“You can make simple changes in your life and see amazing results”

Oliver Neilson, photographer, Chetana Annette, Dr Sandeep Shirvalker, Bodhana, Mallorca. Phoenix Media

Dr Sandeep P Shirvalker
Portals 2013
©Oliver Neilson

“I was born in Saswad City near Pune in India. My parents were secondary school teachers, but they are both retired now. My father was a headmaster and taught English, Sanskrit and History, and my mother taught Hindi. I grew up with my two brothers, and they now work in the pharmaceutical and IT industries respectively.

“From as early as I can remember I wanted to be a doctor. I would play with my friends and my brothers and they would have to be my patients when I gave them check ups with a toy stethoscope!  It was my dream from a very early age and I always knew I would become a doctor.

“I took my Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and surgery as soon as I could. The course itself is almost five years long, with a compulsory internship year in a teaching hospital. The syllabus includes allopathic and ayurvedic subjects: anatomy, physiology, ayurvedic principles, diagnosis, pharmacology, gynaecology, surgery, ENT, paediatrics, and general medicine are all in there. The course is governed by the CCIM which is the Central Government of Indian Medicine. Then I continued and studied for my MD which was a further three years post graduate course, I specialised in herbal medicines at Pune University.

“The basic principles of Ayurvedic medicine are related to the human subtle energies called Doshas. They govern the body with elemental changes, we call them “humours”. Every body has a unique percentage combination of these doshas, if they are influenced to change through your lifestyle then this can lead to illness. You can be one or a combination of three different doshas: Vata people are usually thin, tall, skinny, always nervous with dry skin, they’re talkative and can’t tolerate the cold. Pitta people are usually always hungry, also they have short fuse, can’t tolerate heat and complain about digestive problems. Kapha people are usually bigger, calm, slow, although they may eat less than the Vata people, and they tend to complain about respiratory problems. But it’s normal for a person to show elements of two doshas, or sometimes all three. Understanding your dosha and how you need to treat it will help you to avoid illness, you have to be careful what foods you eat depending on your dosha and what you use to fuel the digestive fire, “Agni”.

“Ayurveda has a very big role to play in treating some very challenging disesases, and it also helps to prevent a person from developing ill health. I have seen good results using Ayurvedic principles in cases of infertility, PCOD, rheumatism, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, chronic pancreatis, NIDDM and many more. It is also a very good support system for people who are having chemotherapy, renal failure, cardiac disease, asthma and diabetes. It works well when Ayurvedic medicines are supplementing modern medicines. The side effects of chemotherapy can be controlled very effectively, and this has been well documented by scientists.

“In the West Ayurvedic medicine is still not very well known. The research and statistics are still not shared with the public in the West. Ayurvedic has previously only been known as a massage therapy for relaxing, but it’s much more powerful than that. The proper medicines are yet to be marketed in great quantity, some people still think that herbal medicine is some sort of magic, or a joke.

“You have to see Ayurvedic medicine as a lifestyle management system: I prescribe the proper diet according to your body type, recommend body cleansing procedures and rejuvenation therapies. These combined have a great effect to health and longevity.

“It was about twelve years ago when I met Chetana from Bodhana when she was in India. She came to me for a consultation and was very impressed with the results. We became friends and she started to bring me to Majorca to treat people there. She knew there were people on the island who were interested in the principles of Ayurveda who wanted me to go over and share my knowledge.

“I fell in love with Majorca as soon as I arrived. It has so many beautiful sights and people, and it’s quite accessible for me to get there from India. I visit Ibiza and Portugal as well and combine my trip with a little vacation. Sometimes my wife and son come with me for a few days as well.

“If you ask me if the people in Majorca have different diseases to the people in India I would say the causes are different, they are more related to modern lifestyle, precisely there are more stress related conditions here. Other than that it’s the same as the rest of the planet. Being a doctor is the most satisfying job in the world, knowing that I am helping people to be healthy. They have to follow some simple changes in their diets and lifestyles and the impact that can have is amazing.”

Dr Sandeep P Shirvalkar was speaking to Vicki McLeod

To find out more about his Ayurveda clinic visit www.bodhana.com. To find out more about Ayurveda visit www.researchayurveda.com To read more articles about people in Majorca visit www.mallorcastories.com

Click here to read the article: Sandeep

“I don’t feel retired”

Tom Brown  Magaluf  2012

Tom Brown

“I had just met my future wife, Marjorie, when I went on my first visit to Majorca. I was thirty three. I had been a ballroom dancer and competed all over Europe, and had three dance schools in Manchester. Marjorie was at one of the dance classes I was teaching and she heckled me. I said to a friend of mine, ‘I’m going to marry her”. I left a manager in charge of the schools and went out to Majorca. I was here for about three months and I almost bought a bar at that time, but I didn’t. I went back to the UK instead and taught Marjorie to dance and we fell in love.

“We got married on our day off and then she joined me in the business. We haven’t been apart since.  I joke that we couldn’t get a divorce now; it would cost me too much! But if you have a happy marriage you do become part of a whole. I can be thinking something and Marjorie will say it out loud. It happens all the time. Marjorie says that I lead and she follows, but really we do the jobs we’re good at and leave the things we’re not so good at to the other person. We complement each other.

“You can thank the Labour government for making Majorca so popular. They made it a law that stated that the maximum amount of money you could take out of the country was £50. But I don’t think people realised that they could go anywhere so cheaply, it was a surprise to them that you could get anywhere for fifty pounds or less. So it stimulated the idea that it was possible to go abroad. We visited Majorca regularly on holiday as a family and then made the move to live here in 16th October 1982. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to do when we got here, but eventually we started to look around for opportunities and went to see an estate agent.

“The estate agent thought that we wouldn’t want to look at the bar, but we insisted. He told us it wasn’t suitable. It was painted completely black inside, even the ashtrays were black. And there was a touch of psychedelic colours as well, a bit of ‘day-glo’, if you know what I mean. It had originally been a restaurant linked to the hotel next door, and then it was a nightclub owned by a Swedish man. Marjorie liked it because of the green patch next to it where the mini golf is, she thought it would be suitable for the children. We didn’t meet the Swedish owner until the day we went to sign for the bar at the notary. The bar owner was dressed in black, he had one green sock on and one orange one. He was a most peculiar, but very charming man. That was in 1984. And Tom Brown’s Restaurant was born. We were the first English people to have a big bar in Magalluf.

“At the beginning the bar was empty. We had no customers at all. Everyone gave us three months to live, as it were. Then Marjorie made some vouchers and went round handing them out: if you bought a cheese sandwich you got a free cup of tea. By the time she got back from handing out the vouchers that first day, we were busy. It worked. She did get into trouble though one day, she didn’t realise that she wasn’t supposed to give out leaflets on the beach and she got frogmarched off by two policemen!

“Soon we were very busy all year round, even in the winter. We worked very, very hard, And we were at work every day. There was a great party atmosphere in the bar. We gave out garlands, I would give them to the ladies, and Marjorie would give them to the men. They were supposed to only kiss her on the cheek, but some of them would manage to get a peck on the lips. The sparklers fizzed and the sangria flowed, and the music played. We didn’t originally plan to do food in the bar, but the business developed and we started to offer home cooked, good quality ‘family’ food.

“Our kids Tina, Nick and Jason all helped out in the restaurant in the holidays. Tina was an expert at spinning trays; she spent the whole summer one year perfecting her art. They were very happy times. Over the years the winter trade has changed though. There aren’t the flights to get the customers here, and there aren’t any hotels open for them to stay in either.

“The most important thing about running a business like ours is to be served well. You need to have friendly, helpful waiting staff. They mustn’t be stuck up, and they’ve got to know the menu backwards. I like what the British supermarkets are doing: I like the idea of people ‘meeting and greeting’ the customers, I like that extra effort to serve the customers.

“I stopped working officially in 2000when I was 68. The kids bought us out of the business and took over: Nick is at the original restaurant in the town, and Jason is at the one on the beach. I’m not so involved in the business these days, but where we live we get the weather before it gets to Magalluf, so if there’s a bad spell on the way we get on the phone and warn Nick and Jason to be ready for it. They’re still serving good quality British food every day and because of that, and the toys and games and things we lay on for kids means the restaurants are still very popular with families, both tourists and residents.

“Marjorie and I look after ourselves, we swim every day. And we garden, that takes a lot of time: we have a lot of trees. We might do some ballroom dancing again this winter, or we may go on a trip. In my mind I haven’t retired; whenever I go into a restaurant I can’t help myself, I am always looking at how I could improve it, if it were mine.”

Tom Brown, Magalluf restauranter, was speaking to Vicki McLeod.

Tom Brown celebrated his eightieth birthday on Saturday 15th September 2012. For more information visit http://www.tombrownsmagaluf.com.

You can read more about people in Majorca at http://www.mallorcastories.com

I wish it could be Christmas every day

Photographer Oliver Neilson Mallorca

Rhea Rouw
Santa Eugenia

“I was born in Saskatchewan and raised in British Columbia in Canada. I grew up in a place which had extreme temperatures of heat and cold. There were about 18´000 people living in the area, most people made their living with logging or farming. The nearest city to us was either Prince George, an eight hour drive or Vancouver, a two hour flight. People in Canada are still pretty open I think. We need each other; we have to rely on each other for support, especially if you live in a rural area. There are times when you have to ask for help from your neighbours.

“I’m not religious although my parents are Mennonites. Christmas wasn´t celebrated at all in our house. It was seen as a wasteful display of unnecessary extravagance. We never had a Christmas tree, ever. I was so jealous of my friends who had trees in their houses; they looked so pretty and gave me this really warm feeling. I would get so giddy looking at them.

“I left home when I was fifteen and went to live with my boyfriend at the time. When Christmas came around it was my first ever tree and my first ever chance to do what I wanted to celebrate the holiday. We were living out of milk crates and we didn´t have any money for furniture but I still managed to scrape together enough to decorate this Charlie Brown Christmas tree that I had cut down from the forest. I loved it so much.

“I guess I´ve got all my traditions from story books as we didn´t set our own family traditions when I was growing up. I always want to have the biggest possible Christmas tree that I can. I love doing the turkey and all the fixings for Christmas dinner. I love the smell of the food: the spices.

“Christmas lights and candles are all over our house, inside and out. Locally our house is known as Casa Feliz Navidad. Every year I buy more lights. You know that they used to light the Yule Log to be a welcoming beacon for spring? It was to entice the new season to come quickly. Some people say that putting lights in your windows is to welcome weary travellers. I always think that lights in the windows are a message to Santa Claus that there is a child living at that house that needs a present. That is where the light idea came from.

“For me Christmas preparations go on all year round, but I actually put up my tree on November 1st, and it tends to stay up until February. It has to be down by Valentines as you shouldn´t mix your holidays up! I don´t pay any attention to that Twelfth Night tradition, if you´re Danish you are supposed to put the tree up real quick and then it is down again so quickly. I couldn’t do that.

“I love the feeling that our Christmas decoration gives to the house. I swear when the tree goes up that everyone in my family starts to be nicer to each other, there are fewer arguments in the house, and the kids get on better. It feels as if our house becomes a haven. I wish it was Christmas every day, twenty four hours a day, but I’m not going to be able to change that.  I don´t know what it is, it feels like magic.

“On Christmas Eve we all open a present, and then we do the preparations for Santa. The kids put out their stockings and we leave him his mince pie, brandy and the carrots for the reindeers. Then we all go to bed. The kids are up really early on Christmas morning to see what Santa has brought them. Then we do a big Skype call to Canada and talk to the Grandparents, my parents still don´t celebrate but they understand that I want to. We will sit down for lunch at about 2 or 3pm. This year we have twenty one people coming to eat at our table. We will have turkeys and smoked ham, it´s going to be a feast! I like the fact that everything slows down for a couple of days over Christmas.

“We have such unrealistic expectations of Christmas, I know that the suicide rates go up at this time of year as some people cannot cope with the disappointment of it not being the way they want it. The season has become a frantic grab for stuff. It really should be about sharing time with your family and friends. I wish we could all remember to be kinder to each other, Christmas is about friendship, charity, giving. You should do your best, be kind, and forgive. Christmas is a state of mind, it´s in your heart, and it´s about opening up to those around you, that´s my tradition that I am trying to teach my own children.”

Rhea Rouw was speaking to Vicki McLeod

“We don’t want to be just pushing buttons”

Photographer Oliver Neilson Mallorca

Peter and Thilo
Andratx 2013

Thilo: I was thirteen when I realised that I wanted to be a musician. I had been playing piano since I was eight. My sister was brilliant at classical piano, so I decided to play jazz. I had a crazy young piano teacher, and I just wanted to be like him. I made friends, I joined a band, I went to music school in Amsterdam. This was in the Eighties, it wasn’t so easy to find opportunities for Jazz piano or multimedia music, but I started to experiment with sounds and noise. I would say that my influences were, are John Coltrane, Charlie Parker. I explored lines and rhythm, intuitively and conceptually.

I was making solo piano projects with my own compositions. Then I started to get interested in what I could do with the music of Kraftwerk. They have been such a big influence on musicians, especially in Germany. Kraftwerk are a German electronic music band formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970 in Düsseldorf. The signature Kraftwerk sound combines driving, repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, mainly following a Western Classical style of harmony, with a minimalistic and strictly electronic instrumentation. Their lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder or generated by computer-speech software. Kraftwerk were one of the first groups to popularize electronic music and are considered pioneers in the field.

I started to transcribe their songs, the left hand does the drums and snare, and the right hand does the melody. I had learnt how to make music with a sequencer when I was teenager, so I understood the construction. My concept was to take the purely electronic music of Kraftwerk and transform it into a mechanical work. The goal is to transmit rhythmic, abstract, sequenced melodies through one’s fingers, playing in real time. Kraftwerk’s melodies and rhythms, with their “pop” appeal, are perfectly suited to implement this concept. I premiered in 2005 with the concept in Dusseldorf.

Peter: I am musician as well; I play the Double Bass, Tuba and Electric Bass. I started working with video in 2004 when it became possible to work with digital rather than analogue. (It was so expensive working with analogue that I had had to stop in the 90s). I work with theatres in Germany. Thilo and I have worked together on different projects; we’ve been friends for a very long time. The animation is live, and in the moment, it’s geometric, without colour, only in black and white. I am finding a relationship between the shapes and the sounds. The software is attached to the piano, when Thilo changes the tempo, the volume, the feel of the sound, so the shapes change their shape in response. It’s an ongoing discussion between the two forms. It’s very interesting to watch.

We’ve performed several times at Sa Taronja in Andratx over the years. We participated every year in the PING! Festival, which was a big electronic festival organised by Tina Horne at Sa Taronja.

Thilo: We’ve tried to get in touch with Kraftwerk, with Floridan Schneider, we do live in the same town as him, but they are very, very private people. I know that there have been all sorts of versions of their music, from Cuban to Classical. We’ve had word that we can do what we want with their music in performance, but don’t have permission to use a distributor. I’m going to New York, Brooklyn soon to participate in a festival which will be fun. When I have performed the Kraftwerk Klavier I have had a reviewer say that it is the equivalent of the slaughtering of a sacred cow, Kraftwerk fans really enjoy what I do; they sing their songs back to me.

Peter: Aside from my work in the theatres, I have another project underway with 3D cameras. Your body controls the sounds when the cameras capture your movements. It makes sense to me to do that. I don’t want to be sitting in front of a screen and just be pushing buttons. I need to interact with the process as well.

Musician Thilo Schölpen and Video Artist, Peter Issig were talking to Vicki McLeod

Peter and Thilo performed in 2013 at Sa Taronja and will be returning in the New Year. You can see some more of Peter and Thilo’s projects here: aerophonium.com, here: welf-aussfellung.de, or here: youtube.com/audiodreamer. To find out more about events at Sa Taronja visit http://www.sataronja.net. To read more articles about people in Majorca go to http://www.mallorcastories.com

“Food brings people together”

Nathalie Lapping  Santa Catalina Market, Palma 2013

Nathalie Lapping
Santa Catalina Market, Palma

“I was born in Dijon in Burgundy and moved to the UK in the late eighties. I met my husband Graham whilst we were both working for Sony, and in 1999 we left and went off on an adventure. We travelled for two years; if I gave you the whole list of where you went you wouldn’t believe it! But my highlights were Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, the Maldives, Bali, Nepal, India and Australia. We had a wonderful time. Graham taught diving and I trained to be a dive master as well. Diving in these places was simply an incredible, unforgettable experience, and I was absolutely ready to embrace my inner hippy and live there. We did try to find somewhere to run a business, but it seemed that everywhere we found that we liked there were hurdles or problems, despite the beauty of the places, nothing seemed to be completely right for a business.

“Whilst we were travelling we explored so many different types of food, but the food which I loved the most was the Thai. It was really the first time that I had ever tried it; you just didn’t go out for Thai food or Sushi in the UK in the nineties, if anything you would have gone out for an Indian curry. So the fresh, clean amazing flavours that I found in Thailand were a revelation to me. I became addicted to them! I loved the street food market stalls, and I learnt as much as I could about the different ingredients and cooking styles. Then I would work out how to replicate the flavours of the dishes that I had tasted.

“Then 9.11 happened and we decided that we wanted to move back to Europe to be closer to our families again. We ended up in France running a B & B, but it wasn’t the happiest time of my life. I missed Asia and I would cook the food to make me feel as if I was back there. It became my soul food. It reminded me of good times with friends. We decided to move again and as I’ve been fluent in Spanish since I was fifteen so moving to Majorca was a good fit. We’ve lived here for six years now, and I love it: I know I have a lucky star up there.

“I’ve always been a very social person, I love to entertain people in my home, and I love to cook. Over the years I have developed a reputation for being a good Asian chef and I get requests to cater for private dinner parties as well as my own. It seemed to be a natural progression to start teaching other people what I have learnt over the years;  for me one of my cooking workshops is a bit like a blend of having a dinner party with a group of people who love food as much as I do. It brings people together.

“It is very rewarding to see my students rolling their first California rolls, or making their first batch of Thai paste. Some of these things seem so exotic to them that they cannot believe that it is even possible to get all the ingredients for the dishes here in Majorca, but if you know where to go and what to ask for it is possible to make the most delicious things, Palma has many secrets! My classes blend the subtle and exotic flavours of the Far East with a few of the traditional and familiar ingredients of the west. I teach my students about Asian flavours and how to balance them to create some delicious dishes. By the end of the two hour class the students are able to cook the dishes at home and impress their friends, guests and family.

“It’s funny, some of my students bring their kids along, especially to the sushi workshop that I run, and the kids love to learn how to make the food as much as the adults do. I think it’s really important to include children in the process of cooking as they learn by osmosis don’t they? And they understand more about eating a healthy diet, and also about exploring and trying new flavours. And it is a great thing for parents to do with their children as well, they are learning a new skill together and that is a great thing for their relationship.

“Home dinner parties are getting more popular I think as we have all been suffering with the economic crisis. But whatever you cook can’t be too time consuming; you have to find the balance which is going to work for you. I am always looking for new recipes and ideas as well. I like to take an established recipe and then improve on it; I give it my own twist. And I like to show my students how to present the dishes as well as cook them. Examples of what we make would be Red Thai Curry Paste, Tom Kha Gai,(Coconut, chicken and galangal soup), Red Thai fish cakes, Phad Thai Gai and King Prawns in Thai Red curry sauce. Or if we are doing sushi and tempura then we learn about the correct handling of the raw fish, the Nori seaweed and rice and then we make lots of different types of rolls.

“Someone said to me recently, ‘Doesn’t it matter that you aren’t Thai?’ In my opinion it doesn’t matter at all, it’s all about your personal passion.

Asian chef Nathalie Lapping was speaking to Vicki McLeod

For more information about Nathalie visit http://www.asianinspirationcooking.com. To read more articles about people on the island visit http://www.mallorcastories.com.

I wasn’t trying to prove anything

Kathrine Switzer Photo by Javier Carmona

Kathrine Switzer
Photo by Javier Carmona

“I started running when I was twelve: my father encouraged me to run a mile a day so I could make the field hockey team in my high school.  I discovered early that running made me feel powerful, free and fearless.  The longer I ran, the stronger I felt so the 26.2-mile distance intrigued me. The Boston Marathon, which was founded in 1897, was the most famous race in the world to me next to the Olympics. Yet unlike the Olympics, it was supposedly open to anyone who wanted to try to run. I felt thrilled by the prospect of running 26.2 miles in a race where supposedly anyone could run in the same race as the greatest runners in the world. There was no other sports event like that! (For instance, you cannot just go out and play baseball with the New York Yankees). Plus my coach Arnie Briggs had run the Boston Marathon 15 times and he used to tell me stories about this race and they inspired me. He didn’t believe that a woman could do the marathon distance but promised to take me to Boston if I showed him in practice that I could do it. We trained hard and one day ran 31 miles. True to his word he helped me enter the race.

“I wasn’t trying to prove anything. I was just a kid who wanted to run. I had heard that other women had run marathon distances and that one woman in 1966 ran the Boston Marathon but without a bib number, so I wasn’t trying to break any barriers.

“There were no real rules in 1967 stating that the Marathon was for Men Only. Nor was there anything indicating gender on the entry form. But almost all sports were for men; women rarely participated. Most people assumed that women could not run the marathon distance and if they tried they would hurt themselves. Most women themselves were not interested in running for the same reason, and many people also believed that difficult sports made women masculine. In 1967 the longest event in the Olympic Games for women was 800 metres on the track, and cross-country races for women were 1½ miles.  When I entered the race I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to run it,  I sign my name with my initials, K.V. Switzer so the officials probably thought K. stood for a man’s name.

“I had long hair, and wore lipstick and eyeliner to the start line of the Marathon. All the men around me knew that I was a woman. But the morning of the race it was snowing and everyone looked alike in their baggy grey sweat suits—including me. If it had been a hot day, and I was only wearing shorts and top, history might not have been changed.

Kathrine Switzer running the Boston Marathon

“The photo truck was right in front of us and the press and officials’ bus was alongside of us, working their way from the back of the race pack to the front. The official jumped off the bus and attacked me right in full view of the photographers taking pictures from the back of the truck. He claimed the race was a men’s only race and that I was not allowed to run. He was very angry that I had obtained an official bib number, and he lost his temper. My boyfriend who was running with me sent the official flying! It was very bad timing for the official, but it was very good timing for women’s rights. The photo of the incident was flashed around the world and is now in Time-Life’s book, “100 Photos that Changed the World.” I knew I had to finish the race because otherwise no one would believe women could run distances and deserved to be in the Boston Marathon; they would just think that I was a clown, and that women were barging into events where they had no ability. I was serious about my running and I could not let fear stop me.

“I finished in 4 hours and 20 minutes. My bib number was 261 and my life had changed forever. It wasn’t until 1972 that we finally got the organisers of the Boston Marathon to accept women officially as runners.

“My best ever marathon time was 2 hours 51 minutes 37 seconds, in the 1975 Boston Marathon. I placed 2nd; it was my seventh Boston Marathon. My biggest running victory was winning the 1974 New York City Marathon. But my biggest Life Victory was being a major part of getting the women’s marathon accepted officially into the Olympic Games in 1984. The Olympic Women’s Marathon opened the door for many other women’s events and helped increase the number of women participants in all sports. Additionally, the women’s marathon opened doors for new Olympic events for both men and women. Maybe most importantly, people around the world have been inspired by the women’s Olympic marathon and now embrace a healthy and productive running lifestyle.

“A lot yet needs to be done. There are many countries in the world where women are not allowed out of their houses alone, not allowed to drive cars, get an education or participate in sports. So getting the opportunities to these women will not be easy. We are working on ways to reach them, especially using technology and starting our new 261 running clubs (remember 261 was my bib number). Also, many women are poor and don’t have opportunities—that is why running is good, because you don’t need to be rich to run. Consequently, many poor women in Africa are excelling in running and taking their empowerment and prize money earnings to change the lives of other women and children in their communities. This has become a social revolution.

“If you want to start running don’t dream about it; do it. Make a commitment to go out everyday, write it down, and start walking and add small jogs. Get a good pair of shoes from a store where the sales people run, so they will fit you properly. Then, make a goal of running a small 5km race in your neighbourhood in about 2 months’ time. A goal gives you a focus. It will grow from there. Running is very creative; the mind is occupied with a million thoughts. It is a very good time to get good thinking done and feel peaceful. I am now 66 and yes, I am thrilled and lucky to be still running—for the last 53 years!”

Kathrine Switzer, first woman to officially run the 1967 Boston Marathon.

The 261 Women’s Marathon and 10K race will be on March 30th 2014 in Palma. For more information visit www.261wm.com For more information about Kathrine visit www.marathonwoman.com To read more articles visit www.mallorcastories.com

Is it a job or a vocation?

Photographer, Vicki McLeod

Joshua Burbank
Soller, 2012

“I’ve painted since I was a kid. I was born in San Francisco and raised there by my mom. I trained at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, and also with Aurelio Macchi in Buenos Aires in Argentina. I work as an artist. Is it a job or a calling? It’s both. I am letting it be the way I earn my living.

“I am also a musician; I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be a rock star. My mom wasn’t so happy about that, too noisy! But I think she’s happy about my painting.  I haven’t given up playing music though, I’ve just got an Otto Harp and I play the drums and the piano as well.

“My wife and I had been feeling the pull to move out of the States for quite a while, but I didn’t know where we should go, so I was looking for ‘a sign’. My wife is German and we thought we might go to Europe. But a friend of mine told us about a house in Deia that was for rent. I’d once driven through Deia years before so I knew it was beautiful, and we made the decision like that. We’ve been in Mallorca for a couple of years now. Our daughter goes to the local school.

“I paint a lot of women. If I psychoanalysed myself I might say it was to do with my childhood and my single parent mother. At the moment a lot of my paintings feature strong warrior women, although some of the characters do look androgynous, they could be boys, but not men. My art is very popular with women. I have my work in a couple of London galleries and they say that it is appealing to gay and lesbian art collectors, which makes sense I guess.

“People are usually curious about my technique, because of all the collage. I start with ripping up magazines and playing around with collage and acrylics until I get more or less a composition that I like. Then I shellac the whole thing with amber shellac. That is now the base for the oil painting on top. So that is more of a recipe.

“I rip pages out of fashion magazines like Vogue. I like using images like shampoo and jewellery ads to try to make them into something of a more classic beauty, but for this show I broke my own rule and started to use some other art images as well. It’s interesting for me to use the pages of Vogue, some of the articles and images in there are very influential in my paintings as well. It’s taken a very long time to find exactly the glue that I like to use, some of them made the paper ripple or they weren’t slippy enough. Now, I am content that I’ve got the right thing finally. I paint onto wood, sometimes I do distress the wood after I’ve finished. I use the other sides of the paintings as palettes, I’ve found that it means that the wood grain doesn’t start to show up in a weird way through the painting. And people like it I think, there’s paint on both sides.

“It can take me as little as twenty hours to a couple of weeks to finish a painting. When I was younger I used to work on paintings and never seem to finish them, I wanted to keep going, but now I am more comfortable knowing when something is right.

“My inspirations are from Old Masters and religious paintings to Klimt to Silvia Ji.  Other people have said that my art seems to be inspired by Arabian and Indian art, but I’ve never been to India, it comes out of my head or past lives I think. Most of the paintings in the new show I’ve made in the past two months. It makes our home life really chaotic when I am leading up to a show. My wife is an artist, a sculptress, as well so she understands, and our daughter seems to be very gifted too.

“I’ve recently been in London making some prints of my work which has been really exciting. It felt good to work collaboratively with other people to make something, I had these amazingly skilled people helping me to create prints. It was very inspiring!

“I have to be careful not to be too influenced by other people: some art agents want you to just produce the same thing over again as they’ll find something that sells well. But I resist that, I don’t want my paintings to become formulaic. It’s important that every single one is unique.”

Artist Joshua Burbank was speaking to Vicki McLeod

You can get more information about Joshua at http://www.joshuaburbank.com