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Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Friendships ~ Italy 2010

It has been a long time since my last entry and I do hope you haven’t given up on me! My store has demanded much of my time as we prepare for the Christmas Season ahead.  My plan is to update every week or two, so it seems I have some catching up to do!

I was reading my journal from my trip to Italy and came across some stories that included two new friends I met when in Sorrento. Devon is from California and Tara from New York. They were touring Italy together and as fate would have it we all arrived at the hotel on the same day. We met during breakfast the next morning and shared plans we had for the rest of our trip. They were only staying in Sorrento for a couple of days.  I shared with them my ten day plan to paint and write and make my time here productive and relaxing.

The next morning they told me they changed their plans to stay. We ended up on many adventures together touring around the Almalfi Coast, taking a train to the ruins of Pompeii, and even took the little tourist train around Sorrento Old Town. We also enjoyed many meals together sharing stories from our lives.  It was great fun to get to know these bright, fun girls. Tara (Miss Wall Street) works in advertising on Wall Street and Devon (Miss California) has an advertising firm in Los Angeles.  I was known as Lady Connie...much easier than trying to remember my last name! I will always appreciate their views on life. It was a good reminder for me to look for opportunities to learn from the people who cross my path...no matter their age or their place in life, they have much to share.

It was great to get the younger perspective as we toured around. We talked of our work, life and future aspirations. They have left quite an impression on me and reaffirmed in me the importance of being open to the day. Thank you ladies! And remember...what happens in Italy stays in Italy!!! :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Back to Reality


Doorway to the Past
 
I have now arrived home and still trying to get my sleep patterns back on track. The luggage has been unpacked and clothes washed. Again I took too many things and vow not to make that mistake again!

It’s back to work for me this week and I have to say the biggest adjustment has been to not have a pen or brush in my hand every day. I do hope for this one day to be my reality, but in the meantime am happy to get back to my “real” job. There is much to prepare for the busy season ahead and again would like to acknowledge my Northwoods staff and my family for picking up the slack so that I could pursue my creative dream.

Of course the bookkeeping part of my reality I could do without. That really is the other side of the brain stuff!!

Ancient Window
I have gone through my sketchbooks now filled with images and words. I met so many interesting people along the way and there is still much I would like to share with you about my latest adventure.

I have decided to keep this blog going and invite you to come back for future updates.

In the meantime here are a couple more sketches I completed while in Italy and Croatia.

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Making Lemonade ~ Croatia

Well what can I say....when you have lemons, make lemonade!

The cold, rain and wind are making it impossible to leave the hotel today. Our studio is open air with an awning and roll down blinds offering some protection but still a challenge to work in. Many in the group are retreating to their rooms to paint, but there are a few who stick it out. Our fearless leader Karlyn was creative with her lesson today deciding to give us tips on how to paint the huge waves crashing along the shore. It was great fun throwing paint while the awning leaked above me dripping water onto my painting. I think it actually improved the finished results!!

Great fun and am looking forward to seeing the sun again....soon I hope!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

On the Vine ~ Croatia

Today we ventured out to a local vineyard. The weather didn’t cooperate, but we still enjoyed exploring the grounds.

There were stone buildings with walls half metre thick, and red tile rooftops now almost a burgundy colour in the rain.  Here the vines grow row upon row many growing out of stone. These particular plants require very little water and soil. Hard to believe something so tasty could ever grow out of rock!
  
Everywhere I looked there were signs of old and new side by side. The owner gave us a tour and explained their process and the types of grapes they grow. Their vineyard is located in the only area in the world to use GRK (pronounced gerk ) grapes for their white wine. I must say it is VERY good! He also explained how this property has been in their family for many generations. He has certainly taken it to the next level with new equipment and management. Being the largest vineyard in the area he was able to market his product to the cruise ships that come and go on a daily basis. Quite the entrepreneur!

It was picking time when we were there so many long hours were put in by all the workers in the area. This owner in particular was now working for over 24 hours consecutively and still had to deal with one more tour group after us. Hmmm, I thought I worked hard! One of our painting group actually took a morning to help with the harvest and said how great an experience that was.

When we returned to our studio, we worked on our sketches and began some paintings. I have included one that I did. The first image (above) was about the midway point of painting and the second (below) is the completed image. Like the vineyard owner explained their process, I thought you might enjoy seeing the process of my painting.

You can see in the second piece I added some branches to weave throughout the image. I used just enough information to depict the subject, but wanted the background left to be loose and interesting. The magic for me is when the highlights and darks are put in place giving the painting a depth and richness that then says more than just grapes. You can actually feel the warmth of the light as it weaves its way through the vines. You can almost smell the scent of the fruit now ready to be harvested.

Now to sample perhaps a little of the red....

Zivjeli!!

(Cheers!!)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Old is Nice ~ Croatia


As some may be aware I celebrated my 50th birthday on my first day in Croatia. When out with my painting group one afternoon we came across this door with a poster in the window that I thought was rather appropriate. Enjoy. I sure did!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Oasis ~ Borghese Gallery, Italy

When I first checked into my hotel in Rome the clerk wanted to know if I would like her to book me a ticket for the Borghese Gallery. It sounded like a good idea since I was told the only way to get in was to book ahead at least one day.  I’m so glad I did, for two reasons.

First of all it was a surprise to find such a beautiful green space in the centre of Rome. Acres of parkland dotted with fountains and winding pathways was such a welcome sight after all of the hustle bustle in this very busy city. (I am, after all the country mouse in this fairytale travel adventure I’m on). I arrived 3 hours ahead of my scheduled entry for the gallery to allow myself plenty of time to enjoy this quiet interlude. I found a fountain to sketch while eating my cheese and fruit picnic lunch. The sunlight filtered through the leaves creating dappled patterns of light adding to the splendour of the day.

Secondly, I was absolutely blown away by a Bernini statue titled Apollo and Daphne in the Borghese collection. The power and passion of this Greek myth forever immortalized in marble has left a lasting impression on me. I settled myself in and decided to try my interpretation of this monumental work of art with my sketchbook. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish this and one other sketch before my time was up. I didn’t realize I had only 2 hours to see the complete collection and was now left with two unfinished drawings. I thought I was so clever when I thought to buy post cards, unfortunately they were depicting views from other angles. I have since completed them from memory as no cameras were allowed. The figure has always been a challenge for me and I have found sketching statues a good subject to help me to improve. 

I found it interesting how absolutely no handbags were allowed in the gallery, but they did permit me to enter with a sketchbook and permanent marker.

Off now to find my way back through this labyrinth of streets as the sky now turns to hues of coral and mauve...another day well-lived.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Italy Random Sketches ~ Venice, Florence

 










Here are a couple of sketches I've just completed from Florence and Venice. Florence was done on location and I finished painting the Armories since arriving in Croatia.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rhythm of Time Poem ~ Croatia

I am now on the island of Korcula in Croatia. Not many people live here throughout the year;  their main industry is tourism. Cruise ships stop in the harbour about 10km away from my hotel, but it's still pretty quiet and traditional here in the smaller village where I "live".

In the early morning, I make my way to my favourite spot to watch the sun rise. Fisherman not far from shore pulling in their nets create images before me out of a book. Beautiful. Mountains across the bay every colour of the rainbow throughout the day and then there is the water. So crystal clear ~ a kaleidoscope of everchanging colours from aqua to emerald to a deep rich blue. A painter's paradise. I have included a poem about this very special place. Enjoy ~
     
Rhythm of Time
  
I found my quiet place
here in this foreign land
A tranquil cove made of stone
faces out across the electric blue
On the far shore mountains rise
high above watching over me
  
Full moon rising now
Filled with peace and knowledge of the
timeless
  
Fishermen come and go as they
ready nets for another day
A rhythm of life been done now
for one thousand hundred years
  
At the waters edge
in this secret place
I can think, am grateful, just be.
This stone still warm beneath me
from the afternoon sun
filled with fossils, embedded and
worn from Nature's Grace
History still in the making
  
We are also a part of her rhythm
like the ebb and flow of the tide
Our lives being molded from our
experiences here on this earth
  
I look down now and see my mother's hands
as my pen moves across this page and
realize that time from before and the days yet to come
really are one and the same
Connected in ways we are not yet able to understand
  
Be it the moon the stars or sun that directs your path
  
Where East meets West
may we find a way to
move forward together
a voice unified
  
On this adventure we call life.
  
Dovitenja!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Roaming Roma

Morning

I am now sitting on the Spanish Steps. People huffing and puffing their way by, a minute ago I was one of them.....

Today I have decided to simply wander my way around this ancient city to see things as they come to me. To roam Rome is my goal! Until now I have kept myself moving with purpose – from point A to point B but I feel I missing the spirit which is Roma. So today I will discover her as I go. Not sure how I will even find my hotel after all of this, but I know I’m not really lost after all. Now time to get moving and let the light tell me the way to turn. The shadows down these narrow streets are truly spectacular.

Afternoon

I’ve now planted myself in front of the Pantheon with a white marble pillar cool against my back. Not sure if this is such a good idea now that I think about it....I’m wearing a white skirt! Oh well....a little dirt from Italy is a great souvenir!

Inside the Pantheon there is a great dome and a large circular opening at its center. The sun beams down through this opening casting a glowing light that doesn’t quite feel of this world. The beautiful marble patterns surround me as I feel encompassed by this wonderful light. All that I see and feel will be hopefully transformed into paintings when I return to my studio. Patterns of light and life filled with a spirit from centuries gone by.

Evening

I actually found my way around the entire centre of Rome from Vatican City, The Spanish Steps, and all the way over to the Coliseum passing through many piazzas filled with shops, people and life. I’m exhausted yet energized at the same time. I feel so very blessed to have had this day to explore Rome in this way. And yes, I did manage my way back to my hotel with no problems! Figures it should take me four days to get my internal GPS to work!!

Now to go foraging for food...again!! I think it feels like a Caprese Salad night after all the gelato, pasta and pizza I have consumed!! It really is delicious! Fresh tomatoes still warm from the vine with the most incredible soft mozzarella lightly seasoned and drizzled with olive oil. Of course this will be served with some fresh homemade bread hot out of the oven with a glass or two of wine. Well...so much for thinking a “light” dinner!

The light now is fading and the sun sets on another day here in this beautiful country of Italy. Soon I make my way across the Adriatic to Croatia for yet another adventure. Time is flying by and I know it won't be long when I return home to the other side of this world.....but not today!

Ciao!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

People, Places, Things ~ Italy

Today I met a couple from the UK. Very interesting stories they had of their travel, life and adventures. They were such great storytellers that I now want to add Turkey, Russia and Prague to my list of countries to visit. It seems I’m not the only one on this world that has a passion for visiting new places. But then of course seeing the “place” is only part of why I travel. Meeting new people and finding out about their lives and journey is what really makes it all so worthwhile for me. Now you think, what could possibly be so interesting to hear about a stranger’s life?

Yesterday I learned how a sweet lady named Gwen lost her two front teeth when travelling years ago with her husband in Spain. They were “young and full of spunk” she said and with friends out for an evening. In the early morning hours they decided the best thing to do would be to go for a swim. They all jumped in and the person ahead of her kicked her, accidently of course, and pushed her teeth back in her mouth! Well, she said, what was one to do but to put them back into their proper position and get on with the trip!! They continued on for another 3 weeks and when she arrived home had some new ones made. Now that’s life!

So now you wonder why I would be so interested in her story. How could this ever be something one would even care to learn about another?

I tell you this. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds when she spoke every word. The more she talked, the more she had to say. It was obvious to me that this woman knows how to live life! It didn’t matter anymore what her “story” was, only that she was absolutely, totally, and fully immersed in the memories of her life. She said: "no matter what life throws you, you must run with it and still find a way to enjoy the day!"

All of this information coming from a woman who was in need of a walker to get around and was now a widow of 5 years. When she spoke of her hardships, they really weren’t to her. Yes she did miss her husband very much but all she talked about was the fun and great times they had together and all of the places they saw and people they met throughout their lives. She said life is an adventure and you simply must make sure to get out there and live it the best way you can.

Great advice!

I am now on the fast train to Florence from Sorrento. The Italian landscape zips by with small villages dotting the hillside. Out in the distance I can see a castle now in ruin perched high above the village. I imagine the way it was when people had lived there raising their families and working the land. Now darkness comes as we pass our way through another mountain. Nothing short of magic for me to think there is actually an entire mountain above me now.

I have read in history books how many artists have made their way to Italy from England and France hundreds of years ago travelling by horse and cart. I am glad to be seeing it now with all the modern luxuries. But then again, horse and cart was also a luxury “in the day” so too I suppose taking a train will one day seem barbaric....but not today!

I have just completed a sketch of a building from the Armories in Venice. This is where ships were built and docked for repairs. Beautiful, elegant arches filled with such glorious light. A painter's paradise.

I am glad to be able to share these random thoughts and experiences with you in hopes that you too will discover this way of living for yourself. Embrace the day. Take time to sit and really listen to another’s story. You will be amazed the adventures waiting to be told.

The train slows as we approach the station...Florence here I come!

Ciao!

Connie

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hello Gelato, Hello My New Friend!

I’m enjoying the view from a quiet terrace at my hotel surrounded by my paints and paper. There is a cruise ship in the harbour blocking my view of Naples but can still see the top of Mount Vesuveus. The day is cool here in Sorrento (well, not by Canadian standards) so I have the whole place to myself. I guess everyone is out shopping or more likely eating. That, it seems, is the main activity here in Italy! I had my first Italian gelato last week and now do understand what the fuss is all about!! There had to be more than 40 flavours to choose from. I felt like a little kid with my nose pressed up against the glass for what seemed much longer than necessary by the look of the "keeper of the gelato". After much deliberation I decided to try the pistachio, and I must say mmm mmm good, just like the saying goes!

This is my last night here before making my way to Florence and Rome. I did visit the Isle of Capri and managed to see the Blue Grotto and the beautiful rock formations along the coast. I have included a couple of sketches I’m working on today from that trip.

I also went for a drive along the Amilfi coast. Now if you’re thinking I actually drove myself, the answer is NO!! The people are much safer without me behind the wheel. I have always thought of myself as a good driver, but not in Italy. Here the stop signs don’t really mean much of anything and the speed limit signs are purely decoration. The road to Revello was also only wide enough in areas for one vehicle even though it is designed for 2 way traffic. Imagine driving along and having cars and motorcycles passing whenever and wherever they felt the need, including on hairpin turns. Some also surprising me by passing along the curb from the right. Yikes!! Organized confusion is what I call it because for the locals it seems to work. Tourists, however, should just say no. Besides, how could I drive, take pictures and sketch all at the same time?!!

Now to think of which flavour of gelato to try tonight! Hmmm......I may have to splurge on a new pair of pants before my return!!

Arrivederci!
Connie

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Now That's Old! ~ Italy

As I make my way around Italy I can’t help but marvel at the amazing architecture of these beautiful old buildings. As far as my eyes can see these structures were built when they thought the world was still flat!

The artistry and vision by their creators astounds me now as I imagine them being built without any modern equipment. I see various styles of design depending upon the country in power of the day. Venetian so far is my favourite period with its beautiful curves and carvings.

My camera is constantly recording these works of art and all I can think of is paying homage with my brush when I return to my studio so that others may see and appreciate.

My mind wanders back across the sea to good old Fort Frances as I consider the fate of our Rainy Lake Hotel. I painted a picture of this building years ago and got to know her spirit then and how beautiful she could be. Next time you pass by I ask you to take a minute and look beyond the disrepair and see the artfully curved designs across the top. It really is beautiful....and old. Well still a baby in comparison to the structures I see here, but for us the "R.L." is our ancient landmark. I do hope for a miracle to restore her to a building filled with grace and dignity. We at least are, I believe, obligated to try before we tear down yet another part of our history.

There...I`ll step down off my soapbox and back to reality....or am I really dreaming as I look out over the bay of Naples with villages and trees clinging to cliffs that drop hundreds of feet into the beautiful Tyrrenian Sea? I`m sketching this now and have included the image here so you can see from the other side of this amazing world of ours.

Ciao!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Spaghetti Land

Yesterday I arrived in Venice and to tell the truth, I still don’t believe it to be real. When arriving at the airport I had a short walk to the water taxi area. Straight from the plane to the water....kind of like living in Fort Frances!  After getting off my stop I then proceeded to walk in complete circles for about an hour, over 3 small bridges with my luggage. I swear next trip I will bring only one suitcase...famous last words!

It wasn’t until later in the day when I realized that all I had to do was walk straight ahead...no bridges for about 300 meters. I guess I was too busy walking around with my jaw dropped to pay any attention to my map. I laughed out loud when I figured this out and I’m sure the people around me wonder what I had to drink with lunch!

My hotel is in the quiet area of Dorsoduro. The building was originally the home of a wealthy family. Murano glass fixtures are throughout this small hotel with ornate ceilings embellished with frescos and carvings. My room is the size of a shoebox, but very clean and has everything I need including a comfy bed the size I had when I was a little girl. Interesting thing is when travelling alone in Europe, all the rooms for one face a wall or back alley, which is fine because so little time is spent here when surrounded by such beauty.

I spent the better part of today lost in the maze which is Venice. I do believe this should be on your list of to do’s if ever you find yourself here. Wandering, surrounded by the most beautiful light I was mesmerized as it bounced between the buildings and reflected richly in the canals.
I happened upon the Peggy Guggenheim gallery finding a great collection of art ranging from Pollock to Kandinsky. There were also some by Picasso, who I have always had trouble connecting with, until now.

I rented the audio tour and very glad I did. On there was a quote by Picasso regarding his thoughts on the metamorphosis of a painting that I would like to share.

“A picture is not thought as settled beforehand. While it is being done it changes as one’s thoughts change and when it is finished it still goes on changing according to the state of mind whoever’s looking at it. As a picture lives a life like a living creature undergoing changes imposed on us by our life from day to day. This is natural enough as the picture lives only through the man who is looking at it.”

When I first heard this I was taken aback. I have long known this to be true and to hear these words now and know Picasso had this same belief has given me confidence in the knowledge I posses. The following is something I have written about two years ago.

“I’ve noticed when beginning a painting I have a general idea of what it is I will paint and somewhere between beginning and finishing it changes, evolves. This is not planned, but an observation. I also have noticed when different people view the work it changes again with each of their views according to the time in life they are at. It also evolves for me when I look at it in the future, I remember different things about where I was in my life at that time and as my life changes, so does the painting.”

I know this is also true of the written word. To me art and writing are one and the same.
Now off to get lost again in this pile of spaghetti they call streets. Hmmm that sounds pretty good for dinner.

Ciao!

Connie

Saturday, August 28, 2010

And The Journey Begins ...

Well, here I am at the Winnipeg airport and, like a little girl, can hardly contain myself- I am so excited! The interesting thing is that when I checked in for my flight, Air Canada had me flying to Rome, not Venice. For some reason there were 2 complete bookings for me and if I’m not careful I may end up in two places at once! 

I would like to welcome you to my new blog site! I look forward to sharing with you some of my experiences as I explore the other side of this wonderful world of ours.

My plan is to sketch and paint my way through Italy while also writing of my experiences. When visiting Greece 2 years ago I discovered combining my writing with the images I created helped me to better connect and remember my experiences. This in turn also helped others to understand why I chose to paint the things I did. The most interesting thing about this is the way my work has evolved because of the response from you, the viewer. On this journey I intend to keep an open mind and allow the ideas to flow. I have no agenda except to allow my mind the freedom to be open to the artistic opportunities around me.   

I hope you find the entries that follow in the days ahead to be interesting, insightful and above all, inspiring. That is after all what life should be!

Thank you for being a part of my artistic journey.

Arrivederci!

Connie

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