Triste e alegre

In spring 2013 I had the opportunity to travel to Porto in northern Portugal. I managed to snap a bunch of shots and convert a combination of a few taken in a market, finally, into the painting here.

But first, if you haven't been to Porto imagine a pile of rumpled blankets with a heavy steel bar thrown over it. Blow this up to the size of a city and you get an idea for the terrain. With layers and layers of tall buildings all seemingly a stone pull away from toppling over and avalanching into the massive Douro River below, on top of all the riverbank port distilleries, it's a bit like living in an Escher drawing.

One place that really captured my attention was the Livraria Lello & Irmão, an intricate 19th-century bookstore in one of my favourite architectural styles, Art Nouveau. An art hero of mine, William Morris, would've loved it.

Interior of Lello & Irmão

In my studio over the door I have scrawled in gold letters "Decus in Labore," roughly "Honour in Beautiful Work." I ripped that off from the Livraria.

Of course there was vinho verde, pasties, and cod, but it was the people that also really grabbed me. You can't sum up an entire place or people in one short visit, but if I had to give my elevator pitch I'd say happy and sad at the same time, Mediterranean and Atlantic rolled into one.

Interestingly, there's a famous book of photography from the 1950s that focuses on Lisbon rather than Porto but concludes the same idea.

Okay already, here's the painting.

"Triste e alegre"
Mixed media on birch panel
18" x 24"