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In 2006 I traveled to the Umbrian village of Monte Castello di, vibio, located 30 kilometers south of Perugia and 165 kilometers north of Rome to participate in a month long residency with the International School of Painting, Drawing and Sculpture.  Monte Castello di, vibio is actually contained in a Medieval castle surrounded by olive groves and farms.  

The artists were assigned a studio in the castle, empty stone rooms with windows that looked out to the landscape dotted with blues, greens, reds and yellows.  Mine, because the school knew that  I painted on large canvases, gave me an empty store front space on one of the castle's piazzas.  Across the square was a coffee shop that served the perfect cappuccino.  The artists, who came from all parts of the world, stayed in a convent within the castle.  And according to local folklore the convent was haunted.  Some of the artists assured me that they had witnessed a nun walking the halls during the night. 

My small room consisted of a cot, a hanging rack for my clothes and a single sink that hung on the wall.  There was not a chair, desk or wardrobe.  The showers and toilets were at the far end of the dark corridor.  The dining room was a communal space with three long tables.  The excellent and well balanced meals were prepared by a local woman from the village.  Most of the fresh produce, meat and wines  came from the farms and wineries in the region. 

Early each morning I woke to the song of the crowing cocks in the farms at the foot of the castle.  The windows to each room were not made of glass but rather wooden shutters.  When the cocks' alarm went off I would rise out of the warm cot and open the shutters to witness a vista rich with movement, colour and sound.   The experience was magical, serene, and soft.  Most evenings were spent in cheery laughter,  heart warming conversations while enjoying the prosecco in the deep blue cobalt bottles, with the Irish contingent in the piazza beside the Catholic church. 

Towards the end of the residency a number of the artists told me that if one took a long, narrow, winding stairway just near the little theatre (apparently one of the smallest in Europe) then I could reach the top of the castle with ease.  Following their directions I inched my way up the dark, stone staircase.  When I stepped out into the light the view was breathtaking.  One could see for miles and all within a 360 degree rotation.  The landscape in front of me glimmered with cobalt, lappis and ultramarine blues, violet and magenta purples, striations of viridian, cinnabar and olive greens with pops of cadmium red, and amber, apricot and ochre yellows.  The shifting clouds played with the horizon lines and the landscape in front of me slipped to oscillating, flowing, merging patterns of sky and fields.  I maneuvered my way back down the stairs and went straight to my studio, gathering up three easels, canvases, acrylic paints and brushes, and then made my way back to the pinnacle of the castle where I felt the whispering of the Umbrian spirit calling me forward. 

Before I started to paint the rapidly shifting panorama, I wrote one word in bold red paint, in the middle of each canvas, that reflected what I felt. The canvases were my postcards home.  I placed the canvases on the three easels, each looking out to a different direction and an astonishing space.  I lifted my paint brush, and as if conducting a symphony, I started to paint.  Over an intense two week period the plein air paintings - postcards of where the sky fills the terrain with murmurs of the Umbrian soul, were completed. 

Once home, the collection of Postcards from Umbria  were exhibited in the Spring of 2015 and in September, 2016.   Six works have become part of private collections and the remaining are on the walls of Royal Inland Hospital's Urgent Care and Education facility in memory of Wolfram, who always made everything possible and knew the music and poetry that resonates in touching the sky with visual colour. 


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