Somewhere in Spain, on the Costa Blanca, in the middle of mountain chain at about 600 meters above sea level, there is a little village called Tarbena. I have been there many times, as it is a picturesque place in a spectacular setting – heaven for land and townscape artists – and I have presented some artworks featuring it in my different art sites and blogs. The place was originally an agricultural community, with many olive groves, almond trees and cherry orchards gracing the countryside., but in the meanwhile, with all the tourists passing by, above all attracted by a famous restaurant run by an one-armed communist,I guess it is as much tourist-driven as agricultural!
Anyway, one day as I was there, I came upon some extremely striking scenes. I saw three men sitting on a bench by a monument in the village square – the church or the town hall, I don’t remember- whose facade was made of a structure which looked like bubbles. The men were sitting lazily around, dozing, chatting, sunbathing, in colourful, comfy clothes. Not far from them, in the main street leading to the square, I saw three women together -their wives perhaps?- standing in front of a house entrance with big black bars. The women were totally clothed in black, standing ramrod-straight like soldiers, and looking more dangerous than them, even without the guns!. I was amazed by the difference between these two scenes, wondering if this was in fact a little glimpse inside Spanish society, at least in little retired villages. The men sitting around, doing nothing apart from enjoying a colourful life, and the women living a busy black-and-white life between kitchen, shop and church… The fact is that along my many journeys through Spain, I often saw similar scenes, this one being by far the most striking one!
That day I was in Tarbena just passing by, and no time to paint from a motif, so I just took some photos with the intention of later making some artwork based on them. And indeed I started two paintings, in ink and watercolour, but somehow, I got interrupted in the process of doing them, before they were really finished, and I never touched them again.
I rediscovered these two paintings a short time ago, as I was revisiting art works from the past. I don’t fancy finishing them now (I hate to go back to past paintings), but well, I think they are far enough along to get an impression of what I described in this post!
So here they are, The Men and Women from Tarbena!
After I had spent 2 or 3 days in Serpa sketching all kind of buildings, I got quite bored, and needed to sketch something else. This is why, on the 7th of July (2009), I sat with kevin at a cafe outside, and made sketches of the people sitting there. I liked the faces I saw, and had quite a nice time doing that. As always my sketches tend to be caricatures, I just can’t help it… but I swear that I have warm and sympathetic feelings towards all these people I sketch, my intention is really not to make them look silly or ridiculous or whatever negative… I am sorry if some recognise themselves (what i doubt in fcat as I am not really searching for a good likeness) and feel offended…
These are some of the people I sketched that day. if you wnat to see more, go please to my Flickr account
For about 6 months now I have been in the process of moving.
Moving from one house into the other, from one art gallery into the other.
I hate packing. And believe me, the amount of painting materials and paintings I have is gigantic, so to move only this part of my past life is already a life’s work. This is why I decided to do it gradually, taking it easy. The Housing market in Spain being at a standstill, nobody is rushing to buy my lovely house, so I can take as much time as I need.
The other day I was there, about 260 kilometres north of here, and I wanted to bring back my big new canvasses, which I ordered there before I left last Summer, but unfortunately they are so big that they don’t fit into the car. Frustrated, I decided to bring back some of my older sketch books, and other little things.
Today, a little bit bored and without any energy to start some new stuff, I had a glance at some of them, and found sketches which I of course had totally forgotten. This happens to me all the time by the way: I normally paint so fast and so prolifically that my paintings have no time to get recorded in my memory! Anyway, this is how I found this one. As I saw it, I remembered every detail again. A young girl had posed for me at that time for a fast sketch, and I remember how, a little bit annoyed by the boring position I had started to imagine things around her… and especially the cushions on the armchair, under her bum and behind her back had more and more taken the form of wings which seemed to grow from her body… and I even saw lots of butterflies flying all around her head!
A typical example of what suddenly happens to my brain when I get bored… I see things… bananas things…
some might call it the power of daydreaming!
I don’t remember what they were looking at as I was sketching them, but it was certainly amazing enough to have them stand still for the time I needed for my drawing!
You might think, looking at these portraits, that I am exaggerating a lot, but I don’t, at least not consciously. I am not trying to make any caricature, but I am not searching either for exact likeness. In fact I just let my eyes and my hand and my pen and my brushes work together and give an impression of what is in front of them.
The good thing being that I am quite sure that nobody ever will come to this blog and write insults to me for having painted them like that!
So fascinating to observe all these people sitting at a café. Even doing nothing the characters are so obvious: in the way they sit, the way they cross their arms or legs, the way they look around…that one, for example, really seemed to own the whole world!
It was very diffcult to capture the woman telling her story… I did what I could!
I was fascinated by the incredibly excited expression on the face and body position of the woman listening to her…
Quite regularly I go to a Cafe by the Beach, and sketch people spending their time there.
It is a great way for me to practise live sketching.
Well, people are quite still sitting on a Cafe terrace in the sun, but they still move quite a lot and it is a wonderful (but sometimes frustrating too!) exercise to try to catch them in some position or expression.
I much more prefer this way than to go to some figure painting meeting, where the models stand still, almost dead… this does not inspire me at all, and neither does their nakedness I must admit! I much more love to draw the stuff which people put on, sometimes they are such a funny mirror of their souls… no funny clothing on this one though.
In this case it was the contrast between the Macho with the black hair and the other people which inspired me…
One more example of this exciting life here, in Andalucia, by the sea… simply sitting in Cafés and doing nothing.
Well this kind of life might be exciting for most of the people down here, but it is not exactly my way of enjoying life… but I do enjoy watching and sketching people having this kind of life!
On the way back from the Driving Range yesterday, my sporty Rocker Kev Moore invited me to a coffee with a doughnut in our lovely Cafe Masco, by the beach in Mojacar, where last spring I used to sketch people. It was a little late already and most of the people had gone home for lunch, but some tables were still busy… and invariably, at each of them, there was somebody reading a newspaper…
so I simply put them all together in this sketch, which represents quite well what most of the population are doing here, in Andalucia, on a sunny day…
Today I want to say a big big thankyou to my partner Kev Moore playing a very special role in my painter career, forcing (of course!) himself to eat kilos of yoghurt every day -vanilla is his favourite, and straciatella is not bad either…
What has this to do with me as a painter, you may ask…
Very simple. In this way he provides me continually with the enormous yoghurt pots which I use to put the water in awhen I paint, especially with gouache or acrylics. I use a lot of them, because I am quite delicate with that, and hate to use a pot twice. Considering how much I paint everyday, one can imagine how many yoghurt pots I need …
Sometimes, he really looks like a big bear eating honey, my Kevin..