Monday, September 29, 2008

Lisbon and Graffiti

For Eazy... you are everywhere

Another big thing I notice about Lisbon is the amount of graffiti. It is truly all over everything. Most of it is just vandalism... kids marking tags. Most walls look like this one.

Steciling is quite common, and represents some of the better quality art.

Every few blocks, though, there will be a larger, more involved piece, like these.

I am always on the look out for interesting pieces, and will keep you posted if I find any, For now, though, there is a wall that I really like, which must have been a commissioned piece, because it takes up a large section of the wall and has no tags over it. Here are a couple shots from it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lisbon on ceramics

One of my favorite things about Lisbon so far is the buildngs that are tiled with these beautiful traditional designs. It's not every building, but it's often enough that it is something to look forward to around every corner.

The art began as completely hand painted designs, but for houses and more commercial places they print them to decrease the price. Like these that I saw at a flea market.

All the tiles get put together in different ways to make different patterns. Like this.

Yesterday, however, I found a small shop that maintans the old hand-painted tradition. I milled about the shop, admired the handy work, and found a cheap printed tiled section. I bought myself a small tile to remember it by.

As I was paying, though, I happened to ask the woman where I might be able to watch tiles being made. "Come with me," she responded. We headed to the back of the store, where she herself began to paint a tile. I was amazed at how simple the process was!

  1. Select your design. and trace it lightly onto a piece of vellum.
  2. Poke holes along the lines of the vellum.
  3. Choose the appropriate-sized tile, and lay this set of guidelines over it.
  4. Run a cloth filled with graphite dust over the vellum sheet, leaving a series of dots that will serve as your guidelines for your work.
  5. Now paint it with pigment suspended in water, using a stick to brace your hand for accuracy. Like water color, the stronger you want the color to appear, the less water you use.
  6. Once you have finished, throw it into the kiln. Voila! The white coating on the tile contains the enamel particles that will merg and reform into the gloss on top of the tile. Simple as that!
I was amazed... and curious... so I asked the OBVIOUS question, or atleast obvious to me.
What question might that be? any thoughts?

letting you think

Well, I asked, " Can I try?" Amazingly, the reply was "Sure!" Apparently it's the occasional artist that goes in who gets the desire to try it themselves. SO, my mind starts runnin g about what to paint.... I decided to go for one of the pictures I had drawn in Lisbon. Here is the image I worked from.

On friday, I will go and pick it up! Woo hoo!
Mom and Jennie, I think you gals would love it, so find somewhere to try it!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Best Things About Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

I left the mountains a week ago for the capital of Madeira, Funchal. My host brought me to an amazing hostel, and I secured a room for the week. Despite an early onset of the rainy season (it has rained about 65% of the time), I have really enjoyed my stay. Aside from the convenience of electricity, phones and internet access, here are the things I liked best.

10. After 9 days in the mountains, I have to say it was amazing to be brought into the most spectacular room in the hostel when I arrived in Funchal. I had the only balcony in the place, and was paying a nomical shared room fee per night. I was in heaven!

This is honestly my view...

9. Columbus lived on this island for a time, so a replica of his boat, Santa Maria, is used to shuttle tourists around the shoreline. It's pretty neat to see a 15th century boat cruising around...

8. I traveled 4 hours each way by bus to the very western tip of the island. In a small village called Ponta do Pargo, they were celebrating the apple harvest with the Festa do Pero. It was rather quiet, and clearly an event for locals and their families, but I liked hearing traditional Madeiran music and seeing the streamers up close that I have seen all over the island.

7. I finally visited a winery and sampled some of the local Madeirans. I have to admit the flavor was not at all what I expected, but it was neat to try all the different flavors. To my surprise, I preferred the 10 year old dry type(second from the left on the top). It wasn't too sweet.

It was a functioning bottling facility, so I got to see how it was stored and packaged.

6. Remember that meal I told you about... well I ate it down by the water (on Avenida do Mar). This is all that was left. That was a quality moment.

5. I finally had the chance to visit the comtemporary art museum. Ironically, the modern art is situated in one of the old restored forts! This bright yellow relic sits right near the water and also houses a beach down in front!

This was my favorite piece that I saw. It's fantastic! Layering acrylic with newspaper!

4. ABC d'arte (the art store) will always have a special place in my heart. The manager let me in, even though it was supposed to be her lunch, she waited while I chose the right colors, and helped me when I returned for more. Whats more, she gave me a discount on my large pencil set that I bought earlier this week. Muita obrigada!

3. The port of Funchal is always busy. One of my favorite things to do is to sit or walk along Avenida do Mar, which is the main (although touristy) street. It is lined with vendors, outdoor cafes, and incredible views of the rest of the bay.

This is what the bay looks like from the hills, complete with the dramatic clouds I wrote about before.

2. I had the most wonderful day. I found this public pool area in Lido, the touristy mecca adjacent to Funchal. For 3€ you have all day access to a changing\showering area, large swimming pool and a lifeguarded ocean swimming area. I spent the day sunning, swimming, drawing, and sampling the local favorite fish Espada (eh-shpahd-ah) or black scabbard. Very light and delicious. It was a very restful and lovely day, and among my favorite memories thus far.

1. Absolutely, without a doubt, my number one experience in Madeira....
I think the picture really speaks for itself...

We spotted between 100-160 dolphins, playing, splashing and feeding, and including some young. At the end of our viewing, as we sped off to leave, this group was playing with the boat. They sped along with us for 5 minutes or so. I was in awe!

Oh, and I forgot to mention, of all the possibilities, I ran into my wonderful new friends Lawrence and Anna again! I recognized their voices as I was walking down a small street! They are lovely. They took me out for tea and passed along some unused bus tickets to me! Thanks so much!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A note on food...

Alright momma. You want info on food, you got it.

Here are the Do's and Dont's of Madeira food (on a budget).


Fast Food: Let it be said, that the ONLY restaurant that is ever busy on the waterfront is McDonalds (mind you there are a LOT of shops along the waterfront). Right next to it is Pizza Hut, and I have also seen Burger Kings. Yuck. I really think they have a worse diet here than we do.

Burgers: I have found that the most common food eaten here is burgers with chips. They even go so far as to call a burger with an egg a "snack" on the menu. It's unbeilievable. I had a burger once... pretty bland, but very greasy. It's gross.

Espresso: the most common drink BY FAR is espresso. At any time of day you can look around and see 20 people drinking one. It's quite remarkable. They could probably power the whole island on that amount of energy.

Traditional Bread: I tried a local food today. "Madeira bread with garlic." Sounds good, doesn't it? I'm afraid you will be disappointed. The bread was undercooked and mushy in the middle. The "garlic" was actually a huge swab of garlic butter, and you get the bread either with bacon or chorizo (sausage). In my case the bacon wasn't even cooked. Overall, it was mushy, bland, and dripping with grease. I really felt like I needed to shower to wash off all the drippings. I don't recommend it.

This next point straddles the Do's and Don'ts line for me...

Mercado dos Lavradores: I finally made it to the famous farmer's market. It occupies a large building, and houses two floors of produce, flowers, handicrafts and fresh fish. I found most of the produce not to be of good quality, and it was largely overpriced as it appealed mostly to tourists. However...


New Fruits:

I did become aquainted with some new fruits. In addition to the recognizable fruits, pictured here are 6 different types of passion fruit, in addition to two fruits I have neither seen nor heard of before.

The green fruit in the second row at the left is called Anona or Custard Apple, which to me tasted a lot like mango (although the salesman was surprsied). It's quite soft, with the mealiness of a pear. At the top right (that green thing that looks like corn or cucumber) is called Delicious Fruit. It takes mostly like banana and pineapple, with a hint of the pine quality of a mango.

Passionfruit: I bought 5 different types of passionfruit to taste test myself at home. This is what I found...
The small yellow one was the best--a bit sweeter than the others, while the red oblong one was baaaad. Can't even describe it. There was another kind I had tried at the market which had a very sour lemony flavor, but was delicious with sugar. So I would either stick with the normal ones, or go for yellow!

Take away shop: By far the best meal I have eaten on this trip. I went to a small take away shop for lunch and scored a fantastic lunch for about 6€: a really fresh whole fried fish, cooked potatoes with onion (eaten much like the dominicans eat yuca... yum!), and a huge hunk of sweet potato (that was just like how I like to eat it in Ghana--soft and sweeeeeet! excellent). All the food was just perfect. I enjoyed every morsel that I could eat, but I definitely left some on my plate. I washed it all down with the bargain electrolite drink called Aquarius, which I find a better alternative to the pricey and sugary sweet powerade. Fantastic meal!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Newest Love...

Ok... So I have been drawing my way around the world. I know you haven't gotten to see any of the images yet, but we'll see. Maybe if you're good I'll post some pictures soon. BUT, anyway, as I started drawing, I realized i needed color. 1,34 € later, I had myself a set of 12 pencils form the Modelo store. That worked for a while, but soon I found that the colors weren't vivid enough, and 12 colors just isn't near enough.

SO, after paroosing my options at the fabulous ABC d'arte store, I did it. I made a huge investment... but already it is well worth it.

Let me introduce you to my newest love.... or technically... 80 new loves.

Aquarelle colored pencils--water soluble. Ahhhhhh. *blink blink*

Monday, September 22, 2008


Ok... this has NOTHING to do with my adventures.
Blame Gareth; this is not my fault.
She got me hooked on this guy. I just found this clip, which had me splitting my sides in a public area, so forgive me, but here´s a little something for all of you adults. I hope you enjoy it even half as much as I did.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Montado dos Aviceiros, Madeira Island, Portugal


I am finally back in civilization! I feel a bit like a cave person who is just emerging into the modern world.

I am finally back on the map. These last 9 days I have been living TRULY in the rural and remote mountains of Madeira Island, Portugal. Little did I know that I was headed to a place that was only accessible either by ambitious 4WD or by foot. It took over an hour to drive there from the airport in Santa Cruz. The other day I decided to walk to the nearest civilization, which proved to be a arduous hike--over an hour of climbing before you reach anything that resembles humanity. No exaggeration. This place is remote. Here are pictures from my "walk to the store."

My little abode was on a farm called Montado dos Aviceiros (ah-vee-say-rosh), at 1300 m.

The only trails out here are mostly frequented only by the free range goats and cattle.

The place I called home was mostly to host people like myself, who seek to help reintroduce indigenous vegetation back into the valleys. The house was quite large, with many bunks, but NO electricity. Consequently, I lit my nights with gas lamps, and warmed them with a wood stove.

Thankfully, though, there was warm running water, so after a long day´s work, I reveled in being able to take a nice long rinse.

After a rocky adjustment, I have really come to appreciate the isolation up there, and to take refuge in it´s calm and quiet. It is truly uninhabited. As my host was away, I was alone most of the time. A farmhand came a few days a week, but spoke no English, so aside from the chickens, the occasional hikers were my only company. Here´s a great example. Lawrence and Anna were splendid company over lunch. Thanks for sharing your meal with me!

At first this isolation was intimidating, but after some time, I began to really like it! It allowed me space and time for reflection and thought, free from any distractions. Mind you there was NO tv, NO radio or music, NO email, NO telephones... just me, a great book, some sudoku puzzles, my sketchbook, and a lot of work to do.

I prepared all of my own food there, too, even making fresh applesauce from the trees on the grounds! Here´s my kitchen.


Something I have most come to love about Aviceiros is the magic of nature in its natural form. As I let myself relax, and fall into the swing of things, I found myself looking at things more carefully. I stop and watch longer than I would have before when I was going from one place to another. As I look, I look more carefully. I am realizing that this place is really quite magical. Here are the most magical things:

8. The changeable weather. Being a small island in the middle of the Atlantic, the weather can change at any time, and the clouds move at an alarming rate!

7. The marked contrast between the colors of the landscape--deep rich red of the soil, vibrant green of the broom grass, the purplish hue of the distant peaks, the bleached silver of dead trees caught in a forrest fire ten years ago, and the clear blue and white of the sky.

6. Distant sounds of cow bells ringing from the free range cattle roaming across the hills.

5. Galinhas (gah-lee-nyahs). Have you ever really watched chickens? I mean for an hour or two? They´re really quite remarkable, though simple in their sole purpose to find and consume food. They are really fun to watch. They strut around with these spastic little movements, never sitting still for more than a moment, to the point where I think each and every one has severe ADHD. They, dig, scratch (much like a dog does after using the bathroom), peck and strut, all the while making this delightful little clucking sound. I think I need to stop eating poultry again...

4. The hum of the bees. With a host of hives on the property, the place is constanly alive with the huming of thousands of bees. It´s constant, but reassuring. I have grown to appreciate their company, never bothering me, but always nearby to inspect brightly colored things in search of nectar.

3. Grasshopppers. Out here these spring-loaded tanks are in HUGE numbers. It´s unbelievable. I have never seen so many in all my life. Walking down the trails here, there is a constant spray of these leaping little indistructible insects. The first time I went for a walk, I truly felt like I was in the middle of some Disney movie, and all of them were suddenly going to break out in a catchy little musical number.

2. The birds. With several peaks and endless valleys, there is a constant array of birds floating in the sky. The buzzards circle, soaring in the wind and casting their wistful call out into the air, the finches, flock and swoop, while the Swifts dive and swoop in the most chaotic, but magnificent way. They float, catching pockets of wind, riding gusts up to the summit. They are majestic as they soar and swoop. I love to watch them.

1. The clouds. Becuase of my height in the mountains, every afternoon, clouds roll in from the sea. We can watch them gradually rise into the valley, moving towards us until we are completely immersed in it. It bring cool moist air I find utterly refreshing and casts an odd light on everything, making the once familiar surroundings feel surreal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Interesting Things of Note

This is apparently where our old pop classics come to die. I heard I Will Survive, All By Myself, and Mmmmm-bop on the radio, among others. Wow!

Foosball, foosball, foosball.... it's EVERYWHERE! They have this game in the most remarkable places! People bring them out to remote lakes for picnics and outdoor music events! I can't believe it!

Favorite foods here are french fries and burgers! I had to look around to find anything even remotely local!

They LOVE God here. There are shrines on nearly every corner, people put tiled emblems on the outside of their houses, and every town has atleast one church, usually three!

Lunch is loooong! The post office was closed from 12:30 to 14:00!

Apparently the risks of smoking haven't reached here, because everyone seems to smoke... all the time. Yuck.

They LOVE to picnic and barbeque here. Even on the windiest and narrowest highway, there will be a BBQ pit and picnic tables every 7 minutes or so.

Most Memorable Moments

1. Swimming in Ponta da Ferraira, where a hot sulfurous spring mixes with ocean water to create the perfect temperature to swim. All of the locals go here as we would go to the beach.

2. Seeing las Caldeiras (cahl-day-rash) das Furnas (Fur-nahsh), the hot springs where people were actually cooking a local specialty of meat and vegetables by lowering a pot into the spring.

3. Sitting and drawing at la Igreja de Mae de Deus. This is one of the local churches, which honestly looks just like all the others, but it has a lovely situation right on top of a hill with a view of all of Ponta Delgada.

4. Finally visiting the Vista do Rei—the best view over Sete Cidades (Set See-da-desh), where you can see the entire crater with the two lakes nestled inside.

5. The view of los Ilhaos dos Mosteiros ( eel-house dos moes-tay-rosh). From the road you can see cows grazing right in front of oddly shaped rocks jutting out of the ocean.

6. Driving up Pico do Bartolomeu to view the tallest peak on the island—that of Pico da Vara. It took nearly 2 hours on a tiny dirt road, but we finally made it to the top, only to have a cloudy view! We had driven right up into a cloud!

7. Sitting alone on a bus on my way to one of the coastal towns, listening to old music, when the classic All By Myself comes on... how ironic.