Animal Feed, Crete
11" x 14" oil on canvas
I understand the thrill of it all now. I have always seen it from the one side, with feelings of that experience from one perspective only. But from now on I can say that I have been on the other side, and felt the scene that I usually only witness. And it all happened in Iraklion.
The furthest thing from my mind that day was the purchasing of a fine piece of art. Something that I could ill afford at the time, as vacations usually set ones mind to frugality, and cash is something brought out carefully, especially the further along on the trip that you find yourself. So there we were, my wife Gale and I, in the shade of the venetian-like narrow streets, protected from the Cretan sun, strolling along, map in hand heading towards the Iraklion Archeology Museum. It was a magic time for us both as we inhaled all the sites, sounds and smells with every step, dust underfoot and and history absorbed into every pore.
In this interesting mixture of Venice and Greece inhabited by the modern, Gale stopped suddenly in front of a little shop window on our right. It was sandwiched in between a hairstylist and a bakery. Walking just a step or two behind, at first there was nothing that caught my eye. But following her pointing finger and the irresistible look on her face I veered in, and with hands cupped to block reflections, I peered into what looked like a small painters studio. I could see little paint jars of various colors. Brushes in cans. An easel bare of work but with sketches clipped to its post. All orderly arranged but with a productive look. And, for me, that was enough to warrant more of an investigation.
On the walls, above the paint covered tables were, of various sizes and images, magnificent golden icons, the kind one sees being held aloft during Russian or Greek orthodox processions. On peering closer, we could see figures on horses, saints flexing their wings, kneeling figures, clusters of holy people, men and women, all done with such rich colors, and a glow of faces, some tender, some serious. We were both taken by this magic moment. There was a man in the back room. We could see him, busy with something. We entered, he noticed us and we greeted.
14" x 11" oil on canvas
What took place next was Gale and I showering him with many compliments, and him, politely nodding. We wanted to make known to him our appreciation of his skill and and the beauty with witch he created his work. At one point, Gale told him that I was a painter, and I too, liked working in the old style. Even though you cannot compare 17th century Dutch sitill life with Byzantine era religious images, there was a connection in the fact that we both created from the heart, and that there was a seriousness that we both shared for the work that we did. I think that he was able to better see this as our conversation continued. It took a bit for him to warm up, and our experience did end up one that will last forever in our minds.
This is the point which brings us back to the first thought of this topic; I understand the thrill of it all now. We were not going to buy anything, it never even crossed our minds, we just wanted to get a better look at this amazing work, meet the artist and share our enthusiasm with him, then continue on our way, towards the museum. And this we did, leaving our new friend and his shop, walking quietly together to meet up with the rest of our family. But a few paces down the street, we both stopped and looked at each other. A twinkle of conspiratorial delight forming between the two of us. "Maybe just a small one." Gale said suddenly. "When are we ever going to get this chance again?" I replied with,"What a missed opportunity this would be. Lets not be stupid." "An original hand painted Icon, done in the traditional way, straight from the artist in his studio!" With the adrenalin of a true shopper we turned and headed back to the Icon painters little shop. We explained to him that we could not return home without taking one of his treasures with us.
From this point on, the experience got even better. After choosing Agios Giorgos (Saint George) we were treated to the best of Cretan hospitality. We were introduced to his wife, who helped bring tasty treats from the neighboring pastry shop, and as well as Greek coffee being made we were also offered tall glasses of watered down ouzo. All of this, combined with further good conversation allowed us to leave the studio happy as could be, a little jittery from the strong Greek coffee, and a little loose from the glasses of ouzo. We strolled out of the studio on Idomenos street, carrying our new work of art from our new friend, Antonis Theodorakis, painter of Icons. When we left, I told Antonis that my wife and I would be coming back to Crete, and with a smile, he replied, "And I will be waiting for you."
I get it now! I have seen this very scene play out many times in my booth at art shows. And now I can say that I have also had this same great experience.Maybe I should start bringin bottles of ouzo to the shows! Sounds good to me.
11" x 14" oil on canvas
Figs and Grapes Still Life
30" x 40" oil on canvas
The last of the Yale art lecture series on Dutch painting happened this mid-March. I know I have mentioned these events in previous Whitbeck Notes, but I cannot stress enough how so well worth the trip they are. The lecturers are great, very informative, and they always have various topics from my favorite period, the seventeenth century in Holland. The last lecture was given by Professor of Art History at the University of Delaware, H. Perry Chapman. And such a great topic it was! Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt van Rijn and the spousal model-muse. These two great artists and the use of their wives as models, but of course Professor Chapman went deeper then the title, and when all was said an done, you felt that much richer in the understanding of artists in that period, a private tour of the behind the scenes of that art world. Like I said, so great!
There will be another round of lectures starting later on in the year. This will be the last round of lectures surrounding the van Otterloo collection being temporarily exhibited in the Yale Art Museum. I will be mentioning the new lectures when dates are released.
Crab Still Life
30" x 30" oil on canvas
Horses. You will have noticed the new painting at the top of the page, that of a horse in a stable. You never know where inspiration will come from, and how it will manifest itself, and this painting was one of those occasions. The scene, as simple as it was, just struck me at the time, and I felt the excitement to work on this piece. There was an amazing Dutch genre painter by the name of Gerard ter Borch, and even though he primarily worked on interior scenes with elegantly dressed figures, he had this one quiet barn scene with a horse and two figures. I cant recall off the top of my head the title of the painting, but I recommend looking it up. After I had seen my horse, I immediately thought of this painting, and became inspired to put together and produce this new, for me, subject matter. This horse was such a joy to paint. And what could have been a challenge to capture; the sheen, the texture and the glow of this beauty, ended up being quite the opposite. I look forward to the next inspiration.
Be sure to visit my website, www.jameswhitbeck.com to view new paintings and see the latest updates to the art show schedule.
Happy Spring! And all my best,