Tuesday, February 18, 2020

on Combining Obsessions...

"Waiting for Persephone", 10x10" mixed media on 1.5" wood cradle panel. 

I'm really into mythology.

It started in grade school when I had to do a project based around a greek myth. The stories were riveting, the characters oh so captivating. It led me down a rabbit hole. Now, in my 50s, I have books on most of the major mythologies that I've collected over the years. Christian, Greek, Roman, Indigenous, Celtic, Norse... similarities in the tales and the characters led me to do some reading on Archetypes and Jungian theory, which in itself is really interesting. Like I said, rabbit hole.

I have never really incorporated any of this knowledge into my work before. It's not that I hadn't thought about it... I've made tons of notes in sketchbooks over the years trying to figure out what kind of imagery I could create that could speak about these myths. Nothing ever jumped out at me as a good idea. In fact, nothing really even made it past the initial concept phase. I didn't want to be pegged as a religious painter, no matter what religion. Many of the stories are far too violent for my aesthetic. Then there was the issue with models and symbolism and cultural appropriation... I just didn't ever get far enough into it to get all the problems worked out and figure out how it would work. 

But... abstract? Hey, that could totally work.

Connecting shapes and colours to an ancient story could be a really interesting exercise. And the feeling is important, because my paintings centre around what feelings I can evoke as much as telling a linear "story".  I started off with one piece, my 'Persistence of Artemis", and that led to this one, and yet another still .... I'm pretty sure I can make this a series with lots of variety. Even if it ends up being short lived, I think I'm going to give it a go and see how far I can take it. If nothing else it will give me an excuse to dig out all my books and reread my favourite tales. 

This painting is based upon the story of Persephone, who is from the Greek mythos. Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter {everyone knows who Zeus is... Demeter is his wife, goddess of the harvest and agriculture). Homer describes Persephone as the formidable, venerable, majestic queen of the underworld, who "carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead". I will go into more detail about this particular story in my next newsletter... I think it will be fun sharing these myths with my readers and trying to explain how my painting portrays it. If you're interested and want to read these stories, you can sign up on my website. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

On Being a Reluctant Vegan

"Grey Area", 8x10 mixed media on wood panel. Available. 

I'm not vegan.

Not entirely anyway. But my son is, and as he still lives with me, I've had to learn a whole new way of cooking. People ask me why I cater to the dietary whims of a 22 year old... tbh, I wasn't necessarily enthralled with the idea at first. As a youngster he didn't like anything so our meals became somewhat repetitive, and I had gotten out of the habit of experimenting. But just the same, I do enjoy cooking, so I chose to take on this new challenge, instead of just letting the kid fend for himself... which he could do, but he's had stomach issues for a good chunk of his life and this diet seems to really help him feel better. If I can help with that, why wouldn't I?

As a day job, I've worked in packaging graphics for 20 or so years, most of that time spent doing food packaging for major corporate brands. One thing about that... with reading ingredients and filling out at Nutrition Facts tables, along with retouching the photos so they look "appetizing", I tend to avoid processed food. I'm on an anti-inflammation type of diet because of a health issue, which generally means avoiding sugar. And since sugar is ever present in processed food, it's easier to just avoid it than to try to figure out which brands I can eat (and stuff is reformulated all the time, so you can't exactly figure it out once and forget it).

Putting the two things together means I end up spending a lot of time in the kitchen. We're a healthy family, and eat lots of vegetables... always have... but making sure a male in his early 20s who doesn't eat animal anything gets enough protein means I had some research to do.

I'm managing pretty well. We're eating a lot of beans these days, and I've figured out ways to cook tofu so that it is actually edible (sorry tofu lovers, but I've never been a fan). I even made my own seitan, which is a high-protein meat substitute made with wheat gluten. My kid actually loves it (but it is a bit time consuming. Luckily it freezes well, so I'll make a big batch and have enough to last a few weeks).

Thing is, I also want to have a life and create some art. While cooking can be fun, there are days when I just want to be able to throw something healthy together in less than a half hour and be done with it. I've figured out a few of those as well. A family favourite is Nasi Goreg... or Indonesian fried rice, based on a recipe I found online (there's a youtube video here, should you be curious). The chef, Gaz Oakley (who has some amazing recipe videos should you be interested in learning to cook vegan), claims this is a "15-minute meal". Takes me that long just to get all the vegetables chopped and the rice on. I first made it his way and it really does taste better, but it took me closer to 45 minutes. So I've altered a few things to speed it up a bit, and this is what I make on nights my art group meets or I have a painting in progress I really want to get to. I put the rice on first or use leftover rice if I've got it (leftovers actually work better.. the rice is dryer so fries up at the end better), and everything is done quick like a bunny.

I'm going to include the recipe here, since I have altered it from the original. I've included a link above to Gaz's youtube video, so you can see how easy it is to make it the original way. Just because I can't be bothered to make my own Sambal doesn't mean it's difficult.

Vegan Nasi Goreg

2 cups Long Grain Rice
3 tbs Simbal (I use the rooster brand that I get in the asian section of the supermarket. Apparently, it's widely available, though it took me a while to find it. It's just chili paste. We like medium hot... you could use more if you like it really hot)
sesame oil
5 cloves garlic, because we really like garlic and I'm not making my own simbal
1 Onion, sliced
a couple carrots, sliced
1 cup Peas, defrosted
1 Red Pepper, sliced
some green beans, chopped
whatever other veggies i have in the fridge that are in danger of rotting. You can put anything in this dish and it really irks me to throw out food
Handful Toasted Cashews
3 tbs or so of Soy Sauce. I actually don't measure. I just pour it on till it looks right.
Vegan Protein... Tofu cubes or cubed seitan is usually what goes in for us

Put your rice on, heat up your pan or wok
I usually put a tsp of veg oil in, then add my simbal and let it cook for a minute or so
Throw in your veggies, starting with the ones that cook longest. So, onions and garlic first, carrots, peppers, whatever... peas last.
Sometimes I'll brown my tofu or setien in another pan, sometimes I'll throw it in at the beginning. Seems to be fine either way, but crispier if browned separately. Probably because I have two pans to monitor, and I'm just not that good at multitasking, so it sits longer. Or it could be my cast iron frying pan. I love that thing.
When the veg looks cooked I'll add my rice and soy sauce and add a drizzle of sesame oil. Then toss it all together and let it brown up a bit.

That's it, all done. And it's really delicious. Give it a try on your meatless Monday.