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Greek Idyll - Painting Intuitively on Skopelos

I am just back from teaching Painting Intuitively on the island of Skopelos in Greece. Sponsored by the Island Center for the Arts, and run by my friends Tom and Isabel Dempsey, this was the trip of a lifetime. Tom and Isabel, originally from Boston, moved to Skopelos permanently about 20 years ago. Each year they offer classes taught by New England area artists. My class included nine wonderful people - seven New Englanders, one Ohioan, and two Canadians. Fifi, Isabel's daughter's chihuahua mix, often accompanied us on our outings.

Dressed up for a night on the town!

Our group of nine plus Isabel Dempsey with Fifi, and myself, fifth from the left.

Getting there involved landing in Athens, and taking a bus and then a ferry to the island.

The view of the Acropolis, day and night - from my hotel room.

Our ferry to Skopelos.

Mornings were reserved for classes which were held on tile patio and shaded by grape vines. We looked out onto a pool, an olive grove, a chicken yard, and the turquoise Aegean ocean.

The view from our open air studio.
Most travel art classes focus on plein aire painting or drawing, so this was a little different. Instead of concentrating on capturing the scene at hand, we took inspiration from the colors, shapes and textures of this sunny island. Day one involved getting back in the saddle with contour line drawing and painting to music (reggae is my go-to choice for relaxing into paint!)

Day two introduced the Gelli plate, an easy way to make layered monoprints featuring imprints of fig leaves, olive branches, or simply color and texture studies.
Gelli prints lend themselves to making several prints at a time. The original impression is usually darker, the "ghost" or second print is often subtly beautiful.

Laurie kept some of her Gelli plate prints in a travel sketch pad.

Anne discovers happy accidents!

Karen is happily monoprinting

Angele making multiples with the Gelli
Day three began with an outing to the famous Church Walk along the port of Skopelos. A photographer's paradise, I was quite taken with the bright colors of the buildings and the unusual shapes of wrought iron gates.
There seemed to be feral cats and kittens everywhere.

Laurie has found a nice shady spot to work

I love the wrought iron work everywhere

Our assignment involved creating a series of collages inspired by the shapes and colors on the Church Walk. The point was to focus on shape, and concentrate on the big blocks of color rather than detail. Here are some of the wonderful results. 

Fresh, evocative and dramatic, the collages were very helpful in focusing on the big shapes in front of us.
We used clotheslines and clothespins for our "critique wall".
Our fourth day included a visit to Agios Yannis, the chapel on a hill made famous by the movie Mamma Mia starring Meryl Streep. I enjoyed photographing straight down into the rocks and water close to shore. 

The famous Agios Yannis chapel, accessible by a long staircase.
Inveterate artist-travelers setting up in the rough.

I found some great compositions in among the detritus at the base of the mountain.

Drawing and painting the scene at a small cafe overlooking Agios Yannis. 
Back to intuitive painting exercises, a collaborative, round-robin painting of our own version of the Garden of Eden.The goal here is to learn to give up ownership, stop being precious, experiment with materials, and have fun! All nine students worked on each of the paintings, re-establishing their own vision each time. (My bible for these exercises is Peter London's book, No More Second Hand Art.)

Working on "Garden of Eden" exercise

   Another project included collecting rubbings from any textures we found in the street, along the walls of the port, in our rooms, from leaves and other growth, and bring them to class to use as addtional fodder for our gelli plate printing sessions.

Anne's piece is a collage of two gelli prints - rubbing of textures show through the transparent acrylic paint

A beautiful rubbing of an ornament featured in a gelli print in process.

I love how all of the work looks, hung up with clothespins against the backdrop of the pool and the ocean.

Our final project was inspired by the nine muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (memory). The muses of antiquity presided over astromony, history, dance, lyric poetry, love poetry, music, comedy, tragedy, and sacred poetry - all the arts that required memorization to perform.

Upper body tracings of each of us, working in groups of three, produced an inspired group of scroll-like paintings.

Karen is game to be traced in her "Greek dancing" pose.

Carole adding lines with acrylic in a Fine Line applicator.

Angele is adding her calligraphic lines to the work

Carole is enjoying breaking out into acrylics!

Rubbings found their way into the work.

Carole with her group's efforts for the morning.

A close up of one of the areas from our muse scroll project.

Angele and Karen working on the finishing touches of their scroll.
The group looks at all three scrolls together, discussing how they can best be joined together visually.
Anne is adding to her group's piece, reflecting the week's experience with a reference to Greek salad.
Our final critique was focused on answering the questions, "Where did you begin?, Where are you now? and Where will your art take you next?"









Isabel and Tom were gracious hosts of the island, introducing us to all kinds of wonderful foods, beaches, and even Greek dancing on their patio under the stars.  Here is a short video clip of Isabel doing one of her insightful cultural workshops. Fluent in Greek, and very knowledgeable about Greek culture, she was our window into the history and life of the island.