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Diary

Filtering by Tag: Travel

Dreamy bridges of Persia & Italy

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper

watercolor on Arches paper

Persian bridge, Unfettered thirst
copyright © Sophia Khan

"Having drunk entire seas, we remain quite surprised that our lips are just as dry as the shore, and we continue to seek out the sea...without seeing that our lips are the shore and we ourselves the sea." ~ Farid al-Din Attar, Persian mystic poetic

Some of the most beautiful and dynamic spaces I have encountered in my travels are those that serve multiple functions. A simple example would be the piazzas that are found throughout Italy. These served as containers for rituals around religious and civic ceremonies, and as gathering places for evening strolls, or passeggiatas. Many are lined with restaurants and contain seating for eating outdoors. Spontaneous activities such as performances, and music and also abound.

Another space where this is beautifully done, is with bridges; an example being the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. More than just a means of connecting one part of the city to the other, across the Arno River, it serves as an urban shopping experience, with small shops lining the bridge. In the evenings, during the warmer months, small musical performances often take place here.  I used to love taking a walk over to this bridge when I lived in Florence, to engage with the crowds, music, and romantic ambiance of all the beautiful views of the river.

In the city of Isfahan, the Si-o-Se Bridge similarly serves as both a stopping point or place of arrival, in addition to its primary function of being a means of crossing water. Within its brick arches, there is a lovely and quaint little tea shop, serving delicate sweets, hot chai in glass teacups, and many delightful flavors of hookah. I remember crawling into my own little niche with a window view, (pictured below) to enjoy a bit of a break afters spending some time sketching the bridge. A German couple seated nearby almost mistook me for a local.

My niche within the Si-o-Se bridge in Isfahan

My niche within the Si-o-Se bridge in Isfahan

One of the things I loved about this space was that it felt like a celebration of the self. There really is only enough room for one or two people to crawl up onto the cushions to enjoy the delights and the lovely views. And being that I love solo travel, it has become one of my simplest and most favorite travel memories.

I would love to hear about one of a favorite place you have discovered during your own travels, if you are so inclined to share. I love hearing from readers...

Moment of Repose, Villa Guilia, Rome

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper

watercolor on Arches paper

copyright © Sophia Khan

Places have a certain resonance to them. Different cities, sites, monument, all bring out a different part of who we are, when we travel there. I feel a more adventurous when I am in Venice, more serene and relaxed in the Tuscan countryside. And the more a country and it's culture is different from that of my home, the more it enriches, the more it allows me to escape from my everyday and what is familiar to me, and the more it widens my scope of understanding of myself. 

The Villa Guilia, painted above, is one of those places where a sense of lightness, a sense of serenity, calm, and restfulness takes over. With this watercolor, of a corner detail, I used colors and brushwork to convey those feeling I remember experiencing when I was there. 

And so our travels become fragments, gems of who we are, that stay with us in some form, even when we return home from these places. 

In the spirit of this, I am excited to be offering Valentine's Day gift bookings, for custom Fine Art Travel Mementos. These are similar to gift certificates. I would send you a printable certificate, as shown below, which you can gift to a loved one on Valentine's Day. I would then work from their favorite travel photograph, to make a beautiful, impressionistic, bespoke painting for them. 

This gift works especially beautifully to commemorate a honeymoon travel memory. It can also be gifted to someone close, as a gesture of celebrating their most memorable travels and what makes them unique. 

The choices for Valentine's Day certificates are as shown below. The text reads:

To_________________________

A Gift that Brings Home your Most Memorable Travels
~ A Bespoke Work of Art to be Painted from your Favorite Travel photograph~
by Watercolorist Sophia Khan

Gifted by_____________________

(If your prefer different wording or a different image, I can provide a custom designed certificate as well).

The various sizes available are as follow:

8" x 10" ((20.3 x 25.4 cm) for $470
11" x 14" (27.9 x 35.6 cm) for $670
16" x 20" (40.6 x 50.8 cm) for $870

(All prices are in USD. Shipping charges are additional and will be calculated depending upon destination. New York addresses will be charged the appropriate state and local sales tax).

To receive your certificate to give as a gift, you can get in touch through my contact page here.  Let me know what size painting you would like to gift, the certificate of choice from the above three, names to be included, and where the final painting would be shipped (city, country).

I look forward to making this Valentine's Day a bit more special, memorable, and beautiful for you and your loved one.

With my Warmest Regards,

Sophia
p.s. For those who may be in or near NY, I will be doing a painting demonstration at the Art League of Long Island's "Art After Dark" on Friday night.  More info here.

The Sassi of Matera, Italy

Sophia Khan

There is always a seed from which the roots of journey begin to take shape.  For me, the seeds of my art lay partly in a place that is still very near and dear: The Sassi of Matera, a series of Paleolithic cave dwellings still in habitation, in the southern region of Basilicata, Italy.  

As dusk falls here, the muted shifting colors in the sky are reflected on a brownish cream limestone terrain tinged with age, carrying within in stories of an untold past.  Random lights, like crystals, are scattered across a labyrinthine facade, replete with dark openings; hinting at a presence silently watching the observer back.  At fist encounter, the visitor feels at once awe struck and mystified.  For this place is not like any other in Italy.  

I have traveled here often, with sketchbooks and watercolors in hand, trying to fathom how those without any architectural 'training' can make a place as dynamic, as beautiful, and as awe inspiring as this.  It makes one wonder what it truly takes to design and build a meaningful place.  

Below are some sketches I did while visiting there; some in the quiet of night, some in the beauty of dawn, and some while sunlight beamed down upon me as I wandered, squinting yet wide eyed in thought, among the stone dwellings scattered along my path. 

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into some of my earliest sketches, done within one of my favorite travel destinations in Italy.  

I also wanted to share a reminder of my Watercolor Travel Memento offering; a bespoke gift for yourself, for a loved one during the holidays, or to celebrate an anniversary.  During this offer, complimentary shipping and gift wrapping will be made available on the limited number of commissions being offered.  

Mystery of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

Sophia Khan

Watercolor on Arches paper

Watercolor on Arches paper

copyright © Sophia Khan

Today's watercolor and poem are inspired by the majestic Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.  It's one of those places where each time I travel there, I come to see and appreciate it in a new light.  Simply beautiful and slowly revealing more and more of itself to the visitor.  I feel this is how any well designed place should be... 

The Mystery of San Giorgio Maggiore
 

As if belonging to sky
as if belonging to air
as if not built but having always been there

The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
becomes one with both Venice and the elements of nature within which the city weaves itself.

One comes upon this church perched majestically, far in the distance yet appearing so near.
It plays tricks with the eyes
It plays tricks with the mind
and with memory, it rehearses itself again and again

As if a place one imagines in a dream, and awakens not knowing whether the dream or the awakening is real.

Such is the lure
such is the glory
such is the mystery
of San Giorgio Maggiore

Sophia Khan

Travel photo used as a reference for the Watercolor

Travel photo used as a reference for the Watercolor

Awaiting Adventure in Venice

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper

watercolor on Arches paper

a quick and loose watercolor sketch
copyright © Sophia Khan

My favorite way to 'end' a painting, is with poetry; thoughts, reflections, and wandering a bit more into the subject at hand, this time with pen and paper rather than paints and brushes.

And so today, sharing a new view of Venice, a new part of the city, located along the Grand Canal, that I have been wanting to paint for some time.  I delved into this with some of the new watercolors I purchases, partly as a way to experiment with them.  Afterwards, came the words below:

~

Gondolas & the Art of Choice in Venice

A row of gondolas awaits the arrival of one seeking adventure
Each stands as if a start to its own unique path into the maze that is the city of Venice.
Each pointing towards a different direction, a different choice, a different set of possibilities.

Is it not unlike our everyday lives, then?
This moving forth in the city of Venice.

The only difference being that here
There are no regrets
There is only a moving forward,

For here, even when we are wrong, there is stark truth and beauty to behold

Even when we are lost, we secretly want to be,
And do not fear not finding our way back.

And this difference being what gives the city the spell of undying hope
it forever instills in its visitors.

~

 

reference travel photograph

reference travel photograph

~ in my sketchbook ~

You may have gathered from the above watercolor that the 'mood' in my studio these days is one of a tad bit more looseness and playfulness than usual.  Following this a detail view of the Monreale Cathedral in Sicily.  

When I am feeling up for this sort of challenge, fun, and spontaneity, I will paint without an underlying pencil sketch as done in this small study.  As it turns out, I like the results and may go forth doing a more finished larger piece of the subject.

~music inspired by my watercolor~

Another fun bit of news is that I was recently contacted by Australian musician Helen Davey, to be part of her 52 Sound Paintings project.  The song she created, inspired by my watercolor of a home in Ferrandina, in southern Italy, is such a lovely composition.  It can be heard, at the project website here

And if you have enjoyed the above poem, some of my other poetry, inspired by my travels, can be viewed here

Inner Grace, Palermo

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper

watercolor on Arches paper

copyright © Sophia Khan

In Italy, time graces place with meaning.  What was once a pagan temple, later becomes a church.  What was once a private palace, now opens its doors as a museum.  Other places and monuments stand the 'test of time' being firmly grounded in their original functions as cathedrals or amphitheaters, and such; the weathering of their stones being what gives them the mark of time.  

Maybe we travel to places with layers of history, to know all of us; all of what makes us who we are including our own past, who we are now, and what we seek for our futures.  Yes, we travel for adventure, to escape from our everyday, but at the same time there is perhaps an underlying calling that guides where we end up going.  There is perhaps something more than beauty that invites us to the scenery we peruse online or in magazines as possible travel destinations.  

One of my trips to Italy was dedicated solely to visiting Palermo.  Why Palermo, you might ask. The layering of course. Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman; so many diverse cultures settled and ruled this prime location.  The resulting Architecture is a unique layering of the various styles each brought with them.  And this being something I could relate to as a reflection of myself.  

palermo-archeology-museum-image-copyright-sophia-khan.jpg

One of the places I had come upon during this trip was the Regional Archaeological Museum of Palermo, which was originally a monastery.  Its courtyards were one of the most beautiful I have seen in all my travels.  Although I must admit, it's hard to come across a courtyard that is not inviting.  I've written before on how I see courtyards symbolically as 'containers' of our desires, hopes, and dreams.  As such one can see them as centers.  Centers of our innermost cores.

Each of the two courtyards contain a central pond accented by a sculpture.  One courtyard is graced with a sculpture of Triton.  The other, with that of an angel.  I found the angel quite fitting to the original use of the space as a monastic complex.  

archeology-museum-palermo-copyright-sophia-khan.jpg

I love the idea of archaeological remnants of the past carefully displayed in the halls and rooms of a space whose function has evolved over time.  And I hope that my painting conveys some of the grace, elegance, and inner calm that emits from this beautiful space layered with meaning, layered with time.

Have you encountered a place during your own travels that has changed in its use, in a way that gives it new meaning. One that stood out from the rest, and remains memorable to you as it now stands.  Or perhaps like me, you have traveled somewhere that you find is reflective of who you are.  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, if you are so inclined to share.... 

And if you would enjoy 'Inner Grace' for your own home, or that of a loved one, archival Fine Art prints are available here and the Original Watercolor is available here.

Wishing you much grace, beauty, and wonder in your current surroundings and wherever else you many wander be it in travel, in memory, or in longing,

Sophia

Unadorned Intimacy, Ferrandina, Italy

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper

watercolor on Arches paper

copyright © Sophia Khan

Italy is more than its monuments.  More than its museums, churches, piazzas, and ruins.  

There is a beauty to Italy that is sometimes just around the corner from its more obvious charms. One that is found in weathered cobblestones, peeling paint, spalling stones. One that is seen where laundry hangs to dry in the sunlight outside a window. One that is heard when two women exchange pleasantries and laughs with each other, through the upper floor windows of their opposite homes. One that is observed in the dedicated hands of the barista, the violin maker, the jeweler, the farmer, each leading their simple and content lives in the backdrop of immense beauty and history.  

Certoza, Monastery in Galluzzo, Italy

Certoza, Monastery in Galluzzo, Italy

It is perhaps in finding such places, such people, that we relate to our own lives most.  Lives that are not perfect, not always grand and glorious, but often embedded with everyday simplicity and delights, comings and goings, and slow, casual, memorable moments, conversations, and revelations.  Perhaps Italy can teach us to cherish this more.  

Doorway within doorway, Ferrandina, Italy

Doorway within doorway, Ferrandina, Italy

In celebration of all this, all that makes up life, place, and time, is an unadorned view of House No. 50 in Ferrandina, in the south of Italy.  A place like so many others in Italy where the boundaries between public and private are blurred, where outside and inside coalesce.  Where meaning lies not in knowing the history of the site, the architect, the street name, or where it lies on a map, but how it moves us.  How it reminds us to see beauty in the unadorned, simple and intimate world that so often mirrors our own.

~

If you enjoyed reading this post and/or my painting, feel free to leave your thoughts below.  I would love to hear from you.  

If you enjoyed the artwork in this post, it is available in the limited editions section of my online shop here and as an original watercolor here.

Pompeii Bathhouse, Silent Illumination

Sophia Khan

Watercolor on Arches paper

Watercolor on Arches paper

copyright © Sophia Khan

Ruins Tell Stories

Ruins tell stories
of secrets once kept, lives once lived, and their dreams, battles, and triumphs.

Ruins tell stories
of destiny, of fate, of choices left and those heroically made.

Ruins tell stories
of ourselves as we walk through them,
as sunlight shines, here and there, upon weathered stones, 
something illuminates within us
reminding us that our own hopes, dreams, and battled fears,
both our momentary losses and our immensely enriching gains,
together all lay the stones that are built to form our lives, which make us whole, in time.

by Sophia Khan

Pompeii Bathhouse, Silent Illumination, now available in my shop.