Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Watercolor Journal Workshop in Santorini


We have been so very busy painting, and eating I have had no tine to blog.  Painting sessions are so much fun that no one wants to stop so we paint right up to lunch time.  Then we meet our guides Patrick and Angela in the chosen restaurant along with the fun folks in the oil painting workshop and the photography workshop and lunch takes two hours!  This is the Mediterranean after all, meals are taken slowly and with much wine and visiting.  And Patrick and Angela pick all the best restaurants. 

Then we are back out painting again or hiking around up and down steps taking a jillion photographs for future paintings and first thing you know it is time for wine tasting and then dinner. 

Dinner's too are absolutely delicious and take so long we get home after 10:00pm.  I barely get my photos downloaded into the computer, before falling asleep.  So I apologize for being so slow to update the blog, but we are just having too darn much fun to find the tine to do it!

That is Debbie sitting on the ground painting, Berna with the camera next to me, and I was doing a demo when these friendly folks came up and began watching the demo too.  Pat took the photo.

Pat and Crew painting.  Pat did a really cute little ink and watercolor postcard and gave it to Andre, the owner of the gate she was painting when he brought them water along with his wife's homemade cookies.  Later they got a tour of his lovely home.  He is a retired captain of a cargo ship, spoke great English and told fascinating stories.  Here is another photo with Andre.

Pat and Crew with their new friend Andre.


Angela did not want a big lunch so she just ordered a salad.  She was shocked when this mountain of salad arrived!   Meals are a big deal here, literally!

Every evening we meet at some lovely restaurant with a view (check out the end of sunset in the background) for wine before dinner.  Not being a wine drinker I am loving the tall cold glasses off fresh squeezed orange juice they serve here.  That is Debby from Arizona and Berna from Indiana (formally Walnut Creek, California) with me.

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This was taken near the blue dome church that everyone takes photos of in Oia.  The most sophisticated of the towns on Santorini, not to mention expensive.


Our fearless leaders, Patrick and Angela of Toscana Americana, do all the planning and coordinating to make everything run smoothly and make sure everyone has a fabulous time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My first full day on the island of Santorini

Today was my first day on the island group that we in America call Santorini.  In Greece it is also called Thira.  The island is actually a group of islands that surround a caldera .   Our hotel is in the town of Fira, but I took a local bus north to Oia to explore the town and look for a painting site for my upcoming workshop.  Here are some of my better photos from today's exploration.

Greek Cats


The Greeks, at least the ones that live on Hydra anyway, seem to love cats.  They are everywhere, silent, stealthy, they sneak up on diners in the restaurants.  They pick a likely sucker and look up with pleading eyes..  in hopes of a bit of food coming their way.  The waiters chase them away, but they come right back.   So for Susan and the other cat lovers out there, here are my two best cat photos from Hydra.



Big cat little cat!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Hydra entry in my Watercolor Journal

Oh I forgot, here is a little painting I did in my journal yesterday.  I did one today too but did not get it finished.  I'll post it when it is finished.

Hydra Greece through the lens of an artist

First let me say, I am not a photographer.  I take photographs  with the eyes of a painter.  I look for scenes I might want to paint, or quirky things that interest me.  I love to paint shadow patterns, so unlike professional photographers who seem to love overcast days, I  love sunny days.  Here are a few of my favorite photos I have taken here on the tiny island of Hydra Greece:

Every thing on this island moves by human power or donkeys or
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Here is one thing that has changed since I lived her 40 years ago, there is a vehicle on the island now.  Only one, a garbage truck!  This scene reminded me of the old meets the new, the garbage man is unloading garbage from the donkeys onto his garbage truck.  The truck can only go on the slightly widened old donkey path that goes from Kamini around to Hydra Harbor and then on to the dump around on the side of the island.  All the garbage has to be brought to the truck by donkeys.
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This crusty old guy in his row boat seems to be left over from a bygone era.  This photo was actually being directed and staged by a guy with a big video camera on a tripod, I just saw it and jumped up and snapped the photo too.  I can see now I need to photo shop the edge of the guy's tripod out of the right corner.

Retired sea captain?

As for what has changed, well in 40 years Hydra is now more affluent as the economy now depends more on tourism and less on fishing.  I was here in 1969 , when the Junta controlled the Greek government and there was no freedom, let alone speech.  Sunday night a politician hit town and made a speech down on the harbor.  About 50 people stood and sat in chairs listening and clapping once in awhile.   And of course there are two ATMs in town one garbage truck, wy-fy and small boutique hotels and satellite TV.  New houses and old ones have been renovated, but all fit the look of Hydra so well you would have to have been here before to know what is new and what is old.

After 40 years I return to Hydra Greece

After 40 years, I returned to Hydra, Greece.  In May of 1969 my friend Christine and I landed here in Hydra to rest a few days.  That was in May, we  left in July of 1969.  While I was here I did a lot of ink drawings, and when money ran low, drew the yachts that came into the harbor and sold them to the owners as their souvenir of their yacht trip to Hydra.  Most rented the yachts, and if I could get 5 marks from the Germans, or 3 pounds from the English, I was in the money.  Hydra town Harbor is the most famous part of this tiny island so here are some shots I took when I arrived.

Some things never change, the yachts are still here.
From the number of donkeys and ponies waiting to carry the luggage of the tourists getting off my boat, it looks like a lot more tourists come to the island these days.  There are still no cars allowed on Hydra.  The island is too tiny for roads; anyway, where would you drive? 
When I lived here most families lived off fishing, some worked in restaurants, small pensions or rented out rooms.  If there were bigger hotels I do not remember them.  I see many more apartment for rent and room for rent signs now.  Looks like this lady has rented a room and is now transporting her guests, luggage for them.

I used to sit on this quay early in the morning before the yacht owners slept off the partying of the night before and draw a yacht.  I still have one of those drawings, its not bad.  I must have had a lot of practice, because I tried it yesterday evening while having a cappuccino at a dock side restaurant and it was hard.  The darn boats move!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Last day in Arles, France

I got behind in posting on this blog due to a lot of photographs being taken, time needed to edit them in Photo Shop and a very slow Internet connection in Arles.  I am now in Greece and trying to catch up.  Here are some photos I took on my last day in Arles and a little painting I did in my journal.  It was a glorious sunshiny day, great for capturing shadow shapes in photos that can become sources for paintings later on.

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After spending several hours wandering the tiny neighborhood streets (many not even wide enough for an automobile so perhaps streets is the wrong word) I decided it was time for lunch. 

I went to Forum Square where Van Gogh painted one of his most famous paintings of the cafe at night.  There is a gaggle of cafes in the square now including the one he painted.  It is now called "Cafe Van Gogh" painted yellow and high priced.  It is no longer a good painting subject as there are too many other cafe awnings etc in the way.  In France you own the table until you request the bill, so my plan was to selected a cafe with a view of something to paint.  I chose to paint this cute second story window right above where Van Gogh must have placed his easel to paint his painting.

After I finished my salad I put the plate on the opposite side of my table so I could paint.  A large Japanese tour group walked through the square right next to my table and a lady quickly sat in a chair at the table next to mine and her husband snapped a photo of her pretending to be part of the French cafe scene.  She jumped up and joined the tour group only to be replaced by another wife who's husband snapped her photo, etc. etc..  The kicker was when wife number 4 or 5, sat down then reached over and took my finished salad plate and sat it in front of her as if she had eaten it!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Avignon, Pont du Gard, Arles France

Bill and Sylvia and I have been soaking up the ambience of the Provence region of France.  We are becoming very European in that we are walking and walking and walking.  Glad I brought old comfortable shoes.  We have been doing a lot of photography, but not as much painting.  I have collected many photos like the one below that will make good paintings.   

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Here is a painting!

In Avignon, Bill and Sylvia went  on a quest to locate a serious cycling shop to purchase European cycling jerseys.  While they trekked to the shop they heard about, I sat in a little square, ordered a cappuccino because when you make a purchase at a European cafe you "own" the table until you ask for the bill.  The tables were empty accept for a few who were lingering over long finished lunches.  


Not knowing how much time I had, I chose one single window in the building across the square to paint in my watercolor journal.  The sun shown on the building so I figured it would  not be long before the occupant closed the shutter to block the sun from warming the apartment too much.  I quickly penciled in the main shapes and then mixed a gray and put in the shadow shapes.  Sure enough, a cute little old lady closed the shutter just as I finished the shadows.   But the pencil sketch and shadows gave me all I needed to add the rest of the color and the ink.  

On Tuesday we took the local train to Nimes, and then figured out how to take a local bus to Pont du Gard where these photos were taken.  The bus was a nice bus and cost us less than a euro.

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Pont du Gard is the largest Roman aqueduct known.  The largest arch is 80 feet across, making it the biggest known to have been built.  Construction began in 38 ad and continued to 52 ad and 1000 men worked on it.  You can walk across it, and there is a lighting system that lights it at night; probably a spectacular scene.  Just to imagine such a feat is difficult.  It was certainly worth the train trip to Nimes and bus ride out in the country to see it.  And now we know how to read the French bus schedules too!

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Note he cute woven sticks fence to line the path in this National Park.

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The people on the aqueduct give you a feeling for its immense size.

Wednesday is market day in Arles, but we awoke to rain.  Oh well, that is why we have rain jackets.  We found the food section most interesting, and purchased a picnic.

Bill buys from the friendly Frenchmen, he has become a fan 0f French bread and patisseries. 

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Back in our hotel we waited out the rain painting in the dining room.  Sylvia finished this painting she began in Damme, Belgium.


I did this ink drawing in Brugge last week on a cold windy morning.  I began the painting in my watercolor journal in ink thinking that we may end up quitting early and heading somewhere warm, and I could always add the color later if I had a good drawing.   We did quit early, but due to the cloudy sky my photos were not very exciting so I bought a postcard of the same scene taken on a sunny day.  Here is the painting, begun in Brugge and finished in the Hotel l Calendal in Arles using the postcard taken on a sunny day as my color reference. 

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When the rain stopped we ventured out in Arles with our cameras looking for the garden in the hospital where Van Gogh was treated after the famous ear incident. 


Arles is an ancient town, and the locals work hard to preserve their past while at the same time making the town a nice place to live today.  The Romans built the arena and the ancient theater; both still in use today.   Most of the town seems to show its medieval past however, here are some photos of the medieval ramparts that still encircle the old town. 

A close up of this section of the medieval wall.

This shot is a good example of Arles today, on the left the remnants of the medieval wall, then a modern street with parking and modern apartment buildings and shops on the right.

And inside those old walls people live in charming little homes and apartments that they create in the old medieval buildings.