Eser Balci: My Muslim Neighbor, with his son Turk.
Eser used to play professional soccer in Turkey. But after a bad knee injury he was unable to continue. He didn’t get the surgeries required to heal properly, so he had to change careers. He and his family have recently returned to Turkey, but while they were here he was teaching Turkish language classes at BYU and studying mathematics there.
I first met Eser at a neighborhood barbecue we held in our back yard the week after they moved in. Later that summer we had a huge project in our front yard. The city had diverted the water that flowed through our yard in the springtime, offering to provide the necessary dirt to fill in the resulting empty ditch in our front yard. What we didn’t know was that meant they dumped a huge mountain of dirt at the top of the driveway and we had to fill the ditch ourselves, a shovelful at a time. As soon as Eser saw us out there working, he came out with a shovel and joined in. Every day, out there in the hot sun, Eser was digging alongside my husband and our son. If we were working, he was working. That was our first REAL introduction to Eser. He is a wonderful neighbor.
Eser liked being in Provo. He loved our quiet cul-de-sac, and thought this was a great place to raise a family. He and his wife Leanna, who is from the U. S. and met Eser while she was a grad student in Turkey, have three adorable little boys: Turk, Tek, and Ike.
Despite loving the atmosphere in Provo, Eser also said he missed Turkey. He especially missed his family there, and the food, and his friends—just like any of us might feel if we were living abroad. And just like any of us, they worry about everyday things like whether their lawn is mowed, juggling busy schedules with raising a family, and the boys messing up the house.
There are also many things we share in terms of our faith. Muslims believe in one God, and not even allowing the existence of any other deity. They have a strict set of guidelines they follow, including dietary restrictions. Eser pointed out that—different from what you might see on the news—Islam is a peaceful religion. Eser said many people misunderstand the term “jihad” or holy war. He said it doesn’t mean to go out and kill non-believers. It’s about defending and protecting your home and your faith when attacked, not unlike the Standard of Liberty. He said there is a line in the Quran about killing non-believers that is frequently taken out of context, but they are a peaceful people.
Much of that peacefulness is grounded in respect, which is a very important principle to Muslims. They don’t believe in putting themselves above any other person, but rather in treating others with complete respect. The prophet Muhammud taught that all people are equal, no matter the color of their skin or any other distinction. (Again, not unlike the utopian society in 4th Nephi, where there is “no contention, and no manner of -ites").
There is an idiom in Turkey, “Before you buy a house, buy a neighbor.” Well, Eser has bought us. We loved having him and his family here, and we hope we are as good to him as he is to us. We look forward to their return in a year or so.
This was my third trip to the Lake District, one of the loveliest places on earth. The first time I went, I was a college student, and I honestly felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. I could not suppress the joy.
The Lake District hearkens back to a time when everything was kinder, simpler, quieter, and nothing competed with the natural world it revered. Stacked stone walls divide pastures of sheep, and everything feels just right, the way each stone is carefully selected to fit perfectly with the stones above and beneath. A metaphor for our thoughts and our lives, which yearn to find order in chaos.
The climate is a rich, humid invitation for growth, and oh, how the flowers respond! I caught this view as I was leaving Dove Cottage, Wordsworth's beloved home in Grasmere. His words are far better than mine at describing life in the Lake District, and its conduit to the heavens:
"How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold
Because the lovely little flower is free
Down to its root, and in that freedom bold.
"a sound and healthy friendship is the growth of time and circumstance,
it will spring up and thrive like a wildflower when these favour"
"'Be thankful, thou; for, if unholy deeds
Ravage the world, tranquillity is here!'"
Oh, how the world needs that tranquility today! I'm so grateful this timeless place has been preserved for all to experience.
Question: Where do you go to find freedom, growth, and tranquility?
I had a rare opportunity to travel to Arizona for a watercolor workshop from a famous Chinese artist, and visit my sister Emily in Gilbert at the same time. I convinced her to take the workshop with me, so we could paint alongside each other like we did when we were younger.
This is a sister with so much natural talent for watercolor, and an innate freedom and freshness in her work. But she rarely takes the time to create. About 20 years ago, I had a client in Santa Cruz commission 24 watercolors to illustrate their fragrance line. I knew there was no way I could complete all 24 by their deadline, so I enlisted the help of my sister, and hired her to create several of the paintings. To this day, you cannot tell which are hers and which are mine. Our styles are that similar.
I was driving to her house, anticipating this gift of time with my sister, painting together. The radio, wifi and cell service had drifted out long ago, and I was alone with my thoughts when I reached this section of highway. I was so stunned by the beauty...the layers of mesas fading into the distance, the red rocks of the middle ground, and the vibrant foliage in the foreground, I pulled off to the side of the road to take a picture. I finally painted it last fall, using a favorite palette comprised mainly of Daniel Smith's Primatek mineral pigments, plus a few rich transparents for glazing. This is the result. I love the authenticity of both color and texture these mineral pigments bring to a landscape.
Last month "Arizona Highway" was juried into the Utah Watercolor Society Fall Show which opens tomorrow (October 6) at the Bountiful Davis Art Center. Come see the original (plus two larger pieces) this weekend.
Utah Watercolor Society Fall Show
October 6 -November 17, 2017
Bountiful Davis Art Center
90 N Main St. Bountiful, UT 84010
Opening reception: Oct. 6, 7:00 pm
Monet's Garden, original watercolor, 15 x 22,
It started with a train ride from Gare St. Lazare train station in Paris, a site many of the great impressionist artists have captured. We rode to Vernon, a small town in the French countryside, to rent bicycles and buy french bread, and other lunch essentials.
We rode through the town and over a lovely stone bridge to the other side off the Seine, where we stopped on a grassy knoll to picnic on the banks of the river. Rested and well-fed, we mounted our bicycles again and pedaled through the French countryside, past stone cottages, whitewashed fences, lovely gardens, and line after line of fresh laundry drying in the sun.
Finally we arrived in Giverny, and queued up to tour Monet's home and garden. The line was long and the day was warm, but there was an ice cream kiosk conveniently located right across the street. And soon we were inside.
It was a dream come true to see the lovely home where Monet and his wife Camille lived out their days, and to tour the garden that inspired so much of his later work. This is his famous and beloved lily pond, framed by an array of brilliant-colored flowers and shaded by mighty willow trees.
Then we rode back again through the countryside, past the laundry and the stone cottages, the bridge and the river, returned our bicycles and boarded a train back to Paris. Best day ever.
In this painting I tried to capture my joy at visiting this longed-for place, the serenity of the garden and pond, and a touch of the impressionism Monet himself used to describe his garden.
"Monet's Garden" original watercolor, 15 x 22.
On display at the UVU Faculty Show, Oct. 5 - Dec. 9, 2017.
Woodbury Museum (University Place, Second Floor).
Baby Kale, Shredded Carrots, Red Peppers, Red Cabbage, Cilantro and Almonds
I was hosting a dinner party, and the main dish was Korean Barbecue. I needed an asian-themed salad that would satisfy my foodie friends. I did a quick google search and landed here. (My new favorite cooking site.) I'm not the biggest fan of kale, nor would I ever choose red cabbage necessarily. But the description promised I'd be munching my kale happily, or rather "eating your vegetables (and most surprisingly kale) with pleasure and abandon." How could I resist?
I made the salad, and everyone raved! All the pleasure and abandon, as promised.
But what surprised me the most was the incredibly gorgeous combination of colors. It inspired my first painting in my Foodie Abstract series: "Asian Kale Salad (curly kale, carrots, red cabbage, red pepper, cilantro and almonds)".
This image embodies for me not just the beautiful colors, textures and flavors of the salad, but also the laughter, friendship and joy that resulted in the dinner party where this salad debuted. This is the first in my Foodie Abstracts Series, and the salad that truly pushed me beyond the idea phase and into my studio moving paint around with the same kind of pleasure and abandon released in the flavors. Thank you, Jenn!
Recipe By Jennifer Segal, Once Upon a Chef
Question: Do you have a favorite recipe that has beautiful colors involved?
Tell me in the comments below!
I love the quote from You've Got Mail where Tom Hanks is telling Meg Ryan what he loves about the fall in New York: "It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." There is something so inspiring about this season, signaling the start of a new school year! And for me as a teacher it is always exciting walking into a roomful of strangers who I know will soon become friends...and better artists! I love me some sharpened pencils!
But I'm feeling extra nostalgic this year, as it's the first year I'm not sending any kids back to school. Instead, Jeremiah will be serving mission for our church in Long Beach, California. Josh is entering a new chapter of his life on the East Coast, moving to Brooklyn, New York. And Jordan and Austin are moving into the in-laws' basement to save money after their wild summer in San Francisco.
Capturing the messy combination of back-to-school excitement and bittersweet nostalgia, here is the old Washington School House (now a boutique luxury hotel) in Park City, built in 1889, back in its old mining town days. I started this painting a couple of years ago and only just recently finished it for the show at the Coffee Pod: 426 W 1230 N, Provo. Check it out there while you can!
Question: Where is Back to School season finding you this year?
I'm sure it's no secret to many of you that I love to cook. It's an art I am passionate about, that is satisfying and creative and therapeutic, much like painting is for me.
Sometimes the combination of colors, textures, and flavors is completely intoxicating...before it even makes it to my plate. I simply love the process.
A few weeks ago, when I was putting together a favorite salad, I was so swept away by the brilliant colors I was overcome with a desire to paint them. --Not a realistic rendering of the ingredients themselves, but a wild abstract painting capturing the passion and the flair of the process. I loved the result! (Coming soon!)
I started asking myself what other recipes had the makings of a great abstract painting. There has been a flurry of activity in my studio as I immersed myself in the painting process the way I do the cooking process. The colors are pungent, the textures are evocative, and the process involves pouring, spattering and so much more. I am launching a whole series of these "foodie abstracts" based on other favorite recipes.
I'll be posting a new one every week or so, along with the recipes that inspired their creation. Stay tuned! This series is so different from my usual work, and not to be missed!
Question: What recipes do you love that might also inspire a great work of art?
"Center Street Porch Series: Flags." This piece, along with others in the series, was exhibited at the Woodbury Museum faculty show, and a black-and-white version was printed in the essay collection: "Tell Me Who I Am," along with the other porch paintings in the series. The original was sold at auction last fall to benefit a housing program of the United Way.
This is part of the Center Street Porch Series I painted of the historic homes in downtown Provo. It began as a plein-air painting project with one of my summer semester classes. I have always loved this freshly-remodeled house with all the flags. Today the "Freedom Festival" is going on throughout Provo, a longstanding tradition.
My greatest hope is that in all our flag-waving we not forget the motto on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." This country would not exist, nor would it be as amazing and creative and diverse, without its influx of immigrants. We are all immigrants here in a sense. The truly brave welcome those from diverse backgrounds and cultures with open arms. Perfect love casteth out fear.
Back in May we visited the Newseum in Washington, D.C. It was one of the more fascinating museums we've visited. One display showed a color-coded world map of the range of countries with a free press. I was amazed to see what a small percentage of the world has a truly free press. Thank heaven for a democracy where we live, and a press that remains free (regardless of white house bullying).
I remember after 9/11 feeling an urgent need to purchase a flag to display. I was surprised to see how many people had the same idea....there were long lines of people, from every ethnicity and socioeconomic background waiting to buy flags. It was so important to show unity, solidarity, and support for our nation under attack.
A divisive presidential election and its aftermath has left the country divided, hurting, and often angry. Hopefully it won't require another vicious terrorist attack to remind us that when all is said and done we are all Americans. That flag was designed as a symbol to lift and unify us all.
O say, can you see an opportunity to to figuratively join hands and embrace others with tolerance and compassion, including those who think and feel differently?
Question: Which of our many freedoms are you most grateful for?
Not all departures have to do with planes, trains and automobiles. My current departure is a summer foray into abstract painting. I am having so much fun playing with color and texture, with little regard for source material or reference photos.
This painting, believe it or not, is based on a photo I took ten years ago of our boardgame cupboard, filled to the brim with potential for family fun. But the horizontality of the game boxes stacked in the cupboard didn't match the excitement of the fun that lay in store. I decided to flip it vertical for more energy and upward motion, evoking joy. This is the result. I toyed with the idea of painting a hint of the names of the games on the sides of the boxes, like they are in the photo, but I think the image is actually more fun without them.
Take your best guess as to the boxes of games portrayed here. There is everything from old-school Chinese Checkers to Taboo. But the real fun is experiencing the joy of giant brushstrokes and exuberant color. Game night, anyone?
Small group instruction, with classes from three to seven members. Custom-created kit of professional-quality materials. Stress-free, non-competitive environment. Celebrating the smallest successes. No pressure ever.
This month we went beyond the basics of negative painting, and explored techniques involving basic kitchen supplies, including cardboard, kosher salt, and food wrap. Pull together a group of friends or neighbors, or join my waiting list, and I'll do the rest!
I also offer private instruction for serious beginners or more advanced art students.
Simply use the contact form or email me: janaparkin[at]gmail[dot]com
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.