Thursday, March 15, 2018

Planning a trip to Chicago; travel guides


Lonely Planet`s 8th Edition, 2017

These Lonely Planet guides are excellent. Of course there are innumerable other sources, especially online, of reviews and recommendations but many of these are extremely partial.  Also, I find there something reassuring about having a book rather than an electronic device. It puts one`s mind to rest to know that the item you are reading can`t simply disappear or change instantly, nor disappear from sight when your battery dies.

 Admittedly, some of these guides can be heavy to lug around- a solution being to remove and carry only the sections relevant for your particular trip. My Peru guide has been thoroughly dissected so that each geographical area is a detachable pamphlet. 

I`ve found this series of guides (along with The Rough Guide) to be very reliable.

They are not geared to rich mid-Western Americans like Fodors, nor to tick-box sightseeing like Eyewitness, nor are they exclusively for save-tuppence-ha`penny-a-night-in-this-fleapit backpackers. They aren`t aimed at millionaire  archaeology nerds like Baedekers either (I have a Baedekers to Turkey which seems incapable of recommending a hotel that doesn`t cost 300 US$ a night) though they contain good basic notes on all sights likely to be of interest to the general reader.

The Lonely Planet books are written with a ironical sense of humour too (perhaps attributable to their British origins), and are a pleasure to read. Fodor`s guides are stiflingly self-important.

Anyway, with this book in hand I now feel ready  to conquer Chicago.  


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

My Peruvian Adventure- Lima; conclusions; next?



Lima, tabernacle, oil on card, 21.2 x 17.5 cm

Lima, a block near the courts, oil on card, 17.2 x 19 cm

This building near the courts reminded me of the Flatiron in New York. 

Lima, a view of a street in the centre, oil on card, 17.7 x 18.5 cm

This picture has not photographed well. There are some colour combinations that the camera is very poor with. But it is a good picture with a nice Dufy-ish feel, albeit more tightly composed.


I spent almost a week in Lima and painted only three pictures. But they are all good: the colours are original and they are unfussy and confident. I stayed in the centre and in Miraflores too. I went to Miraflores because I am a softie and a rotten traveller and the filth of old Lima started to depress me. But Miraflores is also a bit depressing in its blandness and provides nothing much worth painting. I know because when I`d set myself up to work on something I found after some minutes that I could scarcely focus on the motif so glazed with boredom had I become. It was as if nothing in Miraflores told or suggested any story, it was so blandly, nicely, suburban.

Lima proper is very rich architecturally (if in need of considerable restoration), with a more splendid variety of buildings by miles than I have seen in any other Latin American city including Rio, Santiago and Salvador.


Travelling and painting in Peru 

You come home and within two days its as if you had never been anywhere at all.

Peru is mostly good to paint in. The people are not generally criminals and they don`t harry you sleazily as is the custom in North Africa. They are mainly polite, good-natured and a little shy. That includes the children who are neither nasty and sly like British children, vicious like the stone-throwing prodigy of Arabia, nor like the fat Ritalin-addled slobs you get in Donald Trump`s USA (Brazilian children are also mostly amicable- at least, the children of the lower orders are. The children of the Brazilian bourgeoisie are as revolting as their adult peers, spoilt and self-regarding and forever glued to their moronic smart-phones).

There are dogs everywhere, however, and these are sometimes aggressive. I had to rescue a schoolgirl in Ayacucho from a pack of about six of them. She was traumatized and went back home crying. Occasionally the dogs are covered in sores. I frequently saw pigs too, some of them enormous and shamelessly slothful.

Hygiene is not, generally, a high priority among Peruvians. Restaurants rarely have soap and towels, and the streets reek of urine. There is litter all over the place.

I sometimes found the food to be so poor as to be repulsive, created as it generally is by stewing the innards of uncertain animals for long periods of time. Salad is a rarity. The breads are weird- round and cardboard-y. There are some salty cheeses. Cakes are more impressive in their appearance than taste, which also has the aspect of cardboard. Ceviche is not worth making a fuss about- it`s acidic and gives one a belly-ache. For dinner fried chicken with chips is compulsory but it`s rarely any good and you feel sad after dining. The coffee, which is mainly instant or some concoction made in advance in a tureen, isn't much to look forward to. Milk is uncommon.

 The light is soft and sad and not bad at all but equally it is not remarkable as it can be in Italy on a golden evening or when here in winter it is clear and crisp and the sun is low casting such blue shadows. It didn't rain much at all and I managed to work most days. The landscapes I found did not often convey a grandeur though except near Tarma. I was stymied by the road blockage out of Ayacucho as that route might have given me more dramatic perspectives. I also missed the beauty of tall trees. 

In architecture Peru is quite harmonious. Their modern buildings do not, as in Brazil,  disturb so hideously the older constructions (really Brazilians should be very ashamed of their architecture and how cruelly they have treated their heritage). And the older constructions in Peru are often of considerable interest and merit. 

I met few other travelers and those few I met (4 x French) were unfriendly to the point of rudeness. What a pointless nation the French have become! Anyway, being alone is quite agreeable- my own company is very good.


Some of the paintings are good, some repeat themes. The average size of pictures is greater than in previous trips and I won`t work larger, at least not for a while. Anyway, there are maybe as many as ten paintings I am unequivocally happy with, which isn't a bad number (but what is the right number?). The business is capricious and I am not sure one ever really gets better at it.

Where next?

Chicago and New York. I like to go to a western country after having spent time in an undeveloped country.  Maybe about 9 days in each of these cities? Also, I like Uruguay and want to go back there in winter as the light is so good.

I have only just returned and I am desperate to get another  solid period in which I can do some work.  I hate the bittiness of previous journeys- in fact I am angry with myself for permitting such short essays. And with distant trips one loses days here and there just travelling and finding ones bearings. 


My Peruvian Adventure- Tarma, Part Two- above the town


 Tarma, mountains, oil on card, 16 x 17.7 cm

 Tarma, settlements on the hillside, oil on card, 21.7 x 17.5 cm

Tarma, small farm and cemetery above the town
 oil on card, 21.7 x 172 cm

I regret that the colours here might seem a little faint. Oddly, when painting my perception was otherwise- that the picture had van Gogh-ian vigour about it, and erred on the side unruliness. It`s alarming how unreliable  judgments of the moment can be. since my return to Brazil the picture seems to have changes into something much more polite, more drawing-room than the one I had originally worked on.

This is the case with many pictures and I  post them in a slow trickle, so as to give my perceptions time to act and filter out the weaker ones.

Tarma, above the city, oil on card, 17.5 x 22 cm

Tarma, valley, oil on card, 21.5 x 17.5 cm

I took buses to get above the town, and to visit some ruins which were not close and where it rained futriously. The villages above the town have spectacular views and are nice places for painting.


My Peruvian Adventure- Tarma, Part One- the town


Tarma, hills seen from the town, oil on card, 165 x 23 cm

 Tarma: carnival, oil on card, 22 x 15.3 cm

There`s a slightly sad atmosphere in this picture but then I think there is in the town, which has a slight provincial lostness about it.

Tarma, Hotel El Dorado, a bed with a chair behind it
 oil on card, 14.5 x 17 cm

Tarma is a small, pleasant town, cradled in high mountains a few hours up from Lima. I very much enjoyed my stay there. My hotel was an old handsome place and very good value. 

My stay there, and my painting, was affected by the feeling that I was coming to the end of my trip and a certain languor accompanied me. I sought, unsuccessfully, to challenge this mood. Perhaps the three places I stayed in in the Andes were too similar, and I would have benefited from another, utterly different environment.


Monday, March 12, 2018

My Peruvian Adventure- Andahuaylas and Pacucha


Andahuaylas is not the most charming town I ever went to. I was attacked by a pack of dogs (though not bitten) when I got there at 3 am? There are dogs all over the place in Peru and many are unpleasant. But the area around nearby Lake Pacucha is nice. You can have trout for lunch and stroll along the lakeside.

There are ruins at Sóndor, at the far end of the lake, which are not uninteresting and from where are excellent views. 

Pacucha, oil on card 18.2 x 16.5 cm

Pacucho, oil on card, 18.5 x 17.3 cm

Pacucha, fields, oil on card, 22 x 17.2 cm

 This one, above, is the one of the best from this trip: it's energetic, crisp, with interesting colour combinations and it describes the sensation of distance effectively. It has a bit of Gillies in it.

Pacucho by the lake, oil on card, 152 x 18.4 cm


Friday, March 9, 2018

My Peruvian Adventure: The Lima Art Museum (MALI): some highlights


A selection - rather a miscellany - of things I found diverting at Lima's beautiful Fine Arts museum.

As in Brazil, the tradition of painting is either religious, or sustained by arrivals of immigrants after which it appears to suddenly die. Judging from these paintings, there seems to have been a vigorous bohemian culture in Lima up to the 50s, when it must have been a most charming city (an impression reinforced by reading Llosa`s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. My impression of the city since then is that the middle classes moved en masse to live in Miraflores, leaving the old town to crumble.

Ricardo Grau, Portrait of Ana Pizarro, oil on canvas, 1938

Julia Codesido, India Huanca, oil on canvas, 1932 

Jorge Reinoso, Tantahuasi, oil on canvas, 1929

Jose Dieguez, Camilio Blas, oil on canvas, 1927 

Víctor Morey Peña, Yo no soy, ink on paper, 1924

Franciso Laso, Road between hills, oil on canvas, 1850-60

Cuzco school, oil on canvas, 1700-1750

Cusco school,
 Allegory with Indian patron, oil on canvas, 1770 - 1800

There is a delightful room with some wonderful photos including the following-

Juan Manuel Figueroa Aznar 
  Historia de amor y desengaño
ca. 1907

Tienda en Morocochaca, 1928 - 1940 Sebastián Rodríguez

Estudio Vargas Hermanos, Ferretería, 1927


This amusing observational style flourished in the early 19th Century in hispanic countries. There is an excellent collection here. there are elements of caricature, they document clothing styles and some appear to tell stories. 

Attributed to Francsco Cortes, Seated woman smoking,
 watercolour and tempera on paper, 1827- 38

Attributed to Francsco Cortes, Plumed Dancer
 watercolour and tempera on paper, 1827-39

Francisco ¬Pancho¬ Lima, Mercedarian friar dancing the zamacueca,  
watercolour on paper, 10 May 1836

Francisco ¬Pancho¬ Lima, Street fight, watercolour on paper, 1834-41

Francisco ¬Pancho¬ Lima, Announcement for a cock fight
 watercolour on paper, 1834-41

A bee

There is also an array of pins including this charming  bee-

Anonymous,Tupu, Silver cast, hammered, laminated
chiseled and incised, 1830 -1900


My Peruvian Adventure: The Amano Pre-Columbian Textile Museum


Here are some photos from the excellent Amano Museum in Miraflores, Lima. 

Their website is

My apologies for not identifying all the samples.

 Textile catalogue in camelid and cotton fibre, 1100-1450 AD, Chancay textilemaker

 Wari mantle with Andean cross, 700-1200 AD, Wari Artisans

Mocha Textile bag 

Karwa mantle of staffed god, 1000 BC to 200 BC byt Chavin artisans