Our time in Greece has come to an end and I have a couple of sketches to share. My wife and I traveled to three islands during our time and here is a sketch from our favorite, Hydra. It’s a beautiful place and is distinctly filled with donkeys. Some are being offered up to tourists for rides and there are many being used for labor. I spent about five minutes sketching this donkey before he was loaded with groceries and led away. The islands were scenic, relaxing, and easily my favorite part of our time in Greece.
We also visited the Acropolis in Athens. Even though we went early in the day, the crowd of people was a little overwhelming. However, the Parthenon was amazing to see and I spent much of my time there with the feeling of how astonishing this must have been to see and experience in a completely different cultural context when it was newly constructed.
Our next destination is Istanbul, Turkey and I’ll be checking in with some more drawings or maybe some of the paintings that I’m working of right now as we continue across the Mediterranean.
The aesthetics of life near the sea have become very interesting to me. The color of the water at different times of day and the difference in texture from the rough concrete to the still and glassy harbor guides my eye and is attached to how I see and remember each port that we visit. The way the horizon meets the natural and manufactured verticals, helps to push me through my process of seeing and creating. My paintings are becoming a strong link between what I see and how I remember each port.
In addition to painting, I’ve been keeping a small travel sketchbook and am really happy with the results. Drawing makes me see more clearly and I look forward to keeping up with this and more sketchbooks in the future…maybe a blogging project could be in the works.
We pulled away from Dubrovnik two nights ago and will be in Athens tomorrow. Even if I’ve said it before, I would like to point out that I feel incredibly lucky to be on this journey and can’t wait to see what each day will bring.
The following are a painting done while at port in Naples and a quick sketch of my painting area in our cabin.
Today we landed in Dubrovnik and it is definitely the most beautiful port that we have entered so far. Around every corner, I notice something else that is extraordinary. The buildings are beautiful and the coast is incredible.
While we traveled to Croatia, I found a book in the ship’s library called, An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory and it has me feeling even more excited about building a sketchbook and considering it in a new way, as a project unto itself. The heat made it difficult to draw outside but I’ll post some new drawings in the next day or two.
For now, here are a couple of pictures from today in Dubrovnik.
Today we are in Naples, Italy and it is beautifully rough around the edges. It is a gritty but very vibrant city with incredible buildings, piazzas, and friendly people. I don’t think that I’ve ever been in a busier city. There are cars, scooters, and people moving around constantly. It’s quite an experience just to sit and take it all in. And, of course, we’ve had a chance to enjoy some pizza from the city that invented it.
I’ve also made time to do some sketches of the city. Since arriving at our first port in Barcelona, my primary means of making art has been drawing and it feels very good. Drawing has always been very calming and a great way to look closely at my surroundings. I’m sure there are more paintings on the horizon but here are a couple of drawings from Naples.
In my most recent compositions, I’ve been experimenting with the use of complimentary colors to create harmony and interest. With oil paint, I would usually inject some small part of a complimentary color into the color that I wanted to see on the surface to give it a neutral quality that I could vary throughout the work. With watercolor, I’m putting the complimentary color on the paper first and then, after a varied amount of drying time, adding the desired color over the top and continuing to work on the proportions of each as I go along. I’m also mixing colors in my palette and gauging which method or combination of methods gives the best result. I like the transparent quality of the paints and am really enjoying the opportunity to focus on painting while at sea.
I should mention that we have entered the Mediterranean Sea. Passing through the Strait of Gibraltar last night, everyone was very excited and relieved to finally see land again. Just this morning we arrived in Barcelona! Time to go explore.
I spent about two hours on deck reading from Edgar Payne’s book, Composition of Outdoor Painting, today. He has a concise way of describing many of the things that I’ve been doing intuitively for years and it gives me a sense of control and direction that is very reassuring. I owe my uncle Jim many thanks for giving me this book.
We will arrive in Barcelona on Wednesday morning and I am very excited to see land. I can’t wait to explore and do some outdoor drawings. Until then, I’ll continue sketching around the ship and creating watercolors. Here is another in my series of invented compositions. I think my longing to be on dry land is starting to come through.
Life aboard the MV Explorer is falling into an enjoyable pattern: waking slightly later than planned, exercise at the Wellness Center, reading, lunch, painting, dinner, more painting or games in the Glazier Lounge (depending on scheduled meetings, etc.), followed by a late night snack and finally a good night’s sleep. It’s a very pleasant repetition.
I’ve had some thoughts about the watercolor paintings that I’ve been doing. In them, mass or form is mostly defined by the overlapping of color. The depth of texture and color gives mass to my shapes. The works are dominated by lines, marks, and the layering of color that gives the work both mass and character. Lines give the work rhythm and help the eye navigate the broad shapes and quiet passages.
I’ve also thought about where the works come from. In a way, I think the shapes and colors and lines are disguises or alterations of places that I’ve been. When working, I’m very focused on letting go. My process takes place within a format but revolves around discovery and finding passages as they present themselves. I can’t help but notice that some of the images recur and gradually reveal places from my personal history: the park as a child, boating on lakes surrounded by broad and dark mountains, hiking on trails along cliffs… Enjoyment of nature is a major theme in my life and through my paintings, I think, there is a connection to the places tied most deeply to what I believe.
Another, slightly quieter watercolor from my Atlantic series of paintings, 4” x 6”.
We pulled away from Freeport Harbor today and are sailing toward Barcelona. The ocean is incredible. The blue water stretches out indefinitely and makes me realize how small any vessel, even one holding a thousand people, seems in the great expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. This experience is already expanding my view of the world, stretching my comprehension of the sheer size of this planet. Again, I feel incredibly fortunate and excited.
While in port, I finished this painting inspired by the deep turquoise and green waters of the Bahamas. I enjoyed our time there and, presently, am looking ahead at the even deeper blue water of the Atlantic with a great deal of optimism and wonder.
Before leaving for Semester at Sea, my wife and I are visiting family and friends in Montana. We try to make this trip at least once a year and this is a drawing I did at the end of our visit last year. This is of the mountains we saw from the Bozeman airport right before flying home. Hopefully, I’ll have more drawings to share after this year’s trip.
Bozeman, 9″ x 12″, Ink, 2012