Prior to going on a painting trip (and in this case Sicily) I always promise myself that I will do plenty of research before my journey. “It’s professional” I say. “You will be prepared” I go on.
I never do of course, life moves too quickly. So there I am on the plane washing down another handful of pro-plus with a tomato juice chaser whipping through the guide book looking for ideas and locations near Taormina where I am staying . Well, on opening the book my first impressions of Sicily were rather disconcerting to say the least.
Sicily is the most seismically active region in the whole of Europe. And Mount Etna which is only lava spitting distance away from the apartment is the most active volcano in the whole of Europe. The guide gleefully added that Etna was long overdue for another cataclysmic event and could happen at any time. And if the volcano doesn’t get you then one of the many frequent earthquakes will.
This was confirmed to me as I read through Sicily’s turbulent geographic history:
‘This city was founded by the Romans but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1700’.
‘That building was built by the Normans though sadly Etna roasted it in 1585′.
…On it went. Century upon century of destruction and repair. Then more destruction.
It appears too that this very volatility has been transmuted to its people. They too can erupt without warning to reap fire and destruction all around.
This disputed island has been fought over for many centuries by many nations. And once conquered, the victors quickly turn on each other to continue this endless cycle.
To this very day we have the same; one mafia boss is sliced up in an alleyway by his best friends, then they turn on an anti-mafia judge for putting their cousin in prison. Then they top the incarcerated relative anyway and call it ‘business’.
The very land seems to demand eternal blood with eternal fire.
So all these things considered, why does the land of The Vendetta seem so peaceful?
Paintings and drawings of Taormina, Sicily
From the bus station in Taormina there is a slow, long climb to the centre of town. Dragging a suitcase in the summer heat can be tiring so this this pugnacious, robust Sicilian fruit seller was on site to take advantage of the passing trade.
He could be seen first thing in the morning sprawled on his chair working from the back of his pocket-sized truck. As the day wore on, and the fruit was sold he made no attempt to make his patch look a bit tidy. He just slowly disappeared beneath the discarded trays.
He seemed to be saying “If you want fruit, then here it is, if you don’t then get lost.” I rather admired him for it.
I did a drawing of him one afternoon. He didn’t like me.
A painting of Taromina Central
This is the main crossroads in Taromina, Sicily. The road climbs steeply up to the remote villages that cling to the upper part of the mountain.
Periodically the junction descends into gridlock which is made worse by drivers not wanting to give way, so everyone just leans on their horns and bellows out of their windows.
The Police however always seem to be on hand to bellow even louder and blast on whistles to get it all rolling again.
In between gridlock great herds of very large middle aged men in Lycra sweep past on cycles and on their way down the coast roads.
In the hours it took me to paint this picture I saw not a single one of them cycle back up again. NOT ONE.
A Painting of Taormina Alley Cafe
The main shopping street in Taromina is pretty premium space for top brand products and restaurants. There are however steep stairs going up and down either side of the street. These are occupied by lovely wee cafes and art shops such as these.
On my visit here I saw no franchise cafes or restaurants aside from one Mc Donalds in Messina. That was it. I don’t know whether this is because of government or just the Sicilians just appreciate local cooking. Whatever it is, I never had a bad meal the whole time I was there.
A painting of Isola Bella
This painting is available to buy here.
Anyone who takes their slippers on holiday is not a beach person. I am not a beach person.
Having said that even I couldn’t resist painting Isola Bella.
This tiny island linked by a spit of sand used to be privately owned, though today it is in the possession of The Region of Sicily.
And I have to say that most of Sicily turned up on the day I painted it. And on the main beaches it was nut brown shoulder to nut brown shoulder.
So I decided to paint from the quieter far end of the beach. With all the other red people.