Imagine creamy white stone houses, warm terracotta roofs, clear aqua water with white boats bobbing, then turn around to see rugged mountains, the lower slopes covered in dry stone walls, fig and olive trees, and vineyards, their crops plentiful and ripe. Wouldn't it be magical to be "let loose" in such a place with your sketch book and paints, (and camera). This was the recent experience of five SCVWS members on the Hvar Art Retreat, hosted by Marion Podolski and her husband Zdravko, who have a beautiful house on the island of Hvar on the Dalmatian coast. Zdravko was a very knowledgeable tour guide and every day we were taken somewhere different, learnt a lot, and sketched and painted the unique scenes before us.
We painted at a deserted village (with one open functioning restaurant), a fortress high above the town of Hvar with amazing views over the harbor and surrounding islands, ruins of a Roman farm amongst an olive grove, an eco-farm with animals galore and a huge brick outdoor oven, an artists' atelier - a magical and inspirational experience, Stari Grad, where we painted in the garden of a 15th century fortified residence with stone built fish ponds, and Jelsa, a lovely peaceful town along the coast. Then there was, of course, the charming town of Vrboska where Marion and Zdravko stay. On top of that there were delicious locally sourced meals with local wines flowing at some wonderful restaurants, including some at the painting sites. We enjoyed real "insider" treats; a private wine-tasting at the island's best winemaker's cellar, a Dalmation peka meal with a klapa band - traditional Croatian food and music, and a BBQ in a field (with grapes and olives growing)!
Here are some of the paintings and sketches produced by our artists:
Vrboska where we stayed:
I created this half sheet painting on the first day of the Artist Retreat from the comfort of Konoba Lem, while sipping coffee and enjoying Bob's company. On our last day in Vrboska, we visited Vrboska's little fishing museum, a charming walk through the history of this town. Old photos show that these buildings existed more than a hundred years ago. I can picture this waterfront through the generations. Mary
Our waterfront base in Vrboska for the week was to be Konoba Lem, who kindly allocated a table for our artists right at the front. Marion
And a similar view across the water from Konoba Lem. The weather that day had been a bit cloudy but by late afternoon there was faint glow from the west. Jenny
Tvrdalj in Stari Grad. This is the 15th century fortified summer residence of Petar Hektorović.
Tvrdalj has a beautiful cloistered fish pool, and a peaceful, shady garden. I selected a view of the dovecot as seen through an archway. Marion
Malo Grablje, deserted village: The owners left around fifty years ago. Having become quite prosperous and seeing a downturn in future economy they moved down to the village on the coast. Bertie Tudor, who runs the restaurant, comes up everyday from there - for the tourist trade!
The view from Stori Komen restaurant terrace with some of the ruined houses of Malo Grablje - a rather sad place, which looked a lot more cheerful after the sun came out. Jenny
We had another great day in the abandoned town of Malo Grablje. The lone open building, Stori Komen, was a welcome refuge from the downpour of rain. I sat at a table and painted the scene from the Konoba (restaurant) while sipping coffee. Later in the day the skies cleared. Marion and I explored the old buildings and were especially taken with one with a bright blue door. I started a painting on location. The next day I redid the painting, zeroing in on the door. I could imagine the centuries of life that took place behind the blue door before the villagers left for the coast. Watching lunch cooked on open coals by Bertie Tudor added to the pleasure. Mary
A house with blue doors and a concrete floor; we wandered into what was probably the kitchen. The walls still show signs of decoration in a lovely terracotta shade. This is the blue door from the inside. Marion
Marinka's Atelier, in the village of Dol:
My favorite day was spent at Marinka's atelier. Everything was so perfect - lunch, painting with other artists, the old stone buildings, Marinka's amazing art, and dinner on the patio. I like to do focused paintings, so I selected a branch of persimmons to paint. Next I did a few leaves and figs from a tree in the garden. I was so taken with eating fresh figs while in Vrboska. Warm from the tree is the very best. Mary
An old green door at Marinka's Atelier, one of the many intriguing features on her property, and the view from a higher area of the garden across to the village of Dol. Jenny
Another little nook, for art supplies ! Jenny
Kupinovik, Roman ruins and Agro Turizam Pharos on the Stari Grad Plain. After scrambling through very low-branched olive trees and over boulders we arrived at the remains of a Roman farmstead, and took a welcome break in the ruins. A short drive further on was the more recent AgroTurizam Pharos, an eco-farm with hens, goats, cows, donkeys and horses. They grow their own fruit and vegetables and serve food and wine.
Stari Grad Plain has such rich history and is a UNESCO site. We briefly visited an old Roman farm. Using some Tombow markers, I quickly sketched some of the ruins. I was intrigued by the large tone with a hole in the center. Mary
Mary and I sat next to each other whilst sketching, both rendering a different interpretation, Jenny
The oven cooking that evening's dinner. Jenny
Lui and Dragona's field. They were the owners of the apartment where some of the group were staying, and they also owned an olive orchard/vineyard/vegetable "field" - complete with full range cooking facilities! We had a chance to paint before eating a delicious meal of their local produce.
The white grapes are bogdanuša, and the black (blue, really!) are plavac mali. Paint them now, and drink them later! Marion
Another challenge – paint the sunset before it all fades to grey! You have to be really quick about it, and I’m not sure I did justice to the soft glowing clouds at all! Here is my extremely rapid rendition of those wonderful sunset colors… Marion
Among the olive trees, Karen
The olive grove with rocks. The smaller ones are removed to make dry stone walls which can be seen everywhere. Jenny
Jelsa: we walked to this peaceful village three miles along the coastal path from Vrobska, where after coffee at a British ex-pat gathering place, we all went our separate ways finding views to sketch, and cheese pastries to eat.
Another cafe along the waterfront provided this view across the habor with the mainland in the distance, (painted later) Jenny
Hvar Town. The climb up the fortress was quite a work-out, but the views were an amazing reward for our efforts.
Homework for the week was four trading cards each so that we could exchange our memories at the end. Here is the entire collection before distribution, most of them painted at Konobo Lem over coffee or a glass of wine.Thank you, Marion and Zrdavko, for a wonderful week!