Barcelona Spain through the Eyes of a Traveling Artist

Where we are staying in Barcelona is intimate, warm and relatively safe. But this is one huge and sometimes stressed city. People often do not make eye contact and are in a world of their own with a kind of pinched expression that comes from longstanding worries. It is not uncommon for middle age women to flinch at the sound of my footsteps on the sidewalk behind them. It is every-so-slightly but I know I am not mistaken when they turn and look directly at me – a safety practice I learned myself many years ago. When our host dropped by to change over the propane tank to a fresh bottle he warned – keep the front door locked at all times. This is a safe neighbourhood but we are in a crisis. I had been doing this already as the door only has a deadbolt and no other latch. Still his concern matched my impression of the Barcelona. Some might quibble that Spain is in a crisis and not Barcelona but like it or not Barcelona is an important part of Spain.

 

The European Union elections were held while we were here and there is talk of another bailout for Spain. Unemployment is high in the city and even higher in other parts of Spain. As a visitor and as a guest in this country, I find it a valuable warning because this is not a city or country issue but a global one which is fraying its edges more visibly here than in other places we have been in Europe or in our home country of Canada.

 

There is one place where people let their shoulders rest easy and their stride loosens. It is in the Jardins del Turó del Putget. The people living near the gardens walk with their dogs, family and visit with friends on the benches sprinkled along the climb and at the top of the park. I walk here often. It is where one can view the city with a bit of circumspect.

 

Barcelona Spain through the trees by Terrill Welch 2014_05_25 050

 

The gardens are simple and natural with tough herb shrubs such as rosemary and lavender added to the ground cover. It is not a place noticeable on the tourist maps. Rather, it is just an ordinary functional green space with designated dog and children play areas. Here, one can read a book or a newspaper or do nothing at all. There are no work expectations on the hill of steps, trails and trees. It is a place of rest – a place to build resilience.

 

These are the underlying currents and observations that create part of the interpretative lens for my photography and painting in Barcelona Spain. Following is my round-up of our time here. It is not all-encompassing – just a few quick impressionistic brushstrokes.

 

Community and park spaces are extremely limited. Our neighbourhood playgrounds are on spears of land beside major thoroughfares. Our ground-floor apartment has a most prized private courtyard in the middle of tall apartment buildings. Its value did not register with me when we arrived but now I more fully appreciate its rare pleasure. One morning I set up my paints.

 

Painting in a Barcelona Courtyard by Terrill Welch 2014_05_25 111

 

I want to capture courtyards private beauty and mystery. To do so means painting the spaces between the actual forms using light and colour to guide the construction of a meaningful composition. The results are an abstraction of sorts but the energy of the space after the morning rain remains.
Small Courtyard in Barcelona Spain

10 × 12 inch acrylic painting sketch on canvas board

 

Small Courtyard in Barcelona Spain 10 x 12 inch acrylic painting sketch on canvas board by Terrill Welch 2014_05_25 144

 

(Art prints are available at Redbubble HERE.)

 

One of our most pressing reasons for coming to Barcelona was to see Antoni Gaudi’s work in person. What we didn’t realize was how mainstream and popular his work had become with visitors. After we assessed the potential for crowds, lineups and disappointment we took a circular approach. This involved a few scouting trips before actually making a commitment to a more engaging visit to Park Güell.

A prized seat in Barcelona

A prized seat in Barcelona by Terrill Welch 2014_05_27 245

That invites us repeatedly to stroll its length and look out over the city.

try done Reaching out to the Barcelona Park uell by Terrill Welch 2014_05_27 262

Sometimes Gaudi’s buildings seem to be cloud to cloud.

Cloud to Cloud Park Guell by Terrill Welch 2014_05_27 165

Yet, from other vantage points they are tucked right into the city.

At the edge of Park Guell by Terrill Welch 2014_05_27 068

Whether walking tree to tree

Tree to Tree in Park Guell Barcelona Spain by Terrill Welch 2014_05_27 102

or admiring the stretching supports

Stretching Park Guell Barcelona Spaint by Terrill Welch 2014_05_27 119

or the details of water collection at the front or back of the mosaic seating,

Water collection Park Guell 1 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_27 205

there is no denying the creative thought, care and vision of Gaudi’s work. It wasn’t designed to be a public park but it makes a good one! Some, including Gaudi feel that the church is his most important work but it is this park that most speaks to me.

 

In the end, we decided not to visit Sagrada Familia at all and nor did we stand in line to visit Casa Mila. Instead, we saw only its roof top

 

roof top of Casa Mila by Terrill Welch 2014_05_29 012

 

in favour of a few walk-by visits to the summer home – Casa Vicens

over the top on Carrer De Les Carolines by Terrill Welch 2014_05_29 004

with its point of interest (yes, I am being cheeky).

point of interest on Casa Vicens by Terrill Welch 2014_05_29 024

We trekked over to the private school, Colegio de las Teresianas, but I didn’t even take one photograph as the angle and size of the buildings was resisting my framing eye.

 

However, the medieval castle – Torre Bellesguard,

Torre Bellesguard 3 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_30 018

was ours alone late on Friday afternoon. We indulged our need for all-things Gaudi

repaired at Torre Bellesguard by Terrill Welch 2014_05_30 029

while noting the amount of upkeep required for keeping mosaic work in good repair.

breaking patterns at Torre Bellesguard by Terrill Welch 2014_05_30 034

This morning I thought about our time in Barcelona and what one thing I truly wanted to paint on our last full day. Can you guess where I went?

 

Jardins del Turó del Putget Barcelona Spain

25 x 35 cm plein air acrylic painting sketch

Jardins del  Turó del Putget Barcelona Spain 25 x 35 cm plein air acrylic painting sketch by Terrill Welch 2014_06_02 028

(Art prints are available at Redbubble HERE.)

 

I did not take my camera with me as even though it feels safe in the park, I am unable to keep an adequate on its whereabouts and it would interfere with my painting if I was to wear it while working. This time you will have to be content with just the finished work and the comparison of an image from last evening at the top of a park where a four-legged friend made us laugh with his pure joy.

 

Top of Dog Park Barcelona by Terrill Welch 2014_06_02 004

 

Tomorrow morning we will leave and return to France with the first stop being Avignon for three days. I am more than ready to leave Barcelona but this rather stoic city has grown on me and shall remember it and its people fondly.

 

© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

How do you pack for three months travel to London, Paris, Dijon, Basel, Venice, Florence, Nice and Barcelona?

The short answer never changes when packing for a trip does it? Let’s say it all together…

TAKE AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE!

But what does as little as possible look like?

Here are three clues:

1. If you need to sit on a suitcase that is as up to your waist and wider than the bathroom door in order to close it, you are not there yet.

2. If you don’t think you can carry your luggage and pull out your passport from your safety wallet at the same time, you still have some work to do.

3. If you are wondering if you are going to be able to hire someone to carry your belongings or you can’t imagine carrying it up four flights of stairs all by yourself, it is time to reassess.

When David and I traveled in Peru for a month we only had one small backpack of carry-on luggage each. When we came home we had one extra small bag to check that contained a few gifts. At the time I wasn’t painting and only had my much smaller film 35 mm film camera. There were no iPads and we didn’t even consider taking a laptop because Peru had lots of internet cafe locations. This time we have much more gear to pack and we are going for a longer stretch of time. Because of this and because we will be in such diverse climates we decided that one piece of carry-on each wasn’t going to work. We purchased one narrow medium-sized, hard-shell bottomed suitcase that expands into two separate pieces if we need it. We will have one carry-on each containing mostly camera equipment, laptop, ipads and toothbrushes… and this one suitcase will be checked.

For clothes think comfortable, versatile, happy being crumpled, easy to wash and layers. Bring only the clothes for what you are going to be doing and half as many as you think you need.

Take as little as possible by Terrill Welch 2014_03_23 070

We are not night club people. We have no wedding to attend. So dress clothes and dress shoes are just not needed. If we change our mind later, then it looks like I get to buy a new pair of shoes 😉 But I won’t pack these things with me. I do have a simple skirt and top that can go anywhere for a nice dinner. That is it. But the skirt and top is also equally suitable for a day traveling on the train or a morning walking along the beach or strolling an art gallery. I don’t wear make up, use face or hand cream and I don’t take any medications or supplements so this helps keep things simple.

However, there are a few don’t-leave-home-without items that I do include in my packing:

Travel things by Terrill Welch 2014_03_23 074

1. a small bottle of liquid hand cleanser. This was so handy on our trip to Peru that I seldom have been without it since.

2. safety money belt with RFID blocker which means only a small amount of cash for daily purchases is ever readily accessible. Extra tip – when choosing your clothes make sure you do not have to strip or risk getting charged with indecent exposure to get at your passport, train pass and credit card and bank cards in the money belt. Hence, I packed a skirt and top not a dress.

3. since we will be checking one suitcase I have included a sewing kit with scissor and fingernail clippers. If you are traveling with only carry-on leave these restricted items at home and purchase them when you get where you are going. Note: dental floss is crazy useful as a thread if you remember to bring a needle big enough to use it this way.

4. electrical adapters if they are needed. This didn’t used to be such a big deal but we have too many electronic toys to leave home without them anymore.

5. your sense of humour! Never, ever go on a trip without it. Ever. There will be times when you will be so tired you want to cry. There will be times that everything will seemingly go wrong no matter what you do. This is when you pull out your rather squished, rumpled sense of humour – give it a good shake, dust it off and put it work – and always remember where you packed it where it is easily accessible.

Now for my nice-to-have items:

Travel essentials by Terrill Welch 2014_03_23 068

1. one quick-dry compact towel shown on the right in the photograph above. This item went with us to Peru and was mostly used to dry my long mop of hair but also can be used to lay food out on and as a blanket when cold or to cover your head when you don’t want to see anyone… particularly the person you are traveling with – I am teasing but you get the idea.

2. a pocket raincoat that is tough and durable. I like my hands free and holding an umbrella is just a pain. Besides I am short so an umbrella is actually a dangerous weapon to be welding on a busy street.

3. a pocket day-pack for maps, hairbrush and food – NOT for money, credit cards, bank cards, passport, camera or iPad or anything else valuable. If the pack is lifted you want to be able to shout after the person…. have a nice lunch!… then be on able to move on with the rest of your day.

4. an inflatable head and chin support. This is something new we are trying but we have one overnight flight and some long day trips on the train. I will report back after the trip to let you know how well it works.

5. maps… if you like maps that is. I will spend a good amount of time looking at maps before and during a trip to familiarize myself with the lay of the land so to speak. I like to be able to imagine how various places relate to other places even before I arrive. This keeps the anxiety down once I am on the ground. It is not a necessity because tourist centers have maps and if you are taking a smart phone then paper maps might even be easy to skip. But physically looking at maps is just something I deeply enjoy and it will keep me occupied for hours of traveling time.

6. one hard copy book for when the iPad or kindle is packed away or the battery has run down.

Then, there are just a few things that MUST be left behind:

1. your travel plan and essential information with your emergency contact person.

2. any sense of entitlement or ethnocentric righteousness. Different doesn’t mean wrong. It only means different.

Now we are all packed and ready to have fun! Yippee! Eight more sleeps 🙂 Oh! Did we forget anything?

 

What is one little-thought-about item on your essential packing list for three months or more travel?

 

© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

A Brush with Europe – an artist’s rendering coming soon

Merci, grazie, gracias, Thank you! A Brush with Europe blogging category begins for this artist who has planned a three month trip by not planning much at all. Right now the best indicator of what is going on inside my head looks something like this…

A Brush with Europe by Terrill Welch 2014_02_03 108

There is a poem in Leonard Cohen Book of Longing p. 46 that adequatly captures my misgivings and doubts.

The Moon

The moon is outside

I saw the great uncomplicated thing

when I went to take a like just now.

I should have looked at it longer.

I am a poor lover of the moon.

I see it all at once and that’s it

for me and the moon.

My fear is that I don’t want to be a poor lover of Paris, Venice, Florence and Barcelona. But right now three months in Europe seems too short to accomplish anything more. I am reading, watching videos, talking to people and learning as much as I can in advance. However, this just seems to increase my doubts rather than relieve them. What to do?

Well, anytime I feel like I am in over my head, which I am confident is a reasonable description of my current situation, I slow down and eat some greens.

Winter Salad by Terrill Welch 2014_02_03 054

Winter in a northern climate is not the easiest time to create a summer like salad but it can be done. Then with the addition of a good handful of pecans and a couple of warm hard-boiled eggs I a ready to go to work.

Salad with pecans and eggs by Terrill Welch 2014_02_03 081

First things first – revise the travel planning list. Ah yes – return tickets from Vancouver to London and medical insurance, suitcase, RFID blocker money belt, and plugin adapters are purchased. Next, sign up for AirBnB and arrange for a caretaker house sitter. See? Not so hard. Non capisco? Mi dispiace…

What is your first response when you are in over your head?

Note: I will be starting a new blogging category for this trip called “A Brush with Europe.” I thought about setting up a separate blog but that just seemed more trouble than it was worth. Since I will be doing painting sketches, photography and writing as we travel by train from London to Venice then on to Florence, the Cote D’ Azur and Barcelona (beginning in April until near the end of June) this in-progress blog should work just fine. Besides you all know how to find me here and this way I won’t be lonely 🙂

 

© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com