Dear Artist,

Spain is a country that gives lessons in the organization of form. I’m thinking of whitewashed villages with soft cubist motifs: light, shade, colour surprise and varied textures of tile, masonry and stone. These magic places seem to tumble from their hillsides for the benefit of art. In narrow streets with singing canaries and sunlit geraniums, there’s abstract energy. Even clothes hung out to dry take on a significance unfelt at home.


“Cariboo Autumn”
watercolour on paper
by Jack Hambleton (1916-1988)

Jack and I planted ourselves for a day at an excellent corner — part street, part staircase, in Vejer de la Frontera. A noisy gaggle of school-going kids hung out with us until their bell rang. At midday a woman in black donated iced lemonade and smoked ham. During siesta-time old men stood back in the scant shade and discussed our doings. And in the evening volumes of smartly dressed young women elbowed by on their way to something important.


“Paros, Greece”
watercolour on paper
by Jack Hambleton


Through a rectangular hole cut in a shoebox we assessed and planned our compositions. Figures plied our spaces like unsubstantial ghosts as if observed by a slow camera. Each to his own style and whim, our small panels became their own series; faster, fresher. The passage of time brought a calming down and with it an understanding of the designs at hand. Some paintings, as usual, were better than others. Amused when a dust-man came sweeping with his cart, we both made a contribution. Then, two Guardia Civil watched us suspiciously, while we loudly discussed in English the studio potential of a Spanish jail.

When we could no longer see the colours of paint, we gathered our considerable bounty to the hotel and hastened to the vino tinto.


“The Shambles, York, England”
watercolour 11″ x 15″ (27.94 x 38.1 cm)
by Jack Hambleton

Best regards,


PS: “I love to find them, I love to paint them, I love to frame them, and I love hear about them being sold.” (Jack Hambleton)

Esoterica: Other recommended spots in southern Spain are Rhonda, Cadiz, Cordoba, Mihas. Recent favourites are any of the numerous high and unspoiled villages in the Sierra de Aracena; Galaroza, Fuenteheredos, Valdelarcos, Castano del Robledo.

This letter was originally published as “Bounty” on October 13, 2000.


Download the new audio book, The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“Drawing is a way to keep subjects fresh.” (Jack Hambleton)


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