Bar Valentina

While jet lag can be a cruel traveling companion, she occasionally turns up some gold.

Despite a two day endurance test of travel to get here, we woke up early on our first morning, and set off to find an open cafe.


I am in Sicily with friends, in Isola Della Femmine, a working fishing town just north of Palermo. This cafe is on the waterfront, and does a brisk business with the locals.

It works like this: you start at the pastry end. Grab a napkin and a pastry of your choice (honor system) and munch on it as you approach the bar.

63896694-1DFB-434A-8A1E-A673037F8EF6Then order your drink at the bar. Shot after shot of espresso coming forth for the morning workers. Greet your friends. Loudly. Gesticulating. Laughing. (No way was I going to turn a camera on them!)



Toss a couple of euros at the server (more honor system) and make room for the next person.

If you’re a tourist, you take up residence on a bright plastic chair outside to watch the world go by. The subtle rhythms of the neighborhood make themselves evident, the locals getting on with it, we tourists sticking out with our weird clothing and huge camera packs.


You take pity on a pudgy pidgeon and toss him your pastry crumbs. He’s local too, and knows how to work it.


It’s not much to look at, but it seems to be an important hub for the community.


The food is great. The coffee is strong. And they are kindly patient with me as I hack my way through asking for a cup of tea in halting, rusty Italian.

Smiles are an incredible common language.



Art is Back on the Road – 2018 edition

Lucky me, I get to go a-traveling again.

I’m looking forward to thinking a lot about my next cup of gelato, and a lot less about the day-to-day stuff that fills my studio.

I’m looking forward to experiencing new art. Perhaps sketching it. Perhaps photographing it. Perhaps just sitting in the thrall of it.

The last time I traveled, I learned to capture my experience in an illustrated travel journal, and it was a wonderful way to practice looking at things differently.


I pared down my traveling water color kit for this trip (see the prior version here). One thing I learned last time is that if the kit isn’t heavy, I’m more likely to carry it with me!


I’ll also be posting on Instagram if you want to follow me there.

I’m looking forward to writing some stories!



Santa Maria Del Mar

After a steady diet of Gaudi, it was such sweet respite to find this church. Yes, I found another gothic church to sit in – it’s an excellent place to rest weary feet and souls. There are plenty of cafe chairs to occupy in Barcelona, but they require the purchase of a drink or some tapas, and city benches are sparse. So church it is!

As you can no doubt tell, I love to see gothic arches. There is something about the rhythm of them that just makes me happy. And this church, Saint Mary of the Ocean, is a fine example of 14thC Catalan Gothic. Its architecture has a lot of harmony because it was built in 60 short years. Eight euros got me a lovely guided tour, and a chance to climb one of the towers. I was able to walk along the rooftops, feet away from all the pretty windows. What a thrill!

A side aisle:image

The nave and rose window from the choir behind the altar:image

Over the altar:


Some stained glass, up close:

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Main view of the nave:image

One of the reasons the nave is so simply adorned is that during the Spanish Civil War, the church was one of many set on fire. All of the wooden ornamentation inside burned, and some of the windows melted. The wood has never been restored, alowing the clean lines of the Catalan Gothic to be seen.


The windows, from the roof!

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A more recent bell tower:

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The facade – it’s on a tiny square, so hard to fit into a camera frame!image

This church was built for the sailors and merchants of the area, and the stones were carried from Montjuic, nearby, by the port stevedores. I think this might be my favorite in Barcelona.

Park Guell, part two – the mosaics

The top of the park is a great plaza, which was designed by Gaudi and Guell for community gathering. The entire area was supposed to be a planned community for the upper classes, but was unsuccessful at the time as the movers and shakers wanted to be downtown, where the moving and shaking was going on. A hundred years later, the area has become one of richer housing – yet another example of Gaudi being a bit ahead of his time.

Around the plaza is a massive, undulating bench, covered in mosaic. COVERED. Gaudi used the same teams of artisans for his projects, so some of these motifs appear in his other buildings. The bench isn’t just decoration, either. It was carefully designed to channel rain runoff, and curves to your back in an ergonomic way.

Here are some of the areas of tile work I found interesting and inspiring. I can’t imagine the amount of raw materials needed on hand to play like this… I assume the tilers had access to the cast offs from every tilemaker in the district!

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Back curve and runoff channel:


I liked the positive/negative space play in this section:

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A rare 3D element:


This is the BACK of the seats:

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A rare animal head in the designs:

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A lot of han-shaped elements: (modeled by Dione, a fab British gal I met on a walking tour!)image image image image

In some places it looked like full tiles were just flattened into curves to fit the shape:

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Lots of motifs we’ve used in quilting:

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Many different shades of white and cream and pale tones of blues and pinks on the columns:image

Gaudi’s Park Guell

I braved two Gaudi sites yesterday, and it will take more than a couple of posts to share all the pictures. To be in Barcelona is to be surrounded by Gaudi, it seems – if not the buildings, then the souveneirs, all done in his style. I feel sorry for anyone who was trying to work during the same period, or since, for that matter, as they will always be eclipsed by the fanciful shapes that Gaudi created.


His style is incredibly unique, to the point that anything that has a bit of curve in it will probably always be considered some type of derivation. The only architect I can think of (with my sadly limited knowledge) who has played with curves in a way that feels fresh is Frank Gehry. And I would have to say with both of these men, having seen one building full of their moves sort of numbs your sense of awe to seeing more of it. I say this knowing that, while in Barcelona it would be nuts to miss seeing the inside of the Sagrada Familia, yet not quite up to the task after the thorough dousing of Gaudi yesterday!

I think what makes any art truly brave is a total commitment to the concept, dectractors be damned. And Gaudi managed this in spades. He loved his curves, his religious symbology, his fanciful shapes, and his mosaic surfaces. He was a huge student of nature, using those lessons to inform the structures of his buildings. He paid attention to the precious commodities of light and space, and interiors were just as important as exteriors.

He was very, very fortunate to have a patron in Guell, who paid for Gaudi to play. While I might be a bit oversaturated in it all today, I can honestly say I’m so grateful that a committee didn’t get the chance to dilute his visions. Those buildings rarely stand the test of time well enough to create a tourism industry.

Here are a few shots from Park Guell – just the major structures and such. I’ll cover some details of the mosaic work in the next post.


Look at the interplay between the trees and the structure (and the umbrellas!):image image image

The outer ring of columns lean in:

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I love how the nails are delineated in mosaic:

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Fanciful, like gingerbread houses!

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Heart shaped window whimsy:

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