I stopped while bicycling by this herd of sheep grazing under Portugal's cork trees. A soothing pastoral scene. We think of sheep as creatures who meander or mindlessly follow a leader - whoever seems to be in front of the pack. Why do they do that, I wonder.
So, I get back on my bike and silently wonder if the sheep watch us as we pass by with the same curiosity; a long line of strangely clad creatures sitting on a narrow uncomfortable chair atop a 2 wheel contraption, mindlessly peddling and sweating away, following our obvious leader clad in spandex (I'm conspicuous in my cotton cargo shorts), to a destination yet unknown. Why do they do that, they wonder.
Oh well, enough philosophical speculation. Suck it up. Only 15 more miles to go to my next destination and a beer.
History of migration, invasion and conquest assumes many faces, not always destruction and death. There are times when a face of assimilation, cooperation and advancement emerges, attributed I think to human reason and faith. Europe has seen it's share of both.
This impression was driven home by the our visit to Seville, but especially to Cordoba and the magnificent architecture which once witnessed nearly 700 year peace filled coexistence of Islam, Christian, and Hebrew traditions. Everyone profited, God was honored, and social order thrived.
I was dumbstruck when touring Cordoba's 8th century Mezquita Mosque which surrounds the more recent (16th century) Gothic Christian church, designed to be built this way by King Charles V, champion of the Roman Catholic counter-reformation. The Jewish quarter and Synagogue are just around the corner. All this would change during the turmoil of inquisition politics. Our tour guide humbly described facts of this unique time of peace, and hinted at it's significance as part of the soul of Spain.
I was unable make a drawing which captures the harmonious synergy of that time - maybe later as it sinks in and as I do more research. For now, my sketch of Seville will have to do.
I asked the toreador if there was any relationship in the moves of bullfighting to the moves in the dance of flamenco. "Of course not", he said. I think he was insulted.
I didn't mean to insult. But only two days earlier we ate at a local restaurant in Ubeda which was also hosting a wedding party. Our tour leader invited three charming little girls, high from the festivities and wedding cake, to join us. There was singing and dancing at the party, Our tour leader asked "do you do Flamenco?" "Of course" was the response of one precocious 10 year old, followed by a spontaneous demonstration quickly choreographed between adult and child ('could be mother and daughter) showing steps obviously common in a Spanish beginning dance school.
It was sweet, and so unexpected that no one captured the scene on camera. Now only a memory; the posturing, the graceful moves with a cape or shaw, the use of staccato rhythm to excite the mood, made me assume there must be some coincidental relationship to the bullfight. My bad. But I'm not convinced either...'something quintessential-Spanish in both of these aesthetic and athletic displays.
We ended our trip with a planned dinner-time visit by professional Flamenco dancers. This sketch captures that scene, reminiscent of the wedding party.
Sara pointed out a shop near the bullfight ring in Ronda, I think, that sold original etchings. The strokes of the artist were accurate and inspiring, charged with emotion. Of course, I was not allowed to take a photo of his work but I did get permission to stand there and try to capture, in my sketchbook, one of his pieces with my pen.
After 15 minutes I decided to buy that piece to complement a purchase Sara was making. Back home I'll attempt to imitate this artist's style and energy. In the meantime, here's the sketch I began, with permission, while shopping.
The day before, we had the opportunity to tour a farm which breeds bulls, and offers the more aggressive ones for competition. There we learned about the business as well as the pageantry of this fading "sport" from the toreador - rock star himself. (Curiously, on our return flight home, I found the airline offered the cartoon movie "Ferdinand" and found myself pleasantly reviewing our tour of Spain while Sara slumbered.)
Storks are a protected bird in Portugal and Spain. They build their huge nests now on towers of high power lines, telephone poles, and free standing platforms erected by the state. Biking past these structures we paused to marvel at the engineering that has gone into the homes of this creature - some weighing over a ton. Storks mate for life. They don't migrate anymore; simply add more material to the nest year after year. This time of year we had the opportunity to see the adult tending to chicks while the mate was searching for food from fields and streams.
This picture is one of the last from my sketchbook record of our Iberian vacation, about 12 sketches in all.
In Spain, we're absorbing the history, culture, and contributions this small part of Europe has made to our world. I don't know if I didn't pay attention in history classes or if it really was just treated as an appendage to the rest of European history. But the influence ancient Phoenicians, Jews and Moors made upon "Christian" Europe and the world is remarkable, especially when viewed through the lens of a tourist, on site.
Here's one sketch-book view from the corner window/balcony of our renaissance palace/hotel, a couple days ago - but it would also have been a couple hundred years ago!
A hidden gem tucked away in the woods of Kennesaw National Battlefield, the perfect "field trip" getaway for school children called The Youth Museum. The title is really a gross understatement. This is a place where grade school youth supplement their "book-learning" with an opportunity to live out episodes of our nation's history by play-acting
I was privileged to be asked to contribute a drawing of the building as it is today, anticipating a major changes in the near future. This picture will hopefully add to a successful fundraiser planned for next weekend. If you attend (and hopefully you will) take a look to compare the drawing to the actual building and it's setting. Did I nail it?
After a long time away from making any entries onto my website, I'm finally trying to get back into the game. The past few months, I've been teaching a course about the protestant reformation. This began from a task I put upon myself to prepare some sketches inspired by our trip to the Czech Republic nearly 2 years ago. This, and other daily living challenges, took me away from this wonderful world of web site maintenance. More about that later.
Currently in California to celebrate March Birthdays with inlaws, I had opportunity to sketch scenes found in Borrego Springs. Here's one from my sketchbook.