We stayed four nights on Crete in Aghia Galini. I loved the town and our Minos hotel, with a view out over the Mediterranean. I also loved how the town spilled down the hillside to the sea. We were sightseeing a good deal, and I didn't have too much time to paint here, but here are the last two from that town, a morning sketch and an evening view from our dinner table.
Today we did a glorious hike up across a Cretan mountainside that was fragrant with wild sage and into the Zaros gorge a ways. I was worried about weight on my back, so I just took my small journal (I was also with my family without a lot of time to paint), but I couldn't resist just a few quick sketches. In the repacking, I forgot my regular pens and pencils, so these are ballpoint and watercolor.
I loved all the twisted small trees out on the open ridges.
Overall viewofthe gorge.
I hadn't painted for a couple of days. We got off the overnight ferry, and by the time we got settled and found a town and hotel we liked, I needed a nap. Then the whole family was headed for the beach, so that took care of yesterday.
I woke up really wanting to paint, though, and got out while everyone was still sleeping. We're staying in Aghia Galina, a lovely town on the south coast, which is less touristy and crowded than the north coast. Our hotel is on a hill with a lovely view of the Mediterrnean (and beautiful breezes and stars), and we can walk down the hill in one direction to the beach and down in the other direction to the town. Here's one view of the town that I walked down into this morning.
We'll be touring later for the middle of the day, but I'm hoping to paint again this e
I took the day off painting today (after doing five watercolors yesterday) and went to the National Archeology Museum instead. It was lovely to see the kouroi and the huge bronze statue of either Zeus or Poseidon.
Tonight we're taking the overnight ferry to Crete. It's mostly a new place to me, and I'm looking forward to painting somewhere new. I don't have preconceived notions in my head, since it's unfamiliar. So I don't get a jump on things (I know exactly where to head in Athens and am mentally prepared before I get there), but it will be fun to mix it up. Hopefully I'll find internet to post some sketches. I'll do it next time I can.
I had started a sketch of my taverna (looking down the steps instead of up) the first day but couldn't finish it, so I headed there first to paint before they got the enormous daytime sun umbrellas up.
Then I walked on to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It's the first thing I had wanted to paint in Greece nine years ago when I spent the summer here. I did a whole series of oil paintings of it, and it was fun to be back with a different medium. I'm really enjoying revisiting places this trip and painting in different ways. I love the view of the Parthenon through the columns. (I never painted it from this angle before. I was shy of actually trying the Parthenon that first summer -- it felt a little like painting postcards instead of art, but I've gotten over that now.)
The first one was very intricate architecturally and took a good while. I took a lunch break (I'd brought a lovely pear from my hotel keeper in my pack, along with a granola bar) and did a second, much more quick sketch afterwards.
After a nap, I walked the sisters to a couple of jewelry shops I like and then painted a church we'd seen along the way our first day, saying I'd meet them at dinner.
Finally I stayed quite late at my favorite taverna to paint it with the lights. It was challenging, because the light available to me to work in was much lower than I'm used to. Fortunately, I know my way around my palette by now and could mostly mix the colors I wanted without being able to see that clearly. It was fun to be there and hear the roaring of the football match (sadly, Greece lost to Germany in the end) and see the night life going on around me.
I've hit the ground running on the painting front, which is always easier when I'm already familiar with a place. Above is the first one I did, a place I had in mind before we even got here. I love the mix of ancient and modern in this scene. I also lucked into a cafe table to sit at while I worked, which is always lovely.
Next is my favorite taverna, the place they took me in and treated me like a local when I was here for the summer in 2003. I always get a lovely welcome, and I can't think of anywhere in the world I would rather sit and eat a meal.
Next I revisited the meat market, built in 1916, one of the butchers told me. I had done black and white pencil sketches here in 2003, but never color. It was fun to hang out there again. The butchers are all grateful for a distraction from their normal day, and it was fun to chat with them. One was very concerned that I manage all the details, and they had fun picking out which of them I'd sketched.
Finally, I painted from another outdoor cafe table at an intersection I've always liked. The lovely thing about Athens is cafe tables EVERYWHERE. Today, though, I'm headed for the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which means no tables and no shade. I put in my folding stool at the last minute, and I'm glad I did, even if it makes my daypack overcrowded. No way was I sitting on the floor of the meat market. I've seen the buckets of blood they dump in there.... (Very old world. My sisters were not fans, but I'm fascinated with the place.)
I'm on my way here. Elmore is kindly taking care of the cat and dog and things on the homefront while I travel to Greece with my dad and sisters and niece. It's mostly family vacation, but I'm going to try to do at least one watercolor a day, and hopefully more. I'm also taking an extra week to paint intensively (back in Bergama, Turkey, where I painted a couple of years ago) after everyone else heads home.
I won't have access to a scanner, but I will be posting snapshots of my work while I'm traveling. We'll be in Athens starting tomorrow, and I can't wait to paint from this lovely perch again.
This Memphis race is a big deal in our household. Elmore trains for it half the year or more, since it's the most competitive race he does. We regularly have a former Olympic champion come, along with other world medalists and former (sometimes current) team members from various countries. For the last several years, Elmore has been the fastest Memphian in the race, and it was a thrill to see him finish right up there with the fastest racers.
I actually saw him finish for the first time this year instead of doing the race myself (I don't see much from way back in the pack). Outdoors, Inc. had invited the Memphis Urban Sketchers to draw there, and I've been so busy this spring, I hadn't spent much time in my boat anyway. It was fun to meet up with the group and draw and see all the show, as well as seeing friends from the regular kayak racing circuit.
Above is a pretty fast watercolor of the racers coming into the harbor and toward the finish line. Below is an even faster sketch of the finish line itself with orange buoys and a crew of people right on the shoreline. Things were moving very quickly, so I was challenged to just get something down.
I did one more finished work before the racers got going. The Outdoors workers set up a tent at the finish to tabulate the results. I love the shapes and colors of tents.
And I finished with a sketch of people relaxing after the race. I'm still working on capturing people in a way that satisfies me.
I was out of town over a long weekend. Dancing again. It's a lovely break from artwork occasionally.
I'm back to working on this print. Above is the first pull of the key block (the black one with all the design on it). It's colored with watercolor, just to give me an idea of where I want to go with it.
The next step (for this one, not always), was to pull a copy on top of the uncut block I wanted to do the green on and make sure I had full coverage. I had some water-soluble blue ink left from another project, so I used it just as a test.
Then I carved the block that is just for the aqua roof and the bluebells (on the left side). The color blocks are larger, simpler blocks of color. I print them first and then put the black key block on top.
Finally today I tested out both colored ones. I need to make both the green and the bluebells much lighter. I also misfired and used the wrong spacing to print, so there's a second roof on this one. But since I was just proofing (and since I already had the green down), I just went with it, fixed the spacing, and did it again as a test. I need to get the blue roof just a smidgen over to the right -- there's a sliver of white between it and the black outline of the roof. But this one is really close, which is a great feeling. I'm slowly getting better at all this. I think the printing is doing well -- now I need to keep the design steady as I transfer it to three different blocks. I think that's where the mistake happened on this one.
Summertime, and the livin' is easy. Actually, it is -- not too hot yet, even when I've been painting outside. But the last couple of days I've had exceptionally comfortable urban sketching opportunities.
I'm still working on the last of my illustrations for the Memphis Magazine City Guide, and I needed Retirement Living and City Dining. The Parkview is right in my neighborhood (I walk past it every morning), and it's a lovely old building. I non-plussed the lady on the desk when I called to ask permission, but the new director invited me to come for their afternoon concert and paint then. I was actually painting just outside the meeting room (I wanted the main section of the lobby), but I was strategically placed next to the margarita table, and they were kind enough to offer me one too. It was a lovely accompaniment to painting. (And since it was served by a retirement home, it had just the right amount of alcohol in it for me, which is to say, not much.)
Inspired by that experience, I decided that I have been WAY overdue for a Wiles-Smith chocolate soda. Wiles-Smith is the real deal -- a soda fountain drug store that's been operating since 1944. I went early to get just the right place at the counter, and I had a fabulous egg salad sandwich along with my soda. You can see the soda in the foreground of the piece. I sketched it quickly before getting serious about consuming it. Much to the counterman's dismay -- he was worried I wouldn't enjoy it properly if I didn't start right in. But he admitted at the end that I had wasted absolutely none of it. I did have a minor chocolate sauce incident on my page, but I hid it slyly in the shadow of the napkin dispenser on the counter top. One of the hazards of painting on site.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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