Night Market Marrakech

I had the idea of creating an atmospheric painting of the Night Market in Marrakech. It was to be a more impressionistic painting and create the feeling of a huge crowd gathering for the night’s entertainment around the tented stalls and benches of the street food in the square. I had taken a picture of the scene and had a wonderful sunset to work on and the remarkable event itself. The painting style was to be looser than I normally go for as the poor light would diffuse hard edges and reduce detail. The sky was harder than I had bargained for but I think I’ve learnt some lessons for next time. (?) Recreating spotlights from a photo with watercolor is a challenge, better to use acrylic or oil I think. Well here it is. Not completely sure what it is…


Night Market, Marrakech


Return to the Rose City

Our return to Marrakech by taxi was interrupted by a visit to a Berber horse fair.  Our driver felt it would be interesting to see charging horsemen with rifles and sabers flashing past in a haze of dust and heat. However, the horses were in their stables and the riders praying in their tents. So we became the locals’ entertainment, which was a little unsettling.  One of our numbers was in a poor shape and this detour was not best timed so we pleaded to the driver to take us to our new Riad.

The Riad was north west of the Medina in a much busier part of the city than our previous stay. We followed the baggage cart down ever narrowing and darker passageways, thinking ‘how are we going to remember to find this later’. The Riad was, again, in a traditional Marrakech building with rooms around a central courtyard and a pool below. Its terrace had potential but for some reason we rarely used it.

The food in Marrakech was great and we went to some of the best in town. How did we know where to go? Earlier we had met an Englishman who had been living in the City for 10 years and represented or owned 4 Riads. To mark them on the map he had created an app called Marrakech Riad Travel Guide. It was superb, with a geo locater that told you exactly where you were without the need for wifi. It offered guides for food, shopping, drink plus other helpful tips. Recommended.

Once again the art was tricky as we needed places to settle down and draw but in the busy streets and passageways this was not easy to do. The small museums in Marrakech are really good and they are often located in Riads, offering refreshments and roof terraces. But still not much art was being produced. So we went to the Majorelle Gardens, located close to our hotel we braved walking there. This was certainly an adventure. with cars added to the normal mix of people, donkey karts, bicycles, skooters and motorbikes. We walked past busy markets, fast roads, large confusing junctions, building sites and every type of shop under the hot Moroccan sky. Thanks to the app we found it efficiently but we needed a hot mint tea before touring the gardens. The cafe there is delightful and we had difficulty moving on. The gardens are beautiful,  especially after the streets of Marrakech and we found places to paint from. I started well and sketched and painted until lunch. Lunch in the cafe was delicious and we returned to our painting. I must have lost the thread again because my painting went awry in this session. Painting just foliage is tricky so I’m OK with this painting but the palm foliage in the mid distance could have been thought through better and the foreground shadows deeper.


Majorelle gardens, Marrakech

By now, with quite a lot of art under my belt, mostly in my small sketchbook I was happy to relax more and only draw when the opportuntiy arose. The guide told us of a good cafe on the edges of the Souk and by chance we were close. It was a little gem. There was a set menu and the staff just took over and made sure we were fed and watered with simple but tasty fare. Situated on a small but very busy junction, beside a mosque we had a great chance to sit and draw, talk to the locals and watch life go by. A Tuareg shop owner was interested in us and we got chatting, looked at our art and help chase the cats away. My sketch of the lunch time view is below. Later we bought leather belts and souvenirs from the shops around the cafe.


Marrakech Souk

As in a previous sketch there are items in the picture that are typical of the Souk. Such as the lantern, the dark, busy alley, the scooter, shops and palm. This may turn into a painting later but I need to think about composition. It was Annies birthday and we had a great time, eating relaxing, shopping and sightseeing through the day.

Janet had taken a photo of a typical Moroccan doorway earlier in the trip and I had been working on it through the time we were there. I finished it at home.


Moroccan doorway

The trip was great,  there was a lot to see and do and we were never bored. Thanks to Janet for organizing and to Janet and Peter for the artistic direction.

Finally I’ve begun working on some of the photos taken during my stay from my desk at home. I’m still not getting composition right but I’ve taken some details from the painting and made mini snapshots.


Arch and Lantern



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.