The Hermitage

The Hermitage – Watercolor – 10 x 14 inches.

A story: Doesn’t Mediterranean sunlight on a white church suggest a warm day? In this watercolor the opposite is true. A fierce wind from the North was shredding the clouds and making me and my friends, Antonio and Manolo, wish we had brought sweaters along with our pencils and brushes. We set up our gear in an empty field and began drawing. Within minutes we were shivering. Manolo, who had not been feeling well, packed up and retreated to the warmth of the car. Antonio and I gritted our teeth and kept drawing.

For me, drawing is a meditation. If you want to draw accurately you have to concentrate on what is happening. This is difficult in any situation, but especially when you are cold. However, the contrast between sunlight and the dark clouds fascinated me, so I kept working. After an hour the drawing seemed tolerable, even the wind thrashing the palm tree, but holding a pencil was impossible, so I stopped and joined Manolo in the car. Antonio followed soon after.

Since that November day three autumns ago, the drawing slept in a pile of unfinished work in my studio in California. I brought it with me to Valencia to finish it, but couldn’t: something was missing. Two nights ago she arrived in a dream, but not descending from heaven trailing clouds of glory. Her appearance was more like: “OK, here I am. What’s next?”

With my pencil and brushes I welcomed her into the painting. And I apologized repeatedly because she was so ill-dressed for the cold. The hermitage couldn’t offer her warmth, so we have to leave her here in the field as she pauses, trying to keep warm, trembling like a leaf, uncertain about what’s next.

A happy ending: “I forgive you,” she said, “and I’m delighted to have helped.” Then she returned to where she came from.

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