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   Welcome to my blog! I'll be posting thoughts about art, photos, happenings, and other things that strike me--and hopefully my readers--as interesting. And please visit my website by clicking the link to the right--thanks!

   Also please check out my second blog, The Painting Archives to see older (pre-2004) paintings for sale.

Monday, September 29, 2008
  last day in barcelona
Time for a quick post (as I hold my own at the computer in the hotel lobby against several hovering teenagers.) It feels good just to sit and type...I´ve walked many miles in the last few days all over Barcelona, and somehow it has been more tiring than up and down the mountains!

This is a beautiful city, and I have been entertained every day by the life in the street, the interesting shops and food, and some wonderful art--especially at the Miro Foundation yesterday. My favorite gallery there was a room of huge minimalist paintings. They surprised me--I did not know he ever did that kind of understated work. I also found the museum of Pre-Columbian art and the Egyptian Museum very beautiful and intriguing.

My hotel room overlooks the main tourist street of the city, Las Ramblas, and from my tiny balcony I can watch the river of people flowing below me and the many street entertainers performing. There are a million tourists (and of course, I´m one too!) but I´ve also wandered through many neighborhoods a bit off the main routes, and glimpsed bits of the real life of the city--children getting out of school, families in the park, old people walking their dogs and having drinks late at night in the tiny cafes.

Really, the past few days have been sensory overload after three weeks of serenity and relative seclusion in the mountains. Barcelona has been wonderful, but now I am ready to fly home tomorrow. Adeu Catalunya!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
  last post from the pyrenees
It is early morning and the sun is speading over the hillside outside the window, at the beginning of what will likely be a crisp fall day. Two nights ago snow fell on the highest mountain peaks, a beautiful sight visible in the morning that was then obscured for most of the day by clouds. I had a very nice walk up the hillside yesterday, finding wild crocuses, several kinds of mushrooms and flushing out a pair of quail like birds called capercaillies.

Today is our last day at the Centre DÁrt I Natura. Tomorrow morning early we will drive down to Barcelona for four days (and by the way, I may not have an opportunity to post again until I´m home.) Though sad to leave here, I am also looking forward to the city experience. I´m hoping to see lots of art there and plan to visit the Miro Foundation, the Picasso Museum and a large show of the works of Nancy Spero at the Contemporary Art Museum.

As for my last day here, I have plenty of packing up and cleaning up to do...neither of which I have started yet, and in fact I plan to paint for the morning at least. I also want to take one last walk to a few favorite spots later on, and just savor the day. It has been a fabulous three weeks, and I´m happy not only with the whole experience here, and the pile of works on paper I am bringing home, but also the new ideas generated from my stay. It will be interesting to view these new painitngs in the context of my other work, once I get home, and to see where they may lead me in future work.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
  winding down
The past few days I've become aware of my dwindling time here at Centre D'Art I Natura....using up my supplies with less concern for running out (there is nowhere to buy more) and considering things I want to do before our Friday morning departure for Barcelona. But perhaps more than anything, I'm just savoring the views, the silence, the freedom to live from one hour to the next exactly as I wish to, without the responsibilities of my usual life. It is so easy to let one thing flow into another, to proceed in ways that are spontaneous or just feel right in the moment.

Yesterday, for example, what I thought would be a short walk to the ancient hermitage church here in Farrera somehow turned into a four hour hike. I started out about 11 a.m. with some water, drawing suplies, and my camera in my day pack, and after I had photographed the church and enjoyed the views from its high promontory, I noticed a man stride past on the path below me. He was dressed in high tech hiking gear with a walking stick. Something in that made me consider the idea of walking further...I remembered I hike I took last time with Lluis and Cesca, the couple who run the Centre, down this very path to a small village below called Glorieta. So I thought, why not hike to Glorieta, right now?

A beautiful descent down rocky paths in the sunshine became rather trecherously steep just above the village, and the marked path disappeared as it tends to do in rocky, eroded places like this. it was not really a problem, since I could see the village below me and it was just a matter of picking my way down. But it did cause me to rethink going back up the same way, since I could not be sure of finding the upper part of the trail again. So I decided to continue going forward on the trail, which picks up again outside Glorieta, and which I knew from my previous hike loops back up to Farrera.

Well it did indeed end up there, but somewhere along the way I must have made a wrong turn. There were a number of forks in the trail, which went through deep woods, and one signpost I could not decipher as all the markings were worn away. I knew I was on a marked path (bright yellow circles are painted on trees and rocks every so often on all the trails) but could only hope it was the one to Farrera. Alas, after a long upward climb I found myself in another village altogether, Mallolis...from there I could see Farrera and its neighbor Alendo on the other side of a deep valley. I had another steep decent and climb ahead of me.

Which pretty much made me want to cry, as I was already tired and sore, and I was blessed with a cloud of accompanying flies who made stopping to rest not very pleasant. Obviously there was nothing to do but push on, and make the best of it. And it was a lovely trail, through high meadows above the stream gorge. And at the bottom of the final valley, there was a spot that definitely made the whole long hike worthwhile, where the trail crossed an icy, crystalline stream that ran over small waterfalls and collected in pools lined with mossy rocks. I took off my shoes and waded downstream, awed by the beauty and serentiy of this secluded place.

This is what I love about being here, the surprises that come from wandering around when you feel there is all the time in the world...whether you are outside, in the studio, or in meandering conversations. How I will miss this relaxed pace and the way it allows for and supports so much discovery and experimentation. I recommend this Centre very highly, if that isn't obvious so far! (I haven't figued out how to make links on this computer, but there is one on my website links page, for the Centre D'Art I Natura, if anyone is interested in learning more...)
Thursday, September 18, 2008
  update from centre d'art i natura
Other than going back to the market town of Sort on Tuesday, I have not been anywhere except here in Farrera all week, and have had a quiet and productive time. My work is going well, although in the past few days, I have had a time of taking stock and asking myself where I'm heading in the studio. Yesterday after some thought, I decided to devote more time to drawing than I have done so far. My intention is to develop some ideas for increased use of line in my work, something I had in mind before coming here. There are so many extremely interesting things to look at and draw here in the surroundings, the rocks, houses in the village, the ruins of old barns, beautiful stone walls, and a myriad of plants. Some of this I will approach in a realistic way, some more abstracted.

Today I took a long hike straight uphill for about two hours through meadows, up steep banks of slate, over tiny streams and through scrubby pine forests. I have been in that same direction twice before, going a bit farther each time, and today followed my impulse to go all the way to the mountain pass, from which you can see mountains in all directions (though less dramatic on the far side.) I had my drawing things along, but the flies were so intense that I stuck to photography. The view from the top of the trail was truly awesome, and worth the effort, though I was pretty done in when I finally got back to the Center.

Last night I showed two visiting Catalan women around the studio, who are contemplating starting an art center like this one, and whose English was very limited. But I understood that they wondered about my use of mixed media, and I showed them my paints and drawing things, as well as my finished or mostly finished work. One of them pointed out various paintings that she especially liked, the other smiled and said, "all, all" ....I was struck by the ability that visual art has to communicate across language barriers.

There have been a few fun social occasions, including a little supper that Marina and I put on in our little kitchen for Amr, from Egypt, and Enriqueta, from Catalunya, on Sunday night (the only night we are not served Cesca's fabulous cooking.) We laughed a lot, had bread, cheese, olives, tomatoes, almonds, and wine, told stories of travel and our various countries of origin, and listened to some of the 250 Frank Sinatra songs that Amr has stored on his laptop. Other nights at the communal dinner table have also been very entertaining...besides cooking, Cesca excels at storytelling, acting out emotions and situations in ways that are both captivating and hilarious. Dinner is definitely the highlight of the day, no matter what else has been going on...and since it is not served until 9pm there is plenty of time for anticipation to grow as smells rise from the kitchen to our studio and apartment.

There is just over a week left for us here, before leaving for a few days in Barcelona, and I plan to make the most of it. The time has gone by so serenely...leaves are beginning to turn, and the moon has gone through its fullest phase, spilling silver light on the hillside opposite my big balcony doors all night long. The days have been mostly cool, and somewhat cloudy, not the intense sun and heat that I recall from my last visit (though it was the same time of year.) I have enjoyed the variety of this weather, the changing light conditions and views of the clouds over the mountains, and one dramatic thunderstorm.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
  quiet sunday in farrera
I'm enjoying a day off from studio work today, which seems like a good idea after more than a week of intensive painting. I started the morning by looking through several catalogues of work from other artists who have been here previously at the Centre D'Art I Natura. It is really so inspiring to think of all the creative work that has been done here since the Centre opened in 1995, and to see the visual and written interpretations of other people's experiences here.

Later Marina and I shared talk about art and coffee in our little kitchen, and were getting ready to go for a walk when one of the other residents, Amr from Egypt, invited us to go to lunch in a neighboring village with him and Enriquetta, who is a Catalan media artist. So of course, we said yes, and spent several hours in a small, traditional restaurant/hostal in the village of Tirvia, lingering over a three course meal with wine and coffee.

Tirvia was heavily bombed during the Spanish civil war and has been rebuilt, with a few original old structures still left, and there is an exhibit at the small museum now about this time that we had hoped to see, but it was not open. So we just walked around looking at gardens, and buildings, and the cemetery. It is a very charming village, winding stone streets lined with tall houses with balconies.

Yesterday I had a wonderful hike along a trail above the village, following it higher and higher, as new vistas opened up and enticed me to keep going. I was gone all morning, walking and stopping once in a while to draw and write, in meadows full of beautiful drying grasses and rose plants thick with reddish orange rose hips. The mountain ranges stretched out endlessly, the highest peaks now snow covered. It was absolutely, astonishingly beautiful. I saw no one, only a wandering cow, all morning.

Time for another walk now, not quite as strenuous as that one though! The late afternoon light is casting long shadows across the meadows and hills, and it's finally a bit sunny after being overcast and chilly all day.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
  settling in
Marina and I have been here at the Centre D'art I Natura for five days now, and the stress of travel has worn off completely, giving way to the peaceful rhythms of painting, walking and of course, eating...which is quite a highlight here, with dinners of incredible Catalan specialities, served at 9pm.

I'm following several different ideas in my work, inspired by so much that is interesting and beautiful here, including the textures of the old slate walls, and the many varieties of plants and wildflowers that are unfamiliar to me. I'm enjoying using the water-based and dry media that I brought along and so far I feel that these materials are a nice change from oils, with potential for complex textures and surfaces about the same.

Yesterday we went to the market town of Sort to stock up on groceries and wander around. Our ride to and from was from Lluis, the director here, who had a meeting to attend. So we ended up being there for hours... but it was fine. It's not a huge place at all, but we spent a lot of time walking around, and with the relaxed pace of life here it is easy to while away hours having lunch and coffee. I loved the grocery store...my language skills are not great, and it was a game to figure out what various products were. ( I ended up buying a packet of yeast that I was sure was some kind of cheese. )

The other artists here besides myself and Marina are a video artist from Catalunya and a young man from Egypt whose studio we are going to visit in a few minutes.

The rest of the world seems rather distant, but today I am thinking about the last time I was here, in September of 2001, and on the 11th received the terrible news from the US. September 11 is a Catalan holiday which makes it a little extra strange.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
  in catalunya now
I write this from the Centre DÁrt I Natura, looking out from the windows of the center's office space at a steep mountainside across which float puffs of mist...it is a cool and rainy day here, perfect for settling in, a few short walks with my camera, and the beginnings of some mixed media paintings. I arrived here yesterday evening with my friend Marina Broere. Our shared studio is directly below this office, so we also view the mountainside, and it is breathtaking. When I was last here, in 2001, this was an extremely rustic old barn. It has been transformed into a modern, beautiful building which includes a communal dining area and residential section with bedrooms, and a small kitchen and bath. It is a very comfortable, serene and inspiring place.

I´m a bit jet lagged after travel, which included one stretch of 30 hours without sleep before we finally landed in our hotel room in Barcelona. Before getting on the bus to Farrera (the medieval Pyrenees village where CAN is located) yesterday afternoon, we had time to do a bit of exploring in Barcelona, to walk around the Gothic quarter, eat some tapas, and most importantly to locate the art supply store where we both bought beautiful watercolor papaer made in Catalunya, and a few other delights.

This morning I woke up fairly early, had coffee on my sweet little balcony and took a walk to an ancient cattle barn, down stone paths through the village and along a ridge, grassy paths overlooking deep valeys on either side. The air was fragrant with pungent plants and wild herbs, and it was extremely quiet. Later after some studio time, Marina and I took the same walk, and on the return, the sun suddenly came through the mist and made the slate roofs of the village across the valley shine.

(I can´t figure out how to post photos, but hoping my written description will do some justice to this amazing place.)

It is a tremendous joy to be back here and to look forward to three weeks of work and exploration.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
  on my way
On Thursday I'll be arriving in Barcelona and then the next day head up to CAN, the Centre D'Art I Natura up in the Pyrenees to start my three weeks of residency there (one of my friends referred to it as my "sabbatical," and that seems like a good description...according to the dictionary,"a period of leave from work for research, study, or travel.") Although, of course, I will be working, but in a different way than normally--and research and study definitely will apply to exploring new media and landscape. The travel aspect is obvious!

I've mentioned various aspects of this trip in previous posts--and now it's down to stuffing everything into my suitcases and tying up remaining loose ends. I will have limited computer access while at CAN, and probably will not be able to post photos. But I'm sure I can manage a few non-illustrated updates. Until then, adeu (Catalan for "goodbye!")


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       Rebecca Crowell