I Hung My Nightgown to Dry in the Tuscan Sun More Than Twice

Today the sun shines but we have had some great thunderstorms  and we were glad we could borrow umbrellas during this past week.  On a particularly miserable day, while we were tucked into our apartment that is part of an old Farmhouse on the outskirts of Florence Italy, I read advice in a travel guide on how to see four towns in a day while traveling by train in Europe.

Farmhouse courtyard Florence Italy 18 x 24 cm acrylic painting sketch on linen finished panting block by Terrill Welch 2014_04_27 004

(Farmhouse courtyard Florence Italy – acrylic plein air painting sketch.  Art Prints available HERE)

Let’s just say we are slow travelers in Europe. Our minimum stay is three nights. Our more lengthy settling-in-visits are up to fourteen days. We have done some long days on the train a couple of times but mostly a five-hour trip is enough.

What does this really mean as far as being able to say we have been someplace?

Well, it means that we actually live like we would at home in the communities we are staying. We buy  groceries, mail letters, go to the pharmacy and run out of toilet paper, garbage bags and coffee. We need to do our laundry and hang it out in the sun to dry. That is the best part. Clothes that flap in a hot breeze under the Tuscan sun can never be taken for granted again. That white cotton nightgown of mine with the tiny bit of embroidery around the neckline knows that it will be worn until there are only tatters left for painting rags.

It means we don’t make it to all of the highlights and sometimes we hardly make it to even a few. Instead, I can be found painting on a hillside.

plein air painting southern Florence Italy by Terrill Welch 2014_04_25 136

The painting sketches are a quick way to deepen my understanding of the light, the land and a place.

Galluzzo Valley in southern part of Florence Italy 18 x 24 cm acrylic sketch on linen finished paint block by Terrill Welch 2014_04_25 145

(Valley in Galluzzo southern part of Florence Italy – acrylic plein air painting sketch. Art Prints available HERE)

It means there is time to be given not only to a lemon but a cedro which is not a lemon and about the size of a grapefruit.

cedro cut in half by Terrill Welch 2014_05_01 006

There is time to find a recipe by Elizabeth in Rome on how to make a salad using the sweet pulp of this fruit while the rind and dry center are composted.

Cedro insalata Florence Italy by Terrill Welch 2014_05_01 015

There is time to do a composite painting sketch in a makeshift studio that combines five different experiences that happened over about as many days.

Spring in Tuscany 20 x 30 cm acrylic sketch on canvas board by Terrill Welch 2014_05_03 030

(Spring in Tuscany – acrylic painting sketch. Art prints available HERE)

I begin to become familiar with the changing light in the narrow stonewall-lined lanes where the walls of homes sometimes converge with the pathways.

country lane in Florence Italy by Terrill Welch 2014_04_29 056

The fields and the hills start to speak in clear notes of recognition.

rolling thunder on the Tuscan Hills by Terrill Welch 2014_05_03 001

The courtyard becomes well worn with memories of breakfast, lunch and afternoon painting.

garden pots 18 x 24 cm plein air acrylic painting sketch on linen finished painting block by Terrill Welch 2014_04_29 030

(Garden Pots – acrylic plein air painting sketch. Art Prints available HERE)

There is time to use different photography editing tools to express the light’s dramatic effect on the courtyard

storm breaks  poster edges by Terrill Welch 2014_04_30 005

or a curved building at the top of the hill on the road out of town.

ink outline on the old road to Rome by Terrill Welch 2014_05_03 042

Whether it is a villa

villa across a Tuscan Field by Terrill Welch 2014_05_03 035

or a more humble dwelling

Via Dell' Amore Italy by Terrill Welch 2014_04_29 053

Florence or Firenze is so much more than crowded streets in the old town or the lookout over the city. The Village Road painted by Italian Macchiaioli leader  Giovanni Fattori in 1904 is very little different from the village roads here today.

(Village Road by Giovanni Fattori)

We have only today and tomorrow left in our two-week visit to Florence. David has headed off on his own to do a bit of shopping. I am considering if I have time for one more painting sketch. But mostly, it is time to start packing up our belongings and our hearts. It is time to say good-bye to the Tuscan hills, the fields and the narrow village roads. We promise, as good visitors sometimes do, to return. It is a sign of our love and appreciation rather than a true commitment. That is okay too, for such a possibility will be a welcomed gift during the short daylight hours of heavy rain back at home on the west coast of Canada.

We leave for Rapallo Italy on Wednesday from which we will then do a day trip into the Cinque Terre. From May 13th – 16th we will be in Nice France. The primary intent of our stay there is to see the museums of Matisse and that of Chagall. On May 16th we will travel to Aix en Provence where we will wander (and I shall paint) in the footsteps of Paul Cezanne until May 20th. We follow this up with three days in Narbonne France which will be our last stop before Barcelona Spain and our next longer stay of ten days where we will spend time with the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi who we have both long admired. This will take us to June 3rd with slightly more that three weeks left until we return home. As you can see, we have some shorter visits in this next stretch as we travel towards one of our major goals to visit Barcelona Spain. We will not know these places in between nearly as well but we can say that we gave them more than one-quarter of a day on high-speed town hopping European excursion. Yes, it is work to book trips independently, to plan each stay and each train trip and each meal that must be made. But I wouldn’t trade it for a fast trip. No that would never do. For it is not what we see with our eyes that sustains us but what we visit with our hearts. This is what drives my creative will, my desire to interpret and translate and this is what leaves me just a little sad with each good-bye.


Where have you most not wanted to say good-bye but instead promised – until we meet again?


© 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

Sea Spray over Green and Other Fragments

Having had a long and less than meaningful conversation with the still almost-full moon until three o’clock this morning, I am surprised to wake as the sun hits the tree tops in our valley. However, awake does not mean much under these circumstances. I gathered my camera and get a coffee, breakfast treat and sandwiches for lunch later at the local bakery.

Now what? I say to self.

Well, it is Saint Patrick’s Day. In honour of the day of green, a long ago almost forgotten wedding day and the blessing of being alive, here is a splash of sea spray over the green seaweed on the rocks at Reef Bay.

Breaking into Morning Light by Terrill Welch 2014_03_17 142

I am consciously aware of being in this familiar liminal state of neither here nor there, about to cross a threshold, at the edge or margins of life as I have known it. We are not always so fortunate as to have the advantage to prepare for such transitions and markers between this and then that. Today I do, at least as far as I can foresee. Let’s unpack this moment a wee bit before I go and call the banks to let them know about our travels.

On Saturday I worked or rather reworked a 24 x 18 inch oil on canvas.


Fabrication resting 24 x 18 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_03_15 020

This painting is about a deep despair that comes with global unrest and greed. It is about how we humans attempt to contort ourselves into something believable and good. We create fabrications that quickly are shaped into a kind of truth that is meant to secure greater wealth. These creations tarnish any good that was suppose to be the reason for our actions in the first place. This painting is about denying limitations. The limitations of oil, gas, life, beauty, and even greed. We can pretend to sit serenely looking out the window and watch the sunlight dancing on the sea. We can do this but eventually our body will remind us that this position cannot be maintained. We must get up, put our clothes on, and do something… even if it is only to slaughter a lamb for dinner. There is hope. The sky is blue.

This painting, as with the underpainting, will not leave my studio. Some paintings are just like that. The work is not painted using a live model.  I have however painted figures from live models and at one time there was a reference sketch when I did the original underpainting. Now, I think we can safely say that this woman is a complete fabrication a half-truth.

I have the first third of our travels booked from the time we leave Mayne Island with an overnight in Vancouver B.C. to catch a flight to London England and then to Dijon via Paris. From Dijon France we will go to Basel Switzerland before continuing on to Venice Italy for nine days at which time we will go to stay at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Florence for two weeks. During our time in Florence I will book the next part of our journey until we get to Barcelona Spain. My mind is filled with partial maps of strange cities and countries outlined by the short-stroked colours of pencil crayons as remembered in my elementary school mapping exercises. I am reading short stories by Colette and in between I clean the pantry, buy a new mop and string together the first names of our Airbnb hosts – Lindsay (New Westminster B.C.) , Kathy (Iver England), Tristan (Dijon France), Vesna (Basel Switzerland), Arianna (Venice Italy) and Nicoletta (Florence Italy). An email arrives to say the Queen of Burnaby ferry is remaining docked at Village Bay Mayne Island due to weather conditions. The  CBC radio 2 host comments on a study that says if women have classical music playing when men visit their websites the women are found to be more attractive. For some reason this makes me think of a street image from last evening’s online surfing of Aix-en-Provence and then the paintings of Matisse, Cezanne and Renoir intersect just at peripheral of my mind-map. Again, I mentally comb the Cote d’zur shoreline. Where might we stay?

Ah, as you can see old patterns are fractured and lifted from there routine, making way for a new marker or reference point in my life. There will likely always be a before and after we traveled to Europe. So I must leave you the reefs of Mayne Island as I pack my present in anticipation of an unknown but easily imagined feature. We do not know really what it will be but the cracks of organized thought are temporarily widening between my past, my today and tomorrow.

Yet, there is a shadow on all of this with Russia’s confidence in taking Crimea and the United States and Europe in sanction-imposing but seemingly futile resistance. I am reminded that fate has placed me in an unexpected and unprecedented historical privilege. I must accept this. I must remind myself to be humble as I sparingly hand over wads of cash for our travels while cringing at what it will do to our modest savings account. We are not wealthy travels. We are however wealthy global citizens. We have all we need and at times such as this even some things that we want. I have no real answer for this disparity that I always feel most acutely during times of great expense. The guilt tinges all thoughts of the pleasures about our travels. The greed of it all in traveling for three months to Europe, how could I!? Yet, I will. I will pack that ugly little bag of privilege close to my heart and take nothing for granted. I will carry it so closely and tightly to my body that something good will come from it. I promise.

What green is your green on this Monday of Saint Patrick’s Day?

© 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