An Opportunity Long Wished For

Many times I have perused the back of Artist Magazine and read exciting offers to come away to some foreign land and paint under the guidance of an experienced teacher. I say to myself who does this?  How lucky they are to be advantaged enough to enjoy this luxury.  To pursue their art in an atmosphere conducive to creating and learning and discussion and immersion is pure joy.  I was given this opportunity this June, on short notice, and of course rushed around to get everything I needed for the trip. 


I came home from Greece a couple days ago armed with paintings, sketches and photos and potential for lots of artworks.  I flew over in business class with a longtime woman- friend on a 747 and was treated like a queen with Taitinger champagne, a seat that morphs into a bed and a menu of culinary delights. Changed planes in Heathrow for Athens and overnight in Athens in a hotel that looks out on the Acropolis. We met our artist companions and our teacher on the rooftop along with  Tom and Isabel Dempsey, who operate The Center For the Arts on Skopelos, and who organized the next 10 days.  Next morning we hopped on a bus for the 3 hour drive to the port then took the hydrofoil boat for a three hour ride to the island of Skopelos. Skopelos is about the size of Nantucket.  The Aegean Sea was heavenly blue but I would see it change to turquoise at the island.  What followed was nine more days of painting, walking to the port to get food and a critique of the days work.  We worked on a variety of media, experimental for some.  I tried using paint sticks-oil paint in heavy crayon form which one can mix with a medium to make it goopy. It was fun but if I decide I like it I will need a lot more plat-time with it.

Chapel on top -site of Mama Mia movie
A street in the residential area of Skopelos

From then on I went back to the familiar watercolor paint and Arches quarter sheet paper.  The teacher, Nan Hass Feldman, gave us parameters every day such as – using complementary ( color wheel)  colors, using contiguous colors, doing a panorama and  paint without a prior sketch. Nan would come around and see what we were doing and make suggestions or show a different technique. At 6PM we met at the terrace and she gave us all a critique. Isabel, well versed in Skopelean culture and language gave us a talk on the history and culture and taught us a few useful words in Greek. She said the people would be delighted if we tried,  anyway.Then we went for supper.  We ate outdoors under the stars at a different taverna every night.  We always had a Greek salad-fresh, ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, onion slivers and a big slab of delicious feta cheese on top. The island recently got electricity and indoor toilets which were very nice and spic and span.  The last night we went to Isabel and Tom’s house for supper and Greek dancing and a poetry reading by Prof. Alan Feldman, who was given a real laurel wreath for his head by Isabel. They live high up in the hills overlooking the crescent port. It must be a 45 degree angle driving up those tiny narrow roads but the view is spectacular. Wine grape vines climb over the portico.  Olive trees everywhere.  The people who have olive trees get the olives pressed locally and it is so sweet.   I tried to buy a small container but that was not available.  There are no screens in the windows or doors. No need.  I felt like I lived outdoors for 10 days.  Cats roam the port and sit by every taverna table looking for something to drop. they aren’t really pesky but rather polite.  We had car trips to other parts of the island for painting opportunities that were gaspingly beautiful.

Temple of Athena

On the return trip we stopped for an overnight in Athens and a climb up the Acropolis to the Parthenon, the temple of Athena, the Erectheum and the amphitheater..  It was 100F and boy o boy, it seemed like a frying pan up there. Oddly, I saw two cats hanging out up there and decided my storied cat, Godfrey, will have to have an adventure on the Acropolis. F. harry’s toe