Monthly Archives: May 2017

Coffee and art

While developing my skills in sketching and painting I have naturally become more interested in art and the history of art.

Reading up on modern art I decided to experiment a bit with abstract art and got inspired by the work Who’s afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III by Barnett Newman. The painting has an interesting history in that it was damaged by a deranged man and was later restored but under circumstances that sparked a huge controversy. The restoration cost 400.000 US dollar.

The technique I used for my modest reproduction was of course watercolours with my crappy Russian paint set and cheap paper. In the process I made two separate watercolours, one of the painting and one of the silhouette of the art lover. Then I made photographs and used GIMP for digital choreography.
I think I call it:  Who’s Alfred? Mad fellow, no clue?

The digitally enhanced renderings I made represent a watercolour of the original, before the damage (left), and one after the resto ration (right). There’s not much difference apart from a slightly bigger audience.

The dimensions of the original work are huge: more than 5 metres in length with a height of more than 2 metres, and since museums have limited exposition space, it might not be permanently on display. [not sure if it’s on display in the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam right now]. My watercolour reproduction was roughly 5 cm by 2 cm because I didn’t have so much red, yellow and blue…

The value of the work is not known [as far as I know], but similar works of this artist are sold for 40 ish million dollar. Instead of roughly 10 square metres of red paint, you could also buy your own super yacht, somebody else’s private jet or you could buy all the tickets for a major football match (and not show up, if you wished to be really decadent).

After this difficult (and expensive) art, I decided to do something easier and embarked on a series of self portraits.
The reason was because I am always there and it’s easy to have a model that’s always there.

The first (left) came out very well as a sketch, but I messed up with the paint job. It was quite a bit more difficult than painting Red, Yellow and Blue….. Fortunately, I had made a photograph of the sketch and used that to digitally enhance it. This worked so well, that I am now afraid that people will think I simply digitally altered the original photograph… The second (right) is not as good, but I might try and see if I can use it as a passport photo for my next visa application. It has the right number of eyes and it could be me on a serious day.

I still drink a lot of coffee. With sugar, admittedly, and I know that many coffee aficionados recoil from this practice. The first recorded coffee drinkers, who lived on the Arabian peninsula, apparently drank their coffee black with no sugar, but they did add spices. The Egyptians are reputed for having first added sugar to their coffee at around 1625. They are also credited for having invented the traditional Middle Eastern way of making coffee, in which fine powdered coffee is boiled together with sugar. The result has become known as ‘Turkish coffee’.

As for the use of milk, which is also optional, it was Nieuhoff, the Dutch ambassador to China who first tried coffee with milk in 1660, possibly inspired by the more widely spread custom of drinking tea with milk. This innovation did not become widely accepted until Franz George Kolschitzky opened the first café, Zur Blauen Flasche, in Vienna in 1684 where he served coffee with milk and honey. People liked it and kept coming back the Blue Bottle for more.

I’ve been in Addis now for more than a month. I have stopped travelling and now just live in the city for a while. The food is tolerable, the grounds of the hotel are reasonably quite, it’s not expensive, the weather is mellow. But most importantly: there is a steady flow of interesting people to talk to.

There’s a lot of abject poverty in the city. Many beggars live under appalling conditions and I have found that they influence the standards of what you find acceptable. You see a beggar and  think: This one’s alright, he’s got shoes on….

I am reading L’Abysin by Jean-Christoph Rufin. In the beginning my French was a bit rusty so while reading the first paragraph it took me a while to figure out that the author was describing a painting of Louis XIV and that when he described it as having leprosy, it was the painting and not the Sun King himself who was afflicted. I was halfway reading a Wikipedia article on Louis XIV when I found that out….

The rains have come. But it’s not the time yet and it leaves the locals confounded. It leaves me, occasionally, wet.

In an attempt to improve myself I am now trying out new habits.

Three habits I am trying:
1 Making my bed after I get up. It’s a nice idea to start the day with something positive. It needs to focus on a little chore that makes a difference. Living in hotel rooms means that the bed is the main furniture in the room. If the bed is a mess the room is a mess. Making the bed tidy immediately lends a tidy atmosphere to the room. Nice and I need more nice in my life.
2 After a hot shower briefly switch to cold. Very invigorating. Not sure yet what the effect is on my creativity. Hot showers always seem to have a  stimulating effect on me when it comes to creative ideas. Obviously, when I switch to cold, the only thing I can think of is: AAAAARH. Expressive, yes, but hardly creative.
3 Doing something creative every day. This could be either writing, drawing or sketching (sculpting, architecture, arcane poetry). The rule is that I produce something every day, no matter how little, good or bad. I want to become a creative person which is difficult if you don’t do anything creative.

I am also thinking of adopting the habit of changing one habit ever month for a better habit. But that’s a tricky one, so I have to think about it….