Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Art Lessons

Today I had my first art class with various people from the expat community here.

The lovely lady who organizes the Saturday walks (one of which I went on last Saturday), also happens to be an amazing artist. She has a lovely studio across the way from her house in Harakopio.

Thinking that I should probably force myself to have contact with people, whether I want to or not, I signed up for this four week "mixed media" course with utter trepidation.

When it comes to actually letting creativity flow through my finger tips, I tend to freeze up and create a soggy pile of miserableness.

I arrived to find everyone already assembled in the white washed studio with high wood-beamed ceilings and bits of art work pinned everywhere. I pulled out my painting shirt (which happens to have Michael Buble's face plastered on the front of it - I was definitely judged accordingly), and listened attentively to our instructions.

We would be working with, I learned, acrylics, wax, vaseline, scrapers, paint brushes, and bits of newsprint. With a brief outline of various creative paths it would be possible to go down, we were set loose at our workstations.

There were too many options, and not enough directions, so I started to hyperventilate.

Finally, I slapped a few of my favorite colors on my paper, scraped them around with the edge of an old credit card, and stared at it in disbelief.

It looked bloody awful.

I sank into a a vague depression, and poked around with a few more pieces of paper.

And then.

We went on to the second stage "resisting" - using wax and vaseline and acrylic washes. I tinkered with the wax, and played with the vaseline, and in a fit of adventurousness, added a dark gray wash. I started to scrape it back, and then suddenly....

my work was transformed.

Peeking out of the grey was a glory of crimson, and indigo, shot through with copper and bursts of yellow. I know that sounds crazy, but somehow it works, and it works well.

At that point, I started to have fun. When the morning ended, about two hours later, I was splashed up to my elbows with paint, and I was so, completely relaxed that all I wanted to do was lie in the garden for a nap.


Over our coffee break (Gill's husband made us glorious coffee and brought out plates of cookies), I met my newest hero. She is an Israeli/Irish/Brit, who. seven years ago, moved with her husband and three children to Greece.

They were so sick of the rat-race in London, that they gave it up - threw it all to the wind. They sold their house and bought a plot of land in Greece. Her kids wander through the olive groves and play all day - "I think it is really good for them" - and they attend the local school, and at this point know Greek better than English. They spend their summers in England and Israel with family.

As she said "We spend almost no money, because there is nothing to buy, and we live off the land. What is important is that we continuously get to know ourselves, and what it means to really live, and live well."

Wow. People talk about doing something like that, but who ever actually has the courage to follow through?


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  2. Mary, your blog has helped me see the value of these personal blogs as an art form. I enjoyed the posts I read very much. They expose the human condition and help me laugh at my own weaknesses and failings. A mutual friend of ours, Carmen, once said that it takes generosity to be a good writer. You show that generosity.

    I do have a question, if you don't mind. The CBC radio presents the situation in Greece as purely depressing and dire. Middle class people are dumpster diving. The elderly are roaming the streets talking to themselves, as their children no longer have time to care for them, consumed as they are with the struggle for survival. The poor are being taxed to death, while the rich are allowed to hold on to their loot in exchange for keeping the government in power. What do you see? What do you think?

    Maria Cameron

  3. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for the lovely compliment - that means a lot!

    AS for the situation in Greece: I am not sure that I am at all qualified to comment, as I am sure the countryside (where I am), is different from the larger cities.

    However - I did spend three days in Athens. One thing my taxi driver told me is that from what he can make out, news reports on goings on in Athens, and Greece in general, are vastly exaggerated. He used as his example the riots in Athens that we read so much about over the summer. He said that the demonstrations encompassed exactly two streets, it was a few thousand people, and the rest of Athens went on as normal, ignoring them. Now - reading those news reports in North America, one would have thought that the whole of Athens, and almost the whole of Greece was over-run by the rioters and paralyzed because of them.

    My landlord (who is British) expressed a similar kind of sentiment when he told me that all of the news reports with regards to Greece are vastly over-exaggerated.

    I did wander around Athens a fair bit, and got lost quite a few times, ending up in less "touristy" areas. I saw no dumpster diving, or addled seniors. I did see gypsy children wandering around everywhere - but that can be said of all European cities. However, like I said, I was not there long enough to take an in depth lay of the land.

    In Kalamata, where I was a few weekends ago, which I believe has about 80,000 people, there was a lot of hustle and bustle. I did not see any idlers, or any begging, or really any confusion. It seemed to be a normal day in a busy town. Around the bus station - which is usually the armpit of almost any city - there was a surprising lack of homelessness/begging/idle men.

    Here in the countryside, the small little villages do seem to be populated mostly by the elderly. The village I live near to though, does have a fairly bustling lower and middle school, which the children from the surrounding area attend. There is not a lot of industry in the small towns though, so what I have noticed is that the younger generations seem to come from the bigger cities (where they work) on the weekends to visit grandma and grandpa/mom and dad.

    I have no doubt that as the villagers die, the villages will die with them - other than olive picking, farming, and fishing, there is not much else to do. As farming becomes more a big industry, small farmers don't really have a place. Perhaps, and I can see this happening, the villages will just be taken over by the various Europeans who retire here or move here for the peace.

    THAt is a long answer to your question - but here in the country everything seems peaceful, albeit aging. There is a vague sense that this is the end of an era - Greek villages populated by Greeks might not exist in the next 50 or years.

    In the small amount of time I have spent in the larger cities, I did not see anything like what you describe, and people more qualified than I seem to think that such reports are vastly over-stated.

    Hope that kinda sorta answers your question!