After the rather cold spell in London, I am now looking back fondly to the painting course in Morocco in March where we had the perfect painting weather. A whole fortnight of sunshine under an azure sky!
We arrived as usual around mint tea time at the Nomad Palace, Merzouga, just in time to watch the sun set over the rose coloured sand dunes of the 'Erg Chebbi'- a suitable welcome to us eager painters.
The next morning we were greeted by our host and old friend Ali Mouni who with us during most of our time in Morocco. After a generous breakfast including Moroccan pancakes, diverse sponge cakes and freshly squeezed orange juice we were ready to go. So we gathered all our painting gear and looked around for suitable painting subjects. Most of us settled for a view of the nearby desert dunes, while others chose the typical Moroccan courtyards with classical doorways and nooks. My first watercolour demonstration depicting the landscape surrounding the Nomad Palace dealt with colour choices, basic perspective in landscape, and the placement of people in open spaces. After our day's labours, a cooling drink in the hotel courtyard before dinner became a nightly habit.
The following day we made our first painting excursion to the local Palmerie. It was delightful to sit under the shade of the date palms and paint the small fields, where people from the village in colourful attire were working, framed by large palm trees and adobe buildings in the distance. At lunch time Ali and his friends appeared with a delicious picnic lunch - hot Berber flat bread (called Madfona) stuffed with various tasty fillings, and fresh oranges for dessert
Then it was time to venture out further. We set off on a trip around the Erg Chebbi's massive island of sand dunes until we reached a hill with a small auberge, the 'Salama', right on top of it. From there we had a commanding view of desert dwellings nestling at the foot of the highest Dunes, fringed by Tamarisk trees, a fantastic painting subject! It had the added advantage that we were able to have mid-morning coffees and a very tasty lunch. Ali also set up a tent where some of us sheltered from the sun to paint. At the end of our painting day we completed our circuit of the dunes, and visited a Nomad family on the way for a refreshing glass of mint tea.
The next day was a 'free' day with no tuition, where most of us decided to visit the impressive fossil museum followed by late lunch at the Nomad Palace and a leisurely afternoon by the swimming pool.
Our paint brushes did not rest for long. On Saturday morning a group of camels arrived with young men in traditional Berber dress who were going to be our life models for the day, not the easiest of subjects but so much fun. To get everybody started I demonstrated how to sketch and capture in watercolour the lively scene in front of us. When we finished painting for the day, we added a number of camels to our little gathering and rode off into the sunset together
From camels to architecture was a large step into a totally different artistic direction. The deserted village that we visited the following day is now occupied by one sole family after the wells dried up many years ago. All that is left is a haphazard collection of picturesquely crumbled buildings, slowly melting back into the ground from which they came. A painters paradise, though we had to choose our painting spots according to the shade available. One of the ruins is partly occupied by a Nomad gentleman who has created a very artistic and shady den where he offered us lunch.
As the days passed we inevitably approached our departure from Merzouga. It was very hard to leave the desert and its lovely people behind, but the Dades Gorge was calling. So we packed our bags and set off the following day, and after a half day's drive arrived at the stunning Gorge. The views from the hotel terrace are spectacular, and after a hearty lunch we unpacked our painting gear once more for highly enjoyable painting session. In my painting demonstration I was able to illustrate how to capture the shape and colours of this unique mountain landscape. For the less experienced there were also close up subjects, so everybody had a wonderful time painting and relaxing.
Sadly our last day had dawned, and we had to drive back to Ouarzazate to fly home. But not without another lovely afternoon's painting by the pool at our final destination, the hotel 'Le Jardin.
Thus ended an exceptional painting holiday, made even more so by a delightfully convivial group with whom was a pleasure to share our Moroccan experience.
With best wishes for a colourful Painting spring,