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Adventures in Spain

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I’m off to fill my creative well with some quality time with my sweetie and adventures in Costa Brava, Spain. I invite you to come along and fill your own well with goodness along with me. After all, the next best thing to going on a trip is following along vicariously. Click on photos to view larger + captions.

Day One had us in Girona, with amazing food, gazpacho, paella, jamón and great Spanish wines. It’s a charming city with the Catalan vibe that makes this part of Spain beat. Sigh, I’m in heaven —  if I’m not, please don’t tell me!

At the Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain — just all kinds of mind trippy cool goodness. I could have spent the whole day there and then some. What a mind! What are your favorite museums throughout the world, and which are on your “bucket list”?

From the sea to wine country and back to the sea, all on a bike. Seeing the wonders of Spain at 15 mph. Yes and yes! I’m surrounded by inspiration via sights, sounds, smells.

Snapshots, glimpses and vignettes. More adventures — and creative well filling — in Northern Spain!

Biking from one seaside village to the next. Riding alongside the Pyrenees Mountains, snow-capped and majestic. Completely awe-inspiring landscapes.

Seeing the world in terms of landscapes, I sometimes forget to take photos that tell the story of a culture. Here is my effort at photos that go beyond the landscape to depict what we’re experiencing in Spain …

Today’s adventures had us biking through magical, mystical northern Spain. From the coast and in, just a bit, to Pubal. Here Dali bought and renovated a old castle for Gala, his muse and wife; this was a gift to her to have as a summer retreat. She accepted the gift under one condition: that Dali never come without written permission. He agreed, saying all life had conditions and this one reminded him of courtship, despite their having been married since 1917. And so… this is how it worked for them!

A few highlights from the Spanish countryside …

New friends and astounding views!

Curious new friends, vast open fields of poppies and wild flowers, mountains and the sea. I concur, Catalonia is definitely for me. This is a place that mixes the old with the new, plus a side of funk. From the food, to design, to the spirit of the people. Was Dali inspired by Catalonia, or has Catalonia been inspired by Dali? Either way, you feel him everywhere in this region.
Filling up my creative well. After all, it has been said that a relaxed mind is a creative mind.

Art comes in many forms! A visit to the market left me completely delighted (but perhaps without appetite) — so many colors, textures and unusual sights. And a few fur babies for good measure!

The only thing better than recharging your creative batteries through travel is doing it with your favorite person by your side. (My husband Marc, that is!)

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Catalonia is winning me over in many ways. As a region it is European cool, meets old school + modern funk. Design surprises that delight, with food wine and art that matches. I’m inspired to say the least!

The Picasso museum today left me enchanted and inspired more than I can put into words — but unfortunately, no photos were allowed. Thankfully, the art of the streets here in Spain is just as inspiring, and a photo taking dream! The colors, the people, the sights, the sounds — all creatively stimulating.

Flying home with my creative well and soul full. A head swimming in inspiration. From the fantastical mind of Dali, with crazy amounts of talent, to the genius of Picasso’s early years — and throughout his career, as he continually reinvented himself. Both were so clearly influenced by Catalonia. It lends a deeper understanding of their work to see the food, wine and whimsy all over Catalonia. The surreal beauty of the countryside. The art and design of the region, which is unique and whimsical.

Ironically and predictably, all of this has me thinking of and longing for my studio. Lending inspiration to my Northern Michigan landscapes. Influenced to explore deeper, my own roots, the influence of my own region.

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Roots vs. Wings: How Art Gave Me Both

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IMG_5538Art saved me. It has that power. Not that I was in trouble — I wasn’t. I got in enough trouble in my youth, true enough, but it’s not that kind of saving I needed. I needed to be saved from the mundane, to have a outlet and a language in which to express myself. I needed the language I call art.

As I was thinking about my beloved road paintings that I’ve been writing about recently, I got to thinking about “the roads not taken.” We all have plenty of those, I think.

I was brought up in West Michigan, in a wonderful but conservative, Dutch Reformed family that I love with all my heart. But my soul — my soul is Brazilian, like Carmen Miranda at Carnival. (But with much fewer people, because at heart, I get my energy by being alone. You get the idea.) Still, my little soul was not conservative, Dutch Reformed at all.

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West Michigan is a great place, because I believe you blossom where you are, but Carmen Miranda isn’t a really a beloved figure here. It is a place that values conformity and following the rules quite a bit. This was always confusing for me. At 16, I broke into tears — I mean a full-on ugly cry. When my mom (and also my favorite person on planet Earth) asked me what was wrong, I sobbed, “I love you and Dad so much, Mom, but I don’t want to grow up to be like you, with kids, church on Sunday and, well, so traditional. It’s just not for me.” My infinitely wise and calm Mom said, “So, don’t. You get to choose. Choose what fits you; choose something different.” I remember all the dramatic wind of my teenage sails falling away and thinking, “I can do that?” Which became, “I can do that!”

But much as I might not like it, that darn Midwestern Dutch DNA was deeply ingrained in who I am, and it reminds me of roads NOT taken. The time I went to Mexico to study art, secretly hoping I would end up moving there, but no, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around not having a steady job and being that far away from my roots. That anxiety that came as part of my DNA package. Couldn’t do it, and worse, I found I didn’t really want to. After my six-week study program was over, I came home.

There was the dream I had to spend a year traveling Europe picking grapes in October and finding odd jobs here and there. My longest trip there was 10 weeks and prepaid; no finding work along the way for me.

There was the invitation to hop on the back of a bike in Ethiopia and travel on that bike to Cape Town with a very handsome man. I wanted to be the type of person that could do that, to sleep under the stars in Africa, but all I could think was black mambas also sleep under those stars and god knows what else — oh, there’s that anxiety again. But I was in Ethiopia. I was there for two months that year and have returned eight times. In that way I have always been true to myself.

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So I choose a life my mom has always described as roots and wings. But the roots have never interested me to paint; it is the wings I always turn to. I paint what that road from the back of a bike might have looked like, but I view it from the safety of a truck. In my Goddess of Wine series, I paint the absolute carefree spirit. That series was greatly influenced by Josephine Baker, who just looked so damn celebratory and free of any anxiety. Yes, I want to paint that. My inner Carmen Miranda. I paint from the perspective of being always barefoot with the wind in my hair.

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I am so very at peace with who I am and the roads I have taken that have been far greater than I could ever imagine. But in my art — well, there I get to explore any world I wish to create, and then you, my viewer, in turn get to bring your inner world, secret fantasies, roads traveled or not, to my art and let it remind you of whatever it is that makes you smile, whatever floats your boat.

In that way, the art collector gets to have as much fun as the artist herself. Note: I am also a art collector. Art can save you, too, help keep the mundane at bay, even if only as an art owner. Go enjoy art today, go smile at the roads not taken and the roads you have taken. Insert yourself into that piece of art and have a flipping ball. In fact, be the belle of that ball. Own it, my friends, and I’ll keep creating!