Browsing the archives for the Travel category.


A New Day, A New Year and A New Series

Animals, Beginnings, Mexico, New Paintings, Travel

Detail of Cows in Heaven

I’ve managed to fall behind in this blog as usual. But Dave and I put our heads together today and decided to cast off with the old habits of sloth and take charge of our art once more. Nothing like a new year to bring out the resolution-making in all of us, though I’ve never put much stock in that.

In this case it makes a good deal of sense as looking back at this year just come to a close I find I have not nearly the accomplishments I would have liked. No one to blame but myself.

So, off we go. Page turned and heading down a new road.

This little painting was actually completed in the Fall but I’ve been so dilatory that it never got posted. A-hem. This must stop! But however belatedly, it is the first in a new series I got the idea for from a book I read some years ago, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. It made a very scant reference to a belief in Botswana that the first thing one sees upon entering heaven is white cows. The idea struck a cord such that I knew I had to paint it. And then later this past year it dawned on me from another reading reference about animals and myths that this could be a painting series.

Right cow detail

I’m still feeling my way as to what the series is all about and what to include. For this initial painting I believe it speaks to me of a curiosity of my search for God. How do others define God and what do they see when they speak of heaven and the divine? White cows immediately brought to mind the Brahmans that we see in Mexico with their soulful eyes and graceful gate. Much larger than the Jersey or Herefords I’m used to from here in the States, they command a presence that I find quite singular and mystical. So I have painted them as my vision of those Botswanian cattle from on high.

I can think of so much worse to find awaiting me on the other side.

"Cows In Heaven"

Cows In Heaven”

Image size: 14″ x 10″

Price: $250 unframed

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Another Form of Telephone

Community, Figurative, New Paintings, Travel
Story Line

"Story Line"

Fez, Morocco was our last stop on our world tour in 2005 before heading back to reality and our lives. If moving to Mexico could be considered reality. At that point it didn’t seem very real, or sane, for that matter. After two months of constant travel I was tired and weary of ever-changing landscape, customs, food, and trying to find cheap but decent lodgings. Morocco was a bit of a homecoming since we’d been there before, but we’d never been to Fez so it wasn’t familiar territory.

We managed to find a lovely pension on the east side of the Medina, recommended by a Moroccan we’d met on the train. He probably got a fee for finding folks like us but we didn’t mind. It was a nice place with clean rooms and friendly staff. Plus, it was just outside one of the bobs, or gates, to the souk. There was constant foot traffic of laden donkeys and streams of people going to and from the busy souk. It’s hard to describe such a place since the alleys snake endlessly through the old city such that it’s easy to get lost, and most foreigners like us are well advised to hire a guide. Which we did. My only regret, paradoxically, is that I wish we’d just explored on our own and not worried about getting lost. You can always pay some young boy to take you to the nearest bob and then hire a taxi to get back to your hotel.

The second or third evening we did decide to adventure out into the adjacent neighborhood to the east of us. This was reached by way of a winding street through neighboring storefronts that wound up a low hill into a nontourist area of the city. We like to find these spots to see how the locals really live and get a feel for the people. It was early evening, not yet sundown, with people out shopping in open air stalls and visiting. The streets were alive with people strolling and chatting, children playing, and they looked at us, these strangers with strange faces and dress so unaccustomed to their streets. We wandered into a small grouping of  stalls selling produce and food to order. At one we stopped to talk with a man making some sort of flat bread to ask what it was, whether sweet or otherwise. He had only to give us a taste to convince us this was something we had to have! Yummy and warm, fresh off the griddle, it was the perfect thing to eat and stroll.

Further along the way we came upon a long line of local women, heads covered in scarves of various design, bodies clothed in kaftans, the traditional garb for women, seated along a sidewalk curb in serious discussions. This was obviously their social time, gathering in the evening to talk about their day or other topics. How familiar it felt, and yet I envied this connection they had with one another, coming together as part of their daily existence while we are stuck behind our computers, televisions, and endless schedules. More than anything else, this line of women spoke to me of community, family, and sisterhood. Though I could not understand their words or begin to know what they talked about, their story reached out to me of this ancient need to connect and share each others’ lives.

“Story Line”

Watercolor on paper

$500 unframed

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Pray For Me

Community, Figurative, New Paintings, Travel
Pray For Me

"Pray For Me"

I’d lived in and around Chicago for nearly 15 years by the time September 11, 2001 came about. I worked in healthcare, managing a series of community health programs for a local chapter of a national nonprofit, all of them concentrated in the Hispanic and multicultural neighborhoods of Chicago’s west side. Most of my program’s clients were Latino, but Chicago being the cultural microcosm that it is, we experienced a much broader ethnic mix than just Puerto Rican and Mexican. We had blacks, some Polish kids, a smattering of Asians, and even a Palestinian teacher. I loved this cultural stew I found myself in, and I felt I was finally experiencing the real Chicago.

Dave and I lived in a large condo building in Berwyn, a west side suburb adjacent to Chicago, at the time of September 11, 2001. Berwyn is a working class neighborhood with a larger percentage of Mexican immigrants, but there are other groups that live and work there as well. Every morning I’d walk to the gas station next to our building and buy a Chicago Tribune to start my day. The gas station was owned and run by a couple Middle Eastern men. They were efficient, kept the place clean and orderly, and quietly dispensed change to me and standard pleasantries on my daily trips to their business. I never asked them where they were from. It never seemed necessary. They blended in with the rest of my experience.

I began to wonder about the two men after September 11 and hearing reports of incidents of harassment of people locally who looked Muslim. It concerned me that regardless of the atrocities in New York we would indiscriminantly turn on others just because they appeared to be Muslim. A few mornings later, as I handed my money through the safety window at the gas station to one of the Arabic men, I asked him if anyone had given him any trouble. He looked at me ,perhaps a little startled, and said,” Pray for me.”

I told him I would and wished him good day.

He and his partner left several weeks after that, turning the gas station over to someone else. I never heard of what had happened, why they left. But I still pray for him, and all of us, that we look beyond appearances and seek out what lies within each others’ hearts.

Title: “Pray For Me”

Medium: Watercolor on paper

Size: 8.5″ X 6.25″

SOLD

1 Comment

Mesquite Study

Festivals, Mexico, New Paintings, Travel
Mesquite

Mesquite

I’m hoping to get back to posting daily. This month I’ve had too many distractions, and heading into the holidays it threatens to only get worse. Today’s selection is from a reference photo I don’t really remember taking. But I seem to recognize the scene from a route we used to walk into centro in San Miguel that first six months we were there, along a back street that really was only wide enough for one car. There were several mesquites overhanging the street with their horizontal orientation. I like them immensely for their character of jutting branches and sense of age.

This is a “quick and dirty” study that I just breezed into, enjoying applying the alternate cool blues and warm burnt sienna to form the tree, my central figure. The wispy terminal branches were executed with a thin liner brush after using the side of my round to do some dry brush technique to show the density of those tiny twigs at branches’ ends.

I’ll be at Harrah’s in Metropolis again this Sunday for another bazaar, this time having to do with food and art. Last Sunday was their first Holiday Bazaar and attendance wasn’t where they wanted it so they invited us back for the coming Sunday when they hope to have more folks out for this “taste” event. Stop by to see my daily paintings, if you’re in the area, which is what I’ll have on hand for the event.

Mesquite

Watercolor on paper

4.5″ X 5.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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Sweet and Hot

Mexico, New Paintings, Travel

Mangos and Peppers

Mangos and Peppers

Mexico is all about foods with bold flavors and colors. Peppers of all kinds abound, from mild, such as the banana peppers, to screamingly hot, as in the habanero. Their colors are dark and brooding to lemony sublime. Along with the nopal cactus, peppers are the quintessential national vegetable, served in everything imaginable. Even sweeter things get a dash of chili pepper to add some spice.

Another staple in the Mexican diet is the mango. Probably the most common one is the yellow orange variety, smaller in stature than the bright red one we are more likely to see here in the north. These bright, sunny mangos turn a fabulous yellow gold at their peek, and you see people sucking out the fleshing through a hole bitten at one end while they squeeze from the other, not unlike squirting toothpaste from a tube.

The colors in this tableau almost sing from the page. Warmth at every turn and fold, mimicing the sweet pungency of the mangos and subtle flavors of the banana peppers. That purple crimson on the left? Dried peppers of some persuasion, perhaps pablano, perhaps another kind with a bit more potency. Whatever they may be, they bind the whole together in a mix of robust warm and cool saturated colors  that is altogether Mexico.

Mangos and Peppers

Watercolor on paper

4.5″ X 5.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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Mexican Flowers

Festivals, Figurative, Florals, Mexico, New Paintings, Travel
October Flowers

October Flowers

We love Mexico during the Fall, especially at the end of October when they begin preparations for Day of the Dead. Offrendas begin to go up around town, commemorating deceased family and friends, and the flower vendors around the jardin, the town center, go into full swing. The vendors who sell dried flowers year-round now have a greater variety and more fresh-cut flowers. They especially like marigolds and cocks’ comb, two of the most traditional for the celebrations.

The flower vendors are one of the first people that you notice as you come into the jardin from the west side. They sit on low stools with buckets and buckets of flowers surrounding them and spend the time making intricate baskets filled with dried flowers. The colors and the tableau they create doing their work is unforgettable.

October Flowers

Watercolor on paper

4.5″ X 5.5″

SOLD

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Wanderings at Amelia Island

New Paintings, Travel
Elevated Plane

Elevated Plane

Like a giant serpent, the boardwalk through the Amelia Island marsh meandered its curving way out through the tall sea grasses. Rachel Carson had it right to describe this kind of grass as a sea. The wind whipped it into a current of its own just like the ocean, changing the varied colors from cool to warm depending on your perspective. The marsh was alive. Not with just the multitude of creatures — birds, crabs, insects, mammals — but took on a life of its own, combining into a gigantic organism responding to its environ.

Without the boardwalk we could have only stood in longing at the marsh’s edge, unable to traverse into its interior and discover any of its mystery. As it was, even in its depths we found it gave up what little it did begrudgingly. A peak at a heron on a roost. Egrets skimming its surface. Dragonflies pausing for rest on a reed. What lay beneath we could only imagine.

Elevated Plane

Watercolor on paper

4.5″ X 5.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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An Open Sky

New Paintings, Travel

Oasis

Oasis

This is another painting of the marsh grasses on Amelia Island from our trip there in the Spring of 2004. I look at these pictures and remember so well the sense of wonder and contentment at having this stretch of grassy marsh all to ourselves. As we walked along the boardwalks there wasn’t another soul in sight over the two days we went back to explore on several occasions. It was just us, the wind, and the wading birds in all this wide expanse.

The colors speak to me especially. These muted earth tones of lavenders, burnt orange, and greens. Then there’s that sky of piled up clouds that stretches to the horizon. That green island of trees and scrub was how I felt, like we were in an oasis of peace away from the daily pressures of our lives. I need those places to recharge.

Oasis

Watercolor on paper

4.5″ X 5.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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Warm and Dry

Mexico, New Paintings, Travel
Desert Elements

Desert Elements

I’m still into cobalt blue today after my success yesterday. Again it turned out to be the right color to provide the sky with that certain brilliant blue, especially against the chartreuse of the cactus I had in mind. I can never remember their name but they’re one of my favorites in Mexico. You see them everywhere around San Miguel, and in their maturity they grow to majestic tree size. And like trees, their limbs are strong and woody to support all that weight. Little birds of various sorts like to hop among their branches looking for food and, no doubt, protection. The skin of the cactus is smooth but better watch out for those needles! They’re serious business.

This scene is from a Christmas day walk that Dave and i took in 2004 on our first 6 month trip to San Miguel. We climbed a hill across the bypass from our house and went hiking through the valley and over the hilltop. At the top were a scattering of houses and a long sloping pasture that reached to a hidden canyon far to the south. The pasture was filled with a variety of cacti and mesquite along with long dry wind-blown grass swaying in the afternoon breeze. We watched a kite hover determinedly overhead looking for some rodent for its Christmas dinner. Once we reached the canyon we found an outcropping of rugged rocks with brilliant yellow-green and red lichen, and out of it grew nopales, the Mexican’s favorite vegetable, and my favorite cactus.

I’ve wanted for so long to paint this but have never quite figured out what to do with my photo references to do it justice. Today I decided that rather than trying to provide a literal depiction I needed instead to use the elements that I focused on, combining them in a way to show the feel and the effect of all those brilliant colors playing together. The colors are outrageous, but that’s the Mexico way.

Desert Elements

Watercolor on paper

5.5″ X 4.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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Carolina Wren

Birds, Mexico, New Paintings, Wildlife
Carolina In Florida

Carolina In Florida

Last summer we had a pair of Carolina Wrens that frequented our flower gardens, especially in back of the house. This year I never saw them. Maybe I just wasn’t alert enough, but I sure did miss them. I even hung a small bird house made especially for wrens but none ever came nor did any other bird use it, for that matter. For a brief moment I thought it might be inhabited by paper wasps but that turned out not to be true.

We have some kind of wrens in San Miguel around our house there, which we see usually early in the morning or at dusk when they make their way around the rocks and our brick fence looking for bugs in the crevices. I’ve even had them perch momentarily on my kitchen windowsill, an act I consider to be of supreme order.

This little guy (and I assume it is a guy) we saw in the tropical foliage in Florida a couple years ago on a visit to Corkscrew Swamp. I’m sure I didn’t hear him, not being reliably able to hear birds with higher pitched voices, but we managed to spot him from his flitting about the big banana tree leaves. I think I’ve made him look a bit like a robin, but tomorrow I plan to do him in another pose, so I have a second chance of making him even more true to life. Even so, I like to think of this Springtime bird as the weather turns to Fall. Something to look forward to at the other end of Winter.

Carolina In Florida

Watercolor on paper

4.5″ X 5.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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