Monday, June 23, 2008

facing it

I've decided it's time to join the hundreds of thousands of HK residents on Facebook. It's a terribly addictive hybrid of sound-bite blog/Twitter-like updates/ridiculous pokes and virtual hugs and karma, typically sent by people who would never dream of doing anything of the sort in person.

Feel free to look me up - I'm the only blue-faced Elizabeth Briel on the list. (Of course I don't look this cute in real life...that's what art's about!)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Unimpressive first impressions

[N.B.: all photos taken last summer at Bethanie, Hong Kong]

Have you ever wanted to make a good impression and managed to do exactly the opposite? Ever taken too long straightening your tie, then missed the train?

One morning last week I was agonizing over what to wear to a lunchtime meeting with my publisher and a gallery director. Girlie critical voices yammered away as I scanned my closet: "No, that one shows too much skin!" "Too conservative - you're being interviewed as an artist, not a 'suit'." "Too artistic - you'll look like a flake who can't follow through with the show!"

This was my first time to formally meet the director, and I wanted the focus to be on my work rather than on my funky clothes. Finally I decided on a short silk dress over my favorite pair of trousers, and wore sandals for the rain.

After catching the ferry, there was still time to stop by my favorite art store in Wanchai for some more printmaking paper.

Eight blocks from the meeting, my taxi & I got stuck behind an ambulance - in horrific HK jammed-up traffic. After too many minutes of tooth-grindingly slow progress and now officially late, I got out to walk the rest of the way. Suddenly I felt a cool breeze - down the top of my dress.

A single fragile stitch had given way and now all & sundry could see much more than just the top of my lace undershirt - in the unlikely case they bothered to look in that direction (HK is the most anonymous city I've ever lived in). A moment or two of panic ensued, then I bent down to retrieve every lazy seamstress's solution: one of the safety pins that "hemmed" my trousers.

Of course this meant that one of my trouser-legs flapped lower than the other, soaked in seconds by the rainy pavement. However, given a choice between rescuing my upper or lower half, I figured that when one meets others over lunch, more glances are directed at one's top above the table than at one's trousers underneath it.

I glanced at the cryptic directions that my publisher Albert had SMS'd earlier in the week: "...on Hollywood Road near Aberdeen Street," I mumbled, but there was no sign of the place on Hollywood Road. Finally I gave up and stepped under an awning, sweating in the streaming rain, to call Albert.

"Nope, you're too far down Hollywood Road. Go back up the hill to Aberdeen St, take a left, go down some stairs...."

By now it was getting embarrassingly late, and knowing this made me sweat even more into the 97% humidity. After hiking up & down Aberdeen St and asking a shopkeeper or two, I called again, soaked in rain and frustration. This time, I made it!

So things worked out, after all. Their persistent politeness soothed the steaming wreck I'd become in the past half-hour; we had a chance to view my work & talk about the Hong Kong book - and we're ready to roll towards a book launch & show later this year. More information to come as the time gets closer...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fruits of Summer

I picked these tomatoes today and washed them in the rain. The tomato plants on our balcony have thrived in the hot morning sun, and have finally turned sun and soil into some seriously red fruit.

These are days of reading up and reaching out for some extended travel coming up soon. I'm looking forward to finishing up teaching for the summer at the end of June, and completing the HK book sometime in mid-July. Then I'll be free until early September! The tomatoes and the husband should both be fine -

Monday, June 02, 2008

What a difference a brush makes

star ferry cropped, originally uploaded by e.briel.

For most artists, a favorite brush is much more than a tool of their trade: it's an essential ally when painting any picture.

After struggling to tint a complex photo this week (of a watery scene of stilt-houses in Tai O, HK) with a tired old brush, I finally got around to buying a new one. It was time to retire this rusty tool that had painted each of the Calendar Girls, and many other pieces too.

Just ten minutes after I started the painting session with my new brush, the artwork was finished. This new friend was fantastic: it bounced back from pressure and kept its fine tip no matter how much I loaded it with paint. It did whatever I asked, with no dragging of shaggy bristles, no complaints from a flaky handle. What a change from the splayed brush I've been using for a year now!

Guess it's true that in art as in life, it's all a lot more fun with the right partner....