Tag Archives: phoneography

Portrait of a Pilgrim

The Plan

We are on our way back to North America after having spent about five weeks in Spain, most of that walking the last 120 kilometres or so of the Camino de Santiago. What was the point of all that, you might ask? Why did we feel the need to drag ourselves, and in the end, a wheelchair, across a chunk of northern Spain? It would be great if I could say something glib like, “Because it was there” or “Because we like to go on vacations with a bit of a twist” but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

For one thing, we can’t really afford to just jet off and wander around the Spanish countryside for weeks on end. Usually, we either need to find a way to keep working on the road (Internet access makes this possible, though it can also create huge logistical challenges when connectivity is not quite as good as we need it to be). Even better is when we can find a way to tie a project to a travel destination. Sometimes it’s as simple as writing a destination travel article about a place we want to go (or, happen to be going anyway). Sometimes it’s using a destination or activity that takes place in a distant place (climbing, for example) in a book. Taking copious notes, reference photos, or conducting interviews to gather information is a way to write some of the travel costs off as long as the material is used somewhere down the road.

Digital nomad at work in a small cafe in the middle of nowhere.

In the case of this trip along the Camino Frances, though, the intention all along was to write a book about the trip and to find a way to integrate art (Dad’a art in particular). Not only is Dad’s work integrated into the written project, he is also beavering away on a series of works exploring the idea of creating a portrait of a pilgrim to be presented in an exhibition of work.

At the end of a long day of walking, Dad works on a drawing of the Castillo de Pambre

One of the the good things about being a writer or an artist is that all of life becomes a potential source of inspiration. That’s also one of the tough aspects of this type of job. There isn’t really a way to shut life off, close the office door and go home. Everything is raw material and holds the potential of the next great bit of writing or amazing painting. For someone in the arts, each day could be the one where our desire to create something worthwhile is realized. Just the act of living life becomes a pilgrimage of sorts, full of challenges and roadblocks to overcome on the way to coming up with something decent.

When we set off on the road to Santiago we knew we wanted to create something (visual art on Dad’s part, written work from me and Dani), but beyond that we weren’t exactly sure what our story would be. After all, we had plans, but plans never exactly correspond with reality.

The good news is that post trip we have plenty of raw material for a book and Dad is well on his way to creating some very cool pieces unlike anything he has ever done before. The walking together, the conversations in the evenings, the time spent looking at art, watching Dad create art, listening to conversations among other pilgrims, reading about the act of pilgrimage, visiting museums – all that input, that raw material provided a massive amount of information, stimulation, and inspiration. The creative wheels aren’t just turning, they are spinning fast.

We knew that part of the challenge after a trip is coming back and being thrown into real life distractions, so we decided to spend a couple of weeks together after we finished walking to Santiago in order to focus on the project. The process has been as challenging as anything we faced on the journey.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Some of our conversations have been predictable – like comparing notes about various high (and low) points of the trip, but we’ve also talked about mortality, what inspires us, surprises like how much we all liked the Segrada Familia, Gaudi’s ode to nature and God in Barcelona, and what makes a great portrait. We’ve asked ourselves a lot of questions about the nature of pilgrimage and what a real pilgrim looks like. We sought out images of pilgrims in art and now, as we begin to write (and Dad continues to work with pen and ink and wax crayon and tempera paint sticks and watercolours) what is emerging is a story about our pilgrimage, but also a meditation on what it means to be a pilgrim – in words and images.

We collected dozens of pilgrim-related images on our trip… this one from the Pilgrim Museum in Santiago.

Dad is also exploring juxtapositions of self portraits with ancient depictions of pilgrims. He’s playing with stylistic twists and bold colour, taking fresh inspiration from time spent in the presence of Gaudi’s work, Picasso’s ever-evolving approaches to art and portraiture, and the many, many pilgrims we have seen in carvings, sculptures, murals, painted, drawn, and etched into stone.

We have been privy to Dad’s creative process in ways that have never been possible before now – living in close quarters for so long there is no way to avoid seeing how he comes up with ideas, starts sketching, restarts, scribbles, and polishes. At the same time, Dani and I have been clicking away on our keyboards.

The artist goes shopping – finding art supplies was easy in Barcelona.

I’ve been working on recreating our journey, integrating notes about art and history found along the way. I’m also trying to figure out the best way to share the conversations Dad and I have had over the past six weeks or so that we’ve been travelling together. Dani is digging deeper into the many moments that make up a pilgrim’s journey, writing a series of reflections and information essays that take the reader behind the scenes on subjects as varied as bedbugs and courier systems. The more we write and draw and talk and question, the more we discover to explore, describe, question and discuss.

Leaving Sarria…

“Is that where we are going?” Dad asks, pointing up.

“Unfortunately,” I answer.

“Oh my God. I haven’t trained for this.”

At one point we all worried that we wouldn’t have anything to say about our trip, that our three creative wells would simultaneously run dry. In fact, the opposite is happening. We all have found so much to explore I’m thinking our bigger task will not be thinking of what to include but what we will need to eventually trim out.

No fears about not having enough reference material!

Relax

nap-time
Relax

This week’s photo challenge asks us to post an image that evokes the word ‘relax.’ Even though this loveseat/mini sofa is really too small for three beings to truly get comfortable, they are all trying! Personally, I know of few things more relaxing than snuggling up with critters, their warmth, their unconditional affection, their soft snores… What’s not to love?

Image

What the Heck is THAT?

What the Heck is THAT?

No wonder I spent the morning rounds squinting… I actually couldn’t see a thing on the screen when I pointed the phone at this fierce, glaring orb that was clearly trying to get my attention! It was impossible to make eye contact because a) after a nano-second of looking at that blazing thing my retinas would have been scorched and b) I was distracted by the high winds roaring in my ears and some excessive nose dripping due to the extreme cold… I think I am glad to see the sun, though – despite the plunge in temps it has brought to my corner of the world.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

Sometimes the seasons just sit there side by side, one juxtaposed against the other.

Sometimes the seasons just sit there side by side, one juxtaposed against the other.

[Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition]

Image

Babar and Freckles

Babar and Freckles

Babar (purebred Cotswold ram) and Freckles (Border Cheviot cross ewe) hanging out together in the sheep shed… This was taken because I still haven’t had a chance to do a proper portrait sitting with Babar. However, the light was terrible and I was rushing so I didn’t really get anything that was worthy of being called a portrait.

Later in the afternoon I was visiting some other blogs and someone (I wish now I could remember who it was so I could give you a link because the images were remarkable!) mentioned Snapseed, a photo-editing app. I’ve been looking for a versatile app that doesn’t bombard me with stupid links, ads, and annoying pop-ups so I could do some basic editing of snapshots taken on the phone.

The Babar shots were handy and I had a few minutes, so I started playing around. Snapseed definitely has potential… It seems to be linked somehow to google+ (which seems determined to take over the world) but until I find something better, it looks like it could be useful… Do you have any other suggestions? What do you like to use on your phone for editing shots on the go?

Two Suns in the Hog Pen

Most days, the lower hog pen is a pretty ordinary place. But yesterday, the sun was at a very particular angle and the place was transformed.

DCF Hogs at DaybreakAt one point, a strange illusion made it seem as if there were two suns and the world was ablaze.

DCF Hog Pen Two Suns on FireBy the time I returned a short time later after feeding the chickens and sheep, everything had returned to boring normal. Nothing to see here, folks – move along.

Which brought to mind the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody to hear, does it make a sound?” How many extraordinary moments do we miss because we hurry on by, arrive a few minutes late, or take off before the best part of the show?

Which seemed like a bit of a sad question to end with… until I considered that every moment contains the potential to be extraordinary if we slow down enough to see what’s in front of our noses, even down in the most boring corner of the hog pen.

Day 30 – Weekly Photo Challenge – Let There Be Light

Hard to believe 30 days have come and gone and somehow there was a blog post every day! Thank you to Holly Spangler over at Prairie Farmer for getting things organized… It has been great checking in with some of the other farm bloggers and I hope they keep going so I can keep tabs on what’s going on with my favourites!

Today I’m doing double challenge duty by wrapping up the month with a contribution to the weekly photo challenge because this week’s theme (Let There Be Light) ties in perfectly with almost a week of sunshine! November is not known for being bright and clear around these parts, but we have had a remarkably good run recently even if the sun barely clears the top of the fence even in the middle of the day.

Weekly Photo Challenge - Let There Be Light

Weekly Photo Challenge – Let There Be Light

According to the forecast, we are in for a bit of rain, then clear skies ahead but with another dip in temperature that threatens to once again cause trouble in my watering systems! I tell you, I never used to watch the weather and the forecast the way I do now that my life is seriously affected by what’s going on outside.

Way back when I had a government job and spent my days cozied up in a temperature-controlled office, there were times when I would look up from the work at my desk and actually have to think hard for a minute about what month it was. Not any more. I am counting the days until the winter solstice when the days will again begin to lengthen. When we have these chilly spells, I plan certain chores around the time of day when I have the best chance at the water lines running free. I change my route slightly so in the steepest or slipperiest parts of my rounds I am less likely to wipe out on icy patches. I carry spare gloves in my jeans pockets so I can switch halfway through the rounds and warm my fingers up. I know when the sun comes up and, to the minute, when it sets as this determines when I need to be outside to round up the poultry and put all the birds to bed.

Everything is simpler (you can’t put birds to bed in the pitch dark – even if you can find them, the raccoons might have got there first) and, at the same time, more complicated (not everyone understands that you plan your social calendar based on when the sun sets and not the time on the clock). The variation in day length is pretty drastic here – in the middle of summer I’m lucky to get back into the house before 10:30pm, but at this time of year with the sun going down at about 4:20, that doesn’t leave a lot of daylight hours to get all the basic chores done.

So, yes – I’m all for chanting, “Let There Be Light!” because right about now in the grand cycle of the seasons, I just can’t seem to get enough of it!