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Note: This is a story I wrote two years ago, durante this exhibition, and forgot to post. I just discovered it today in the files and will post it now–better late than never.

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Maureen and Inma Exhibit in Town Hall During the “Semana Cultural”

The friendship between Maureen and Inma started more than 30 years ago when Maureen was giving outdoor painting lessons to the children of the village. Inma was one of the most promising young artists. She was 14 years old. Fast forward thirty-some years. Inma invites Maureen to exhibit with her in the Pinos Genil town hall during the annual summer “Semana Cultural.” What Maureen discovered during the show was that, in the intervening years, Inma had become an artist and the best-loved person in the village. Maureen said afterwards, “After exhibiting with her I realized it was the most pleasurable show I ever participated in.”

For the occasion the mayor renovated the exhibit hall with fresh paint and swanky new lighting, and commissioned a local designer to produce a nice tryptic. He even laid on the refreshments and sent the village truck round to pick up the framed work, all of which made it a pleasure to show “at home” in Pinos Genil, a village of 1,200 people. The opening-night crowd was a mix of locals and people from Granada and the UK. The Granada artists who came were impressed by the exhibit space and the professional air. They’re now lining up for shows in Pinos Genil, the new cultural Mecca of greater Granada.

The show is on through the month of August. Here are the pictures of the opening night:

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What Now? Just Keep On Keepin’ On

Seven months with three cats, two dogs and a husband, and no place to go, gives you some time to think. That’s one of the luxuries of the coronavirus threat. The first thing that occurs to you is how superfluous a large part of your life has been. You begin to think about what’s important, what keeps you afloat, what’s worthy of  your time, and what will keep your spirits up during this atypical experience.

The first thing I did was to sit down. I found myself stuck between confused and despondent. I just wanted to stay sitting down. I picked up a book and started reading. I started with Tolstoy. After 20 pages of War and Peace I couldn’t believe I hadn’t discovered him sooner. A couple of hundred pages later I realized that he had not only  introduced me to Napoleon, he had lifted me out of the doldrums. I was back. So much to do. So many more books to read, and so much more.

My first new project was sourdough bread. It took me about a month of experimenting to get it under control. But it was never tiresome. It was full of suspense, fascination and the joy of seeing the bubbles come to the top of the brew. Then the bread. After a few inevitable failures I started making proper bread. Then superior bread. And there was a delightful side benefit: sourdough pancakes. Every morning. With different homemade jams. Can life get any richer?

I soon found that I had more time for the house and–gasp–my studio, which is on the hillside just below our house. I made some watercolor sketches around the garden–which always reminds me of Monet, doing some of his most wonderful paintings of the pond in his garden. I began to see things clearly again. Was it Tolstoy or Monet helping me? Or both? In the evenings around sunset Mike and I like to sit overlooking the valley and watch the wild ducks flying upriver to the reservoir where they spend their nights. Occasionally we have a bonus and see a big heron (garza real) flapping sedately by. Yesterday evening we saw a peregrine falcon sail-hunting high over our valley. That is an indelible experience, a true luxury that doesn’t require a limousine or precious jewels. It’s free.

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Reading, Cooking, Nature, A Sense of Humor

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Sketching Is Less Like Work

I don’t know about you, but for me the sketchbook is where most of the magic happens. It’s freer, more spontaneous, less ponderous that putting paint on canvas or etching a plate. It’s actually fun and if you mess it up it doesn’t matter. By the way, the day you least expect it you can turn some of those sketches into paintings.

My latest creation is a little herb garden in that flat pot that had the pansies in it (see photos). It’s only been going for about three weeks and already we’re harvesting minute amounts of fresh coriander (chopped and sprinkled on top of Mike’s chili con carne) and basil (place the delicate little leaves on top of any pasta dish). It makes for a better life. With a few packets of seeds you can make three or four herb gardens to give to your favorite people. I also enjoy seeing the fulfillment Mike gets from working on his blog, Trump and All the Rest. He takes it seriously and has posted 175 essays over the past three years. He says he’s doing his part to help set the United States on the right track.

María José, my old friend (more like a daughter actually) and assistant in the studio, arrived back from her family summer on the beach a few days ago and we sat down in the studio and plotted together. She’s been prodding me for years to do a particular project and we’ve finally decided to get started on it. (Was that due to Tolstoy, Zola or Mark Twain? I’m not sure, but I’m eternally grateful to all of them.) Now I’m also feeling the need to start some big work. Painting with big brushes on big canvases is exciting, especially when you’ve got those sketches as roadmaps.

What Does the Future Hold?

The future holds what it’s always held: work, play, progress, surprises, setbacks, joy, sadness, disappointment and lots more. But the most important thing, whatever lands on your plate, is what the Spanish call “ilusión.” That’s not illusion in the sense of trickery, magic or mystery. It’s more about joyous anticipation. Here comes the future! Bring it on! So, what do you do? You do what you have always done. Trust your serendipity and be creative.

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And They’re Not Over Yet

The past six months have reminded me of my two favorite Spanish sayings:

  • “No hay mal que por bien no venga.” Nothing bad ever happens that doesn’t bring something good along with it.
  • “Todos los días son días de aprender.” Every day is a day to learn something.

It was the end of February and I had just had a group in my studio of 18 art students from The American School in Switzerland (TASIS). I worked with two assistants, María José and Carmen (bottom right in the photo), which permitted us, in addition to teaching, to produce a volume of work, enough to mount a show when the students got back home. It was a print production experience and it worked wonderfully well. Everybody was delighted with their prints and I was ready for a rest.

This TASIS class was the largest group I ever had in my studio. In fact, some of them worked in the Gallinero on the long workbench and outside on the terrace. Martyn Duke, the art teacher (far left, glasses), and Frank Long, the photography teacher (far right, top), two great people to work with, walked the students from the hotel over to my studio every morning. Afterwards a great grandfather sitting on a bench under a big plane tree in the village plaza said it was like the old days when shepherds would herd their sheep and goats through the middle of town on their way upriver to the mountains.

It Was a Long Rest

I didn’t realize then that we were in for a six-month–and counting–rest, as the coronavirus lockdown started shortly afterwards. Life changed radically. No more escapadas to our favorite fried-fish-and-chilled-white-wine bars. No more visits to and from friends and family. No more students. What day is it? What is the meaning of life, anyway? Are we going to get out of this alive?

Essentially I think the most important tool for dealing with dramatically unexpected circumstances is creativity. I’m always saying that creativity is not just about modeling clay or putting paint on canvas. It’s about everything we do in life. It’s our most important resource, especially in tricky times.

How to start? First of all, reading. Mike bought me an ereader for Christmas and downloaded tons of quality books. I started with Tolstoy–what a revelation–Mark Twain, Dickens, biographies of Caesar and Bonaparte, among other greats. (Conclusion: Nothing has changed.) Then cooking, first spending a month nurturing sourdough bread and pancakes (Mike says sourdough is an extraterrestre.) We’ve almost eliminated meat from our diet, replacing it with dozens of variations on different kinds of beans. Then cakes and baked apples. Oh, I almost forgot the big homemade jam selection. Our son has a fruit orchard. That helps. It’s creativity you can spread on pancakes.

As it turned out, we were lucky. We weren’t totally locked down, The regulation had a loophole for people to walk their dogs, so Diva saved our health and sanity. We would take her for walks along the old Sierra Nevada tram line or the river walk almost every day.

Another bright side: They say adapting to change keeps you young. So, when the initial shock began to wear off I decided to go back to painting. Painting was my first love, but I hadn’t had much time for it since the late 70s when I took up printmaking. Now the time was right. I even had oodles of paint and canvases I’d been buying over the years for a future when I could paint again.

Sometimes Mike Would Take a Camera

What’s Next?

Next is to keep on coping. To continue dealing with changes, surprises, alarms, disappointments, simple pleasures, polishing one’s sense of humor. If adapting to change makes you young we’ll be 10 years old before this is over. And that’s a good thing, as President Trump says Covid-19 doesn’t kill anybody… except old people.

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An interview by Bart Sedgebear

Manchester Girl Came Long Way

Maureen is from Manchester, U.K. In her last incarnation there she was a suburban housewife with two small children. That was in 1964 and she was feeling restless again. She had always been restless, at school, in church, in her job as a secretary earning coolie wages in the Manchester textile sector. This time it was bigger. She wanted out of suburbia, out of Little England. She had experienced only two weeks of sunshine in the previous year and yearned to feel the sun. She had painted her children’s bedroom walls with a bullfighter theme. Painting made her happy. She had attended a few night classes with a professor from the Stockport College of Art. “I needed to know how to stretch a canvas,” she says. After a half-dozen lessons the art professor said to her, “You don’t need to come any more. Just go home and draw everything.” She sold her first couple of portraits and thought the life of the artist would be easy.

One day, when her husband arrived home from work as a sales rep, she said to him, “Let’s move to Spain.” They had been on holiday a couple of times on the Costa Brava on Spain’s northern Mediterranean coast and enjoyed it.

In July 1964 she stepped off a plane at the Málaga airport, a thousand kilometers south of the Costa Brava. She was shepherding her two children and struggling with the carry-on luggage. Her husband was waiting there to drive them to their new home, a cobblestone, Roman-tiled fishing village 50 kilometers up the coast. As she stepped out the door of the plane she was buffeted by a wave of heat like nothing she had ever experienced before. She wondered if she had done the right thing.

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Time Flies

Flash forward a half century. She’s sitting midst easels and etching presses, stacks of canvases and exotic papers, worriedly anticipating the return of the wren that built his nest outside her studio window last week–and looking back over a life that took her by surprise.

Q: What happened?

A: We sold our house in England and pooled the money with another English couple to build a restaurant/bar and 12 apartments on a bluff over a Mediterranean beach in southern Spain. We ran the business working alternate weeks for a few years, the wives cooking and the husbands doing the shopping and tending the bar.

A couple of years in I rented the whole top floor of an old house overlooking a big vegetable patch and made it into a wonderful studio. The woman who owned the house was called Conchita Bueno and she was truly buena. I would paint there during the off weeks and any other time I could steal. Sometime during the fourth year, with the business taking off and me selling some paintings, I got restless again. We didn’t speak hardly any Spanish and we had never really integrated with the villagers. What’s more, the town was turning into a tourist trap for wayward Brits and Northern Europeans who formed English-speaking cliques and whose idea of adventure was to go to a “native” bar. It wasn’t an ideal place to raise children. I felt that I needed to get out of there. But how? I badly needed some serendipity.

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It came along in the form of an American lad who wore cut-off jeans in mid-winter and always carried a couple of cameras. He moved into the ugly new block of flats opposite our restaurant and began coming over for breakfast, and we had time for long chats. It turned out he was writing articles for American newspapers and was determined to stay in Europe. He liked fried bread, had never heard of it. One morning he and I made mayonnaise together in the kitchen, him pouring the oil slowly into the bowl and me whipping it into the eggs with a wire whisk. Shortly afterwards we coincided at a party of those boring expats and spent the whole night in a corner reading aloud to each other from a book of Yeats’ poems. We read Beggar to Beggar Cried. That did it.

Q: What happened then?

A. Two weeks later I was back on the plane with my kids, headed to my parents’ house in Manchester. I was there for six months working in my brother’s flower shop while my soon-to-be second husband searched for a “real” Spanish village well off the Mediterranean coast, found one, rented a house there, and helped the owner install a bathroom. We’ve lived in that village ever since. It hasn’t changed much as it’s in a steepish valley that doesn’t have much room for “development.” Here we raised my two kids and one of our own.

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Becoming a Printmaker

Eventually we bought an old house and fixed it up. As we had no money left nor collateral, the village mayor co-signed a loan for us to do the renovation. That is how our pueblo has treated us. Some years later we built the studio and converted the goat shed into an office for Mike and have happily lived and worked here ever since. Much later we built a cabin to accommodate the print artists who came from all over the world to attend my printmaking workshops. Workshops are what you do when a disastrous world economic crisis slows your flow of art sales to a drip. Even in this I was lucky. My husband was a freelance journalist and photographer who had worked in PR in the US, so it didn’t take him long to adapt to being an artist’s online publicist. Try googleing “printmaking courses in Spain”  and see the first results.

This was the etching studio of the Rodríguez-Acosta Foundation in 1979-80

Q: How did you become a printmaker?

A: More serendipity. Louise Waugh, a wonderful English watercolorist friend, stopped by the studio one day with some beautiful etching proofs. I was astounded. How did she do that? She said she had been accepted to study in the etching studio of the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta in Granada. “You just take a portfolio of your work and leave it with them, and then go back after a week to see if you’ve been accepted.” I did. I was. A whole new world opened up for me. I worked there for two-and-a-half years, under the direction of the magical printmaking maestro, José García Lomas, “Pepe Lomas,” who had been exquisitely formed in Barcelona and Paris. Pepe liked his students to be earnest and I was certainly that, so he spared no effort to see to it that I mastered his traditional techniques. It’s a good thing I did. Everything starts there.

The Creative Life

Q: Let’s talk about the creative life. How do you see it looking back?

A: And forward. That’s something I need to clear up. A writer friend of ours recently turned 40 and expressed concern about being “past her prime.” What nonsense. You’re never past your prime until you stop struggling. I made my first print when I was 37. Consider Georgia O’Keeffe, nearing 98, virtually blind, and still painting.

As for “the creative life,” Mike and I have discussed it a lot. We agree that authentic creativity goes beyond putting paint on canvas or ink on plates. For us an artist’s first mission is to take responsibility for crafting a creative life. That can mean different things for different artists but the essential part is about making a vital and artistic ecosystem for yourself, tailor made for your own needs, tastes, challenges and aspirations. And don’t fail to leave some space for serendipity.

Don’t worry what other people think of your lifeplan. It’s for you, not for them. Do you want to raise chihuahuas or learn Mandarin. You can do that, and more. When I was headed back to Spain in 1969 to start a new life my two brothers, both successful businessmen, expressed their grave concern for me. They thought I was crazy. Forty-some years later they came down individually for visits, and both confided to me, “I wish I had done what you did.”

Q: Do you have any advice for young artists who are starting out, say, where you were in the mid-sixties?

A: I can make some general suggestions, but every artist is a world apart. First and foremost is the importance of actually working, filling sketchbooks, painting, making prints. If you don’t do that conscientiously it’s all pointless. Inevitably, what you are seeking, to live from your art, entails some risk, but it need not be an impediment. There’s a simple formula for taking the stress out of it: Figure out what your wildest dream is and give it a try. The worst that can happen is that you have to go home and get a job.

You’ll have to sell some work, of course. You’ll need to exhibit and participate in art fairs and other cultural events. Whether or not you ever sell much work over Internet, a compelling presence on the Web will be an important element in your success. Your story is just as important as your work and you’ll need to develop it and find interesting ways to divulge it. Right now the media for that are websites and blogs, videos and podcasts and, of course, social media. Later there will be something else but the essential element will still be your story: your humanity, your humor, your best teacher, your hopes, your unexpected successes, the morning light on your nasturtiums, your cat, and your trip to Tasmania or the Grand Canyon. Don’t worry about including any sales pitches. The captivating life and times of a full-time professional artist is sales pitch enough, and your potential clients will appreciate your low-key presentation.

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More Preparation

It would be good to study something, too, regardless of whether you get a degree. You will learn how to learn and this will serve you well when it comes time to build a a website or a sailboat. Don’t laugh. A dear artist friend of ours in Colorado makes lovingly- crafted three-quarter size Indian canoes and people hang them from their ceilings.

Travel all you can. Read all you can. Without it you cannot become a complete artist–or person. Read quality fiction and non-fiction. Everything fits into the artist’s blender.

Q: Do you have more suggestions, something to help artists survive a crisis?

A: I discussed that more extensively in an article I wrote some years ago. Here’s a link to it.

Q: What about working space and conditions? How important are they?

A: Ample workspace is essential for a visual artist, especially considering that you might need to mount courses in there. That studio is your sacred space and you must devote some thought and resources to it. You also need privacy and tranquility. At first you may need a day job, but don’t let it prevent you from spending quality time in your studio. Program that into your life. Set some objectives, make some plans. Write them down. They will help you navigate the hard times to come.

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Think about what kind of work you’re going to do, how commercial you can go without compromising your creativity and your self respect. Who are you going to sell to and how? Resist the temptation to spend time and effort cultivating rich clients. Normal people–teachers, nurses, programmers, office workers, small business people and the like, are better, more loyal and constant. They will think of you when they need wedding presents or portraits. Then, if a rich client comes along, that’s OK, too.

Don’t despise anyone. My best client for paintings (this was before etchings) when I started out in Granada was a young pharmacy employee. He would phone me occassionally and say, “I’ve got some money saved, Maureen. Can I come out and have a look-around?” We’re still friends.

Q: What about the coronavirus pandemic? How do you think that is going to influence the lives of artists?

A: I think that’s impossible to predict at the moment. The first thing that occurs to me is that involuntary lockdown has given artists valuable time to think and observe, time they have never taken before. I hope they take good advantage of it. As for national and world events, they could go from revolutionary social and political changes to just more of the usual muddling through. Only one thing is clear to me: our creativity–in the broadest sense of the word–will be stretched to its limits Artists may have to plant potatoes. In any case, look on the bright side. Creativity is what artists are good at.

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Maureen Booth printroom

(He aquí una selección de mi trabajo y talleres)

“Where can I see a selection of your work?” Right here! I’ve gone into the files and pulled out a representative sample of my work over the years. I’ve done it by categories: acid etchings, solarplate prints, linocuts, oil paintings, etc. Some of the paintings are for sale and most of the editions still have prints available, so if you see anything you think you might like to purchase, just drop me an email (maureenluciabooth(at)gmail.com) and we can discuss it. (Click on the images to enlarge them and open up a slide show.) Here we go:.

Recent Work / Obra Reciente

Bronze Sculptures

 

Movie Making and Lorna

Solarplate Prints / Estampas Solares

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Liquid Metal Prints / Estampas de Metal Líquido

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Acid Etchings / Grabados al Ácido

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Screen Prints / Serigrafías

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Linocuts / Linograbados

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Oil Paintings / Óleos

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Watercolors / Acuarelas

 

 

Alhambra Prints / Estampas con tema Alhambra

Alhambra ghost print

These are the first prints from my series on Granada’s Alhambra palace and fortress. Though it’s located barely five miles down the hill from our house, I’ve avoided the Alhambra as a subject for years because of the danger of doing something trite. It’s been done to deathby artists from around the world over the past 200 years. But I’m encouraged by my experiments with liquid-metal techniques, which have obliged me to work fast and loose, and I’m quite pleased with the results.

One surprise in this experience is that some of the ghost prints turned out more interesting than the first prints pulled off the plates, as you can see in these pictures. Also, learning to print plates with relief on them has been a challenge.

So, please take a look at these new prints and let me know what you think. Or, if you like, come to my studio in Granada and we’ll work on something together!

The first print pulled off the first plate

The second Alhambra print

The ghost print off the second plate


 

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It Can Be Fun, Actually

Due to the countrywide quarantine order we’ve been confined to our home for more than two weeks now but we haven’t managed to get bored yet. Admittedly we’re lucky. We have a garden and some sunny terraces. So I dabble in paint. In normal times I don’t have much time for painting, my first love, since I’ve got so much printmaking stuff to do. Mike works on his blog and in the garden, makes pictures and walks the dogs. That’s the loophole in the lockdown order, you’re permitted to walk your dog. Very civilized, I thought. And just opposite our house, on the other side of the river, we’ve got an old tram line that’s perfect for the purpose.

I want to share with you some of the photographs he has made over the past couple of weeks. Actually, being locked down has its positive side. There are lots of annoying duties that you can’t possibly do, so you get to leave them. That gives you time for stuff you never have time for, sitting on the terrace round sunset watching the ducks and herons flying up the river till it’s too dark to see them; watching films and series and, especially, YouTube documentaries. (Here’s a link to one we loved.) And relaxing deeply, as if you were on holiday or at someone else’s house.

So, here’s some pictures. Be well and come and see us when you can.

 

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These TASIS Students Have Redefined the “Work” in Workshop

Martyn Dukes and Frank Long returned again this year with their art and photography students for their third printmaking workshop with Maureen. After missing the first of four days due to a cancelled flight from Milan and a long trip via Zurich the following day they should have been tired. But no, determined to make up for lost time they marched right into the studio for Maureen’s orientation talk, so they were primed to go the next morning. Another factor that got them off to a running start was the stack of drawings and photos on acetate that they had prepared previously.

So while they worked on new acetates in the studio under Maureen’s supervision, her assistants, Carmen and María José (bottom right in the photo), started exposing and inking solar plates and running them through the two etching presses. The system worked well and permitted the students to achieve a surprising production of prints in just three days working mornings and afternoons. They barely stopped long enough to eat lunch, though on the last day they managed to fit in a stroll around the high spots of Granada.

Congratulations to all of  you. You couldn’t have done it any better. P.S. You will be happy to know that both María José and Carmen remarked how polite and cordial all of the students were–and how saintly patient Martyn and Frank were.

Here’s the pictures:

 

Would you like to see some of Maureen’s artwork? Here’s a link.
Thanks for liking, commenting and sharing.

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Puedes conocer este laboratorio de la magia del arte desde hoy hasta el día 6 de enero, visperas de Reyes

Allí te espera una experiencia artística única–convivir con una artista profesional durante unos minutos en el estudio donde ha dedicado muchos años a crear su arte original en varios formatos: obra gráfica, pintura y escultura. No lo pierdas.

Se puede concertar una cita o bien por teléfono o por email:

Teléfono: 605 341 632
Email: maureenluciabooth@gmail.com

He aquí más fotos de la historia del estudio de Maureen, la gente que ha trabajado con ella, sus obras y sus alegrías:

 

Gracias por seguir, comentar y compartir.

 

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¿Has visitado alguna vez el estudio de un artista? Es el destilado de una vida entera.

Haz la cita para tu visita al estudio de Maureen aquí:

Hasta pronto.

He aquí unos momentos en el estudio de Maureen a través de los años:

 

Autoretrato Maureen 1982

Maureen, Autoretrato, 1982, colección de Miguel

Hay obras grandes y chiquititas, pinturas, grabados y esculturas, que te van a encantar. Y los precios de las piezas son asequibles, sobre todo los grabados.

Puedes llamarla  or enviarle un email para concertar una visita al estudio a partir del viernes, día 20 de diciembre hasta el 6 de enero, vísperas de Reyes.

Teléfono: 605 341 632
Email: maureenluciabooth@gmail.com

 

Todas las obras de abajo son grabados estampados sobre papel hecho a mano en ediciones numeradas y firmadas:

Gracias por seguir y compartir.

 

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Volver a la versión española

You’re Invited to Drop by and Visit the Studio where Maureen Has Created these Sculptures, Paintings and Graphic Work.

And if you find a piece that strikes your fancy, you can even aquire it, either for your own home or as a Christmas gift for someone you love. Maureen will be at home every day starting Friday, December 15 until Monday, January 6th. You can phone her to make an appointment (34 605341632).
Here are a few samples of work that is still available, and there is a lot more in her studio.