Travels With My Art

A compilation of Chris's humorous and entertaining travelogues, revealing some of the pitfalls and frustrations, as well as the joy of being a professional artist. Hoping that his efforts abroad will continue to bring in a daily crust to continue supporting his family at home!

31 May 2010

Monday 17 May 7.30am at the bus stop Perugia

Well, last night was good value. After two more beers at the ‘Bar Olympia’ I was best friends with ‘Salvatore’, an enthusiastic local who engaged me in conversation; his English not much better than my Italian but we were helped by the girl behind the bar who had worked in England. I bought him a drink, and whilst he smoked one of my cigars he pulled me aside and told me “not to trust the Perugini”. He said his family comes from Naples, but the Perugini are very close. They don’t like outsiders, although once they accept you they will look after you like family. Me, Stefano (the bar owner) and Lucky ( his dog) were all great pals by the time I left. There’s a wonderful view from the Farmhouse, a  panorama of blue green hills which were all twinkling in the half-light as I returned along the track to be greeted by the farm dog, the geese and the cockerel.

Later on Monday, rained off in café in Perugia.

Bus into Perugia – the road surfaces are awful! I nearly took my teeth out and put them in my pocket, it was so boneshaking. The outskirts of Perugia are typical urban Italy; noisy, fumy, industrial, confusing and wearisome to the pedestrian. Then suddenly through an old gateway, and we go back in time. The Palazzo Pubblico has not changed at all, although it is now known as the Palazzo dei Priori. I did a drawing in this sketchbook with no cheating at all and it was much the same as the Plate 2 from EH.

Eventually I found the Porta Augusta, but it is known here as the Arco Etrusca which threw me off the trail. I arrived to find it a gridlocked traffic nightmare, with no goatherd driving goats in front of it. There was a café though, and after a coffee, I drew the second sketch form exactly the same angle as in Plate 1 of EH and it too is quite unchanged. A hundred years on it still looks as though it is about to fall down! After that I got lost as usual. Oh, plate 3, the Piazza del Mercato, was the there but without a market there, there wasn’t much to draw, so I moved on finding a view off the edge of the city across the hills. I was about to embark upon a drawing, but was seriously rained off, so I’m huddled here until the rain passes.

30 May 2010

Sunday evening in ‘Bar Olympia’, near Perugia

..and the usual fun and games to the start of the trip. What did I expect? Why to arrive in sunny Italy, find a bus from Perugia airport to the main city centre, thence to get a bus to the ‘Perugia Farmhouse Backpackers Hostel’ as directed to on the website. Then tomorrow morning to return to the airport, pick up the hire car, and we’re off!

The reality? I arrive in the early afternoon to the airport of Sant’ Egidio, which is a village hall in the middle of nowhere. Not a bus in sight, just hovering taxi drivers looking to strip me on as many euros as possible. It’s also overcast, and it’s been raining. So, I have a coffee and pastry (cheap and wonderful!) at the airport ‘Tabacchi’ and then go to the Hertz booth to see if I can pick up the car a day early. They’re OK about it, but they don’t have a ‘clean’ one for me, only one (a Lancia) with a few bumps and dents on it. Much better!

I’m not so worried about driving it! So, I risk my life on the roads, but despite having printed off Google maps, spend a good hour driving all around the outskirts of Perugia, ending up on goat tracks, main roads, unknown villages, all on dreadful roads full of potholes. And we moan about out frosted roads this year! Eventually by sheer persistence and some cavalier u-turns I reach the Perugia Farmhouse.

It’s wonderful. Rustic in a sort of 1970’s bad plumbing sense. Reminds me of my first experiences in Italy. Shower, shave and emerge into a cool evening landscape and start to form impressions away from travel stress. We are surrounding by dark blue green hills, cypress trees, vines and olives. But it is not dry and arid, but verdant and sweet, and quite unlike any other part of Italy I have yet experienced. I am already intrigued


Sunday 16 May At the airport (Stansted)

Security checked, breakfasted, and texted to next of kin. On finishing my breakfast (in Frankie and Bennie’s) the Italian waiter commented “It’s good you are flying this morning; the airport is due to close again at 5o’clock today (due to more volcanic ash from Iceland). My luck seems to have been like that for some time; I feel blessed in the decisions I have made, and how they have somehow worked out for me. “There but for the grace of God” as the saying goes. And feeling ‘blessed’ is perhaps appropriate as I head fro the hills of ‘Umbria Mystica” as it is sometimes known.

 But why Umbria? Edward Hutton brought with him a wealth of knowledge concerning Renaissance Art and history. He visited when the Grand Tour was still alive in Europe and was most interested in the ‘Lucas’ and Peruginos’ in all the churches and cathedrals he visited. I have no such education nor academic interest in old paintings, frescoes or altarpieces. The baggage with which I travel is more personal. Not being a good tourist, I have to bring my sketchbook and watercolour pads along in order to feel ‘connected’ to my surroundings. It is of course the architecture of the old cities, the landscape as a setting, and atmosphere of the whole region that I shall be seeking out, and of which hopefully, (Deo Volente) I shall be recording my ‘impressions’.

Impressions of the Cities of Umbria

Sunday 16th – Monday 24th May 2010

This was inspired by the purchase of an old book by the same name, written by Edward Hutton, and published by Methuen, in 1905, with 20 colour plates taken from original watercolours by ‘A.Pisa’.

The book was found by chance in an Oxfam shop in Highgate one Sunday morning; I was immediately taken by the spirit of the book, and in particular by the attractive watercolours. I wondered what these old cities and hilltowns are like now? And how would I paint and draw them..?

7 May 2010

Sketch of the Week

Old folk sitting on a bench in Cirencester today! I took a surreptitious photo but was spotted by the old chap with glasses. The two ladies on the right were having a good old chat while waiting for the bus. And why not?
I painted this first just with a brush, and then drew the outlines afterwards. Makes the thing slightly chaotic, but I like the freshness it gives.

Architectural Sketch of the Week

These two ‘cottages’ are not actually within the Cotswolds, so it’s brick and brown tiled roofs, but they’re rather smart, and sit in nice sized plots. The development is still only just past the planning stage, so the building hasn’t yet started, but I’m pretty confident this is what it will look like.


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