Twenty six degrees Celsius and a light breeze greeted me on arrival at Faro airport in Portugal – perfect weather to start the painting week at Art In The Algarve painting school.
The picturesque harbour front in Olhao is always my first port of call for a coffee with one or two of the classic Portuguese tarts “pastel de nata”. Thus fortified I unpacked and sorted my painting utensils to be ready for our first day's painting. We did not have to venture far the next day to find the perfect spot. For beginners we found a large old wooden door. Sunlight was streaming through the gaps in the wood panels throwing an attractive pattern on the ground while the door itself hinted at the history of the old town. A small side street with receding buildings for the more advanced among us seemed just right and offered additional life models in the shape of leisurely moving pedestrians.
A few rules about the perspective of buildings under our belt and we set off via water taxi across the lagoon to the idyllic island of Armona. The island is mostly nature reserve, car-free with a village of small white washed houses smothered in Bourgainvilla and Jasmine stretching away from the jetty and beautiful sandy beaches all round. Though no time for us to sunbathe. We took one of the narrow walkways and settled by the sea with view to one of those typical white cottages fringed by jacaranda trees and two impressive palm trees. A few boats lay turned upside down off to the right to make it an ideal scene to paint. At lunchtime, Nuno, a young enthusiastic marine biologist and also our water-taxi driver, took everybody to the restaurant for a delicious fresh fish feast.
More fresh fish and not just to eat, was in abundance on view at the huge market halls at Olhao harbour the following day. Saturday is market day and the indoor market spills out over the large pavements, with stalls selling every vegetable and fruit known to mankind. Since the market is teaming with vendors and visitors it was an excellent opportunity for me to demonstrate how to quickly and simply capture the human form. Fortunately some customers spend a bit more time to negotiate the price of their purchases, giving us extra time to study their movements and postures.
Sunday was our free day where everybody could venture out on their own and explore the old town and its surrounds further. A visit to the nearby Ria Formosa, a nature reserve with an amazing old salt mill, was on offer or an excursion to one of the other islands. I opted for Culatra Island where I sketched an almost 360 degree view in one of the concertina sketch books which we were given by the art school after our first delicious dinner as a welcome present.
Up to then we had not spent time painting boats and so we set off to the small fishing village of Fuseta. The village has a smaller, more intimate harbour with traditional fishing boats and fishermen going about their business. These boats with their shed-like cabins and large, unusually shaped fishing tackle are surprisingly easier to paint than their northern European brothers due to their special character, their colourful décor and unique shape.
Tuesday, our last day, arrived much too soon. Time to nip back into town where storks sat in several nests on top of the various church roofs and bell towers, rhythmically clacking their beaks. Beneath them town life with its hustle and bustle carried on as normal, and we had a last opportunity to paint street scenes, grabbing a chair under a sun umbrella in a cafe or sitting in the cool shade of an old building to paint. The afternoon was reserved for finishing off paintings and for the preparations of our informal show in the evening. It was exciting to see what we had achieved during our painting week in Olhao. A reason to celebrate with a glass of wine or two.
As ever I cannot thank everybody enough for being so enthusiastic and dedicated to their painting, experimenting with new techniques and for being such a fun crowd to “hang out” with. Many thanks also goes to Camilla who organises operations from the UK and to the lovely Margarita, who runs the show at the art school with such joie de vivre.
With best wishes for the summer,
Unexpectedly hot and sunny after a cold weather warning, I happily set foot on Sicilian soil. The pool at the Fattoria Mose looked very inviting, so I dropped my bags immediately and delayed the offered cup of coffee in favor of a dip. Then it was time for a proper catch up with my friend Chiara Agnello, who so generously offers her home to me and my fellow painters every year to run the paining course. Two days later all the painters had arrived from Palermo airport and the painting fun could begin. As usual on our first day we sorted out paints, pots, boards etc. and then strolled around our new home for the week. The Fattoria Mose consists of an old 19th century main house with green window shutters and Moorish crenelations at either end, and various buildings and courtyards. It is surrounded by ancient olive trees (some over 700 years old), lemon and orange groves as well as almond and pistachio trees, terraces and gardens. So there was plenty to paint and we were spoiled for choice.
At the beginning of the painting course I like to start with an easy painting demonstration to cover a few ‘ground rules’. The large terracotta olive oil vessel on the nearest terrace conveniently shaded by Jacaranda palms was just the thing. A bright blue sky lit up part of the urn and the colourful plants at its base, and I was able to discuss the basic light and dark contrasts essential in a good composition. The colour choices were relatively simple since it was a close-up object and everybody eagerly set to work. Afterwards we were rewarded with tea on the terrace under a brilliant, clear blue sky. For the evening we gathered in the splendid dining room for pre-dinner drinks and our first delicious meal prepared with produce from the Fattoria, based on original Sicilian recipes handed down to Chiara over several generations. Chiara and her sister, Simonetta Agnello Hornby, actually feature in an Italian TV series where they teach and cook on the very spot where we had our tea in the afternoon.
Thus fortified and after a hearty breakfast we set off to the seaside at St Leone to tackle the wide open bay beneath Agrigento town, below the famous "Valley of the Temples". A couple of years ago, I found a small park there with palm trees for shade and a wonderful view of the sea breaking gently on some rocks in the foreground. Ideal for my second painting demonstration involving the treatment of seascapes in watercolour. It was an enjoyable and successful painting experience, no doubt made even more pleasurable by the ice cream cafe around the corner. With more sunshine the following day, we were back painting at the Fattoria. By popular request I demonstrated a more abstract approach to landscape painting. The view was of the hills towards the outline of Agrigento on the far horizon. It was wonderful to share the excitement of laying on strong and dense watercolour washes and then splashing them liberally with water from a big brush to lift off some of the thicker layers. The exposed images and patterns - partly intended and partly accidental - are always a revelation. This very free way of working however is quite an advanced technique and takes a bit of practice. We then settled to paint from our chosen corners, peeping through foliage into the landscape past clumps of Iris with orange trees below, or framing the view with giant cactus plants and fresh, yellow spring flowers. Yellow stayed with us the next day when we visit the ancient Greek temples of Agrigento. The temple columns were glowing in a rich golden ochre under an azure sky - irresistible to paint! We spent the morning there drawing not just the temples but also took the opportunity to sketch people. After a late lunch back at the Fattoria, I was able to demonstrate ways of applying colour to our drawings. The contrast of the blue sky against the solid ochre shapes of the temple ruins were an inspiration to us all.
Towards the end of the week it was time to venture into the old town centre of Agrigento. Most of us opted for a leisurely stroll through the ancient narrow roads up to the cathedral, from which the view widens across the sea and to the hills inland. We had a singular challenge: to find the back entrance to the Monastery of Santo Spirito where the resident nuns bake especially tasty traditional almond biscuits. The door is hard to find, but we succeeded and obtained our objects of desire.
Unavoidably, our final day dawned, and with it beckoned another wonderful day of painting at the Fattoria grounds. Having admired the Baroque architecture in town the previous day, we were ready to focus on the various arches of the main housem, and private family chapel attached to it. Great subjects for the last day when we were all painted in. A lesson of perspective regarding buildings, alongside my watercolour demonstration, was well received. There was even some time left in the afternoon to do a quick demonstration of painting the people we had sketched at the temples. That evening we were gathering, not as most evenings on the upper terrace, but in the lounge area adjoining the dining room, where we enjoyed an informal showing of our paintings. It was impressive to see so many inspirational paintings, and a pleasure for me as a teacher to observe how everybody had expressed their personal vision of the scenery we experienced together. A toast was in order and a big ‘thank you’ to our charming hostess Chiara, to Corrina who cooked so many of the tasty meals with Chiara, and to Marcello who never tired of looking after us. Friendship, inspired painting, sunshine every day and Chiara's warm welcome made this a perfect painting week. Needless to say I am already planning the next one!
With thanks to everybody on the course, and at the Fattoria Mose,
"I so enjoyed my week at Fattorio Mose and my painting with you. The group was lovely and we met some very talented artists and charming people."
"Thank you again for making our holiday so special. Our trip to Sicily was simply a delight from start to finish."
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,
March is approaching fast and preparations for the panting holiday in Morocco have started in earnest. A new batch of watercolour paper has been ordered, paint brushes are sorted and watercolours checked for missing colours which might still have to be purchased. It's best to do this in good time since there is always the chance of a colour not in stock at the art shop. Once that is done, the big suitcase in the shed will need a thorough dusting and the joyful task of packing can begin. And not too soon the day - 10th of March to be precise - will come for the departure to Ouarzazate, the journey to the desert beyond the Atlas mountains and a big welcome by our Moroccan host Ali Mouni and his friends. Can't wait!
I'd like to invite you to "Four Legs Good Two Legs Bad", a show celebrating the Chinese Year of the Pig 2019.
I'll have a brand new work on display 'The Pigs are back in Town' and will be there in person on Sunday's grand opening (please call to meet on any of the other days). Come and admire my 35-strong coterie of pigs.
When: **Grand opening** Sunday 10 February 2019, 12 noon - 8pm
Also open on: Thurs 14 Feb, 2-7pm, Fri 15 Feb, 2-7pm, Sat 16 Feb, 2-9pm
Where: 100 artists take over three levels of an underground car park in London's West End, Q-Park Leicester Square, Whitcomb Street, London WC2H 7DT. (see Google maps) Nearest tube station Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus.
The exhibition: 'The Pigs are back in Town' will be displayed alongside works by a large group of artists at Year Of The Pig, the seventh annual exhibition that sees 100 international artists come together for one special day. Art of multiple disciplines will be displayed across three levels of an underground car park, 200 yards from National Gallery. Outside of Asia, London holds the biggest Chinese New Year celebration in the world.
The exhibition explores the themes Year of the Pig and George Orwell’s seminal 1945 book Animal Farm and its duplicitous slogan "four legs good two legs bad", as uttered by Orwell’s cast of pigs, and it’s relevance to our society, environmentally, ethically and politically micro and macro.
The preparations for my next painting holiday in beautiful Morocco – the first course of the year- are running at full speed. I am really looking forward to a well-earned break from the winter and painting in the sunshine. Thaw out your brushes and join me! Add spring to your palette with stunning vistas of the sable dunes, lush palmeries, Berber villages and more.
The Nomad Palace, our base for most of the course, is situated in the nearby village of Merzouga , right on the edge of the desert and east of the High Atlas mountains. It offers en-suite rooms, delicious, home-cooked Moroccan cuisine and also two swimming pools for a refreshing dip after painting. Our time in Morocco includes a day in the astonishing Dades Gorge, at the bottom of which the Dades river runs and almond trees blossom in the spring. And with the expert guidance of our multi-lingual host Ali Mouni and friends, we will visit museums, a wonderful old Kasbah, Nomads in their dessert dwellings and old villages. There is also the opportunity of a portrait session with Berber (Bedouin) nomads in traditional dress, to paint in shady Palmeries and an evening trip deeper into the desert to marvel at the landscape or to do some quick sketching.
"Morocco was an incredible experience and the painting superb. I could recommend the holiday to anyone."
Returning to Devon in September felt like going home with the added bonus of meeting new friends to paint with and to enjoy the lush countryside surrounding Coombe Farm Studios together.
The sun had been out for us on our first day, so we made a tentative start and painted a few chosen spots near the courtyards and buildings incorporating various pots, gates and corners of the garden. We had much fun life drawing in the studio the next day and and it was great to be able to demonstrate my 'easy three colour' approach to portrait painting/sketching. Following on from gentle skin tones the day before we were ready to move on to flowers. Colourful arrangements with flowers freshly picked from the gardens were distributed throughout the studio and everybody could choose a favourite bunch or two. To capture those delicate tones of flower peddles and intense Greens of foliage is always a bit of a challenge, but the results after the days work were splendid.
The sun had been hiding behind some light clouds for a while just to returned to us on the last two days. Time to set off to paint the stunning scenery at the waters edge of the Dart Estuary from sculptor Gilly Suttons wonderful garden - another opportunity to discuss and demonstrate the mixing of Greens and introduce ways of capturing water, reflections and the subtle colours of a September sky.
So came a fantastic week to an extremely happy conclusion. With guitar playing and singing in the evenings, creativity and companionship, delicious food and and stimulating conversations, the week could not have been better. Naturally, everybody wanted to stay on at least another week! If only...
Now autumn really seems to have arrived and for me this means the beginning of work in my London studio and extra time to spend with family and friends in London and of course getting ready for painting course season in 2019.
A big "Thank You" to everybody at Coombe Farm studios and especially Lara Lloyd who looked after us so exceedingly well and to all of you who made the painting course so much fun,
To set foot upon Devon soil after a long car journey from London on the Saturday, and to glimpse of the familiar buildings of Coombe Farm Studios nestling down by the stream, was a sheer delight. I spent the evening after my arrival exploring the surrounding hills initially without my paintbrush, just soaking in the atmosphere before the painting started the next day.
Our painting week began on Sunday with a painting demonstration around Coombe Farm itself, and was followed by days painting the gardens, hill views, and subjects in the courtyard from various points around the Coombe. Our time at Coombe Farm Studios was interspersed with excursions to stunning vistas of the Dart estuary from the gardens of the well known sculptor Jilly Sutton, and to the picturesque village of Dittisham, with its harbour and views across to the hills of Agatha Christie’s house. The weather was on our side apart from one day where we retreated to the spacious studio to paint flowers, among other things. It was another fantastic week’s painting, packed with creativity, fun and friendship.
A big ‘thank you’ to everybody at Coombe for spoiling us rotten with delicious meals, and for making us so welcome that we felt we were all part of the family.
With best wishes for the rest of the summer,
Here are a few images of our group working together...
Setting off to Scotland from London in a heatwave and finding a sun-bathed mountain landscape on arrival at Brynaport the next day was a delight. We kept fingers crossed it would stay sunny for the painting course despite a somewhat doubtful weather forecast. We were lucky and on our first day’s painting we strolled into the surrounds of Brynaport from where you can view the village just below and were able to capture the dramatic landscape of the Torridon Hills across the Loch, a row of small cottages in the foreground. The occasional goat and sheep added a lively element to the scene. Nevertheless, we were pleased to come back to the studio for a cup of tea and a scrumptious slice of home made cake – one of many baked by our fantastic cook Alison, who also produced outstanding evening meals every night not to mention a deliciously varied breakfast menu.
But I mustn’t get carried away with the culinary delights. The next visual feast encountered on our second outing down the village street was the dramatic shore line of Loch Kishorn. Here the small village of Achintraid is comprised of whitewashed cottages along the waters edge. It was nice enough to have our packed lunch right then and there after the morning's painting. To follow on from the previous day’s watercolour session, I made another painting demonstration, this time of the close-by water on the Loch, and the distant mountains on the opposite shore. The tricky bit is always to keep the distance soft, only applying thin layers of watercolour paint and reserving the strong, potent colours for details nearby. As things move further and further away from the viewer the view becomes hazier while the contrast between light and dark in the foreground becomes stronger and sharper. For our colour choice we had help: the golden ochre seaweed covering the receding pebbled beach was a wonderful contrast to the blues/purples and acid greens on the slopes leading to the high up mountain pass to Aplecross.
The next day we stayed closer to home, since there were some dark looking clouds on the horizon. But we were not put off by this and ventured out, down the narrow path opposite Brynaport to the rocky cove with views to either end of the Loch. The three meter high old fishnet drying poles seemingly growing out of the pebbly beach were a perfect focal point, leading the eye past a large rocky outcrop across the water. We had just managed to finish drawing and starting to paint when we noticed the first rain drops. A swift withdrawal to the spacious studio and we were back on the easel to continue work where we left off. This also gave me an opportunity for a special studio session teaching a simple technique to paint rocks, stones and pebbles in the foreground.
The weather improved the next day and the great outdoors was calling again. We found a gorgeous spot from where the vista stretches via the Loch towards the Isle of Skye’s mountainous outline. Half way across another smaller Island makes a visual stepping stone into the picture. The odd boat, a couple of cottages surrounded by gardens, two caves just above the tide line and a choice of high hills and mountains make this a stunning scene to paint in any medium. As usual I choose to demonstrate in watercolour, paying particular attention to the boulders in the foreground and the light on the water surface. A magical day and none of us wanted to return to the studio despite the tempting cake. Finishing off the day in high spirits, my husband James who was also part of the 'gang', and myself played a couple of songs - me on my trusty Ukulele accompanying James’ singing and playing his guitar. A rare sight and pleasure to see a young girl already so versed on the bagpipes – apparently a male dominated area.
The last day inevitably came and this time we turned our gaze more inland. The bridge at the foot hills of the road to Applecross was a good choice since it has not only great views of the huge expanse of receding estuary, but also a lovely cafe only a stroll away. In no time we each found a beautiful painting spot and started on the last watercolour of the week. Some of us focused on the old stone bridge under which jumping salmon were spotted, while others concentrated on the ever enlarging area of the estuary with the tidal waters shimmering in the distance. Needless to say we did not want to pack up and go, but we were looking forward to the evenings showing of our work and returned to the studio early afternoon, joining the three of our group who stayed behind to finish of watercolours they had been working on. There was not enough space in the studio to hang all the many wonderful paintings we had produced during the week so we selected the ‘best’.
Before dinner we all gathered in the studio, our paintings on display, a glass of champagne to celebrate and delicious canapés to staff off ‘hunger'. It was impressive to see everybody’s work and a joy to be able to exchange tips and chat informally about painting, life and and plans for the next painting trip. Gillian and Mark Pattinson our generous hosts and in whose home we had come to stay joined us too with some friends. This was also a chance to thank their daughter Fiona who - together with her daughter Sophie - run the course with me and who is also - like her mother Gillian - a talented painter. A chance also to thank Ally, the person behind all those friendly emails, Anne and all the others who made this such an extremely creative and fun week, never to forget. And then, just to top things off, the Pattinson’s grand-daughter Polly piped us triumphantly from the studio.
Coming home to my London studio takes some adjusting after having spent so much time in the company of such a lovely, lively group of painters and colleagues. I will ‘cushion the blow’ by traveling to Germany to meet friends and family for a couple of days, and then off to Devon for more painting adventures!
Wishing you a summer full of colour, painting, and the the sun to go with it,
After nearly a fortnight in the Algarve it was a pleasant surprise to come back home to a sunny London. Still, it’s quite an adjustment from the open horizons over the lagoons stretching along Olhao harbour, to the narrow skylines of the metropolis. But each painting holiday must come to an end, which this time was made sweeter for me by tacking a few extra days onto the course to explore the area more, and enjoy the miles of sandy beaches. It was also an opportunity to do some more drawing and painting. Though admittedly, the painting side took got the short straw when the open sea was beckoning on my outing to Farol, one of the nearby islands. Walking along the extraordinary long stone jetty towards the lighthouse after the painting course had finished, also gave me time to contemplate the fantastic week we’d had: “Oh we had such an amazing time - we didn’t want to go home.” My thoughts exactly!
Our time in Portugal started off unseasonably cooler in tone, with around 21 degrees Celsius, actually an ideal temperature for painting outside! As in previous years our home for the duration of the painting course was the wonderful art school ‘Art In The Algarve’ lovingly created by the Hon. David Clark, and since his untimely death two years ago run by the wonderful Margarida - also a fantastic cook - and David’s daughter Camilla. To get us all in the mood and to encourage casual sketching, the art school presented everybody with a ‘concertina’ artist’s sketchbook on our first night.
There was no need on our first day to search out shady corners, and we were free of such mundane considerations when we choose our first painting subject. We settled in a typical narrow side street in the old town of Olahao, minutes away from the art school. We could have stayed at the art school, which has many delightful terraces with roof top views across town, or intimate courtyards and the spacious studio itself, however I wanted to reserve these for our last day, when time is of the essence. The street scene in front of us was also a good (if somewhat steep on the learning curve) opportunity for us discuss the perspective of buildings, and how people walking along a road can be sketched quickly in watercolour. The white buildings were gleaming in the sunshine, and strong shadows helped with getting perspective lines right. There was no shortage of slow moving people, since the small pedestrian only backstreet services the restaurants at the front of the tall houses, and deliveries of all sorts of goods were made for lunch and evening meals. Needless to say, the aromas wafting down the road as lunchtime approached made us very hungry, despite one of Joanna’s luscious breakfasts only a couple of hours earlier. So the first of many delicious lunches to come was very much enjoyed and everybody returned to to their paintings with full vigour.
Our next painting location was very exciting. We took a water taxi to the island of Armona, a great boat trip across the lagoons made even more enjoyable by our skipper Nuno, a local marine biologist who gave us a short lecture on board about the area and it’s special marine wildlife. Thus fortified with knowledge and eagerness to get our watercolours out, we took a short stroll to a spot with trees to sit under, should we want to sit in the shade. I had painted there before because there is a long low building by the beach - typical of the many small cottages of this island village - with palms and jacaranda trees framing it in just the right way. The perspective lessons from the day before came in handy and by lunchtime most drawings were complete. My watercolour demonstration after a sumptuous meal of freshly caught and grilled fish on the top terrace of the ‘Armona4’ restaurant, focussed more on the landscape aspect of the view. The relationship between the far distant hills and sea in the background, and foreground motifs, is always a bit tricky, but easy to handle once you know how. The distance needs only a very thin, watery layer of watercolour paint, while the sandy foreground and trees require stronger colour mixes with more paint pigment. It was a successful encounter, and we boarded the water taxi in high spirits, dashing across the water on our way home.
Saturday is Market day in Olhao, a spectacle not to be missed. The red brick market halls by the town harbour are magnificent, and only a couple of minutes walk from the art school. The outdoor stalls arrayed between the harbour wall and the market building itself were shaded with vivid red, orange and acid green sun umbrellas, only matched by the multiple colours of the the various fruit, vegetables, spices and household goods. A heaven for the painter, and a chance to try out long forgotten colours from your palette. Watercolour painting is ideal for capturing people on the move, and we had ample opportunity for practice and warm up sketching, before attempting to apply paint. There were plenty of people of all shapes and sizes to observe, with some kindly taking a rest on close by benches, making sketching even easier. Some of our group opted for the amazing fish market inside one of the market halls, and produced impressive watercolours of those silvery, scaly sea creatures.
Soon it was Sunday and ‘no rest for the wicked’. Though it was a non-tuition day, I am proud to say that the painting and sketching was not neglected. After enjoying our painting trip to Armona island everybody choose to take the ferry to the other island of Farol I mentioned earlier, to experience the ocean side of the islands, as well as the flatter expanses of the lagoons. The ferry winds its way around sandbanks and clam fields, where one can observe fisherman collecting clams for the dishes served later in the evening. A pleasurable trip, rewarded by welcoming cafes and bars right by the jetty where the ferry passengers disembark. Reports of swimming in the sea, interrupted by sketching (or was it the other way round ?), reached my ears later on that evening, when we met for dinner at the ‘O Piteu’ restaurant, to round off a perfect day with wine, fish, and a stroll to view a series of impressive murals depicting the the life of fishermen and women, painted on old factory walls nearby.
The week was progressing fast, and so were we, in the sense of skill and our modes of transport! Not a water taxi this time, but another Nuno with a fleet of taxis whisked us off to the coastal village of Fuseta, where a small lagoon inlet harbours working fishing boats, and where fishermen clear away nets and the debris of the morning’s catch. By then the painting of people in their environment had become not exactly routine, but definitely no longer daunting. Though getting the size of people in a boat into the correct proportions can still be a challenge.
It’s easier to compare the size of a person to let’s say a door or a tree we are all familiar with, and it’s another matter when the person is standing in an unusually shaped boat. But what boats! With huge metal cages at the back and disc like winches for pulling in bright green nets, they make splendid painting subjects. You can also take a bit of artistic license when it comes to representing those colours and shapes, since their organic forms and functions vary quite a bit from large rounded ones to smaller trim vessels.
And so, reluctantly, we came to our final day in Olhao. As planned we spent the day at the art school correcting some minor mistakes, or finishing off paintings from previous days, and in some cases also painting just one last watercolour. Staying in and around the studio - close to the two little pools for a dip if needed - gave me the chance to demonstrate more specific issues, like the ‘painting’ of masts with a edge of a piece of paper dipped in colour, or the use of masking tape to achieve straight lines with ease. After a seafood lunch we were ready for a concluding outburst of painting, before choosing the watercolours each of us was going to exhibit in the informal showing of our works that evening. There was a lovely surprise waiting for us, since one of our group had made excellent use of the concertina artist’s sketchbook and filled the entire book, several metres long when unfolded, with panoramic scenes from the old town. Above this display, all the other paintings were hung along the walls in the studio. It was with proud pleasure that we all viewed our week’s achievement, glass of wine in hand, and celebrated an exciting week filled with creativity, friendship and fun.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank both Margarida and Joanna (our breakfast chef), for looking after us so well, and also big thanks to Camilla for all the work she does behind the scenes. We had a great mixture of delicious meals, partly enjoyed in bars and restaurants with local cuisine, or cooked by Margarida at home, frequently finished off at the ice-cream parlour around the corner, with harbour views for atmosphere. And the biggest thanks of all to everybody on the course who made it such a memorable time.
Who would want to go home after such a week?
All the best with your painting throughout the summer,
“Thank you so much for another memorable week of art and friendship. Thank you too for your wonderful effort, in so many ways, to give the group such great tuition and inspiration - but also incorporating time for fun!”