In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.
I made myself a sketchbook to take on our trip. The original plan was to buy one of Stillman & Burns' new Gamma series landscape-format sketchbooks; they're lovely, and the paper is heavy enough to take light washes. But they aren't cheap, nor are they carried anywhere in Montreal, and as a result I left the task of ordering from Toronto undone too long. What to do? Then it occurred to me that I could make my own sketchbook and fill it with whatever combination of papers I wanted! What a revelation! I've made a lot of small notebooksbefore, but never a sketchbook. The other advantage was that I could choose a size that was light and easy to carry. The binding itself is reversible; I can take pages out or add more anytime.
It helps to have a big papercutter and a heavy-duty adjustable binding punch and comb binder; we used to use it for binding reports for our design clients.
I already had these handpainted covers, waiting for a binding, so that part was easy. The next task was to cut up a sheet of a favorite drawing/mixed-media paper, Stonehenge, and another one of Arches 140-lb watercolor paper. It was enough for two books, one slightly larger and longer than this, with plain black covers, and this one. The binding here a flat leather thong; the other book has a black plastic comb binding.
Now I just need to make the time, and pluck up my courage, to do some sketches rather than being on-the-go every minute while we're away. The work of the Urban Sketchers, a growing international movement, both inspires and daunts me, because sketching buildings and urban scenes has never been my forté. What I'm most interested in isn't accuracy, but conveying the feeling of a place or scene.
On the other hand, having this blog, and you, my kind and generous readers, is a great incentive, though I admit that every single time I put pen or brush to paper, a little voice in my head worries about making a disastrous mess! Just do it, I tell myself, as all my teachers have told me too: sketch every day. Some drawings will be a mess, and some will come out all right. No matter what, you'll learn and improve through constant practice.
Funny, isn't it -- after all this time, and all this making-of-things, we are still fragile! I think that this beautiful bright color will help.
Here are a few more pictures from our trip to Ottawa. Actually, the Museum of Civilization is located in Gatineau, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa.
There are excellent bike paths and bridges to cross, so it's a good area to explore on bikes, and many people were doing just that.
The museum building, which is large and impressive, is supposed to represent the land after the retreat of the glaciers - it also reminds me of snow drifts or rock sculpted by water. On our way in, we saw a sign offering reduced admission to the two museums located nearby: The Museum of Civilization, and the Canadian War Museum. "Well," J. remarked dryly, "that just about covers it." We didn't go to the War Museum, but apparently the current show is a good one: it's on the War of 1812, from four different perspectives (I'm not sure, but I'm guessing they are English Canada, French Canada, American, and Native American.) I'm quite sure it's a larger view than we were taught in American schools.
In the courtyard, there are sculptures of human beings by Louis Archambault, originally shown in Montreal at Expo 67. I was amused by a resident flock of Canada geese (how appropriate!) marching among them, but couldn't get a good picture of that.
Inside, we saw a 3-D IMAX film about the arctic; a good exhibition about the Mayans; another, quite intriguing and interactive, about religious diversity and belief; and a Diamond Jubilee tribute to the Queen, focused on her many trips to Canada. We walked briefly through the permanent exhibition about the native peoples of Canada -- it's very large and we need to go back to do it justice.
There was a friendly Mountie, sort of on guard.
But my favorite thing was the great hall which holds many totem poles from the Pacific Coast peoples. Seeing them here, of course, is a very different experience from seeing them in situ -- though many have been reclaimed by the rain forest. It helped to have read Emily Carr's journals earlier this year, and her accounts of visiting villages where she was given permission to draw the poles, and of the friends she made there.
I was stunned by their size and their powerful presence. I got very quiet, and just looked. They looked back.
Sunrise. These are the last of the photos from the Charlevoix.
This is an old house built in the Norman style - the curved edges of the roof are very typical - high above the river; it belongs to a friend of our friend.
Monkshood in the garden.
The view from the lawn of the house, over the little chapel you saw in the previous post.
And an imagined afternoon: rocking chairs on a Charlevoix porch, looking over Le Fleuve.
While we're sitting here, you might like to listen to a few selections from my friend Carole Therrien's CD, Vues du fleuve. Carole owns and runs a major Canadian jazz label, Effendi Records, with her partner, the well-known Montréal bassist Alain Bédard. She's a terrific jazz singer, but I know her best as a classical singing companion -- she's the first soprano soloist in our choir at Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal, and has a voice that makes time stand still. There are clips from all the cuts on her CD here, and three full selections here. Talking to Carole and listening to this music -- like visiting the Charlevoix -- have helped show me what "The River" really means to the Quebeçois. On her website she quotes Denys Lelièvre:
Devant le fleuve, l'homme est à la fois nu et comblé. Il a la certitude d'être en lien avec quelque chose de plus vaste que lui: <<Je ne suis plus seul maintenant.>>
(loosely translated: "Before the river, man is both naked and fufilled. He has the certainty of being in a place with something bigger than he is: 'I am not alone anymore.'")
We're just back from 2 days in the gorgeous Charlevoix, along the estuary of the St. Lawrence River. This was drawn quickly on the rocky beach at Port-au-Persil, looking downriver toward the sea, after a big glass of white wine and a picnic...full-color coverage begins tomorrow.
Because I've been spending more time lately in downtown Montreal, I've been thinking about contemporary architecture, a great love of mine -- and then a friend's post reminded me of honeycomb, and this building in Reykjavik that I visited just about exactly 6 months ago.
It's the city's new concert hall, named Harpa, built amid controversy over whether such an expenditure could be justified in the wake of Iceland's financial crisis. It was designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects and Icelandic architectural firm Batteríið Architects. Our friends there were not wild about the building itself, which sits on the wharf right at the edge of the ocean. As I went through my photographs I realized I didn't have any good pictures of the exterior -- I loved the different facades, but not the extra colors and LED lights which I felt detracted from the building's sculptural quality, especially at night -- but I was completely intrigued by the interior of the building, which I found both unusual and beautiful. The surfaces and lack of color -- all greys and black, except for an occasional touch of bright yellow or purple -- give it a restrained Scandinavian/Germanic ambience, quite different from most of what gets built in North America.
"The building’s name Harpa refers to the musical instrument, the harp. It is also the name of the first month of spring in the Nordic calendar - and for the people of Iceland this means the promise of better times.” Steinunn Birna Ragnarsdóttir Musical Director of Harpa
Most astonishing are the glass sides, constructed of steel and glass in a honeycomb-inspired design that seemed at first to be in a regular pattern, but revealed itself to have deliberate irregularities. I couldn't imagine how it had been designed and engineered, let alone built, and our friends told us that Asian construction workers had been hired to actually do the building work, because they were the only ones with experience in this type of construction. The descriptions of the building on the official website, unfortunately, don't include many details about how the design was developed and chosen, or how the engineering challenges were solved, though at the architect's own website, they say that in order to develop these ideas "the team worked with three-dimensional computer models, finite element modelling, various digital visualisation techniques as well as maquettes, models and mock-ups."
The plaza in front of the Concert Hall is designed to generate a unique atmosphere where the dark base, referring to the black Icelandic sand, emphasizes the play of light and colors in the facades. The water pools mirror the facades and provide the plaza with a well-defined expression. Approaching the harbor from the city, the Concert Hall rises from the black base of the front plaza.
Harpa’s multifaceted glass facades are the result of a unique collaboration between renowned artist Olafur Eliasson and Henning Larsen Architects. The design is based on a geometric principle, realized in two and three dimensions. Light and transparency are key elements.
Made of a twelve-sided space-filler of glass and steel called the “quasi brick,” the building appears as a kaleidoscopic play of colors, reflected in the more than 1,000 quasi bricks composing the southern facade. The remaining facades and the roof are made of sectional representations of this geometric system, resulting in two-dimensional flat facades of five and six-sided structural frames. The crystalline structure, created by the geometric figures, captures and reflects the light – promoting the dialogue between the building, city and surrounding landscape.
We weren't able to enter any of the four concert halls, but they all look very beautiful. We did listen to a midday informal jazz concert in the cafe area (3rd picture above) along with many contented Reykjavik residents and visitors. Next time we'll be sure to book tickets to a concert; Harpa is the new home of the Icelandic Symphony, but presents events from theatre and opera to Bjork.
I only had my phone camera that day, but if you'd like to see more photos of the exterior and interior, here's a link to high-quality press photos of the building.
These pictures were taken at an unmarked beach to the west of Reykjavik; we rode there, along the sea, on our bicycles just as the sun came out and a light rain ended. Reykjavik weather, we both heard and experienced, tends to be windy and drizzly; we saw a rainbow almost every day we were there. When we returned from this little trip, our friends told us the name of this place is "Castration Beach." We asked why, of course, and they ventured that it was where horses had been taken to be castrated. I think it's because all the rocks look like balls. Some definitely looked like they had come from the moon.
The long mountain across the harbor is Mt. Esja, which Reykjavik locals call their city mountain. In just five days we saw Mt. Esja in many moods; I agree that it's very beautiful.
That was the apt subject line of a letter from my friend G, after reading my "Fire and Brimstone" account of the hot springs and geysers in Iceland. In his letter, he described a trip to Yellowstone National Park, and how different his experience of similar phenomenon had been. I've revised my previous post to include his comments, and have also added two photographs from J. showing Elsa and me watching Strokkur erupt (above)-- and an eruption itself. And I'm submitting the whole revised post for this month's anniversary issue of the Language/Place Blog Carnival, hosted by the incomparable Dorothee Lang, whose subject is "Streets, Signs, Directions." Please take a look, and visit the blog carnival when this issue is published at the end of the month -- I think it's one of the most interesting projects of its kind right now.
On a glorious fall day in London, we went for a long walk along the Regent's Canal with our dear friend R. and her faithful and heroic dog, Maizy (who leaped onto a patch of duckweed and had to be drippingly rescued) from Camden Lock, through Regent's Park and past the London zoo into a posh area (where I got locked into a cafe bathroom and had to text my companions for help) toward Paddington, and considerably beyond.