Escombros – Pencil and watercolor/paper – 7 x 11 inches.

“We love it when artists come to live here in Spain, especially in Valencia, because our city is so beautiful. But most artists paint beautiful things. Why do you paint ugly things, like piles of escombros?” The word means wreckage, debris, and I had heard the question several times. For most Spaniards, escombros are an eyesore they would rather ignore. So why would anyone bother to draw them?

I like escombros because of the challenge: the shapes are complex and difficult to draw. You have to slow down and pay close attention, so drawing becomes a form of meditation. What struck me about this particular scene was not only the sad wreckage of a place where people used to live, but also its contrast with the church across the street. During the hours it took me to complete this little sketch, I found it impossible not to consider that the present will soon enough become the past and that one day the church itself would finally become its own pile of escombros.

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The Road and the Sky

The Road and The Sky – Acrylic/paper – 18 x 24 inches.

When we were children, my little friends and I would talk about what we would become when we grew up. No butcher, baker or candlestick-maker for us — (and no one wanted to be a cop or a fireman or the president of the United States). No: in our future there was a race car driver, a parish priest, a millionaire, a pilot flying jet aircraft against the Communists and a star center fielder for the Chicago White Sox.

Because I knew they would laugh at me, I dared not say that when I grew up I wanted to be a tree. I would grow tall and slender like a proper oak or maple and my green hair and my hundred arms would welcome owls and spiders, squirrels and ravens and all kinds of wiggly bugs. I would also have legs and feet instead of roots so I could wander through the world.

Life had other plans for us of course, and no millionaire or baseball player grew out of our dreams. My hair did not turn green either, although it shares the same fate as leaves in Autumn. My feet are still on the road and my head is in the sky, clouds in my eyes, looking at stars. Still thirsty for a cup of light. An answer.

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Night: Venice

Night: Venice – Watercolor – 10 x 15 inches.

Only a short walk from this little street, the Piazza San Marco opens its wide arms to a few tourists who don’t mind a light rain. A five-piece band dressed in white sport coats, black trousers, and black bow ties plays under an awning in front of a restaurant for an audience of one. A little girl clutching a stuffed bear sits at a table in the front row and gazes raptly up at the violinist, who plays directly, and only, to her.

You pause for a few moments. Where are her parents? you wonder, then keep on walking. You’re a traveler, not a tourist. It’s midday at your mother’s home on the other side of the world, where it’s sunny, and pumpkins decorate porches, and green maples are turning orange and scarlet.

Here in the rain, a family gathers around a table under a red awning. You pause for a few moments and listen, but not knowing Italian, you don’t understand their chatter, only their smiles and laughter, their being together. You remind yourself that you are here, not in Reykjavik or Amsterdam.

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