Month: September 2014


Part 2 of 3 Trip to Morocco

We travelled from Marrakech to Essaouria by taxi, with views of arid farmland and desert. We broke up the journey with a short stop at a roadside cafe which had invested in decent toilets – judging by the coach loads arriving and departing this was a good decision.

Outside Essaouria, high overlooking the city we were surprised to see how big it was. The other surprise was that we could not see the sea. The reason became clear as we drove along the modern beach resort, a thick sea mist was rolling in from the Atlantic, hiding the view of the sea, port and Medina. A bit of a mysterious start to our stay.

The Riad here was really old, set off from the main thoroughfare, down a dark alley. Due to the Atlantic weather they have a glass roof  over the traditional courtyard and this made the place a little dank. However, the roof terrace was excellent and we made it our afternoon studio. The people who ran the Riad were lovely and we made the most of their welcome.

Following a lovely meal in the evening and a quick reconnoiter we made a good start in the morning, where we found a wonderful view of the city walls and a good place to paint from. Below is my line a wash sketch from that morning, with the colour washes laid the following day.

line and wash

Essaouria medina

I was relieved to get a better picture in my book and pleased with the way it looked. Using the birds really made the picture come alive.

In previous posts I’d  been following the work that Sir Edmund Seago had produced in Morocco and I had it in my mind to produce one in Essaouria. We had eaten in a lovely friendly restaurant in the Medina and the passageway it was located in had potential from a painting point of view. So I took pictures and painted the scene in my book from our roof terrace ‘studio’. No matter where we sat in the city there was a group of musicians looking for dirams, so I took a photo and added them in the picture.


Essaouria Street Scene

This is not a pure Seago but I will give this another attempt using more contrast.

With a couple of pictures in the book I returned to the port to search of a scene with fishing boats. I like painting boats and thought I could get a good picture using sky, boat, water and some workers. This is what I found….

Fishing Fleet

Fishing Fleet

This was too much for me and so I turned around and looked for a view at the fort. For 10 dirams we could walk the port’s ramparts and tower. The open area of the fort, above the port, provided me with a wonderful panorama of the fish market, city and walls.

line and wash

Fort at Essaouria

There are several small items in this painting that will remind me of Morocco and especially Essouria, the cat waiting for a fish in the port (and elsewhere in city), the gulls wheeling above looking for the remains of the day’s catch,  the red and green flag of Morocco and the two baggage karts that seem to be everywhere in the cities.

Everywhere we ate in Morocco we had good food. My tummy was not quite aligned with the local cuisine but it didn’t stop me doing or eating anything. I had soups, salads, sausages, tagine and tagina but my favorite were the pastilles. Puff pastry parcels of chicken or fish in a cream sauce, powdered with icing sugar and cinnamon. Delicious.

The cafes were also very enjoyable and we spent long lunches eating, drinking fruit juice cocktails and sketching whatever view was available. Here are couple from my small sketchbook.

view from cafe

Essaouria Souk


The blue shutters of Essaouria

On my last day I went in search of a quick sketch of the town square. I found some shade and stood for about 20 minutes. I didn’t get hassled once and this view reminds me of a lovely and creative time in Essaouria. My next post will be on our return to Marrakech.



Morocco bound

I’ve returned from my 11 day painting holiday to Morocco. Organised by Janet at Brambles Art Retreat, we travelled to Marrakech and Essaouria with the aim of painting, sightseeing, eating out and relaxing. The party was made of of 8 people, including two teachers, which was a good number for travelling and turning up at restaurants unannounced.

From a painting aspect the trip had mixed success. Marrakech was a real culture shock and I found it difficult to settle into long projects there. So I mainly used my small sketchbook, drawing at the cafes and restaurants during the morning and evening and then colouring them during the hot afternoons. In Essaouria there was more opportunities to sit and paint and we spent more time there. The city Medina is fascinating, relatively safe and you don’t get so hounded by the traders. The city is old, with a great history (I’ve still to find out more) but it’s currently a very active fishing port.  We mainly painted around this port and there was rich sources of inspiration all around.

My work …….

I’ll be creating 3 posts on my trip to Morocco. This one will concentrate on the early part of the holiday, getting used to the country and Marrakech. I did get frustrated in Marrakech from a painting point of view. It was always so busy and hot. We did find some cafes to sit in but I wasn’t comfortable using the larger sketchbook. When I did bring it out I was very unhappy with the result. We were sitting in a lively cafe opposite some stall holders, mainly selling hats of all different types and colours. There were three fully veiled ladies, some wearing straw hats with Marrakech on them, under colourful but rather tired umbrellas. Rising above was the minaret of a local mosque.


Marrakech stall holders

We visited a beautiful Photographic Museum with stunning pictures of old Moroccan cities, people and streets. On the roof was a wonderful terrace with the best view of Marrakech. I instantly started to sketch in my small book but should have used my larger one but I didn’t know how long we were going to stay there. Sketching high up, overlooking the city and with a glass of coke by my side was great.


Marrakech skyline

Our search for a place to paint and spend time on a subject took us to the Menara gardens but these were hugely disappointing and once again I used my small sketchbook as I was not that inspired and didn’t really want to invest a lot of time there. The result was disappointing.


Menara Gardens

We were staying at the rather magnificent Riad des Princesses. As I waited for our party to get organised, waited for a taxi or sat in a restaurant I sketched in my small book and wrote about the day.


Riad des Prinesses


Orange Juice Sellers

Under the stars

Marrakech restaurant

My next post will be on our arrival in Essaouria and how I felt more relaxed to start spending more time on longer painting projects.