Spain is a country that gives lessons in the organization of form. I’m thinking of whitewashed villages with soft cubist motifs; light, shade, color 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.
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.
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 colors of paint we gathered our considerable bounty to the hotel and hastened to the vino tinto.
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.
The following are selected correspondence relating to the above letter. If you find value in any of this please feel free to copy to a friend or fellow artist. We have no other motivation than to give creative people an opportunity to share ideas and possibly broaden their capabilities Thank you for writing.
In a little Spanish town
by Julie Rodriguez
I just spent a month in Spain during August for the most part in a small village called Villoslada de Cameros in the Rioja wine area of northern Spain. This is not a tourist area so there was little to do except draw and enjoy the glorious beauty. I loved it. (My family was somewhat bored which meant that I had to put down my pencils and go do things periodically via car.) Most of the homes in Villoslada are from the 15th and 16th Centuries and are still being lived in — their exteriors remain as they always have and the interiors, while often remodeled, are true to the history of the area and lives of the families. The old stone homes with their decorative iron grills on their balconies are lovely. But equally nice were the people. I speak enough Spanish that I was able to engage with the old people of the village in their discussions of the 16th century portal I was sketching as I sat on the ancient low wall.
by Dick Clark
Your speculation on studio life in jail gave me a laugh. I have often wondered if great things could be done in jail—three square meals, privacy, minimum interruption. Seems ideal, particularly never having to wonder where your next meal was coming from. However, from my limited experience of talking and speaking to convicts it seems that a very low percentage take advantage of the opportunity. I wonder what the problems are. I am also wondering if you have any subscribers on the inside.
(RG note) Maybe we will find out. “You need a room with no view so imagination can meet memory in the dark.” (Annie Dillard)
In the dustbin, almost
by Andrew Stone
Even the policemen thought it was unusual behavior!!! Committing works of art to the dustbin may seem like heresy but it’s the core activity to improving your work. One time I tore a full sheet into four before dumping it and found that the lower right quarter wasn’t half bad, so I kept it, and later framed and sold it.
In the viewfinder
by R Hansen, Copenhagen, Denmark
You mentioned a shoe-box as viewfinder. Camera viewfinders, as you have also pointed out elsewhere, serve a similar purpose. No film need be taken. An interesting but now out of favor or at least seldom seen device was the so-called Claude Lorrain Glass. It’s a convex, black mirror which reflected a landscape with subdued color and, because of its smaller size, reduced detail. Poussin, Pieter van Laar, and others used one — it was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Viewfinder devices help with one of the main problems of landscape paintings and compositions of all sorts — what to do with the edges. In a world where human vision is peripherally soft a defined edge and format is generally needed.
On the line
by Bev Willis, Fresno, CA, USA
There are times when I think back to my childhood when my mother would always wash clothes on Mondays and I would help her. We ran the light clothes through the soapy water first, then through the wringer on to the two big rinsing tubs. Then came the darker color clothes and the same process. Now we didn’t use different water for each load (conservation in it’s earliest and most conserving manner) Then we would carry the wet clothes up the stairs from the basement to the backyard where we would put up each piece of clothing or sheet, pillow case, tablecloth, one by one, pinching the wooden clothespins open and shut over the line. How successful we felt when the clothes were all hung on the lines and how wonderful when the fresh, clean air would blow upon our wash! It was a pretty sight, our kites of clothes! And, oh, at day’s end we would gather the harvest: the fresh smelling, crisp sheets, pillow cases and clothing, fold them into our basket, later to enjoy the freshness all through the house. It is a nice time to remember!
A new spin on ‘Paint by Numbers’
by Lulu, Nashville, N. Carolina, USA
Try this for creativity. Instead of ‘winging it,’ try ‘slinging it,’ Resurrect that old hula-hoop and several of those PBN or Craft-Master kits from the recesses of your attic or the corner of your garage. Set up the numbered canvases in a circle around you. Attach all those cute little containers of paint to the edge of the hula-hoop. Step into the center of the canvases, pull the painterly hoop up around your waist and stand your ground as you set the whole darned thing whirling with creative (reckless?) abandon. Works really well with an old Bill Haley & the Comets number like Rock Around the Clock blaring away in the background. Guaranteed to elevate PBN, the hula-hoop and the artist to a whole ‘nother level of creativity.
“Worth looking at”
(RG note) We have started a new department on the clickbacks. It features selected links to subscriber’s works. We will link three per clickback. If you have something that you think other artists might enjoy seeing — you are welcome to send them to us. Some requests may be held over for future release — but we will make sure they are current before publishing. As you might imagine we have all kinds of requests to do this — sometimes thirty a day — so your request may not be honored right away. The criterion for choice is variety, quality, and value to other artists. I know it’s a bit subjective but I think it’s worth a go. Submissions may be made by artists themselves or recommended by others.
An online gallery of kinetic sculptures by Larnie Reid Fox from a current show at the Randall Museum, San Francisco, Calif: “Ornithopters and Little Walkers.” http://www.infoflow.com/larnie/thop
A collection of disturbing images from the perhaps obsessive imagination of Arkansas painter Warren Criswell www.warrencriswell.com
Current wildlife photography, mainly of Africa, primates and others, by respected British photographer Steve Bloom at www.stevebloom.com
You may be interested to know that artists from 74 countries have visited these sites since June 1, 2000. That includes Joseph Tany of Barcelona, Tracy Wright, currently of Malaga, and Carlos Infantes and Miriam Shambayati, formerly of Seville, who now fiesta in NYC. And also Javier Lopez of Galaroza, Andalucia, who owns Heurta de Santa Maria, a 17th century rustic ecclesiastical retreat ideal for artists.