"Places of Desire: watercolors of Greece and Turkey" will be hanging starting Friday at Playhouse on the Square. The exhibition, which could also be called "What I did with my summer vacation" will be on view from August 3rd to September 16th.
The opening is Friday, August 3rd from 6:00-7:30 in the main lobby of Playhouse on the Square. Come and have a glass of wine with us if you are able to.
The show is made up from the watercolors I did in Greece and Turkey this summer, and I'm excited to have an outlet to display them while the trip is still fresh in my mind.
It's calendar time again. I had a surprise show scheduled at Playhouse on the Square for this coming week (a great opportunity to show my work from Greece and Turkey), and I decided to go ahead and get the calendar ready for the opening. Once again, it's a Memphis calendar, showcasing the city I love, and it's made up of sketches I've done over the past year. See below for the sketches that will be included.
The calendar will be available starting Friday for $16, and I'm happy to mail them to folks who are out of town.
Tower Grove Park revisited
I was lucky enough to spend another weekend in St. Louis. It was a mixed trip -- part baseball, part dancing, and a little bit of painting in Tower Grove Park. This park has quickly vaulted into one of my very favorite places to paint, but I've been having trouble getting a print design that I like from my April sketches. So I revisited both the bandstand (above) and the Old Playground Pavilion (below) with very quick sketches, just trying to work out composition.
Going in just planning to do quick sketches freed me up somehow. My watercolors have mostly been a progression of pencil to more careful pen drawings and finally watercolor. I enjoyed skipping the middle step, and there's a freshness to these that energized me. I did a whole series in just one morning (plus one more the next morning), when usually I would only have managed two drawings in that space of time. Once again, Tower Grove has given me inspiration on top of its intrinsic beauty. I'm excited about trying some more work in this style.
Staying with the Gobis
This is the back garden of the Gobi Pension in Bergama, where I spent a week this year and a blissful two weeks several years ago. They serve breakfast here in the mornings, and I sit here most evenings as well (it's well lit for reading after dark).
The family that runs it is delightful. They have warmly taken me in, since I spend more than the usual single night there. I got a cooking lesson from Mrs. Gobi, a couple of expeditions with Mustafa to meet amazing trees, and lots of good visiting time in the garden. When I'm traveling by myself, it makes a world of difference to stay with people who are also friends.
The front of the pension is lovely, too, covered with a lush arbor. The family sits there often, and friends flow in and out from the sidewalk to chat. I love how life is more fluid in Turkey. Everyone is not sealed off in their own air-conditioned homes.
Below is a darkish snapshot of my drawing of the front, but it's all I've got. I left the painting with them as a present, so I can't scan it in more clearly now that I'm home.
I also love the building Mustafa works in. He's a CPA by day, though he helps out around the pension as well, since he has by far the best English of the family. His office building has a four story high banner with a portrait of Ataturk on it. The Turkish people are so proud of him. His photo is everywhere. I saw banners at gas stations. Mustafa is named after him and has two portraits hanging in his office.
I couldn't resist painting that building with the large portrait. It was also fun to drop in at Mustafa's office and have a guy bring tea around on a tray. He goes from office to office delivering it as needed. Very welcoming.
I'm finally home again and working my way out of the jet lag fog. I let this blog lapse the last week of my trip. I was frustrated both by the increasing difficulty of uploading on my small netbook (it seemed to get harder as the trip went on) and also by the dark, unclear snapshots of the sketches. The photos haven't really shown the colors and brightness of the sketches.
So now I'm going to work backwards through the trip and repost, starting with Bergama sketches I haven't posted here at all. I'm slowly scanning and cropping the 50 or so watercolors I managed on the trip and will post clean versions of them here as I get each one ready for its close up.
I'm starting with the street scenes of Bergama. Two years ago, I painted primarily at the archeological sites, but this time, I found myself much more drawn to the center of town. My time with the Urban Sketchers has changed my ideas of subject matter. I love the row of baklava shops (at the very top), the way the rug merchants hang and lay their rugs outside on the sidewalk, and the general bustle and color of a Turkish town.
I also found that I love painting in the center of town because of the bustling sidewalk culture and warm hospitality of the Turkish people. I was amazed that as I painted every day, people would bring me stools to sit on and hot tea or cold drinks. I have never been shown such overwhelming kindness while working. One day it was the taxi drivers bringing me a stool and a cold soda. Another day it was the barber whose shop I was painting in front of bringing me hot tea and his spice merchant neighbor bringing me cold water. Another day a small group of boys went back to their house and brought me a cold drink. It was just lovely. There was invariably someone extending me hospitality simply because I was there painting their hometown and honoring the place they live.
I was also invited to dinner by the museum director and his family. He wanted his daughter to practice her English with me, and I was thrilled to be asked into a Turkish home. It was a delightful evening, and I left Bergama feeling that I have real friends there, between their family, the Gobis (my hosts at the pension who warmly included me in family activities all week) and the very kind waiter Alimetin at my favorite meatball place, Pala Solanu, who would sit and visit with me and help me with my Turkish. I miss them all already.
Bergama is an everyday Turkish town with utterly amazing history. It was an urban center of 400,000 in the ancient world with a groundbreaking medical center (they discovered the heart and circulatory system here) and a city up on its own acropolis. The ruins are spectacular. Above is the Roman road leading into the medical center. Below is the same road with the acropolis rising up in the background.
In spite of all this richness, it is impossible to buy a postcard along the main street. Unfortunately, most people pass through Bergama on a bus tour, stop to see the two sites, and keep going. For people like me, however, who fall in love with the place, that means that staying here gives you a real sense of day to day life in Turkey. I've seen election campaigns, circumcision parties, the family get-togethers at the end of Ramadan, and, just this morning, a wedding procession.
Bergama is also a little out of time. Yesterday I was passed by a pony cart on my way to paint the Roman road, and in the afternoon two guys on a motorcycle trotted a horse on a lead line past me as I worked. This morning, two tractors went down the main drag.
I painted here two years ago and stayed for 14 nights. I loved painting the ruins, but pastels weren't right to capture the town itself. When Dad proposed our Greek trip, I immediately thought I would come back and paint more in Bergama. Partly for the painting, and partly to revisit the fabulous Gobi family who run the pension I stayed in.
The Gobis are marvelous and have taken me in so warmly. Mrs. Gobi let me watch her cook last night (I had asked to learn how), and then I joined the family evening over dinner and after dinner tea. I am thrilled to be back with these friends again.
The island of Hydra is one of my sanctuary places. You can get there pretty quickly from Athens on a hydrofoil, so I came twice during the summer of 2003 that I spent in Athens. It was a welcome respite because of its ban on cars -- the island has a few municipal trucks, but otherwise, donkeys and hand carts restock supermarkets and move goods around the island.
It's also just a gorgeous place. I'm dreaming of spending a couple of weeks instead of a couple of days painting here.
Above is the view of the harbor from our converted attic studio (four girls in two double beds, and so worth it for the view).
This is my favorite taverna on the island. The waiters aren't as chatty as the guys in Athens, but it's a lovely place to sit. They used to have live music every night (two very talented musicians), but this year it's apparently only on the weekends, and I was disappointed to miss it. Sitting under a full town square's worth of arbor with donkeys passing by regularly is still a treat, though.
We also walked about a mile to my favorite beach. It's a pebble one instead of sand, and I love all the colored pebbles. I also love the clear, deep blue of the water, and the beach umbrellas made from real palm branches. I swam first and then did three paintings.
I've tried a couple of mostly watercolor (with a little pencil) sketches here instead of using the pen.
I did a second one this morning, walking just enough out along the beach road to get in view of the beautifully shaped satellite islands of Hydra. This last one is hard to see in the snapshot. When I get home I'll scan these in properly and repost them. They all look too dull, but I want people to be able to see what I'm doing as the trip goes along. Hopefully my internet in Bergama (my next and final stop) will let me continue to post.
I'm having trouble uploading the photos I'm taking on my netbook, so I may not have a lot more blog posts until the trip is over. At the moment, I'm taking advantage of desktop computers available to our hotel on Hydra, but we catch the ferry in a couple of hours.
I did a number of sketches in Nafplio and might consider a painting trip there in the future. It's a lovely city just to be in, as well as fertile creatively. Above is the harbor at sunset, and below is another nocturne of the Venetian fort out in the harbor.
Another great think about Nafplio is its proximity to amazing places, like the Mycenean fortress of Tiryns (below) and Mycenae. I fell in love with Tiryns on a high school graduation trip with my dad, and it was lovely to get back there. I especially remember this corbelled arch hallway from last time.
I kept coming back to the Ventian plateia to paint. The Venetians occupied Nafplio and did some lovely building while they were there. The open marble piazza is the hub of the town, and kids come out to play every night. I kept going back there to paint as well. (And the pannacotta at the taverna of my choice made that an easy call.) My family's been nice about my drawing through dinner.
We're now in the Italianate-feeling town of Nafplio in the Pelopponese. It was occupied by the Venetians over the years and features Venetian architecture and piazzas and lots of gelato. We're staying in a charming old hotel right in the old section of town and two blocks off the harbor. It's lovely to walk out and be in the middle of things.
The public spaces are beautifully in use here, as in so much of Greece. Families are out, couples are out, kids are playing ball and riding bicycles in the plateia. I love the sidewalk culture in Europe. There is such a feeling of community.
They also have some really great public sculpture in Nafplio.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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