First night on the bank of the Kavango River~Namibia Journal

Getting there...early evening light~ floodplain above the Kavango river

Getting there…early evening light ~ floodplain from Namibia looking toward Angola ~ above the Kavango river

It was Mexi-night…whenever we arrived at Sarasungu camp…getting off course from our directions a bit…in the pitch black Namibian night, last July. After checking in at the office and being escorted by the attendant down a narrow dirt road through groves of trees, we had a campsite for the night. We were about 200 feet from the edge of the Kavango river. We were the only people in this area of the campsite and it was eerie with a subtle ground fog rising from the temperature difference between the river and the land.

As my eyes adjusted to the dark I realized that I could see small buildings with dimly lit squares of light peering out. Intermittent flashes from the ground sent trails of sparks up into the night – cooking fires – just across the river – Angola! Their lives…village-dwellers and those who lived in the small towns dotting the river bank…whoever they were – our lives – so different, but we both had parallel and similar tasks. They cook their food over a fire…we were about to make a fire to cook our dinner.

Donning our headlamps we moved quietly and deliberately – setting up camp in the dark…which, in spite of our good intentions to arrive earlier, became the norm on our trip.  It couldn’t be helped. We were compelled to squeeze every minute out of the shorter winter days…out in the landscape – on the road – and this night…add the Kavango sunset river boat ride!

K_nightime campsite_Nam_2015_web_ready-1

My sister, Kristin – night time camp set up!

 

We built our fire in the braai pit, which was a waist-high stand made of metal…set up our aluminum camping table and chopped vegetables, sliced cheese, opened cans and packages. We successfully prepared our Mexi-night dinner…a bit of a challenge in a place where ingredients for Mexican cuisine have not made the import leap. But really, that’s part of being somewhere else…explorations can happen even at the grocery stores.        The canned beans are different.        Salsa? – forget it.  Avacados – yes! And we found some tortillas in Windhoek , the capitol city, before we left. We each took our turn, setting our tortilla, layered with cheese on the grate over the fire. Piling on some onions, cabbage and beans, we sat around the fire eating and talking about this place and where we had been that day and…Cecil, my brother-in-law, finished our conversation, reminding us to watch out for black mamba snakes when we went to the bathroom!

Awakened several times during the night…each time I slid up into the state between sleep and wakefulness. Twice awakened with a start!    Singing! I flashed the nightlight on my watch…2am. Loud, unfamiliar voices talking…now 4am. What was going on? Where were these sounds coming from? I sat up in my sleeping bag and really listened, unzipped the tent door to look. Across the river…Angola! People were up all night…I even heard them singing in harmony. Sparks dancing up from large bonfires, to mingle with the stars. Again…another world.

Fresh press coffee ~ Cecil talking to the pap as he cooked it!

Fresh press coffee ~ Cecil talking to the pap as he cooked it!

 

Mystery at night, illuminated at daybreak. Where were we?  Morning came early after a less than sound sleep. The funniest thing, when we arrived in the dark…we never quite knew what we were going to find…what were our surroundings, until daylight. It was our own continuous little joke on ourselves! Sarasungu was a grassy camp on the Kavango river with nice trees and some common-use buildings interspersed around. There were simple concrete cabins and a small restaurant a quarter of a mile away. The ablution blocks (bathrooms) were rustic, with thatch rooftops and lots of cracks in which black mambas could hide, but we survived without incident. Cecil had camped there a year earlier and he and his film crew had found and killed a black mamba in one of the ablution blocks, so we weren’t overreacting!

I descended the ladder from the roof tent on the 4×4 just as the first long rays of sunrise were crossing the grass. I made a beeline for the fresh press coffee that Cecil and John had prepared. Cecil had lit one of our big propane burners and was stirring the pap into the boiling water…talking to it and encouraging it along. Soon it was ready for our additions of dried fruit and nuts and milk from our cooler. (Pap is ground white corn, used for savory and sweet dishes. A staple in the Namibian diet). No time to waste after breakfast – break camp and drive thirty minutes upriver.

We had an appointment at a very special place!

 

getting ready to break camp at Sarasungu

getting ready to break camp at Sarasungu

 

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Create, create, create…my Siren’s song

early stage painting~Namibia portfolio

early stage painting~12″x 16″ panel~Namibia portfolio

I asked for it. As an artist I have to initiate my projects…push my ideas up to the surface and then out into the air. Siren’s song ? (inspired by Greek mythology)…yes, but stimulating and positive many days too. This week, painting the extraordinary red sand dunes…and the air and color and light quality that I remember from last July. I am immersed in sketches, prepped panels and paintings at many stages. I needed a little recharge so I participated in a webinar with the painter, Mary Bentz Gilkerson, who is an artist and teacher from South Carolina, that I admire. It was a fast-paced, lively hour spent online! She kept pounding home the need for composition preparation before you start painting. I wrote down the key points…narrow down your design to 5-7 main shapes and make a value study or Notan and your painting will be stronger and flow more easily…(most of the time).

One of the ways that I started to use this idea is to compose, crop and play with the development of my reference photos in Adobe Lightroom, which is the photo filing and editing program that I use. This week I started printing out a low quality, black and white image to use for reference while I paint…along with my “onsite” sketches and memory. The black and white photos help me just look at the structure…the shapes and the patterns of light and dark. I’m not trying to copy the color in the photographs, but rather allowing a more 3-dimensional approach to the painting to happen. It has been liberating and refreshing!

I also attended a 2-hour demo and lecture by the Seattle artist, Mitch Albala and he is also a strong proponent of “light and dark design or composition,” with 3-7 dominant shapes and making clear studies with the patterns established using “Notan” too. He filled the workshop with so much valuable information…and was so generous, my notebook was filled with tips and references to other artists who use these structural techniques. One of the master artists, who employed amazing skills in his compositions and magical, luminous light was Winslow Homer. My huge book is out and open all the time in my studio. “Astonishing”…I say it out loud, to myself!

Stages…beginning, middle, and end. It’s really not that simple and tidy. Painting can be messy…and I don’t just mean the use of the materials. I read a quote a couple of years ago by another artist who said that “painting asks us to cultivate our capacity to be with confusion.”  Confusion endurance.

Many steps later-finished! ...probably! maybe!~Namibia portfolio

Many steps later-finished! …probably! maybe!~Namibia portfolio

I really do think it's finished now! Shot in late afternoon light as the sun was going down in Seattle.

I really do think it’s finished now! Shot in late afternoon light as the sun was going down in Seattle.

So I begin another painting…to get to the end of my goal…the end of my project…Namibian Portfolio…the finished painting(s)…to realize that I must start again.

Create, generate, share.

 

Interested in my work?….you can look at the other pages on my blog or contact me directly.  Thanks for looking and reading!

e-mail: cappwiley@gmail.com                          Tel: 206.329.4750                                     Follow me on Facebook

 

 

©All Rights Reserved Teri Capp Art

Many steps…and I wouldn’t have it any other way

T making footprints in another world. Sossusvlei~Namibia

Teri making footprints in another world. Sossusvlei~Namibia. Photo by Zara Wiley

One step forward, two steps back is exactly how it felt climbing in the sand of the big dunes in Namibia last summer. It was exhilarating and I wasn’t stressed because I had time and my senses were on overload. I was being a sponge…absorbing as much of that place as I could. It was a process…

Many steps. Every day we face them…get up, keep going, look forward. One foot in front of the other, whether we’re navigating in another world or walking the familiar floorboards of home or marking the path to our work.

I sigh, as I plunge my hands into the dishwater – again – to clean my big skillet. I used it to cook last night and I will again tonight. Take out the garbage, pay bills, clean the house, manage desk work and daily projects, cook again… Sometimes I look around and feel the weight of the mess that is daily life. Requirements – routines – chores – choices. But sometimes, there is just enough lightness to hang a question mark on these routines – things that I take for granted, or do a bit begrudgingly.  Do I not want the choice to do these things? Yes, these chores and tasks can feel so ordinary, so uninspiring, but they are what I do to make my life happen – and to help my family’s world go around. I am engaged in the process. Granted, some of these things are more enjoyable than others…like preparing and cooking good food can be a joyful, passionate thing – even for a moment. I remind myself that it’s all “travel” in some form or another…we all deal with the process in our lives, every day. I’m not opening any new cans here.

Washboard road~don't stop. Etosha~Namibia

Washboard road~don’t stop! Etosha~Namibia

 

 

Endless road-travel sketch~Namibia portfolio

Endless road-travel sketch~Namibia portfolio                             

I sigh as I face my easel and drawing table –again– in my studio…looking tasks and decisions and preparations in the eye, before I make marks on the paper or panel. I get impatient and want to just paint, but I need to work out the composition and put parts of sketches together…see if it works…create the foundation.  Question marks arise here too…is it strong? Are the value and shape relationships there? Is it as good as I can make it? Am I translating what I felt out there into my painting? Some days it feels like two steps forward and one step back. I read something a while ago and wrote it down in my writing notebook. I don’t know who said it, but I find myself turning the page back to read it again…

“Clear and definite purpose makes us do the things we need to do in order to reach the objects (goals) we want to reach.                                                                  Direction and motivation are a result of purpose.”

I take a drink from my water bottle and pick up my pencil or paintbrush and keep moving. Turn on some music…Lucinda Williams yesterday…today it was the Beatles 1967-1970 album…and feel just enough lightness to turn up the corners of my mouth.    Many steps.   Choices.  Travel as metaphor…cooking and cleaning as metaphor…helping my daughter become her own person as metaphor…painting as metaphor.  Every day.

And, especially for all of my supporters on the Namibian Portfolio project, this is for you. Bits and pieces, process…it’s all coming together! It won’t be the last time that you hear me say it, but, thank you!

palette, paint and brushes~Namibia portfolio work

palette, paint and brushes~Namibia portfolio work

paintings on panels in progress~Namibia portfolio

paintings on panels in progress~Namibia portfolio

Many steps~studies and paintings at different stages~Namibia portfolio

Many steps~studies and paintings at different stages~Namibia portfolio

a finished painting~Namibia portfolio

a finished painting~Namibia portfolio

 

Let me know if you are interested in my work or have questions or comments. Thanks for looking and reading!

Follow me on Facebook                         Tel: 206.329.4750                                E-mail: cappwiley@gmail.com

 

©All Rights Reserved Teri Capp Art