The White and the Black (Capoeira and Sword)

I’m a capoeirista (though I took an almost two-month break in winter) and I’m getting more involved in show sword fighting recently. It’s interesting to me how I move differently through the two worlds. It brings out two different sides of me.

Capoeira, white clothes, barefoot – there is a lot of joking, music, a weird sort of openness. I don’t move with a lot of grace, I think, not like a lot of the female capoeiristas, I’m not as quick and lithe but more solid, grounded, with plain movements and a different kind of strength. Still, I feel rather feminine at times, maybe because of the light clothes and the sort of energy in that place. Energy rising and falling, a constant pulse, the mind just a sharp tool to carve out visible expression. On a good day, physical joy takes over, bubbly, the sorrows of the day forgotten, the body just bursting with excitement to move and experiment.

Sword fighting, dark clothes, shoes, leather gloves – the sound of metal on metal and  sometimes heavy footwork, occasional laughter, shouts, an inner focus on the weight in my hands. I’m not female, I’m not anything, just someone wielding a sword, black almost fading into the background behind the steel, the body supplying firm power to give shape to the mind’s will. It’s freeing, mind over matter. Yet, my movements are distinctly feminine, as the always upright movements with the arms doing most of the heavy work accentuate my build. There is a lot of fun and happiness, but more subtle, mostly inward, with a slight melancholic tinge at times, and being able to stay in focus leading to a very rewarding feeling of collected presence and inner strength, while a little part of the mind is dreaming of a different time and place.


Reducing Waste and Saving Money, Artist Edition

If you have followed my instagram lately, you know I’m playing with acrylic paint again. After trying more traditional painting, I’m now experimenting with pouring and liquid painting. This usually involves additional material like small containers for mixing liquid paint, stirring sticks, some kind of cover to protect the working surface, … which can add up to quite a lot of plastic and paper, unless you have space to keep an extra box of glass containers and all that jazz, and are very dedicated to thoroughly cleaning all materials right after a painting session.

As I’m not living zero-waste, there is enough single-use material at home that can be repurposed for painting and be used at least a few times before finally throwing it out. This way I don’t have to buy a lot of additional material for my creative hobby, while all this future waste is used as much as possible before trashing/recycling it.

A few items are

  • Plastic cups from yoghurts and desserts are stackable, can be cut to the needed height, and are washable. I use these for mixing paint for pouring and sometimes for making circles on paintings. (Before getting this idea, I started using up some old disposable cups lingering in a cupboard. They are wobbly and tend to break.)
  • Cheap chopsticks or small forks that come with convenience food or takeout are good for stirring, dipping, making lines, splashing …
  • Canvases often come wrapped in thin plastic sheets, which can be used to cover cups containing rests of paint (instead of clingfilm), be scrunched up and dabbed on paint to create effects, or serve as surface protection under smaller paintings.
  • I usually avoid plastic bags, but sometimes I buy too much or too big stuff to fit into my usual shopping bags, so a few manage to sneak in. They make great surface protection for small and medium artworks, still being small enough to be moved around together with the paining (I work on the floor most of the time, so I just drag them aside to let art dry out of the way); they are quite sturdy and can be reused and even cleaned it you want to – I just pull off the biggest blobs of paint after drying and call it a day.
  • Big plastic covers are good for big paintings or wild paint splashing. For some reason I had kept the thick plastic wrap a mattress came in and got it out for my first clumsy attempts with thinned paint.
  • Receipts for art supply orders are just paper and I don’t keep most of them (because I don’t do art for a living), so I sometimes use them to wipe my brushes/fingers or mix tiny bits of paint.
  • Old newspapers are good for covering bigger areas. I don’t buy a lot of newspapers, but sometimes they are used as wadding in packets (there is a constant influx of second-hand technology and the like in this apartment), so there’s usually a handful around.
  • Squeeze and spray bottles from cosmetics like shampoo samples or eco-friendly deodorant (which comes in fancy glass spray bottles here) are useful for dosing liquids. I have a spray bottle of water for art (and air plants) and I plan to put some floetrol into a small squeeze bottle later today because the original canister is really unwieldy for getting small amounts out of it.
  • (Old fabric from torn clothes/sheets can be cut into pieces and be used instead of paper towels, though they have to be replaced quite frequently when used to wipe away acrylics and aren’t washed immediately, so I prefer using them for cleaning the kitchen unless I have a lot of these rags at a given moment.)

The only plastic I bought specifically for my art is my palette (which I’ve had for quite a while and will last until I break it somehow), a pack of plastic shot glasses for really small amounts of paint, and some small stuff like eyedroppers and tiny bottles with fine openings.


Space Stuff Comping Up! (Reading List and Poetry)

I spent autumn getting back into my beloved science fiction and space in general.

Books I started reading:

  • The Tower and the Hive (series, sequel to the Talents trilogy) – finished two of five volumes. The Talents-universe Anne McCaffrey created just speaks to me with its unique atmosphere, slow and steady but still energetic pace, nostalgic feel, and threads of hard fiction (e.g. thorough description of life in domes on a Jupiter moon) among the crazy.
  • Spacefaring: The Human Dimension by Colin Phillinger; read the first few pages. Lovely blend of space exploration and psychology, as far as I can see. Not an easy read for tired evenings, but maybe for the upcoming holidays.
  • Cosmos, paperback version of Carl Sagan’s classic. Currently in my backpack, but as with the book above it needs some time and quiet to be truly appreciated. Hard to read on the train, but his wonderful command of metaphors and the like makes it worth the slow read an contemplation. When I find a seat in the mornings I try to read a few paragraphs to set the mood for the day.

I haven’t started Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophsics for People in a Hurry yet, but I’m looking forward to it as I thoroughly enjoy his (and his colleagues’) insights on Star Talk Radio.

My wishlist for Christmas contains mainly books, from Earth in Human Hands to Broca’s Brain.

Reading inspires me to write. I finished creating a series of haiku-styled factoids about our solar system which I’ll post as soon as I’ve decided whether to post them separately or in one big post. Apart from this I started collecting bits and pieces of thoughts on my reading material. I’ve been toying with some bigger ideas for a few months but they are not solid enough yet, though I might post fragments on their own.


The Pink Watch

When I was a child, my paternal grandfather (now long dead) gave me a  Barbie branded watch. It might have been for my birthday, I can’t remember. I owned a few Barbie dolls, but I was not very interested in pink stuff. The only thing I liked about this watch was the fact that it had a little button that made the face of the clock light up, in this eerie green glow common to glow-in-the-dark stars.
After a few weeks the button and the light stopped working, maybe the battery voltage was too low, and the watch ended up in the kitchen drawer where my mother kept watches we children had outgrown and ones that needed fresh batteries or bands.
I wonder if this old pink Barbie watch still exists somewhere. My fascination with glowing things and my dislike for too much pink definitely have persisted.

What If I Just Want a Simple Life?

I get bombarded by notions of how I should live my life as a still kind of young adult. Travel, do crazy things, meet a million people, go to festivals all the time, party hard, eat at fancy places, save the world, be a sparkly social unicorn, …

Yes, sounds nice, but for the moment, I just want a simple life. I want to work, train capoeira, make art, learn about things at my own pace, sleep, watch the snail I put into a jar to keep it for a few days before releasing it again, I want to watch clouds and listen to thunderstorms, I wish I had more friends to simply hang out with to talk, sunset hugs, sit at the beach at night; I want to have more energy to ride my bike out of the city in my free time, just feel my kind of freedom again, or read more books again. Travelling all over the world is for another year. I want to be content, have what I need, feel secure for a while. I miss the fields, the old paths, poppies and green turning to gold, summer nights spent outside. I love and hate the big city. I love and hate what I left, what I lost because I had to run off with what was left of my sanity and sense of self, and I love and hate the melancholy of being stuck between these worlds. I long for friends and community and solitude at the same time. I’m dreaming of a small rustic house with a garden and a studio at the edge of a forest right beside the modern city, with friends willing to come over for stargazing. I want a simple life with space for my complex inner world.

Capoeira Update: May 2017

The promised update on my capoeira practise!

First things first: I’m getting closer and closer to a freestanding handstand. I’ve practised pushing off the wall a little and try to balance my weight before going back to the wall or the floor, as well as stopping right before my feet touch the wall. The wall is great to take away the fear of falling over with too much momentum. On a good day I can hold my balance three to five seconds. In addition I started practising without the wall, both handstand and underarm stand. I’m not yet able to get into a totally vertical position because I’m scared of falling over, but it’s much better than last year, so with building some more strength in my core, arms, and shoulders it should get even better soon.

I had a lot of colds this winter (and right now, because it’s still cold and wet outside – the shops display summer bikinis while I wear half-gloves and my warm, rain-proof anorak) and missed many classes, so I was thankful for the cheap, thick yoga mat I had bought on a whim. When I felt good enough I did some stretching, warrior poses, or even push-ups and planks. The worst was the month-long cough that caused me to lose a lot of core strength because I could do no crunches or similar exercises at all. I regained most of it by now, but my way to a six-pack has to start at zero again.

My knees hurt more than usual when doing lower movements like esquivas and rolés, so I have to be extra thorough with warming them up. I’m trying to loose a little bit of weight to take some stress off my joints (I’m not really overweight, but not in my ideal personal range for intense physical activity either) and eat even better food. I’ve learned to make yummy Thai curries and stir-fried noodles with lots of vegetables.

Some random things I’ve learnt/done: I went to an angola workshop with a friend and learnt a cool way to turn around on one leg – I don’t use it in real games, but it’s fun to throw into the mix in when we do warming up games without kicks. Last week or so I found a video tutorial that included a simple but cool transition from queda de rins to a turn (by extending the lower leg and crossing the upper one over it, standing up with the back to the other person, and then stepping around), which I started to use in slower games. On Wednesday I didn’t play in the roda because I was exhausted from the beginnings of my current cold, but I got the chance to sing two songs (with some help) while the others played, which made me really happy and a little proud.

Work in progress: slowing down/stopping in the cartwheel, getting back into doing more and different push-ups, the aforementioned handstand, not getting angry at myself when I have a bad day*.

If I feel well enough for training tomorrow I’ll try to start learning playing the atabaque in the music part of class. I tried the basic rhythm on my djembe already :)


*Sometimes I use my needed breaks to do sketches of capoeira movements, which is a nice way to spend time in class without feeling totally disconnected or useless. You can find some of my sketches and doodles on instagram.