Monday, December 14, 2015

Visiting Artists in Residence in Doha, Qatar

Steve Chamberlain, an artist, whose favorite medium is oil painting, was painting en plein air out in the desert last weekend. One Qatari man, a camel racer, who owns land in the surrounding area, came to admire his painting, and then gave him some cold, freshly squeezed orange juice. This Qatari man was moved by Steve's perspective of his desert world. Through the visual fine arts, it is wonderful to see the universal understanding of beauty and God's creations--wherever we live in the world.
Coming from two different cultures, with the love of making the world's beauty alive, a friendship is born. The Qatari man documented the moment with a photo. Steve said he put his hand on his knee, and took pictures of his canvas with the sunrise peeking over the horizon. To find a connection of friendship in a parched desert, an affinity for the same love of a landscape, was a treasured moment for both of them. How wonderful it is when someone sees beauty in our home, and better yet, is willing to capture it for us.
The last two weeks we have had the great pleasure to have some dear friends come to visit us here in Qatar. Both are artists. Steve is a painter, potter, and sculptor who has won several en plein air contests in the United States. Look up his website at: Tresa is a potter. They have a painting/pottery studio in their home where they support one another's love of art. To watch them together, bouncing artistic ideas and opinions off of one another, is infectious to anyone listening. Their visit has made me see the world in other perspectives. Hues and tones of colors emerge with more distinct brightness and contrast. The desert, my current world, is more beautiful; the differentiation of browns and tans is endless with Steve's paintbrush. The beams of light on the sand are more brilliant.

Tresa, a potter, in Souq Waqif, is mesmerized by the clay that is in the Craft Artisan stalls. This is an Egyptian potter's workshop, with his clay that is piled in the open air tiled corner. The potter then places it in the pug mill, where
Steve, who is also a potter, marveled at the engineering of the pug mill because it was made out of automobile parts. The rear deferential from a car is the gear to turn the pug mill. Steve and Tresa thought that was very clever, and a more inexpensive way to stir the hard clay. Tresa is so excited about seeing the clay that she can't keep her hands out of it.

One of the most interesting things about these last few weeks is listening to the conversations between these two artists. The scope of their worlds is trying to capture color, light, beauty, and then to transport their exhilaration and love of nature to those around them. Their shared love of art is not only limited to an exhibit of artwork, but to share their infectious joy of art with others. The mutual support of a marriage, with decades and seasons of learning to encourage one another's gifts, is a tender devotion. It has been fascinating to be an almost invisible person in the room as they converse:

Tresa: Could you paint me a painting of the bluffs we saw by the beach on our ride yesterday? I just loved the way the light bounced off the bluffs. You see that one. I think you could capture it.
Steve: Yep, I think I could.
Tresa: Yes, the reflection of those two colors balancing together deepens the tone. But the sand cannot be too pasty.
Steve: Do you think the water needs to be darker?
Tresa: No, it is too blue, but needs to be sea green--more emerald. But what do you think? Maybe blue gray?  But it needs to be more grayed out, more muted, because it has a tendency to have more purple. It needs to be harmonious with the sky--to have a gentle transition between the sky and water.
Steve: Yes, that is calming.
Tresa: See that yellow. It is bouncing back at you. You don't see it, but you feel it. There you go. Now that is calming. I really like the way you did that--those layers of different colors.

This is the painting that Tresa wanted Steve to paint--a photo she had taken before on a drive through the desert. It is the Barooq Coast Guard station in Zekreet, Qatar. I think he definitely caught the light in those sandy bluffs. Tresa is drawn to neutral colors--the taupes, beiges, tans, browns of the desert. The beauty of textures in balanced, neutral tones brings a serenity to her soul. Conversely, Steve likes to express the richness of contrasts--especially in darkness and light. I think Tresa's wish for him to seize the light in the bluffs was accomplished, don't you?

On a ride out in the desert, my husband took a picture of this tent--billowing in the wind next to the Persian Gulf. Steve decided to capture the Bedouin life of the desert, with the tent flap blowing, but the stakes of the tent resolutely holding it up. For hundreds, thousands of years people have journeyed in these Middle East deserts, and the simplicity of a tent blowing in the ocean wind is beautifully conveyed in the painting under the photograph:
Zekreet Beach, Qatar

The onlooker can feel the brisk, powerful wind, as it was blowing on that day--rippling across the desert. The Persian Gulf, usually tranquil, shows some gustiness in the waves from the wind.

I took them out to see the camel racing in Qatar--a fascinating part of Middle East culture. If you go out to see the camels about 45 minutes out of Doha, Qatar, you will see hundreds, seemingly thousands of camels, with most of them having a 'camel whisperer" steering them. The riders are from far-flung African countries, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Steve said he had never painted camels before until he came to the Middle East, but he said, "I like making camels." Here is a post on camels I wrote last year:
As soon as we returned home, Steve had his easel out to capture the motion of the long, spindly legs of the camels and their gentle, almost coquettish eyes. The rider or 'camel whisperer' is shown riding with confidence and ease.

A painting he painted for a friend last week. Later he added some camels, at her request.

A lone tree in the middle of the desert.
One of the most wondrous sights is watching people create--whether it be a child or someone who has honed their craft for decades. The curiosity and intrigue that is expressed in someone who is enraptured in their creation is a manifestation of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf's quote on creativity, "The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul." The sheer desire to deliver an idea, a moment of beauty--whether it is in music, art, literature, cooking, or any endeavor is an awe inspiring vision to behold. To see the sparks in someone who is creating is a glimpse into seeing a soul grow and become more alive. It is to behold pure joy.  

At a party out at the "Singing Sand Dunes," Steve was struck by the sand dunes in front of him--a whole new world --on the other side of the world to paint.

Perhaps not every artist would want to paint the ripples of the sands and diminished horizons. It has been interesting to watch someone blossom in their intrigue of a completely new landscape--ready to be captured.
This is a painting of the Teton Valley that hangs in my home. I asked him to paint it when I had a major turning point in my son's autism journey. It is called "My Autism Mountain." Here is a post about "the autism mountain:"

This is a picture Steve painted contrasting the darkness and light--his favorite part of painting. He happened to find it on the way home from plein air painting with his daughter. He had painted for four days straight--from sunrise to sunset--and knew he had one more painting in him. He found it on Highway 70 in Utah on the bluffs going to Green River, Utah. He named it "Tender Mercies." Monet said as he tried to capture light, "I came a half an hour too late for the light. I will have to come back tomorrow."

We have been swirling in creativity these last two weeks. The skies and desert are more breathtaking. The moon has more of a glimmering luster. Creating enables us to be more alive, more filled, and feel the beauty of this world--wherever we live in it. We have been so excited about creativity that we had a "Creativity Gathering" for people to share and learn. Here are a few sparks that were even more ignited: 
My son and I painted this autumn picture together. He told me as we mixed the paint that it was like "spicy Indian food." Every time I look at the painting and any other that we have created together, I am filled with happiness.

J. and his mom (his dad is also an artist) showing off his work.

E. and J. showing their creations. J. (the one with the big smile) even recently sewed a vest for a costume. I told his mom he is a budding costume designer. His brother, sitting next to him, just rang my doorbell and asked, "Are the potter and the painter still here? I want to show them my first best-ever painting." As he smiled and shared his painting, I wanted to call out, "E,, don't ever lose your sense of wanting to create beautiful things." To see his picture, as he showed Steve, the painter, was priceless. No matter our age, our souls are all better when we create.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Exploring the Souq (outdoor Qatar market)

When I came to Doha, Qatar for the first time, the first place I wanted to visit was Souq Waqif, translated to 'The Standing Market." It is one of the main tourist attractions in the city that bring both tourists and locals together to eat, socialize, barter, and browse. A friend who recently visited described the Souq, "To just sit and watch the people and smell the aromas is amazing--the animals and birds in the pet section, the men sitting in their wheelbarrows (or trolleys) waiting to bring someone's shopping bags to their cars, the colorful fabrics, the children chasing pigeons while their mothers laugh....  Can we go back tonight?" 

Although the buildings are new, renovated around 2006, it is a picturesque cluster of adobe-like buildings with Middle Eastern charm. Stony streets with booths on each side, and narrow, twisting alleyways boast crafts, kitchenwares, spices, fabrics, and antiques. One hundred years ago the area was a Beduin trading post where animals gathered and were traded. But now the area, in close proximity to the Corniche (harbor with dhow boats), is a draw for people all over the world. Dozens of languages and accents can be heard as you stroll around the market. Festivals are held for various holidays, with parades, light shows, donkey and camel rides, carnival rides. Adjacent to the Souq, is even a Falcon Hospital where you enter into a world of Middle East falcons.

For those who want to view Middle East art, there are several art galleries that teach some classes, such as painting and sculpture. And if you want to explore the restaurant scene, there are dozens to choose from, such as Malaysian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Turkish, Italian, Moroccan, and Syrian. You can even find French and Belgian pastries too. Spices from all around the Middle East abound in big bins, stashed with spices, nuts, teas, and herbs piled up. Fragrant aromas swirl around you, from dried rose buds to curries. Live musicians play in different corners of the market, along with five daily prayers from a nearby minaret that stream in through the speakers. 

 Souq Waqif is always an exploration--an enchanting setting to find a new piquant spice for a recipe, seeing little bunnies dressed up in clothes in the pet section, hearing Syrian music for the first time, conversing with someone from another country you have never visited (like Yemen). Tonight at the Souq I played a Bedouin instrument, a rahaba, and we ate at a delectable Persian restaurant. Here is a tour of the Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar in photos--a place that is far more than a market or tourist attraction. It is a gathering place that brings the world together with laughter, understanding, and friendship. As my friend said last night after eating at a Persian restaurant with a most attentive, kind Iranian waiter, "People need to know what a wonderful place this world is. People need to know."

At a stall in the handicraft section, where you can buy Bedouin ware. A young Syrian man who quickly became our friend is playing the rahaba, an ancient Bedouin musical instrument. It is made out of goat skin, and has one string. We were roaring with laughter as we played Jingle Bells.

My son in the pet section of the Souq, with a new friend on his back.

Two of my sons in the pet section. Dogs, cats, lizards, rabbits, and birds are fun to watch in the pet section.

We met this 14 year old Qatari boy at the Falcon store where he was buying a new ring for his falcon. I said to him, How long have you had him? He answered, "Two years, but I have had falcons for five years." As he looked at him and stroked his feathers, I asked him, "Is he your friend?" He then looked at me and said, "He is my brother."

A woman making crepes in the market. The Arabic variety are more thin and crispy than the French crepe.

Two Egyptian brothers selling their gorgeous lamps that their father makes in Egypt.

My favorite stall in the entire souq is where they sell Egyptian lamps.They are metal, in gold or silver (not real), and cut in a variety of designs.

Meeting my friend, Ashkok, from India, unexpectedly at the Souq one night.

A group of friends and I came to an event hosted by Embrace Doha, a business founded by a young woman to give cultural awareness to the expat community: 
A Syrian restaurant called Damasca One, with the best lentil soup I have tasted in the Middle East (besides from my Jordanian neighbor).
A picture of a Bedouin tent in the art gallery

The oryx, the national animal of Qatar 
A prominent picture in the art gallery of a wadi in the Middle East

There is a special Gold Market where you can buy all kinds of gold and silver.

In the Gold section at the Souq, you can buy some exquisite bling that looks like it could belong to Queen Nefertiti of Egypt.

Some customers trying to buy some pillows in the cushion stall.

This man who owns The Pearl Shop in The Souq, was a former famous boxer and pearl diver. Above him is his picture about 50 years ago as a famous Qatari boxer.

This Philippine woman is always sitting in the same chair weaving baskets.
In front of The Souq at night, showing the Ferrer. 

Older gentlemen from India, Pakistan,Bangledash, and Sri Lanka push wheelbarrows for people who have a lot of bags to tote to their cars.

In front of "the cushion" stall  

An alleyway of souvenirs--leather, dishes, fabrics, cushions.

A watch repairman from Pakistan works in his small booth near an antique shop. You see the vases can be as tall as an adult.

Shopping in the Souq
Strolling through the market.

Discussing the day's events with friends....

In the Gold Souq with a model of a pearl boat that was used for pearl divers in Qatar for hundreds of years.

Strolling in the market at night

Navigating the back alleyways of The Souq

Some policeman with the red scarves on, and some other friends my dad had just met at The Souq. Friends and family love to gather there to chat.

Policeman who are on horses guarding The Souq

My father while he was on his visit last winter enjoyed speaking to new friends in the Souq. Sometimes my mom and I would wander around the stalls, and he would find new friends to talk to for an hour.

A field trip of an elementary school play on the many benches situated around The Souq. In the Middle East, there are always benches and comfortable couches with an abundance of pillows to sit on.

Elias, outfitted in his thobe, in front of an old pearl diving boat. Nearby there are the antique stores. My favorite antique are the old doors.
A friend who just had henna painted on her hand in The Souq.
Standing in front of a beautifully carved door. Some people buy old doors, and build a table with it--simply gorgeous. 

A wide array of scarves to choose from....
Spices in every color, texture, and shape.

Standing above on a balcony in The Souq, watching an older man linger in his thoughts. In every corner and crevice, there are moments to remember and learn from. The people who come from all over the world bring The Souq to life.
On a cold December night in the Souq (about in the 50's F) listening to a Syrian band.
Tresa, my friend, in a candy store, finding a giant lollipop. She said, "It's bigger than my head!"