For the last 2 weeks Viv and I have been staying in a room with a view of the Acropolis in Athens. From our sunny balcony above the city noise we shared the air with swifts, swallows, sparrows, blackbirds, hawks and a small group of green parrots. We went partly to enjoy the Greek ambience but mainly to revisit some of the most interesting sites and art in human history.
Last time I took watercolours to try and catch ideas but ended up doing neat little pictures so I was determined to do different. A limited but versatile range materials is important, and weight is also an issue when you are carrying your stuff around sites and museums for several hours each day in the heat! . So I took and A4 cartridge pad and a small note/sketchbook and watercolours. As watercolour does not do naturally nice looking effects on cartridge paper I chose this awkwardness to help me stop doing pretty pictures. Also I decided to try and use the double page proportion approximately 3 to 1 as a base format.
The first work in graphite and watercolour was our view of the Acropolis with the end of the Parthenon and the Erechtheion against a clear blue sky. Yes it’s a picture but hey what a view!
There followed a range of work trying to catch a sense of place and light both in and around Athens. Below, the works are of a slice down from the fortress to the old Plaka village and the temple of Nike seen from a forest of olive trees.
From the lovely temple of Brauron / Vavrona on the coast to the east of Athens the ruined tomb of Iphigeneia huddles against the cliff and is overhung with swathes of yellow flowers. There is calmness in this place. In total contrast, at Eleusis the home of the ancient mysteries, the feeling is uncomfortable and edgy. The painting is of the cave through which, reputedly, Pluto took Demeter’s daughter Persephone into the underworld.
I also did lots of drawing in the museums and love the little clay horses which are either free standing or decorate the lids of large pots. There are masses of small clay and bronze figurines of horses, dogs, rams, pigs and deer. Some were votive offerings, stamps or toys for children. I loved the little figure jumping over the bulls horns from the Piraeus museum.
The next challenge is to, over the next few months, take all the information and ideas I have from this wonderful trip and start to produce more considered works which explore my experiences in more depth and to hopefully also move my art process on! Although I took quite a lot of photos, they are very tricky. I did a watercolour of bright yellow daisies in the Agora in full sun and cooked myself. The sense colour was intense yet the photos are bland and nothing like my experience – that is why I do art!