Month: November 2014

A day in Porto

The company took us to Porto for a break, to thank us for the year’s work and for team-building. Travel there and back took a day and I spent 24 hours in the city. Its a great city, very scenic, picturesque port and dramatic bridges. I managed to sneak out in the evening, whilst the youngster danced in the nightclub, to a local Milonga and had a great evening dancing with some lovely local dancers. It would be great to return in April for their Int Tango festival.

In the morning only three of us made it to breakfast by 8:30 and I was soon off to the port to sketch. It was cool and there was a fresh breeze on the bridge but the sky was cloudless and a chance to get warm later on, on the other river bank. (which I did later with a coffee and sandwich) I found the view I wanted to draw and luckily there was a concrete block to sit on and it wasn’t too busy. I felt confident I could draw the scene but there were heck of a lot of windows and roofs. I did ignore some nasty concrete bunkers and concentrated on the more historic buildings and included a couple of vegetation features.

The painting went well, until I was interrupted by a cyclist who asked me to take photo for him. It took about 90 minutes to draw and paint and is in a loose style but with lots of detail.


Porto Bridge and Port

There is some odd scaling going on in the picture. The buildings get larger as you go up the hill, which is true but a bit off putting and made me rethink several times. I missed a boat on the river which I regret but cold and tiredness forced me to move on.


Relaxed Commissions

As friends see my sketches they sometimes ask for a painting. Most of my paintings collect dust in a draw so I normally don’t mind working on a relaxed commission as they provide me with a challenge and will, hopefully, be liked, even displayed by the recipient. A relaxed commission brief is normally quite woolly  but often I have an idea at the time of the final painting.

A while ago an Archery friend was quite brazen with her request and it made me laugh. She chose a painting from my sketchbook and asked for it as a Christmas present.

The original sketch is one of my favorites and  one I really wanted to develop as a painting. As it came from my sketchbook I had an idea of the composition, style and tone. I painted it in less than a day and felt satisfied with the result. Halfway through I took a photo of it as I was pleased with the progress and wanted a record in case it all went pear shaped. (Janet notice I have exaggerated the perspective)


Essaouria half way

I liked the way the city appears out of the mist and this reminded me of the first day when the sea mist had rolled in, making everything very mysterious. Of course I couldn’t leave it alone and had to add more detail . Here is the finished piece.


Essaouria Medina, Morocco

The camera has distorted the horizon line a bit but I’m pleased with the painting. The birds provide movement and interest and the boats are needed in the foreground for perspective, tone and balance. I hope Carol likes it.

The other relaxed commission came from one of my Tango teachers. Sandra had looked though some of my sketches of Sorrento and quite off-hand said she would like a painting of the pair of them dancing. I don’t think she had expected me to paint one, so it was a surprise when I presented her with one.

Now this is quite a different  subject to a previously planned & sketched picture. One, this was of people, two, of people I know, three, dancers who would instantly know bad technique if I drew it, four, movement is a must  and a further hundred other issues. Tricky!

I started by looking on the internet for styles that would suit the subject. I used Pintrest a lot and found wonderful illustrations of dancers, all quite beyond my capabilities. But it did inspire me and I looked for a picture of the couple when they danced recently in Naples. In the end I used a scene from a video they made but it was terribly out of focus. The colors were interesting and the light amazing. Finding good technique was tricky as often one of them would look out of balance or in a strange position. I chose a simple move, called a sandwich with the follower on pivot. Pretty safe but a little static. No matter ,it was a start.

The drawing took time but the painting was relatively quick.


Sandra and Santiago in Naples

There are elements I changed after taking this photo but I forgot to rephotograph. I’m pleased with the light and color but I think the pose is too static. I did give it another go at a later date but it went terribly wrong and I had to bin it. I plan to do others but I need inspiration and more practice.

Up Pompeii

Continued from Neapolitan Sunday

The next morning we took the local train to Pompeii. From one of the most expensive forms of transport (Capri ferry 40 Euro) to one of the cheapest – Sorrento-Pompeii return about £4 – we rattled our way to the wonder that is Pompeii. Hiring the guide was a good choice but I did find him arrogant and plain rude, perhaps that’s my English nature.

Pompeii was astounding in scale, detail and preservation. You can quickly forget that this was a Roman town almost 2 thousand years old and think you’re in a Umbrian hill town where you expect a vespa to buzz round a corner at any moment. The guide provided a wealth of interesting information but I prefered just wandering around discovering amphitheaters, forums and cemeteries. Luckily the weather was not too hot (I can imagine it becomes a furnace in the summer) and we could ramble about for around for a few hours quite pleasantly. The good weather also gave us a glimpse of how close Vesuvius was and we were able to see the crater rim, giving us an idea of how much of the original volcano was projected into the air. I had taken my sketchbook but the scale of Pompeii meant I had no no time to use it. But I did draw this scene later.

Pompeii italy

Arch in Pompeii by the necropolis

Tired, but refreshed by a gelato and cold orange juice while waiting for the train we returned to the hotel. An hour or so later we were in another Tango class, with Sandra and Santiago, who introduced Colcadas to us. Thanks to Machiko who was a model partner, she got me spinning her like a top!

In the evening we all went to the local theater and enjoyed a very local song and dance show of all the southern Italian favorites (i.e. O sole mio). Well sung, danced and performed the evening was a delight but I was caught napping a couple of times – well Pompeii and Colcadas are a tiring mix.


Sorrento Theatre

Sorrento Theatre

The next day (our last full day) I spend the most of it getting to know Sorrento and drawing in the port, finishing off the drawing from Sunday. I hadn’t realised how important marquetry and inlay work was to Sorrento. I mention this because I used to do this as hobby about ten years ago. It was fascinating to see the quality of the work achieved by the professionals (and also the prices) but I think my boxes were not too far off. Here are a couple of examples I created.



Jewelry Box


Horse-chestnut Marquetry

The final lesson was a review with the inclusion of a female sacada, which I will be using when brave enough. We created our own Milonga on the final night, by the bar and joined by our friendly Austrian/Germans. Thanks to Sandra and Santiago for organizing the wonderful holiday, it all went very smoothly. And I made some lovely new friends and had many beautiful dances- thanks ladies.