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.



Grand Designs

I like to draw in detail but with a fairly loose style. This means I’m attracted to some quite complicated views. When I know I have time I do enjoy the puzzle of putting together a complex drawing. However, they can be spoiled by an unsympathetic wash and you will see this more than once below.

My first ‘Grand Design’ was the British Museum. I’d just returned from a work colleagues memorial service in Mayfair and it was a beautiful winters day, bright but with a cold wind. I planned to paint inside but the view from the gardens enticed me and I had a go. The wash is not complete as the cold and my need to be comfortable took over.

Line & Wash

British Museum

My next complicated drawing was taking on the Tudor facade of Hampton Court. I arrived early and the crowds had not arrived. I didn’t want a full on view so i sat on the river side of the building and sat down behind a tree, to get out of the raw wind.


Hampton Court

Having completed the drawing I had to return home to paint the scene as I was cold and hungry. The sun was low and the facade was in shadow. I painted it as I saw it but this didn’t produce a sympathetic painting. I should have thought about the colours more.

Line and Wash

Hampton Court

A ‘Grand Design’ in my mind doesn’t have to be one building but can be in this case a line of  beautiful houses. I decided to start this sketch as I only had limited time on my parking meter. I returned and started painting on a second visit. I stopped painting when I saw that the drawing was getting lost. I did return to the painting on a second session to provide more detail.


Hampton Court Green

The final ‘Grand Design’ is of Ardingly College. I was attending a Tango festival, which included workshops and an evening Milonga. I turned up early and made the most of a brief spell of good weather. The building is complicated but I enjoyed the puzzle of drawing it in scale and simplifying the lines. In front of the building were large playing fields and I made the error of including them in my painting rather than the sky. I’ve cropped them out in the picture below.

Line & wash

Ardingly College

Bath study

Having spent time on the Moroccan paintings I needed to see if I could apply the techniques to an original painting. Of course the subject matter was the big question. One of the thoughts going through my mind about composition is what if I’m stuck with a mundane subject in the field. So I wanted to take a fairly average, still sympathetic subject to paint and ‘discover’ a painting with in it.

I found this picture of Bath and looked at possible compositions.




Two of the most obvious are marked on the photo. I felt the portrait version (red) was worth taking forward. It had interesting light and not so many windows. So I made a sketch of the scene to understand the composition more, identifying tone, depth and detail.


Pencil drawing

This was also very valuable in identifying angles and dimensions. There was a lot of pavement and this would be broken up by people and perspective lines but from a balance point of view this worried me. I moved to the next stage by drawing the scene on to watercolour paper. To check angles and dimensions I printed out the line drawing against the original photo.


Comparison stage

Comparison stage

Even after doing this I made several key errors on the drawing which I din’t find out until I was well into painting.

The final painting is below. For me its still not quite to my taste. Its a useful study and I will have learnt things but the composition is a little boring, the balance is not quite right, the perspective is out in places and the colours are not fresh enough. There is not enough interest in the darks and not enough life in the lights.


Painting of Bath

Painting of Bath

Have I progressed from the Moroccan paintings? Not really, I’ve used some thoughts about the use of the buildings and people, but not enough to make a difference. Keep pressing on….