Wednesday, 4 December 2019

painting the pure light of portugal in pastel

                                                              From autumn in Canada....

As the leaves slowed their fall to the ground in Canada, myself and a group of brave plein air artists boarded planes and all headed toward our painting destination for fall 2019, Portugal.
Of course, as with many of my trips, several went ahead for more travel to other nearby places, as well as staying behind after our painting time, together for even more travel.

                                                              pre-trip: Porto, by night

                                 The Porto ladies, minus Mary, who I suspect was taking this pic.
A first for me, staying in this type of hotel in a city! (usually in the country), but this proved convenient and stimulating. That's our hotel, right in front of the beach.


Coming together, we descended upon Cascais, Portugal to begin our trip on Nov. 1st. Cascais is on the Atlantic, very close to Lisbon and easy to get to from there. This was how I would describe the entire trip; easy.

Warmth in Cascais, Portugal
                                         We all met at our hotel for the next week, Hotel Baia.
This is always an exciting time for everyone. I am so grateful for everyone who comes on my trips, takes time off work or busy schedules, to spend this special time together. I have never done a trip quite like this one. Usually we are at a retreat, and out in the countryside for a good portion. This time, we were smack dab in a great town location, overlooking the ocean and a great square with much happening.

                                                      The balcony view each morning
We can see the beach nearby where young ones are still wearing bathing suits and playing volleyball, while many walk along the waterfront, the pretty sky and charming fishing and tug boats offering us lots of compositions.

Our opening reception, on the rooftop of our hotel. overlooking the ocean view, with a glass of Wine or Port, we met everyone.  Discussing the perils and rewards of painting plein air, and more challengingly, in a populated place. Let the games begin! 

                                               Palm trees also lined the water walkways..


As well, we saw every colour of Bougainvallea.
 Lesson 1: concepts for paintings; variations on a theme


First lesson. get an idea for a painting, then simplify it, look at it from many perspectives. 1. The Bougainvillea, in all it's blooming glory. hard to draft out, but do-able. 2. A close up of one branch, much simpler. 3. below, even simpler, petals. 4. related, but an altogether different concept. explore ideas and improve the quality your compositions and communications.


Out past the first peir, the marina offers a different and exciting imagery with many sailboats and an  eery misty feel surrounding them. In plein air, it's all about embracing what is present. Just walk around the corner, the light is creating a different atmosphere, offering new subjects. Not to mention the ever changing architecture, sculptures galore, beautiful shorelines, trees.

 At this point, the fortress beside the marina was like a medieval fortress, but just a little further on, there's a courtyard of art galleries housed in old, old buildings. Almost right across the road is the park. A large park, housing palaces, peacocks and chickens, many turtles, cafes, ponds with various ducks, and many other things you'd expect-chiildrens play structures, sculptures, even a small mountain to climb.
check it out:
                                                                           old and new
sculptures virtually everywhere you look in Cascais

The last king of Portugal loved art, and built a castle here. Other rich and important people of Portugal followed suit, with many elegant castles, and stately mansions.


                                           gorgeous gardens and unusual old architecture  

Past the park is the lighthouse, a popular painting subject, but beyond that is endless surf, volcanic rock, dramatic ocean vistas, cliffs. It was really the best of all worlds for artists. We had quaint cafes and interesting architecture in town, and in a 10 minute walk, you are out in full on nature.


I have skipped over one significant item: the buildings, palaces inside the park. Gorgeous, ostentatious old architecture, and very beautiful gardens by the seaside. Everywhere you looked, something beautiful to see and paint.


It can be an overwhelming experience, taking your art supplies out and painting in public. For anyone reading this who has little or no experience in plein air, plein air is the most challenging artistic exercise, with people watching you, and many distractions: wind, sun, nice, smells, general hub of activity. My advice to you is to practise in solitude when you can, and get some experience behind you. It's all in the thumbnail! You don't have to be an expert to come on one of my trips, but you do have to be open to learning. That's it. If you can master the art of the thumbnail, you can travel and paint.
                                         Carol, working it out, and turns out a great painting.

A week went by so fast on this trip. Partly because the whole trip was about ease. our painting location were close at hand, as were all our dining our adventures (OMG- did we have adventures in food!) In our hotel, we had a room set aside used as our studio, which worked out very nicely and gave us so much convenience. You see, the studio was right beside the breakfast buffet (a true feast), so it was easy to be in studio, and go for an extra coffee or a delicious custard tart.


In the middle of this week in Cascais, we had a very busy day off, visiting Sintra, the Pena Palace and Quinte de Regaleira. This was a spectacular day, one of those sites that is 100% better with clear weather, which we were lucky enough to have. First of all the Pena Palace was really not a disappointment, after seeing so many pics beforehand, it was one of those marvels of architectural detail, the building itself, elegant and exquisite in every detail, every arched walkway, gazebo-towers, so much more.

Quinta de Regalaria

What I really wasn't expecting was to be as charmed with Quinta de Regaleira. Classified as a UNESCO world heritage site, built at the end of the 19nth century, this is a series of buildings, chapels, grand houses, with spiral staircases built into the ground for spiritual inquiry, with many classical sculptures in this park like setting, and every bit as spectacular as Sintra.
"This ensemble of enigmatic structures and luxurious gardens is a reflection of the philosophical and antic pursuits of owner Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro and his architect, Luigi Manini."

Our day off proved to be just as tiring as our painting days,...all in a good way.

Our week in Cascais (pronounced Cashkish, with a long I) went by too quickly. I would have liked a few more days there, as always. Before I leave, just a few more painting locations:



now, on to more exciting moments in Lisbon.

We always stay in hotels, (when we get to the city portion of our trip) that are in excellent locations, again so we don't waste time and everything is at our fingertips. Lisbon was no different. Out hotel was also funky, with a great reception area where we could meet and have chats about painting city scenery, and that dreaded word, perspective. Street scenes are actually very easy if you know a few tricks. We started our time in Lisbon by dropping our bags at the hotel and quickly assembling for our walking tour, a great orientation to the city in general, and much information about what to visit and where to paint.


                                              Taking a break during our walking tour of Lisbon


   A terrific morning, depicting street scenes. 

The things we enjoyed and painted were: open air markets with great food, craft, and other products, the castelo st. jorge (fantastic views of the entire city), street scenes virtually everywhere (catch some good light).


One day we walked down the main pedestrian thoroughfare and viewed the Portuguese version of the arch de Triumph, and how the light changed and the composition by moving from one side of the street to the other. the statue we could see inside the arch was surrounded by the lightest airiest air. Soft light, regal. Lovely.

In the end, we couldn't believe how quickly our time together was through.  It was a fantastic trip as always, and I wish to thank everyone who came, participated, painted, encouraged others, and shared your passion and enthusiasm for the things we value, in common.

and then, there's the work!
Here's our studio, which worked out great when it started to rain. the studio was located right beside the breakfast room, where pastries and coffee were readily at hand. this had good and bad effect. 

                                                          various WIP, by the teach.

Mary-Lynn, our solo oil painter, and her increasing inventory of paintings. 

We had several watercolorists on this trip, and Liz of course who works in everything. Made for interesting gatherings at 5. This is when we shared what we all did that day, having so many mediums  represented. Here's a lovely piece by Mary.

                                The water and big sky captured in atmosphere. Pastel, by Sandra. 

                                                              getting organized in studio


                                            Loretta captures the fullness of the Bougainvaillea.

Janet captures the exotic nature of the place with imaginative colour.


Liz, our multi-talented, multi medium artist, in her pen and ink with watercolour glory. Focussing in on some smaller detail is often a good way to go.

WIP, by Liz, (another Liz)

The charm of Cascais by Gaye.

Oceanside watercolour, by Dave. Good composition, great sky, and yes, the trees did grow sideways like that!

One of many solid pieces by Carol. 

As always with these trips, I'm only giving you a stitch of what really happened. It's so hard to not put in so many other experiences! We'll hold it there. We had a fantastic time in Portugal. The weather wasn't hot, but pleasant and much nicer than Canada at this time of year. Please visit me again, next exciting adventure,......
STAY TUNED, for my next blog post, based on an interesting event this summer, about a Georgian Bay Island, a pastel painting, and a commissioned 24" X 60" oil Painting.