Tuesday, March 31, 2015

MEXICO: Three Decades Later

I hadn't been to Mexico in over 30 years.  I went a couple of times with friends in the early 80s but hadn't been back since.  I was long overdue for a trip to that beautiful country.

Mexico has certainly changed and so have I!

Club Med, Ixtapa  1982

Cabo San Lucas  2015

 Preparing to go parasailing.  Acapulco, 1984

Coming in for a landing on the beach.  Acapulco, 1984

Cabo San Lucas  2015

Until last year (when we went with friends to Palm Springs at Spring Break) Joe never thought he would enjoy a vacation to a warm destination.  After all, he's the guy who sleeps in the basement when the mercury rises above 20 C and has a fan blowing in our bedroom in December.  But much to his surprise, he discovered he did like lounging by a pool soaking up the sun while drinking margaritas.

When we finally decided to take a Spring Break holiday, we called 'Sell Off Vacations' to see what last minute deals were available.  We were offered a one week, all-inclusive package to the Riu Santa Fe resort in Cabo San Lucas.

No sooner had we booked our trip I remembered Los Cabos had been hammered by Hurricane Odile several months ago.  I wondered about the current condition of the resort.  Could it possibly have been cleaned up and rebuilt in six short months?  The short answer?  YES!  It is a testament to the tenacity, grit and true strength of the Mexican people that anyone would ever know a Category 4 hurricane had ripped through their community last September.

September 2014

March 2015

September 2014

March 2015

September 2014

March 2015

We had a wonderful time.  The resort was lovely, the weather was perfect, the food was good.  My goals for the week were to read, nap, sunbathe, float in the pool, drink beer and eat my weight in guacamole.  I exceeded expectations in all areas!

We were advised not to swim in the ocean.  After about 2 seconds of standing on the beach I understood why.  The waves that crashed onto shore were often so large and powerful it sounded like dynamite exploding when they hit the sand.

I became obsessed with photographing the waves.  I stood on that bloody beach and took photo after photo after photo.  I wanted to snap just one photo of the biggest and baddest wave out there.  I took 179 photos of the waves over the course of seven days.  Every day I'd say to myself, "Self, this is ridiculous!  Stop it.  You have enough wave pictures."  And the next day found me on the beach with my camera.

Needless to say, I never got any photos of the biggest waves.  Because they always came ashore when I was up at the pool!

Don't worry, I won't bore you with all 179 wave photos.  But I must show you a few.

Remember, these are just medium sized waves.

See where the people are standing/sitting at the far edge of the sand?  From there it slopes down about 20 feet to the water's edge.  That gives you a bit of an idea how big these waves actually are. 

As many of you know, Joe is not a 'paying attention' sort of guy.  And so it was that he found himself without his beloved Tilley hat one day after arriving at the pool.  He had dropped it somewhere on his walk from our room to the pool deck.  

He retraced his steps.  No hat.  He asked at the front desk if anyone had turned it in.  No hat.  

He resigned himself to the fact that he had lost his Tilley hat.

Since I had two hats (and hadn't lost any) I offered him the pick of my collection.  He chose the striking orange hiking hat to match his swim trunks.

Well, whaddaya know?  Seven hours after losing his hat, it was magically returned to him.  Joe's hat was sitting on his deck chair waiting for him when he got out of the pool later that afternoon.  

Who returned it?  Who knew which pool we were at?  Who even knew which chairs we were sitting on?  It will remain a Mexican mystery.

From the 'IT'S A SMALL WORLD' department:  One day, I struck up a conversation with the woman who was laying on the deck chair next to me at the pool.  We asked where each other was from.  When we both replied "Squamish", we sat bolt upright in our chairs! And not only that, we figured out that her husband gave us our Hepatitis A shots at the pharmacy before we left for Mexico!  It was nice to run into her with her lovely children over the course of the week.

Our week in Cabo San Lucas came to an end all too quickly.  It was the perfect antidote to a long and rainy winter.  Thank you, Mexico, for another wonderful vacation.  I promise it won't be another 30 years until we are together again.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Lollipop King Unleashed My Inner Artist

I have always been an art lover.  Not an artist, mind you, but I have always enjoyed other people's art.  I've been blessed to have had many opportunities to visit some incredible art museums and galleries around the world.

For some reason, art has really had an impact on me these past several months.

It all started in the fall.

Joe and I went on the East Side Culture Crawl in Vancouver where he immediately fell in love with a painting titled 'The Lollipop King'.  He talked to its creator, Luchia Feman, for a very long time.  Afterwards, he could not stop thinking about her painting.  "Nanc, if you were to cut off the top of my head and look inside, that painting is what you'd see," he said to me on our drive home.

It wasn't until our friend Colleen suggested I buy the painting for Joe and give it to him for Christmas, that I really sat up and paid attention.  E-mails flew back and forth between Luchia and myself, money exchanged hands.  'The Lollipop King' was rolled up and shipped up and surprised Joe on Christmas morning.  He was thrilled.

Merry Christmas!

Then the ripple effect of art began in earnest.

I teach at an arts infusion school.  My colleagues and I infuse art into the entire curriculum: math, science, language arts, P.E., social studies.  My students create colourful pinwheels when we learn about the wind and weather, they paint pictures in response to a story they've read, my students use mixed media to create characters to write about.

I thought to myself, "Put your money where your mouth is, Nancy!  You expect your 5 and 6 year old students to learn and create art every day.  How about trying it yourself?"

So I signed up for painting lessons.  With the one and only Toby Jaxon.

I have taken a total of 4 lessons and this is what I have learned:  PAINTING IS DIFFICULT!  I have vowed to never again march through an art gallery or museum only giving a cursory glance to some of the paintings hanging on the walls.  I will appreciate every painting (even the ones I don't care for) because now I know how much heart and soul an artist has poured into each piece.

Lesson #1 - Colour Theory

Lesson #2 - Landscape (MY VERY FIRST PAINTING!)

Lesson #3 - Gradation of colours

Lesson #4 - Abstract painting

The best thing about painting?  For me?  I absolutely love the feeling of spreading thick paint on the canvas.  I could do that all day long.

Smooshing paint around on my palette.  The best feeling in the world.

While I was taking painting lessons during the evenings, I was also doing a lot of art with my colleagues on Professional Development Days at school.  

My portrait of my friend Shuna.

One Pro-D art lesson was to draw a portrait of a person with my eyes closed.  And the kicker?  My pencil could not leave the paper.  For some reason, I found this kind of art project much easier than painting!

When the 'Lollipop King' was finally framed and ready to be hung on our livingroom wall, a friend suggested we have an unveiling.  I got the idea to piggyback onto this event and have an art show of my three paintings!  I invited Colleen (who also took lessons with Toby) to join in with her paintings.  And our art show was born.

I asked my art teacher Toby and friend Michelle (both professional artists) if they'd like to show their works alongside mine and Colleen's.  They both jumped at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

We invited a few art loving friends to come over to our place on Friday night to meet the Lollipop King and to bask in the joy of our paintings.  Luchia Feman travelled 2 hours to Squamish for this auspicious occasion!

Everyone, husbands included, were pressed into action to hang the show.

Down came the paper to reveal the framed 'The Lollipop King' to the applause of the crowd!

Luchia spoke about her creative process with the Lollipop King.

Q and A with the artists.

Not every artist can say they've had their painting hung under a hood fan.

Our livingroom was chock-a-block with paintings.

No room to display art on the walls?  No problem!  The floor will do as well.

My friend Michelle and her paintings.

My friend and art teacher Toby Jaxon with her latest painting.

Luchia even brought an art project for everyone to participate in!  We were to 'Make A Mark' on two canvases with our non-dominant hand.

Fun with oil pastels.

So much talent under one roof!

Me and my new friend Luchia Feman.

No event at our house is complete without food.  Joe's latest obsession is 'Canel├ęs de Bordeaux'.  This dessert was a big hit with the crowd!

So what is next?  I am taking another set of painting lessons with Toby in April and May.  And Michelle is giving collage/painting lessons using ephemera next month.  

I am so excited to continue on with my art journey!

Won't you join me?