Meet Siski and Her Amazing Watercolour Paintings

A few years ago I came across some pictures in one of the various Facebook groups for expats in Chile, and then discovered that I had gone missing.  As I peered at the image of the grey shaggy haired dog and then at the thin-legged bird, I found myself transported back in time to when I was a child.  For a split second I was seven years old, running through the grass beneath the English sunshine, with a book in my hand and smile on my face. It was one of those uncanny and profound moments that I still think of, and it can all be credited to Siski Green, a freelance illustrator and journalist.

Based in Concepcion but hailing from the UK, Siski moved with her family to Chile in search of a better quality of life, as well as for Chile´s volcanoes (her husband is a volcanologist). After becoming frustrated by the lack of ¨useful but pretty¨ options for gifts here, she decided to branch out and fill the gap herself.  The response has been overwhelming.  You can check out Siski´s Facebook page here or send her an email if you´d like to order for yourself one of these beautiful and unique gift options – they make great souvenirs or presents for family living overseas.  I also reached out to Siski to design our Miles & Smiles logo and to paint the background image for our website, and I was very pleased with the result and the service.

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How did you get into painting, Siski?

I’d enjoyed painting as a child although I’ve got no professional training in art or design. After the birth of my first child I took a watercolour class* here in Chile and it was eye-opening. There were so many techniques to master but I’d also been doing some very basic things wrong – like using the wrong brushes! People started asking me to paint for them, paintings of their children or the family. And that’s how I started painting as a way to earn money, rather than just for fun.
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Watercolour painting for a family
Why do you enjoy painting?
Painting for families is so much work but so enjoyable. Many people don’t have that ‘perfect’ photo of an experience or they simply want something to sum up a period of life – in Chile, it’s usually foreign families who want something to represent their time here, like a keepsake. It can be difficult to get people to look as they see themselves based on photos, but the joy they get when it’s all done and they see the final work is what makes it for me. I’ve had clients in tears (in a good way!) over the paintings. What can be better than producing that kind of happy emotion in people via your art?

Why Chile?

Personally, there is nothing better than spending time in nature to make me feel good about life. It doesn’t matter so much where – I love a little brook with moss-covered stones as much as I love admiring the view from the top of a craggy mountaintop – but what makes Chile so special is that it has a little of everything. Pink and yellow desert scenes, indigo and foamy-green ocean scenes, lush dark green moist woodland scenes, bright white and volcanic-black mountain scenes, so in terms of inspiration I couldn’t really ask for more.  We figured we could give our family a better quality of life here, based on our idea that being near or in nature is a key factor in a ‘good’ life.  The first couple of years were horrible, frankly, but when we moved out of the city [Concepcion] everything changed. Not a day goes past without me marveling at how lucky we are to live here, surrounded by hills, waking up in the morning to chickens clucking and the birds singing – it’s wonderful. But it’s not just about the natural surroundings – the people here are different. We were welcomed with open arms by our campo vecinos (neighbours).

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View from Siski´s deck – all that nature!

How were you affected by the recent wildfires?

When the fires raged through our area earlier this year, everyone came together to help keep the flames away. We formed a WhatsApp group to communicate and everyone was on alert, helping to make fire breaks where necessary, or calling the bomberos (fire fighters) when the fires were getting close to buildings. Not one home was lost in our neighborhood. When I look around at the hills around our home – some of which bear the scars of the fires – I feel like hugging them, they’ve always made me feel safe and I wish we could have protected them more from the fires.

Where is your favorite place in Chile?

For living, there is nowhere I’d rather be than right where we are. Close to a smallish city but far enough away to see the Milky Way at night and with space to grow plants and trees. But there are times when I feel an overwhelming need to head to the beach – and I just love Cocholgue. It’s not one of the most popular beaches with locals, they head to Tome or Dichato, and that’s partly why I love it. It’s more rugged and wild, and the waves are too big to allow for swimming but because of that we can explore the rock pools in peace, build sand castles and play, “What’s the time, Mr. Wave?” with the ocean waves.

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Product List + Prices
Tea towels: A selection of any 3 designs is CLP$25,000
Single tea towels can be found at Tu Espacio Emprendedor (Barrio Italia, Santiago) or Hecho en Conce (Galeria Amanacer, Colo Colo, Concepcion).
Guanaco growth chart: CLP$20,000
Personalised world map: CLP$45,000
Personalised watercolour paintings: From CLP$80,000

* If you are interested in taking a watercolour class yourself, why not send a message to Siski´s former teacher, Carola? You can find her website here.

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The Expat Spotlight series introduces you to expats (like me!) who have made Chile their home.  I specifically choose to highlight people who I think exemplify what it means to be an expat: those who embrace Chile and give something back. You can read other stories here:

Meet Hoda Madi and her incredible abstract artwork;

Meet Sarai and discover about her life in Puente Alto, as well as her small business selling handmade goods;

Meet Sujitra, who prepares the most delicious homemade Indian food;

Meet Sally Rose, author and longtime volunteer in low-income schools.

Mummy Diaries: Respect

Right now, Max is in that stage where he can´t stop going backwards.  At the moment he is currently bashing his head into the sofa, destroying a Sophie the Giraffe teething toy and simultaneously crying and laughing. He sounds like an ewok. Should I go rescue him? Yes …in five minutes.

We don´t have a full-length mirror in our house. I turned it sideways and hung it on the wall to open up our teeny tiny bathroom. I haven´t seen my bottom half in months, only my boobs which have been out so much they are no longer interesting. They have taken quite a beating lately. Max is like a flaming grizzly bear sometimes and the last few weeks it seems like I´ve been feeding him every half an hour (I want to say not literally but …)

In fact, my breasts have seen so much action in the restaurant recently – on the side of the road, in the supermarket, on the metro – that they have lost all hint of sexual connotation. They are literally non-things in the bedroom (they aren´t big anyway, to be fair). This depresses me for two reasons. The first is I was enjoying not needing a pushup bra (I wrote pushchair there like five times – doh!) and that amazing feeling that I still had cleavage in a granny bra (oh the comfort!). The second is that they got crazy sensitive in the months after Max was born and things were coming very easy (if you know what I mean!). Now nothing happens!

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Here we go again!

The other day I took the mirror off the wall because I dug out my winter leggings and they seemed tight (around my calves of all places!). Maybe some of you will be annoyed that this was an issue for me but honestly I nearly burst into tears. I went my whole pregnancy thrilled about my weight (I gained 7kg) which was all gone a week after Max was born, something I didn´t try to achieve it was purely due to all the vomiting. With Emilio I put on 18kg so it was something I really noticed because every second person was telling me how huge I was (thank you, considerate friends and strangers). But in the last two months something strange has happened to my appetite. I am eating – A LOT. I have been crazy, crazy hungry and – because this is Chile after all – I have satiated my hunger with marrequeta, that ubiquitous bread people wax lyrical about.  All that bread has gone straight to my hips. My thighs. My calves, ankles, arms, face, stomach – everywhere except my breasts, basically.

This has bummed me out so much that I have literally gulped back a tear every time I have gotten dressed in the morning (or at noon – meh).  It had even started to affect those (rare) intimate moments with my partner. I would run away, turn away, cower in the dark, dress in sacks and squeeze into jeans and get all aggressive with my muffin top.

It was exhausting.

Focusing all that hatred and negative energy at myself in a moment when I was already fragile was like half pressing a self destruct button.

So I stopped.

The time came when I had to make a choice – either go forward and be happy, or go forward and be miserable. My decision was sparked after hearing my own mother say something negative about herself when showing her our holiday photos. I told her she had to pay a thousand pesos every time she said something bad about her appearance.  I realized I should apply the same advice to myself.

I can´t tell myself to love my body when there are so many things I would like to change, but I can tell myself to have some respect. 

I made a human being!!!  

My stretchmarks are battle scars, they circle and lead away from my bellybutton like lion claw prints, evidence of the amazing achievement it is to grow a baby beneath them.  The pouch that hangs over my jeans or that dangles like an alien life form when I lean forward is the remnants of the home I had built for my sons, a home that protected them and nourished them when they couldn´t survive any other way. My aching nipples and limp, fluctuating breasts are the single source of life for Max – they perform tiny miracles every half an hour. My body has worked and is working HARD, doing something that so many people around the world crave to be able to do. I am blessed to have my body, and am so lucky to have it work the way it does, albeit with a few varicose veins and cellulite ridden pockets of skin here and there.

So I have come to the realization that this is my present. I don´t know what the future may bring but for now I am drawing strength knowing that my body is strong. This realization spreads to all corners of my life – yes, even to the bedroom – because I refuse to be a victim to more evil thoughts.  Confidence is what is sexy – own your body, ladies!!

 

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The Mummy Diaries are my own diaries based upon my life as a mother in Santiago.   I publish them because I believe that there are many universal themes that we mothers come across, but these themes are not always touched upon publicly so it is easy to feel isolated – especially if you are an expat (like me!) living in a foreign country. I fully subscribe to the idea that communication is everything.  Share your thoughts below, get in touch privately, talk to your friends – but if this is not working please get in touch with a healthcare professional. For those living in Chile, I can recommend an amazing nurse who is fluent in English, Spanish and Arabic, who can point you in the right direction.

Check out my other related entries: