The Agora

(Excerpt from my book, The Artist on the Road: Impressions of Greece)

We begin our day in the Agora, an ancient marketplace just below the Acropolis. It looks like an over-grown garden with trees, bushes, and flowers but with the added bonus of architectural ruins scattered about. Although few people are present, it’s easy to imagine the crowds shopping thousands of years ago. I walk along Panathenaic Way as it cuts across the Agora. In ancient times, Greeks used this pathway not only for the market but also for the Panathenaic festival (the largest and most important festival in Athens) that was held each year in honor of Athena, the patron Goddess of Athens. The procession began at dawn, just north of here at the Dipylon Gate in the Potter’s Quarter. It then proceeded through the Agora and wound up the Acropolis to the Erechtheum where a peplos (a full length garment warn by women) was placed on the statue of Athena. Each year young women wove a new peplos specifically for the event.

Picking and Painting Wild Blackberries

With a small basket and sketchbook in hand, I walk down the old fire road near my house to a hidden blackberry bush that’s bursting with ripe fruit. It feels good to get out of doors and breath in the fresh air. Even with the strangely cooler weather we’ve been experiencing this summer, (about 10 degrees cooler than normal) blackberries are in abundance and tastier than ever. As I walk closer to the bush, a shapeless mass of green, I smell a sweet aroma hovering in the air.

Today I plan to paint the blackberry bush before filling up my basket. Holding my art supplies in hand, I walk around looking for a good place to draw. Luckily, I find a spot under the shade of a tree. I admire the berries in various stages of ripeness with colors ranging from inky black to a brilliant red glowing in the afternoon sun. As I pull out my paints, a couple of curious bees stop by to see what I am up to but they soon buzz off to more important matters.

While letting the watercolor dry, I reach for my basket and pick the ripe fruit, berry by berry, carefully avoiding sharp thorns. Inevitably though the bush will poke me, reminding me of the pain that often accompanies life’s pleasures and keeps the easily intimidated away. I eat some berries right off the bush, enjoying each one’s distinctive taste. Some are soft and sweet, and some are firm and almost sour. But what I love most is the inviting fragrance that smells like a delicious perfume.

Mykonos From the Ferry

(Excerpt from my book, The Artist on the Road: Impressions of Greece)

On the ferry, we find seats on the top deck, but a rainstorm kicks up, so we retreat to the warm indoors near a coffee shop serving everything from sandwiches and soup to beer and coffee. The ferry keeps a steady pace and rocks gently as it pushes through waves. Fortunately, it’s not enough to upset my stomach. Sitting next to us, a large group of people keep the place lively with jokes and uncontrollable laughter. It will be a long time before we reach Athens, so I browse over my completed watercolors and sketchbook drawings.

After hours of sitting, I feel the need to stretch my legs. I put on my jacket and climb the stairs to the upper level. A cool breeze rushes by as I step onto the wet deck. The rain has stopped, at least for the moment, as dark clouds still threaten off in the distance, dumping rain into the silvery sea below. I hear a low, pulsating hum from the engine that keeps tempo with the splashing of seawater against the boat. The rhythmic weaving of sound provides the perfect soundtrack to the moody weather. I enjoy this meditative state until it gets too dark to see, and climb back down to the warm glow of the cafe below.

Palm Where Leto Gave Birth to Apollo and Artemis

Up on a hill on the Island of Delos, Greece~  I take in the island laying before me and stretched out to the north. From up here, I see the circle of greenery that in antiquity was the location of the Sacred Lake, the spot where the goddess Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis, divine fraternal twins. This is the reason Delos was considered so sacred in ancient times. More recently, the Sacred Lake was drained to rid the island of malaria mosquitoes, and now it has filled in with a small forest.

Santorini Sunset

Walking along a courtyard located on the ridge of the caldera in Fira, I find several brightly colored, free-standing doors that have a surreal presence. At first glance, they look like gateways opening up to the sea far below. Each door is uniquely designed and painted. I enter through one and see steps descending to a terraced restaurant below. A menu listing mouth-watering entrees catches my eye, but the prices make me step back.

After Finding a place to sit on the edge of the caldera overlooking the sea, I watch the setting sun display deep oranges, reds, violets—a rainbow of color. Surprisingly, few people are here to take in this magnificent sight. Not far behind me, a jazz saxophonist sets up and begins playing old standards in a slow tempo, perfectly fitting my mood.

I wonder at the improbability of my presence here. It’s the one place I’ve always wanted to be. This moment, as fleeting as it is, is real. As real as the sea breeze. But somehow it feels more like a memory, rather than an event happening now. It’s similar to the feeling I experience looking through some of my old paintings. They are a window to my past, a record of what I saw, what I felt, and who I was at that time. Someday, I’ll rediscover the paintings I’ve created here in Greece buried in my studio, relics of my own life long past.

The Temple of Athena Pronaia, Delphi

Upon arriving at the ruins of Ancient Delphi, we learn that two-thirds of the site is closed due to technical difficulties. Grrrrr! This is very disappointing. We walk back to the entrance and talk to a woman at the ticket office at the gate. She tells us they’ve recently had rocks fall down the mountain onto the upper portion of the site. It’s very dangerous up at the Temple of Apollo and beyond. Understanding the situation better, we both calm down and look around, analyzing our options. My dad suggests I draw another part of the site, the Temple of Athena Pronaia, just across the road and a short way down the hill.

Once I’m at the Temple of Athena, I walk around to determine what might occupy me for the rest of the day, and I see plenty. Before me stand the ruins of the Tholos, a circular building of the Doric order, the function of which is still a mystery to archeologists. I’ll have no problem drawing here. What a relief. I pull my chair from its bag, unfold it, and begin to draw.

Hand Painted Moleskine Sketchbook Cover

I hand paint my Moleskine sketchbook covers in acrylic to personalize each one. This is one of two sketchbooks I painted and used while in Greece last October. The cover painting is a copy of an Akrotiri wall painting from the archeological site on the island of Santorini. The Minoan civilization that created the wall painting flourished over 3,600 years ago.