Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The beach studio

The people, opportunities, sights, sounds, conversations, stories and philosophies that I encounter each week, in Vietnam, never cease to fill me with joy, surprise me, cause me to think, stop, commence, dare, smile, give help, share, experiment and 'live in the moment' as I had hardly ever done before. 

Recently, I was offered the use of an old fisherman's cottage beside the beach in An Bang, a fishing village outside Hoi An.  The house is approached by a narrow lane lined with painted gateposts of periwinkle blue, eau-de-nile, yellow ochre, cerulean. Chickens run between the bushes in shaded gardens and neighbours sit under cool porches. Children shout 'hello' as I pass by. Two little girls in sunshine dresses are  gate.
The beach studio
the house itself may not be very old. it is difficult to tell by the style or the condition just how long the house has been there. Some of the details look like Art Deco mixed with a bit of 1960's kitsch but it may only be 20 years old. The humid climate quickly takes it toll on concrete buildings so even relatively new constructions gather the characteristic black mould that makes them look prematurely ancient.
The work space

The space inside is spartan. Deborah, who has lent me this space for a few weeks has upgraded the interior so there are fans, power sockets, a clean, even floor and brightly painted white walls that suck in the light from the garden.

Four sets of double doors open into the lovely garden with Coconut palms, avocado, hibiscus, bougainvillea, papaya and frangipani. 

This is a paradise conjured in a dream in a time long ago.

After weeks of discontent, I am much more settled and have been very productive for the past three weeks. Work on the Saigon book is progressing better and I have spontaneously produced some uncharacteristic paintings which, although not 'great' are filled with the spirit of this new found freedom.

This place is from another time. There is no WiFi, no hot water, no unnecessary decorations of any kind. The pictures are my work. There is a table, some wooden chairs, an old wicker chair and footstool and a bamboo day bed (that I use to keep my paper stock off the floor). 

A neighbour's kitchen. It looks like it's washing day.

All the village houses have these fat terracotta jars in the garden. Mainly they store rainwater or well water.

This one, in Deborah's garden' is decorative and is just here to keep the hibiscus company!

The view from behind the cottage shows the two louvred doors that open out from the studio onto the garden. Just our of shot on the left is the shower room with toilet. The owner's wife, Hue, does all her laundry in this room and often I arrive to find the garden draped with sheets and towels.

there are two frangipani trees coming into leaf and blossom very soon. The local tradition is to strip these plants of all their leaves before the lunar new year (February this year). I am not sure why.

Gladioli I think - or a close cousin.

Hue ( pronounced Hoo-way) makes lunch for me if I ask her. This is lunch Hue style. From top right - braised pork ribs, my eating bowl with a little white fish that was caught on the beach only 100 metres away that morning, A broth with carrot and cabbage and the little white fish, local rice (of course), some spicy chunks of a sturdy white fish like shark, a bowl of lettuce and herbs from my garden, a bowl of Vietnamese dip (fish sauce, chili,  lime juice, garlic. spring onion and salt. Lunch arrives on a large round tin tray covered with a plastic dome like an over-sized colander.


I use the studio for drawing lessons each week. Here is Fran experiencing her first ever drawing lesson which will be a huge success thanks to Dr. Betty Edwards and Picasso of course!

Here is Fran again - practicing her 'sighting'. This pic is taken through one of the pierced screens that allows air to move between the rooms in the cottage.

I decorated the door with a hanging of bamboo and watercolour sketches one day last week.  The bamboo sticks tapped the door all afternoon in the breeze that comes over the dunes from the ocean.

Isn't the door a gorgeous shade of blue! 

I will be leaving Hoi An in seven short weeks so I need to make the most of this wonderful gift while I have it. I will have an exhibition of my work in this space before I leave and move up to Sapa.