I have a problem – I can’t stop cycling

cycling-top-view-photo

It was in mid April 2013, that Kiev drowned in snow almost overnight. And that snow storm just wouldn’t stop. In spite of a perception of Eastern Europe as an eternal winter – it’s not rue. At least in Kiev [Ukraine] we normally wear jeans and t-shirts in mid April. But it started to snow. I remember my neighbors tying to dig out the front door to our apartment complex, as it was blocked by snow. (In fact in Russia during the USSR, it was common to build doors so that they open inside the room/building, for that particular reason. But we are not Russia, so we still have problems opening doors on the days like that.)

Cars got stuck in traffic on the highways that lead in and out of Kiev for two days. Many including myself happily used this opportunity to snowboard down the streets.

snowboarding-downtown-kiev

Later I stopped by my friend’s art studio. Slavik is a sculpture artist. He had been working on this project for three days now, and cycled to the studio in spring outfit (as three days ago it was spring), before he knew the snowstorm would break out. Slavik is from Odessa and these people are known to be arrogant, but also very hard-working. After locking himself up and eventually finishing the project, he realized he had to make his way home now (to the dorms, where he lived at the time). He got his bike ready. It was a nice Bianchi road bike.

Next day he told us how he cycled to the dorms all the way through the snow-covered  streets and that, even though his bike was rather sliding than riding – he made it home quicker than all those cars stuck in snow and traffic, because bikes never get stuck.


I remember cycling to the presentation of my first big commissioned project with a laptop in my backpack through the rainstorm, that would challenge my eyes to even attempt open for a second (as pouring water would momentarily get in them). And then standing in front of the ‘white-collared’ customers, all covered in dirt, with that soaked laptop. But I really wouldn’t rather stay in traffic, because of some collision ahead.

IMG_2421.JPG
1936 Tour de France Stage 1 by BikeRaceInfo

And of course there are those days when you get a flat tire, during that ‘I’ll be right back’ trip. You realize you have nothing that could help you to fix it, and no people around that are willing to assist.

Just that group of mtb cyclists, who almost break your tube even more, by trying to use their air pump on your bike.


And then you walk in your cycling shoes for an hour and a half, with only Slavik on the other end of the phone to entertain you, because his stories are always unbelievably more intense and it somehow makes you feel lucky.

My new art series is about this impossibility to stop cycling. You just don’t stop, however out-of-this-world the circumstances around you seem to be.


Painting above: ‘Froome Chasing Geese’ – acrylic on canvas. It was inspired by that stage of 2016 Tour De France, during which, after a massive uphill and nervous competition between Froome and Quitano (who was unsuccessfully trying to break away), a crash took place in the front rows of break away. It happen because of the misplaced finish line. It was high in the mountains and due to weather conditions the finish line was moved a bit down. That caused a tight crowd. A motorcycle, that was supposed to clear the way, ran into standing too close spectators and suddenly hit breaks blocking the cyclists. Froome got left without his bike as it was broken. Without further hesitation he started to run to a finish line, that was just around the corner. It reminded me that feeling of chasing geese when you are a kid and you are running for life. Also I was inspired by that book ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’, that I remembered from childhood.


Paintings above: series ‘Chasing The Pink’ – acrylic on canvas. They are dedicated to chasing the dreams (the allegory is a reference to the pink shirt of a champion of Giro d’Italia).

Read more about the creation of the painting above ‘Sky is the Limit’ in my previous post.

IMG_2427.JPG

The new painting, I am currently working on, explores the absurdity of cycling situations. In this case it’s cycling through snow, no matter what. See the sketch below.

Follow my blog and Instagram to see the finished painting.

See more sports related paintings here.

Sky Is The Limit painting creation process

Sky Is The Limit – is the painting that was created at a very special part of my life. I am an artist and was painting for as long as I can remember myself. However after graduating from my art academy I was close to realization that I might be not that good at painting and maybe I will achieve more in promoting art (more of a PR/marketing sector of the industry). I also got involved in advertising and contemporary ballet. In fact, I even developed the whole ballet performance project (Sweet Expiration), that I took to NYC to try to raise funds for its production. Little did I know that was the trip that took me away from home country Ukraine for good.

Ballet performance never was produced. I ended up moving to Arizona. The day my plane landed on the US soil, the national revolution had started in Ukraine. I didn’t paint for two years. Then I started that “so west coast” common routine of doing yoga in the morning at a gym, followed by those super overpriced kale smoothies.

 

img_5807

I discovered that my yoga group instructor at the Village gym was a massage therapist. My spine is far from perfect and running/snowboarding etc. really don’t help. So I set up an appointment. She was great. I felt like I could breathe again (that magic was the massage, she gave). That day we agreed for a barter: I paint her a painting and she gives me massage sessions worth of the painting cost. I got intrigued to fit her place and concept of it with the painting I will make for her. I came across the Bolivian salt flats pictures. Then, I read all those stories about the biggest one of them – Salar de Uyuni.

img_9110img_9111

It is the world’s biggest salt flat desert. And just a few times a year, during a rainy season, it get’s covered by few inches of water. That is enough to make it the world’s biggest mirror. In fact, it’s so perfect, it is used to calibrate satellites. The beauty of it (how I imagine it) has curved into my consciousness for a while now. I read multiple blogs on how to travel there. It is definitely on my bucket list. Among the best ones seemed to be this:

Source: Salt of The Earth, Cycling Bolivia’s Salars – BIKEPACKING.com

Deserts like that, are often used for setting speed records (due absence of obstacles). I saw this bike. It all suddenly came together: the Bolivian salt flat desert and Tour of Italy (Giro d’Italia – pro-cycling bike race) that I was obsessing over recently (as it was the end of May, and I was watching this race live).

img_6289

img_6285

img_6288

20140531-071242-25962440.jpg

I made the first painting, that inspired me to proceed with the whole series. My yoga instructor loved it. I quit yoga classes and smoothies very soon, and never saw her again. But she appeared in my life in the perfect time to kickstart my painting process.

img_6133img_6474img_6449img_6463

There is also a great song Sky Is The Limit by Notorious B.I.G. The actual painting was titled in its name. It still hangs in my bedroom – looking for the right buyer. But it is definitely one of the most special for me.

img_6259img_6264img_6448

The final version of the painting is here.

See more of original art at my website: Createdbymasha.com and follow me on Instagram @createdbymasha. Also please feel free to comment and subscribe to my blog. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cheers!

Masha

These Places Are The Reason I Wake Up (part II)

Continuing the list (These Places Are The Reason I Wake Up (part I)), that so much aspires me make every new step… I just wanted to add that right after finishing the yesterday’s post on Iceland, I read an article on Werner Herzog’s film (that he shot last year in Iceland) Into The Inferno. It tells a story of a volcano eruption, braided into the local mythology. Its presence in Cannes and a notoriety of Herzog to be an exquisite romantic, makes The Inferno another must see.

Thinking back to the point I stopped the list makes all the dreams and pictures arise again. It is, as usual so close, yet so far. Just as far as a the airport. The next one is very special to me:

bison

Montana, USA

I remember I was 14. I was studying in the art school for teens in Kyiv, dreaming of establishing a sanctuary for wolves and becoming a movie director. Most of my friends lived in the neighborhood within walking distance. So I walked. I came to see my friend Ksusha. She was at home in her prolonged bedroom, at the far right corner of the apartment, her family lived at. A lot of defining moments of my life somehow happened there. She was reading a book, that I unfortunately can not remember. We decided to play a game, that was quite common for kids. You ask a question, open a book randomly, read a random passage. This was supposed to be an answer to your question. Usually, one would rather make up the connection between the actually words and the question, just keep it fun. Making text fit the question is quite easy. These time it was different enough to give me shivers. I remember asking a very cheesy question: “Where will I find happiness?”. The lines of the book said straight and clear: go buy the tickets, get on the plane and fly to Montana, USA. I wish I could quote. It was the end of the chapter. My friend and I got silent. No words needed.

Terry Badlands in Montana

I haven’t been to Montana yet. It almost feels like a reserve. In case, it got too unbearable – I would still have a dream to pursue and a place I was promised to find happiness.

Billings,_Montana_the_Yellowstone_River

Beautiful Downtown Neihart, MontanaMission_Mountains_National_Bison_Range_Montana

Montana is on the far north of the US. It shares a great national reserve with Wyoming and   Idaho. Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500 sq. mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. Montana is also a state, that is famous for its snowboarding. But mostly, it is a secluded place where vast territories make the size a very diluted extension. The Summer is short and the winter is longer, than in most parts of the US. The film Revenant was partly shot there. The movie production team noted, though, the unusually high temperatures and lack of snow that year. Hopefully Montana is still there when I need it. And hopefully that happiness is not covered in snow.

Another place to definitely be at is:

Norway

Oslo – the city of Edvard Munch, who painted the pre XX century icon Scream. Oslo is the capital of Norway, one of the most expensive and happiest countries in the world. If you don’t earn locally, a $20 pint of beer might be a bit too feisty. I can still remember the camping zones of Scandinavian football fans in Kyiv, Ukraine during UEFA Euro 2012. Hypnotized by the $1-2 for a half litter bottled beers, Swedish were countless times noticed by the grocery stores, dragging them by blocks. That followed the articles, that Swedish consumed all of the beer researves at the fan zones.

article-2159825-139FCE5F000005DC-485_634x422

Norway is also a very environmental friendly country. It reported to be moving towards banning the gas-burning cars by 2025. Great hiking. Plenty time to commit to it even for a full-time worker. Looks like a dream, on paper, at least to me.

Norway reached a planned 50 000 non-gas cars by 2015
Norway reached a planned 50 000 non-gas cars by 2015
Bergen_Sandviken,_Norway_at_night
Bergen Sandviken, Norway

norway-geirangerNorthern Lights near Tromsø, Norway

So far I only had a chance to visit Finland. It was a rather harsh experience. Granted I was pretty young kid. I remember a hotel that was promised to be right outside of Helsinki. Around an hour drive along the forest, in reality. I remember arriving on Sun just to realize, that nothing is open in Finland on Sundays, including the hotel reception. We found the keys in the mail box, along with a notion that we were the only visitors so far. After a few hours of struggle to find some signs of civilization, lost-in-translation issues, and false hopes to walk to a nearby town center, we managed to call a taxi. It took us to the only, still open bar. They obviously had no food, but alcohol and tea with sugar. A small gas station shop, with its heavenly cookies, was a save-of-the-day. As our further pre-travel research skill developed over time, this trip to Finland, I will never forget. There was the most gorgeous lake right in front of the hotel, surrounded with trees, bigger, than I could grasp. And that also was Finland.

Trollstigen Mountain Road in Norway
As I am watching today’s stage of Tour de France, the look at this photo makes me want to cycle there just too bad.

Lysebotn, Norway

There is much of the useful information for the future travelers, that made me very curious.

Norway landscapenorway

These places are the reason I wake up (part I)

It appears that I accumulated a solid amount of places, that are an absolute must see, while I was thinking on the bucket list. Their absolute beauty makes me ecstatic and motivates everyday to actually get out of bed, and do something, that can bring me closer to any of them. Here is just a few:

14863560864_602e1efcc6_b

Bolivia

I couldn’t recall what linked me to the country, but it’s picture of the sky reflected in the rainfall-covered desert was deeply curved in my imagination. I read about Salar de Uyuni. It is the world’s biggest salt flat. And just a few times a year, during the rain season in Bolivia, it gets covered by a few inches of water. This makes it the most perfect mirror on Earth. Scientists use it for the satellite calibration. While the local people enjoy its natural salt resources and tourist attraction, as their string to income.

I imagined the surrealism of the place. The infinity. I am obsessed with cycling. The road and the two wheels make me never want to stop, and so I often come back home exhausted and completely happy, laying on the cool floor right next to the dusted bike. I imagine cycling through that salt flat in Bolivia. I imagined the whole cycling competition there, like Tour de France or Giro. The never-ending snake of the peloton. How fascinating that would be? I painted it over and over again. And hope to experience it soon in the real life. If not a race,at least as my own challenge.

 

Chasing The Pink
Chasing The Pink 
Sky is The Limit
The Pink
Flat Tire In The Pink Desert
In the Pink Desert
Almost Emptiness
When Mountings Became Flat 2015
 

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Iceland

I saw Iceland many times from the plane, during those hideous transcontinental flights. I saw it in one of my favorite movies The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. My friend  found a great reason to go to Iceland: Secret Solstice. It is a music festival, held in Reykjavík over the course of three days in the 24 hour midnight sun during the summer solstice. Iceland also seems to be a thrilling place to see Northern lights. I read a very picturesque description of how to accomplish it the best, in the blog, that was featured on CNN eventually.

Iceland Northern Lightsholidaysempire-laguna-blu-islanda-fly-and-driveIceland1

Iceland was very well described by William Morris:

…on Thursday morning about three Magniisson called me up to see Iceland I think I told you we were to go to Berufirth in the east first of all and we were just at the entrance to it now it is no use trying to describe it but it was quite up to my utmost expectations as to strangeness it is just like nothing else in the world it was a wild morning too very black out to sea and very bright sun under a sort of black canopy over Iceland. (William Morris: Journals of travel in Iceland. 1871. 1873)

  

Secret Solstice 2016.1
Secret Solstice 2016
The only party on Earth incide an ice glasier
The only party on Earth inside an ice glacier
Secret Solstice 2016
Inside an ice glacier
Secret Lagoon Party
Secret Lagoon Event

Why you should start your bucket list two years ago

It was a 5am walk along the same single path through the park in Arizona. It was a bit dirty, as it rained last night. The first rain for the past four months. People worshiped the sound of thunder. Humidity brought back smells to the air. The bloody red colored sun started to make its way through the protective clouds. It turns out one has to move to a desert to start to love rain. It took me two years. That was when my friend and I started the battle for that starved kid’s life inside of us. The one that once had no excuses and accepted no obstacles on the way to the wish.

The mission, as simple, as getting together at the music festival appeared somehow beyond accomplishable. For two years there was something in the way. I can remember each dialogue that excused it. The voices that were really trying to convince themselves, had adapted to accept the current life flow as the only option. There was constant lack of: money, time, reason, visa, etc.

February 2016 I received a short message: “Let’s go?”, with a headliners list of the Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain. The answer was just as short: “Let’s go.” Next week we bought the tickets. Emotions were overflowing us. We actually had a hard proof of the upcoming trip. It was hard to believe, the whole hing was about to go down, because of the simplicity we accomplished it with. To an extend, the situation reminded  me of the Berlin Wall. When it was physically broken, yet its ghost was still curved in the people’s subconsciousness.

It took us over a month to get used to the idea we would meet at the music festival that was across the ocean.

In Pursuit of Spanish Visa
In Pursuit of Spanish Visa

Then we bought the plane tickets. We only needed a visa now. The vast majority of the world countries need to officially grant you, a Ukrainian citizen a permit (visa), in order for you to enter their territory. It includes, but is not limited to: a detailed trip itinerary; information on the funds that cover your travel costs, and your stay at the country during the planned visit; description of the intentions and reasons for your travel; as well as a descriptive bio, working/marital status and a medical insurance. I found out that the nearest Spanish Consulates to Arizona were on Los Angeles and San Francisco. I couldn’t get hold of the first suggested location and so I booked a visa appointment with the Consulate General of Spain in SF.

Shortly I was on the flight to the most expensive city in the US, with only five hours to spare, in order to avoid the hotel costs, and be back to Arizona before night. The next words sounded like an echo in my dreams. According to the new agreements, Arizona is not under the SF Consulate jurisdiction anymore. I had to contact the Los Angeles office. And yes they have two websites, one of which has the outdated information. Yes, they have a tendency to not receive or return the calls. “Try to email them a lot.” – they said.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Two month later my friend and I were both sitting on the sidewalk at 5am in Barcelona, Spain. We were trying to catch a taxi, but not really.. We were drunk with life, exhausted from all the dancing and high on oxygen in our blood. It was chilly and we had shivers from the sea breeze, that would sneak under our jeans jackets. The happy sound of the heartbeat resonated with the music and the feeling of life. It was so pure and real as if there was nothing else in the world. And no matter how many pros you can find – in the end of the day, it is always worth it!

WE CREATED OUR FIRST ‘BUCKET LIST’, when we came back home. Proudly, one dream was already accomplished, with a lot less effort than we were trying to label it with. The rest of the list doesn’t really fit in our current life stream. Most of it doesn’t pass the logical reasoning test. It is not meant for that magic and longed for post-retirement period of life, when one spare time and cash, hopefully. It is meant to keep us alive and conscious of who we really are. It is meant to teach us, what is worth our time. It is as simple as that: one needs a desert to worship rain; and one needs London to strive for a clear sky. And we all need air to keep us hight.

High