Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Art travelers flock to Spain in search of more than sun and surf

 "For great things do not just happen by impulse but are a succession of small things linked together." Vincent van Gogh, 22 Oct. 1882, in a letter to brother Theo.
In 1963, I became an international art traveler. I was age 19 and a Macalester College sophomore taking a study-travel summer in Yugoslavia to research and write a thesis on the Young Communist Youth League.And to take a month and travel.

When I try to put the pieces together on how I morphed into a novice artist and seasoned eccentric, I think of turning points. We all have them, moments, events that propel you one way or another, into one life or love, or another.

I recall when at age seven I could look at anything and draw it accurately. There was something very intense between subject and my eyes, an unusually acute focus where everything else was blotted out.  Something was a foot when at age 12 I won the St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press colouring contest and a $50 US Savings Bond. St. Paul is the capitol city of Minnesota, where I grew up, mostly.

Noone picked up on my inner artist. Art was never a career field my father recognized; same with my mother. I was tickled to get the prize money and put it away so I could at age 13 become a novice capitalist, i.e., shoeshine boy. I believe we all have artistic talent, some more than others. But it's there waiting to be unlocked.

Ask me the best year of my life and I'll tell you 19: I was unencumbered, a full-time student, launching myself on a 175cc two-cycle DKV motorcycle bought in Frankfurt into unknown territory and a memory mindscape that remains viable.

Art is a state of mind. You travel, see, ask questions, get lost and lost again, finding each excursion from perceived plans a delightful surprise, usually. A 19-day journey across the Middle East, hitch-hiking from Belgrade through Bulgaria to Istanbul, across  Turkey into Syria during its counter-revolution, onto Beirut, from there to Jerusalem (then Jordan, the West Bank) and to working on a Haifa area kibutz:

A world of exotic images flushed through me, subtley morphing into subconscious landscapes to be rediscovered years later.

Now with the Internet, all of us become art travelers. While there's nothing like first-hand experience, we need to also ride the magic carpets of our digital world. And besides, what is art? How do you define it? Help me out.

I thought I'd also introduce my latest painting to you, part of a series of 4 (Noche del Vino/Night of the Wine) campesino or rural life paintings. This is number 3. It's oil on canvass, 50 X 50 cm. You may detect a wee bit of influence from van Gogh.

Next posting I want to return to nature and walking and the nature of art. And for those of you interested in learning mosaics or sculpture on an art traveler vacation, including guided walks into our wilderness, I will introduce Dutch friends Joost and Moira Schepel who live just outside Competa, 4 kms. from my village of Canillas de Albaida.

Visit them now if you want: Moira's has taught me sculpting in alabaster for 5 years; she's an accomplished, internationally recognized sculptor.

"I would never do away with suffering, for it is often what makes artists express themselves most forcefully." van Gogh, 13 April 1885 in a letter Theo.

Noche del Vino III by S. van Drake oil on canvass 50 X 50 cm
Van Gogh, incidentally, once studied to be a man of the cloth; he thoroughly immerses his struggle as an artist in the Christian pathos and ethos that through suffering there is spiritual rebirth.

Rock on and practice peace. Check out ArtTraveler's videos at:

Stefan, the ArtTraveler(TM)

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