; the term derives from the Spanish name Canibales for the Carib people, first encountered by Christopher Columbus. Therefore if it had extended into the plants reign, Vegetarian Cannibals somehow exist, the plants consumes another plants after were transformed in compost... don't you think so?

Primitive men in yoga position with Shrubland RoseAsmat handcarved wood statue with Prince of Orange plant

These jokes remembered me about my primitive statue which I bought from an antique store from one of my trips in Victoria Island. Looks like a cannibal... and was hand-carved by a cannibal... This is true, this handmade primitive wood statue was carved with manual tools from albesia wood  by one of the members of the Asmat tribe, the most famous cannibalistic tribe which lives in rainforests off the coast of  Papua, New Guinea. Asmat people found inspiration in their culture and tradition, wood being sacred for them (they are considered to be the best woodcarvers of the stone-age). This statue definitely does not look as scary as many horror-themed Halloween products existing in the modern stores.

Asmat handcarved wood statue with Snowflake prebonsai
 Thinking handcarved cannibal with Skeleton Rose bonsai

I think this tribal decor could be a nice wooden plant stand for one of my pelargoniums for Halloween days...  but I have not decided yet which plant is more suitable for that.

Still sounds confusing but ... who's the "vegetarian cannibal" - the primitive man or the plant from his arms? ;-)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Aromatic herbs used by ancient Indian tribes

In one of my previous posts I've told you about "Queen of the Night", Nicotiana plants with mauve, yellow and white flowers. I was surprised to find out that Nicotiana is wild tobacco, with very large usage, together with other aromatic herbs, as fumigant and medicament  into mythology and religious all over the world: in Indian rituals,the ritual leader offered smoke to the Creator, the four directions and to the earth; in Christian rituals, smoke from censers symbolized prayers ascending to heaven; in Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist traditions burning incense symbolized the presence of deity and the dispersal of prayers.

tobacco plants in stanley park

Native American Totem Poles and smoking or burning aromatic herbs were symbols of the ancient traditions of the native Indian tribes of the Northwest Pacific Coast, symbolizing power and community with deity.
In Americas long before the arrival of Europeans were widely used 2 types of Nicotiana plants: Nicotiana Tabacum and Nicotiana Rusticum. The indigenous practice of smoking was named "drinking smoke", smokers being described by Columbus in his journal as: "people who always carried a lighted fire brand to light fire, and perfume themselves with certain herbs they carried along with them".
Amerindians considered tobacco plants as gifts from "a creator".  Smoking was a religious, ceremonial event among North American Indians to be given proper respect, but only some tribes grew it. Native American "sacred pipes", the devices used for religious, ceremonial events smoking, were dated to more than 3000 years ago, and they had evidence of nicotine residues. Stone pipes were used for cementing friendship and offering smoke to the god.

Nicotiana plants in Stanley Park

I found some descriptions about North American Indians smoking rituals: pipes were assembled, filled with tobacco, ignited, and passed according to distinct Indian tribal rules in communal ceremonies and solemn occasions, until the pipe were returned to the host.

tobacco plants at VanDusen

Paradoxical seems that during the 17th century, tobacco smoke was transformed In North America from “good” into “bad” and a native American habit was turned as illegal, although in the tobacco industry are involved many Native American entrepreneurs. Nowadays laws around the world have restrictions on smoking, banning public cigarette smoking on North American grounds, but the huge tobacco industry are involved in the manufacture of cigarettes, cigars, snuff and chewing and pipe tobacco.

Tobacco plants in Stanley Park flowerbeds

Canada is leading the way in anti-tobacco programs.  Vancouver's Park Board Commissioners unanimous voted in April that smoking is prohibited in all 224 parks including trails, playgrounds and fields, and 18 kilometers of beaches, effective with September 1, 2010.

" To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did.  I ought to know because I've done it a thousand times."  Mark Twain

Monday, October 18, 2010

VanDusen Fragrance Garden

VanDusen Botanical Garden is perfect place to enjoy the scenery, taking pictures and gain knowledge about plants. The garden covers 22 hectares of land which includes water features, many trees and plants from all over the world, a restaurant, gift shop and seed library.

Fragrance Garden at VanDusen Botanical Garden
Fragrance Garden at VanDusen Botanical Garden

There are so many different thematic gardens within the garden, with plants carefully organized and labeled: Mediterranean, Formal Rose Sino-Himalayan, Perennial, Southern Hemisphere, Heather and Fragrance Garden, Rhododendron Walk, Meconopsis Dell, Laburnum Walk.

Fragrant plants at VanDusen Botanical Garden

The Fragrance Garden is situated near the entrance and I was happy to find here some of the Scented Pelargonium (Geranium Family - Geraniaceae) plants which I already had in my collection: Citrosa, Prince of Orange, Attar of Roses.

 Scented Geranium Attar of Roses at VanDusen GardenScented Geranium Citrosa at VanDusen Garden
Scented Geranium Prince of Orange at VanDusen Garden
Prince of Orange

Lots of flowers, herbs and aromatic plants are still beautiful and smell great, although the Fall has made its presence felt  all over the botanical garden. The changing colors of autumn leaves are just great!

Aromatic herbs at VanDusen GardenThe flower beds with scented pelargoniums seemed impressive, with rare specimens like: Pelargonium  Nervosum (Lime Scented Geranium), Peacock, Shottesham Pet (aka Filbert, Concolor Lace), Prince Rupert, Old Spice, Torrento and Bontrosai TM, and other "common" specimens with  Apple, Nutmeg, Orange and Lemon scented foliage mixed with a vast array of aromatic plants like: dill, parsley, onion, lovage, cilantro, mint, heliotrope, allium and thyme. The Fragrant Garden also includes: Viola adunca, Valeriana, lemon scented Crimson, Nicotiana, Catnip, Sage, Chamomile.
The pictures are lovely although most of the bloom season is over.

Scented Geranium Nervosum at VanDusen Garden
Pelargonium Nervosum 
Scented Geranium Shottesham Pet / Filbert at VanDusen Garden
Shottesham Pet

Shottesham Pet (aka Filbert Geranium, Concolor Lace) has lovely light green, lobed leaves with heavy ruffling on the edges and hazelnut scent.

Pelargonium Nervosum (aka Lime Scented Geranium) has small, smooth, deep green, sharp-toothed leaves.

Scented Geranium Peacock at VanDusen Garden
Scented Apple Geranium / Pelargonium Odoratissimum at VanDusen Garden
Apple scented Pelargonium Odoratissimum

Apple Scented Geranium (Pelargonium odoratissimum) – has soft, gray-green leaves and a refreshing apple scent. It looks great in a hanging basket.

Pelargonium Peacock has deeply lobed, rounded leaves with patchy white / pink variegation and delightful rose scent.

Scented Geranium Old Spice at VanDusen Garden
Old Spice
Scented Geranium Prince Rupert with seed at VanDusen Garden
Prince Rupert with seed

Scented Geranium Fingerbowl lemon at VanDusen Garden
Fingerbowl lemon

Variegated Prince Rupert (Pelargonium Crispum) is a stunning, upright variety that has small, curly leaves, rounded with crinkled edges. The foliage is green with yellow edging and citrus scent. 

Pelargonium x fragrans "Old Spice": Dwarf plant, similar to Nutmeg scented geranium , is a compact plant with soft, nut scented leaves, perfect for containers or hanging baskets.

Pelargonium "Fingerbowl Lemon" (Pelargonium Crispum) is small, but vigorous growing scented pelargonium which has tiny, ruffled leaves,with an intensely lemon scent.

Scented Pelargonium Bontrosai at VanDusen Garden

Pelargonium "Bontrosai" (Lemon Sculpture) has strong lemony scent and tightly curled leaves. I was very surprised that this scented geranium is trademark of Richter's Herb and protected by U.S. patent. All the right are reserved and unauthorized propagation is prohibited.
What do you think about that?
A living plant should be patentable?    

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Snowflake miniature living bonsai

People have been viewing indoor miniature living landscapes and bonsai for centuries. For me, those inspire thought and improve my moods in cloudy or raining days.

Miniature living pelargonium bonsai Snowflake in blue bonsai pot

Miniature living pelargonium bonsai Snowflake

I love to walk and enjoy outdoors, but in Vancouver are a lot of raining days and what can I do?

I can walk and get rained on or I can bike and get rained on even with an umbrella or wearing rain gear... the con point being I'll catch a cold.

On the pro side of all this rain we decide to look through the window the impressive force of nature and to enjoy one of my favorite activities: doing living crafts and miniature gardens,  bringing a touch of sunny green and natural look to our living-room.

Miniature living pelargonium pre-bonsai Snowflake

Scented Pelargonium Snowflake are my latest children, added to my scented pelargonium collection . We bought them from a nursery around Vancouver two month ago.

Pelargonium Snowflake small plantsScented Pelargonium Snowflake leaves 

I don't know yet if it was labeled properly, because, according with the many websites, Scented Pelargonium Snowflake are from round-leaf rose scented family - has small, rounded leaves that are soft green marked with a hit-or-miss irregular white variegated patches and lemon-rose scent.

Snowflake small branch
Rose scented pelargonium Snowflake leaf

My plants doesn't look like "Atomic Snowflake" (see my other post about "Atomic Snowflake" ) and haven't white spots. Their large, slightly lobed leaves looks more like the Pelargonium "Snowflake Rose" leaves, having redish notes and strong rose scent. Maybe someone will help me to categorize them correctly.

Until then, we re-potted them in nice bonsai pots and we are gonna take some miniature living arrangements. We decorated them with some accent plants, rocks, turface and decorative sand, but we payed more attention to the bigger pre-bonsai. The angel and the shell lantern is for inspiration, and the exposed root on the piece of wood is for the show...

Miniature living pelargonium bonsai Snowflake with one root exposed, angel and shell-lanternMiniature living pelargonium bonsai Snowflake with one root exposed

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