A Little Greek Pastel Painting Trip by Michael Newberry

Years ago I took a pastel painting trip of a lifetime, for three months I traveled from Athens, Greece to many islands, eventually to Istanbul, and slowly back again to Athens. My first island was Tinos, from the harbor I rented a scooter, booked a tiny house outside of town for 15 dollars a night. The porch had a sloping view over gray-green olive groves down to the dark and brilliant ultramarine blue Mediterranean, about 300 ft to the left was a small, room-sized luminous white-plastered Byzantine church. 

My first day I loaded my backpack with my 200 piece pastel set, and packed several sheets of full-size pastel paper in my large portfolio bag, swung the bulky bags over my shoulder. Weighed down, I then swung my right leg over the scooter and the momentum carried me, the bags, and the scooter to crash to pavement. Laying painfully on my side, the pastels scattered on the ground, and with the scooter pinning me down I couldn’t get up. An elderly Greek woman dressed in black tending the church next door witnessed it all. And she kindly helped me get up through my blushing burn of embarrassment. Once I was upright she helped me collect the pastels. Not speaking any English, she took my arm to follow her to her favorite view of the church, and through hand gestures suggested that I draw it. 

The view of the church had meaning to her, but it had no light, no color, and a dull background. But turning and facing the other way was a spectacular view of the landscape and sea beyond. There was no way to explain to her that I was following a different and special path. A little delayed, I now started my trip in earnest. This time carefully seated on the scooter I drove it towards beautiful pockets of land and seascapes. Once I found a spot that spoke to me I would draw it feverishly as fast as I could, after finishing it I would spray it with fixative, shield it with glassine, and carefully pack it in the portfolio, get back on the bike and continue to follow the light to find another wonderful spot to draw.  At the end of the day the experience left me with a sense of zest in every fiber of my mind and body. 

For the next 90 days this would be my life. 

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 3/22/2020

Note: this patch of writing was rejected from my draft of my upcoming book Evolution Through Art. Too much of my own story to fit well with the overall theme of the book. But I liked the reflection so here it is.

To see my available pastels please visit here at my archive.

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