In a few days my wife and I will be off to Spain and Morocco. We will start by landing in Madrid and visiting the Sorolla Museum, the Prado, and the Sofia. If we can fit the Thyssen into our time there we will, but even I – the art-history-junkie – can get slammed by museum fatigue and I like some time to paint in the streets, as well as to hang out in the cafes eating tapas and sipping a fine tempranillo late into the warm night. (Sorolla at work, left.)
And you know me, I’ll try to blog as we go, so check back here every now and then to see how things are going, assuming I can find decent WiFi (WeeFee in espanol?) in the more remote areas I will be traveling into.
After a couple days we will head south to Granada where I hope to paint in and around the Alhambra. I am going to try to talk my way into the Moorish gardens and fountains which lay within the fortress walls. Failing that, I am confident there will be plenty of subjects to paint in the barrio where we will be staying. ‘El Albayzin‘ was declared a World Heritage site back in 1984, along with the Alhambra above it, and from what I can see online the light in that part of the city will be crisp and clear. And since everything is built on a hill I expect to find plenty of winding alleyways, and nooks and crannies indirectly lit by the sky. How romantic.
Then, we pack up and move on again. This time we ferry across the Mediterranean to Morocco and take a Grand Taxi into the Rif mountains to the small town of Chefchoauen. (Known as the blue town of Northern Africa.) Chefchoauen has been passed back and forth between the Berbers, the Arabs, and Spaniards a number of times over the past five centuries. And while still under the control of Spain in the early 1900’s the walls were rinsed with strong blue pigment. So the light bouncing around in the streets must be intensely colored. Of course I will try to capture that. I’d better bring some extra blue. Probably phthalocyanine – a color I almost never use. Because phthalo is the crack cocaine of plein air painting.
After a few days in Chefchoauen our friends will split off to take a camel trek into the desert – and then fly out of Casablanca. (“Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine”… ) My wife and I will ferry back to Spain, hop on a train, and plant ourselves in the ancient Andalusian hill town of Ronda, a place said to be the location for Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” a novel I’ve picked up a couple of times but never quite finished. (I’ve put a copy on the iPad. Maybe I’ll finish it there.) There is an awe-inspiring stone bridge in Ronda called the Puente Nuevo and it links the main part of the town to an outcropping that served as the Jewish Quarter during the Moorish period. But don’t let the word ‘nuevo’ fool you. The bridge was completed in 1751 and it took 50 deaths and 42 years of hauling rock up from the riverbed 300 feet below to build it. By my standards that makes for an old bridge, not a new one. I’m an American. In my part of the world it can be hard to find anything older than 150 years old, let alone a 300 foot high bridge built out of stone back in the 18th century. So I’m guessing the Puente Nuevo must be a noob when compared to the things around it.
This is a private trip with family and friends and not a plein air competition, invitational, convention, or expo. Which will feel nice. Even so I’ll be doing a little business as we move around – painting, of course – but I’ll also take some time off to chillax. (remember the tapas and tempranillo?…) I am shooting for 20 finished panels with the idea of exhibiting them over the winter and offering them to my collectors, but this trip is also a test. I’ve always wanted to combine painting with distant travel and my success over the past few years has offered me a chance to live this dream. So the bargain I’ve struck with my wife is this: I can paint undistracted from dawn to noon but I must be prepared to quit by then. Which sounds fair. For without such a clear cut-off I am sure I’d disappear into the day.
Of course, only one week after we return home I fly down to Laguna Beach to participate in the 14th Annual Plein Air Invitational for the third year in a row. But hey, I’m down with that. Life is good…