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“Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right! “

Rise up this mornin’,
Smile with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, “This is my message to you-ou-ou: “

It’s not the Carribbean, but it certainly felt like it with Bob’s familiar and reassuring voice playing in the background as we relaxed to an evening meal with a glass or three of locally produced krasi at a beachside restaurant in Ligres. To shake off the cobwebs, recharge the batteries and forget life’s worries, trials and tribulations the perfect answer is to escape to Crete and see what a week of sunshine and wine in a country with a radical left-wing government does for you.

Thanks to our very good chums Peter & Monica we were able to do just that by returning to our version of Shangri-La, or more accurately Agia Pelagia in the centre of the island. Having the opportunity to work in my ‘Cretan Studio’ again was tonic for the soul. With seven days of wall to wall sunshine time stood still, the conveyor belt switched off and life was lived at a more relaxed pace in a landscape lush and green following an unusually wet winter. Travelling on empty roads there is so much to view, driving through deep and imposing gorges which lead to idyllic and isolated retreats such as the aforementioned beach and restaurant at Ligres, the Agia Fotia Taverna and the rich red abandoned village at Aradena.

Add to this the opportunity to work en plein air in the dappled shade of an olive grove, accompanied by the chirruppy and happy whistling of busy Cretan birdlife and the fleeting company of delicate dancing butterflies, listening to the breeze blowing harmoniously through viridian and silver leaves, the occasional sound of an inquisitive and magnificent black carpenter bee making its conspicuous hum as it flies ponderously from flower to flower, the fleeting scampering feet of green and brown lizards, the scream of a peacock, the shrill stridulating vibrations of grasshopper bodyparts, the occasional spontaneous peal of distant sheep and goat bells – dare I suggest it’s even more relaxing than listening to Sarah Walker presenting Essential Classics on Radio 3.

Adopting Bob as the soundtrack for the week, the combination of good company, krasi and contemplation has been restorative, refreshing and stimulating, very much like a life-affirming cocktail. Had Bob been with us he may have added a stimulant or two of his own but the change of pace and sense of place was enough, the only vaguely hallucinagenic moment for me was the sight of multi-coloured ants walking across my feet while working in the seclusion of the olive grove.

Aristotle or Plato (or was it Lynyrd Skynyrd?) must surely have said something very similar so apologies to them if I’m stealing their wise and philosophical words, but to put it simply………..it’s been Bloody Orea!

   Having a Bad Trip?

    A misconception?
    A visual deception?
    Confused perception?

    Rainbow transcending
    Colours mixing and blending
    My palette amending

    Tints, shades and pure hues
    Animated reds and blues
    Total spectrum forming queues

    Cobalt figurines
    Pebble dashed ultramarines
    Crawling aubergines

    Army of orange blots
    Trampllng over coloured pots
    Invading yellow polka dots

    Sun filled fields of green
    Poppy splatter unforeseen
    Marching marks intervene

    Tan, rust, milit’ry brown
    In ‘No Man’s Land’ puddle moiré drown
    Somme-like, faces down

    Bad trip? All is fine!
    Psychedelic dream is mine
    A paint mixers dotted line
    
    Small chromatic flecks
    Stippling, swimming insect specks
    Nothing anymore complex
        – I’ve Aints in my Paints!

…………..in Crete

18 – 25 October 2014

After what has been a fairly busy year involved with large projects, a chance to scribble in a notebook again and work on a smaller scale with a 7 day break and a return visit to Crete, thanks to an invitation from our good chums Peter & Monica. This time it was the subject that was big, not the image making. The challenge however was exactly the same, trying to make images work while being bombarded with such different sensations and being confronted with a landscape with such a magnificence of scale.

The way I’ve found to deal with this problem is to treat the subject the same as one would when entering a grand building such as a cathedral. One doesn’t simply barge in, the place must be treated with the respect it deserves. It’s important to enter quietly, take time to drink in the atmosphere and allow the senses to become familiar with the new surroundings.

The secret I think is not to be impatient and for me, drawing has always been the best method I’ve found to feel one’s way in. Taking time to look and listen through the weaving, continuous, overlapping lines created by the point of a pencil enables my eyes and ears to take a walk across the page and develop a sense of place. It’s not everyone’s way maybe, but it’s my way.

The pages of my notebook return me to where the drawing was made and reawakens a memory bank of sensations, even if the page contains only an urgent and quickly rendered scribble. My calligraphic wanderings are more personal than a photograph and transport me back in time and space. They are instant reminders of the sights, sounds and scents of the original location.

Crete is filled with a cocktail of sensations. This time around an instant word map would include – visiting a museum of monumental wooden sculptures in Axos Milopotamou; sitting in the sun at a cafe in Anogia village; watching waves crash over the harbour wall at Rethymno and eating at Othonas Taverna; gorge walking at Spili and coming across another olive grove of ancient trees; harvesting walnuts with my ‘Karydia Brothers’ and having the black fingers to prove it; the spectacular scenery and dramatic landscape revealed during the journey from Vamos to Chora Sfakion ending with a meal beside the harbour; the stunning skyline filled with sea-storms approaching the shore viewed from the beach at Triopetra and the sight of waves breaking against the ‘3 Stones’; the outlook during the journey to Agios Pavlos and drinking a chilled glass of Mythos in the taverna overlooking the idyllic bay; watching waves crashing into the cliffs, with thunder, lightning, gusty winds and rain falling in sheets while drying out at the same location; the outstanding and impressive rock formations at Agios Pavlos too; eating out in Spili, at the Maria-Kostas Taverna and at the Mylos Cafe; watching high soaring birds casually gliding on warm thermal winds; wrecked, battered, bruised as well as re-invented and re-engineered motor vehicles; the regular clang of sheep and goat bells; staring philosophically into a clear and unpolluted Indian Ink sky carefully strewn with scattered, sparkling constellations; sublime sunsets to die for; visiting the birthplace of Domenikos Theotokopoulos outside the sleepy village of Fodele where old women dressed in black sat in the street making macramé items using the back of a wooden chair as a frame, then sitting under the most ancient of ancient trees in sun dappled shade to eat lunch at the El Greco Café; it’s been a stimulating week!

The landscape of Crete is overwhelming and the people warm and welcoming. I may not speak the language or be able to read the roadsigns comfortably, but a smile, a glance and a gesture easily becomes a conversation of a thousand unspoken words. However, as for Crete as a subject for painting is concerned, I have only dipped my toe in the water – and the pool is the size of an ocean.

As for image making, I’m still coming to terms with the place and have much to learn, but perhaps I’ve made a start in feeling my way around – and it’s feelin’ good. It’s caused a problem with my Blog Title Soundtracks page though. Should I have chosen Nina Simone? Or Muse. Tough call. I’m still undecided, so I included both.

A Postcard from Crete

10 – 17 April 2013

A first visit, a new landscape to stimulate the senses and much to learn. An invitation to visit Agia Pelagia, near Spili, in the centre of the island. A landscape filled with the clamour of goat bells and the ‘singing’ of crickets and cicadas; the dappled shade and sunlight filtering through glittering leaves of ancient olive trees; a sky of clean, crisp azure unpolluted by the chalky scrawl of vapour trail graffiti; waves lapping lazily on multi-coloured pebbles of deserted and secluded beaches; wind and rain lashing through deeply cut weather beaten gorges; the cool, damp atmosphere of liberally scattered miniature chapels adorned with decaying wall paintings and icons; the distinctive flavour of locally brewed wine and raki; villages woven together with ramshackle houses swathed with character; battered cars, battered roads and an economically battered population – but the warmth and convivial nature of the Cretan people is an inspiration. To return is a must. It’s a different pace, and another world!

SLATER-Scan 17   SLATER-Scan 1   SLATER-Scan 14

SLATER-Scan 15   SLATER-Scan 16   SLATER-Scan 4

How do I deal with this???!!!! A first impression. 6 adjoining notebook scribbles of the extensive panoramic outlook from Peter & Monica’s terrace

SLATER-DSCF5432   SLATER-Scan 5   SLATER-Road to Ligres

Travelling toward Ligres

SLATER-Scan 6   SLATER-Scan 7   SLATER-Scan 8

SLATER-DSCF5449   SLATER-Ligres Beach   SLATER-Ligres Beach Taverna

Working on the deserted beach at Ligres

SLATER-Scan 10  SLATER-Scan 11  SLATER-Scan 12  SLATER-Scan 9

Notebook scribbles from the patio of the Villas, Agia Pelagia

SLATER-The Sea through the Gorge i

The Sea through the Gorge, from the patio of the Villas, Agia Pelagia

SLATER-DSCF5538   SLATER-Looking South from the Villas ii

Looking south from the Villas, Agia Pelagia

SLATER-DSCF5543   SLATER-The Sea through the Gorge ii

The Sea through the Gorge, from the patio of the Villas, Agia Pelagia

SLATER-Scan 3   SLATER-Scan 18

From P&M’s terrace, a preliminary scribble

SLATER-From P&M's terrace L   SLATER-From P&M's terrace R

Looking toward the White Mountains from P&M’s terrace, with a strong breeze blowing!

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