October 2, 2014: Rain (Kisa, pronounced KEY-sha)
It would probably be irresponsible of me to write about my experiences in Bosnia Hercegovina without mentioning rain.
2014 will likely be remembered in this country for the rain. The unceasing, incessant rainstorms have led to massive floodings, destroyed homes and farmland, and added an extra burden on an already profoundly stressed economy. Water levels in low lying areas, unrelieved by dam runoffs, remain mired and trapped until the next storm hits. River Vrbas cuts a swathe through the center of Banja Luka and swells apathetically every few days to erode its muddy borders further. Weeks of constant rain are punctuated by only the briefest hours or days of sunshine.
The pattern of an individual rainstorm is unlike any I have every experienced before. There is no “waiting out” the heaviest portions of the rain–it just keeps going. The storms can be loud or droning, but the sounds persist throughout the day. They have become the soundtrack to my two months in Europe, the white noise machine to my daily eating, working, and sleeping.
Weather is one of those truly great, apolitical topics to discuss. It is a universal theme that is uncontroversial and a subject to which any person can relate. In a country like BiH, where using the wrong phrase or expression can cause offense and trudge up memories of the war two decades ago, being able to discuss how terrible this summer has been weather-wise is a welcome conversational safe zone. Furthermore, discussing the rain at the beginning of a conversation has become its own greeting, an almost required introduction to any ensuing dialogue. This seems a cultural courtesy, especially for an outsider such as me. I have been repeatedly informed by locals that this is the worst summer of the country’s history, a reinforcing explanatory statement in the same way someone might explain that an untidy apartment is usually much more organized. It is a reminder to me and maybe to themselves that this is not how things normally are, how it will eventually return to normal, and how this is just the latest in a series of hardships that they are compelled to but are capable of enduring. For an outsider to acknowledge this lapse in weather regularity is not only acceptable, but considered polite.
The first time I visited this country was in March of 2014, during a week that was universally regarded as unseasonably warm, sunny, and clear-skied. I was told that March weather is never that beautiful.
So I have been asked by friends and family in the US what the weather is normally like here in BiH.
I have no idea.
Briefly, regarding the above drawing:
This is a portrait of a main walking thoroughfare in the center of the shopping district of Banja Luka, referred to locally as “the Pedestrian.” It is Banja Luka’s answer to Rodeo Drive, with less conspicuous consumption and more pekaras.
I do not believe it is a coincidence that my least successful drawings on the iPad have taken me the most time to complete. I become stuck on smaller details, and lost the spontaneity and energy of the piece. This drawing took me a very, very long time.
I am not thrilled with how it turned out. The color and tone of the piece is off, and doesn’t capture the actual mood of the pedestrian, even in the rain. Shadows and lighting are inaccurate. The buildings too closely follow a two point perspective and don’t seem realistically settled into what is normally uneven, bumpy terrain. The best part about this drawing is that it is done.
And that’s because, despite this piece including some of my biggest artistic weaknesses/fears (architecture, landscapes, reflections, rain), I figured out some techniques and pitfalls that should hopefully strengthen future drawings. As I had discussed recently with saileshcreates every drawing is just training for the next one.