Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Final Days of the Artist Retreat in Croatia

My Artist Trading Cards

The cards that I received from Karen, Lisa, Marion, and Jenny

On the sixth day of our retreat we spent time painting at the beach and swimming in the Adriatic. All beaches are available for your use, even the ones in front of the fancy hotels.  This lovely spot had many families enjoying the day. The beaches are pebbles, not sand, so I was wishing for some swim shoes I left at home in the interest if weight. I did not produce any art worthy of bringing back to the states. That evening we visited the largest berg on the island, Hvar Town, with a wonderful fortress at the top of the mountain, a good little workout. Our leader, Marion. documented our fine day here.    

All too soon it was the final day of our Art Retreat. Lisa and I spent the morning painting our Artist Trading Cards that we would exchange later in the day. The activity sparked interest among folks and a French couple tried to purchase one of mine. We also chatted with a couple from Stockton, CA, who spends half a year on their catamaran in Europe based out of Sardinia. They were docked in Stari Grad and visiting Vrboska for the day. Later in the day we met in our courtyard to share all the work we had done. 

That evening we went to Pitve, a sweet hillside town with a fabulous restaurant where they do traditional Dalmatian peka, food roasted in a bell over hot coals -- delicious! But first we went to see the Dubokovic's vineyards and new winery where they make their restaurant wine. Johnnie, a family partner, took us on a bit of hike up the hills and we saw fabulous views back to the mainland. With my lack of good sketching materials, I used by tiny sketchbook and pen. Lacking watercolor, I painted in wine from the glass I was enjoying, which pleased Johnnie to no end. The next day I attempted another on watercolor paper with multiple layers. I was not successful at either. In the photo, the top one had faded somewhat by the time I took the photo.

Sketches painted in wine

We also got to try some grappa just made at a still next to the vineyard. At dinner, a group of men, including the restaurant owner, sang beautiful traditional music.

Marion documents our final day here with some fun pictures. Because Bob and I chose to continue our trip in Croatia, there is more to come in another post.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Family Fun

"Faster, Daddy"
15" x 14" watercolor
Gilroy Gardens Family Park

The day our Paintsites group created art at Gilroy Gardens, I did a landscape, begun before the park opened. An hour later the families began to arrive for their Saturday outing. Just below the deck where we were painting were the paddle boats, lovely large swans and ducks with two people on board, usually one parent and one child. I grabbed my I-Pad and took a couple photos. I loved this particular scene with the wake linking the two boats.

I began the painting last Thursday night with my South Side Art Club, laying in the washes over the entire page. I saved the white of the bubbly wake using friskit. There was a row of green and white umbrellas on the hill over the pond. I wanted to suggest the background without drawing attention away from the subject, so I toned down the whites of the umbrella, leaving the pure white for the boats and wake. I also suggested foliage and flowers, without defining them too much.

You can read about our group adventure on the Santa Clara Valley Paintsites Blog.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Artist Disappearing Act

"Morning at Gilroy Gardens"
19" x 14" Watercolor
Where is Mary? There hasn't been a lot of time to blog after returning from Europe, with much welcome family visits from back East. I plan to create more entries for my recent trip, but for now, let me catch you up on a touch of recent art.

I  attended a few drawing classes and did a bit of plein air. Our SCVWS Paint Sites group painted last Saturday on a special Art in the Gardens day at Gilroy Gardens, an amusement park for young children with many beautiful gardens. The operational team wants to expose children to the creative process, so we were part of the entertainment! I loved this spot with ponds, rocks, and falls, backed by redwood trees. Just below us were large swan- and duck-shaped paddle boats with parents and children. I have a fabulous photo I hope to paint. It just captures the fun. I reached a point about 3/4 done when I made myself stop. I gave a lot of thought on how to finish the painting at home. Of course, as always, I struggle with values.

The previous Thursday, the group painted at the Saratoga  Historical Museum, a lovely little collection of old buildings and pretty gardens. I loved the artist at work. The color is off here - the sky is blue, not pink.

"Artist at Work"
13" x 10" Watercolor
I also attended a few of my Monday morning drawing class. The pastels are not finished because I never have enough time in class.

That last one is a hoot, based on a still life with skull, bottle, cup, and teapot. I always need a story. George O'Keefe must have been enjoying a spot of tea with a hit of liquor while creating her masterpiece.

Stay tuned for more updates and finally visits to your blogs.....

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 5 of the Croatian Artist Retreat

"Blue Door"
Malo Grablje
14" x 19"
We were going to have a  beach day, but cool weather changed our plans. We walked to Jelsa (YELsa) -- well, more like a leisurely hike with photo ops. It's over 6 miles round trip. The day is describe by leader Marion here.
Bob and I enjoyed the walk and seeing a little more of Jelsa where the catamaran had delivered us from the mainland. Several artists sketched in the town. We lingered over coffee and lunch at a cafe and then headed back, needing a bit of quiet time.

The port town of Jelsa
on the island of Hvar

Inspired by our trip to the abandoned town the previous day, I hauled out a fresh piece of paper and created "Blue Door" based on my original start, photos, and memory. You will see on Marion's blog her painting from the inside of the house, where we could not wander beyond the old kitchen area because some of the floors had collapsed. We just loved the lively blue door. I like the painting and would also like to do a more ancient and overgrown version.

An abandoned home

Late in the day we walked to the fields belonging to Dragana and Luis, our landlords, where they grow grapes, olives, and figs. While we sketched, they prepared a lovely feast on their large Dalmatian barbecue. We sipped their homemade wine and Prosecco and watched the sunset.  

Wine on the vine

Jenny, Marion, and Karen

Sunset over Stari Grad Plain

After an enjoyable evening with our hosts, we walked back in the dark to our respective homes.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 4 of the Croatian Artist Retreat: Painting in an Abandoned Town

"Morning in Malo Grablje"
12" x 14" watercolor

Day 4 was a fascinating day spent in an abandoned mountain town with a great story. Our sponsor, Marion, describes the day here.

The town was a pretty inconvenient place to live, so the entire population of Malo Grablje (GRABlia) made an agreement to move to the coast where they built a new town, Milne, seeking better economic opportunities. The villagers all agreed not to sell the properties. The old town has been abandoned since the 1960s with the stone buildings in various stages of disrepair. The town has proved to be an attraction, so descendant Bertie Tudor, has opened a restaurant in one of the old buildings for those who hike in or drive the narrow dirt road.

Old houses and buildings in Malo Grablje

Our intention was to hike from Velo Grablje at the top of the mountain, but it was pouring rain so we drove. Bertie was very welcoming with a large table set up near a window and he brewed some hot coffee for us. Many chose to sit at outside tables under a cover, but I was chilled. I set my easel up on the table inside the restaurant with a great view out to the limestone cliffs and mountains. I completed the painting by the time Bertie was ready to serve us lunch, which included fish done on the outside limestone barbecue.

Bertie Tudor preparing lunch for our group
at Stori Komen

A sunny afternoon view from outside Stori Komen
My painting is of a similar view from inside the restaurant

The beautiful sunshine returned in the afternoon and brought a few other hardy souls to town. I explored the empty buildings with Marion and set up my easel. I began another painting and liked the concept. The next day I started over in the convenience of my little apartment. But I save that story for the next post.

The village families return to worship in the church a couple times a year and the building is in reasonable shape. There is an intact olive press in another building. Most are family homes. It is fascinating to stand there in the quiet and imagine the generations of people who lived here.

The local church

In the very late afternoon, we left Malo Grablje for Milne on the coast. We spent a bit of time walking on the pebble beach very characteristic of Croatia.

Jenny and Marion in Milne, the villagers new digs

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.