Two nighttime painting contests, Spanish style

Until this weekend, I hadn't done a plein air painting contest—Spanish style, in the heat, under the influence of many fermented beverages—in six years. I was creaky but happy to get out and see old friends, and find that the contests haven't changed much, for the better.

We rented a car and drove out to the heart of Quixote country, Castilla-La Mancha, with two standard 100x81cm panels (40x32in., the smallest you can get away with and still hope to win a prize) and all my old paints, tools, and renowned ironing board that I found in a dumpster years ago and has become the butt of many jokes, even if it is awesome for holding a palette.

The first contest was in Alcázar de San Juan. It started at 10pm and finished at 2am, the only time you can do anything at this time of the year, on account of the generalized sauna. For painting, for sure, working in the dark presents certain challenges.

Here I am. An hour ago it would've been impossible to work out here with the sheer quantity of pedestrians, but the stores have closed and the bars have opened, shifting people elsewhere.

In four hours, including time to set up, clean up the painting for presentation, varnish, and run the work back to the registration point, this was what I managed to poop out. Only at the end, in proper light again, did I realize just how dark and Transylvanian it was. 

The showroom was packed and the smell of solvents and varnish hurt my head, but here were a few highlights I managed to snap. If you ask me, these people should be locked up for being so damn good.

The second contest, the next day, was in another mouthful, Villafranca de los Caballeros. Seems the smaller the town, the bigger the name in this part of Spain.

At almost 8pm, it was still 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit), so nice and warm.

This time, I was careful to chose a spot with better lighting, but my sense for these things is rotten and it quickly got way dimmer than I'd anticipated. Fortunately, someone gave me a headlamp, like a coal miner.

Here we await the verdict with the whole town, kids, old timers, and all, at 2am. People are bats in Villafranca.

They asked the artists to get up on the stage for the drum roll, which was kind of weird and embarrassing, but, hey, whatever. Here are two good friends, Jose and Pilar.

And... I ended up winning 2nd prize, good for a few hundred euros. Sad to say, this was the only shot I got of the winning work.

I'll be doing more "pintura rápida" while in Spain. Stay tuned.

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  1. Brilliant, Ivano. Treasure this time in Spain. Kudos

  2. Congratulations, Ivano. Second prize is an amazing accomplishment and your art is brilliant. Zia Vilma.

  3. More information and pictures (in Spanish) here:


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