Dose of Awesome # 281

I’ve been on summer vacation for two weeks. Like previous years, I decided to stay in Kuujjuaq to enjoy the beautiful (relatively bug-free) weather, finish up some projects, and relax before I travel to California and hike the John Muir Trail. My days have been full of playing violin, reading, drawing, biking, hiking, and just enjoying the land both alone and with friends. I could not have asked for a more rejuvenating and fulfilling time.

1. Awesome was finishing not one, but two new drawings.

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Amaruq – Wolf

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Kayuqtuq – Red Fox

2. Awesome was the opportunity to enjoy 7…yes 7…hikes on the land?

3. Awesome were picnics, and road trips and little walks past the end of the Road to Nowhere, where we found one of the most beautiful spots around Kuujjuaq, had a healing ceremony, and saw muskoxen. Further awesome are muskoxen – a symbol of strength and endurance, and their timely appearance.

 

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Dose of Awesome # 280

Another school year is rapidly drawing to a close. My days have been full of marking, paperwork, report cards, slowly packing up my classroom, and various end-of-year events. One and a half weekends, eight teaching days, and two pedagogical days stand between now and summer vacation!

1. Awesome is completing a new drawing – Ookpik.

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2. Awesome was receiving a new custom-made parka. It’s for the fall, but we’ve been blessed with weather cold enough to allow me to wear it (even though it’s June).

3. Awesome was receiving letters and chocolate from our pen pals in Switzerland. I’m sad that I won’t be able to continue this project with the same students, but am hoping to do so with my new ones in the new school year. In the meantime, we wrote post cards (which I’d printed on card stock with photos I’d either take myself, for found on the internet).

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Dose of Awesome # 278

Snowshoeing season has rapidly melted away with this week’s rain and high temperatures. There is still a bit of snow on the land, but I’d imagine its texture is an unenjoyable mix of slush and ice. At the moment, I am taking advantage of the extra time to read, draw and play the violin as I await bicycle season.

1. Awesome was one last beautiful weekend of snowshoeing, two weeks ago. The weekend was full of sunshine, light wind and hours on my own enjoying the land.

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2. Awesome was finishing a new drawing – sled dogs, inspired by the recent Ivakkak dog sled race.

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3. Awesome was finalizing some of the biggest details of my upcoming summer adventure. This summer, I will be hiking the John Muir Trail, after spending a few days in San Francisco and Mammoth Lakes. With my flight booked and my trek organized, I can start looking into accommodations and plan some ideas for the rest of my time there. It’s starting to feel real!

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Dose of Awesome # 274

Awesome is finishing another work of art.

I much enjoy the process of creating any work of art. I appreciate the slow start of meticulously sketching the most important details, measuring each line to the very last millimetre. I love the smooth momentum of shading – darkening shadows in layers and erasing the highlights in a similar fashion as gradually, the portrait come alive one detail at a time. I love the struggle of working through a new challenge, as I’m forced to experiment with new techniques so as to best reproduce a detail or a texture I’ve never worked with before in a drawing. But as much as I enjoy all of that, there’s a special feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a piece of art.

There’s a story behind this portrait. It’s a self portrait, drawn from a photo taken in late February on a sunny, but freezing afternoon of snowshoeing with a friend. My scarf was frozen solid and covered in frost, as was some of the fur around the hood of my parka. My face was frozen to the point that I couldn’t tell if I was smiling at the camera or not. My hands froze instantly as I removed my pualuuk to take the photo – the photo that I couldn’t tell would take or not, because the sun was so bright it washed out the screen and, for all I knew, the cold had sucked the life right out of the camera’s battery.

I liked the photo immediately – not only because of how it turned out, but because of what it represents. It could have turned out a million different ways and it still would have told the same story – a story of healing in the midst of a lot of loss, a big life change, and a huge shift in focus. That’s why, after months of artists’ block, I was inspired to make this my next piece of art – a self portrait taken on a day I’d felt the most free and content than I’d felt in a long time.

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Dose of Awesome # 269

If we fast-forward 24 hours, I’d flown from Reykjavik to Montréal (7 hours, plus a 5 hour layover in Boston), slept 4 hours in a Dorval hotel, and endured the excruciatingly early 5 hour flight from Montréal to New Orleans, Louisiana. Just before leaving for Iceland, my boyfriend and I had decided to spend a week together in the south. After finding an unbeatable deal on Expedia, we decided to spend it in New Orleans.

But the first thing I had to do upon arrival was deal with a minor case of jetlag. Mixed with severe lack of sleep and the shock of going from Iceland’s dry, crisp nordic climate to the stifling humidity of America’s south, the 5 hour time difference seemed a thousand times greater, and I knew I wouldn’t make it very long. So, after a late lunch of po’ boys at a shop near our hotel, I enjoyed an epic nap. In the meantime, my boyfriend was busy on Google planning a surprise evening for the two of us out in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Five hours later, rested and freshly showered, I joined him in the lounge of our hotel where we commenced our evening out with a cocktail. The rest of our surprise evening out consisted of a walk down Bourbon Street with a stop and another cocktail at the Old Absinthe House, a walk along the Mississippi River, dinner at the Crescent City Brewhouse, dueling pianos and “hurricanes” at Pat O’Brien’s piano bar, and a live jazz performance at the Jazz Preservation Hall.

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Our second day in New Orleans took us for much-needed haircuts, followed by some shopping. Our first order of shopping business: shorts. We both expected New Orleans to be hot, but, living in Canada’s north, neither of us were even remotely prepared for this level of heat.

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We spent the rest of our day souvenir shopping and walking through Jackson Square before dinner at the highly recommended and extremely popular Red Fish Grill.

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Day three consisted of a 3 hour demonstration class on how to cook authentic jambalaya, gumbo soup, bread pudding and pralines at the New Orleans School of Cooking, and an afternoon at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

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On our fourth day, we went on a cruise along the Mississippi River on the Steamboat Natchez (complete with lunch and live jazz), and escaped the heat for the afternoon with a visit to the Voodoo Museum and the Museum of Southern Food and Beverages. In the evening, we met up with an old friend at Café du Monde for coffee and beignets.

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A slight change of plans on our last day had us enjoying an airboat ride on the bayou (we were supposed to kayak, but this was cancelled on account of the heat). Though initially disappointed, we were grateful not only for a last-minute spot on an airboat, but also for a bit of wind as we propelled through the bayou. We even got to hold a baby alligator.

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By the time we boarded the shuttle back to the airport for our flight home, we really felt like we’d made the most of our time in New Orleans.

Dose of Awesome # 258

I arrived at Hlemmur Square hostel close to 1:00 am, exhilarated but exhausted, and half-ready to fork over any amount necessary for a private room. After the trip I’d just had (see last post), I couldn’t fathom sharing a dorm with 5 strangers, no matter how much money it’d save me. However, stars aligned, and the universe spared me 40000 isk – I was blessed with a 6 bed dorm to myself for the night.

Despite losing an entire day in Reykjavik, I was still able to see and do almost everything I’d hoped to do. I had to sacrifice the National Museum of Iceland and two out of three parts of the Reykjavik Art Museum, but it was too beautiful to spend all my time indoors anyway.

I kicked off my first day in Reykjavik with a lift to the top of the Hallgrimskirkja church. Built between 1945 and 1986, it was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape. It is the largest church in the country, and provides one of the best 360 degree views of Reykjavik.

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Next, I went to the National Gallery of Iceland to take in some Icelandic art. Currently exhibiting selected works of narrative art by contemporary Icelandic artists, the National Gallery was small, but interesting.

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I had my first taste of traditional Icelandic meat soup, with lamb on flatbread at Café Loki. Then, I set off on a walk around the perimeter of the city which took me through the Harpa concert hall, past the Sólfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture, and all the way back to the other end of Laugavegur (one of two main shopping streets, and the street on which my hostel stood).

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My next stop was the Icelandic Phallological Museum – home of the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts (I figured, why not?)

Over a coffee at Kaffitár, I realized that I had just enough time to take in one of the three locations of the Reykjavik Art Museum (I went to Hafnarhúsið) for more Icelandic art. I had just enough time – I finished just as it closed.

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A light dinner of Noodle Station soup (I was trying to be frugal but it wasn’t, really), I returned to the hostel to discover I had a roommate – a man from Korea whose name I never learned. It turned out that we were both planning on walking the entire path along the water and back, so we went together. Like me, he was in Iceland for the hiking, and was wrapping up several months of worldwide travel. This was about the only time we crossed paths during my entire stay in Reykjavik, but it was a nice way to spend an evening and end a fantastic first day in Iceland.

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Dose of Awesome # 237

I tried posting earlier this week, but the website did not seem to be working.

1. Awesome was taking a hobby to the next level. I’ve been doing observational drawings for years now, off and on. I started drawing from photos in magazines when I was in high school. Then, after an undergraduate and BEd-long hiatus, I got back into it when I moved to Tasiujaq. But for the most part, I never drew from my own photos. Nor did I (with the exception of a portrait I drew for an ex boyfriend, and a portrait I drew for a friend) draw for other people.



After finishing my latest personal project – a portrait of a Quechua woman that I’d taken in Ollontaytambo during my 2011 travels in Peru (below) – I was inspired to start advertising. I placed an ad on a couple of Kuujjuaq’s Facebook groups, and promptly received a request from a woman to have two portraits done of her family. I am about two thirds finished the second.

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2. Awesome was an invitation to a mid-week dinner/taima party, which was last night, with great people and delicious food.

3. Awesome is it being Friday, with an awesome-filled weekend ahead.


4. Awesome is the fact that Christmas vacation is just one week away!