Thursday, July 26, 2012

Into the rabbit hole!

"Into the rabbit hole: Fletcher 1"  by Hilary J. England,
Oil on canvas panel 12" x 16", 2012

It's been beastly hot.  I manage to get some work done in the early a.m., and sometimes, a night or two in, but my studio gets to the point of near suffocation by midday, even with the air conditioning chugging along on turbo, so it is just impossible.  I hate the summer, literally.  I hate stifling heat, I hate bugs, I hate humidity, and I hate having to stay in air conditioning, since it dries out my sinuses and drives up the electric bill into the stratosphere.  So, there is my rant for the day.  I would rather be in the most frigid cold than in blasted heat. I don't know how my ancestors lived in the tropics!   I guess that's one of the perks of believing in God, the hope of escaping eternal heat! LOL.  No offense out there to the thin-skinned.

I have been working quietly inside, actually getting a lot of studying done.  I started working on an exploration of Fletcher's Colour control theories, and it is extremely fascinating (thank you Myron, once again, you brilliant man!).  I am just intoxicated with this theory, and the simplicity, yet complexity of it.  I started doing some very controlled abstract color studies recommended to get a "feel" for this system, and I am just loving it.  Above is the first one. It's part of a study series called "Into the rabbit hole" and this is "Fletcher 1."  I like the idea of vertigo, and going through layers to get to a strange place!  The color scheme is entirely based on Fletcher's theory of split complimentaries, value, temperature, hue and intensity, and it was a very interesting and absorbing study.

So, aside from simmering indoors, I also plan on making another few trips down to the Philly Museum of Modern Art to the Rodin installation, just to stay cool and draw from his sculptures...a rather relaxing way to pass these hot days.  I started a new abstract color study, hopefully it will be done in the next day or so, I have to wait for the oil layers to dry thoroughly between each application, so the colors stay vibrant and unmuddy.

That's all--stay cool my friends.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Warsaw, Poland

Ah, it was an interesting day, but I am tucked away in Warsaw, in a really nice room, waiting on room service (decided to stay inside in the air conditioning, after sweating for the last three weeks, haha) of Polish style duck and other delights.

Fast forward an hour, and I just had the most delightful dinner!  The tuxedoed waiter knocked softly, and viola, there was a tray laden with some absolutely amazing food.  Polish-style roasted duck, seasoned roasted apples and potatoes, warm, freshly baked rolls with three different types of whipped butter (one was garlicky, the other sweet cream, and the other had parsely and dill in it) , and a heavenly, fluffy, vanilla and chocolatey dessert, which was gorgeously decorated with chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream, and some very fresh raspberries, plus a steaming pot of espresso.  Wow--nothing beats high quality restaurant food and service while you're chilling in your pajamas!

I was very impressed with how clean and beautiful the city is.  Plus, the Polish are very efficient, really.  Their service is very perfunctory, but it is done with a smile.  I appreciate that.  They are really very good caretakers and don't mess around when it comes to service.  We need a bit of that back home!

So now, I'm just relaxing in my suite, sipping some espresso, having a smoke (yes, that's another thing, even though they are an extremely progressive and modern city, you are still allowed to SMOKE).  Room service is bringing up a bucket of ice for me for the overnight, and I'm going to watch a movie, probably "Hugo," since I want something light-hearted after not watching any TV at all for the last several weeks.

I am looking forward to going home, being with everyone, and am very thankful for the wonderful couple of weeks I had with the artist's residency project.  Just awesome.  I'm looking forward to the exhibition in Berlin this fall, and new adventures!  But for now, I will be happy to sleep in my bed again, wake up and see my family, and snuggle with my dog.  Life is good :-)  Goodnight--time to relax and watch my movie.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nice Day 18

"Cours Saleyas" oil on canvas, 8" x 11"

Tomorrow I fly out to Warsaw, and then on Monday, home.  I am actually looking forward to it now, since (I know this may sound strange) but I have had enough beach for the time being.  I am looking forward to seeing my family, and my dog.  If they were here with me, that would be different, but even still, when I stay for more than a week or so in a foreign place and have seen all the sites I set out to see, I'm kind of ready to move on to new adventures.

I am going to head out for one last night at the beach, and then back in and hopefully all goes well with no hitches tomorrow, in the airport, since LOT was giving me fits this morning trying to check in for tomorrow.  The website kept stating "no record" of my booking.  That always makes me a little uneasy, especially when I can't get through to their offices in New York.  I will take it as it comes tomorrow when I get into the airport, but, I've put Mark on it in the meantime. He's good with things like that, whereas I am not.  I just want to reach my hand through the phone and strangle the other person at the end of the line.  Yes, patience is still something I working to perfect.

So, I couldn't resist, and did one last painting of the Flower market, the very famous Cours Saleya market.  It was quick, because I seem to melt anytime I am out in the direct sun these days, and a hat makes it even worse, so I have to work really fast or I feel like I am dropping dead, LOL.

Speaking of feeling like dropping dead, I had another panic attack last night, this is the second night in a row.  I haven't had one in AGES, yet I woke up again last night out of a dead sleep, completely breathless, wondering again if I was having a heart attack or something, and after a few hours, it just went away, and I fell back to sleep.  It's the worst feeling, because you don't know if it really is some weird panic attack, or you really are having a heart attack (hey, at my age, it's not out of the realm of possibility, as I did push past the big 4-0 now), and then you start thinking, "great, they'll find me all stinky and dead in a foreign country."  Bad bad road to go down, LOL.

Anyway, I didn't get much sleep afterwards, plus I was made miserable by the heat, and getting bitten up by mosquitoes because I forced to keep the windows opened because of the stifling closeness of the apartment, and again, I'm pretty much beat up today.

So, I hope you enjoy my last little offering of artwork from my stay in Nice.  God willing (and stupid airline staff put aside) I will be back in the USA on Monday, and I am looking forward to it now!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Nice Day 16

I didn't post yesterday because I spent my day enjoying St. Paul de-Vence and the surrounding areas.  "Vence" is a medieval village way up in the maritime Alps, not too far from the coast, and is quite remarkably preserved.  It' s cobbled streets and ramparts and vegetation all give you a glimpse of what the city must have looked like a thousand years ago.  Very interesting, very impressive, and very lovely.

It is also now very much a tourist trap, but that is OK.  I enjoyed it anyway.  I had a very nice, very delicious lunch of steak tartar, fresh mesculin salad, frites, and a really delicious tapenade of black olives and olive oil with crusty french bread.  I enjoyed this while looking out over the entire valley, with a nice cool breeze blowing.  It was quite heavenly.

I also had the most delicious "bisquits" as a dessert.  Actually, the dessert was unintended, but delicious none-the-less.  I came into a quaint old confectionary, and it was quite an amazing shop.  There were cookies piled so high they defied gravity, and nougats, chocolates, and every other confection you could possibly dream of all crammed into this delicious-smelling shoppe, and an older woman was walking around with a mound of little "sample" cookies.  As I gazed cautiously around (afraid to knock down the towering cookie displays), this woman came up to me smiling, and began a rapid-fire stream of French, presumably about her wares.  As I opened my mouth to say I didn't understand her, she literally shoved one of the little cookies in my mouth, with a smile, LOL.

I was kind of taken aback, but, the deliciousness of the cookie replaced the shock, because it was a little lemon cookie with a sweet and tart lemony interior, with the exterior cookie part being a soft, crumbly, buttery type of shortbread.  It was one of the best, if not the best, cookie I've ever tasted.  As she saw my expression, she smiled and nodded.

Needless to say, I wound up buying more of her cookies, and each was even more delicious than the next.  I bought an almond and anisette cookie, which was delightful, and then the King of all cookies, the one with the gooey chocolate interior.  This one was a cookie that you might trade a family member for, haha!

Later, as I boarded the bus headed back for Nice along with some other tourists, I noticed several were carrying the Confectionery shoppe bags as well.  Her method of shoving cookies into unsuspecting mouths must work pretty good, because I saw a lot of cookie bags around the village ;-)  I thought of this with a laugh on the ride back.  What if the person was a diabetic or hated cookies?  Nah.  They wouldn't be in that shop.  Her method of shock sales would be akin to me taking one of my paintings into a gallery and bashing the curator or client over the head with it, and when they came to, them being so overwhelmed with the goodness of the creation, they forgot all else.  You have to be pretty sure of your product, and make sure it's a damn good one, to utilize this method!!!

Anyway, I will be leaving here soon, and I am sad about that.  I really did love it here, and as the old saying goes, "parting is such sweet sorrow."  I look forward to seeing my everyone, but I still feel sadness at returning.  The "same-old same-old" is not appealing or comforting to me, as I thought it would after being gone for several weeks.  Maybe it's time to examine why I am feeling this way...maybe it's hormones!  Or, maybe I dread the jet-lag, or, maybe it's more than that, either way, I'll have some time to grapple with it at home for the next few months before Berlin.

Well, enough ruminating.  Time to get out and make the most of these last two days!!! Got some shopping to do for everyone, and some more swimming at Florida plage later on.  Bon jour!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nice, Day 14

"Rendezvous" by Hilary J. England
Oil on canvas, 22" x 28" x 1"
July, 2012
As I was doing my smaller en plein air paintings, I was tossing around ideas for my "signature" piece of artwork summarizing the essence of mood of my time here in the Riviera.  My assignment and task was to create an artwork that most totally expressed my weeks and experience here, both of the people, places, and culture, artwork in particular.  If I distilled all of that information down, weeding out the obvious images of the Riviera, which is quintessentially, the beach and ocean, and looked harder at the beautiful history, culture, and people that reside and pass through here, I felt an overwhelming urge to compose a painting infusing all of those elements.

I was particularly struck by a little place in Biot that was marked, "Vox Populi," or "voice of the people."  I saw many young, old, glamorous, and age-weathered people, but the Riviera is a beautiful place, known for its stylish abodes, clothes, and people, so I chose to focus on the glamour, beauty, and positive side of this paradise.

I thought this was a bit ironic when I saw a very lovely young girl chatting obliviously on her cell phone, under the writing of "Vox Populi."  To her, the history of this probably means nothing, because she seemed coquettishly arranging a "rendezvous" with a male admirer.  I thought it was intensely relevant and encapsulating to both the subject of my painting, and to life in general:  We should not take things in life from one extreme or another.  We cannot get so swept away in the negative to forget the happiness of living, like this young girl was doing, enjoying her romance and possible tryst, but we also cannot look in the other direction and forget the past, which this writing on the wall soberly reminds us.

I think this sentiment is important to all cultures, and as an American, I am particularly reminded of it today, Independence Day.

So, this is how I came to arrange this painting, "Rendezvous."  I worked faster than I have in a long time, for a painting of this size, but I desperately wanted to make sure it was done with time to dry before Saturday, so I can deliver it to the gallery. I did it, and rejoiced!  Now I can fritter away my last days here.  I am sad to not paint anymore (they certainly won't dry in time to make the journey), but maybe I'll squeak one more out tomorrow--I just can't help myself.

So, for my American friends, have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!!  To all else, God bless.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nice, Day 13

"Cliff hangers" by Hilary J. England
Oil on hardwood panel, 8" x 11"

Roman ruins of Cimiez

I woke up with a stomach ache.  Yuck.  But, at least it was so nice and cool, with it being cloudy and ominous, and a lovely fresh breeze blowing on me, it was heavenly.

I spent yesterday evening at the beach, relaxing, swimming, and pondering.  The Mediterranean was pretty rough with large waves, and after struggling a swim, decided to sit it out on the beach. I was deep in a rather morose reverie when I began watching these Chinese people clambering about on the pier.  The women were very smartly dressed, with lovely sundresses, hats, flowing scarves, the works.  There were three women, an older one, a middle-aged one, and a young lady in her early twenties, all elegant and well put-together.  The also had a young man with them, who was carrying an expensive camera, and acting as the "photographer."

He had them posing out on the edge of the pier, and they took several shots like that together, and then he began to photo them individually, each one striking her own unique pose.  The middle-age woman seemed to be unhappy with the results of her photo session, and decided she wanted to have a retake.  I watched as she would pose, go back and look at the picture, yell something in Chinese at him, and then go back again for another retake.

As I was watching this little scene unfold, all of a sudden, a large, rogue wave came up and broke over the pier, literally almost knocking this woman out to sea.  She got up, and she was completely wet like she HAD been washed out to sea.  The other three came running to her aid, as she spluttered and squawked on the pier, and I just burst out in a huge belly laugh!  It was the funniest thing I'd seen yet on this trip!!  The people sitting next to on the blankets around me just goggled at this (they apparently watching too), and when they saw me laughing, all burst out laughing as well.  The whole beach that was sitting around the area was in hysterics and a real uproar!

But, the Chinese lady was a good sport about it.  Seeing everyone laughing, she began to bow and laugh herself, even taking pictures with some of the dusky local teenagers, like a celebrity.  It was all in good fun.

So, anyway, I leave you with this painting I painted this painting the other day when I was in a working frenzy.  The view and the flowers were so beautiful and peaceful, I couldn't resist, and it didn't take that long, it just "flowed."  I was happy that I did, because it took me out of the grouchy mood I was in from the previous painting.  Some paintings are easy, some are hard, but you love them all, just like your children.

Now, out to the beach!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Nice, Day 12

"Wishful thinking" by Hilary J. England, 8" x 11" oil on hardwood panel

This painting was extremely difficult for me, not so much that it was a difficult painting, I just was really cranky throughout the entire process.  The heat is definitely taking a toll on me.  I despise working with goopy oil paint, with sweat dripping from every pore in my body, and all of it landing in my eyes, LOL.  There are also stealthy ants, and other annoyances to deal with.  I thought of chucking the whole thing and just going to the beach and laying in a hammock, but my stubbornness got the better of me, and I finished the work.  I feel happy to have stuck it out.  Quitting things is against my nature.

I thought this painting was very much the flavor of the Riviera, beaches and beautiful landscapes put aside.  People walking around leisurely, looking at super expensive items, and longing for them.  Lots of people seem to feel that if they acquire that next great piece of jewelry, or fabulous car, or admired work by a master artist, they will be on their way to making it!  Although this is not a concept I subscribe to personally, I can understand people admiring beauty and being fascinated with the idea of being able to possess it, so I do not formulate any opinion about peoples love for glitz and bling, haha.  It's just human nature.

I am heading out today, to Charvin, to clear my head, and to have some peaceful time.  It's thundering today, which is wonderful, because it gives me an excuse not to paint outside!  I do need a break, but I am feeling the crunch to complete the larger picture I am required to finish in the next three to four days.  It will require some larger brushes than I am currently working with.  Hopefully, I won't have to mortgage any family members to purchase them.

So, that is it for today from the beautiful Riviera.  More tomorrow, God willing. :-)

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