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Sicily Tour - West Coast

Sicily is a triangle, with two long sides coming to a rounded point on its western edge. Palermo, to the north, is a bustling city, but otherwise the places we toured in the west were rather quiet and picturesque. 

Segesta is the hilly site of lonely Greek structures - an amphitheater and a partially finished Temple to Jupiter. These structures are way up in the hills several miles from the coast, and there is no town there today. Because they've largely been left alone, they are in remarkably good shape. In this shot of the amphitheater, you can see how high up in the hills it sits. If you squint, you might be able to see a slice of the Mediterrean Sea in the distance.

The unfinished Temple of Jupiter (or whoever -- they don't actually know whose temple it was). It never had a roof or an alter inside, nor were the columns plastered, and none of it was painted. But what was done used first-rate techniques. It's a mystery why it was not finished, and there are many opinions on the subject.

Archaeologists don't actually know that it's dedicated to Jupiter, nor do they know exactly why it was never finished. Some speculate that it was built by a non-Greek culture in order to impress the Greeks as they took over Sicily. And once the Greeks were suitably impressed, the earlier people were like, "Meh, don't spend any more money on that Temple to Whoever, unless the Greeks come back and pay for it!"

We also stopped at the small mountain top town of Erice, which boasts TWO ancient castles sitting side by side. Redundant, if you ask me, having two. The front tan structure is all one castle, and you can see part of the second peeking around to its right. The white structure below is a villa/ pseudo-castle built by some rich person much more recently.

Often shrouded by clouds, Erice mountain was dedicated by the Romans to Venus, then became a Christian center in later centuries. We had the most delicious meal of the trip -- a buffet featuring Sicilian specialties - at a restaurant/ cooking demo center / meeting center called "Maria Grammatico." Maria, who is probably 80, and her family own a famous pastry shop in town, and have recently opened the cooking center as well. Maria herself was on hand to teach our group to make almond cookies.

Sunset over Trapani Bay:

The seaside city of Trapani is spread out at the base of the Erice mountain, and has mostly new buildings because of extensive bombing there during WW2. To its south is a coastal wetland where salt has been harvested for thousands of years. We visited a salt production site, and took a small boat to the fascinating island of Mozia, which was purchased by a wealthy Englishman in the late 19th century. He then spent the rest of his life on the island, organizing digs to unearth Carthaginian ruins and artifacts all over the island. The takeaway from this visit was, "It's good to be rich and own your own island!"

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Barcelona - Part 1

More about our Mediterranean vacation. On Thanksgiving Day, Nov 22, we flew to Barcelona, Spain, and spent a couple of days exploring the city. It's a vibrant, fascinating place, with a good mixture of present and recent past. Barcelona feels alive, with people working and shopping and eating out, all side by side with its wonderful architecture. There's a sense of whimsey to a lot of the buildings, even those predating Gaudi's amazing creations.

We had only a few days there, so tried to make the most of it. Our first full day, a Saturday, had picture-perfect weather, so we spent the entire time walking as much of the city as we could. From our hotel, we headed south to La Rambla, and strolled along it to the Colom Monument and the beautiful harbor. It's doubtful that Columbus ever set foot in Barcelona, but the city claims him because two of his ships were built there, which seemed like a pretty good reason to me. Here's the very elaborate Columbus Monument and the gorgeous harbor.

Then we turned away from the water into the old city, where we enjoyed the tiny streets and old buildings, plus the old Cathedral. Sadly, Barcelona, having always been an intense working city, paid little attention to its ancient history, allowing almost all of its Roman and earlier buildings to be destroyed over the years in the name of progress. Many newer buildings have some Roman blocks in their foundations, salvaged from the rubble of the destroyed Roman building. We found one small piece of a Roman wall, nearly all that is left intact, despite this having been a major Roman port.We also found the remains of the synagogue that served Barcelona's sizable Jewish population before the 1390 anti-Jewish riots, when most of the Jews were murdered, and the few remaining alive fled. Since then, there has never been much of a Jewish presence in Barcelona. This photo was taken in "El Call" area, the old Jewish quarter. The former synagogue was up this street. "Don't worry, you are exactly where you need to be!" the graffiti informed us.

On this glorious day, we also visited the old market and the ancient hospital complex, plus simply strolled along various streets, enjoying the buildings and the shops. We saw some Gaudi works that day, but saved most of them for the next days, which you'll see soon in Barcelona - Part 2.

The food in Barcelona was excellent, as it is in all of Spain. However, finding a place to eat it at what we consider "normal hours" posed a challenge. Dinner is not served until 9 pm or later, so we simply wrote off that meal. Instead, we opted for nightly tapas, which are delicious and available from about 5 - 8 each evening. Breakfast was served at the hotel, and we had hopes of finding a quick bite around noon, but didn't see much open then. Trying to eat at 7 am, noon, and 7 pm simply didn't work, but we were brave and coped, eating more at the meals we did manage.

Here's a question for those of you familiar with Spanish hours. When to typical Spanish people eat various meals and how many do they manage in a day? Also, what hours do people work? Little was open at 10 or even 11 in the morning, and many people seemed free by 6 in the evening, so what hours are actually worked? And finally (this one intrigued us) what do people do between tapas time (the tapas places were packed by 6 each evening) and dinner time (9 or 10 until midnight)? Go back to work? Go to bars? Go home? Catch a movie? Have an affair? We were dying to know!

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Moscow, Part 1

On our Russian trip, our first city was Moscow. Gloomy and early our first morning was a tour of the KREMLIN and RED SQUARE. Wow, I have to admit, it gave me chills to be in the place that no fewer than two guides admonished us NOT to think of as "The Heart of the Evil Empire." Just consider that for a moment. I love going to places I've heard about my entire life.

Ourside the Kremlin, which feels like a fortress (and in fact means "fortress") with huge brick walls all around it. Long line at the security check point to get in, but then you could wander around as you wished.

The Moscow Kremlin is just one of many Kremlins that exist in every Russian city of any size. But everyone agrees that THE Kremlin is the one in Moscow, the one that is NOT the heart of the evil empire. It turns out to be many buildings inside massive brick walls, not just one single evil empire building. Many government buildings (one guide indicated which window was Putin's), some old palace-like structures and several churches. Also cannons and the world's largest bell, which has never been suitable for ringing.  A mixture of old and new government buildings in the Kremlin. The new ones all tended to be bland, gray structures.

Here's the world's largest bell in the Kremlin. The Russians have a thing for making the largest of anything. We were told about a variety of "world's largest" Russian things (bells, buildings, cannons, lakes, towers, churches, etc), and often if it wasn't the largest, in which place it stood. (The second largest office building, or whatever, and where the actual largest was). Like it was a contest in which the only category was "Biggest". They never bragged about making the best, or the most beautiful, of the most efficient, or any other way to measure success. Always "Biggest". This bell is a case in point. You can see how big it is in the photo with people standing next to it. It contains something like 200 tons of metal, and it broke even as they were tying to cast it. It's way too heavy to ring, or even to move. In fact, for a while it's weight caused it to sink underground, and it's only been brought back to the surface in recent years. The bell seemed tyical of a lot of Russian creations; just make it BIG, and don't worry at all about function.

World's largest cannon, also at the Kremlin. Even when they were making it, they knew they could not fire it. So they never made cannon balls for it. The ones in the photo in front of it are just for show, and in fact are too large for the cannon's mouth (presumably making them the world's largets cannon balls.)

Red Square sits outside one entrance to the Kremlin. It is a massive space (you've seen it many times on the television with Russian troops marching with odd steps before viewing stands). To our surprise, the square was covered with rough cobblestones and was not at all level, both of which must make all that marching much more difficult. Lenin's tomb is in a structure in one corner of Red Square, although during our visit it was covered with viewing stands. Apparently it has the word "Lenin" on the front, to avoid confusion. For a while Stalin was also buried with Lenin in this structure (and both "Lenin" and "Stalin" were written on the front), but after a while some brave Russians decided that they should not have a monument in the middle of Red Square to the man responsible for the deaths of millions of their fellow citizens. Stalin got tossed out in the countryside somewhere and his name painted over.

Red Square in the rain. Also some of the many football fans partying in the square. I think they'd had enough to drink (by 11 am) not to care about the rain at all.

By the way, Red Square is not named Red because of the old communist flag, nor because of all the blood that has been spilled on it. Rather, the word "red" in Russian means "beautiful," so places all over Russia are named Red this or that, indicating that someone believes they are beautiful. Despite heavy rain the day we visited (seemed appropriate, somehow, after all those gloomy spy movies we've seen that are set in Moscow in the rain), Red Square was full of World Cup fans from all over the world, who are a very friendly bunch of people.

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Recent Sales

Two of my art pieces have sold recently. It's a real pleasure to know that someone likes my work enough to buy it and will display it at their home or office. My goal is to add beauty through my work, one wall at a time.

Wind in the Trees
Watercolor, 12 x 12
This small watercolor sold from the show at the Center for Creative Leadership this week. People from all over the world come to Greensboro to take courses at the Center, and sometimes one of them see some art that just can't leave without. The lady who bought this one is from Virginia. The show will remain up through July, so if you are in the area and haven't seen it yet, there's still time. Contact me and perhaps I can give you a private tour. I just took my sister and brother-in-law over yesterday for a tour, which they enjoyed tremendously.

Seasonal Deliveries
Watercolors, about 18 inches wide
This piece sold at a charity auction in which the artist and the charity split the sales price.

As always, if you see anything you'd like to discuss buying, just let me know. I especially like knowing a friend has some of my work.
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Two Small Watercolors

Here are two small watercolors I did last week. Hope you enjoy them.

If you have some good suggestions for titles, please let me know. I have tentatively titled them (as shown below) but would change the names if you have something better.

Watercolors - 8 x 6 inches

Watercolors - 8 x 6 inches
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Finally Finished "Pegasus Spiral"

I've been working on the painting shown here for months. Not continuously, obviously, but on and off for a great many hours. I believe I've painted the entire thing twice and certain parts four or five times. There's just a compulsion to get the piece exactly as I want it, and I don't always know what I want until I start working on it. I've included a photo from an earlier stage for you to see some of the evolution this has gone through. I knew generally what I was trying for at the beginnnig, but it took lots of effort to free the final image from my imagination and onto the canvas. I hope you like it.

Acrylics, 30 x 30 inches

Here's a shot of it at a much earlier stage. The concept was there from the start, but I totally changed the wings and the spiral pieces. Also redid the horse more than once -- I had already painted over another horse at this stage.

I've got a couple more paintings close to finished as well. I'm feeling very productive, art-wise, these days.
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"Serendipity" Art Show - Page 6

Tomorrow, Friday April 24, is the Opening Reception for the 4-artist show featuring me and other artists at then Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro. It's on from 5:00 - 7:00, and if you're in the area I hope you'll come. Bring any friends you'd like; it will be a fun time.

Today I'm going to show you the last three paintings I have in the show, 18 in all. A few you may have seen before here, if I posted them after finishing them. And some I've asked for help naming -  you might recognize your own suggestion among the titles. Thanks to all for your ideas.

Acrylics, 20 x 48

Watercolors, 12 x 9

Watercolors 11 x  9

Hope you've enjoyed the virtual art show!
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"Serendipity" Art Show - Page 5

The Opening Reception to this 4-artist show at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro is one week from today - Friday April 24, from 5:00 - 7:00. Come if you can; it's a fun party with great art, good food, free wine, and cheerful people. Here's your next installment of artwork hung in the show.

Acrylics 18 x 24 inches

Watercolors 15 x 18 inches

Acrylics 30 x 30 inches

Hope to see you next Friday!
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"Serendipity" Art Show - Page 4

Here we go with more paintings from my show at the Center for Creative Leadership. Opening Reception is on Friday, April 24, from 5:00 - 7:00, and it should be a grand time, so come along!

Oils, 24 x 24 inches

Acrylics, 30 x 40 inches

Acrylics 18 x 14 inches

This one has some "puff paint" on it, giving it the 3-d look. Fun stuff to play with!
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"Serendipity" Art Show - Page 3

Here's the next batch of artwork from my show at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro. The Center people printed up beautiful postcards announcing the Opening Reception (Friday, April 24, from 5:00 - 7:00) and I've been having a great time carrying a stack around with me and giving them to everyone I meet. Quite a few people have said they would attend the opening, which is excellent. The more the merrier!

Acrylics 24 x 18 inches

Acrylics 14 x 18
(Based on my orange cat "Pretzel,"who loved to sit on the porch furniture, especially when we were also out there).

Watercolors 19 x 14

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. Our weather is gorgeous these days!