Photo Challenge: COLLAGE

via Photo Challenge: Collage

I work primarily with paper collage and found objects, and have since I was a fine art student at CU in Boulder, Colorado during the 60’s when the process was relatively new in university fine art classrooms. Fortunately for me, U. of Colorado had a handful of cutting edge professors whose experimentation epitomized iconic 60’s art. Picasso, Raushenburg and other prominent artists worked in collage in the 20th century and became our inspiration and our guides; often using wood, scraps of metal, nails and other found objects to create compositions with heavy emphasis on color, pattern and texture. In my college art classes we had no special materials available to us and so we used newspaper, kindergarten glue, old tissue, wrapping paper, string and brown manila paper bags. We used rubbish, basically. We loved the process and we were innovative and excited with it. Among other pieces I completed a 3×4 ft canvas collage with powerful color and deep texture, titled Chicago Fire, which I kept for years and then my brother- in-law asked to have it so I gave it away…. sad.

I have also taught collage, and explained my techniques and my passion for the process to eager and imaginative adult students whose eyes were opened to the magical art of cutting, tearing, painting and layering exotic papers from around the world.

“Abandon your pre-conceived notions about traditional fine art and begin a mixed media journey where improvisation, freedom from boundaries, self-discovery and originality are valued higher than any predictable destination.”  – Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Fine art mixed media collage is not decoupage, is not scrap-booking, will not work well using  Elmer’s glue and does not work well with watercolor or oil paints. Since collage has morphed and changed and re-invented itself through the years, even centuries,  there are now available many new products for the sole purpose of creating collage. Acrylic paints are by far the best media to use. Liquitex Matt Medium is your glue. I work on canvas, not paper, because paper buckles and warps under the wet glue. I get my collage papers from fine art stores that sell gorgeous handmade papers from around the world, but I am also constantly on the hunt for unusual and marvelous handmade papers that I discover in all types of shops – wonderful tissue papers, fancy paper shopping bags and  packaging can be found everywhere but especially so in other countries as you travel.

Collage is a re-cycling art where papers, cards, old jewelry, small stones, shells and items you have saved for years simply because you love them can find homes in a fine art creation that not only gives your favorite things new life and purpose but display a creation that is unique to you and your personal experiences.

My collage creations range from small to gigantic and I have sold them in galleries across many western states. There is currently a mixed media collage market out there that will astound you once you know what to look for and ask for as you visit fine art galleries. Art stores carry many instructional books on the subject. You need not have any artistic experience to learn the technique and begin your collage journey – there are no rules – only techniques to understand and materials to acquaint yourself with that work for you. It is a highly serendipitous art form – happy accidents and new discoveries are common. Improvisation is the key. Freedom from any hard and fast rules is the norm. It is all about letting go. Therapeutic it is.

No two collages are ever alike – they are like snowflakes. If you layer the paper and paint and build texture and repeat, tearing your papers rather than cutting them because a torn edge is so beautiful, then over-lapping them again in some areas, painting on each layer as you build texture  – well you can seldom go wrong. It is fun and rewarding!

Jo Ann Brown-Scott – artist and author

http://www.thecreativeepiphany.com      www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

Book – The Creative Epiphany, Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations – non-fiction narrative about life-changing epiphanies in creativity

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Waiting on the World to Change

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The lyrics of this John Mayer song ( from his 2 CD album titled “Where the Light Is” ) keep monopolizing my mind space, underlying every daily routine, haunting my thoughts like a benevolent ghost reciting a mantra. Other lyrics included in this selection of songs are also meaningful to me and play significantly in my mind – “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” for instance. I doubt Mayer, in 2008, could have foreseen the state of the world and its rapid dissent into the chaos in which we now find ourselves, but you never know. The artists, the musicians, the writers, the poets, the dancers, the dreamers and the writers of songs are often the canaries in the gold mines of our minds and our world, are they not?

It is difficult to sustain creativity under and against the weight of such difficult times as these, but we must. It takes more work but we must express our recognition of current events whether that means being a brilliant light in the darkness or recording your misery from your unique place inside the darkness. If you prefer to paint in direct denial of the times, then by all means do that, and your enlightened, uplifting  images will offer people refuge in the storm. If you prefer to paint in direct opposition to what is happening in the world, screaming and capturing the chaos and the mayhem then by all means do that as well. You might feel one way on Monday and a totally different way by Friday morning. There is room for white or black and all points in between. Life is way more than 50 shades of gray, by the way. Whether you are a painter, a writer or a photographer – express yourself in the authentic voice of who you are at any given moment in time. You just have to do that, even if it shocks and stuns. You are the barometer of the weather you are experiencing;  what you record is a journal of your personal progress and your ability to cope in the complex world surrounding you. Express it; just bleed it out. It is all a part of the universal picture.

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The Confetti that is Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad is a gutsy but laid-back lady of many moods and faces – she has a twinkle in her lovely eye, lives with constant music, she loves Americans, she enjoys a hearty laugh, she offers you her roof-top restaurants and a day at the beach, she has contemporary art for your viewing pleasure hung on old painted fresco walls because she likes the contrast of the very old with the brand new, she becomes one loud and crazy broad when the sun goes down and she dances and sings with wild abandon. You would love her – she will become your best friend in Cuba. She knows everyone!

We took a bus trip across country of such deep green density and beauty that it took our breath away and reminded us of Hawaii…wandering valleys and streams, endless rolling hills toward distant mountains, and finally into the beachy little coastal village of Trinidad. Our Casa Particular hostess had walked to the bus station to meet us, greeted us by name from pictures she had seen of us on Air B&B, and led us back to her home with white grillwork fronting the street and then directly through the door to her life. The magical little world we entered was colorful, to say the least, with grape vine roof over head (and clusters of hanging purple grapes ) on the secluded outdoor patio,  a tiny but comfortable air-conditioned bedroom behind a window-paned door, and a newly tiled luxury bathroom, all to ourselves. (see photos in my gallery with this blog)

We could not wait to get acquainted with Trinidad. Such contrasts – the shops with fresh hams hanging in the open windows, the bread delivered daily along each skinny street by a horse-drawn buggy clop-clopping along and a guy yelling “PAN! PAAANNNOOOO!”, the stray dogs and cats, the music coming from several homes at once, the garlic salesman, the produce guy with his cart on the corner, the old ladies hanging out of windows watching as we passed, the 2 amigos posing for my camera as one says “Amigos!” and loops his arm around the others shoulder. It was all as if from a storybook.

Trinidad gave us one particular treasure we will never forget – Manuel G.- a hysterically funny guide who we enlisted to drive us around for about 2 days, including a day trip to sugar plantation country where we saw ruins being restored of an old but very extravagant mansion house accompanied by a slave village just a few hundred yards away from the house in a grove of trees. A tall bell tower for keeping watch on the entire operation was strategically placed so that there were no slave escapees. In the event of that occurrence, the bell was rung and other plantations for miles around knew that there was a runner; everyone dropped what they were doing and gave chase until he or she was tracked down and returned. We saw exactly where the sugar was distilled in gigantic copper pots and the ingenious process that made use of every single part of the sugar cane plant so that wealthy families in America and Europe could enjoy the new imported sweetener that was sugar. When it was discovered that rum could also be manufactured from sugar cane, the wealthy plantation owners became even richer. I will do another blog with pictures of this plantation…

In the several hours spent with Manuel as he drove us around in his AC car, we were treated to some crazy funny conversations about women, marriage, old cars, new cars, and Cuba in general, frank as frank can be in a car where no one could be overheard. You do not want to say anything about the Castro brothers where you might be overheard by the Policia and they are always listening. But with everyone we met, humor is firmly intact in the Cuban people and it is brutally honest at times, because if you are sick and tired of crying and complaining about the dictatorship and the food rations and the impossibility of ever getting off the island, you try your best to make it funny.

I would be glad to provide links to Casa Particulars that we used on this trip if you can manage to get my email address and contact me personally – I do not want to get any Cuban in trouble by mentioning them by name in a blog where I talk so openly about my strong distaste for the dictatorship.

The long, nearly deserted beach just outside downtown Trinidad is gorgeous in its privacy and simplicity. But we were way to busy for the beach. We are both artists. We soak stuff up like giant sponges and take pictures until our arms fall off and we talk in paint color language. The confetti colors of Trinidad are there for us.

For music – and I do mean !MUSIC! – that is authentically Cuban and nearly free almost every night please, please go to Café de la Musica, with its large outdoor stage situated at the side of some wide old stone steps just off the main plaza. You cannot miss it by late afternoon, if you are wandering around looking for a place to have some cocktails and have dinner later. You will hear it! You will feel the ground vibrating! Or just ask anyone… The band and singers number 11 or 12 guys and gals and they are energy personified. You sit at café tables on the steps and order whatever you want to drink and you might be there for hours on end. The people watching is magnificent and the entertainment is the best we had in Cuba. One little snapshot in this gallery does not do it justice.

Our best sunset dinner in Trinidad was eaten on the rooftop terrace of a restaurant near Café de la Musica – there are several rooftop hot spots in that area – just pick one and go with it. They are probably all good. We ate grilled shrimp, onions &black beans with dark rice of some kind, vegetables, shrimp cocktails, bread and salad with flan for dessert. It was delisioso. Of course we continued our research about where to find the best Mojito in all of Cuba, an extensive study requiring hours and hours of dusk time and beyond into the dead of night.

to be continued…..

…and then we went to Cuba

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” And you came to Cuba so you could touch it with your eyes,” said our unforgettable friend and guide of two days, Manuel Gonzalez of Trinidad, Cuba.

Never before in my personal writing history, including this blog and the three books I have published, have I felt the burning need to get out of bed in the middle of the night and put down words. Until now. I don’t want to lose the freshness of my impressions about Cuba; its lush verdant scenery, its grand but crumbling Spanish colonial cities reminiscent at times of both New Orleans and Mexico, its mysterious Mafioso ties to America and the hotels where “doze guys” partied on trips down from Miami, its sexy music, its beloved Ernest Hemingway whose books are still studied in Cuban schools, its crazy, off-the-wall humor and its brave, kind and endlessly resourceful people who get up every day and make the most of a difficult situation. Emotional evidence of the Revolution is plentiful; reminders of Cuba’s tumultuous history and its love affair with Che Guevara are alive around every corner of the Havana city streets and in the other cities we visited. The history of Cuba is sad and offers little hope of change under the Castro regime, but its people maintain a joyful Spanish facade. We see the motto Tu Ejemplo vive, Tus Ideas Perduran – your example lives; your ideas last  posted in many places with Che’s picture. Che is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of the Cuban people.

When they thought Batista’s dictatorship was brutal, they soon learned that Castro certainly did not have the welfare of the people in mind when he grabbed power for himself. Learning in conversations with the people of Cuba about how the current dictatorship and how the embargo (which by the way is still in effect, even though our President announced that it is lifted – it has not yet opened anything up for the Cuban people expect USA tourism)  applies to their everyday lives was enlightening in ways I never expected… sitting with people in their homes and eating delicious, generous portions of hand-prepared food from spotless Cuban kitchens during our Casa Particular ( Air B&B) stays was priceless. Every family is given a monthly ration of food – basics – eggs, 1 chicken per family, flour, sugar, beans, rice, milk. The “frills” such as produce, cookies – whatever else a family might need must be provided with income so pathetically small that we wondered how anyone could ever make ends meet. The bottom line to every detail of Cuban life is genius invention, constant recycling, trading among friends and helping each other. As our guide Manuel said, “If you can ever get the money together to afford a new car in Cuba, you are in big trouble! You will never be able to find parts for it!” Most of the iconic candy-colored older cars for which Cuba is known manage to be kept running with parts from China and Korea.

When people asked us where we were from they were excited and instantly curious about where in America. OH! Wow! Colorado! Mountains? Snow? Of course other countries have been traveling to Cuba for years and so the Cubans see tourists from Europe, China, South America, Sweden, Great Britain, etc but Americans hold a special place in the hearts of Cubans. “Americans are good people – Cubans are good people! What’s the problem? What took you so long? You need to all come and visit us. We love America!”

From Havana we traveled east by bus for about 5 hours through rolling, thickly forested hills set against distant mountains on our way to Trinidad, a charming village on the southern coast of the island where homes are the paint colors of Cuba – lavender, yellow, sunset pink, citrus orange…red, blue…old old homes often as tiny as an American walk-in closet and usually just a story or two, but oozing personality and radiating happiness. Music starts in the morning and continues through the old narrow streets all day long as we walk and roam. Speaking now with an artist’s voice, Trinidad is nirvana for painters. The ancient textures of stone and brick, peeling paint, iron grillwork painted white or left black, potted flowers and greenery – hidden patios and secret nooks where cats sit in the sun – carriages pulled by one horse clop-clopping on cobblestone streets and guys selling bread up and down every skinny street in the early morning. All this and the deep Prussian Blue Caribbean as a bonus. This is the Cuba I loved the most.

Outside Trinidad we were fortunate to visit the ruins of an old sugar plantation, including slave quarters and the current restoration of the big mansion itself to its former glory with its Italian Cararra marble floors and painted frescoes. We saw where and how the sugar cane was refined, the enormous copper pots where they boiled it down and the ways they used the leftover pulp. We learned about the daily lives of the slaves, who were shipped in from all over the world to begin working at age 4-5, and the tall white stucco tower built for the only purpose of keeping watch over the slaves in a landscape of tall sugar cane. When a slave was observed running away, the tower bell was rung and slave owners for miles around took that as a warning and a signal to drop everything and search for the escapee.

Cien Fuego (100 fires) was our next destination, a morning’s drive west of Trinidad – Cuba is a big island so we saved far eastern Cuba for another time… Cien Fuego is quite different than Trinidad, with an outdoor mall of nice shops and some great restaurants on roof tops and terraces. Mojitos flow, and if you know even some of the words you might be asked to sing with band…oh my god!  I had a lot of authentic Cuban food while on the island, but the best spaghetti I ever ate in my life was in Cien Fuego. But – the outskirts are very poor, the hovels are dirt-floored and similar to those we saw in rural Cambodia. Horses, cows, cats and dogs are brittle and emaciated, skin over bone; the people are painfully dulled of any signs of a happy life. I was terribly upset by what I saw there, just a few blocks away from the city. I actually had to fight my impulse to get out of the car and start handing out money, as small a difference as that would have made for just a day or so.

In Cien Fuego on the main plaza is a lovely old mansion that has been made an art gallery – the inside of the building itself was as interesting as the art. Contemporary Pop Art set against centuries’ old frescoes and floors was a fascinating contrast. The art scene in Cuba is quite active – the dictatorship subsidizes artists to some extent. But we talked to many artists and a tiny tube of paint the size of a child’s little finger is the equivalent of 15 dollars. We do believe that studio space might be cheap, however, because there were some wonderful old buildings with spacious art studios in them. The art ranges from realism to abstract, as one would expect, and I am happy to say that mixed media has made a bit splash in Cuba! Very nice examples were to be found in every genre and I bought a few small pieces. Many Cuban artists have been educated formally in fine art and art history, some outside of Cuba. Art is respected and artists are prolific, turning out a lot of work – we have no idea if any of them are making a living at it however. One artist we met was  lawyer. Doctors, lawyers and other professional people are paid by the state, and many of them have free time to do other things, we learned.

This is only my first installment about our trip to Cuba. The subject of Cuba is vast enough for 10 blogs and I will be writing other posts about it in the days to come. I took over 1000 pictures and am attempting to categorize them for easy access while writing. The people of Cuba are very pleased to know that so many of us here in the USA are interested in their lives. We noticed a lot of people on cell phones in Cuba but only in WIFI hotspots – just a few wealthy families actually have internet access. Public internet is still a few years away but things are changing very rapidly there now. They are quite aware that the next Revolucion with be in communication and they are also aware that it could be both the good news and the bad news, because they want Cuba to remain unspoiled.

The country of Cuba is in dire need of money to save its infrastructure, because it is centuries’ old and falling down around them. The tax money the Cubans pay goes…..where? Nothing gets done. I could go on and on…but for now I will leave you with my humble thoughts and my cherished photos of a place I now love.

to be continued…

 

 

 

Excerpt – A Canary Flies the Canyon

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Back from a little mini-vacation to the great Northwest – Whidbey Island and then Vancouver! I am happy to find that my new novel is getting more 5-Star reviews! I think that is a lovely treat to come home to….a HUGE thank you to all the people who cared enough to write a review on Amazon.com. Your comments are invaluable to me!

These days social networking is everything – it is word of mouth in its newest and most effective incarnation. There is simply no better way to get the word out, spread the news, show pictures and be an accessible author who will accept communication from anyone anywhere anytime!

Today I am offering you another excerpt from my book, from Chapter 18 – this time giving you a glimpse into a period of time when my heroine Annie worked as director of a very successful Denver gallery, owned by a woman named Kerri. This experience would eventually change Annie’s life, and in this brief excerpt I am introducing the reader to Kerri’s mother and some of the other staff  who also worked there:

I thought Kerri’s mom was an interesting study. She was an aging beauty, a little worse for the wear, highly eccentric, constantly nervous with several tics she kept repeating as she spoke – a cracking of her neck to one side, a thing she did with her shoulders that went up and down and a tendency to lick her lips excessively. Perhaps a bit unstable and hair-triggered, I thought. Rather impulsive; a reactionary personality. She loved men and she hated them, exactly like my own mother. I could not quite figure her out but I certainly did not want to get on her bad side for any reason real or imagined, and I had a slight suspicion that could happen at the drop of a hat. Her mood swings came and went twenty times a day. She wore things that wrapped, she was always swaddled in a bunch of fabrics of varying color and pattern. I had no idea where she was inside all that. She looked like she was running a fever for lack of ventilation. She was perennially flushed.

The guy, Troy, who shaved his head and oiled it up until it was shiny chose his words carefully so as not to appear stupid, and was so obviously in love with Kerri that it hurt to watch him. She was entirely out of his league; he would have cleaned the floor with his tongue for her. I liked him, but he seemed unsophisticated and naïve, yet we needed him because he was our muscles. He made himself useful with framing, doing any heavy lifting and art deliveries for clients.

Then there was another employee named Sandra who was a lady wrestler in her off time, with an alias lady wrestler type name which cannot be repeated here. She was a little hard looking, tatted up and muscular but she could sell art til’ the cows came home. In fact she could not stop talking, but in sales that is sometimes a plus. After I began working there I found out that she was sort of on probation, in danger of losing her position, because she was a little on the undependable side. Her boyfriend Chung was a rock star in the world of wrestling, with his giant chiseled body, long lanky hair and dozens of piercings. He was a scary dude. Having him in the gallery occasionally to pick up Sandra was both an attraction and a detriment – crowds of (also pretty wacked out) wrestling fans who recognized him quickly formed a gang asking for his autograph but then other potential art buyers, more cultured and refined, bolted for the door. It was never a dull moment in there. Psychos to the left of me and freak show on the right, stuck in the middle…welcome to the art scene. It sometimes reminded me of the bar scene in one of the original Star Wars movies, and if Jar Jar Binks himself had walked in to apply for a job or purchase a painting I would not have given it a second thought. Thank you very much, I thought, glad to be back. This is going to be entertaining. Is it cocktail hour yet?

Please read the book’s full description on Amazon.com!

Available on Amazon.com

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“The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things…” Lewis Carroll

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Yes it is almost time. Imagine my anticipation. I am about to birth a new baby novel after nearly a decade of purple-faced, teeth-clenching labor. My god it is difficult to put a book together. Have you ever tried it? I should have just stuck an ice pick up my nose; it would have been less painful. On some days it was pure agony. Ten minutes of tending the same damn paragraph seem like hours of torture. You call yourself nasty names. You eat junk food, you do not sleep well. You second guess, third guess and sixteenth guess every single scene, every conversation, every insight. And pretty much no one cares until it is really done. You get no sympathy.

If you are also an artist, as I am, sometimes you attempt to work on a painting for a brief intermission as you are mulling over the words that will come next, and writing is a lot like painting so it seems so logical that it would be a great idea to create  both book and art side by side…thriving in a parallel universe. Both require a distinct voice, a unique vocabulary of expression and gesture, a selection of color, pattern and texture to flesh out the composition or the plot. And the sub-plots. Writing can be a lot of fun, on the good days. Painting can also be quite enjoyable when you are in the flow. But I have discovered through the years that one of those pursuits is capable of blocking out the sun for the other one. They compete for my attention and they dilute what I am doing into less powerful work if I try to excel in both at once.

What was the delay, you ask? Ten years? That’s crazy. What takes so long about writing a book? Well, I had a fabulous story but no ending. Then stuff happened that inspired and informed the book idea and everything fell together in one big loud, undeniable way as sometimes (but not often enough) stuff does. They say that we need to write about what we know and what we are most comfortable with in order to be authentic and genuinely entertaining. Obviously an author would not, in her right mind, take on the task of writing a book about some wild-ass thing or another that she knows nothing about, because faking it always shows. So unless an author has endless piles of money to pay a fleet of research assistants…

I am my own research assistant. Therefore this book is a novel about a contemporary woman artist.

It is now finished.

Soon I will be able to refer you to the book’s website, as a tasty hors d’oeuvre, and then the actual book – we are in “cover design” mode right now. Soon it will be listed with Amazon.com, so no matter where in the world you happen to be you will be able to get your hands on it. It will also be available on Kindle. I’ll let you know when all that happens.

MANY thanks to all of you for following this blog and feeding my artistic and literary soul – I have sharpened my skills within this blog using all of you as my audience and yes, my guinea pigs, but always with great respect for you and  the enhancement of the “some-day” book; this blog and my two previous books have taught me to work smarter not harder, to pull up the best words faster when I need them, to say things sharper and more clearly with fewer words, and to be consistently using my skills. I am going to have a huge celebration when this book is released – you all will hear it from wherever you are, one way or another, through this blog, Amazon, the new book website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I hope you can all come….I really would like you to come.

Stay tuned for the first excerpt!

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The Anticipation of Travel

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Malaysian Dusk  and  Bangkok Moon, mixed media by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2015

You know how I feel about creativity and stoking the fires to keep it smoldering – always awarding yourself with fresh experiences – feeding the creativity beast gourmet delights so that it will return to your work table and want to spend time with you. Travel is,  to me, one of the finest sources of creative stimulation. Travel is a luxury we can all afford if you define it as a departure from your normal routine that takes you out and away from your home headquarters. Therefore a trip down the block is travel, an excursion to a nearby city is travel, even a hike in the woods or watching a movie is a version of travel. You just need to get out of your own mind for awhile and experience new visual surroundings. I do all of that and more…..it is part of my job description as an artist and writer.

But this time I am headed to more distant horizons. I am traveling to the far regions of southeast Asia – Singapore in fact – for the second time, and my side trip during this trip will be to Siem Reap, Cambodia for three nights to visit Angkor Wat. I am traveling with a dear friend, also an artist, so I am going to experience double happiness. We will stay with my daughter and her husband who live in Singapore ( http://www.compassandcamera.com ) and therefore we will have a resident guide for every move we make, and we will be making some major moves.

I will love seeing Singapore again through my friend’s eyes – the spectacular cutting-edge architecture, the glitz and sparkle of the immaculate, well-mannered Singapore, along with its quaint and colorful shop houses in the older sections of Chinatown, Arab Street and Little India. Then on to the massive ruins of Angkor Wat , one of the ancient wonders of our world, now overgrown with gnarled tree roots and steeped in mystery. This is my favorite vacation contrast – the precious against the poor – the opulent compared to the common. It rounds everything out and gives you a conscientious balance. It jolts your senses and keeps you humble, seeing what has gone long before and what is happening now. You can’t have one without the other.

Creatively speaking, this makes for a rare and wonderful experience. The last time I traveled to Singapore I came home and painted a body of work based upon my  trip, capturing my visual, sensory, auditory and olfactory impressions of how it felt to be there. I was on such sensory overload that I could not sleep. Remembering the sights, smells, noise and food aromas of just the wild and wonderful Chatachak Market in Bangkok, for instance, fed my creativity for days on end.

Travel is the closest we can get, as human beings here in the 21st century, to time travel as it is explained by physicists and scientists  – living backwards or forward in time, almost in a parallel universe to our own and finding it remarkably exotic and foreign to your senses. Yet confined to this one planet. The big blue one. I highly recommend it for your enlightenment, your creativity and your fun.