Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I have (finally!) finished a pastel that has been on one of my boards for a very, very long time.  There just always seemed to be something much more important to do.  But now, finally, it's done.

©2016, Scotti Vaccaro
(signed A. Vaccaro)

Sunday, January 03, 2016

My Ancestral Lands

Finally, this post will finish up the trip that I took that hit a lot of the northern European cities. The end of my journey took me to my ancestral lands...  Hard to say exactly which, because my parents' families came from a variety of places...  No, not completely true.  I know that my father's family was nearly 100% from Wales.  But my mother's side was mostly Celt and from Alsace-Lorraine (France), Ireland and Scotland.  It is the Scots connection that caused my childhood best friend to anoint me with the "Scotti" nickname.

Republic of Ireland

Ireland was just the way everyone describes it.  Beautiful, green -- very green -- and romantic.  It also had the most changeable weather that you can imagine.  It was cool, then warm, then absolutely cold.  The wind was still, then breezy and later, powerful.  It was foggy, sunny and then the mist began which turned into rain.

Glendalough, Republic of Ireland
©2016, Scotti Vaccaro
Glendalough is the site of an historical ruin dating from the 6th Century.  IrishGleann Dá Loch, meaning "Valley of two lakes") is a glacial valley in County WicklowIreland, renowned for an Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin. (Citations to Wikipedia.)

St. Kevin was a descendant of one of the more prominent families from Leinster.  He began to study under several monks and later went to Glendalough with a small group of monks to found a monastery, which attracted numerous followers.  Glendalough as a religious center was in continuous existence until the 15th or 16th century although the ruins that remain on the site probably date to the era around the 11th century.

At the base of the hill beyond the building is what is known as the "lower lake."  The entire site is stunningly beautiful.


Greenock, Scotland
©2016, Scotti Vaccaro

I was very excited to get the opportunity to visit Scotland, from which my childhood friend had taken my nickname.  We had quite the drive through the countryside -- at first coastal, then moorland, then lake lands and then mountains.  If Ireland surprised with the weather, Scotland surprised with the terrain.

When we reached the highlands, I could easily understand why the Scots were considered wild and untamed through much of history  -- their national reputation was a display of the terrain in which they lived.  There were portions, a place called Rest and Be Thankful comes to mind, that were awe-inspiring, which is why it came to be called "Rest and Be Thankful."  The day I stood on that mountain and looked down into the valley there was a very cold wind with ice crystals -- in August -- and a very heavy fog lying in the valley below.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Coastline
©2016, Scotti Vaccaro

Belfast was a city of drama.  At the time that I was there, you could tell whether you were in an area where the Catholics were predominant or where the Protestants were in the majority simply by looking at the huge murals on the walls of buildings.  In the Catholic areas, the murals consisted of masked gunmen wielding submachine guns; in Protestant areas, there were alternate images of innocents being gunned down.

My guide said that the images were largely a product of under- or un- employed youths that kept the resentments festering just under the surface, even though both the British and Irish governments were working toward a peaceful settlement of the "problems."  They referred to them as "The Troubles."  Indeed.

We left on our drive and eventually hit the northern coastline.  Wow.  The Irish coast simply drops straight down into the water as depicted, above.  Here and there, someone has built houses at the base of the cliffs, as in the painting and access their homes with a steep lane down into the small cove.  

Homeward Bound

Finally, we boarded our ship for the 5 day journey home.  All in all, it was a spectacular trip and I spent the days at sea collecting my thoughts and putting the final touches on various sketches.  It was a very satisfying way to spend the voyage.

Homeward Bound
©2016, Scotti Vaccaro 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bruges, Belgium; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Normandy, France

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is a lovely little city.  It has beautiful little canals and bridges across them; touring by canal boat is a fun little adventure that takes you into the heart of the residential section.

Many of its medieval buildings are notable, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches 122.3 m (401.25 ft), making it one of the world's highest brick towers/buildings. The sculpture Madonna and Child, which can be seen in the transept, is believed to be Michelangelo's only sculpture to have left Italy within his lifetime.

Although it probably had its biggest moment in the 12th century as an important center of the textile trade between the northern European areas and the Mediterranean, the era ended when the inlet upon which it was situated silted over.  In the 15th century, it became famous once again for its magnificent lace, made by hand both then and now by Belgian women.

Bruges Canal, Bruges,, Belgium
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Wandering Western Europe,
sketchbook journal entry dated 8/19/05

I did purchase a small piece of handcrafted lace while I was there  -- very expensive -- for a small 15" diameter doily, U.S. $75.00, but I was certain to avoid the cheaper, tourist traps where they sold lace made in China under the name "Brussels Lace."  This now happens all over Europe.  Local handcrafts have made-in-China knock-offs sold at bargain prices.

By the way, the interesting shape of the tree on the right is the result of serious pruning...  I did not make that up!

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My visit to Amsterdam happened as they were in the second week of a garbage haulers strike, so it was, uh, rather odorous.  Every corner was piled with plastic garbage bags as high as the citizens could throw them on the pile, with more than a few torn open by scavenging animals.  Putting it mildly, it was a real mess. 

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Wandering Western Europe,
sketchbook journal entry dated 8/22/05

The canals were very, very nice; it was a beautiful summer day and that part of the trip was absolutely lovely.  It's quite striking:  The houses are shades of grey, brown and taupe and the boats and cars are the brightest colors the Dutch can find!  All along the canals, literally throughout the entire city are houseboats tied alongside.  Our local guide told us that at one point, it was because finding an economical place to live was difficult and property taxes were very high, but now the financial advantage has been diminished by governments trying to add revenues.  The houses are tall and slender because real property taxes used to be levied based upon how wide your property was, but not how tall!

The house in which Anne Frank hid is similar to the dark brown one in the center.

Normandy, France

The Seine River, Normandy, France
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Wandering Western Europe,
sketchbook journal entry dated 8/24/05

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a love affair going with France.  In this particular instance, I opted out of the general tour activity to do what some of my artistic idols -- Monet, Manet, Pisarro, Hassan, Cortés and others have done:  Find a spot alongside the Seine and paint the countryside.

There is a major highway, that runs on the side of the mountain in the background for the entire length that is the main route to go to Paris from the port of Le Havre and from which you can hear the constant hum of traffic.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Just a little entry to remind everyone that I am currently posting all of the older sketches that I never got around to posting before.  Be patient, folks!  Next, I will be posting more recent things...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

London, England

I arrived at London Heathrow Airport brutally tired.  I was supposed to be on a 6:10 PM flight to London, but the ground crew discovered a crack in the cockpit windshield, so our flight was held until after midnight until it was replaced.  That added 5 hours onto an already long flight.  Once I cleared customs and immigration, all I wanted to do was go to sleep.

The next morning, it was raining.  Okay, I know.  Yes, it was London and yes, it rains.  A lot.

So, other than a tour around the city on the Big Red Bus, that was it.  Well, no...  I had purchased tickets online before I left on my trip to go to a West End theater to see the original cast of Phantom of the Opera performing on their "home" stage.  But as far as sightseeing, The Big Red Bus was it.

It was sunny the day I wanted to sleep and it was sunny the next day when I boarded a bus to go to the port of Southampton to embark on my northern European cruise.  Go figure.

That is why my biggest memory of London is just The Big Red Bus.

Big Red Bus, London, UK
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Wandering Western Europe,
sketchbook journal entry dated 8/18/05

A Little Note

On the trip I took with my fellow artists, Irene and I stayed in Paris on our arrival for a few days and again before our departure.  So, even though there are a few watercolor sketches of Paris, I am going to hold them back to be included in an entire group of sketches of Paris from various trips.

You could convince me to go to Paris just about anytime for any length of time!  (Well, maybe a long weekend might be stretching it because I hate the flight, but otherwise, I would be willing!)  Paris is the ultimate destination for an artist -- there is simply something about the ambiance, the attitudes of the French, the sheer encouragement that you are given that make you want to paint, even if you aren't really in the mood!  

I love Paris so much, it should have an entire section devoted to it.  And so, that is what I will do...  But first, I will present to you a little bit of other places in Europe!

Friday, May 15, 2015

At Uschi's House

We woke up to a grey, rainy day.  After the group tramped down the stairs to the breakfast room, Uschi and her husband, Marsh, transported us in 3 carloads to their home.  

When Uschi was teaching an art class in Washington, DC, one of her students came to class and offered to sell an apartment that she owned in France.  Uschi bought it on the spot; then she went home and told Marsh!  Later, they purchased a stable on the corner of a farm near the village of Cropigny and had spent several years renovating it, bit by bit.  When we were there, the downstairs was completed and Marsh was plastering the walls upstairs as we painted.  Uschi and Marsh spend 6 months in France during the summers and 6 months in the US.  

It should be noted that the 6 months spent in France is during the hot, humid months we live with in Hilton Head; the 6 months they spend in Hilton Head are the "cold" months in France.  That is my idea of heaven... and I would do the same thing in a heartbeat.

At Uschi's, Cropigny, FR
Copyright © 2015, Scotti Vaccaro
from Tours de France,
sketchbook journal entry dated 7/18/04

So, we had all 20 of us, French and American artists, inside Uschi's house for our last day of painting together and each of us trying our best to find something to inspire us.  The windows across the front of the house, looking across the garden and fields had artists side by side.  In retrospect, I could have painted a scene of painters.  But, I was attracted to the doorway to the second floor and more interested in my conversation (her little bit of English and my little bit of French) with Ramonde.  Somehow, she and I had formed some sort of bond over the course of time.

At lunchtime, we rigged a table for 22 out of some supports and boards.  Uschi and a few of the other women had created a wonderful luncheon for all of us.  We lingered over lunch because all of us knew what would come next:  our goodbyes.  Finally, the French artists formed one line and the American artists formed a second line just like sports teams do at the end and one by one, we passed each other and gave hugs and kisses.  Then, with a few tears on cheeks, they filed out the door to their cars.

All in all, it was an absolutely remarkable trip.