Nau Côclea Residency - Log 10

I spent my final day packing and trying to finish up Darker Side.  I cut it really close - the painting was wet most of the evening but finally around 9:00pm I was able to wrap it up to put in my suitcase.  That last night I woke up a number of times to blow my nose.

The next morning I took the train back into Barcelona and then switched to another train that took me to the airport, where I then had to find the bus to take me to Terminal 1 - the international departures terminal.  Due to the infrequent train schedule and my therefore early start, I thought I was going to have to wait at my gate for about two to three hours, but actually by the time I got through security and customs to my gate it was only about half an hour before boarding (though boarding was over an hour ahead of departure). 

I ended up getting stuck in a middle seat, which is particularly unpleasant on a ten hour flight.  Luckily, the woman next to me started trying to figure out how to sit next to her partner who was two rows back and after they asked some other guy who weirdly preferred his middle seat, I volunteered myself to switch with her partner who luckily was on an aisle.  Then the flight attendant saw me and since I was clearly willing to move, asked if I could move again to bring another family together.  She offered a window seat (no thanks - I like to be able to get up without asking someone else to move) but I countered with aisle and she made it happen.  As the flight started taking off, I realized that the stuffiness last night was because I was, in fact, getting a cold.  Honestly, while I'd have preferred no cold at all, it was better that it happened on a travel day and not during my last few days in Spain.  Getting the aisle seat was super helpful, though, as I made at least ten different visits to the bathroom for tissues.

That flight also had some of the most abundant food services I've ever encountered.  They had more than twice the amount of services that the initial flight had - we had a full pasta meal, then later they offered ice cream, then they offered pretzels, and then they brought another slightly smaller meal around.  This was all quite nice since the rest of my travel was uneventfully but tightly sequenced such that as soon as I landed in Charlotte and found my next gate I had less than ten minutes before boarding it so I wouldn't have had time to get more food if I had wanted any.

Finally I arrived in Kansas City, and though my bags were really slow to come out on the carousel, they appeared eventually and my wonderful colleague Susan was waiting to take me home.  It is so nice to have a trustworthy, friendly face to welcome you back after some time away.

Nau Côclea Residency - Log 9

The next day I went into Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, to check out the Dalí Museum and the Sant Ferran Castle.  The town itself was a little smaller than Girona but was quite nice.  After wandering around and eating lunch, I ascertained when my tickets could be picked up and found I had a couple hours, so I walked up to the castle.  It was a very long and mildly perplexing walk, as various signs to the castle pointed in completely different directions and the roads were very unpopulated.  I split the difference in the signs and it turned out well for me.  The "castle" is really an old fortress.  It was pretty interesting to walk around, but my feet started to disagree with me.  I persevered, though, and then went back down to the Dalí Museum.  There's an associated Dalí Jewelry that I actually went to first; it was really interesting to see his sketches turned into precious metals and stones as some pieces transcended the drawings while others were lackluster in comparison.  I thought it was interesting that he aspired to create great value apart from the intrinsic value of the materials and viewed making jewelry as another media within his studio practice.

Then I went into the Dalí Museum.  It was a really good museum - just the right size where you're able to spend several hours there but you leave having seen everything and feeling accomplished.  I didn't know that he was so interested in stereoscopic imagery and other optical tricks until coming here.

After the museum I made my way back home.  I'm not sure my feet have ever been that sore before (and the rest of me was fine!); I had worn a different pair of shoes that day and think that may have been part of the problem.  So the following day was a studio and foot recuperation day.

Then I went back to Figueres as I wanted to look around the downtown area more - I had planned to do it after the Dalí Museum, but due to my sore feet that day I didn't.  Plus the town is really fairly close by train from Camallera so it didn't burn too much time doing so.  While I was wandering around I saw they were constructing something in the center plaza (la rambla).  I asked what was happening and they said there was going to be a beach installed there the next day as a Saturday event.  I asked two or three more times as I thought I must not have heard right.  Why install a beach in the rambla when there are beaches everywhere by the sea in each town including Figueres?  When I went back to Camallera that afternoon I asked Clara what this was all about and she had no idea but we looked it up and sure enough, it was a small festival.  I decided to go back to see it and painted the rest of the day.

The "beach" ended up being two small piles of sand and then a lot of little tent shops selling mostly stuff that I wasn't interested in - books in Catalan, baby bibs, leather goods, seafood paella, and so on.  I don't mind checking things like this out though because if you don't go then you always wonder what it would have been like.

I painted again that evening and the following day.

Nau Côclea Residency - Artwork #4

This is acrylic on pastelbord which is a clay ground textured with marble dust granules.  Due to the high heat here, most of the time the snails spend sealed inside their shells to conserve moisture, but on the summer solstice the rain brought several of them out and one explored my left thumb for quite some time.

Titling this one Balancing Act.

Nau Côclea Residency - Log 8

I made a quick evening visit to the French-Spanish border town of Portbou on Friday.  Clara said I'd want to see the architecture and that it's a kind of uncomfortable/creepy place - not touristic at all, though.  When I got there, it honestly didn't seem that different than other small Catalonian towns (and did seem to have a bit of tourist industry going) although there was more decay evident.

Then the next day I went back to Barcelona to do the other half of the tourist bus route.  I primarily wanted to see La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, but also wanted to check out the Glories district.  After eating a really nice lunch of sangria, gazpacho, and coca (a sort of focaccia/pizza) with a green tea cheesecake for dessert (though I have to say, cheesecake in Spain is pretty much uniformly disappointing - the texture is not smooth and creamy but rather kind of fragmented and crumbly), I headed for La Sagrada Familia.  When I got there, it turned out tickets weren't available to be sold until two hours later and at that point you'd still have to wait in a long line, so it would probably be at least three hours just to get in.  So I only got to see the outside, which was nice but also partially covered in construction.  Then I went to Park Guell, which requires quite a hike from the bus stop.  Once I reached it, I found out that it, too, had over a two hour wait to even be able to then wait in line to buy a ticket.  I could walk the circumference of the park for free, which I did, but there wasn't much to see as they'd purposefully gated off the actual park to start charging entry a few years ago. 

I was irritated, to tell the truth; I felt the whole situation was pretty opaque and tourist-gouging (you could buy a much more expensive "cut-the-line" guided tour).  This type of multiple-level entry delay doesn't typically happen (as opposed to just a line, like at the Eiffel Tower or the Sistine Chapel) and wasn't something I was made aware of in conversation or online prior to experiencing it in Barcelona.  As a result of both its frustratingly sprawling nature and the waste of my time trying to see these sights, I have to say that despite the hype Barcelona is definitely not one of my preferred cities in Spain, much less in all of Europe or my overall global travels.  Within Catalonia, I prefer Girona.

On Sunday I was invited to Clara's sister's neighboring house to have lunch with a group of about eight people.  First we dunked ourselves in the outdoor bath to cool off (the days here are regularly around 90-95*F) and then had a bit of vermouth and tapas followed by gazpacho, salad, and paella, followed by a fruit tart, chocolate, coffee, and limoncello.  It was a really nice, drawn-out meal with lively conversation.

Then the following day, Clara wanted me to go back to Barcelona with her, first stopping at Granollers Centre to see an artist residency/studio center there and then continuing on to Hangar, another arts center in Barcelona.  I met some really cool people at the Granollers Centre, and then Clara and Lourdes, an artist friend of Clara's, and I all headed off in Lourdes' car to Barcelona.  We had a light lunch and then made our way to Hangar, where Clara was to be interviewed by one of the artists there while Lourdes and I hung out.  We had the option to leave and explore, but for the first two hours, we just sat and conversed, as it was very hot outside and we were tired from all the earlier activity, plus our conversation was surprisingly intense and interesting, given that my Spanish is not the best and Lourdes doesn't speak English.  But after two hours, we decided to leave and get some gelato.  Apparently just as soon as we finally left Clara's interview was done, but Lourdes' phone was on silent and I just didn't hear mine (it gets really bad reception here, so I'm not sure it even made any noise).  Lourdes noticed that Clara had called, though, so we headed back with gelato in hand.  Clara and I were supposed to take the train back to her car, but since we were a bit later than intended due to the phone/gelato confusion, Lourdes decided to drive us back to her car.  Both on the way to Barcelona but particularly on the way back out, they kept getting us lost with competing and often wrong ideas about where to go (Clara seemed more right than wrong, though).  I kept offering my GPS up, but they seemed to enjoy the heated discourse and resulting forays into weird dead-ends.  They both said a GPS wasn't necessary, but I'd guess that we spent at least 40 minutes that day on being lost.  I think it's a cultural disparity, as they really thought it was odd that I kept suggesting it...

The next day Clara and I went to a bird sanctuary in the early evening - we got to see some cranes and ducks from afar as well as some really cool jumping fish, but not much wildlife up close - and then to her friends' hotel in L'Escala for a really tasty dinner of mussels (I explained to them earlier that I do eat bivalves since in the ways that matter to me - cognition and pain reception - scientists believe they are no different than plants).  Elena, one of the pair running the hotel, also showed me her artist studio.  I really liked her artwork; it was also inspired by nature but in a much more abstract, sculptural way.

Nau Côclea Residency - Artwork #3

Here's an acrylic and watercolor on aquabord.  This one is titled Spirit.

In the first donkey painting, I used acrylic for the donkeys and watercolor for the background/foreground atmosphere.  In this piece, I used both acrylic and watercolor in the body of the donkey in order to achieve the various levels of opacity and translucency as well as watercolor for  background/foreground layering.

Nau Côclea Residency - Artwork #2

So if you've been thinking I've been a bit slower production-wise on this residency, you're right - I've been experimenting in mixing acrylics and watercolors and also trying out some new support boards and there's been some trial and error in figuring out how to combine them all together, plus acrylics are a slower medium for me than watercolors.  I think I'm onto something, though.  

This is acrylic and watercolor on claybord.  I'm titling it Perspective.

Nau Côclea Residency - Log 5

Saturday was one of those days of small amounts of repeated bad luck.  First, as I was packing myself up to head out for Girona again to take in the art festival, I realized that I had no idea where my non-prescription sunglasses were.  Obviously not as bad as losing the very costly prescription ones, but still.  I liked those sunglasses!  I resolved to buy some new ones in Girona.  Then I set off for the train.  As I waited at the stop for what felt like too long... it was too long.  I had accidentally loaded a train schedule for the wrong day and weekend trains are more infrequent, so I had slightly over an hour to wait for the next train.  The walk to or from Nau Côclea is about twenty minutes, so burning forty minutes just walking back and forth didn't make any sense.  I decided to see if I could find sunglasses in Camallera.  I did (though they were quite overpriced) and also bought a clementine and some water to help with the wait.

Once I got to Girona, I walked as quickly as possible to the arts festival, but I arrived just before 2pm due to the mistake in train timing.  I had been told to aim to arrive more at 1pm as at 2pm everyone goes off to eat lunch for a couple hours.  I did get to briefly say hello to the  director of the Bòlit. Centre and she introduced me to a few of the artists.  Due in part to my timing but I think mostly due to the newness of the festival, it was pretty underwhelming. There were four artists painting large murals, which were really cool, but apart from that there were just a few scattered stands selling relatively expensive jewelry and art.

I ended up staying at the festival for a pretty short amount of time and then just started to walk around and explore Girona again.  I stopped for lunch (paella vegetal) and then saw that I had just enough time if I hurried to catch a train back.  So I hurried... and got to the train station literally thirty seconds too late.  And again, on the weekends the schedule is more infrequent and I'd have to wait two hours for the next train.  The train station is moderately far from the heart of the city, so I grumpily started walking back into the city and bought a few groceries before catching the next train.  Some dude tried to gently take my backpack from me (not to steal, I don't think - at least not immediately - but to test my boundaries and if he had succeeded to make it harder for me to want to walk away) and other weird behaviors in the train station again, but I managed to distance myself without issue.  These are the times, though, that are frustrating traveling as a single woman.

The next day I worked in the studio.  The following day I also mostly painted, but additionally had an excursion to a small rocky beach with Clara and a friend of hers in the evening.  It was actually so nice and cool outside that evening that it was a little too cold for me to want to swim, but Clara promised many future opportunities. 

The next day was once again devoted to studio work.

Then I got sick.  This isn't a huge surprise; I actually don't think I get sick that often when I'm at home, but when I'm traveling I'm always being exposed to new viruses and bacteria.  This time it wasn't a head cold like in Peru or Iceland - it was a stomach bug.  Clara, in fact, thinks it may have been caused by drinking the potable but high in nitrates tap water, but I suspect that would have been a more immediate issue if it were the real problem.

I was sick for two days, which was both annoying from a productivity stance and also because we were supposed to go to Barcelona the second day that I was sick but I obviously wasn't up to it.  Clara was super sweet and made me a soup and rice and bought me a big bottle of purified water.

After those two days, I felt pretty much okay the next day and painted again.

Nau Côclea Residency - Log 3

The second day we went into Camallera in the morning with her car so I could stock up on groceries beyond what would comfortably fit in my backpack.  I accidentally bought yogurts with sucralose in them again.  This always happens to me when I'm traveling internationally, so you'd think I'd learn, but I always am so wrapped up in making sure there's no gelatin in the new brands I encounter that I completely forget about making sure they don't have artificial sweeteners.  I just hate the taste.  And I bought eight of them.  We'll see how many I can force myself to eat before I throw the rest away.

Clara also had to run an errand at a donkey farm, and mentioned in passing that she didn't think I'd be interested in going at all, but...  WHAT??! Yes, the person who applied to your residency with paintings of animals and abstracted natural landscapes does in fact want to join you on your excursion to a donkey farm.

We arrived at the donkey farm and it pretty much immediately started to rain.  But these were not your typical North American donkeys.  These were Catalan donkeys, which have ridiculously proportioned ears and are super adorable and sweet.  So despite the rain, I took a ton of source photos of the donkeys in between scratching their ears and trying not to step in donkey poo.  My poor camera.  I kept tucking it under my shirt for the worst of the rain, but seriously, this camera is a trooper.  I also encountered an insect called a hummingbird hawk moth, and it is a magical creature.  As in, it appears to be a unicorn/fairy/not of this world.

The rest of the day passed in a very sleepy, leisurely, jet-lagged state.  I did manage to get outside long enough to note that A) there are a lot of snails around Nau Côclea (to which Clara responded that côclea comes from the latin for spiral) and that B) there are a TON of ants.  As in, if you stand still outside for more than two seconds ants will swarm onto your feet and up your legs and bite you all over.  Clara commiserated and said she accidentally made them a home here with her when she installed underground drip irrigation and that she'd brought an entomologist in but they said there was nothing that could be done.  There is a powder she gave me that I can sprinkle just outside my doorway to try to keep them more out than in.

The third day was spent entirely on drawing and painting.