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Heart and Soul

A MEMORY  My opening post takes us back to the fall of 1999 just a few years after I had started down a new path in my life. In 1996, I had embarked upon plein air painting and began to devote my life to it. This blog starts a few years into that journey.

Initial hints may seem too subtle, though effervescent warnings and the tender caress of a gentler sun suggest something has changed.

Only after nature sprinkles colored leaves like confetti across city lawns and woodland pathways, will I be confident autumn has returned. Yes, the trees get to unmask colors that still surprise, and the air carries its own invigorating spell. The real reasons why I eagerly await the fall, relaxing evenings in front of the fire, contemplating my next project. 

Others may delight in winter's first snowflake I revel in autumn's first chill. That intoxicating time of wood-burning smoke, piled leaves, crunchy textures, and colors of sumptuous russets, browns, and dusty gold tones. Even though I look forward to fall, I'll miss summer. Spending summer months in Europe gives me the opportunity to enjoy the golden splendor of radiant suns and witness the pleasure of sunsets made of color dark, rich and gloriously resonant. Even the silvery light from the moon takes on a mysteriously different quality. From time to time, when I miss home I trace the little Dipper's handle to the outermost tip and find Polaris, the North Star. A single diamond-bright, dazzling dot, larger than its rivals and boldly outshining them all.

One of the most precious places Camille Przewodek and I visited on our travels was in Anguiano, Spain. We stayed in a large monastery nestled in the mountains and a distance from the nearest village. There I was in the Basque country, mesmerized by the beauty. The tile rooftops were of a cinnabar hue of such intensity that it rivaled nature's ripe palette. I could have stayed there and painted much longer than I had. 

That's me working on the fireplace.
That's me working on the fireplace.

In Soreze, France, where the 400-500-year-old ruin I purchased with Camille, rests, we rested as well and began to make plans to restore our quaint little dwelling.

Another memorable resting place, was Chamonix, France, a touristic city among the French Alps. Nature here overwhelmed us. We enjoyed our evenings at the Bistro, sitting at woodblock tables sipping espresso. There was mood enough to go around and the nights made for cool riffs and easy conversation.

Camille painted my portrait on the beach in Nice. The back of my head was in sunlight with tiny spots of light bouncing off the contours of my face. The reflection of the sea and sand gave off a surreal glow. My head was a silhouette against the background. This method of painting a portrait is called a "mud head." And it was here that I saw silver-winged seabirds carve arcs across the pale morning sky. My heart yearned to fly with them. To swoop and soar, to glide unfettered through the rarefied blue, destination unknown.

I was ill during my time in Venice, Italy, but I still managed to enjoy myself. I didn't realize it, but the day before arriving Venice was the last day I was to paint during our travels. Like a soothing indigo shadow, I would sit and watch the Italian boats move swiftly on the waves of great arcs on the sea. And the birds soaring solo on singing winds. And early in the morning, the fog would hang gray and mysterious; the world seemed so far away.

Camille and I had continued to journey to Europe nearly every year since our meeting in the summer of 1996 up until 2006.


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