A Report from the Field

Greetings from Carrion de Los Condes, Spain! I’ve been here since Wednesday, and I’m feeling pretty settled in. I’ve learned a lot these past few days, from finding my way around town, to figuring out how to stay warm, to the realization that my Spanish is still really really bad. Luckily the people in town are used to pilgrims coming through with various degrees of fractured Spanish, and are very patient and kind.

My original plan for today was to walk over to the next town, Villalcazar de Sirga, to visit the church there, Santa Maria la Blanca – but the weather report forecast a 90 percent chance of rain, so I stayed in to work. Turns out the day wasn’t so bad after all, with just scattered showers, but that’s ok; I have plenty of time to explore, and I got a lot done.

First, I did a pretty thorough preparatory sketch of Nuestra Señora de Belen, a church in town that sits on a high bluff over the Rio Carrion (and is closed for safety reasons, as the bluff beneath it seems to be rapidly collapsing). I would prefer to sketch on location – you see so much more and really learn your subject – but with the rainy weather so far, I have to be content with using photos for reference.


Me at work.


And I realized I probably didn’t need a computer to use the copy function on the printer that’s here in the house, so was able to not only copy my drawing but also reduce it to the proper size for a block. Here it is transferred and ready to start carving.


Later, I went over to the studio and played a bit with the inks and paper I brought. The results aren’t necessarily great art (!) but all in all I’m pleased with today’s efforts.

A view of the workspace.


Today’s experiments. Note how much deeper and richer the colors are on the right, with the paper I dampened (a bit unevenly).


Here’s a quick rundown of the practical things this traveling artist has learned.

1. If you pack a large suitcase with heavy things and many tubes of ink, expect it to get inspected by the TSA. Luckily, they were very gentle with my supplies.

2. If you bring tubes of ink long distances in a suitcase, it really does pay to be obsessive in your packing, like double ziplock bagging them – which I did. So no harm done if your phthalocyanine blue explodes. Except now my hands look like they’ve been painted with woad.

3. Washing up in cold water is, well, cold.

4. I need to pick up some basic things like a dish rack for drying my tools after washing them.

5. The paper – a Japanese paper that’s new to me; I usually use Rives or Stonehenge – absorbs the ink a whole lot more effectively if the paper is damp. But if you try soaking it, it utterly dissolves. Note to self: pick up a spray bottle while you’re at it.

6. My fingerless gloves will be an inky mess by the time I’m done. Good thing I wore my replaceable REI rag gloves and not the beautiful ones Sarah-Hope knit for me.

7. Just one day working with windows open helped dissipate a lot of the nasty old smoke. Yay.

8. The house at 55 degrees feels like a veritable tropical paradise after working in the other house with the aforementioned open windows.

9. This is a whole lotta fun


Author: Melissa

4 thoughts on “A Report from the Field

  1. Yay, Melissa! Sign me up for prints, Our Lady of Bethlehem already looks amazing. You are doing exactly what the Camino Artes program is designed to do!
    Don´t go out buying too much stuff — we may have extras here of things you need.

    And don´t be a stranger!

  2. Looks like lots of fun, but we miss you. Maggie says the second tier of servants don’t do nearly the job the butler does. But she did try to catch a squirrel today, and says the only reason she failed is because she isn’t being let out often enough. Harumph.
    Yes, I think I’d like one of those prints also.

  3. Sounds like you are enjoying yourself. The drawings look great. All of us nerds miss seeing and talking to you at Peet’s. With that said, have a ball and come back with some wonderful stories.

    Your friend,

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