Azure, cobalt, cerulean. Ochre of the earth and of limestone, a fragment of white marble blinking ferociously into the sunlight. Long shadows, jagged cliffs. Olive green and pale rose. One more week of August, but Summer still reigns in glorious Cyprus colour palettes. There is still time to take off, be a culture vulture or a beach bum. And on every adventure, out of the corner of the eye, an oleander: white, garnet, peach or pink, the quintessential flower of Cyprus. Unwilting in heatwaves, and forgiving of negligence. Anthropomorphised as heroine in distress, and sung of in medieval ballads. Deceivingly fresh looking, and treacherously toxic. Rosebay or Rhododaphne in greek, Arodaphne in the local dialect. Nerium Oleander, the laurel-rose of the ancients.
A ship sails into shore, a rusty well pulley moans
A blue plume of smoke on the rosy horizon
The image of a crane’s broken wing
Armies of swallows await to welcome the brave
Bare arms raised with anchors tattooed in the armpits
And a distant church bell saturates the sky with indigo
Amorgos, by Nikos Gatsos, 1943*
I’m glad I’ve been keeping sketchbooks. I wish I had painted more of these, but I am never going to wish I’d painted fewer. Some were done in cheap children’s water colours, some in fancy W&N. They are mostly from summers in the Aegean, and some from Cyprus. Here’s hoping the marine theme will get me in holiday mood. Two more days of school, for us teachers! Unwinding is a long process…
The translation of the poem (fragment) by Gatsos is my own. It’s from the rather long poem Amorgos. I couldn’t find the lines I wanted to quote online, so I translated as it suited me. Some of the vignettes here are scenes from Amorgos, the island. The cubist villages, geometric pigeon coops and stark whitewash around cobblestones,
…the eyes of the seaweed are turned to the sea
Big black sea with so many pebbles around your neck, so many gems in your hair*
We are all born talented.
I am not even going to qualify the above statement: I don’t care how talented, or whether there’s some hierarchy; creativity is part of human nature, some might say our most defining trait. We are not born skilled, this is why education is needed.
I am having these thoughts as I watch my students take their last exams. With one eye on the blue Mediterranean — 27°C today and the beach just a stroll away!— and the other on their concentrating faces, if I could distill an essence, it would be this: Stay Original!
Art education helps in this, when it instills the things it’s supposed to:
- Refusal to accept the first solution as the best solution. This is the quintessence of a creative life. To approach the same problem from another angle, and another, and another. Not just the opposite of Learning by Rote – it’s very annihilation! Amen.
- Organisation of projects and of self, understanding that creating is a process, and planning it out– what a life skill! I know many adults who will never grasp this. Courage in self-presentation and therefore accountability: if you are going to show your work and/or speak about it, you need to be able to justify your process. The rewards of accepting good or bad criticism are invaluable to a person’s emotional intelligence and growth.
- Eschew the Copy-Paste Mentality. It’s almost embarassing to repeat this, because it really should be covered by the other two points, but we live in a world where access online is practically a human right, and we need to understand the responsibilities that follow. The internet is a tool; we are the craftsman. We cannot blame it, disclaim it, or abuse it. Everyone goes online for help, verification, inspiration. We are still responsible for how we present to the world!
Graduates! Though they may try to stifle you, mislead you by example, swamp you with questionable facts and methods: Stay true, stay original, stay creative!
What an intense month it’s been (obviously not in my blogging activity, as you may have noticed)! I know I should be blogging about summer, and the beach, but soon enough. I’ll get to it!
With a distance of a number of decades, here’s my tribute! One is something I made in kindergarten. The other, considerably more recent…
Blue Pimpernel Lysimachia monelli, known around these parts as forget-me-not, though that’s a myosotis…
Cypriot cheese-filled pastry, mainly consumed at Easter. I’ll leave the recipe to the experts…
Flaounes (Cyprus Easter Cheese Bread) [excellent food blogger Cypriotandproud!]
…as for the
…The English word “flan”, and the earlier forms “flaune” and “flawn”, come from the Old French flaon (modern French flan), in turn from the early Medieval Latin fladōn-em, derived from the Old High German flado, a sort of flat cake, probably from an Indo-European root for “flat” or “broad”.
Flan is an open, rimmed, pastry or sponge base, containing a sweet or savoury filling. Examples are the quiche lorraine, custard tart, and the South African melktert.
Fiadone 1. Dolce tipico trentino in forma di pasticcino triangolare, ripieno di un impasto di mandorle, burro, miele, chiodi di garofano, rum o altro liquore, cotto nel forno; per lo più al plur., fiadoni. 2. Nell’Abruzzo, dolce di Pasqua fatto di sfoglia dolce ripiena di formaggio, ricotta e uova sbattute.
i.e. two types of italian regional pastry, most notably the second kind, from Abruzzo, which is descibed as sweet dough filled with cheese, ricotta and beaten eggs!
La cultura italiana