Thursday, 19 February 2015


Once in a while, I get a commission for a portrait that takes my breath away. I love doing portraiture because, for me, faces have a story to tell. Most of the photos I get are interesting, but this one just blew me away. All portraits are, off course, important to the owners, so all get treated with the same care.
This time was extra special. I got a tiny photo of a young woman in an elegant pose and a huge, vibrant smile. I could see that the photo was quite old and she seemed to be from Papua New Guinea. A brilliant fuzz of black hair crowned her face, and, (my heart sank at this time) facial tattoos. Her aliveness and radiance were just palpable.

I have tackled a few challenging portraits: old people, young people, ringlets, bad photos and smiles (believe it or not, teeth are one of the hardest things to tackle). However, I never  considered that I'd be doing facial tattoos. They are basically a drawing on a curved surface. I also remember looking at it thinking how much it must have hurt.

She was the great-grand-mother of the lady who commissioned the portrait, and what I learned was that the tattoos were a sign of high status. Unfortunately, that is all I know, apart from the fact that she seemed very happy.
By contrast, I can tell you about the photos I've seen from my great-grand-parents. They were farmers and fishermen. They looked straight into the camera without so much as a hint a smile. 'Vibrant' or 'happy' are definitely not words that spring to mind. 'Stern', 'serious' and 'hard life' seem to be etched on their faces. 

I have included a sequence of photos to show the progression in this portrait. When it works well, it is like a polaroid that slowly comes to life. I am very happy with the result, and I think the tattoos worked out just fine! It has been an absolute privilege!


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Guru-Mooch V: Cat and Cow Pose

After Mooch's grudge against the Downward Dog, it is about time to demonstrate the Cat Pose. 
Cats are known for their ability to arch their back, and in yoga this pose is used to give our spine a great stretch. The Cat Pose is usually combined with the Cow Pose, since the combination of these two poses are like a match made in heaven. They naturally seem to complement each other.

So this is what we humans do:

  • Start by sitting on your hands and knees, make sure your knees are under your hips, and your wrists are under your shoulders. (Ironically, even though this is called the Cat Pose, this seems to be a bit of a problem for our fellow felines. However, there is nothing that cartoon-physics won't solve!) 

  • Start with an inhale, arch your back towards the ceiling whilst your head drops towards the floor. This is then followed by the Cow Pose where you exhale and drop your belly towards the floor and you lift your head towards the ceiling. 
  • Continue flowing back and forth from Cat to Cow pose for at least ten times, and make sure you connect your breath with the movements.
Guru-Mooch has noticed that his human, Ivette, practices this pose often after she has worked in her garden. She seems to come back, making noises like : 'ooh' and 'oww-my-back'. A few rounds of Cat-Cow seems to make her feel better.

Disclaimer: These little blog-entries are written by someone who loves yoga, spirituality and cats. They should not substitute for professional advice from a qualified yoga teacher.