As December begins and we head to Zermatt and later Sedrun for Swiss winter holidays, Ruth and I look back on more than 12 months of travelling.
We packed up our home for rental in September 2018, said goodbye to our daughters, our beloved dog Kammie (now living with our elder daughter Helena) and farewelled lots of good friends to travel for a year or two. Initially we explored South Eastern Australia, with emphasis on again touring wonderful Tasmania, as we did the previous summer. Then in February this year Ruth and I flew to Cambodia, and then to Laos and Vietnam – touring in Indo-China for two months before arriving in Europe at the end of March this year.
Our European itinerary featured Paris and Provence, a month touring in Spain and two months staying in the ancient Umbrian capital of Perugia – our base to explore central Italy. We leased a Peugoet Estate 308 which has given us total flexibility wherever we've been! For the past five months we have been living comfortably in my wife's hometown of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland, immersing ourselves in delightful Swiss culture, and using this as our travel base for Western Europe.
Ruth and I on a walk in the Calanque, Provence, France
Our year long journey to date has been one of visiting art galleries, walking in beautiful coastal and mountain national parks, and immersing ourselves in the cultural delights of each destination.
In Paris visiting the L’Orangerie to view Monet’s large Water Lilies panels was a highlight. The modern and contemporary art of the Guggenheim Bilbao was great but visiting the Prado in Madrid and viewing works from Goya, Velasquez, Greco and Bosch was a dream come true, as was a visit to the Reina Sofia to stand in awe at Picasso’s massive Guernica. We had long wanted to see the Moorish architecture in Andalusia (Southern Spain) - the highlights for us being Grenada’s Alhambra Palace, the Mezquita de Córdoba (Mosque- Cathedral) and the Royal Alcázar of Saville. However at the top of our list of awe inspiring architecture throughout our entire trip is certainly Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona - we were simply blown-away!
In Italy the stand out was our visit to Florence's Uffizi Gallery and for me to gaze at what I deem the greatest of the early Renaissance paintings – Botticelli’s Primavera (Spring). Other Italian masterpieces marvelled at were the Justinian Mosaics in Ravenna (once the capital of the Byzantium Western Empire) and the Allegory of Good and Bad Government frescos in Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico.
From the pre-Easter semana santa processions in southern Spain, the culinary delights and village life of Italy to the history, modernity and sophistication that is now Switzerland, our trip continues to offer extraordinary opportunities for us to learn and grow.
Sandro Botticelli, Primavera, 1477-1482, Tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery
Being on the move I have concentrated on sketching and drawing, using dry mediums that are easier to travel with. I’ve favoured charcoal over pastel but managed work in both mediums. See some of my favourite charcoal work below.
La Couronne de Charlemagne, Cassis, Provence, 2019, charcoal on paper, 24 x 31 cm.
Storm Approaching Schleitheim, Switzerland, 2019, charcoal on paper, 24 x 31 cm.
Autumn at the Rhine, Schaffhausen, 2019, charcoal on paper, 24 x 33 cm.
I also purchased new oil paints and easel that I have used for both plein air and in studio work. I attended most enjoyable Tuscany in the Frame art painting workshops in Tuscany and Lake Como. Several of my completed oil paintings are from these workshops. I am usually a loner when it comes to painting but on this occasion I was commissioned by Australian Signature Luxury Travel & Lifestyle magazine to write an article on Italian art retreats, and enjoyed the experience very much. The story is in the current magazine edition - click here to read it.
The Road from Monticchiello, Tuscany, 2019, oil on Italian linen, 50 x 40 cm.
Just finished – From Bellagio, Lake Como, oil on canvas board, 31 x 40 cm.
We are not intending to return to Australia until mid 2020. We then plan to be travelling in Australia until the end of next year. There is lots of art to do yet! So our transient life will continue.
This winter I am looking forward to painting snow - this is my first full winter in Northern Europe - and its a subject I wish to master. I plan on conducting an exhibition of my drawings and paintings on our return to Australia later next year – keep posted!