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A Caress of Cretan Calm

26 March – 4 April 2018

“Seems I got to have a change of scene
‘Cause every night I have the strangest dreams…….
.”

I’ve recently written a catch-up Crete visit blog and used a track by Jittery Joe as its title, so why not use him again, he was really in his prime in 1969. In any case, it’s a good excuse to make a link to another of his youtube movies.

Every time we make a visit to this Shangri-La island we seem to arrive dead on our feet, but thanks to a little help from our friends P&M, we’re always feelin’ alright by the time we leave.

This time around our habitual busy work schedule had once again caused us both to be running on empty during the weeks before departing from Luton to fly eastward into a welcoming evening sky. P&M’s welcoming open arms were there to greet us at Heraklion airport and we were instantly immersed into another world. One that’s lived at a more relaxed pace, filled with happy smiling faces speaking a language and employing typography we can’t understand, but where our ignorance is bliss. And what’s more, despite the tragic state of the Greek economy, roads in better condition than the UK!!!

Arriving in the peaceful tranquility of moonlit Agia Pelagia near Spili, the only sounds to fill the air were the distant occasional clangs of wandering goatbells. The following morning, breakfast on the terrace in warm morning sunshine. Immediately we were enshrouded in relaxation mode. We just drank it all in. It was impossible to resist.

The next ten days drifted by in typically leisurely Cretan pace. We explored Rethymno and the grounds and fortifications of the Fortezza; had a guided tour of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete; drew and painted on a different scale for a change in my Olive Grove Studio; explored the narrow streets and harbour of Venetian flavoured Chania and the hillside village calm of Ancient Lappa; found aged and decaying murals in lonely hillside chapels; walked isolated mountain tracks with my trusty Cretan guide; enjoyed the beachside community haven of Matala, with the Mermaid Cafe, mentioned by Joni Mitchell in her song ‘Carey‘, a track on the album ‘Blue‘; witnessed sunsets and starry skies to die for; ate good Cretan food, drank excellent ‘Karydia Brother’ wine.

A relaxing, unwinding, de-stressing, calming and thoroughly restful visit……………..however………………there was one occasion potentially detrimental and harmful to my health.

What began as a normal Friday evening spent in a bar in Plakias quickly evolved into a particularly stressful nail biting one. As any lifelong follower of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club would confirm, supporting this team is a roller coaster ride. This year has been a good one, but it’s still had its share of ‘moments’. Having found a bar with a TV and a Skysports football channel available, I endured one of the most traumatic games of my life. The season has ended well, but watching my team hang on with 9 men to beat Middlesbrough can only be described as an absolutely nerve shredding experience. The following week it felt like history repeating itself as WWFC survived two penalties in added-on time to beat Cardiff. Only a Wolves supporter knows what having unyielding loyalty to the old gold and black really feels like.

However, even having said that, this was an isolated anxiety-associated episode. As far as stress is concerned, Crete is the perfect antidote!

“You feelin’ alright?
I’m not feelin’ too good myself…….
.”

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Cretan Season in the Sun

19 – 26 October 2016

“We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun…….
.”

Having just returned from another visit to Crete I was about to write a new blog when I found that there wasn’t one from my previous visit. I suddenly felt very confused. After experiencing such a stimulating and rejuvenating environment surely I couldn’t have forgotten to reflect upon it? Had it mysteriously disappeared? Or had I really been too busy to actually do one.

A look at the calendar and then it all became clear. Yes, I was busy. The trip was made two years ago, during the Autumn half term break while working at Rowlatts Hill Primary painting the ‘Once Upon A Time’ mural. However very soon after we returned our world turned upside down, as Mum’s health took a serious turn for the worse and sadly she passed away. It could be said that this visit was the calm before the storm. The writing of a reflective Crete blog was obviously lost in the maelstrom of events which occurred during the weeks that followed and which saw that difficult year through to its conclusion.

Before embarking on a new blog therefore, I’ll make amends and write an old one first.

It’s the last week of October 2016 and all is still well. Our busy schedule has been replaced with a few days in the sun, in Peter & Monica’s exceptional company, staying with them in their idyllic world in Agia Pelagia near Spili, and our minds and soul nourished and enriched once again with warm Cretan hospitality; watching a sleeping dog soak up the sun while drinking a chilled glass of Fix beer at the Agia Fotia Taverna in Agia Fotini and listening to nothing but the sound of lapping water; exploring sights of significance in the history of Crete, the monastery at Arkadi and the WWII monument and bridge at Preveli; finding plants both beautiful and strange while wandering the paths of the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete, a haven of tranquility created out of the ashes of a fire in 2003; looking at the jaw dropping sight of the upper entrance of the Samaria Gorge; indulging in the sights of the beautiful Amari valley and taking a hike up to the summit of Mount Samitos; luxuriating in the peace, shade and uninterrupted birdsong of the Olive Grove studio; savouring a glass or maybe three of the latest batch of my Kaydia brother Yiorgos’ excellent home brewed wine; the leisurely hustle and bustle of cafe life in Plakias and Rethymno thrown in for good measure.

We couldn’t foresee the events that were about to unfold, but that break gave us the energy to face it. We’d found an island of calm, and the peace and tranquility of Crete had given us the strength to confront anything an impending storm could throw at us.

Gladiator Mural (Part 4) at Rowlatts Hill Primary Academy

April 18

The final stage of the ‘Gladiator’ corridor at Rowlatts Hill, a grass carpet has now been laid to bring the project to a conclusion. It is the final piece of the jigsaw, the cherry on the Bakewell tart, the penalty save in added-on time. The before and after pics show a significant transformation. Well done Matt Hassall, and thank you. You’re an absolute star. It really looks terrific!

Gladiator (Part 4) – The Floor

Rowlatts Hill Primary Academy, Balderstone Close, Leicester LE5 4ES

A Step Back In Time

‘If perfection could be achieved it wouldn’t be worth having

A return to Thorpe Hall, 43 years later. Back in June 1974 I spent a day here painting a landscape for my ‘A’ level Art paper and made reference to it in a previous blog about my school art teacher ‘The Importance Of Being Nobby’.

I knew the place would have changed. I’d simply remembered sitting in a meadow looking at a boarded up building located somewhere within the hall grounds. It took a while to find the exact spot, but then it suddenly unveiled itself. The sky had become a classic ‘Tur-kwarzy Blooo’ and inside my head I heard the nasal tone of Nobby shouting ‘Hands out the pockets boy!’. Not much had really altered. The wild flower filled field had become a car park, the trees had been cut back and new housing could seen at the exit, a hedge had appeared alongside what was once a gravel track and the building I’d focussed upon is now an attractive renovated gate house – other than that, the view still looked very similar.

This was where I produced my last painting before embarking on an art school career and I’ve often been tempted to revisit the site of one of the oldest compositions I still possess. Other than my grandmother’s living room it has made only one other appearance in public, being included in my ‘Landmarks & Milestones’ exhibition a couple of years ago. In 1974 the teenage me was convinced the painting was a complete and utter disaster and I’ve never waivered from that opinion. Nevertheless, I’ve also wanted to see whether that point of view was well founded. Returning to the scene of the crime with reproduction in hand to make a retrospective assessment I’ve learned that perhaps I needn’t have given myself such a hard time. The painting was probably alright after all.

It could be said that today I was back where it all started – but this time I didn’t lose my temper!

Gladiator Mural (Parts 1&2) at Rowlatts Hill Primary Academy

20.2 – 5.5.17

Hard on the heels of the ‘Once Upon A Time’ mural, my brief for this follow-on project was to transform the appearance of a fairly narrow and very busy corridor and create a taste of Tuscany, a landscape filled with grapevines and warm sunshine. This space, located outside two Year 3 classrooms, leads to a Roman themed area of the school and Principal Jay Virk suggested the final scene from Ridley Scott‘s ‘Gladiator’ movie as a clue of what she envisaged in her mind’s eye. Remembering his home built at the end of an avenue of cypress trees Maximus, Russell Crowe, imagined himself walking through a wheat field in a gently undulating Tuscan hillside to return to his family. To him, this was an image of Heaven.

However, the ‘Gladiator’ mural would be painted in three parts, and as this would be the largest I decided to begin with the smallest section first, so Heaven would have to wait till ‘Part 1’ was completed.

Gladiator mural (Part 1) – The Portrait

The wall seen at the end of the corridor was located within a cloakroom area already having the appearance of a Roman villa, which posed a problem. The design had to work both as an integral element of an exterior landscape scene as well as a Roman interior. The difficulty was resolved by giving the impression the wall surface was made of marble with a plaque, inscribed with a portrait of a Caesar, mounted on it. The trompe l’oeil plaque and portrait was inspired by a Roman coin auctioned in Switzerland in 2015.

 

Gladiator mural (Part 2) – The Landscape

Left Wall:

Right Wall:

The corridor walls have an imagined landscape view and at its end, before entering the Roman area, a grapevine covered pergola helps disguise a door frame. This portion of the corridor is quite dim, so the pergola generates the illusion of being the cause of the shade, whether walking in one direction and out of the ‘sunshine’ or from the other on leaving a bright ‘interior’.

Looking back, the landscape on the wall above the stairs was based upon the house seen in the previously mentioned final scene of the ‘Gladiator’ film, the perspective of the avenue of cypress trees painted to work with the angles seen as one walks toward it.

The walls on each side of the steps are painted in a fragmented, abstracted manner as the landscape gradually simplifies and metamorphoses either into a portrait of the Queen or a stained glass window, the final elements of the ‘Casablanca‘ and ‘Give Peace a Chance‘ murals which are located in the adjoining corridor.

In time, the surface of the corridor floor will be covered with a grass carpet which will further assist with the illusion of walking through an avenue of vines, and the small area of floor between pergola and portrait will become the final section of the Gladiator mural. This will be Part 3 of the project, to be painted next, and which will involve the painting of a mosaic.

Rowlatts Hill Primary Academy, Balderstone Close, Leicester LE5 4ES

Landmarks & Milestones: A Painter’s Progress

5-29 October 2015 • The Castle, Wellingborough NN8 1XA

Our lives follow a meandering path, taking us in different and unexpected directions. This retrospective exhibition is an opportunity to reflect upon a painting career that has incorporated a variety of subjects and activities, with dramatic changes in scale.

From early formative works through to more recent painted and drawn images, it also includes examples of monumental mural paintings, a recurring feature of the artist’s output since 1977.

My painting is me
A kind of biography
Written in pictures

Landmarks & Milestones: A Painter’s Progress
5-29 October 2015
Exhibition Wall & Gallery
The Castle, Castle Way, Wellingborough NN8 1XA
01933 229022
www.thecastle.org.uk/colin-slater

Epping Forest

Corporation of London Christmas Card Commission  2001 & 02

Centuries of leaves
In a cathedral of trees
Carpeted with breeze

*

Alone in a crowd
Light dim. A face peers out
From a crumpled skin

*

Ticker tape welcome
Confetti fluttering like
Pennies from Heaven

*

Rockin’ and Rollin’
Arms raised, Hallelujah’in
Tall, time-worn trees talkin’

*

Time-worn veteran
A portrait of life etched deep
In wooden wrinkles

*

Family clusters
Small processions of figures
Regal, triumphant

*

A shower of sunlight
Tall canopy filtering
Sun streaked whisp’ring winds

*

Faces emerging
A woodland Nativity
In pollarded trees

*

Leaf fall glittering
Autumn sunlight flickering
Black crows bickering

*

Cascading deadfall
A jackpot of leaf pennies
A blanket of gold

Carribbean Crete

16 – 22 May 2015

“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!

Image making workshops at Dogsthorpe Junior School

– Landscape & Seascape

22 & 23.5.14

A couple of days working with children from year 4 at Dogsthorpe Junior School, Peterborough, to generate some ‘Landscape’ and ‘Seascape’ images following an invitation from Head Teacher Charlotte Krzanicki. The first day was spent using charcoal, the second chalk pastel.

I met with three groups of 30 children each day and sessions took a similar format, I displayed a couple of my own charcoal and chalk pastel drawings in the room so that the children could identify a comparison with my regular working practise and I also worked alongside them to produce a drawing too while they made theirs. We began by making an initial investigation and exploration of working with the medium which was followed by the production of a more finished drawing as a conclusion. However, although each group received the same introduction their end piece was a different subject.

In my own working practise as a painter I often produce interpretations of the work of others which I refer to as ‘Souvenirs’, a term stolen from Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, a nineteenth century artist who produced some wonderful watercolours of paintings he had seen and admired. The concluding piece for each group therefore was to produce a variation on the work of a Master, however rather than showing an illustration of a painting and making a slavish copy I described a scene and asked them to picture it in their mind before we worked together to make our interpretation of it.

Working on a board which they could all see at the front of the class to produce my own version I suggested a series of stages in which the drawing could be constructed. We drew a portion of the composition, followed by another, until the sections pieced together into a picture. The children were totally oblivious of the painting they were creating or its title until it was finished, and after their teacher had searched for it on the internet it was revealed to be shown to them at the end which made for an interesting comparison.

Day 1 had a ‘Landscape’ theme and the painting I selected for the first class was ‘Christina’s World‘ by Andrew Wyeth, for the second one of the many compositions of ‘Mont Sainte-Victoire‘ by Paul Cezanne and ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows‘ by John Constable for the afternoon group.

The theme for Day 2 was ‘Seascape’, with the first group producing a variation of ‘Snow Storm; Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth‘ and the second ‘Peace – Burial At Sea‘, both by JMW Turner, with the afternoon group tackling ‘The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset‘ by Claude Monet.

All the children made brave attempts with their image making and some successful images emerged. Unfortunately I didn’t photograph the children’s work so the examples illustrated here are the images I produced while leading each of the groups…………..

Nevertheless, these sunset images after Monet were all produced by the children and are a selection from the last group of the day. Considering it was a Friday afternoon and the last session before breaking up for half term, I think they produced some pretty breathtaking drawings!

3 Parts Dirt! 10cc Abba AC/DC Achille-Etna Michallon Ajaz Akhtar Alberto Giacometti Albrecht Durer Alice in Wonderland Amsterdam Andrew Wyeth Andy Warhol Arctic Monkeys Athletics Atomic Rooster Banksy Beatles Benjamin Marshall Bernard Cribbins Black Black Sunday Blondie Bob & Marcia Bob Marley Boxing Brian Brinkley Brushes app. Bucks Fizz Caesar Cambridge Camille Corot Cancer Canned Heat Castle Caverstede Early Years Centre 'Bigger Picture' Chalk Pastel Charcoal Charles R. Knight Charlie Small Children's Books Christo Claude Monet Coldplay Corinne Bailey Rae Coventry Creative Partnerships Crete Cricket Daniel Lambert Darren Fraser David Bomberg Deacon's School Dennis Creffield Diego Velάzquez Discovery Primary School Django Reinhardt Dogsthorpe Academy Drawing Edgar Degas Edvard Munch Egypt Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun Elton John Elvis Costello en plein air Epping Forest Europe Eurythmics Evolve magazine Exhibition Fitzwilliam Museum Floella Benjamin Foo Fighters Football Forest Schools Francesco Guardi Frank Auerbach Fred Astaire Frida Kahlo Fulbridge School Garage Door Gary Moore Gene Wilder Gentle Giant George Bellows Georges Braque Georgio de Chirico Gerry Rafferty Gian Lorenzo Bernini Gingerbread Man Giovanni Bellini Gladiator Glasgow Boys Glenn Frey Gnarls Barkley Greece Gruffalo Haiku Hands Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Hercules Brabazon Brabazon Iain Erskine Ian Anderson Ice Hockey Impressionism iPad Iron Curtain Jacob van Ruisdael Jacques Brel James Abbott McNeill Whistler James Ferrara Jamiroquai Jazz Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Jean-Francois Millet Jethro Tull JMW Turner Joe Cocker Johannes Vermeer John Constable John Lennon Johnny Kidd & the Pirates Juan Sánchez Cotán Jurassic Way Killer Shrimp King's Cliffe Endowed Primary School King's Cliffe Primary Kit Downes Quintet KT Tunstall Lanchester Polytechnic Landscape Landscape painting Lascaux Laurel Barbieri Leningrad Lenny Kravitz Len Tabner Leonardo da Vinci Lewis Carroll Little Red Riding Hood Loch Craignish Lonnie Donegan Luke Steele Lynyrd Skynyrd Mad Hatter Madness Manfred Mann's Earth Band March Hare Marvin Gaye Media Media Archive for Central England Michael Jackson MichelAngelo Modest Mussorgsky Mosaic Moscow Mural Muse Music National Gallery Newark Hill Primary Nickel Creek Nick Ward Nina Simone Oasis Obsidian Art Gallery Owl Painting Panda Panorama Paul Cezanne Paul Gauguin Peterborough Peter Paul Rubens Picasso Pirates Pleurisy Pneumonia Portrait Procul Harem Queen Radio 3 Essential Classics Rafael Alberti Rainforest Ray Charles Red Hot Chili Peppers Rembrandt van Rijn Rene Magritte Right Angle Gallery River Nene Roald Dahl Rock Music Rod Campbell Rodrigo y Gabriela Rod Stewart Rogier van der Weyden Rolling Stones Romans Rome Rowlatts Hill Primary School Royal Academy Roy Clark Russia Salvator Rosa Sarah Walker Scotland Seascape Self Portrait Sistine Chapel Small Faces Sport Steppenwolf Stereophonics Swimming Talking Heads Terry Jacks The Automatic The BFG The Crooked House Himley The Editors The Jam The Killers The Moody Blues The Red Deltas The Sensational Alex Harvey Band Thin Lizzy Thomas Faed Tina Turner Titchmarsh School Titian Tom Jones Totem Pole Trompe l'oeil Tuscany USSR Venice Vienna Vincent Van Gogh Volcanic Voyager Academy Warmington School We Are Scientists William Hogarth William Law Primary School Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club YouTube

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