In February/March 2015, I went with a group on a painting trip to Tamil Nadu in southern India, and I have been reminded of that in the last couple of days.
The pandemic changes everything, in big ways and small. I am involved in setting up and running, with Urban Sketchers London, a Thirty Day Indoor Sketching Challenge – Day One was Thursday 19 March 2020, but you can start it any time. Link to information here.
My sketch above is on today’s theme of ‘work’ and I decided to interpret this broadly as I don’t work, I am retired. I had pulled out a bright cotton scarf to wear yesterday, and it is one I had bought at a small weaving workshop in the Chettinad area of Tamil Nadu. You could watch a weaver at work on a traditional loom – I drew this scene (very badly, but I think she was entertained by my eccentric behaviour).
After the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013, much was revealed about the poor conditions of work in textile factories globally, and the ‘Who made your clothes?’ campaign started. It struck me that (apart from some family hand knitting) the scarf represents the only occasion I have drawn someone who made my clothes.
My sketch above shows the scarf and the sketchbook.
I have just returned from a painting holiday in Southern Italy, staying in Matera, and in Alberobello in Puglia. Here are some watercolours from this trip, all painted on location. Matera is famed for the Sassi cave dwellings which are believed to have been inhabited for 7000 years. The view of the town, topped by the tower of the cathedral with a river gorge below was certainly challenging. We then moved on to Alberobello, which is known for the trulli buildings, a traditional form of rural building now a focus of the tourist industry.
From here, we visited Monopoli, Polignano a Mare, and Locorotondo. Here are some other paintings I made on this trip:
Lately, I have spent a week in Amsterdam, including the annual international get-together of Urban Sketchers. About a thousand urban sketchers explored the city, painting and drawing on location. There were record-breaking high temperatures here as in other parts of northern Europe. I looked for shade, in particular enjoying the Amsterdam botanic garden and the parks. Here are some watercolour impressions of the city, including the canals, typical houses, the derelict areas of dockland, and dramatic modern buildings.
This week I spent a few days at St. Ives, Cornwall. I took part in a three day course called Expressive Watercolour, which had a particular emphasis on techniques to create effects and textures with watercolour such as using salt, resists, and different tools to apply paint. I had hoped for more opportunities to paint out of doors, but took the opportunity in the studio to paint three versions of the same view using different approaches. These were based on a pencil drawing I did on location of the church and houses overlooking the harbour at St Ives.
Recently I spent a few days painting in the Exmoor National Park, staying at Selworthy. The painting above shows a view of Exmoor near the North Devon coast. Below, a farm building near where I was staying, and a wind-blasted tree which was painted on the coast at Porlock Weir. All the works are watercolour, painted on location.
A few weeks ago, I posted some sketches I had done on a visit to Morocco. Here is some work I have done subsequently from those quick location drawings. There are two works in soft pastel, two small watercolours, and a section from the experimental sketchbook I have been keeping, drawing onto a background of collage, ink and gesso. Although this seems an obvious thing to do, to keep a sketch book and then make more developed paintings later, in practice I have rarely done this. The sketches have not seemed ‘good enough’, I am more interested in working on location rather than make studio paintings. I feel it is progress that I have taken this further and it has helped to embed my recollections of this journey.
Above are the pastels, first a view of the gardens of the Mamounia Hotel, followed by a scene from the Majorelle Garden, which used to belong to Yves Saint Laurent, both in Marrakech.
Above are two watercolours, first one of Essaouira, and the second a view of the Kasbah above Imlil in the Atlas mountains. The two last images, below, and sketchbook pages which aim to give more general memories of some of the scenes of Morocco I remember from my trip.
Earlier this month, I made a short trip to Morocco, staying in Marrakech, the High Atlas mountains, Taroudant and Essaouira, on the Atlantic coast. It was a busy sightseeing trip, but I made some sketches which are shown here. The drawings are in pencil: graphite, sanguine and other coloured pencils.