Crepe Cafe

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

This morning, while waiting to see if this afternoon’s hydrofoil to Mykonos will sail, we go to an outdoor cafe for chocolate crepes and Greek coffee. These are not your delicate French crepes, oh no. These are Greek crepes, thick, almost pancake-like, folded into quarters and oozing with chocolate sauce. The warm chocolaty goodness melts in my mouth. I work on a sketch of the shops across the street while still enjoying the last few bites of my crepe. Our waitress, gathering our plates, smiles at me, conveying her appreciation of my sketch.

Today I’m drawing a little differently than I have been. I appreciate the fact that I’m not telling too much and leaving the rest to the imagination. It’s as if I’m drawing just the important parts, only enough to describe the scene.  My touch has also lightened, leaving space between lines and allowing the drawing to breathe. It’s really a type of vignetting, and I like the new style. I’ll have to work like this more often.

Oia, Santorini

After a leisurely stroll through Ioa to the far tip of the island, we walk beyond the whitewashed buildings and continue along a stone walkway that leads to the edge of a cliff. Climbing a set of stairs, we now stand among the ruins of the 13th century castle, Kasteli of Agios Nikolaos, built by Venetians to protect the island from pirates. During the time that the Venetians’ ruled the islands, it was christened “Santorini” after the Church of Santa Irene.

The old castle offers one of the island’s most spectacular views overlooking several other sepia-colored islands rising up from the cobalt-blue Aegean. Looking back, the pale, whitewashed colors of Oia spread out across the top of the caldera in contrast with the dark, rocky cliffs below. To the north, several prominent windmills rise above the city.

Another small note – although I was unaware at the time I painted this piece, the house that was used to film the old 80‘s movie “Summer Lovers” is at the bottom, toward the center of the painting. I happen to watch the movie again a few weeks ago just to see how Santorini has changed in the last nearly 30 years (yes, its almost been that long), and at one point, I paused the movie and noticed that my painting of Oia actually included part of the their house.

Santorini’s Lighthouse

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

We hop into the car and drive west to the faros (lighthouse), located at the south-western tip of the island. We pull up and park just below the square base of the lighthouse with its green-domed tower pointing skyward. Built well over 100 years ago, it was originally fueled by petroleum with a lighthouse keeper attending the oil lamps and lenses, and keeping the clockwork mechanism wound. But in the 1980s, it was converted to electricity, and now an automated system handles these tasks.

Hoping for a better view, I follow a path that leads to the top of a small hill. From this perspective, the lighthouse sits at the horizon with the open sea stretching out in both directions. Small white caps rise and fall on the water animated by a breeze blowing from the west. I try to imagine the darkness the lighthouse faces every night. Being a nocturnal creature, the lighthouse is generally viewed as a warning to mariners, but beyond that, a lighthouse has an archetypal presence, and has a romantic, lonely quality that resonates deep within the human spirit. It’s as if it has its own purpose, one which keeps it searching the darkness night after night for someone lost and beyond its reach. Feeling alone and a bit lost myself, I climb back down the hill.

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.

Blustery Santorini

I awake early and hop out of bed, motivated by my excitement of being on Santorini. I look out the window in hopes of seeing the rest of the island, but it’s difficult to see past the pension next door. Wishing for higher ground, I remember a metal ladder bolted to the side of the building right outside our door. With little hesitation, and no signs telling me not to, I climb up on the roof. It’s windy-really windy-with the smell of rain in the air. But the view is much clearer up here. The island stretches out before me to the east, tapering down to meet the sea off in the distance. I see a woman on the roof next door hanging laundry. The wind pulls one sheet off the clothesline and nearly off the roof. She hurries over to retrieve it, smiles at me, and returns to her work.