Friday, October 4, 2013

An Artist Retreat in Croatia

"Marinka's Figs"
8" x 10" watercolor

Where have we been? We spent 22 days in Europe so I could attend the Artist Retreat on the island of Hvar in Croatia. My friend Marion and husband Zdravko own a lovely stone house in the tiny town Vrboska and live there part time. Marion sponsored the retreat, attended by four artist and two spouses from the Bay Area. Marion has a lovely blog that will give you the itinerary. She's also been doing her own summary of each of the days. Marion plans to offer another retreat in 2014, so be sure to check it out. My highlighted links take you there for more information and some really wonderful photos.

We began with a side trip to Berlin, Germany, where we stayed on the East side of the old Berlin Wall. Berlin has put lots of money into rebuilding the area, and it is hip, trendy, and fascinating. While there we spent a day at their history museum which took us from the earliest history through WWII. We also took a bicycle tour of WWII and Nazi Germany sites with Fat Tire Bike Tours. Other days we meandered and took their wonderful public transit to see the city. We stayed in a sweet hotel, Kastanianhof,  run by successive generations of the same family through the turbulent history of the area.

Croatia is the land of consonants, so I will give pronunciations in parentheses when I know them. On September 8, we took tram, train, bus, two planes, bus, and the catamaran to Hvar island where Marion picked us up in Jelsa (YELsa). That evening, we had a lovely meal prepared on their newly built limestone barbecue, a magnificent structure. We enjoyed local wines. Zdravko (SHRAVko) is originally from Croatia, though he and Marion from Scotland have lived in San Jose for over 20 years, so he speaks the language and has a wealth of local knowledge. One artist stayed with our hosts and the rest of us had small apartments in a lovely old fisherman's cottage.

Dragana and Luis' Apartments
Ours is the top floor entered through the door on the left

The following morning we started off with an early walk through the town to find likely art subjects. I spent the day at Konoba (KONoba) Lem, a restaurant on the harbor, and painted while sipping coffee and water. The old buildings have served many generations. Bob used their wifi and relaxed. Late in the day we gathered for critique and then went to a wonderful traditional fish stew dinner at Lem's.

Fisherman sorting their catch
Vrboska Harbor

19" x 14"

The second day we ventured out in two vehicles to Stari Grad to paint in an ancient complex, have lunch on a local restaurant patio, and visit Roman ruins and a farm for sketching.  At this point I was frustrated with my paintings and realizing I should have brought more sketching materials, my fault alone because I pared down for travel -- too much. My fellow artists did some beautiful art in their sketchbooks. The Stari Grad Plain is a UNESCO site because it retains the field divisions with stone walls laid out by the ancient Greeks. I used Tombow pens to capture part of the Roman farm ruins.

Ancient Roman Farm
5" x 7" Tombow Pen Sketch

The third day was one of my favorites, a day at the Atelier of local artist Marinka. This is where I reconnected with my personal style and produced a couple paintings that I like. Marinka's group of old stone buildings filled with her art are on the hillside in the small town of Dol. After a tour and some time with Marinka, we shared a beautiful lunch on the patio. Then we got down to painting. I focused on a branch of pomegranates in the sunlight, next to one of the stone buildings.

"Sunlit Pomegranates"
19" x 14" watercolor

My setup

The Pomegranates

 After completing that I work, some time remained so I took a few photos of the fig trees and then drew the shapes of leaves and a few figs. Marinka had shared some paper she enjoys using which has a somewhat resistive surface, though she was unable to provide the brand. I liked the way I could mingle and manipulate colors.

We all admired Marinka's handmade frames, very interesting creations from scrap cardboard and wood glue covered with paper, such as toilet paper, or colored napkins. The frame developed during the war in the 1990s when Marin, her artist husband, was unable to get frames due to a blockade of the island. She said the process is tedious and boring, but oh my we loved the results. In the photo, the top four of Marinka's paintings are mounted in these frames.

We gathered in the evening with the men joining us and we had a delicious meal of fresh fruits, vegetables and lamb from the island prepared by Marinka. I loved the warm figs stuffed with goat cheese. Twas the end of a perfect day.


Jean Lurssen said...

What an exciting time and an idyllic painting vacation. I envy you. I like the fig watercolor. It's almost abstract.

Autumn Leaves said...

Mary this just sounds like such a fun adventure. I cannot get over how much traveling you and Bob do! So many beautiful memories being made too. Love your sketches and your paintings of both the figs and the persimmon branches.

hmuxo said...

Sounds like an incredible vacation, Mary!!! Love the paintings !!!

Candy said...

Wow, Mary! This sounds wonderful! Very nice job on "Sunlit Persimmons". I also like Marinka's paintings and handmade frames.