My eighth trip to Mongolia this year was the busiest ever. Not only did I have the WildArt Mongolia Expedition, but also the solo exhibition of my paintings at the National Museum of Mongolia. Before, after and in and around those was my yearly trip to Ikh Nart to meet with the women’s felt craft collective and visit the reserve, a quick weekend trip to Hustai, lunches and dinners with friends and, to top it off, gaining gallery representation at Mazaalai Art Gallery in Ulaanbaatar.
So not only do I have the WildArt Mongolia Expedition group exhibition next June or July to prepare for, but also the juried shows that I enter and creating new work for my gallery. All to say that after today, I will be doing one main post a week, not two, with the intention of posting every Wednesday. In between I’ll be doing shorter informal posts as interesting things come up.
I finally got back into the studio today after resting and catching up last week. Jet lag wasn’t bad, but I was tired, not surprisingly, since I’ve been going non-stop since June. Physically, I’m fine. Three plus weeks of remote travel on the earth roads of south-western Mongolia didn’t bother me at all. What seems to wear me down by the end of a trip is what I’ve come to think of as “decision fatigue”. Staying in Ulaanbaatar and traveling the way that I do in Mongolia is, in some ways, one long stretch of decisions,particularly since I’m often working and traveling with people from a different culture -the Mongols- and trying to function appropriately and correctly within that culture as much as possible. I reach a point where I need to park my brain in neutral for awhile. The prospect of 10-11 hours on a plane coming home becomes quite appealing. The only decision is which entree to have for dinner. Otherwise, I can mentally just flake out. Getting back into the home routine is nice, too, since the decision requirements are minimal.
My first task when I get home (besides unpacking and laundry), because I can’t really start to relax until I do, is to download all my photos (over 8300 this time) into Aperture on a local vault (Apple-speak for an external hard drive) and then back them up to a separate hard drive (a remote vault) that is kept in a different building, our detached garage. After that they need to be categorized, which usually takes a couple of days. Then I can really see what I’ve got.
And what I’ve got that I honestly didn’t expect to get was useable, paintable reference of the critically endangered Mongolian saiga antelope. They are all from quite a distance (see photo at top) and I will need to do research and call on the people I met in Darvi soum who protect them to help ensure that what I’m doing is accurate, but I got some great action shots of both males and females and some closer-in standing shots. I’ve done three pages of first studies to get a feel for what a saiga looks like. They are done on Strathmore vellum bristol with a Wolff’s 4B carbon pencil.