Category Archives: Art

The Way Near Monesterio

As I step softly through the tall grass dotted with salmon colored flowers, there is a hush over the land. I can hear the crunch of the yellow ocher gravel pathway under my boots and the tap, tap, tap of my walking sticks. I wind my way through soft gray stones peeking out of the grass and rising like small mountains to navigate. I think of the centuries it has taken to clear these fertile pastures  by hand of  so many stones. Patiently stacked one by one, they now form the walls enclosing each field and leading me down the quiet lanes. I savor this moment of perfection, learning not to rush onward. I am practicing finding joy and beauty that surrounds me in the present, waiting patiently for my mind to slow down.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”

 


Sun Dappled Meadows

The colors of the night are still an inky black, indigo blue scattered with stars. The sky gradually lightens into deep violet, then periwinkle as my boots continue along the pathway. As dawn breaks the colors of the heavens are illuminated, glowing golden, pink, and apricot through the oak groves. The treetops are kissed by the sun and the meadows alight with color at the start of a new day.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”


Dancing Oaks

As I walk along the quiet lanes bordered by stone walls I hear the gentle sounds of morning. Cow bells chime lightly, birds stir in the trees, and small streams find their way along the contours of the earth under my boots. The air is crisp and cool on my skin, and my breath forms small clouds. I walk contentedly through the dawn with my recent cafe con leche still warming me, its scent mingling with the dew filled grass in the meadows. I think that the world can not get any more beautiful. A moment later the sun peeks over the horizon, filling the sky with warm pink, apricot and golden colors. The oak trees appear to dance with joy at the dawning of another serene Spanish day along the Camino.

If you would like to see more of my art work or purchase my book, “The Artist’s Journey”, please visit my website at http://www.theartistsjourney.com


El Real de la Jara to Monesterio

The albergue in Monestario is closed, so we left a note in hideous Spanglish for the Senora asking to reserve a room for us at the Bar/Hostal Extremadura. There are many pilgrims competing for a few rooms, so off we went with a hope and a prayer under the pre-dawn violet skies. A crescent moon hung over the Castle as the quiet, stone lined lanes meandered across the hills. The hills were again filled with sheep tended by fierce dogs. We have left the province of Andalucia and entered Badjoz. The landscape is again changing to a more open and bare environment. The mountains are to the west now, and there is little shade.

Just as my feet were beginning to really hurt, a man roared up in a car motioning to us  and began speaking excitedly in German / Spanish. The senora did, indeed, make our reservations and we were meeting the owner of the hostel, Eduardo. He offered to take our mochillas, or backpacks, ahead for us. I was out of my pack before you could say, “It’s another Camino Miracle!” Ask and the Camino provides. The temperature was in the upper 90*’s F, so it was a relief to feel the breeze on our backs without the extra weight of our packs. I felt as light as the lambs cavorting in the nearby pastures.

It was a day of contrasts in walking. We had to navigate some ugly areas and busy freeway interchanges. Walking along the side some busy secondary roads and next to freeways was hair raising. The pavement is hard on the feet as well as intensifying the heat. It is not all pretty on the Camino, but such is life. In general, the friends of the Camino have done a fantastic job keeping us in the countryside and along quiet lanes.

At Monestario we took a rest day, or “Lay day”, as Judy would say. This is definitely the center of pig  country. The main industry  is raising pigs and turning them into the famous Iberian Hams, or Jamon Iberico. One of the merchants had a good sense of humor, combining the name of the town (Monesterio) with  ham (Jamon) on the front doors of his export business.

Judy is such a kick and I am so glad we have teamed up. We were sitting outside of the hostel, having just discovered that the bar and restaurant by the same name were all seperate, yet shave a building and a sign. Judy looked up with a puzzled look on her face and said, “Ayah, how’re ya supposed ta know? That sign up there has a different name yet. It says C L I M A T I C A CI O N ….” I said, “Um, that means air conditioned, or climate controlled.” We all laughed until our sides ached. I had to admit that the only reason I know the word Climatication is because when my son, Justin, and I were here when it was 120 degrees. W e would look for those signs and not stay anyplace with out it. The irony is that the air conditioners are fiendishly effiecient. It is so arctic inside that you have to sleep with all the blankets, towels, your coat, and anything else you can find in order to not freeze to death!

Distance from El Real De la Jara to Monesterio = 12.6 Miles

Actual Distance Walked=16.22 Miles

Accommodations= Bar / Hostel Extremadura, 12 Euro per person, double room over the bar with a private bathroom, and clotheslines on the roof.

There is a small Albergue in town, but it was closed in April 2011.

www.theartistsjourney.com


The Virgin of Granada

A lovely church dedicated to the Virgin of Granada dominates the town square of Guillena. It was built at the beginning of the 1400’s  in the Mudejar style, which blends Islamic and Christian design elements. I was attracted to the tile imagery set into the white wall of the church.  The virgin portrayed is known as “Our lady of Sorrows“. The late afternoon sun warmed my back as I sat drawing her, wondering of her significance to the town. She holds the crown of thorns and a piece of cloth in her hands, as a halo of thorns circles her head. Tears appear on her face as she walks away from the scene of the crucifixion in her royal purple robes. Although this is a sad scene, the portrait somehow touched me deeply.

Why did the people of this small Spanish town choose her to be their patron saint? What are their deeply held beliefs? She seemed to be saying to me that no matter how terrible things seem, you must still walk on with dignity. We are capable of bearing the unimaginable. Things have to get better from here on out.  She reminded me of the deeper and more significant meaning of things that happen to us,     setting us on our personal Pilgrimages through life.   She seemed to be looking to the  light on the wall to her left, and traveling toward it. Symbolically, it cast a lovely multi-colored shadow. Do we walk to the light or to the darkness, or do we always encounter both on our journey?

This drawing was rendered in Faber Castel colored pencil and highlighted with a Micron ink pen. I used a Bee Paper Company Professional Series, 93 Lb.  Heavyweight drawing paper, 9 X 9 inches. It stood up well to the pressure applied by the color pencils, and had a nice tooth (texture) for layering the color.   This is the first drawing that I have done in colored pencil. I liked the waxy textures achieved by the layering of colors, and the variety that can be achieved with only a few basic colors.

www.theartistsjourney.com


Seville, The Plaza de Espana

After a sidewalk cafe lunch, stuffing ourselves on the menu del dia, we visited the Plaza de Espana, which was built for the 1929 Worlds Fair. I had visited it years ago, and it is a colorful semi-circle of astonishing tile work that forms a huge open space. There is a curved moat crossed by arching bridges all made of blue, white and yellow tile, where people row boats and laugh at their lack of skill. Every major city in Spain in represented in a tiled bench and surround that wraps around the entire base of the buildings forming the half circle. It was full of families and wedding parties being photographed on this lovely Saturday afternoon.

We topped off the day by visiting the Archeological museum. It is a great little museum that covers prehistory onward, but the best part was all the mosaics, columns, sculpture and other artifacts that came from the important Roman city of Italica that is just a few miles from here. We will go there tomorrow then begin walking our Camino the next day. We actually have to put on our packs tomorrow, and we are tired from these 2 exciting days in Seville. It will be a big shift in our focus.

www.theartistsjourney.com


Seville’s Real Alcazar

We had a full day here in Seville, covering prehistory through today!

We began by exploring the Real Alcazar, which was originally a Moorish Palace complete with an outrageously large harem. It was later converted to a citadel serving as part of the fortified wall of Seville. During the 500 years of Islamic rule in Sevilla, meaning “Letters of Light”, this palace thrived. When the Christians conquered the Moors and King Ferdinand rode into town victorious, he was handed the key to the palace. Much of the palace was replaced, or “remodeled”later. It is an excellent example of blending the styles of art and architecture,  and it is a visually stunning treat. The Palace is a series of courtyards and open air rooms heavily decorated in the white on white, geometric designs, interspersed with Arabic writing.This complex yet restful work is set off by a blaze of colorful tiles with an infinite variety of patterns. The double arches lead from one room to another, and into open courtyard spaces flawlessly. There are fountains and little channels of water every where. It is much like the Alhambra in Granada.

The gardens are an amazing combination of geometric patterned hedges in fragrant plants, a riot of jasmine and wisteria, orange and lemon trees, tall slender palms, and a canopy of shade from lacy deciduous trees. There are secret  little corners with fountains,  ducks splashing in the ponds. Doves coo and magnificent peacocks stroll nonchalantly around the grounds. It is a quiet oasis in the middle of bustling, noisy Seville.

www.theartistsjourney.com


What Artist materials will I take with me?

I am in a quandary, as always, about what materials to take on the Via de la Plata. Why does there never seem to be a perfect answer? Last time I took a small set of self-contained,black,  pigment based ink  pens, 1 pencil and eraser, and a 9 X 12 Aqua Bee Super Deluxe Sketchbook with heavy paper suitable for Mixed Media. Even this weighed over 2 pounds.

Before I left, I field-tested every brand of pen sold as art quality pens. I wrote on various papers, then held them under running water! Some bled, ran or changed color immediately. Then I left them exposed to direct sunlight for 2 weeks with ½ of each sample covered up. Many changed color and faded. Micron Pens by Sakura and Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens are both rock solid. They do not run, fade, or bleed and I highly recommend these 2 brands.

I thought I had the perfect compact art kit but, needless to say, I had never done pen and ink. I was unaware that it was such a detailed and time-consuming process. It took hours, even days, to complete each drawing once I returned home. However, I love that they are reminiscent of etchings that were the method of portraying imagery long before photographs existed. It creates a bridge between the past and present by creating contemporary imagery with an ancient technique. This time I will definitely still take my  pen and ink, but I want to try a fresher and more spontaneous approach. And I really missed my colors!  I have looked deep into my artist’s heart, and I have a premonition of a shopping trip in the near future.


What art materials can I carry?

Can we take our entire studios with us when we travel? Not unless we are staying for extended periods of time, and want to be burdened with “Mt. Baggage”! This is an actual drawing from my journal on my first art trip to Europe when I took an oil workshop. I had a wooden French half easel, oil paints, brushes, canvas, stretcher bars, paper towels, a staple gun, etc. It was ridiculous!

Just my carry on load made me feel like a beast of burden. You know how it goes….you just HAVE to have this color, then maybe you can’t live with out this one, and what about that new favorite? It just escalates until the little Italian cab driver tries to lift your suitcase and cries out “MAMMA MIA!” as he grabs his back.

So what can we do? Oils are too bulky and dry too slow, plus transporting the solvents is impossible. Acrylics dry OK, and clean up with water, but are still bulky. Watercolors are too fragile. If they get damp or spilled on they can be ruined. This pretty much leaves us with drawing: either in a separate sketchbook or in an illustrated journal.

So, do you take a separate sketchbook or combine your drawings with a written journal? I know drawing is a focus every day for me. However, if you are traveling with non-artists or you know that you will not specifically dedicate drawing time each day, there is a lot to be said for a small journal/sketchbook combination that you can stick in your purse or pocket. It allows you to spontaneously record a written or drawn impression throughout the course of the day when the feeling is fresh.


Drawings as Etchings

The Camino de Santiago has been walked for 1200 years as a Christian Pilgrimage route. It is alive and well today, pulsing with energy as over 100,000 people from around the globe walked it in 2010, considered a holy year. As I made this journey, I often felt as if I were walking through history in the footsteps of those who had traveled this route for centuries. Many places along the way have changed. But there are often places that seem to be much as they might have been hundreds of years ago.

I decided to use pen and ink drawings to illustrate selected places along the way, mainly because that would be more practical on a two month-long trek. I drew everyday, and even if I was unable to finish the drawing, I executed several thumbnail sketches. Often many hours were required to complete the detailed images. Creating art was an integral and very compelling part of my journey. I drew in meadows at the top of mountains, in cafes, sitting on my bunk bed while storms raged outside, standing in the middle of the road, and perched on city benches.

As my series of drawings began to take shape, I found them reminiscent of etchings from an earlier period. The Camino de Santiago thrived during the Middle Ages when etching was an art form used to document and portray imagery in an era before photography existed. Thoughtful design, a sensitive touch with line and texture to create beautiful half tones, and an attention to detail were necessary to create these extraordinary works of art. When my drawings emerged in a more complete form, I saw that they could readily bring past and present together using a classic style with a contemporary flavor. My intent was to communicate to the viewer my deeply felt-sense of mystery and mood, within the context of a realistic image. Drawing by hand bridges the past to the present with these humble materials of pen, ink and paper.


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