May 16, 2011

Fast Painting in Sant Mateu and the Falla Barraca-Columbretes

I competed in two paintings contests this weekend, on Saturday in the beautiful town of Sant Mateu about 130 km north of Valencia city, and on Sunday at the Barraca-Columbretes Falla House in the Cabanyal neighbourhood of Valencia.

I wasn't lucky in Sant Mateu as I was last year, but I had a fantastic time. The town is an aesthetic gem in the mountainous Valencian interior. The organizers invited us to a bounteous lunch replete with hors d'oeuvres, luxury sandwiches, dessert, coffee, and shots of herb liquor - all on the house. Als organitzadors, moltes gràcies! Hi vam passar un bon dia.

On Sunday, despite rain and cloud cover, I headed down the street to the embattled neighbourhood of El Cabanyal: embattled because the neighbourhood is historic - an old fishing village on the coast that the city and beach have oozed over; because Rita Barbará, the conservative mayor of Valencia, wants to pave the neighbourhood over with highway and gentrify it with luxury condos; and because Valencia's Roma community has called El Cabanyal home for decades.

I spent the day trying, unsuccessfully, to remain inconspicuous, but I was constantly found out and for most of the day had a crowd of curious onlookers around me, debating my work, telling me what I should add, asking me to paint them into the scene - though all warmly and jokingly.

After submitting my painting, it was a picnic of paella and beer on the street and an impromptu fair for the kids, which was great for my own kid who came along. Then at the end of the day, to my surprise, the jury awarded me first prize and presented me with a ceremonial cheque and trophy, a traditional ceramic tile mounted on a plaque.

Fue un gran placer conocer a todos los de la falla. Nos habéis tratado como reyes. Miles de gracias!

Javier Mesa Reig has written an article about the falla contest which can can be found in Spanish here.



I painted in Sant Mateu on this busy street.


 The finished piece at 2 pm.

 Amigos a la comida.

Wrapping up lunch in El Cabanyal.


The winning piece.


Artcetera and Alameda

I would like to thank everyone who attended artcetera in Elora and the Alameda Theatre Company fundraiser in Toronto, the organizers, and buyers of my donated paintings. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend either event but I was there in spirit - and jittery wondering how my work was going to fare at auction.  I can tell you from past experiences, auctions are nail-biting from the artist's perspective, especially when no one raises a hand or writes anything down on the bid sheet.

Both the Elora Centre for the Arts and Alameda are crucial to their respective communities and the culture of the arts in Canada.  Thanks for supporting!

Images from artcetera can be found here.

A shot of one of my abstract pieces in Elora.

May 9, 2011

Back in Valencia, Back at Fast Painting

Unlike last year when we pulled in and got sick for a month - Oriana with pneumonia, of all nightmares - settling in to our old apartment and life in Valencia was easy this time around.  It gets easier every time.

Since we're here for a month less this year, we - actually, more me - have filled our weekends with work and activity.  For every weekend I've managed to rent a car so we can get out of the city.

This weekend, the first back, I competed in my first fast-painting contest of the season in the small city of Alcora.  It was great to reconnect with friends, sit down to a three-hour lunch on the house, and to paint outside for the first time in months.  Then again I had to paint hunched over under a mulberry tree because it rained all day and my canvas, a cheap, flexible thing that sagged in the moisture, turned out to be a bit of a slop.  I'd forgotten how frustrating plein air painting can sometimes be. 

Here was my setup before the rain hit.  When it came it knocked half of the mulberries off the tree and slimed up the ground.  At one point I slipped, dropped my canvas face down, and fell on top of it.  Interestingly, the tumble produced one of the best strokes of the painting.

My favourite painting septuagenarian, maybe even octogenarian, Fernando, toasting the organizers and us painters.

And the icky result of a morning of painting.  Acrylic on canvas, 100cm x 81cm.

# # #

The next day, Sunday, I ran a 18.5k race in the mountains of Azuebar and finished in 2:10, about middle of the pack.  I've been running on and off all winter and spring but the flatness of Guelph can never prepare the thousands of little muscles in the legs for a mountain race.  At one point, descending from the peak, my legs locked up and I had to stop, stretch, and breathe.  Weird experience.  My muscles knotted and wouldn't move.  I hobbled back like the Tin Man, swinging on tree branches and grabbing every rock I could with my hands.  Today I'm stretching and moaning and groaning. 

Here I am, pretending I ran the whole way, coming into the finish.