Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quick Updates

I am now 23 and my birthday was nothing special, just how I like it.

Teaching is nowhere near as stressful as my first term was.

I've discovered and fallen in love with Albert Bierstadt's artwork, as well as all the other Hudson River School artists. I aspire to paint like them one day.

I've acquired Richard Robinson's painting courses and they are absolutely amazing. It has really opened my eyes to color theory in a way that no other online source/book has been able to. It is invaluable, in my opinion.

The more I immerse myself in a world of art, the more I distance myself from people... and I don't really have a problem with it. However, I am becoming more sensitive to the annoyances of every day encounters with the general public, particularly in public transportation.

I want to get away from the city and explore Spain.. there is so much natural beauty out there clouded by the worn-out, unoriginal buildings, smog, and indifferent people. Luckily, this is encouraging me to get back to studying for my driver's license. I need to go on adventures.

The economic crisis is forcing beauty salons to lower their prices to stay afloat. Back in February I came across an 80% off coupon for 5 laser hair removal treatments, so I couldn't possible pass up on that. I ended up getting a 1,000€-worth package for full legs for about 160€. The first session was quite painful in certain areas but tolerable. A month later and the results are amazing. Next session should be towards the end of March. Can't wait til I finish all 5 sessions and can finally be rid of this complex.

Matt is now hooked on the Sherlock series as much as I am.

Had a bit of a pregnancy 'scare' this past week..  Turns out I'm not. It is a bit scary at first but I would be lying is I said I didn't get a bit hopeful. Matt was relieved, and while that initially made me sad.. I guess it's for the best if we wait.

Time flies when you're a teacher.

Two more days and I have a 5 day vacation for Fallas. Looking forward to the churros and Ninots, dreading the Casal parties that will keep me up til 3 am.

Summer vacation can't come any sooner.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Years in Rome

December was pretty hectic at work. Lot's of running back and forth, reviewing with students to prepare them for their first term exams, grading exams, etc.

The holidays flew by as fast as they arrived. We traveled to Rome with my family and it was lovely. After spending new years there, we flew back to Valencia and spend the rest of the holidays there with my family.. mostly recovering from all the walking we did in Rome. Our only regret is not to have visited any museums there.. Ah well, it only gives us another reason to go back someday.

My new years resolutions are pretty realistic... obtain my driver's license and continue drawing. The latter actually seems more probable. I've started to study the Spanish driving bible and put it down as quickly as I picked it up. 

In regards to drawing, I haven't lost my inspirational momentum... yet. I'm taking this all so slow, as someone that is learning to cope with what was a crippling fear of failure. I've started to embrace failure and mistakes, understanding that it is what it takes to grow... but it definitely takes time to push myself to pick up that sketchpad and go for it. Part of me is terribly sad that I've wasted too much of my time not creating, studying and appreciating art. Hopefully that will all change this year.

So far I've purchased two books on perspective and they are wonderful.
1. Perspective Drawing Handbook - by Joseph D'Amelio
2. Art of Perspective - by Phil Metzger

They're both wonderfully enlightening, touching on topics that are rarely found online (uphill/downhill perspective, light and shadow perspective, water reflections, special issues: dormers, columns and towers with grooves, stairs, buildings that aren't aligned, etc). It's really exciting to practice and see the rules apply.. I've only done a few sketches but already I feel a bit more confident about drawing from imagination.

On a final note, my husband and I have been together for 8 years and I've never loved him more than I do today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cozy mornings

Winter is almost here. So are the holidays as well as our trip to Rome. I'm looking forward to a break from teaching and all the new inspiration I'll return with from my trip.

My mornings lately have consisted of a hot mug of tea, classical music, deep breathing, discovering art and art tutorials... and cookies, lots of cookies. Frankly, there's no other way I'd rather be spending that time right now. In fact, any time spent doing anything else (lesson planning, cleaning, even cooking - I know, I'm ridiculous) almost feels like a waste of an opportunity for personal development.

I've become active again on DeviantART, a website I often browsed when I was in my angsty teen years but eventually left behind. Having gotten back into the world of art, I went back there and was refreshed by the constant dose of inspiration I get every day. I can't get enough of it now.

I've also decided to take a break from painting in order to focus more on drawing and getting my basics down. While painting is super fun and I hope to keep doing it every now and then, I really feel I need to confront my fears and insecurities concerning art. Being self taught was always a major insecurity of mine that I allowed to hinder my progress all my life, so I've decided to re-educate myself on all the basics... all the things I never learned at an art school and practice them. Some things I always had a very general understanding of but now I seek to really master them before I move on to bigger and better things. I have a terrible tendency to get incredibly excited over something when I first start (or in this case, restart) and then jump right into the deep end, only to get discouraged when I learned that I still can't swim that well.

So I'm taking this really slow. This is something I don't want to let go of.

First on the list of things to master: Linear and aerial perspective.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Green tea makes everything better

Despite waking up with symptoms of a fever, I seem to have woken up on the right side of the bed today.

My morning has just consisted of slumping on the couch with a hot mug of green tea, some cookies and watching some TV shows. Coupled with a beautiful sunny sky and a chill in the air, I'm feeling quite nostalgic right now, though in a good way.

In other news, I'm quite pleased with my job at the moment, even though it can be tough at times. It seems like a nice place where everything runs efficiently. My bosses are also really sweet and understanding, and my coworkers are friendly and helpful. First time I ever feel comfortable in the workplace.

Now off to make a mess with my oil paints.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Major reality check

This past week has been a huge blur... a dramatic blur. I ended up quitting the job I had promised I would start this week (hadn't really signed a contract yet) after discovering what very little support I would've received. The owner of this school (a teacher currently on maternity leave) was going over how she handled these in-company classes at a local private university and it was pretty much improvisation. Perhaps for someone with 15-20 years of experience this is doable.. but for a new teacher fresh out of CELTA? No way. I could barely handle improvising for these past 3 weeks.

I went to my CELTA training center for advice before making a decision and they agreed it was a bit insane to expect me to teach so many classes without textbooks or objectives. Luckily they were able to get me in contact with another school just outside the city and hook me up with an interview for the next day, which ended up great and I got hired. This was this past Friday.

Yesterday was my first day of work in this school... my first time teaching children (8 years old) and then teenagers (14/15 years old). I was more worried about how I'd get on with the kids but at the end of the day I realized just how wrong I was. The children were difficult in their own way because it is like herding cats... the moment you turn your back they are doing what you just told them to stop doing. While I need to sort out how I'll go about prizing good behavior and punishing the bad, I found that they can still be much easier to intimidate than the teenagers.

So if the first class felt like I got run over by a truck, the next class with the teens felt like another truck that also spat on me as it passed. Holy shit, this was tough. I had already been warned this would be a difficult group but I didn't realize just how bad. I had forgotten how terrible teenagers are.. that they literally walk in hating you already. Of course, it's not just me... they hate the whole world at that age but it was very evident by the end of the day, when I called my husband in tears on the way home telling him about how awful it all was, that I wasn't going to be able to teach them the CELTA way, i.e. treating them like adults. I'll have to change seating arrangements, separate the girls from the girls and boys from the boys... treat them like big children because that is essentially what they are right now.

Today is day two and I'm redoing 2 of my lessons from yesterday with new groups (which means it should flow easier now that I see what worked and what didn't work) and starting a new group with slightly older students.. somewhere closer to my age. This shall be interesting.

I must say that after just one day of teaching children and teenagers, it has really made me appreciate what public school teachers do even more. Especially since they normally have classes double in size.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The apprentice

I meant to publish this post two weeks ago and then forgot all about it.

First of all, my "vacation" came to an end. I was going to start work in the academy in October but I got a call two weeks ago to start earlier for an intensive course for 2 students. The news gave me instant flashbacks of CELTA but I quickly realized it was nowhere near as demanding. Still, as a perfectionist I managed to stress out just as much in trying to make my lessons perfect. Tomorrow I begin my last week with these students.. hopefully they'll walk away feeling they've learned something and this wasn't a complete waste of their time. Regardless, this was definitely a warm up for the school year coming up.

Secondly, (and most importantly.. for me) I am officially an apprentice of one of the world's most famous palette knife artists. I can't even begin to describe how excited I am to be able to learn from a living legend.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Our trip to The Divided City

This past week, Matt and I were in Berlin. It was our chosen vacation trip for this year and we were excited to visit a new place neither of us had ever been to before. By the end of the trip, we both agreed that is we had to choose one word for this city, it'd be disappointing.

Berlin has a reputation for being an artsy, energetic, thriving city but we honestly did not get that vibe whatsoever.

The city is incredibly filthy. We've been to Madrid, Barcelona, London.. I've been to Paris as well and out of these cities most people would assume that London is probably the dirtiest. They are probably right. However, this city made old London look clean. For a country that is supposed to be one of the leaders in green technology, we were pretty shocked to see it's capital so abandoned in this aspect.

Not only is it filthy, but you'd be hard pressed to find any city block that isn't vandalized. Even for a city that is almost covered in graffiti, we couldn't even find any respectful, artistic graffiti that displays some kind of message/story/emotion. I'm not a fan of urban art but even that can be pleasant in contrast to traditional architecture. Instead you get scribbles, tags, the word penis everywhere.

Honestly, the graffiti and filth wouldn't have seemed so bad if the people were actually interesting. That's how certain cities like New York and London, even though they can be a bit dirty, the charm remains with it's vibrant nightlife, people's attitude, etc. You can feel the pulse in cities like that.

There was no pulse in Berlin. The people are downright rude and almost always look bored as if they can't stand the city themselves. Here are a few other tidbits we learned about the city and Berliners:

- They are not afraid to stare. If you've ever been to London, you're probably aware that it is considered rude to stare at the people around you and so you find most people read their newspapers, stare at the floor/windows, read a book, keep themselves busy with their phones, etc. Not Berliners.. I was pretty annoyed to discovered that people kept staring at me, even after I made eye contact with them. Sometimes we do it by mistake and look away when we realize it on our own or because the person saw you staring at them but Berliners don't seem to care about this.

- Matt was tired of constantly reminding me whenever we confronted the fact that Berliners have no idea how to queue/line up.

- They dislike napkins. Very few cafes and small restaurants gave you napkins, if you could even call them that. Sometimes the napkin would be the thin, transparent sheet they serve your croissant on. I'll give them a point for environmentalism on this one, I guess.

- They hate credit/debit cards. We were quite annoyed to find so many places that didn't accept anything but cash.

- They love Dunkin Donuts. There are more Dunkin Donuts in Berlin than there probably are back home in Miami. Seriously.

- Some streets have no stop signs, no lights, no anything. It's every man for himself.

- Speaking of streets, they religiously obey street lights for pedestrians. While this should be a positive aspect of culture, sometimes its downright ridiculous. When you can see for miles on end that no car is coming in any direction, I find it a bit silly to wait a minute or two before taking.. what? 5 steps? Live a little, people.. take a risk.

- They have no fashion sense. In this aspect, they are very practical and dress very basic.. though we were fascinated by how some dared to be out in tank tops and shorts when we were clearly dying from the cold. This kind of appeals to the practical part of me that grew up in Miami, a city that cares little for what's in style and more for what won't kill you in the heat. However, when you start to add up all the fucks they don't give, it really just makes them seem so apathetic.

I really tried to like Berlin. I tried so hard that I was constantly battling myself in my mind, convincing myself that there must be more to this city. I went to Berlin not really knowing what to expect.. I expected a more urban vibe than other capitals. I went hoping to fall in love with the city, finding some reason to maybe move there one day. I at least wanted to leave the city and take part of it with me, like I did with London and the artistic inspiration I found there. I guess I was hoping to find something like that again.. especially in a city that is supposedly full of artists.

I also just couldn't shake off the feeling of being an outsider. I mean, I'm supposed to.. to a certain extent. After all, it is not my country and I can barely speak their language, but I couldn't help but feel unwelcome. People just stared at you as if they knew you weren't from there.. and all I could feel was that I would probably never really fit in or belong in a place like this. There are places in the world that can be radically different from your own culture and the people can still be friendly enough to make you feel like you are no different.. but I didn't feel that here.

Overall, though, we had a decent time. What we did, all the touristy stuff, we enjoyed as well as eating out. At the end of the trip, we were glad to say goodbye to Berlin (though I was sad to say goodbye to our four star hotel and the shower) and hello to Barcelona for a day stop on our way back home to Valencia.

As soon as we woke up yesterday in Barcelona, we turned on the TV and put the news channel. Bad news of the economy... news of some injured bullfighter (which is always great to hear)... scorching hot weather report... Yes, we were definitely in Spain again.

We spent the day walking around the city and it's beauty was instantly uplifting.. such a contrast to the square, lack-luster block buildings of Berlin. If there is one good thing this trip did for me is that it really made me appreciate Spain just a bit more. It may be full of incredibly loud, tactless and ignorant people.. but they are good-spirited and friendly. The country, no matter how bankrupt it may be, still manages to find the money to invest in cleaning it's cities.