“Be Prepared”

As I mentioned in my spring blog post, we were planning a holiday, and it was wonderful.  Summer, as a whole has been marvelous.  Though the good weather was late in coming, once it hit in late June it decided to take up residence.  Now we are about to enter September and we still are having predominantly sunshine and warm days.  That’s not always the case after Regatta Day in St. John’s.

Planning a holiday also meant planning what art supplies I wanted to take along.  I knew I wouldn’t be making “serious art”, but I did want to take materials for sketching, and for maintaining my travel journal.  You also know, from previous posts, that I am a bit of a supply and diy geek, so the first thing I considered was a small watercolour palette.  cotmanI have W&N Cotman travel set, which I was planning to take, but I had seen the Pocket Palette business card size kit on Pinterest, and elsewhere, and thought I might be crafty enough to make something similar.  So let the games begin.

Small Metal Notepad

Many years ago, my husband gave me a tiny metal notepad with a pen that kept it closed.  While I loved it, I hadn’t used it often, so it was ready for a reincarnation.

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I found little metal pans online at a cosmetic supply firm (TKB Trading) and I had an old sheet magnet from a calendar, and some small magnet dots from the Dollarama.  I glued the magnet to the inside of the notepad base with E6000, and as the metal pans stuck nicely to the magnet I didn’t need to use the magnet dots.  I used white adhesive contact paper to make the mixing space under the cover.

I had purchased some lovely Shinhan Watercolours from Amazon, so my next task was to fill the pans I wanted.

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It was just a matter of filling the pan, and then spreading the paint out with a toothpick.  I included Mission Gold Crimson Lake, and W&N Cotman Payne’s Gray, because they are favourites.  You can see the rest of my palette selections on the sample card above.  Once the pans had dried (2 days) I just slipped them into the case and now I have a lovely little kit that I can slip in my pocket with a waterbrush and a pencil.

My Pocket Palette

But for journaling on the trip I wanted a little more.  I like a selection of pens, and prefer normal brushes to waterbrushes.  The ephemera one collects on a trip needs to be taped or glued in and scissors and rulers are helpful.  When I was growing up I had pencil cases for school that held all sorts of art supplies, so while I was in the Thrift Store, I came across a more modern version of this with an inner divider and decided it had potential.

I grant you I am a fan of all things Disney, but this was not the vision I had for my art supplies.  Acrylic paint to the rescue.  I think the result is much more appropriate.

The kit holds pencils, art eraser, ruler, fountain pens, a white pen and glue pens, along with an assortment of waterbrushes and travel brushes alongside my Cotman paints.  There is a plastic card cut from packaging wrapped with washi tape, and there are watercolour paper pieces, binderclips and elastics; water container, colour wheel, spray bottle, paper towel and cloth cuff.

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And of course, one must have a matching sketchbook.  This was a book of quite sturdy watercolour paper (no weight given) that I picked up at a yard sale.  The cover is heavy chipboard.

 

The truth of the trip was that it was so busy there was little time to sketch anything, and I will leave the details of our travels to a future post.  But here is a little tidbit to whet your appetite.

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Roman (Romin’) Holiday

If you have read my (much) older posts, you will know that we enjoy travel and with that, photography to record our traveling.  In the spring of 2016 our family had a truly awesome Vacay, visiting Wales, London, Germany, and Rome.  Where countries are listed, we visited different towns and cities.  It was a glorious time to trundle around together, and the weather in Europe is so much more inviting in March than it is in Newfoundland, where we are still shrouded in snow and cold at that time of the year.

Rome was the one place on the itinerary that we had never seen, and so was an amazing experience.  We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast that was very close to everything, Gialel Bed & Breakfast.  I would recommend it to anyone!  And contact them through their website.  They say they will beat the booking website prices.  Our second piece of advice is use the Hop on Hop off Bus Tours.  We suggest the red bus, there are all sorts of them (we took one from a different company).  With a 48 hour pass we were able to spend 2 days visiting all the major sights without concern about how we were going to get around.  We only had to be aware of when the last bus for the day left the stop we were at.  It was great.

A few shots from the Vacay in Roma.

Everywhere you looked there were ruins, either preserved, built into new buildings or standing sentinel on their own.  And of course, there were people everywhere!  And we weren’t there in tourist high season.

Art StoreWe came across this marvelous art store.  This only shows you one side of it, but the other half of the building was full of papers and pigment powders and brushes!!  Oh so beautiful.

DaVinci museumThe Da Vinci Museum was full of reproductions of his inventions, and his journals and notebooks.

Fascinating to see his ingenuity.

 

 

 

ParkingAlso ingenious was the parking.  This isn’t the only example we saw of creative parking.  Creative driving was also very much in evidence.

 

Below are just a few more shots of this amazingly picturesque city.

And what led me to tell you about last year’s holiday?  Well, this did.  This is Vicolo Della Torre, Trastevere.  This laneway in the old quarter of Rome, across the river, arrested me as I passed.  Laundry hung in the alley, sun beamed in, and even this early in the season shutters and windows were open and plants were beginning to leaf.  I wonder which tower the Torre references?

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I loved the strong perspective and sharp contrasts, and hope I was able to do it justice.

Imperative

Sometimes a story demands to be told, a photo begs to be taken, a painting insists on being created.

About a year ago I painted a few decorative items, just gifts, of a colourful village – my Gaudy Hamlet.

They were pretty and colourful, the flip side depicting a different season of the year.  So I thought why not paint a progression on a canvas, through the seasons of the year.  And so was born, A Year in a Gaudy Hamlet.

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But you would need to know a little about this place I live…The Rock…The Easternmost Province of Canada…This Island in the Atlantic.  We are known for our colourful houses, and most famously for Jellybean Row in St. John’s.  Check out the link for some lovely photos and explanations.

Many of the houses in the small towns outside the city (the smallest, clinging to the shores of the island, called Outports) are made up of Higglety-Pigglety houses that sprung up as sons and daughters built by their parents over the 600 years of our existence.  (Yes we are the oldest inhabited place in North America.)  Usually not as colourful as “Sin Jawn’s”, there were more white houses with green or blue or black trim, or brick red houses with yellow ochre, or yellow houses with white.

I loved my whimsical work, with it’s bright colours and comical fir trees.  The apple tree was one of the few fruit trees traditionally planted here.  Occasionally someone had luck with pear.  And my friends and family loved it too.  I don’t paint to sell, but people wanted prints of this one!  However it talked to me.  “There’s more to the story,” it whispered.  I told my husband, who said, “Why would you want to paint something that isn’t happy?”  And so I left it alone for about 8 months.  But it wouldn’t leave me alone.

You see, Newfoundland and Labrador has seen a constant move from rural to urban.  Outports were isolated, often with no roadway to reach them and transport by boat alone.  This made services and supplies difficult to access.  There was a natural drive to move to where these things were available, but in the 1950’s the government began to initiate moves, because health care and municipal services were so difficult to provide.  People were paid to move.  Some floated their homes across the bays.  Hearts were torn out of families as communities were abandoned.  There are many internet sites that deal with resettlement but here is one to give you a taste.  Resettlement

Shortly before Christmas the whispering got too loud and I started on Resettlement in a Gaudy Hamlet.  The first houses are still inhabited, but soon there is no one to mow the lawns, or rake the leaves, or clear the rocks off the road.  The houses are shocked and surprised.  Why is it quiet?  Where are the lives that once filled them?  Why is there no one to close the doors?  To fix the shingles?  To paint their greying clapboard?  It is sad, as glass breaks and timbers rot.  But it is not ugly, nor without hope.  The trees that were once cut for firewood grow up.  The flowers, wild and gone wild colour the fields.

resettlement These are hidden places, and I have come upon them myself over the years.  Coves where the only indications that someone once lived there, are the square mounds of rocks that were the foundation of homes.  Where the furrows on the hill denote a garden that once held drills of potato and carrot.

“This is the land of dreamings, a land of wide horizons and secret places.  The first people, our ancestors, created this country in the culture that binds us to it.”

~Hetti Perkins

Portability

If I’m going somewhere that I might paint, I don’t want to spend hours packing gear, so I spend more time than I should collecting painting travel packs.  That does not presuppose that I am actually “painting mobile.”  I just have this need to be prepared.  And acrylics do not really make for easy travel sketching.  (I am secretly envious of watercolour artists and that is the one thing that may make me overcome my fear of watercolours.)  Acrylics are more of a plonk and paint situation.

We have a summer place, and I have painted there for many years.  I started doing the doors, because I didn’t want to have plain white or off-white doors.  The summer place is more of a place to play.  I keep my paints in a small suitcase, because we cannot leave them there in the winter.  The heat is turned off, and paints don’t take freezing well.  It is easy to carry about and then you only need your support and your source of water. The compact rolling table and stools were purchased from Canadian Tire many years ago.

But when that kit is at the cabin, what to do when you are travelling from home?  There is no shortage of supplies at my place.  20160712_200452Of the two dark wood French easels, the larger is my daughter’s.  A gift from a previous employer who appreciated her creative and organizational skills.  She is away now, so it is included in my supplies, but I have always been hesitant to use it.  (Not really mine to dirty up.)

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My Daughter’s Easel

The smaller French easel (open below) is mine.  I found it on Kijiji for $25 and quite love it, although I haven’t used it much as I paint at my drafting table most often.20160718_093355

The shopping bag contains a paint box easel and wash caddy, towels and gear.20160718_092822

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It is what I would take when a friend invited me to come to her paint group.  I didn’t stay with them, but it was convenient so I’ve kept it together.  Sometimes I visit my neighbour and we paint together.  (The plastic chocolate box is my wet palette.)

Then there is the blue bag, 20160718_092452which I have put together most recently.
It contains the paints, wash can, cup and boards that I intend to use when I get my act together to Plein Air paint.  I can grab it and my French easel and I’m ready to go.

The organizer holds basic sets of Golden Open paints, Windsor and Newton Artisan water mixable oils, and some cheap watercolours.  All these are things I have been collecting for about a year and I want to try for Plein Air.  My last experience with “partial” Plein Air was impeded by the struggle with drying time.

But that is the subject for another post.

I would love to hear about your experience with being “mobile” with acrylics.

Römischer Weg

Today we visited a very special German city, Trier.  My first introduction to the town was when I was a teenager.  Germany had not yet realized the aesthetic value of the Roman ruins that were being excavated and you could walk through the rubble of the archaeologists’ finds.  It wasn’t pretty…you didn’t pay entry fees…it hadn’t become a tourist attraction.  20 years later I brought my husband to experience the city.  The streets were no longer torn up, and the ruins were better groomed, but it was still more of a pilgrimage than a sightseeing tour.  We ran from Porta Nigra to Basilika in the rain…without a tour map, depending on the helpfulness of strangers in the street to direct us.  Today, about 15 years later, there are entry fees for everything, tour booklets in multiple languages, and a museum with multiple guards per floor.  2000 year old structures have weathered time, weather, siege and world war.  Yet among the pockmarked stones thousands of thoughtless people have scrawled names, initials, symbols, showing no respect for the global treasures they are defacing.   If you ever find yourself in the Mosel Valley, make your way to the city that was once on par with Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople.

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Porta Nigra - One of 4 gates on the 6.5 km long city wall. The only one still standing.

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View up the 3 levels from inside.

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Along the corridors defenders could repel any attack.

After the Romans had left the city, the Porta Nigra was reincarnated as a church; rebuilt on at least two occasions.  Today it has been returned to a more original state, although the rounded end that would have been the nave of the church remains.

Through the windows of the Porta you can see the countryside, the city, and the Dom.

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Across the river

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The Dom with the Liebfrauen Kirche next to it.

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View into the city from the 3rd level of the Porta. I wonder what a centurion would think to see this?

Walking into the Altstadt we arrived first at the Dom (cathedral). This structure, started 1000 years ago, lies on the foundations of Roman buildings dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries (anno domini). Beautifully appointed inside, with vaulted and carved ceilings and imposing memorials and altars, the Dom houses the Shroud of Turin, which is exposed for view only about every 10 years. Whatever your beliefs, it is an impressive and solemn monument. The Dom museum houses codex & book covers from the early middle ages, carvings from even earlier, and reliquaries from holy men and women, including St. Peter and St. Andrew. Next door is the Liebfrauen Kirche, completely different in style – light and airy.

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Reliquary of the chains of St. Peter

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Reliquary of the sandal of St. Andrew.

Also now used as a church, the Imperial Palace, built by Constantius, and later taken over by Constantine the Great is now the Protestant Basilika. The giant audience hall has had numerous incarnations; as a royal residence, a bishop’s residence, a fortress,
and a courtyard.

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Massive in size, the rubble of centuries has raised the level of the ground around the Basilika.

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The inside space is immense. Can you imagine walking up its length to bring your complaint to Constantine?


Hygiene was of great importance in Roman times, and Constantine had a great plan for the Imperial Baths. While it never came to fruition, most of the structure was completed and then repurposed. There were aqueducts and heating mechanisms, and underground hallways for servants.
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This is only about a third of the structure, which continues off to the right, and is still being excavated.

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A sense of the height. Courses of varying coloured stones were laid, to decorate the building.


That brings us to the Amphitheatre. The location for animal fights, gladiators and executions, the amphitheatre formed part of the city wall, and its entrance was one of the gates.
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This picture, taken from the upper level of seats, gives a sense of how large the arena is.


OK…so I have a new favourite word. The entrances into the seats were called vormitoria
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Love the funnel shape of the Vormitoria...pour them in...vomit them out!

Here it is…the required panorama. What the Christian saw before the lion was upon him.

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Here kitty, kitty.


Below the arena floor are a series of rooms and drains that housed animals and the condemned, and from which each could be brought into the center.
And if you are around Trier in the summer time, the gladiators still compete in the Amphitheatre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Sounds like a rollicking good time to me.