Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Bypassing the Icons

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

The last couple times I wrote about taking advantage of iconic images to recall travel experiences. But sometimes I have to break away from the expected and depict images from a less common perspective.

Standing Sentinel

The fact is that, though I have been to Venice numerous times and have depicted that city by using images of the boats encountered throughout its canals, I have never actually taken that quintessential gondola ride myself. So to retell my own travel tales, I often seek out less-anticipated images.

In Venice, these include the buildings, eroded by the ever-present effects of sea water; working boats in all their various forms; statuary, bold and bare in the open campos, or moss-covered in shaded seclusion; leashed pets who are sure this island domain is theirs and theirs alone; bridges that arch and turn, leading usually from via to via, but sometimes into a private door or window; and people who look comfortably “at home” … or out of place. The unexpected can be enlightening.

Icons do have their place, by bringing to mind a general recollection of a city. But non-iconic images relate specific experiences unique to my own travels. They speak to other viewers, as well, who want to remember … or imagine … more than the sights and experiences common to the everyday tourist.

In a shady memorial park in Venice, the lady depicted above in “Standing Sentinel” (#110706) has stood watch, season upon season, through unnumbered generations. Her moss-cloaked form blends with the foliage surrounding her until she has become a part of the land herself. I discovered her one day when exploring some of the less traveled byways of the city. Since then, she and the memorial park are on our must-do list whenever we visit Venice.

My favorite travel companion

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Any time I travel, my camera goes along.  I keep an eye open for interesting flowers—particularly those that we don’t find near home—and people or animals that trigger my imagination.  I also look for scenes that speak to me about the specific locale in which I’m spending time.

Cayman Fish Vendor

On a recent visit on Grand Cayman, I found a tree burgeoning with clusters of velvety violet and white flowers.  Colorful chickens roamed freely along the roadsides, in parks, and even in open-air restaurants.  And along the shore, fish vendors had set up temporary stalls to shade themselves as they sorted and cleaned the morning’s catch.

The image of the vendors remained with me long after we left the island, so I combed through my photographs to help me tell that aspect of the story of our visit.

It would be foolish to have tried to combine the tree, a rooster, and the vendor’s stall into one painting; that would be overkill.  I find that it’s more effective to focus on a single subject in a painting; and the simpler it is, the better.  I chose to omit from Cayman Fish Vendor (#100401) a fisherman who had been in the background of my primary reference photograph, replacing him with the boat (borrowed from another photo), which provided simpler lines to offset the jumbled appearance of the fish and the rocks behind.  The composition could have been simplified further by omitting both the corner of the canvas tent and the fishing boat, though both help to “tell the story,” and the color of the boat’s trim echoes the color of the fish being cleaned.

A word of caution if you try combining photos, as I did:  It’s important that the light comes from the same direction and angle.  Scale is also a critical variable, so relative sizes may need to be adjusted.  This is a situation when digital photography and editing capabilities prove a great boon to the artist.

A photo jaunt of just a few hours on Grand Cayman have provided me with reference material for several different subjects to paint as the mood strikes.  Everywhere I go, I try to add at least a few more photos to my reference file.