In the fall of 2018 I left a very personally meaningful academic day-job that I had pursued while also maintaining my art career. I was finally able to take the long-anticipated leap and finally shift my attention from being a ‘hybrid -artist’ to a full-time focus on my own art-making and on my private teaching and coaching in the creativity arena. (Go here to check out information on my offerings in 2019.)
What better way to celebrate creative freedom and further the kind of reflection that best support shifts in perspective than to travel? My spouse and I decided to decimate our travel savings account and head to Spain for several weeks along with our adult son, Daniel, who is also an artist.
We flew to Madrid and then traveled by train to the town of Jerez, near Cadiz, in the South of Spain. There we spent the first three weeks of our trip in Jerez, sharing a wonderful Airbnb rental villa with the family of my artist friends from Alaska, Nikki Kinne and Ken Kokjer and their extended family. Nikki and I have known each other since 2003, first virtually and then in-person. We were drawn together through our art and our families have come to adopted each other. (Some of you may remember Nikki from the ‘Painting-a-day for 33 days Project’ we shared in 2011, and my writing about our time plein air painting together in Arizona).
Merging our families for this trip was pure fun as we were finally able to introduce family members and friends who just knew of each other though photos and the stories we have told over the years.
The villa was lovely, and large enough to contain as many as 11 adult and 5 children at the same time, and it had a cold water pool as a central feature. There were many adventures and much exploration that took place in our time there.
To insure we got our ‘art time’ together with all the adventures taking place, Nikki and I decided to do a daily art practice each morning of painting together outside somewhere in Jerez. Every morning we would head out at 9:00 for coffee and toast and proceed somewhere new to paint, returning around noon to spend the rest of the day having tourist adventures with our families. Daniel joined in the painting most days, and we had others of our group join us on occasion, at least for coffee.
We painted on the grounds of the villa sometimes but most of our painting took place outdoors in old town Jerez, Spain.
Spaniards love eating and drinking out-of-doors, (firing up out-door heaters when the temperatures dropped to the 40 degrees) so there were lots of cafes with table outside. There is also the expectation that people will sit and visit for hours without being rushed out with the bill. We found we could commandeer a table and with a small purchase we could feel welcomed to stay and paint there for hours. Daniel, Nikki and I spent our almost three weeks in Jerez acquainting ourselves with the plazas and cafes if the old town of Jerez in the mornings, drinking ‘Americana coffee con leche’, or orange juice.
“Plein air” painting is about leaving your studio interior behind and experiencing painting and drawing in an open-air landscape. The practice goes back for centuries but was emphasized and became known as an art form by the French Impressionists.
Their desire to capture the changing qualities of light in their paintings coupled with the recent creation of transportable paint, allowed artists the freedom to paint “en plein air,” (the French expression for “in the open air”).
At home I do not have a regular plein air practice, though I have explored painting on site in the past in the north woods of Wisconsin and I do enjoy nature journaling and have taught workshops on the topic in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum ( I have a workshop on nature journaling in the planning on May 19, 2019 as a special event associated with an upcoming exhibition in the James Watrous Gallery, Uprooted:.Plants in a Changing Climate. Watch here for the workshop information to be listed.)
Here are a few more images from Jerez Spain December, 2018 and early January 2019.
We did get outside of Jerez, and captured the architecture if a few other places like Cadiz.
In early January Akeem, Daniel and I continued our trip through the south of Spain, visiting Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, Valencia, Barcelona, and back to Madrid. However, after leaving our Jerez family, but we did not maintain the daily painting practice beyond the city of Cordoba. (However, Daniel created and sent wonderful watercolor postcards to a few lucky friends at home.).
This was the adventure of a life time for me. The whole trip to Spain was wonderful, and we came away with many new friendships and insights into the culture and history of Spain. I enjoyed every part of the trip, but my time in Jerez, and mornings painting with Nikki and Daniel, will stay in my thoughts and heart for a long, long time.
One of my intentions for my full-time art practice at home is to continue to take the time to mindfully incorporate the art of observation regularly into my art making , whether it be through maintaining a nature journal or a regular plein air painting practice. I will keep you posted on how it goes.