I’ve just returned from a wonderful dancing holiday to Sorrento, Italy. Organised by tango teachers, Santiago and Sandra of Lets Tango, it was the perfect autumn break. Naturally I took my sketchbooks along with my dancing shoes and was inspired by the beautiful scenery to attempt some drawing.
The trip covered 5 full days and we packed in a full itinerary, visiting Capri, Sorrento, Pompeii and Naples. I managed a handful of sketches and improved my tango – the perfect combination! The dancing group was around twenty dancers, making for a good variety of dance partners. We all got on really well and I’ve made some lovely new friends.
I’ve split this post into several parts, covering the first of my sketches and our trip to Capri. The whole region has been shaped by the huge eruption of Vesuvius in AD79, which has formed the dramatic coastline and fertile but hilly countryside.
The first opportunity to sketch came on the day of arrival, where we had a short lunch break before the initial tango lesson. I walked to a point I had seen from the map & Google streetview, which has several seats and a panoramic view across the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius. There were plenty of spaces and I sat on the edge of one bench and started to sketch. It was working out well but as time was limited I wanted to keep drawing to a minimal and paint the washes in early. There was heavy cloud covering the summit of the volcano and an impressive Gin Palace was anchored in the harbour. Having started the washes I was interrupted by a member of the public peering over my shoulder. Normally this is okay as they usual mutter something and wander off. However, when she put foot on the bench beside me I felt this was a little different. There were already three of us on the bench and as I had my paints out there was little room for anyone else. But I was wrong. She placed her foot on the bench beside me, peered even closer and plonked herself down beside me while I laid the broad blue washes of the sea. Then the elbows in my back started. It felt she was wrestling a crocodile behind me and tapping out a tango on my spine. Inspiration was gone, comfort evaporated and rage took hold. I slammed my book shut, splattering wet washes, Rorschach style across my pages. I glared at her and told her it was going to be a real pleasure to find another bench, as clearly her need for this one was greater than mine. My mood ruined I walked back to the hotel, with her antics etched into my sketch forever.
I worked on the sketch a couple of days later to rescue something but more still needs to be done. Note the Umbrella Pine beside the building, which is special to this coastline.
I was restored by the excellent tango class given by Santiago and Sandra in the afternoon and we had a lively night out at the Foreigners Club, dancing to a range of ballroom songs played by a duo with a wide repertoire. Trying to remember my Cha,Cha Cha and Rumba moves was testing. Apologies to Sheila & Sandra for any crushed toes.
I was really lucky with my room as I faced out to the sea and had wonderful morning views of Mount Vesuvius. Before going to breakfast I took time to soak in the colours and tones of the morning sky around the volcano. I knew the camera I used could not capture the subtleties of the light so I made an attempt with paint. I needed more time and better paper (and skill) to do this but the sketch will remind me of the glorious mornings.
That morning we had an even better lesson, spoiled only by the floor surface, which was solved by copious use of volcanic dust (talc).
We traveled to Capri in the afternoon, expertly organised by Sandra. The expensive crossing was justified by a dramatic and beautiful island, with an extremely wealthy undertone. We took the funicular to the Capri piazzetta and walked to the gardens of Augusto. Stunning views of the spectacular cliffs greeted us and I settled down to draw one of the vistas.
Painting views like this is especially difficult. Finding the right spot, out of the sun, with a seat and out of the way of other visitors is really tricky. I couldn’t get out of the sun and I crouched for a while, balancing paints and brushed over a precipice. So this is not my best but it does provide me with a memory.
Later, in the evening we danced in the bar of the hotel to wonderful music provided by Santiago and a small but appreciative audience of hotel guests. We were also joined by a German/Austrian couple who we met at the Foreigners Club the night before.
The next post will take us to Naples, Sorrento and Pompeii. Below are a couple of photos from the trip.