Painting in the field

My travelling partner on this trip to Cambodia is Rob Kunz, an accomplished photographer, realtor, home builder and renovator from Okotoks.  He graciously set out to build me an easel using bamboo.  

Using only string and a few cutting tools, he fashioned a beautiful easel with three different positions for the rail to accommodate paintings of various sizes.  It is remarkably functional.

I set up near Lin and Chong’s temporary shelter as it offered broken shade (thanks to a tree) and a place to sit.  My chosen subject was a rendition of Buddha that I often admire in one of our favourite restaurants in Okotoks.  Buddha, or Praya in the local language, is an appropriate subject in this part of the world.

It took Chiva and Charlie about an hour to overcome their shyness and come over to watch.  By that time I was adding a bit of texture using a discarded fragment of a rice bag.  They each embraced my invitation to help out.  Charlie, a little older, got into it immediately and made some bold choices.  Chiva was a little more cautious.  

Cracked but never broken, 30 cm x 40 cm, acrylic and Cambodian dirt on canvas

Painting in the field, particularly on this hot and windy day, was challenging.  Not only do those conditions cause the canvas to dry quickly, they blow in sand particles, bits of grass and debris.  This painting has a lot of texture and some permanent natural Cambodian elements.  It will be gifted to Lin and Chong’s family as part of the blessing ceremony expected to take place next week.

I get so focused on the painting process that I sometimes lose track of time.  That happened yesterday several times, as I got up and realized that hours had gone by.  As I stood up, my body let me know that it was sore from sitting in the sun too long.  

I walked down the road, perhaps 100 metres, to Tik Van’s property where House No. 4 of this building season will start going up soon.  This is the home that many of you helped sponsor with your many purchases of art.  I’m still trying to figure out the dynamics of this family, but in a span of a few minutes I met Tik Van, an older lady that might have been her mother, a younger lady that was her daughter, and three of her grandchildren.  They were all very welcoming and full of smiles, especially the children.

As I painted, each of the members of the construction crew would wander over periodically to check my progress.  They are all characters and skills tradesmen.  It was fun to watch them attach metal siding, perched high off the ground, and go through the process of hand mixing cement and turn it into a nice and smooth pad.  Ree is quite a guy.  

At one point he started doing pull ups, just to show me his strength.  He was also quite a sight riding behind us on his motorcycle.  I think I’ll call him Easy Rider from now on.

One of the lingering questions that I have but have not yet had answered, is where Lin and Chong’s family goes to the bathroom.  There is not a latrine to be seen on their property.  I’ll have to ask Heng (our construction manager and translator) to see if he can find that out.  The construction of the new latrine will be a welcomed addition to their life.  An outhouse will be connected to two settling basins that provides a comfortable place to do their business and shower - both utilize buckets of water.  There is no running water in this rural location.  

The construction of the latrine is good example of how changes need to be made on the fly.  The setting basins need to be placed deep in the ground.  However, because of the hardness of the soil, they weren’t able to be set down as deep as desired.  This means the outhouse will need to be built up, to allow gravity to do its essential work.  That work, along with the installation of doors, windows and hand rails will happen today.

One of the highlights of yesterday that I need to share is the lunch break we took in the market of the local village.  Under a huge covered roof structure are myriad vendors offering a wide range of products from shoes, clothing and phones to fruits, vegetables and meat.  At the back of the market was a little food stand where we has some marvellous home cooking.  Mine was a chicken noodle dish that was absolutely amazing.

We have decided to do a day trip to one of the floating villages today.

Geo, who has been our driver the last few days, will be our tour guide for this excursion, too.  He needs the work and he has proven to be an excellent addition to our team. 


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