FEAR v Courage#2

Fear v Courage#2
FEAR v Courage#2  Oil Painting by Thel Wawrzonek 920mm x 920mm March 2018

FEAR v Courage#2 (Submerged). March 2018

I completed this painting the same week as I posted Courage #1 – now changed title to FEAR v Courage#1 (Looking Down).

This above painting is titled FEAR v Courage#2 (Submerged). I completed it a month ago BUT didn’t believe it was finished or satisfactory enough to post it! I am constantly compelled to ‘fix it’ or start over. Why can’t I believe in myself? FEAR?

It depicts being underwater looking up to the light. My old fear of being in deeper darker water always made me torn – either to focus on where I was below in awesome mysterious beauty or to look for the familiar light above me on the surface.

TW diving#3
Here I am – up near the surface! (photo by Bogdan Wawrzonek)

When scuba diving it is imperative to learn to relax. I had to consciously learn to slow my breathing down. Then the wonder of the surroundings become paramount. It meant I used less air which allowed me a longer time submerged with my dive buddy (my husband) as he photographed. That is when scuba diving became ‘magical’.

TW diving#4
This is me diving on the Great Barrier Reef Australia in 1986 (photo by Bogdan Wawrzonek)

My quest was always searching for the COURAGE to just embrace being on a big treasure hunt with wonder and delight when finding little creatures and corals and sponges to look at. Below are 3 photos taken by Bogdan – a nudibranch (sea slug) on sponge at Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, NSW and two clownfishes within their anenome – as found in tropical waters such as Fiji and Red Sea Egypt.

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QUOTE by C S Lewis “COURAGE is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

“FEAR v Courage#1 (Looking Down)” Ocean-Pool semi-abstract oil painting

TW painting Ocean Pool
FEAR v Courage#1 (Looking Down) by Thel Wawrzonek. Oil painting 92cm x 92cm

I am calling this oil painting FEAR v Courage#1 (Looking Down)

Painted for Holly my daughter-in-law for her birthday on March 1st. She sent me a basic idea of a semi-abstract poolside scene so I knew what she liked and wanted.

Three reasons why I call my painting “FEAR v Courage”?

  1. It took COURAGE to plan and paint this oil painting. I have a background in more realistic painting and illustration and have always struggled to be more ‘creative’. I knew I wanted to have an ocean-pool setting but wasn’t sure how to create a water reflection effect – impressionistic and modern. It became a leap of faith to let the serendipitous moments and allow the effects to take over, know when to not mess with them, when to stop. I’d always thought abstract paintings looked pretty easy to produce but I found it harder than I thought. I was not satisfied until I felt it depicted my own ‘feeling’ and most of all I needed it to make Holly and any others FEEL an expression of my art. There is a Henri Matisse QUOTE: “CREATIVITY TAKES COURAGE”
  2. What am I trying to make my painting say about COURAGE ? I have always been a weak swimmer, really scared of being in water. Hence it took me ages to learn to scuba-dive over 40 years ago – when Freddy wanted me as his dive-buddy. Getting me to learn the basic scuba-diving open water skills in a pool was scary. I remember even being terrified practicing to take my dive mask off – in the bath at home! Over the years I scuba-dived with Freddy all over the world: Fiji, Great Barrier Reef, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Honduras, Egypt. We did  hundreds of dives and while I had some of my best ever life experiences, I also had some of my worst traumatic experiences underwater. That is another story – another blog post. This painting COURAGE #1 became my expression of the COURAGE it took me to try to overcome my fear of water. Note the squiggly lines I placed near the ‘ocean waves’ – they could read as representing ripples swirling into the ocean pool BUT actually for me, they are safety lines at the far end of the pool. I imagined myself standing poised on the edge of the pool about to leap in, yet unable to take the plunge. I know I would need to have something to aim for and hold onto at the other end. And I am grateful there is no shame in holding onto my husband’s hand while scuba-diving.
  3. Courage – because it has taken me about 2 weeks deliberating whether this painting is finished enough or good enough to post here in this Blog.
TW diving
Here I am – so-called ‘experienced’ scuba-diving in the Red Sea Egypt. Me – clinging onto the coral.
Peter diving
Contrast – Here is Peter, our Dive Master on the same dive – look at him – fearless and funny!

QUOTE by Nelson Mandela : “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

I love the above quote. But I will take it a little further. I believe a terrified person facing their fears actually requires MORE COURAGE than a braver soul who has less fear. Perhaps COURAGE comes from a some kind of well inside us. For the really scared person to do what is fearful, they use up more of their courage capacity – even to the point of almost consuming all they can give, maybe even emptying the well. But I have come to believe the well is replenished again and again.

AND – Sometimes it even takes COURAGE to reach out to take hold of a safety line or an outstretched hand for help.

Thankyou – for reading this post to the end!

Oh … wait. Why have I called the painting COURAGE #1? Because I have just completed  another painting COURAGE #2 . Yay  – I’m on a roll.

Two photos from Los Glaciares National Park Patagonia

I just have to include a few more photos taken in Patagonia five years ago.

From a little town called El Chalten we did a four day backpacking walk in the Los Glaciares National Park to see the stunning Mt. Fitz Roy (3405m) and Mt. Torre (3102 m). Thankful for great weather on the first day we felt very lucky with this reflection.


This next photo was taken from our campsite beside the lake on our last day as the sun rose and lit up the peaks.  Note the icebergs floating in the lake after having broken away from the glacier. It was a very special moment as we stood together and enjoyed incredible peace. Just the four of us, Bogdan & I and my sister Merrilyn and her husband Graeme, were the only ones camping at this site. We realized our time in Patagonia was nearing an end. I can remember feeling very sad to leave such a beautiful wild place.

DSC02600And if you are interested here is the map we had with us of the National Park’s tracks.


A Memory of Patagonia

This morning I was looking for some of my photos of mountains. I found some which made me drop into tears – tears of awe and gratefulness – as I was swept up in the feel and recollection of five years ago walking in Patagonia.

PATAGONIA is a most spectacular area in the very southern part of South America. One of the treks we did was a NINE day backpack circuit walk in the Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile.

By the seventh day of the walk I wrote in my journal “Cannot wait to have a hot shower to get my filthy hair washed and especially the thermal underwear which hasn’t been off my body the whole time! The Italiano camp shelter is woefully substandard. We saw four condors wheeling above us and a mouse nibbled one of our snaplock bags.”

The next day walking to Camp Chileno we entered a valley of which I wrote “felt like a wander to Shangri-La with the feeling of isolation and unique steep-sided glacial valley and the rushing river like a ribbon gleaming in the sunlight …”

Here is one of the dramatic photos I took on my iphone.


We camped on a platform because the valley was so steep.


We got up early the next morning in the dark to walk up to see the sunrise on the three tall sentinels or towers of the Torres del Paine: Torre Sur, Torre Central and Torre Norco. They were stunningly reflected in the lake below. It was so cold we put on every layer of clothing, rain jacket and over-pants and boiled the billy for hot drinks.  When the sun started to rise we photographed in total awe as the wildness and rugged beauty was transformed in the most amazing yellows and oranges.


To help indicate the scale here is a photo of Bogdan down beside the lake.

Here is the map I carried and referred to with the camps marked with circles.

Torres Del Paine National Park Map Patagonia CHILE South America


SHORT STORY – Memory of a Summer Day (Imprisoned by a Bra)

(NOTE – While this story describes an actual event – there are NO photo captions provided – or any artwork!)

It was a summer with consecutive days of temperatures above forty degrees. The air-conditioned shopping mall was a cool haven to escape the humid heat. Rebel Sports lured me in with Boxing Day specials promising fifty percent discounts on flamboyant bright sport’s tops and matching tights. I grabbed ten items of various sizes. The fitting rooms were narrow cubbyholes entered directly from the main shop floor, each hardly big enough to fling one’s arms around.

I raised a decent sweat trying on a pair of shorts.

“Holy Moley,” I uttered under my breath. “No air-con in these fitting rooms?”

I squeezed into a pair of tights. Getting them off was an ordeal while balancing on one leg, then the other. My body felt like it was covered with a layer of velcro tenaciously adhering to any material.

I suspiciously eyed the eight remaining items and mentally whittled them down to one.

It was a two-piece sporty thing, the kind I’d admired on younger well-toned females flouncing around in supermarkets. It consisted of a vivid blue sport’s bra visible beneath an attached outer aqua layer. I felt a stirring of hope and excitement, imagined myself looking cool and trendy on my morning walk. Yes – this will make me WANT to go walking! Felt a lift of courage as I peeled off my tired old bra.

It took time and effort just to work out how to get into the new top. I got the four attached shoulder straps with two crossing at the back over my head, but it was a tangle and required a second attempt. Then the bra part got stuck above my boobs.

“Okay, this could be tricky,” I mumbled.

I hauled the edge of the bra down over one boob. The rest got stuck over half the other boob. I couldn’t get my arthritic fingers under it. I battled, grasping, yet unable to drag it further, until I gave up trying to get it ON. So I endeavored to pull it OFF, anything to free myself from the padded material, which wouldn’t stretch or co-operate over my clammy boobs and back.

I had visions of being forced to call for help. I cringed at the thought of peeping out the door and begging assistance. Worse I could only recall seeing young guys as shop assistants out there.

I broke out in a further outpouring of perspiration. How to extract myself without creating a public scene? I glanced at myself in the mirror – horror of horrors! The wretched top clung about my damp nakedness like an octopus with suckers.

Enlisting a surge of new energy, I bent over, exhaled, slithered my fingers under the bra and fought it. Inch by inch it was released from my boobs while breaking three of my fingernails. I took a big breath, bent over again and tugged with such anger that it was flung over my head, landed on the floor and lay dead.

I hardly recall escaping the confines of the fitting room and the shop. I remember shaking in the car for five minutes before I drove away, out into the bright hot sunshine of freedom.

PS – I am grateful to my writing group Writers Collective for critiquing this story and providing suggestions. Thankyou.

Antarctic Revisit

Three months ago we boarded the expedition ship ‘Ortelius’ to sail to the Antarctic Peninsula.  Travel to far-flung places such as the Antarctica leaves me with a reverberating hankering to return, to do it again to relive the excitement. But I suspect nothing can replicate that first impression and awe one is overwhelmed with when standing on the ice among hundreds of penguins.

I recall stepping ashore from the zodiac and slowly spinning full 360 degrees to try to gather the total panorama into my memory. Majestic dark, rocky, ice-encrusted peaks surround me. The frozen pack-ice and iridescent blue icebergs jostle in the bay. The foggy mist enshrouding the lofty peaks drift and hover grey and blue.

Back home in random wistful moments I find myself stopping what I am doing and smiling as I recall feeling the Antarctic landscape. I pull up the photos on my phone. The usual size photos just don’t seem to accurately portray it.  The panoramas and videos seem better to capture the scale.

I pick up brush and oil paints and start to scratch the barest outlines on canvas. Swirling clouds and atmosphere take over … and I’m reliving it, creating shifting clouds and slopes of snow, anchoring dark brown umber splotches for the rocky ledges amidst the mist. Using ultramarine blue and titanium white I’m trying to recreate the blue-green iridescence of the ice …


When something extraordinary comes to life …

I belong to three book clubs. They meet monthly so it means I get through at least three books – and often more each month. Reading a good book provides so much pleasure but reading with a cuppa beside me is one of life’s best joys.

I’ve been into doing some fun artwork lately – as shown with the last post of ‘Otaru’ in Japan.

And of course I adore penguins as anyone who read my blog post about the Antarctic must know.

So I put these interests all together and here is what I came up with yesterday …

I tried to depict when something extraordinary- such as printed penguins in a book burst from the page and share my cuppa.

QUOTE: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me … C.S.Lewis