Friday, March 23, 2007

Meadowvale Park

It was a glorious spring day today. The sun was bright and the air was just warm enough to be outdoors. Rima, my wife, made the kids a bag of bread and nuts each to feed the birds and squirrels, I took my paints and off we all went to the nearby Meadowvale park.

The ice was paper thin on the lake, barely enough for the seagulls to stand on. Mom took the kids for a walk and bird feeding (Thank you Rima) and I was left with my paints for a while to do what damage I could to a clean white sheet of watercolour paper.

Knowing that I would be using my new found technique of watercolour in a pen drawing over my watercolour painting, I did not fuss too much with this one in Plein air. I did what I needed to, and just in time for the kids to come back and want to join me in the "colouring" fun. NOT!

Back at home, the kids were watching Fairy Topia or something, and I put my finishing touches on this one using my Ackerman pen with Sepia watercolours in it. Many have asked about the Ackerman pen, I will post a full review of the pen soon. Suffice it for now to say, it is a pleasure to use!

If you are thinking you have seen this one before, you have. I did this scene earlier on a very cold day here. Back then the ice was thick and covered with snow and the whole scene was somewhat different.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Red Barn

Yes, this one is as busy as it looks. Actually I so enjoyed doing this painting that I am not sure if I won't be doing more and more busy paintings like this one. I know some of you may be wincing right about now, but I feel it is full of movement and activity, exactly like this soooo early spring thaw that is happening in Ontario today.

This is a combination of Watercolour and watercolour filled pen. I used my new and lovable Ackerman pen with Sepia watercolour in it. Yes I went crazy. Yes I enjoyed the heck out of it. Yes no one may like it. Sometimes you have to paint with no audience in mind; for the love of the process and for personal edification. Am I explaining too much? Do I sound defencive? Why are you looking at me like that? What what?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pink Panther's Update

Events sometime have a way of falling in place in a surrealistic way. After I posted my nostalgia entry about our band a few days ago, and within the day, I was reconnected with Pierre Kerbage our gifted keyboard player. It seems he was living in Austin Texas all this time. The kicker is that I lived in Austin for 7 years and we never connected there!!
Now for nearly 32 years, we have not seen or heard from each other whatsoever. Over the years, I had tried hard to find my closest friend in High school, our lead guitarist Ralph Shami (AKA Chami) but without luck. My latest attempt, a few years back was an email I sent to an R. Shami who bluntly told me he was not the guy and warned me not to spam him!
Today while Pierre and I were on the phone chatting for the first time in 30 some years, we Googled Ralph and for some reason Pierre tried Chami instead of Shami. We found an email address, sent a ping and.... YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We found him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dr. Chami, a former professor at Notre Dame and now with the IMF no less. After a quick email exchange, Ralph called Pierre promptly and we had a three way conversation. It was surreal.
The day was spent in a flurry of emails and tonight I still can't believe that all this happened.
So here is the update on the Pink Panthers:
- Pierre Kerbage (Keyboard wizard) is now president and CEO of his company Managed IT Services in Austin Texas
- Ralph Chami (Lead Guitar Magician) is a Division Chief with the IMF Institute in Washington DC
- Fawzan Barrage (me Singer/Rhythm Guitarist) is a Financial Sales Executive in Toronto
- Emile Bustani (Drummer) Is still in Beirut Lebanon and a professional musician as well.
- Jamal Hamadeh (Yes Ralph remembered his name) Our Base player is still A-wall. We have an APB on him and WILL find him sooner or later.

Ralph and Pierre are still seriously into music, I dabble but nothing like these two. We plan to reunite at least for a weekend and jam for old times sake. 30 some years later it is simply unbelievable that we could find each other like this in a few days.

The day was a double surprise for my wife Rima who went to High School with us was also friends Pierre and Ralph. She walked in from the snow storm today while I was talking to Ralph and Pierre. I handed her the phone without saying a word. You should have seen her face when she realised who she was talking to.

Yes it is a small world after all.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Another Altoids Watercolour Box

The good folks at the Altoids company keep throwing challenging new boxes my way and I keep taking the bate! The last was this fabulous looking sour chewing gum box. It measures 8.5cm x 3.7cm x 2cm and is about half the size of the regular Altoids box. It also sports a lovely curved top that should serve well in holding water and colour mixes. (You can see my old, well worn, regular Altoids box on the right for comparison)

The smaller size was a real challenge. At these dimensions the box would not hold more than four standard half pans. Four pans would not really make a useful palette for me, so I looked for quarter pans. I know they used to sell those but I just can't find them anymore (If you know where I can find some please let me know). I finally decided to try using the FIMO clay that you can bake to a hard solid shape.

I placed the clay in the metal box, smoothed it and used a round flat felt pen end to press 10 holes in the clay. I then smoothed those and placed the whole thing in a toaster oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. I took it out, let it cool down and placed colours in the holes.
I still need to enamel the inner cover to use as a mixing well, but I just had to share this one right away.

The box fits easily in a Jeans pocket and with a waterpen it should be enough for impromptu sketching. Not exactly what I would take with me for a plein-air trip, but for a lunch time break outdoors when spring come? It will work just right!

Friday, March 16, 2007


I haven't posted a painting in some time. So here is one that I just finished. Still on the small side (7"x5") but it is progress to get back to the larger format.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

And now for some nostalgia

I don't know what happened today, but I am feeling very nostalgic to high school days. I have been meaning to scan these images for a long time. I only have single copies of the photos and I have no way of duplicating them if they are ever damaged so scanning should preserve them somewhat.

Back in 1975, a band was born in the middle of the civil war in Beirut, Lebanon at the International College High School. The name of the band was The Pink Panthers. Third one from the left is me! The lead guitarist in front of me was Ralph Shami, the pianist was Pierre Kerbage (far left) and the drummer behind me was Emile Bustani . The name the base guitarist (far right) escapes me. If you know him, please remind me of his name.

I played rhythm guitar and sang. We played popular songs from the 70's but mostly kept to the cool stuff (CCR, Doors, etc...)

By 1978, we were so popular, that the school was getting worried about the independence that we had. They hired an old hack to run the "music club" and tried to dilute the band with gathered talent from the rest of the school. Soon after that, the band broke up. Ralph and I kept playing together moving from electric rock to the more accoustic repertoire which included CSN, James Taylor, Jim Croce, Dylan and a few other favourites of the time.

Back then I was as cool as you can get in Beirut Lebanon. I'd like to think I am still a cool old dude! BTW, this was plain smokes. Although hashish was plentiful at the time, I never really enjoyed it. I always ended up sick when I smoked it so I avoided it like the plague.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mina the cat

Mina, one of our 2 cats, has a chronic sinus problem. The poor thing has a stuffed nose 5 days a week. That keeps her rather lethargic and sleepy all the time.

A mix of the Alpha cat (she established herself as the boss over Blossom - the other cat - early on) and the needy child, She is a cuddly ball of fur and a jealous protector of her food bowl.