My only travel companion was an egg. We walked up Vesuvius, fried under the Greek sun, got rained on in Belgium, visited museums and ruins, stood on glaciers, and accidentally slid down grassy hills in Tuscany. We've been pushed around in all manner of busy cities and sat in silent awe before the works of masters in countless galleries. We picked up souvenir stones from every earth and stole flowers from Monet's garden. We pondered in Pompeii and rain through the rain in Wales. The eggs endeared me as much as Wilson in Castaway and deserve this page of their own.
I can't stress enough what excellent models eggs make. Their shells reflect light beautifully and once stripped, they have a lustre that holds it like a jewel. On very bright days, the yolk within seems to glow with the very light of the sun, like when you hold your hand up to the light and can see your life blood coursing through your veins. All this beauty is not without it's problems.
Peeling an egg perfectly is not easy with talons. More often than not I slashed the slithery flesh or gouged a wound into them that rendered them unacceptable and had to be devoured. The first egg I painted was in Naples on the rooftop bar of my hotel. It was a beautiful morning and people were filing out for breakfast. I stole my first egg there. I set up my paints and perched the egg on the ledge. I try to just get the egg and the sky for starts, the buildings I can finish on trains or late at night in hotels. I have to say, there is a moment or two of embarrassment when perching eggs and no one knows around knows why. Even when they see I am about to paint it, they are still unsure as to the why. There is always an audience and it surprises me how very few actually ask. I would ask. I was certainly a novelty. My eggs and I were photographed often. I can only imagine the story they tell when they don't know the story.
As I paint, the world slips away. and on more than one occasion, like in Naples, the egg itself slipped away. In that case, down seven floors on to the sidewalk. I heard no scream so I assume it was a miss. The man by the pool below me in Santorini was not as fortunate. I dared not look over the balcony, but from the "Bloody Hell!" that rose from below, I knew I had hit a Brit. I did not go down to swim that day and decided to find a spot where casualties would be less likely.
Once I became a master at stealing eggs from breakfast buffets, I had to learn to stop them from escaping perches. Where they hoped to go was beyond me, but they all seemed to have leaving on their minds. Like lemmings, they were hellbent on suicide. I got very good at nibbling off the bottom so they would sit up straight and stay in place. When the only eggs I could get were raw, I sat them in beer caps.
As I didn't know the place I wanted to paint until I saw it, I sometimes carried an egg in my pocket all day. I would get distracted or wander into a museum and forget about it all together. More than once I found myself sitting on a train staring out the window and thinking, "Man Nanc, you are in desperate need of a shower." It's really hot in Italy and Greece and you can only know how bad a hard boiled egg in your pocket smells after 10 hours if you experience it. Once discovered, there is the problem of hiding the body. Not all trains have little garbage cans on the back of the seats and not all museums have garbage cans. To make the drop, one has to get creative. I left them on windowsills, in ashtrays, on railings and in phone booths. Phone booths amused me most and I hallucinate they are all still there, like little fat friendly greeters or homeless little beggers coming in from the Swiss cold.
I loved the eggs. They all had different little quirks and funny stories of their own. I wished I could have kept them. I thought about it later and realized I could have pickled them, but I doubt I loved them that much and my children would not appreciate the inheritance. I am not a fan of souvenirs, but throughout the trip I had my eye out for the perfect souvenir. I had stones from most places and the flowers from Monet's garden, but I wanted something that could represent the essence of the whole experience. Not to much to ask.
Walking around in Strasbourg, I found a shop that sold chess sets. I like chess. Perhaps a chess set is what I should get. I wandered around fiddling with all sorts of beautifully carved pieces and contemplating. The man at the counter asked what I was looking for and I told him I had no idea but that I thought it might be in here. I decided that if I wanted a chess set I would take his card and order on line. As I approached him, there on the table sat a small bowl with three white alabaster eggs in it. I stole one.
Come on, I didn't steal it! I bought it fair and square and walked around like the Cheshire cat fondling my luscious catch in my pocket like a man about to propose.
The egg paintings are on 5 by 7 inch canvasses. Small enough to carry in my 5 by 8 inch purse. It also holds my 5 by 7 diary which is why I purchased those uglies. I tell you this because I only brought 15 canvasses, believing that Europe would be flooded with art supply stores and reinforcements would be easy to find. They are not and they are not.
I eagerly painted too many paintings in the first few weeks, but I had to start rationing canvasses and making tough choices about which cities I wanted to paint in. I am sorry London, like Milan and Venice I had to cut you from the roster.
By the time I got my egg to the Hauge, I only had one canvas left and it was too dear to squander. It was also time for my visit with my dear friend Rembrandt. I was saving this canvas for him though I was not sure what I was going to do. I could paint an egg in his loose wild style or perch it on a window sill outside his home. I had no big plan except to save it for him.
I spent a long time in Rembrandts house. I touched everything, looked out his windows, lusted after his easel, imagined jumping on his tiny bed and greeting him at his door. I was so sure I could channel him and share some great moment, but delicious as it was, it was time to go and nothing extraordinary had occurred.
I went back up the stairs to his studio to take one more photo of his easel. In the others, I had no choice but to include the fat asses of tourists and faces of people who knew they were ruining my photos and still won't move. I got my photo and said goodbye, but as I was leaving, there on his table with all his paints….the place I had stood earlier and photographed I saw it.
A wooden bowl of white alabaster eggs. My love had not ignored my visit.
This scene became my last egg painting.
I hope you felt the wonderful little shiver that visits me still when I think of it.
When I got home I had exactly one dozen lovely little egg paintings.
TO READ MORE OF MY EXPLOITS CLICK ON THAT TINY LITTLE ARROW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE. THEY ARE IN REVERSE ORDER SO THE LAST PAGE IS ACTUALLY THE BEGINNING. ENJOY!