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August 2011

July 2011

Viv Cecil and painting with the elements

What would you say if I tell you that I became aware of "the elements" while living in England? Yes, earth, fire, water, air is everywhere ......and they were in my home country too but we did not spend a long time thinking about them. We used to take them all for granted and ignored them. Life was  too busy, people were  too consumed by the crowded buses, and the trams, and the heat, and the cold, and the occasional earthquakes and the queues, and  .................

It took me 4 years in England to get used to the idea that I have a garden, a smallish one where I can stop and sit on a chair and enjoy the plants around me. It took me 4 years to acknowledge that the garden is not a space between 2 doors to be crossed quickly but one to dwell in, to be enjoyed. It took me a while to "stop and smell the roses". It took me a while to become truly aware of the elements!

Viv Cecil grow up among the hills, and the plains, among the rich, vibrant, earthy colours of India.  Seeing members of his family paint, kicked off the idea of expressing himself artistically as well. He grew up feeling, knowing, wanting to become an artist.

For some people, painting is a Saturday hobby, something one does once in a while, opening the tubes of paints, picking up a brush and voila ....the "play" time gets going. For others, painting is a burning desire to communicate, to express ones feelings ..... through images. It's about pushing the frontiers .........pushing the frontiers of experimentation, transferring the daydreamer's world onto the canvas, again and again and again.

7-Darkmoon-No3 Viv's paintings are a dedication to the elements, a recognition of the fact that art and nature are one. Do not be surprised to hear that soil, and leaves,and imprints of rocks are used regularly on his white canvases. Taking a bit of nature with him begins a new idea. Just the beginning because "if you think you know where the painting is going you are kidding yourself".  The truth is that each painting has a life of itself, a personality that emerges slowly, through layers and layers of paint, totally, entirely absorbing.

If you like to be challenged by paintings, if you like to wake up in the morning and discover another element in the painting you  bought the other day, Viv is your artist. His paintings will make you think, his paintings will invite you to join him in the conversation he constantly has with the elements, even with his past.


Trained as an illustrator and draughtsmen, having to reflect the detail of a subject made him want more and more to break through the straight lines, break free and express himself freely with fluidity.  Who knows, maybe this is why he loves abstract expression, maybe this is why he is all in favour of the "controlled accidents" on the canvas.

His attitude to painting is clear "the more you put off starting to paint, the more afraid you are of the white canvas".  It is so true! I know it .. its why I'm going right now to paint on the big canvas waiting for me on the easel. Right now, I'm starting with a dot, an elemental object! Thank you Viv!

You can meet Viv and enjoy his  art in August,  together with other members of Artflow and also by visiting his website  Artflow is a recently formed group of semi professional artists living and working in the Sussex region. The members of the group also exhibit individually and with other groups and galleries. For more information visit


Mary Beaney and the Byzantine inspiration

Florence in White Dress[1] 

Born as a Christian orthodox I was exposed to icons from an early age, although going to the church was not such a popular activity in Communist times. For the ones interested in Christian iconography Romania is quite a destination!  For example, the painted monasteries in Moldova - listed in UNESCO's list of World Heritage site - provide an infinite source of amazement and inspiration.

For all of us there is a moment in time - be it meeting an inspiring person, or artist, or seeing a book, or visiting an exhibition - that inspires us, changes the way we look at things, the way we interpret the reality around us. 

Mary Beaney had such a moment  18 months ago when she visited a "Byzantine Art" exhibition at the Royal Academy in London.

Portraits have always occupied a special place in her  art, ever since she studied at Southdown College a place where she met like minded people, people who became her friends and for many years co-exhibitors. The college  encouraged her to investigate various forms of media from oils to printmaking, from drawing to ceramics in a continuous search for the perfect painting, a search for that special thing, the thing that motivates...............the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, what about Mary? For her art is a way of projecting emotions onto the hungry canvas.  As simple as that!

So, the last 18 months brought a new dimension into Mary's paintings. It allowed her to combine her lifelong passion for portrait art with her interest in Byzantine Art    ........ giving icons  a contemporary feel.

You will surely be intrigued by the images that populate Mary's paintings. They all have a story and they all tell a story. Listening to Mary telling the story of an old, very old picture album discovered not a long time ago in a dark corner of the attic is intriguing and mysterious. She incorporates them, the fading, monochrome images from the past, in the Byzantium inspired paintings and this is when magic starts and another story unfolds.


As for the viewer, trust me .......... you will never look at that old, shabby photo album you inherited from your loved ones in the same way.  It will inspire you to start start discovering your own roots, discovering your family's hidden stories,  maybe even expressing them creatively in a collage, or a poem, or a story.  Because her work  inspires,  her paintings take you by the hand and invite you to imagine, dream, create your own story. Check on the following link and you will enter into Mary's world 

Painting is not a smooth journey! It never is, it never will be.  Painting is an all consuming process. One that leaves you empty of emotions, frustrated, sad and also happy, absorbed in a world of fantasy, enthusiastic, passionate. Painting is just like stepping in a tunnel and searching for the light!    

You can meet Mary and enjoy her art in August  together with other members of Artflow.  Artflow is a recently formed group of semi professional artists living and working in the Sussex region. The members of the group also exhibit individually and with other groups and galleries. For more information visit


An earthy project with Effy Wild

Yes, last week was week two of my art journaling course with Effy Wild! Funny how the whole week seemed muddy, heavy, wet other words very earthy! Thinking about reflecting in our journals the meaning of earth was quite new to me but by using Tony Buzan's mind mapping approach it became quite straightforward as it is an approach I have used in another context.


Given that at the moment I love abstract painting, there is a lot of scope for using Tony Buzan's technique in the near future do thank you Effy for this tip!

It's no secret that I love bright colors, oranges, yellows, cherry reds and yet, when it was about working on this journal page I found myself drawn to darker tones.

Who knows, in my subconscious it might be a subtle reminder that darker tones are connected with the engine of life on earth, the place where seeds are nurtured .......... or that the earth is dark red in one region of the world, in my beloved South Africa, a land of brave and immensely creative people. It can also be dark brown close to black in the old birch tree forests of my mother's Russia, the land of Chekhov and Tolstoy and it is brown in my garden, here in the British kingdom.

012 Just like life, one cannot define the earth in one color, or one word, or one emotion, or one musical note. The earth is an orchestra, the earth sings ........ the songs of our ancestors over time, their wisdom and discoveries, songs reflecting our challenging present and the songs of the future, the future we are all responsible for. The earth knows it all! 


Jill Emslie, pilot and artist extraordinaire

One of the reasons  why I really appreciate England is the attitude to life of that special breed of not so young in years, be they men or women!  I really do! You will not see them in dark, post war M&S garments, clearly re-laundered for the 150th time, or as prisoners of their jobs and homes, or completely subordinating their lives to their children, nor talking about all those sacrifices, or about how life was - as if that was it more discoveries, nothing enjoyable to look forward to other than the arrival and raising of lovely grandchildren. The world I left behind over the water and a bit further on still plays by these unwritten rules. That was the world I left behind!

My theme today is about embracing change, pushing your boundaries, experimenting, still making things happen ..........doing all of this and more, with a smile that says so much about attitude. So let me introduce you to one Jill, amazing Jill Emslie! But before eulogising, first let me ask you what was your dream as a child? Was it to become a fireman, or doctor, or singer, or writer, or maybe architect or ...........

As a tiny child during the second world war,  Jill would look at the dark, foreboding London summer skies , longingly following with eager eyes those Spitfires weaving and rushing bravely to unknown battle, fighting with an awesome growl for a peace that some would say was too much to achieve. Her imagination had no limits! In her mind, she invented stories about the brave pilots, their lives and how it must feel to look at the beautiful planet Earth from the cockpit of a plane. She dreamed about being one of them .......of flying and piloting those amazing machines.

An unexpected trip to the Shoreham museum ( for information about the museum click led her to fulfill this dream. Even if it took Jill almost 50 years to reach this dream  let me tell you that .... yes ..... she did it, she embodies the qualities of that breed. Although it is not a Spitfire, Jill speaks with great love about the Cessna airplanes that became her friends , that joined her in her many air adventures. 

Flying across the English countryside had a big impact on the way Jill paints, on the way she sees and interprets landscapes. Yes, Jill is a very talented painter as well. She picked up paint brushes almost at the same time, and started painting about 20 odd years ago.  It all started with joining the Eastbourne College of Art and Technology (now known as Southdown College) and doing a diploma in Fine Art.

As a young artist, I couldn't resist asking Jill how does she paint, where do the ideas come to her mind.

" I hit the canvas with a complete blank mind and start adding layers to layers. For me it is like a walk in a new park. It can be a lovely surprise or a complete disappointment."

In her own words, Jill told me that she is inspired  by big historical moments it was in the case of the Gulf wars, the Romanian revolution, or 9/11. Now she is in the middle of expressing on canvas the emotions of the Arab revolution. In the upcoming exhibition in August (5-11th) at the Lansdown Gallery in Lewes visitors might see her completed 9/11 picture. 135

Because of her flying experiences skies, clouds have a completely different meaning. They have a personality, they  have distinctive smells, textures ....... they can be fluffy and white and light and also black and gloomy and sticky like glue!

Art gave Jill an intense sense of excitement, creating something that makes her feel proud, in a studio that insulates her from a competitive environment (not that she would ever join being there)!


You can meet Jill and enjoy her art in August  together with other members of Artflow.  Artflow is a recently formed group of semi professional artists living and working in the Sussex region. The members of the group also exhibit individually and with other groups and galleries. For more information visit


The artist's open houses

I came across the concept of artist's open houses 6 or 7  years ago,  soon after I came to live in England. At that time I was still "painting by numbers" and experimenting with postcard size watercolors. It was at that time that I had the chance to meet a wellknown South African opera singer and painter. It seems like a lifetime ago and, to be honest, I have forgotten many things  about that trip other than ... our charismatic hostess, her passion for opera, her stories about the concerts she had been in and her passion for art.

To me, her painting room was  a sanctuary  ....... canvases on the floor, some finished, others just started, acrylic paints, watercolors, pastels in a rainbow of tones, textures and smells. At the time she was painting shells, not a surprise given the beautiful beaches of Cape Town. She was also passionate about roses ........ blue roses. I am the proud owner of one of her blue roses paintings. 


 Whenever I look at it I think about her, South Africa, the people, the passion, the dark red soil one wants to see again and again. Now, when  I am about to exhibit in my first group exhibition I remember how impressed I was back then, in 2004, when Virginia was talking about exhibitions .. she was actually preparing her next one and I remember thinking oh boy, will I ever be in this position? Will I? It seemed a bizarre and surreal dream at the time!

You can find out more about Virginia Oosthuizen if you click on

Back to  the concept of artist's open houses ...... this was another source of enormous pleasure and inspiration in 2004. Meeting artists in their own environment  makes the whole experience so much richer. An artist's home is a magical place, a place where inspiration meets courage, courage meets love, love meets colors, colors meet the brushes and together they are joined by the emotions and start a dance which is always different, always a mystery.

Four  years ago, while visiting artist's houses in Eastbourne, I fell in love, so to speak, with the artist Jill Emslie and in time I was lucky enough to know her.  I was mesmerized by the confident strokes of the brush, the delicate touch of abstract that speaks volumes to me.

But this is a story for tomorrow! Bye for now!

My love of art journaling

Hooray, yippee, the time has arrived for my new  journalling course (have a look at I wrote about it a few weeks ago and now it's opened its doors! It's the real deal with tutorials and even homework :o) 

Years ago the word homework used to fill me with dread  but now I'm so excited! The only thing I need to plan better is my time. :o)

Journaling, I've been doing this for years, at the beginning just a few scattered words in dated notebooks, barely filling in 2 lines per day .....this was many, many years ago!

Years later, I was attracted by beautiful, and if I may say so, expensive notebooks, superbly decorated with butterflies or Italian lakes images or the simple and stylish Moleskine, the leather ones ..........hmmm these ones were my favourite! This was the time when I fell in love with creative writing through SARK and Julia Cameron. So writing on all sorts of themes took over and lovely images on the covers became a thing of the past!

In time,  I felt the need to decorate the  inner pages of the journals and this is when  my passion for lifestyle magazines proved to be an endless source of exciting images, giving my writing more color and weight. Slowly, I moved into decorating the covers this: 


And then I just wanted another challenge and got into painting the covers and experimenting with altered images........

014 (2) 

It's a new phase now! Thanks to the e-course I'm doing I have a perfectly OK reason to take old, very old notebooks and give them a new look. Here is what I came up with a few days ago:


and .........


I love the whole process, the techniques that are taught, the quality of the teaching and of course the chance to see other colleague's work! One learns a bit from everybody!


Inspired by Lesley

A peaceful house, a sunny Sunday morning promising a great afternoon "Allotment party" later on in the day .........My favourite way of starting the day is with a strong cup of tea, builders tea please, a dash of milk ..... a small bit of chocolate and (even "Bitter chocolate" :o)....... a book ....... a novel please if possible. And today I gave myself permission to start a novel. The first one in the last few months! It was time to read for pure pleasure! So, 2 hours went by in great company .............. a storyteller I'm very fond of ......... Lesley Lokko! Although Lesley trained as an architect, yes an architect, ......her dream was to write ...... and here she is ...... writing her 6th novel. Isn't it amazing, being true to herself.

Do check her website my lovelies and try her novels. With the summer holidays in full swing this author is a must have! If you like family sagas with plots taking you all around the world ....... from Zimbabwe to Haiti, from Scotland to Ghana, from New York to London, from Somalia to Germany, her books are for you. She writes with insight and passion about life as an immigrant, mixed marriages, about being uprooted and having to learn new ways of life from scratch, about the importance of  reinventing yourself no matter what! It does not take her long to  make you, the reader worry for the characters, cry with them, laugh with them, celebrate with them leaving you with a feeling that you've known the characters for years and are now ...... your friends. Magical! Oh! but I forgot to mention the title it's "One secret summer" .......... an architect writing from her heart.

I also have a dream, me an engineer by degree, me painting, teaching, healing.

Today, I was inspired, I really was ............. so I took out my brushes, paints and started a new painting as a symbol of my dream! It's not finished yet ........... IMG_0929 


The beach

Oh the beach! Going to the lovely, sandy, sunny beach! What does it mean to you? Shall I tell you what it means to me? Actually it means a few different things depending who starts talking. Is it the me of 7 years ago? The me of 7 years ago  would say .......... an overcrowded space, fine glittery, silvery sand, kiosks selling everything from ice cream to beach towels, from Chinese souvenirs to last year's cards, slim tanned bodies parading their naturalness with pride and ease, ad-hoc  games of beach football, volleyball, the super intellectual games of draughts accompanied by a stack of empty sunflower seeds shells and of course the beer bottles/ cans and Coca Cola containers. 

Oh, and I was about to forget the main ingredient of my  typical beach.......... the music, the loud music coming from the terasas, from personal radios, tape recorders, restaurants ...... in a cacophony of sounds, sun, colors and smells. Oh forgot about them ............ yes, this is another main ingredient ......... the smell of our barbecued "mititei" - a type of kebab with a unique taste thanks to some secret, oh yes, very secret combination of spices.


So, this was my image of a typical beach 7 years ago....... going to a sandy beach meant ........ whatever you see above.

Today........ I went to ........ a sandy beach, East Head at Chichester ......... British style.  First of all ........there were no hotels around! Can you imagine? No hotels, no terassas, no shops other than a strip of concrete huts(they reminded me of some shops in Lesotho) selling ice cream out of a window, chips and juices and ...... that's about it! What else ............ yes, the pleasure of parking the car in an organized car park for only £ 5.50!

Lots of mums and kids with spades and buckets and packed lunches (yes it was a Thursday after all and somebody - the men - had to support PCS's strikes in London) and groups of joyful teenagers wrapped up  in their world of music and laughter and fashion. Oh and "tribes" of seagulls, cheekily waiting for some lunch leftovers .......... and dogs, many dogs ......not street ones, but with their owners ........ nicely behaved ........helping their owners loose weight, lower their cholesterol and keep away depression ........dogs .............. a must have for every family!


Anyway, what can I say ........... I loved the dunes although I found about half a kilo in my bag, clothes and hair when I came back home!


It took me a while to get used to the scarcity of people on that vast stretch on beach.........but once I did ...........I could see myself coming again, with a book, and a notebook..............reading, writing, sketching .............learning to enjoy this type of beach, connecting with the nature around and who knows maybe even to be the playful child within, now that would be something lovely for me!