Art is the Heart of my Soul's Desire

These pages are about my memories from my past as well as stories of my present journey as I travel the path of a professional fine artist.

An Enchanting Diary

Moleskine Stefano Faravelli notebook @ Detour exhibition

A Story --- Stefano Faravelli was born in Turin. After his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, he graduated from the University of Turin. Since 1987, he has worked as stage designer and painter at Guido Ceronetti's "Teatro del Sensibili".

He displayed his works at many exhibitions in Italy and abroad. In 2000 he presented "De Contrapuncto Triumphi" at the Galleria Jannone, for which Giorgio Soavi announced him best artist of 2000 (Il Giornale dell'Arte, January 2001). His works appear in a wide number of publications, and critical appreciations of his work have been written by Giovanni Arpino, Guido Ceronetti, Fabrizio Dentice, Nico Orengo, Massimo Rosci, Vittorio Sgarbi, Giorgio Soavi, Marco Vallora, Renata Pisu.

The enchanting diary of the artist's trip to the Far East makes urban and natural landscapes relive through vibrant and suggestive illustrations.

Glories of the Sonoran Desert

A MEMORY --- It was the spring of 2003. And it was a Saturday when Sangha and I had started off on an extended two-week long adventure. We headed south on the 101. The local rock station had faded in and out as I dipped and turned down the twisting route dotted with majestic oaks and rolling hills. I had memories of my rebel biker days: the wind rushing through my hair, the belly-drop surge of adrenaline as I leaned into the turns, the click of the playing cards in the spokes of my Schwinn.

There is an excitement that can only come from a much-anticipated trip finally being realized. Traveling the back roads, I noticed a remarkable common thread, an enduring symbol of America that says life can be simple if you let it. In front yards, from my buffeted home in Northern California to the desert ruins in Southern Arizona, the weathered picket fences helped me feel like I've arrived.

Don't let anyone tell you that there's no productivity in inertia. Sometimes the most unstructured warm-weather days can elicit the best of times. Maybe a long overdue girl’s weekend at the cabin, a stroll through the fiery glow of California poppies, or quality time with my dog on a secluded Catalina lake.

There was an almost perfect lull: the summer sports nuts hadn't arrived yet. My dog and I had the lake all to ourselves for long, hushed meanders. The sun traced an arc across the sky, and we wandered paths suffused with the first colors of the season in blissful solitude.

Crossing on Route 60, great shadows of clouds stampeded the hills like ghostly buffalo. When they reached the road, I was tempted to match the speed of my truck to that of the shadows ahead. The "John Wayne" room at the Legends West in Wickenburg and endless pastures of majestic horses were waiting for us. I knew that my five days in Wickenburg would not be any less than pleasurable with having had the opportunity, once again, to paint the landscapes while being instructed by a few of the instructors of the Plein Air Painters of America group. 

At the Glories of the Sonoran Desert Workshop, there must have been 35-45 painters invading this little town nestled in the desert. Landscapes of cacti and rocky peaks yielded to the bright sky and a play of gentle clouds above an emerald carpet of undulating thickets of sage. The changes in elevation, the sudden curves, and jagged horizon have an exciting yet soothing effect on the eye and spirit.

To see the landscapes of Wickenburg, we went slow and on foot. We painted at the Vulture Mine, and as the colors in the sky changed from early morning to late afternoon, I was awed by the way the sun cut through shifting clouds to spotlight and scatter deeply hued shadows over the rocky landscape. By day two, I had seen enough jaw-dropping scenery to send me into cardiac arrest.

On a list of essentials, espresso and chocolate rank somewhere close to food and shelter. So, I was delighted to have found the "Pony Espresso" downtown - but even more delighted to have stayed at Legends West with my golden retriever among the eclectic variety of cowboy paraphernalia while being tutored by some of America's finest Plein air painters of today.

Plein Air Painters of America

A MEMORY --- It was the fall of 2002, Sangha, my golden retriever, and I packed ourselves in the 4x4 and headed off for a road trip to Colorado. I, to paint with a group from the Plein Air Painters of America, and Sangha to play with the Plein Air Painters of America.

We had been on the road for awhile, having left northern California. We pulled off 70E at a rest stop, and we happened by surprise upon this blaze of Utah autumn hues while hiking around a rocky outcropping. A vendor was selling tacky leather crafts while Sangha and I took pleasure in visiting with the weary eastbound travelers. Then off we went, crossing the rain-soaked terrain.

It's summer's last hurrah when colors go darker, deeper, more delicious entirely. As here, in the raisin-hued mud. The mountains are as intriguing in texture as a Braque collage. As rich in red wine hues as a Caravaggio. Its a stunning tour-de-force joining as one. A radiantly conceived landscape, both jubilant and restful, like an abstract painting, mingled hues of charcoal, mocha, and golden taupe chart the land. It tells the tale of transformation, of change wrought deep within the earth.

As the rain poured, I could see a mountain transforming before my eyes! Rock and water mixed to form a soup mixture, and it roared down the mountain with such force- I know by tomorrow the mountain will have transformed tremendously. And the lightning! What a bonus. Like the lime in my Corona, it's all the little extras that make life enjoyable. On our approach to Grand Junction, Colorado, I was thinking to myself, Henny Penny might have been right about the sky falling. I knew skies like this existed in Van Gogh's paintings, but I didn't know they were for real. Swirls dark and light mingled together above the searching lightning rods. It was like some higher power above stirring, sending feelers down to connect with the earth.

At last, Sangha and I arrived Winter Park. It was more beautiful than I had imagined. Imagine Moroccan tiles patterned with vivid squares woven in intricate geometrics that glow in a tamarind soft sage and hibiscus. It's like a dark, sultry purr... one great spill of color. Like tongues of a flame, a thicket of leaves in hues of pumpkin, burgundy and deep red, are exuberantly welcoming autumn. Deep in the backcountry, the late-day sun slanted into a hidden ravine. The cascading stream shone as golden as the precious flakes and nuggets hidden in the river's sands.

After the PAPA orientation, I went up to the cabin to settle down for the night. And I watched in awe as the full September moon rose- a vermilion sphere in the coloring sky.

On my first day of the workshop, I spent the afternoon studying with George Strickland. He did a nice little demo- a real jewel. He worked methodically and kept a dialogue with the 15 or so of us. He likes to call neutrals, "greys." And he provided a good explanation of why a "grey" is not "carbon black" mixed with "titanium white." Joseph Mendez uses the term, "color neutral," same difference. I think I prefer the term "color neutral." There is something of the language that can affect the way I approach painting. It helps me to remember that there are neutrals in nature, but there is always color in those neutrals.

I lit a fire in the fireplace to warm my chilled feet. Twice earlier in the day, it rained on me. Do you know that feeling of having your back warmed- just inches from the fire? It's as comforting as a bowl of oatmeal and cream on a storm-tossed evening. Do you know that feeling of settling down with your favorite dog-eared book? Well, I feel the same feeling when I'm lugging around my weathered easel looking for the next subject. That easel casts the same kind of spell- it's been on countless trips, blustering days and cozy sun baths. Infused with the color of turning trees, pumpkin patches, and full-bodied merlot, here the start of autumn takes a form one can cozy up to.

Early morning that next day, fresh droplets of dew fell from a leaf outside my window- a liquid shape- like the crescent moon. (I just thought it was beautiful.) Several painters came to my cabin after painting all day, including George S., John Budicin, and Ken Auster. It seemed that I had the best accommodations with having a dog on the grounds. I suppose that Snow Mountain Ranch prefers to keep dogs away from the central hub. So I was placed in a cabin at the end of a long spiraling road. Quite a distance from where the rest of the group were staying. They were sharing rooms in one of the lodges on grounds. Of course, everyone brought beer, wine, and vodka, to boot. Dappled light, laughter ringing and a silky pour of merlot glinted velvet in the light. A sweet afternoon interlude with a few new friends, in the floaty atmosphere. This place is exotic- like the 100th viewing of Casablanca for an agoraphobic.

The "Marketing Discussion" among the PAPA group was long, but well worth the bags under my eyes the following morning. I learned about a few more national painting groups that I hadn't heard of, one being "North West Rendezvous". Ned Mueller, John Budicin and Matt Smith belong to this group. A familiar name came up from time to time, Clyde Aspevig, another painter that I've yet to meet. And Carl Rungius, a wildlife artist has inspired Jean Le Gassick over the years. And Sergei Bongard made the spotlight through Gay Faulkenberry. Sergei is someone I wish I could have known among others, but he left behind great work for me to study. Ralph Oberg had glorifying things to say about him. George S. was eloquent stating that "art is an extremely jealous mistress and it needs your entire focus." Smith and Oberg talked about their 15-year-old friendship and their infamous road trip to Canada where they painted from morning 'til night before the spotlight had struck plein air painting in America. I learned about those that inspired these plein air pioneers of today, such as Michael Lynch and Ray Vinella whom Budicin studied under.

I'm not one to show much patriotism, but here I've wrapped myself in down-home pride from dawn's early light to days end. One red rose, big as a showman's boutonniere, might be good enough for some, But, when I call up my inner diva, I accept nothing less than a lime in my Corona. Oops, lost my train of thought.

The autumn-lit leaves seem to be trembling. As if spun from a hodgepodge of blooms spied behind an old farmhouse, here is fragrant globe thistle mingling with stalks of green wheat, white tiny rice flowers and their own special charm. I breathe in the crisp autumn air of wood smoke and listen to the rustle of aspen leaves underfoot. For so warm are the quality of the afternoon light and so crisp the strong verticals of the sentinel trees, that only to gaze at this evocative backlit scene awakens all my senses. To paint it? Think pumpkin autumn leaves and caramel hued fields. New green apples, wood smoke and bales of yellow hay. 

I had the opportunity to paint with Gay Faulkenberry during the last two days of the workshop. Her stance in front of her easel reminded me of Camille. They work with a similar kind of passion and intense fervor. She inspired me by how sensitively she painted- and how carefully she arranged and positioned her still-life objects. And as she painted the field of hay bales under the stormy clouds of mid-morning, I was so moved that I bought the painting before it left the easel.

Those that I didn't have the opportunity to paint with among the group were Ken Auster, Ned Mueller, John Budicin, Ralph Oberg and Matt Smith. But I observed them painting demos and received valuable criticism from them. And I'm grateful for having had the opportunity to be among the many that had the chance to steal a week of their time.

By the end of the workshop, my slightly tired fading denims were slipping away for a well-deserved rest in peace. Sangha and I enjoyed our drive back home. I sipped espresso every chance I got, and soaked in the beauty of the autumn leaves.

heART and SOUL

A MEMORY --- My opening post takes us back ten years, just a few years after I had started down a new path in my life. In 1996, I had embarked upon plein air painting and began to devote my life to it. This blog starts a few years into that journey.

Fall 1999- Initial hints may seem too subtle, though effervescent warnings and the tender caress of a gentler sun suggest something has changed.

Only after nature sprinkles colored leaves like confetti across city lawns and woodland pathways, will I be confident autumn has returned. Yes, the trees get to unmask colors that still surprise, and the air carries its own invigorating spell. The real reasons why I eagerly await the fall, relaxing evenings in front of the fire, contemplating my next project. 

Others may delight in winter's first snowflake - I revel in autumn's first chill. That intoxicating time of wood-burning smoke, piled leaves, crunchy textures, and colors of sumptuous russets, browns, and dusty gold tones. Even though I look forward to fall, I'll miss summer. Spending summer months in Europe gives me the opportunity to enjoy the golden splendor of radiant suns and witness the pleasure of sunsets made of color dark, rich and gloriously resonant. Even the silvery light from the moon takes on a mysteriously different quality. From time to time, when I miss home I trace the little Dipper's handle to the outermost tip and find Polaris, the North Star. A single diamond-bright, dazzling dot, larger than its rivals and boldly outshining them all.

One of the most precious places Camille Przewodek and I visited on our travels was in Anguiano, Spain. We stayed in a large monastery nestled in the mountains and a distance from the nearest village. There I was in the Basque country, mesmerized by the beauty. The tile rooftops were of a cinnabar hue of such intensity that it rivaled nature's ripe palette. I could have stayed there and painted much longer than I had. 

Carole Gray-Weihman
That's me working on the fireplace.

In Soreze, France, where the 400-500-year-old ruin I purchased with Camille, rests, we rested as well and began to make plans to restore our quaint little dwelling.

Another memorable resting place, was Chamonix, France, a touristic city among the French Alps. Nature here overwhelmed us. We enjoyed our evenings at the Bistro, sitting at woodblock tables sipping espresso. There was mood enough to go around and the nights made for cool riffs and easy conversation.

Camille painted my portrait on the beach in Nice. The back of my head was in sunlight with tiny spots of light bouncing off the contours of my face. The reflection of the sea and sand gave off a surreal glow. My head was a silhouette against the background. This method of painting a portrait is called a "mud head." And it was here that I saw silver-winged seabirds carve arcs across the pale morning sky. My heart yearned to fly with them. To swoop and soar, to glide unfettered through the rarefied blue, destination unknown.

I was ill during my time in Venice, Italy, but I still managed to enjoy myself. I didn't realize it, but the day before arriving Venice was the last day I was to paint during our travels. Like a soothing indigo shadow, I would sit and watch the Italian boats move swiftly on the waves of great arcs on the sea. And the birds soaring solo on singing winds. And early in the morning, the fog would hang gray and mysterious; the world seemed so far away.

Camille and I had continued to journey to Europe nearly every year since our meeting in the summer of 1996 up until a few years ago.