Friday, November 14, 2008

Welcome



My on-the-road studio

This blog is no longer active. These posts trace the paintings I made on the road during the time I toured as a singer-songwriter and the stories behind them. I bought my field kit in Holland during the fall of 1996 and used it for all of the paintings on this blog working out of the tiny knapsack pictured above.

These paintings cover some years of my European touring right through to my Walden Pond series in late 1999. You can see paintings from Germany, France, Italy, Monaco, Holland and Belgium as well as the ones I made in South Carolina and New England.

A book of these paintings and the stories behind them will be published in 2014. Make sure you're on my mailing list for notification.  See sidebar for sign up.

You can listen to and learn more about my songs by visiting my main website where you can also see my more recent watercolors.

Thanks for visiting. Enjoy your browsing and, if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Vasto



Vasto, Italy
14 November 1996

Watercolor on cold press Lana paper

Vasto was like Brigadoon. A place out of time with a little bit of magic or historic curiosity around each bend. This ancient city has never been developed because it's built on a cliff subject to landslides. In the above painting, you can see one historic curiosity where the new and the old city walls attach with two different types of arches. Through this opening you are looking south past Vasto Marina, into the Adriatic mist.

If you missed last Sunday's installment, go to Amico in Vasto and Vasto Marina to read the first two parts of the story and hear my song on the experience.

Lino Salvatorelli was my host. He'd booked me into the Teatro Rossetti named for the poet and revolutionary, Gabriel Rossetti who, upon losing his cause, fled his birthplace of Vasto for England where his two children, Christina and Dante Gabriel were raised. It was a lovely evening in an old, old theater. As no one I met in Vasto spoke English, most of the audience had no idea what I was saying or singing but we enjoyed ourselves. Having spent the first couple weeks of this tour in the former East Germany where most people only spoke German or Russian, I was getting used to the scenario.

Lino owned a CD store called Kangaroo. He took me on a tour of the city and because everyone knew Lino, I met a lot of people, ate some great food and finished the tour at his friend Franco's sign making and sculpture studio. After Franco saw the paintings I'd made so far, he found me before I departed and sent me off with a gift of 4 pans of Lukas watercolors all wrapped up in tin foil. A very sweet and encouraging gesture.

It was difficult to leave Vasto but I was on to the next gigs in Tuscany, Bologna, Udina and so forth. I took the train north along the Adriatic coast and leaned out my open window watching the old beaches and beach towns slip by, wanting to stop at each place.

I left a piece of my heart in Vasto.

Also seeVasto Marina and Amico in Vasto.

Every Sunday I post a new painting and story behind the watercolors I made while touring as a singer songwriter. Follow the stories behind the paintings of these serialized posts by working your way up from the bottom.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Amico in Vasto



Amico in Vasto, Italy
13 November 1996
Watercolor on cold press Lana paper

I headed north up the beach till I stopped and sat down with my back against a big overturned row boat. There I made the Vasto Marina painting I posted last week. When I finished, I continued in the same direction to the end of the beach.

A large, white dog came down from the rocks and over to greet me at about the same time a man brought a dog on a leash towards me from another direction. As soon as the white dog had sniffed and licked my hand, he turned, bared his teeth at the leashed dog and both started barking and making threatening noises. Oh, Great!, I thought. Trapped on an Italian beach in the middle of a dog fight. The leashed dog was led away by his laughing master. The white dog came to my side and would not leave no matter what.

I did not want to get involved with another animal and when we got back to the overturned rowboat, I sat down. The dog lay down beside me and went to sleep. After a few minutes, I stood up very quietly and headed back towards the apartment. A few hundred yards up the beach I looked back just in time to see him emerge from the other side of the row boat looking in every direction. He spotted me and high tailed it in my direction. Except for the time I spent in the apartment, he did not leave my side for the next three days. I tried to bring him up at night but he was a confirmed outside dog and at night lay down in front of the apartment entrance where he greeted me first thing each morning.

I surrendered to his companionship because, after all, I really needed it. He was my friend, so I named him Amico. Language was not a problem. Eventually, I learned that he was a Pastore Abruzzese, a regional dog bred from ancient lineage specifically to guard sheep in the Abruzzi mountains. Naturally, I became quite attached and was heartbroken to leave him at the Marina beach when it was time for me to go up and perform in Vasto. Our little tryst inspired a song.

Listen to the song


Amico in Vasto
(Pastore Abruzzese)

I freaked out in Verona
boarded the south bound train
my head was split with anger
and my heart was dulled with pain

Some fool had to leave a message
that my best friend ran away
the home I thought was anchored
floated off to yesterday

Lost and alone
so far from anything familiar
there was no one I could talk with
to relieve myself

Crazy with grief
the new moon cast everything in darkness
I tossed weightless in the strange air
like an autumn leaf

I arrived on the feast of San Martino
when the grapes turn into wine
it was summer in November
as the sun began to climb

The wind flew dry off the Adriatic
I was beckoned by the blue
I walked down to where the coastline changed
and that's where I met you

You ran to my side
as if you'd been waiting for my arrival
you leaned into my legs
as if you'd come back home

When I looked in your eyes
I could see that your love had found its mission
you were my guardian out of heaven
on a three day loan

Pastore Abruzzese
Amico, my Amico in Vasto

We stood in the waves and got sandy
I painted a picture of you
we climbed the palace steps together
and panted at the view

I bought you bones and cheeses
and I fed you at the fountains
I followed your gaze to the crescent moon
as it rose above the mountains

Steadfast and sure
you gave me the company I needed
and the unconditional love
that asks for nothing in return

I don't know where you came from
but I'm grateful that you found me
you saved a wandering soul
from drowning in the dark

Pastore Abruzzese
Amico, my Amico in Vasto

Where would you go when I left town
who would put food out for you
would you find some new soul you could shepherd
would they love you like I do

On the morning I was leaving
you appeared shampooed and shining
on a rope beside a young boy
who would love you like I do

Steadfast and sure
you gave me the company I needed
and the unconditional love
that asks for nothing in return

I don't know where you came from
but I'm grateful that you found me
you saved a wandering soul
from drowning in the dark

Pastore Abruzzese
Amico, my Amico in Vasto

©1996 Suzanne McDermott/Drexel Road Music (ASCAP/STIM) All Rights Reserved

For everything you might want to know about Pastori Abruzezzi, visit Marco Petrella.

A few years later, I told a bit of this story and sang the song for some nursing home residents in Philadelphia. Afterwards, one of the women grabbed my forearm and asked, "So? Did you bring the young man home with you?"

Also see: Vasto and Vasto Marina.

Every Sunday I post a new painting and story behind the watercolors I made while touring as a singer songwriter. Follow the stories behind the paintings of these serialized posts by working your way up from the bottom.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Vasto Marina



Vasto Marina, Italy
12 November 96

Watercolor on cold press Lana paper

So, there I was in Pesina, with a few days before my next gig, drinking too much Italian table wine. The TV was always on in the kitchen. As the ancient neighbor made the morning Polenta, fetching newscasters interrupted Sissy Spacek and Whoppi Goldberg spouting fluent Italian in The Long Walk Home to advise of a pending rail strike. My host and Italian agent insisted that I immediately board the next train to my next gig.

Before I knew it, I was jostling along on the Italian rail system. After lots of personal space in the 1st class compartments on the orderly German trains, I was now shoulder to shoulder with chatty, freely gesturing compartment-mates. Not that I had any idea what they were chatting and gesturing about. The corridors were packed. We were rattling south along the Adriatic Coast but night had fallen and I had no idea what scenes were flashing past the window. It was a long ride with a lot of Italian coming at me and I accompanied myself with two glasses of wine. By the time I arrived in Vasto, it was very late and I was very weary. I had no idea who was supposed to meet me or where I was supposed to stay.

A very kind man found me at the station and while I couldn't understand a word of what he said, I went along with him. He took me to a bar with loud music, which did not help me understand the situation any better, and there we met some people who apparently discussed and decided what to do with me. I was driven to an apartment complex, let into an apartment and told something... I had no idea what.

Early the next morning, I woke up slightly hung over, wondering just what in the hell I thought I was doing. In the throes of despondent emotional thrashing about exacerbated by allergic reaction to histamine and alcohol, I happened to look out the window. Wait a minute! What's that? It's the beach and the ocean! I was out the door in seconds flat, not even checking for a landmark to find my way back. I was on the beach. My feet were in the sea. That was all that mattered.

Also seeVasto and Amico in Vasto.

Every Sunday I post a new painting and story behind the watercolors I made while touring as a singer songwriter. Follow the stories behind the paintings of these serialized posts by working your way up from the bottom.