Friday, December 12, 2014

Study of farm field at approaching dusk

"Study of farm field at approaching dusk" by Hilary J. England
8" x 11" oil on canvas, 2014

Here is another little plein air study I didn't get a chance to photo or upload from a little while ago.  I am playing a bit of catch up, and the holidays can certainly slow that process down a somewhat!  I am working on several other pieces, for upcoming shows, so I have remained quite busy these last few months.  Throw in a few other annoyances and situations that life never fails to complicate with, and it's easy to fall a little behind, but no matter.  I always catch up ;-)

I am really looking forward to doing some more figure work with a local model coming up, we have worked with her for years, and she is an amazing figure model.  I like getting together with the other local artists and just having informal drawing sessions, so this should be like old times! 

Keep your eyes peeled for some new stuff!!! Enjoy~

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Strange twisted tree by the river

"Strange twisted tree by the river" by Hilary J. England
8" x 10" oil on canvas, 2014

I have been at work, working on some new paintings for the Dacia show in February, 2015, but I still always have time to paint something very beautiful in nature.  This strange, twisted tree, by the river in Weissport, fascinated me almost immediately, and I could not resist but to do a fast study of it, even while the wind was forcefully encouraging me to go home, haha.

So, after one belly flop into the dirt after my easel went down for the count, and a complete scraping to the canvas, I still managed to capture the unique tree in all its splendor!  Creation and the beauty of it never ceases to amaze me, and wonder at it like a child....

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Autumn travels

"Study of a birch tree in Autumn" by Hilary J. England,  2014
8" x 10" oil on canvas
It's been a while.  I have had a great many things that went on since my return from Romania, and to be honest, I truly needed a breather.  I went to California, and tried to just decompress from everything, visiting with my sister, and that was very helpful, so when I cam back here, it was baby steps back to getting everything back to an even balance, and feeling like the dust had finally settled.

Now, with the holidays approaching, I kind of feel a little numb and a little apprehensive.  I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but neither do any of us, so I try to live in the day, and try not overthink things.  Ultimately, God is in control of all things, and I used to be able to easily see that by going out into nature to witness the beauty of God's creation,  and that usually keeps things in perspective for me at a core level, but for the last couple of months, I kept avoiding and putting off going out, like a feverish man avoiding a drink of just made no kind of sense!   So, when I went out for the afternoon the other day,  I just had such an urge to paint the beauty, that even my lethargy and "painter's block" couldn't stop it, and so, I painted this little study.  It made me so happy while I was painting, it was such a relief in my innermost being, I just felt like I was bursting with joy in the moment, and for that, I am grateful that these things can still make me feel such contentedness.

So, here is the little painting I did: "Study of a birch tree in Autumn."   Enjoy!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Asian model, session #1, Chelsea

"Asian model, drawing session #1" by Hilary J. England, 18" x 24" conte on paper
This is the first drawing from our Chelsea drawing session, at least the one I jumped in at.  This was technically the last of (4) 3 hour poses, so I had to play "catch up" and get this done in one (3) hour session, which is OK, because working 12 hours on one pose is kind of daunting to me, as I work fast, and I don't know what I would be doing with myself the rest of those hours, haha.  It will be a test of patience, and pacing myself for the next 12 hour pose, and it will be something completely new to me--I have never worked on a drawing for 12 hours....paintings, sometimes, but a drawing??? This should prove interesting.

This model was very good, and although we were working in tight space, I still had a nice view of her, and how she was in deep and dramatic shadow.  Again, she was very good, held her pose, except when we were getting bitten up by mosquitoes, haha.  Very strange to get attacked by mosquitoes on the third floor of a Manhattan building, but there it is, with the windows open on a sweltering Summer night, you cannot hide!

This was a really nice evening to hang out and work again with Iliya, last seeing him in Romania, so working with him in New York was just like old times, as if we had not skipped a "beat," and meeting some of the other artists that had been in Romania for different residencies was very nice as well.  I am looking forward to working with them in the coming weeks.....

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New still life series

"The End" oil on canvas, 18" x 24" x 2", by Hilary J. England, 2014

This is the first painting in a new series of still life paintings I have started.  I don't usually like still life painting, but I had a real compulsion to do a series of them, so I just went with it.  Still life doesn't move, and there is no hurry to get them done (except the flowers dying), and the fact that each and every object can tell a story, even if it's only known to me, is beguiling as well.

I was extremely disoriented and under a whole lot of stress when I began this series, and because of that, I wanted a different approach to doing a still I arranged everything on the floor, and stood over it, looking down.  It gave me the sense of vertigo I was feeling in my life, and the disarray, like when you "hit the floor."  I thought this was more appropriate than the usual passive feeling of peering in and around a "standard" still life, and this was a more flat, dead end feeling, one of more confusion, and less peace.

So, I am basically done with this one, a few little touches here and there maybe, but that's it.  My desktop is down for the count, and my laptop doesn't have a card reader, so until the one I ordered arrives this week, I'll have to make do with photographing this art with my cellphone, always a treat (that was sarcasm folks!).  It's obviously not a high quality photo, and even a bit blurry, but you get the idea.  I'll replace it with a fabulous picture later this week, and then I'll feel like it's "finished" LOL.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Stonehedge on a hazy day

"Stonehedge on a hazy day" by Hilary J. England, oil on canvas panel, 11" x 16" 2014
Painting of the day: "Stonehedge on a hazy day" This was done en plein air this afternoon, in such a humid haze, the air was actually chewy! It's never much fun painting in such humidity, but with lots of iced tea and water, it was actually not too bad. The old fountain was long dry, and the garden was overgrown and lush, reminding me of "The Secret Garden." I was the only one there, and that made it more mysterious and enchanting.

I haven't been to Stonehedge in a few months, and it was really nice to be back there.  Every time I go, I wonder why I waited so long, to go back haha.  It's such a lovely and relaxing place, and it's so close to me, yet somehow, I get sidetracked and wind up going elsewhere, so I will make a mental note to go there more often, and hopefully, I will keep that promise to myself.

Monday, July 21, 2014


"Farmer at sunset" by Hilary J. England, 16" x 20" oil on canvas, 2014

"Farmer at sunset" I did this painting yesterday kind of spur of the moment, completely fabricated par coeur ("by heart" or from memory). I didn't use any references, just had this kind of dream of Romania at sunset, so I just went to work and this is what popped out from my imagination and my experiences there....subconscious! I enjoyed painting this because I did what I wanted, since there was no "direct observation" involved, just my own memories....

I have been trying to photo this, and it is caused me a great deal of trouble, as usual LOL.  I can't use my big camera because my d-link to my desktop is down, and I don't have a camera card slot on my laptop, and I lost my external card reader (along with a few other items) while I was traveling, so everything is kind of precariously rigged right now, until I get everything replaced, repaired and up and, when life gives you lemons, well, you know the drill!

I have been trying to adjust day by day, as the jet lag is slowly abating.  I had so much BS that went on during the first days, including the passing of my beloved Fat Cat, that I didn't know whether I was coming or was like being a sleepwalker, my mind refused to click into gear...and so, I produced something that was kind of in the frame of mind I was experiencing.  To be honest, I very rarely, if ever anymore, produce completely "fantasy" paintings without working out a design, an observation, a "plan of attack," etc., but this was a therapeutic painting to help me adjust to being home, so I am happy I did it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Settling in and reflecting...

Yesterday was my first day home.  I came back to find alot of changes in a month, and it felt strange to be home.  First and foremost, I wanted to unpack and not even think about jet lag, but I came home to find my cat literally dying.  She became ill while I was gone, and when I arrived home on Tuesday night, she was very ill, but by yesterday morning, she was actively dying, and we had to rush her off to the emergency clinic.  Her temperature was 5 degrees lower than it should be, her heart rate barely detectable, and the vet could only tell she was still living by her gag reflex, but they saw our distress, and went to work quickly to try to stabilize her.

The doctor says she was in end stage renal failure cause unknown, since she is an indoor cat, not exposed to poisons, etc., and only 6 years old.  He says that this is unfortunately common with cats, and it could have been something congenital that "caught up" with her finally, etc., and there would not have been active symptoms until the end.  He said we should try to stabilize and recover her for 24 hours, but if she doesn't show improvement, we will need to make some "hard choices."  So, it was a somber day yesterday, although we had a little "homecoming" party for me, we were all a little quiet for it, since our kitty is in dire straits. 

So, now I'm just cleaning up the house a little, waiting for the Vet to call, making up the "to do" list for the day and week, having my coffee, and reflecting on Romania.  I have made a list of things I learned about Romania (as I usually like to do when I travel) and here are some of the things that I learned, both strange and not so unusual!

25 Things I learned about Romania

1. Romania stays light out until almost 10:30 PM in the Summer, and the sun comes up a little after 5:30 AM.  If you are one for long days and short nights, this is the place for you.  If you are like me that kind of likes the reverse, getting hit in the face with sunlight after 5 AM is disconcerting!!!

2. "Chee-nch" or "cinc" (I can't make the accents with my keyboard). "Cinc" is the number five, pronounced "chee-nch" and they seem to like this number.  Alot.  And it's derivative.  I seemed to hear it everywhere!

3. Accents over the letters change the sound of the letter.  Even though they are on the same alphabet system as us, they have many accents both over and under their letters which change the sound of that letter.  For instance, and accent under the letter s changes the sound to "shhhh"  etc.

4.  If you have allergies Stateside, you BETTER pack meds for your trip or suffer severely.  The land is sumptuous with flowers, flowering trees, etc., and even those who never had allergies had them for a week or two after we arrived.

5. Romanian bars don't close until the last patron leaves, and yes, smoking is not only allowed, it seems to be encouraged by the cigarette girls that sell (like back in the old Hollywood movies).

6. Palinka, a local drink, will knock you on your ass.  Literally.

7. There are many wild or feral dogs both in the cities and the countryside, but they are tagged and given their shots (but otherwise fend for themselves) but they are very docile for the most part, and have their own "rights" (they aren't subject to euthanasia but for a "crime").

8. Romanians seem to love American music and TV, movies, etc.  Our music and other international music plays on their radiostations very frequently, and all TV and movies are played in their native language with Romanian subtitles.  Cool.

9. Romanians love Jean Claude Van Damme and Hilary Duff.  So *that's* where they disappeared to!

10. Romanians are devoutly religious as a whole country with Orthodox as the most common religion, followed by Roman Catholicism.  There are literally icons, chaplets, and chapels all over the countryside.

11. Romanian women are very stylish!  Romanian men have roving eyes ;-)

12. Romanians drive on the right side of the road like Americans, and some drive very fast.  They also have a system of driving that makes it legal to pass anyone slow at anytime, yet despite that I only saw one accident in the 1+ month.

13. Romanians must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, and they DO!  It's disconcerting to hear brakes screeching sometimes, especially knowing in America you would just get run down.

14. Romanians value personal freedom and were in disbelief listening to "rules" Americans have regarding smoking, schools, public conduct, cameras in the streets, animals, and just about everything we have ridiculous rules regarding...

15. Romanians consider themselves apart and different from the gyspies, as do most Europeans.

16. Romanians are very proud of their Roman and German ancestries, and are still are very proud and militant people.

17. Romanians love to give and receive flowers, and their are flower stands everywhere.

18. Romanians eat a nice diet of lots of whole foods, and fresh fruits, etc.  They do like sausage (must be the German in them) and their national sausage, "mici" is not a traditional sausage in that it is pork, lamb and beef with spices that is "rolled" fresh and broiled and not encased in skin, so it is also not a preserved meat.

19. Most Romanians have (2) cell phones, one for each of the two major carriers in the country, to avoid paying the high prices of calling the wrong carrier.  Or, as we theorized, one for the wife and one for the mistress?? LOL.

20. Nearly every female name in Romania ends in the vowel "a."

21. There are tons of second hand stores throughout the country, and all of the clothes in there are in pristing condition, so you can get really great deals for little to nothing.

22. The Black Sea is certainly not black.  Just a pretty blue/green color.

23. Bran Castle ("Dracula's Castle") is really cozy and romantic versus spooky.

24. Romanian men and women are still very traditional, even the young ones, and although there are some "outward" signs of "Westernization," they still adhere to traditional roles, etc.

25. There are still orphanages and mental asylums in Romania.

Well that was just some of the things I learned, and I thought I would share just as an FYI and you ever want to travel into the country.  It was more than worthwhile, and I would certainly return given the chance.

Now, I have to go.  The Vet just called and delivered us the sad news that our kitty passed away early this morning....

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


It was a torturous trip home from Moscow to PA, but I have finally arrived.  After boarding the plane for JFK, I found myself seated between two very large and disabled Russian people, who were a couple.  I switched seats into the window to let them sit together, thereby effectively trapping myself (the woman wasn't allowed into the window seat for whatever reason), and tried to settle in for the 10 hour flight. 

It went rather uneventfully (albeit uncomfortably) until we started our approach into JFK.  Then, all hell started breaking loose as we were forced to circle the airport for over an hour, as there were severe storms over the area.  I can't tell you what a tense time this turned into on this airplane, with a baby screaming, and a lot of the passengers get upset because of the turbulence, the dizzying motion of the plane in a constant arc, and the fact that they were becoming aware (due to the Geomaps up on the screen) that we were not landing despite the black clouds and lightning we were embroiled in.  Not fun.

Personally, I was so tired at this point, my mind refused to even register anxiety.  The cabin stunk to holy hell (I'll let your imagination go there), kids screaming so loud that even my earbuds wouldn't drown it out, and the turbulence, I felt like I was trapped in an insane asylum.  I just wanted to get on the friggin' ground to get the hell out of there.  I thought, "God, give me the strength to not go psychotic at this point and just parachute out!"  LOL...what a horror.

So, finally we land, and then we get trapped on the runway for an additional 1/2 before disembarking.  On the plane, people are so anxious to disembark it turns into total chaos of arguing and yelling in Russian, pushing, shoving, etc. Sheesh!

Then, we get to the security checkpoints and it's just complete madness.  JFK has new security measures and it looks like complete pandemonium.  There are new "self check" passport servers, and half of them are down, people don't know how to use them, etc., then there is another checkpoint to SHOW your passport to an agent, then another point, and another point to give agents your declaration receipt (I believe there were four in all) and I'm thinking, "Why do we have to go through all this bullshit??  I could just land down at the Southern border and walk across completely unmolested!!!"  Seriously?  Is everyone in the US Government completely insane?

Now, we finally make it to through all that garbage to get our luggage, and it's over an hour and forty-five minutes, and the luggage STILL isn't on the carousel.  While we are waiting for our baggage (this was so incredulous, it's actually funny) a surly looking woman security agent with an old beagle dog wearing mantle stating "Homeland Security" comes walking up to the group standing around, and starts the dog to start randomly sniffing everyone's bags for "contraband."  She walks up to a thin, well-dressed middle-aged man standing a few feet from me, who just happened to put his laptop bag down on the ground to answer a phone call.  She begins to question him very aggressively as to why he put his bag on the ground, etc., then directs the dog to "sniff" the bag.  The dog sniffs and sniffs, and she then states the dog has smelled something suspicious, and he must go with her.  I am watching this in complete amazement, as she takes him away.

About 15 minutes later, the luggage is STILL not there, and that detained fellow comes stomping back up to the carousel, looking very indignant.  I met his eyes, and he blurts out, "That animal smelled the cookie I had wrapped up in my luggage pocket!"  I suppressed my giggles and nodded sympathetically, as he stood there looking humiliated.  Yes people, just remember, in JFK airport, if you smuggle a cookie in and don't pay off the dog, you are subject to a cavity search by Brunhilda and her goon squad!  Welcome to America, Land of the Free!!

Now, the luggage begins to arrive, and I'm feeling a knot in my stomach as mine is still not on the carousel, and in our residency group, several artists unfortunately had their luggage lost, but, as usual, mine was one of the LAST off the plane, but, last or not, it was there, and I grabbed it and took off running to the last checkpoint, and then out.

I was greeted by my baby gal Noelle, and I was very happy to see her!!  She helped me with my luggage, and then we were able to locate my Dad, and begin the long journey home.  It rained Monsoon-like gales for nearly the entire trip back, slowing us down considerably.  I was so exhausted by that time I felt like I was in a dream, but I couldn't sleep...finally arriving home around midnight.

It felt and still feels so odd to be home, my mind didn't register it at first.  What a strange feeling....still suffering from sleep deprivation (I was able to sleep about 6 hours but it wasn't "normal" sleep, very fitful, kept waking, etc.)...but I know I am in the throes of jetlag, and will be OK in the next few nights.

So, the journey to Romania is complete...I have a lot to write about regarding it, but that is for tomorrow.  Today is for recovery!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Homeward Bound-Leg 2

Sitting in the airport now, after a tasty vanilla cappuccino from the vending machine, and just relaxing.

I found an enclave of other homeless traveler's, it was kind of empty, but a woman or two around, and feeling comfortable with that, set up on the floor (carpeted, but kind of nasty still, oh well), pulled out my traveler's pillow, put my hoodie over my face to block out the sun, and presto! I slept for 7 hours on that damn floor, and miraculously, am not crippled. When I woke up, the group of us three women had become about 40 women of all ages and a sprinkling of young men (of course).  It was pretty interesting, as we were all sleeping literally side by side, and yet, there was no discomfort, and strangely, no snoring.  I marveled at that for a few minutes, then got up, stretched, but my shoes and socks back on  (yes, most people had removed there shoes, and with my nose being a little stuffed I'm glad I didn't smell anything being so close to one another LOL), and went to the bathroom to "wash up" fix my hair, and put my bra on (yes, that had been removed prior to the sleep attempt as well haha).

Then, out and about to wake up and find a cup of coffee. I was pretty budgeted with only 500 rubles in my pocket (the equivalent of 20 bucks) but I was able to get two bottles of water, an emergency Snickers bar, a vanilla cappucino, and still have 300 rubles left.I guess it proves I could be a bum if necessary LOL...I guess you are not truly a world explorer until you have this type of experience. I feel proud now.

Now, flight takes off at 3:20 PM and it is 7:41 AM  I think this part will be the most boring since I packed my adapter into my checked luggage and all my tech is going down without the ability to recharge so this will be my last entry until I get home probably in the next 24 hours.  I am looking forward to getting home, getting cleaned up, unpacked, and getting to work, but also missing the travel already.  My next trip will be a multi-destinational trip, or possibly to South America, so I am starting to plot it already! So, I'm out until I catch everyone Stateside.  God bless!

Homeward Bound

"Ilie on his 40th birthday" by Hilary J. England, 16" x 20" oil on canvas, 2014
Homeward bound, sitting in Sheremeteyevo airport in Moscow, just reflecting.  These last few days have literally been a whirlwind, and I'm trying to collect my thoughts into a cohesive pattern.  We started our round of "good-byes" and good-bye parties a few days ago, as each of us was leaving on a different day, so it turned into a long good-bye, with lots of partying, LOL.

The last few days and weeks have been just wonderful, with the previous weekend going to visit Dracula's birthplace, and exploring Sighisoara with Chris, Nataliya, Lisa, and Ilie at the helm (he was our official Formula One driver LOL).  After a wonderful time there, we spent the better part of the week just doing some paintings, doing some fishing, and other fun stuff, and then everyone began to get prepped to leave.

Thursday night we spent out the "White Rabbit" bar that we all enjoy close to "The Orphanage," having one last night as a group. On Friday night, we had our reception for our show in Sibiu, and that was great fun....after our "vernissage" we ended up in a wild and crazy nightclub doing wild and crazy things till the early morning hours (there is no "closing" time in Romania, it's only when the last person leaves).  Then Saturday, we had a "farewell but not goodbye" party at Elody, David, and Dominique's place near the piata, with lots of homemade delectables and nitrite-free local wines, and then, from there, at 11 pm, I went with Nataliya, Michael and Ilie for a ride to Bucharest, as Michael and Nataliya were leaving that night, and I wanted to see them off. Plus, Ilie kept saying if I took the ride with him, he had a "surprise" for me.  I can only speculate what kind of surprises were in store, as me and Chris giggled about this like two school chums, but knowing Ilie is our Romanian "bear," I decided he wouldn't play any nasty tricks on me, or make me upset LOL.

It is a 4 hour ride from Sibiu to Bucharest, and Nataliya had to be there for 4 a.m., so we sped through the Transylvanian countryside, with still time to spare when we dropped her off at OTP. Michael had about two hours to kill so Ilie took us on a tour of Bucharest by car as the sun was coming up, which was really cool.  Then, since none of us had any fastfood in Romania, and the only place that was open was the McDonald's drive-thru, we did the American dirty deed of getting some nasty "Celebrity" burgers (a twist on the Quarter Pounder with a strange kind of bbq sauce on it) and fries at 6 a.m., and said our farewell to Michael.  Now, at 7 a.m., Ilie and I began the 4 hour trek back to Bucharest, but we were so exhausted, we pulled off to catch a quick catnap on the side of the road in the car.  He got up way before me, as I slept for maybe 2 or 3 hours versus his 1/2 (too much late nights that week) and when I woke up from the blazing sun, I sat up and looked around, not recognizing any of the landscape or landmarks....I kept thinking, "Is he lost?"

So, finally we came into a town called Constanza, and we were greeted by a dry-docked ship.  I thought that was bizarre that an inland town should have a dry-docked ship, so I just laughed, but Ilie didn't comment, just kept his poker face behind his sunglasses.  Then, quite suddenly, I saw a huge body of glittering water...a lake???  A gigantic, enormous lake?  What lake was this, it wasn't any of the I asked him, "Ilie, what is that?  Is that a lake??"  He started laughing and said, "No.  That's the Black Sea!"  The Black Sea???  After I recovered my equanimity,  I looked at him and said, "We drove all the way to the Black Sea?  I thought that was like a ten hour drive!"  He just smiled and said, "It is 9 hours...from Sibiu, but only 5 hours from Bucharest!"  I was completely floored.  This was the surprise, because I had been lamenting how I wanted to see the Black Sea, and that was my only regret in this residency was we never made it to the he was rectifying it, as he had promised he would if he could.  What a cool guy!

So, we went down the entire coast into Bulgaria, and the water was wonderful!!!  It was blazing hot, but the water was nice and refreshing, and after some time there, a nice seaside lunch, we headed back to Sibiu, as the trip back was going to enormous, and I was leaving this morning and hadn't even STARTED packing....he took the scenic route which included a river ferry across the Danube, then back over the Carpathians, stopping for a mici (Romanian favorite dish) and World Cup break (Yay Germany!), and got back to the Orphanage around midnight, where the remaining "orphans" were whooping it up Bohemian style with lots of wine and lots of laughs.  I sat with them for a few moments, but was so exhausted from the 1,000 kilometer trip and being up for so long, I was nearly punch drunk, so I excused myself, went up, started packing (actually got it done in less than an hour) and fell into my bed at nearly 2 a.m., to wake up for 7...and then, travel BACK to Bucharest with Ilie, Chris, and Archer to catch our flights....I am BEAT!

But, the fun doesn't stop now, since I am trapped in this airport for 17 hours LOL, as my Visa fell through due to the increased rates incurred by the Ukrainian situation, and after sitting in this sweaty airport until tomorrow afternoon, I have my 10 hour flight back to JFK, and my additional travel to PA.  I can tell you....I will be so HAPPY to see my bed--and I'm not even worried about jet-lag! We figure we've been staying up so late this past week, we are almost back on New York/East Coast time anyway!

So, here is the portrait I painted of Ilie on his 40th birthday (July 8th).  He was a typical fidgety guy who couldn't sit still, playing with his cell phone(s) (all Romanians have two, long story), and finally, I couldn't take it anymore, so I let him get up and walk around, and promised him I would work par coeur, and from a few photos I took and do this on my own, without his modeling.  I HATE doing a portrait this way, but I promised this as his birthday present, and I always keep my word about stuff like that.  So, after a few annoying sessions alone in my room working on this thing in terrible lighting, inadequate supplies, sweaty conditions, and very limited uninterrupted time, I did finish it, and I must say, we were all pleased with the results.

So, when I get back, I will elaborate a little more about what I learned about Romania....but for now, time to go.  I have to preserve my batteries for the next 16 hours :-(.   I don't know how I will sleep in this crusty's 10:30 at night here, and still light.....sigh.....

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day....hmmm...lost track!

"Study of flowers in a blue vase" by Hilary J. England, 12" x 18" oil on canvas panel, 2014
Sorry I haven't posted, but we have been incredibly busy, and we took the weekend off for Fourth of July.  The weather has turned intensely hot, with magnificent, fast moving storms that come across the region, so it makes working tricky.

After, Arpasu, we spent Fourth of July here at our "Orphanage" trying to work on things for our upcoming show, after a night of very fun and very festive karaoke at a local Romanian bar. 'Nuff said about that!!! Ilie has been very kind, and has taken me on a few excursions to most beautiful, out-of-the way areas that tourists would not go to or know much about, and these areas have been breathtaking.  He even showed me his usual fishing spot, which after we fished there with some other locals, he left in defeat...having only caught a minnow ("Moby Dick!") and an old hat.  He laughed that it was better than last year, when he caught a TV set!  He has become a friend, and so, with his birthday (today) I had promised to paint a portrait of him. 

We started out earlier this morning, and he brought me to a most amazing mountain top after going through a series of lovely villages.  It was so nice to ride through these areas, windows down, music playing, wind in your a safari!  When we got to the top, the wind was pretty fierce, and I asked him, "Do you really want me to paint you up HERE?"  He laughed and said no, just wanted me to see it, knowing I would appreciate it.  That was the truth, as it was incredibly beautiful...the vistas and air and wildflowers.  Just amazing. 

So, we headed to a park very close to my apartment, and that's where I FINALLY started the painting, LOL.  But, being a guy, he couldn't stop moving around, answering his phone, telling jokes, and (this is the best) nearly falling over backwards in his chair since the earth was soft...gotta love it.  That last turn of events made me bust out laughing, and I realized we needed to just call it a day...the heat was brutal, and after all, it is the poor guy's birthday.  He needs to go out and party with his is the obligation of anyone who reaches a milestone birthday (the big 4-0).  So, we decided we will meet up with a few others as a small group tomorrow, and continue then.

So, until then, I will leave you with this painting of flowers I did yesterday in class.... boy, this painting nearly drove me bananas...and I hated it, but when I put it away, I haven't seen it since!  Maybe it found a home?  Who knows....if so, I'm good with that as well.

So, I am back in my apartment, just enjoying this cool shade with a slight breeze.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Day 20-21

"View of fountain from behind the tree" by Hilary J. England, oil on canvas panel, 8" x 10", 2014
What a day yesterday was, haha.  The festivities, or shall we say, shenanigans from our day in Arpasu de Jos was very apparent, as there were several of us that were completely unable to get out of bed, and the rest of us, well, we were rather comatose and grumpy, yet we slogged our way to the local park, humping our equipment, and somewhat accepting the blinding sunlight that greeted us all the way there.  But, that capricious Romanian weather had it's own trick up its sleeve, and as soon as we got set-up, the clouds started rolling in, and within a half hour or so, the rain began.  Initially, we ducked under some trees, threw some plastic over our paints and canvases, believing (mostly hoping) the weather would pass, but as the rain picked up steam and darker and more ominous clouds began appearing, we knew we had to throw in the towel.  So, back to the apartment we went.

Initially, our optimistic hope was to take an hour or so of rest, and if it stopped raining, to maybe head out again, but LOL....nearly all of us wound up sleeping the afternoon away, as the violent thunderstorms rolled in one after the other, but, that's the best weather to sleep in!!!

Around four-ish, Nataliya, who is the grown-up of the bunch haha, began knocking on everyone's doors to get them up and to get themselves together for the night's business meeting with Lee.  Artists filtered out here and there....sleepy and quiet, some still looking a little green, and just kind of plopped on the couches, and we did have a very informative meeting with the tune of 3 hours long LMAO.  It was our punishment for the collective sins of the previous evening.  Gotta love Lee....he can talk for three hours, but still make it interesting.

After finishing the meeting, everyone was a little more perked up, some went out, but most of us headed back to our rooms to work or rest.  I managed to fight that little painting long into the night, rearranging my room, rigging the lighting, and just having a one on one with the morning, I was mostly pleased, although there was some changes that I decided to make due to the differences of incandescent and natural sunlight, but in the end, the weather or hangover did NOT win.  So, it's all good.

Today, we kind of had the day off to get ourselves together because it is an American holiday, and the residents are predominantly American.  We are doing a barbeque, and later, karaoke, so it should be a fun and interesting night...haha!!!  Happy Fourth of July to all my fellow Americans and God bless America!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day 19

"Countryside, Arpasu de Jos" by Hilary J. England, 11" x 16" oil on primed cardboard panel
Yesterday's work: "Countryside, Arpasu de Jos"  This was painted on a most relaxing day, in a beautiful field of wildflowers, by a river.  I sat under a tree for the shade, and listened to the bubbling river, and it was almost like a dream, the air was so still and bright. There were butterflies flitting everywhere, and it was as if time didn't exist.  What a lovely afternoon....Nataliya was down by the river painting, but I knew I couldn't take the direct sun.  I burn so badly, even now, I got sun from the reflected light of sitting under the tree, and I have a burnt nose LOL.

Still laying under that twisted old tree after I finished my painting, and watching the birds and butterflies was my idea of what Heaven will be like...I set my painting out into the light to dry, and watched as the butterflies floated around it, as if they were trying to enter the painting.  It was fascinating.  After a while, I broke from my reveries, and Ilie returned from the village, and since Nataliya was still working away, he grabbed his fishing gear and we lumbered off along the river, which was lovely.  I waded out into that cool, mountain river as we bantered back and forth about the different fish and Romanian pastimes, and then he brought me along to a most amazing waterfall, with tons of shale, which I know was a real hotbed for fossils.  So, as he fished some more, I explored the shale, looking for a fossil or two, but had no luck there.

After a while, we headed back to see if Nataliya was done, and as the sun was now scorching hot and bright, headed back into the village.  We hung at Ilie's bar for a while, ducking the heat and loudly discussing politics as more and more artists filtered in to avoid the heat, and from there walked a few feet to the village restaurant, where they had prepared us all a Romanian feast!  Lots of meats, their signature mici (Romanian sausage), pickled cucumber salad with tomatoes and dill, and plenty of local wine and some kinds of local fruit liquors that are apparently VERY strong (strong enough to knockout punch a few of the artists later on...LOL) and so we had a very long, very leisurely, very filling dinner punctuated by more loud and rowdy political discussions, and of course, art and culture.  I took a few of the sausages I couldn't finish outside to a local stray dog, she looked so thin and sad, and she was very happy to have them.  She rewarded me with some licks and a tail wag, and I knew she must have some pups by looking at her, so I was happy to help her.

We took the train back to Sibiu, arriving back at our apartments by 11 pm, at which point I was so exhausted, I just kind of crawled into bed and instantly knocked out....but, as always, I woke up about five hours later, and here I lay,'s OK.  I'm used to it.  Sleep is like a capricious little sprite for me...sometimes I catch it, but most times, it just leads me on a merry chase.  Maybe tonight!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day 18

"Zoe (eyes closed)" by Hilary J. England, 12" x 16" charcoal pencil on paper
We are just moving on through this residency, it seems at lightning speed, much to my regret.  It is really such an enjoyable experience, and the drawing and painting is happily challenging.  This drawing was one of several we did today of our classmates.  Zoe was a very good model, being very young, lovely, and sat very still.  She also happens to be a very talented young artist as well.

Tomorrow, we will head into the country for some plein air painting, and shenanigans too LOL....we are looking forward to a Romanian feast, and exploring the village, which happens to be Lee's hometown.  It should be a great time, and we are all hoping the weather is accommodating for the day and beyond.  As for tonight, time to relax, and get ready for tomorrow's adventure!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 17

"Sibiu corridor" by Hilary J. England, 12" x 16" oil on canvas panel, 2014
Today's painting was a fun one, because I hid myself off into a dark little alley and found a step to sit on, and painted away in the dark....almost like being blind or something!  Truly it was difficult to see, so when I took the painting out into the sunlight to "check" it, I literally laughed out loud.  It was a RIOT of colors, very psychadelic!  So, I went back in and tried to calm it down a little, which I did, reducing the overly green element to it, but in the end, I actually like it!  This painting turned out to be a cool little painting, and yes, I left the woman faceless on purpose....just because I like the mysterious people here, and painting in a face ruins that for me.  Iliya says if you look close she has a strange little inidications of eyes and a mouth, that's actually kind of creepy LOL....we had a good laugh over that.

The day was very beautiful today, so we decided outside was the best place rather in with the model, who was actually ill and not up to the long sessions today, so it turned out to be a very nice and relaxing paint out, even though when we first set up in this enclave, an older woman went bananas and started yelling at us in Romanian, and we all just looked at each other and kind of giggled....I guess she was angry we were there.  But after a few hours of stomping in and outside of her house to glower at us every so often, she finally saw we weren't vandals or burglars, and just went about her, the day was pretty good for everyone, and now, to relax for now.  Maybe we'll go out and sketch in the city later, or maybe just lay about enjoying the cool evening....either way, it'll be an easy night tonight..

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 15-16

"View down onto a terrace" by Hilary J. England, 11" x 14" oil on panel, 2014
This is the painting I was not able to complete the other day due to the violent weather....we were thinking of going back to that spot and finishing today, but upon reflection, I think I will leave it this way.  It has a nice raw, primitive quality to it, simple and basic and fresh like the young gal on the balcony that day.  If it had been "destined" to be further refined, Providence would have had the weather hold out, so I won't mess with what should be.  This painting is finished.

The last few days were absolutely jam-packed, going to Dracula's castle, Brasov, and Balea Lac up in the top of the Carpathians.  It was an amazing weekend, and we truly enjoyed our time traveling, but, for me, it was not a work weekend...simply a pleasure trip.  We did not have enough time to leisurely paint, as we had a lot of stops on our itinerary...the idea was to get as much exposure to Romanian as we could, and Lee really managed that well.

So, enjoy this little painting, and I'm off to enjoy my day off today, then back to work tomorrow!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 14

"Sibiu park at high noon" by Hilary J. England, 12" x 12", oil on canvas panel, 2014

Today was a bit better, actually, it started off great, but that capricious Romanian weather caught us in another direction:  blazing sun with no cover.  Not only does it eat through sunblock and make you sweat, but it makes discerning colors very, we seem to have no happy medium, although Nataliya did graciously give me a Claritin this morning, and although they don't usually work on me, they did offer at least 7 hours of some relief, and now, the allergies are creeping back, but it's OK...I'm laying in the cool of my room.

We were painting in Sibiu again today, a very lovely little park, and I enjoyed that very very much, any and all elemental idiosyncrasies put was Heaven...the love and one-ness with the beauty of the earth just hums in my heart. I can't imagine not being able to paint for eternity....the universe is so amazingly complex and beautiful, the only thing that scares me about dying and death now is that I won't be a painter in the afterlife....that could never be possible though, I assure myself of that just for comfort :-)  While contemplating the wonderful majesty of the natural world as I was painting away, a few Romanian police officers came around to chat and watch, and one of their undercover officers, "Resov" was especially nice, and after chatting about New York, police officers, laws, differences in cultures, differences in camera prices (LOL) he asked me to meet him for a drink at the bistro later, or whenver I was available, which I am's always nice to have friends in law enforcement he was cute ;-)

So, here is today's work:  "Park at high noon in Sibiu"  Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 13

"View from the corridor" by Hilary J. England, 8" x 10" oil on canvas, 2014
Today really is Day "13" in terms of me feeling like crap and all the annoying things going wrong. This painting is from last's painting is half-finished, in the catacombs of our studio. The day started off beautifully, the weather ideal, and we were all revving to go and paint outside.  We hit a few snags in our studio (we are having some clashes with our neighbors in the library), but we didn't allow their bullshit to dampen our spirits, and out the door we went.

We found an ideal location, and we were in high spirits starting our paintings....and of course, annoyances started to build as it was beautiful and sunny, and one lone cloud in the sky started raining on us, while it's bright and sunny, so right out of the gate, our canvases and paints are mixing the oil and water, and we are getting a little bit peeved. 

It cleared up and the painting was going good for a few hours, enough for most of us to get to a midway point, despite heavy winds that knocked everyone's easel's over at least once,  at least it was sunny out, and we could move through our work. Then  about 2 p.m. the weather turned on us, and it was a tremendous rain and windstorm that literally came upon us out of no-where, forcing us to all pack in a hurry, wind beating us, and everyone pretty disgruntled.  Literally five minutes after we packed up, it's sunny and beautiful again.  The weather here is so capricious...I wish I would have known, and I would have packed a few precautions, like a small weight for the easel, etc.

And, to make this a thousand times worse, my allergies are literally destroying my peace of mind.  I was literally blind by the time I stumbled into my apartment, and no amount of eye drops would quell the intense itching and burning, and I must have sneezed at least 100 times in the last 24 hours...not fun.  It's actually so bad, it crossed my mind to go back home, because I am in torment that doesn't seem to be getting any better.  Word of caution:  if you travel to Romania in Summer, and you have any type of seasonal allergies--see your doctor and get a shot or something in advance.  Let my pain and suffering be a warning.

So, I'm laying in my room, trying to just relax and hope that this miserable itching goes away.  I've rinsed my eyes a few times, and put MORE drops in my through a large box of tissue with my sneezing, and am praying that this crap resolves....I keep praying and praying!!!!

Day 12

"Gheorge" bt Hilary J. England, oil on canvas panel, 12" x 16"
It was a rush job in the end, but I did get "Gheorge" completed.  The day started off with some heavy rain and thunder, so we had to cab it to the studio, and I just felt a complete exhaustion right from the beginning of our sessions, which made the painting a bit harder than usual, and after a few hours I just felt "in the weeds," but I was able to pull myself up by my bootstraps, and get 'er done, and I am pleased with the results.  So was Gheorge haha.

Today will be some more outside painting, if the weather permits.  It's been raining a lot, but the locals say this is an unusually rainy Summer, so it's not the norm.  I would think with all of this rain my allergies would abate, but no, so I am just getting used to dealing with them.  As long as I have my tissues and eyedrops, and stay away from trees throwing pollen all over me, I should be OK!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 11

"Pink building with blue shutters" by Hilary J. England, oil on canvas panel, 11" x 14"

This is one of our plein air paintings for earlier this week.  This one was done in the piata or near the town square, and it rained on and off all day, and starting getting fiercely windy at one point, which made it kind of miserable to complete, but Nataliya and I were troopers, and we saw our paintings through to the finish!  So, the birdies got the sandwich I dropped, the pollen claimed my eyes, the wind and rain sopped up my hair and clothes, but I got the painting, so it's all good!

The city is so beautiful, it's hard to choose a spot, but as we go a long, we are really learning the lay of the land, and enjoying our long days of painting, and continuing as much as we can after our required sessions as well.  Nataliya and I tried to finish an "after hours" pastel today, but a thunderstorm rolled in, along with heavy winds, so we had to pack up in a hurry, and we headed over to an amazing little Dollar store tucked away amidst all of the fancy shops, and were able to buy some odds and ends we needed that help make life more comfy!  Then we did a quick little food shop, headed home, ate a nice dinner, and now, time to relax.  Sibiu and Romania are beautiful....really loving it here.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 10 off.  I should have slept in, but I didn' I am not much of a "sleeper" to begin with, so after about 6 hours, I was up and restless.  I got up early, did some laundry, put it out to hang dry, went up to the currency exchange and did my thing there, came back, had some coffee and breakfast, then a little group of us set out to go to the markets for supplies and maybe do a little drawing or painting.

We ambled along taking pictures for a while, and when lunch time rolled around, we had a nice light lunch in a cafe near our studio, but by this point, the wind had really picked up and was blowing very hard and allergies went insane.  I had spoken too soon...they were not gone, just laying in wait!  My eyes began itching and watering so bad I could barely open them let alone see, and I was sneezing so much, I thought my head would blow off my shoulders.  Needless to say, this was highly annoying and disappointing, and even after emptying nearly a whole bottle of allergy eyedrops into my eyes with no effect, I was ready to scream.  I tried to stick it out anyway, and found a little "cubby" as much out of the wind as I could find, and for a little bit, I was able to tune out the pain and itching, but then the wind started really picking up again, and after getting a filthy airborne plastic bag across my face as I was working, I lost it, and since Chris and Lisa just happened by at that time, decided to pack it in and head back to the apartment.

The allergies were actually so bad, I had to just go lay down, which really angers me. I took some allergy medicine and to make matters worse, it upset my stomach, so for the entire evening, I spent it curled in a ball in my bed.  Enough is enough with this the time they let up, I'll be leaving, and they are truly debilitating sometimes, LIKE TODAY.  Hoping tomorrow is much better....

So, that was that.  Crabby, sick,

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 8-9

The last few days we have been traveling the countryside, and it was both amazing, beautiful and interesting. We set out early to a little church that housed many Romanian Byzantine Orthodox icons, and Lee was very instructive and thorough in telling us the very graphic and gruesome stories behind their rescue.  It was a very interesting time, and then from there, our group moved on to a nice lunch (Schnitzle for me, thank you!), and to an old but amazing castle in Hunedoara called "Corvin's Castle," being named after the last king occupant.  It was a sublime place, complete with fully restored dungeons and gallows (and full models and explanations accompanying each mode and method of death and destruction) as well as all the banquet halls, chapels and arms rooms still intact, and we so we thoroughly enjoyed painting and just frolicking in the this wonderfully preserved historical site, so much, we didn't want to leave, but eventually, Lee rounded up the wayward artists, and off we went.

From there, we drove to Alba Iulia, a city fortress built up above the neighboring towns, in the shape of a "star."  It was also a most interesting and beautiful site, with a very active city in the fortress now, so after having a lavish dinner in their premier restaurant, we moved on to other things (code=we wound up partying in a Romanian bar) and had a very jolly time until quite late.  This morning, we woke up early, remarkably hangover free (perhaps it was the good Romanian wine?) and started back into Alba Iulia, where we further explored the city, visiting numerous gorgeous churches and museums.

We really had a wonderful time, as a group we also had a ton of laughs as we are a very jovial group, and after a very quick lunch, headed back to our coach for our final stop--a salt mine deep underground---hundreds of feet, which was both eerie and amazing. There is NO way to adequately describe this place--picture an underground cavern literally hundreds of feet high, with balconies jutting off into nothing (quite terrifying) and staircases down and down that are so treacherous it's truly heartstopping (and a glass elevator that is equally horrifying due to the "heights and depths" you are descending, but mostly a HIVE of human party activity, with an underground river filled with boaters paddling this way and that, an amusement park including a ferris wheel, food and drink vendors, pool tables just out in the middle of the fray, a surreal open air bowling alley, all with hundreds of people running amok was literally like a bizarre acid trip.  The salt was so thick in the air, you could taste and smell it, and people playing and running about (there was even a wedding going on) like they are on a regular beach, because the floor of it is almost like sand. except slippery in some spots like ice.  A truly unique experience, and one I certainly won't forget!

So, now we are back in our "compound."  Some of the others have gone for food, but I am enjoying the quiet, and will look forward to a night's sleep, even though others are going out partying again tonight, I plan to R&R for the next few nights, because I just can't keep up with them haha....but that's OK.  Have a nice night!!!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Day 7

Well a week has passed, and thankfully most of the jet lag is resolved, so that is a relief.  We worked outside again today, in the Old Olde City, and the views were fantastic, but the weather, not so much.  It started off cloudy, and by the afternoon most of the group was washed out and returned to the studio, but a few of us more hardy souls were lucky that our original spots were under enclosures or restaurant umbrellas, or like me and Natalia, a building overhang, so we were able to continue through the rain and wind.  Not fun, trust me, but we did it, and I was happy with the results of the painting.  Many tourists came by to film me (what is that about?) and take pictures of me and the painting, which is odd.  Don't photo it, just buy it! ;-) LOL....

So, of course, the moment we decided to call it a day, magically, the rain ceases and the Heaven's open up to a sunshiney and glorious evening.  It literally stays light here until 10 pm (which is disconcerting and doesn't help with jet lag!)  so we dumped our gear off, roamed the city, stopped in several cafes, and just enjoyed the night.  We got back in around midnight, because of our excursion into the Carpathians tomorrow.  I will be out of internet connect for the next 24 hours, so this should prove to be a most interesting trip!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 6

Today was an interesting day, but they have all been.  After suffering from the most miserable jet lag, allergies, and other unmentionable physical issues, Natalia and I came back to the complex last night, had our dinners, and I went back to my room to just freshen up and check my email.  Needless to say, I literally sat on the edge of my bed at 8:15 p.m., and passed out completely unconscious, until 7:30 this morning....I haven't done that since I was an infant, or dying of some dreaded disease.  I woke up feeling like gangbusters, took a hot shower (yay!  there is not been hot water these last few days, but I got some!), then had a very nice breakfast, and out the door we went.

We painted en plein air in the city today, and that was nice but a bit of a challenge.  I picked the hardest spot possible, but for a reason...I wanted the challenge of it, since cityscapes are not my "thing," but this view of the city through this amazing corridor/archway at the top of Sibiu was very beautiful, but very complex, and I wanted to see if I could manage it "raw," without any tools to work out the composition.  I did, and although it's not my very best painting, it was not the worst, it was successful, just not to inspiring to me, but that's OK.  Iliya thought it successful as well, so I suppose that's a good thing.  I dealt with extreme temperature and weather change, hordes of tourists (and questions), being serenaded by gypsies children playing "Old McDonald" on their recorders, gnats flying up my nose and landing in my paint, and the very worst of it:  The pollen falling from the trees that coated me like snow eventually, and also was mucking up my paint, and actually changing the color of my painting from landing in it....but, I needed to really keep myself moving mentally, so as to not let my mind wander.  I have a tremendously hard situation going on stateside, and being overseas where I feel helpless is tough, but long story short, I know this is where I should be, but that doesn't make it any easier.

The pollen count here is so high, another artist each day is stricken down with terrible symptoms, even if they never had allergies stateside. Sarah and I have been struggling terribly, as are a few others, and today, Dominique began to feel ill with swollen eyes and painful sinuses, and Natalia was so incapacitated by swollen, itchy eyes, sneezing and blindness, she could barely paint.  It is pretty awful, and I'm hoping this will pass in the next few days as we get adjusted here.  I'm just so happy I slept 12 hours last night, I'm doing the Snoopy dance of joy!

So tonight, Lee wanted us to go partying till all hours of the morning in Sibiu, but quite a few of us artists (particularly us "older" ones) decided that it was too much, so we quietly have tucked in for the night.  We have a really heavy schedule ahead of us these next few days, so quiet is what we need....and I'm grateful for the blessings I was able to enjoy today, including a nice dinner of chicken and salad with the group, and just a very comfy bed!  Have a nice evening all (even though we are 7 hours ahead, I'll wish it to you now!)!!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 5

Today we did an all day painting of our model.  The pose began at 10 and ended at 4:30 with an hour lunch break.  I have to say, I was very pleased with the finished painting.  If I had my cellphone with me, I would have photoed it.  I'll have to do that tomorrow.

It was raining today, so we artists were not too festive to go out, or really indulge in anything.  Natalia and I packed our lunches (hard boiled eggs, cherries and apricots) and wound up eating our lunches at Dominique, Elody and David's apartment, as everyone is trying to conserve a little money, and their apartment is much closer to the studio, because Elody has a problem with her leg.  Dominique, Natalia and I enjoyed our food, with Dominique eating her leftovers of chicken livers and mashed potatoes.  Dominique is a very nice girl, as Natalia is, so we three had a very congenial lunch.

So that is all there is to report today....another busy working day, then cut back across the city on foot, then a homemade dinner, and now...bed.  I'm beat....

Day 4

Today was the first day of our actual residency.  We woke up, got ourselves as together as we could, and walked the nearly two miles to the studio, where we spent the day working with a lovely young model who unfortunately could not hold a pose for more than nearly a minute.  This proved to be extremely frustrating for everyone, to the point where one of the younger artists began to cry from the strain of being chastised for correcting the girl's movement, which is the natural thing to do.  When it came to me, I was so tired from the continuing jet lag, my allergies had me nearly blind and deaf (my ears were clogged) that I just began to laugh at the strain of it.  What else is there to do?  Either laugh or cry, and laughing is how I usually deal with something that is intensely stressing....yes, I'm the idiot that might start laughing at a funeral. This was a very stressing day in that everyone is somewhat competitive, and we are all seeing where we "kind of stand" so that is very taxing to people, especially the younger ones, and yes, even for me.  It's like getting put on the spot to perform....even when you are great at something on your own, things change when there is a demand to produce, and produce well, in front of a crowd.  It is a little nerve-wracking.

So, when the day was done at 4 p.m., Natalia and I (fellow artist and very nice gal from Ukraine now residing in Houston) decided to walk to the market and buy some supplies, since eating out every day, no matter how cheaply, is ultimately not good for you, or your wallet.  We ended up getting a little lost, so by the time we slogged our bags of groceries home, we probably walked about 4 miles instead of two, and we were exhausted from the cumulative effects of the weekend and the intensity of the day.  We made a nice chicken and pasta dinner, had a glass of local wine, and headed off to our rooms to Skype with our immediates, and, off to bed.

The funny thing is that most of the artists on this residency have done what I did, which is opted out of bringing their cellphones, due to the costs of overseas calls.  This is literally the first residency that I have seen this, and I was kind of surprised, since I thought the economy was supposed to be so good!  Each one said the same thing:  "I just can't afford it."  So, there it is!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 2-3

The city of Sibiu is a very beautiful and interesting place, with the old mingled with the new...and the decay co-mingling with the restoration.  In the outskirts of the city, there are cement forms of buildings that were started, and just abandoned, and in these pockets of mess, there stands fully developed, new and shiny corporate outreaches like a Home Depot (Romanian style!) and shopping malls.  Very interesting!

Yesterday, I despite my fatigue, I was only able to sleep four hours, so I got up, got dressed, and went out into the neighborhood looking for money exchanges, and some food.  It was Sunday morning, and the local church, very beautiful and ornate, was conducting their services, which was also broadcast out onto the street with a speaker system, so people lounged around the church as well, in their rose gardens, which are very beautiful.  I guess the church does this in hopes of evangelizing the sinners that won't attend?  LOL, either way it was interesting.

When I got back to the complex, some of the other artists were now waking, and itching to get out so we formed a group with our instructor, Iliya, as the head.  He brought us out to the other end of town, where we did go into the Home depot because we all needed a few supplies like lumber for stretcher bars, and I needed duct tape since my suitcase got damaged, then we continued walking through the city to big "farmer's market" where we were able to buy strawberries and cherries to nibble on as we walked around.

We came back and swung back through into the old city, which is absolutely fantastic.  It reminds me of the old romantic fairy tales of Transylvania.  The ancient architecture has a flavor of both Germany in the structure of the buildings, but not quite as austere, and the Mediterranean basin, with the more "frilly" and lavish touches, and the color!  The bright yellow, greens, and apricots reminded me of the French Riviera, and I half expected to see a beach around every turn, instead of the majestic mountains that loom in all directions around us.  The views of the city from the top (the old city is at the top of a "mountain" with the newer parts being built around it circular style, winding down the incline, so from the top, you can see how the city sprawls, and the fellow mountains all around...being in the old town conjures up feelings of being back in the medieval days, with even the local gypsies dress in their strange garb that hasn't changed in hundreds of years...they are the Amish of Romania LOL....the stray dogs wander here and there in the square, and are actually tagged and given their shots by the authorities.  Very interesting indeed.

The "Old Olde Town" as the locals call it, was bustling with activity as there were several street fairs going on.  We meandered through these, enjoying them, entering the ancient and beautiful cathedrals and basilicas to admire the art and architecture, then we had a relaxing lunch in one of the local restaurants, where we discussed our opinions on art (Big Surprise LOL) both old and new, then moved on around the city, walked back home, showered up, walked BACK to the old city (I literally must have walked over 20 miles yesterday) and all met up with Lee and Carmen back in Old Olde Town, and had a big dinner Romanian style again...then watched some amazing fireworks, walked home, and surprise, this time, I was able to get almost 6 hours of sleep!  Hooray.  At least it's getting a little better each night, rather than worse.

So, today is the first day of our work.  We will be in studio in a beautiful ancient building in the thick of everything in Old Olde town, and working from a model from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., then a dinner break, then evening plein air painting.  It's a rigorous schedule, concluding around 11 p.m. every night, with only Sunday off, but that's's why I'm here.  So, now to grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the hour before heading out...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 1.5

The day continued, and just got more hectic.  After landing in Romania, I got the nastiest Border Control clerk, and she tried to deny me entrance because Russia hadn't stamped my passport book in Moscow.  I was completely defeated until a man clerk came, and after a short discussion in Romanian, he looked at my book, and asked, "Why did Russia not stamp book?"   I looked at him in complete bewilderment and stated, "I gave it to them.  They said they didn't need to stamp it."  He looked at me for a minute honestly, and then shook his head, and as he stamped my book to admit me into the country said, "That's why you never trust Russians."  And we just smiled at each other, LOL.

Then, the day just got stranger.  I ran through the gate to meet Marius, our liaison for the gallery, found him immediately, but with all of the delays, all of the other artists, coming in from all around the world, were trickling in at all the wrong times, wrong gates, etc.  So, Marius tried to keep us together, and introduced us in trickles, and we became a lively bunch as the HOURS ticked by in the terminal and we tried to get everyone rounded up.  One poor soul had her luggage, EVERYTHING, lost by JFK, others were rerouted to Istanbul, all kinds of craziness.  We all sat around, eating bread, drinking juice and wine, and just trying to have some laughs and make the best of this bizarre situation....We were all operating on less than an hour or two sleep for the last 48 hours, so we were just looking forward to getting to our apartments.

So, when the last artist was finally rounded up, we merrily and excitedly made it to our hired coaches to go to Sibiu....problem was, we all were whispering different accounts of how long the trip would take.  After we all conferred, we agreed it should probably take an hour tops.  Well, we could not have been MORE WRONG.  We began a 387 kilometer odyssey literally being driven by Formula One drivers, flying through the night at top speed through the Carpathians, dodging trucks and precipes, to the point where I truly believed we would be splattered all over the Transylvanian mountainside.  At nearly midnight, we arrived at our destination, all of us literally crawling out of the coaches, and just looking to flop into our apartments.  Not so.  Lee, our boss, decided we should not be such wimps, and had a big party planned for us in the historic town square, with food and drinks and the works. never saw a more sorry bunch!!!  We each pathetically tried to beg out of it, and took turns hiding in our rooms, so that it took nearly another hour to organize everyone, including staff, etc., and by the time the taxis came to drag our sorry asses to the party, it was nearly 1 a.m., but in Sibiu, there is no closing time, so our Romanian friends just laughed this off.  Dealing with crabby artists is like having a bunch of angry pre-schoolers, but Lee just took a firm stance and refused to let any off us "be excused," so off we all trudged muttering, grumbling and sniffling. My ears had popped horribly (this was a first) during the airplane landing in Romania, to the point where I was deaf in my left ear for most of the day, and that was the only thing that was awesome about racing through the majestic and eery friggin' ear finally popped clear!

In the end, we really had a wonderful time, and I was happy I didn't Grumpy Old Man it into my room in spite of the orders.  I met some really great people, and we all had a barrel of laughs, and now....well, what the hell.  It's a new record for me.  Going on 72 hours with only 4-5 intermittent hours of sleep....I'm actually delirious, but that's OK.  No wake up time for us tomorrow, and the nightclubs are still blaring loudly away across the street on the strip, at nearly 4 a.m., so I know I have to get used to the sound of the music, laughter, sirens, and happy voices that are both in our courtyard and, welcome to Sibiu!!!  And now, I need to hit myself on the head with a hammer and knockout LOL....I have no wake up call tomorrow (it's recommended we sleep as long as we can, even into the afternoon), so...there it is.  Life is hard???  Sometimes, in strange ways....

Day 1

Sitting in Sheremetyevo Airport, waiting for my connection.  It's been a pretty exhausting trip, but not because of anything in particular....I just started out exhausted.  My head was really not into this trip for this last week, and I began to grow anxious about it, not about the travel, not about the places, experiences, or the job, but about leaving the US....I had a lot on my plate right now, and I felt like I was just walking out in the middle of it...which might be exactly what I needed to do, but I HATE leaving messes, whether it is physical or emotional, so it wasn't palatable to me, and to be honest, I seriously considered bailing on the trip right up to walking into JFK this morning, but obviously, I didn't.

So, that mental aspect put aside, the travel has been smooth.  Taking off, I felt my heart lurching into my feet, and a vague sense of complete panic that I was now committed to this trip, and couldn't even turn around for 10 hours even if I wanted to LOL....but, the quiet flight (and mean and evil Russian stewardess) took my mind off of things, and after my TV unit failed an hour into the trip, I pulled out my handy dandy Nook, and immersed myself in "Wuthering Heights" and  "The Journeyer" and the time passed surprisingly fast.  Aside for my legs going repeatedly numb like clockwork every hour and a half, and having to do repeated lunges in the back of the airplane along with a squadron of other aching passengers,things were nice and uneventful except that they kept stuffing us with food to keep everyone pacified least it wasn't too bad for airplane food.  Plus, Aeroflot gives you complimentary nightshades, slippers, pillow and blanket, but too bad nobody on the plane slept.  At least not in the "cargo" section ;-)  I did take the complimentary nightshades and inflatable pillow with me, in case I find myself unable to sleep or homeless in the airport!

Coming into Moscow was really breathtaking, as the countryside is so amazingly green....almost completely pine trees, and sprawling enclaves of houses, each with brightly colored rooftops....emerald green, cobalt blue, royal purple.  I was very amazed by how colorful the roofs are....and how much forest is still around the city.  Even the clouds were extra huge....and kind of intimidating as we were descending....monstrous white clouds, like a battalion of soldiers we were weeding our way through.  I felt a thrill to think that THIS was the "forbidden" land for so long, this was always told to us to be the big bad guy other guy on the block, the Darth Vader to our Luke Skywalker, and yet, the land looks picturesque and serene (and definitely has an air of mystery to it), and the people seem ordinary as we are....except for the intriguing lyrical language. 

So, that's it for right now.  I look forward t getting this smaller flight to Bucharest out of the way because we still have a 2 HOUR drive from the airport out to Sibiu, and by that time, my colleagues will be dragging me in to the apartment building on a pallet LOL.  I am trying to remain slightly caffeinated, because I have a secret fear of conking out in this airport, and waking up tomorrow morning and now a refugee in Moscow!  I figure tonight will be a most LOVELY and restful sleep (and to guard against jet lag and insomnia I have packed an emergency Benadryl), and then hopefully my sleep schedule will be back on track.....My cellphone is down for the count, but I'll not worry about that now....I'll handle that when I get settled in Romania.  Only one thing at a time I can handle when my mind is firing on it's last cylinders from sleep deprivation ;-)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Study of sky over sunflower field

"Study of sky over sunflower field" by Hilary J England
oil on canvas, 8" x 10"

Here is a quick oil study of the sky over a local sunflower field.  I have been somewhat stuck lately, trying to conserve my energy for my upcoming residency.  It is daunting to me now rather than exhilarating as it would have been in the past, and now I am merely looking to get through it successfully at this stage of things.

I hope things do go smoothly, as I can't take any more drama or bullshit, to be blunt.  If this wasn't such a necessary travel, I wouldn't even go, but I must, or it will be a big, big setback for me, and I have had too many of those in the last year or so, and I can't afford that, so off I go, being dragged like a mule up a hill it doesn't want to traverse, haha.  I think once I'm there, the mental stimulation will invigorate me and I will ultimately be thankful I chose progress over inertia....There is nothing worse to me than feeling as if you are going no where, or the world is passing you by, and that's how I have felt over this last year, with all of the tragedies we have endured, now it's time to break this pattern, and MOVE ON...not in a physical way, but in a mental and spiritual way.  So, that is my hope for this will break away these mental shackles that have formed through these horrible events...and give me a clear and present vision.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Stonehedge Gardens

"Stonehedge on a hazy Spring day" by Hilary J England
8" x 10" oil on canvas, 2014
I have been having terrible struggles lately, and I am forced to retreat.  My health has been causing me great issue, and with that, I am very depressed.  I try to find the positive in all things, but this has been a truly devastating experience, one that has been probably one of the great struggles of my life, again.  It feels like a replay of 2004...and that sickens me.

It seems like the cosmos align to deal you the entire picnic basket at once, rather than one ham sandwich at a time, at least in my case.  But, there is a positive to that as well, hopefully, once and done, and things will only improve from here, at least that's the hope I cling to.  My eyes have been giving me a lot of problems as well, but according to the doctor, the blurring might well be from severe allergies this season, and that is somewhat of a my eyes improve a little bit, that has given me great cause to celebrate.  After all, I can't do much painting if I can't see very well, and that was intensely troubling as well.

So, here is a little painting of my local favorite spot, again.  Enjoy :-)

Friday, May 9, 2014

After Church

"After Church" by Hilary J. England
60" x 48" x 2", oil on canvas, 2014
Close up, "After Church"
Close up, "After Church"
It was a monumental labor of love, but I finally finished the artwork.  I've called it "After Church."  My beautiful little darlings, in their dresses during the high key bright sunlit Spring Easter afternooon.  It was a wonderful day, full of love and friends, when things were still so very good.  Things are good now, just different.  Transition is always a difficult thing, and this is no exception, so I focus on the beauty that is in this life, and it's gifts, and that's what I was thinking of when I was painting this beautiful day.

Now, onto another painting in the series....these paintings are very difficult for me.  My attention span is not what it once was, and I get frustrated more easily, and working on large works requires alot of time, focus, energy and commitment, and I seem to lack all of the above these days, but I'm trying to discipline myself back into focus.  I had a hell of a year in every aspect: physically, emotionally, spiritually, even financially, and that drained me to the bottom of my I just keep trying to forge forward.  The Romanian residency will be here in just about a month, so now is time to gather steam rather than lose it.

So, here is the second in my new series, "Transitions."  Enjoy~

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kempton farm

"Old barn in Spring" by Hilary J England
8" x 10" oil on canvas, 2014
I decided to post my painting today from Kempton, as I went out and scoured the countryside for interesting sites to paint.  This one barn, in the full Spring sunlight, just looked incredible the way the sun beat down on it, literally making it a beacon of blues and was awesome. It stood by itself, with one lonesome cow in the was definitely an oddity.

So, that is it for today, I will post more tomorrow.  I am feeling really under the weather, and I don't know why I feel so incredibly fatigued today, but I do, and this was the most I could muster, much to my disappointment.  I had a whole day of activities lined up, but by the time I got home, I could just fling myself into my easy chair outside, and catch a breather.  I don't know...hopefully my "get up and go" will get up and come back tomorrow....


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hawk Mountain

Woman and vista, South lookout
Hawk Mountain, April 2014

I went up to Hawk Mountain and took a series of photos and did some painting, as it was absolutely wonderful up there.  This photo here I took of a woman relaxing at the edge of the precipice, just for scale.  She was gracious to sit for me.

Vulture circling the Valley, North lookout
Hawk Mountain, 2014

Here is one of a turkey vulture circling the Valley.  You can see the bird right above the innermost boulder on the bottom left.  It was a truly magnificent Spring day, with the warms and cools of the clear day really bursting forth!

Hiking up on the mountain really clears my mind.  I initially went up there just to sit quietly on the South lookout, but the weather was so fine, I decided to hike up to the North lookout as well, and I wasn't disappointed. No, no great or wonderful bird sightings, but the views were absolutely breathtaking and majestic from the bright, clear sky, that you could just see for miles.  That view never disappoints, even on a cloudy day.
Near the hall of the Mountain King
 Hawk Mountain, 2014
I did take many photos, and got a painting and some sketches in.  I did rue hiking to the North lookout with my gear, but for some reason, hiking up is never as bad as hiking down for me, as I'm always afraid of just tumbling down the mountain, and it's kind of hard to fall "up" haha.  At least for me it is...

So, I will post my painting from the mountain tomorrow, but today, time to head down to the canal and enjoy the rest of the day!!

Stormy Times

“Stormy day in the fields - Tennessee” oil on wooden panel, 18” x 18” by Hilary J. England I painted an original study when I was in Tenness...