Thursday, March 29, 2012

Douz market

Douz market (arches), oil on card, 11/ 9.5 cm  SOLD

This painting from Tunisia was sold today in Edinburgh via the Union Gallery, who hold about 30 paintings.

If you go there, ask to see the pictures as they are not always, or all, on display. It's near the top of Broughton Street.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lagoa from above

Lagoa from above, oil on card, 11.5 / 9 cm

Painted from near the viewpoint: very warm. I'm not sure if the conventional bamboo shoots on the left are really necessary.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Mountain - Cambirela

The Mountain, oil on card, 13.5 / 9.7 cm  SOLD

Here I am again near Palhoça, paraphrasing Hokusai.

Part of an occasional series: the light on the mountain shifts subtly over a session, highlighting rigdes and patches of forest: very enjoyable to just sit and observe.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Containers, oil on card, 10 / 13.5 cm

Painted in the grounds of UDSC.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The back of a filling station

Thee back of a filling station, Itacorubi, oil on card, 8 / 11.5 cm

I came here before and wasn't happy with the results: I'm still dubious.

I'll come back again another day. There's something in the combination of modernist optimism and low level squalor that I haven't managed quite to capture. Also, I didnt quite get the range of tonalities as well as I'd like to have.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Estrada Geral do Ribeirão da Ilha, Florianópolis; Brazillian architecture

Estrada Geral do Ribeirão da Ilha, Florianópolis, oil on card, 8.5 /10 cm  SOLD


Strip development along a highway: Brazilian architecture continues to astonish me in its sheer ugliness. You probably won't realise this if you look at books on Brazil because they are so selective.

You'll get even less of an idea if you look at books on this country's architecture, which will concentrate mainly on colonial stuff, the few remaining 19th century eclectic pieces, and showcase  buildings by Neimeyer and his pals.

Brazil's architecture is remarkable for it's general nastiness: ill planned, with no feeling for nature, nor sense of scale, with buildings constructed without consideration to their neighbours and no consideration to urban planning.

Moreover they are often very shoddily made. There are, naturally, one or two exceptions: a fancy art gallery here, a posh block there, maybe the odd grand private house: these serve to emphasise the mediocrity of the main.

I haven't come across any equivalent to the sort of simple, elegant mass housing seen in Scandinavian modern, or British Georgian.

The disdain for nature, surely Brazil's greatest asset, is amazing. There are almost no gardens or parks here worth speaking of, and those which survive from Burle Marx's day, say, are poorly maintained. Even large houses rarely have gardens.

With all this, I feel that I am stating the obvious, but the obvious sometimes needs to be stated. I sense an parallel to criticising Brasilian architecture in the position food critics found themselves when consuming food in Britain in the fifties.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More pochade carriers

I´ve been working on these, tidying them up a bit, improving the spines and making them a little more "professional", but hopefully not losing their charm. They look a bit like Sean Scully's, arranged together.

I like making these:  a pleasant respite from painting pictures and another aesthetic. I'm going to get some yellow paint for the next bunch.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pochade carriers

The carriers themselves are popular: I am trying to make them a little more professionally without losing their rawness

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Edinburgh: pochades; some conclusions; travel; thanks

Edinburgh winter (Smith´s Place), oil on card, 11 / 13 cm

Warehouses on Jane Street, Leith, oil on card, 9/ 12.5 cm  SOLD

Winter, Edinburgh winter (Smith´s Place), oil on card, 11 / 13 cm

I went up to Edinburgh and delivered paintings to the Union Gallery: they have a fair selection now from Brazil, Tunisia and the UK.

I stayed down in Leith- thanks to Anna and Kenneth for putting me up.

Very cold, of course, but splendid and Edinburgh is splendidly schizophrenic too: that mixture of elevated architecture and ground level squalor that characterises Georgian British cities. In Leith on the ground: endless pubs, cut-price barbers shops, Polish delicatessents, advice centres and pound stores:  magnificent, sometimes battered, soiled sandstone neo-classical  above.

While I was in Scotland, a painting sold at the Royal Scottish Academy :

Small Pines, oil on card, 10 / 12 cm   SOLD


The best paintings of the trip are those which refect some subjective intimacy with the place: ergo those from the UK are, I feel, in some way richer. The Tunisian ones tend, at their most slight, towards a sort of orientalist tourist painting,. This is because I felt some obligation to paint the things that most obviously define somewhere,  not unforgivably as those are the reasons for visiting in the first place. But all places have a skin and the skin is not necessarily as interesting as the other organs within.

But, of course, one develops subjective relations with a place over time, and as I plan more visits to the Islamic world  this will surely develop.

The better pictures were mostly not the larger size (5/ 13 cm or so) but smaller say (10/ 11 cm). This has something to do with concentration, and to do with the changes in light (this is much less of an issue in Brasil where the sun rises and sets rapidly and more or less stays put in between).

The boxes I  use to transport pictures are popular and I have to develop these: not necessarily to make them fancier, but perhaps to make more consistent in terms of quality. The buyers do not like polystyrene: a pity as it is very easy to use to for packing: they prefer cardboard which has more charm. Also, the boxes need better labelling. I need to make a simple label I can write on and sign to identify the pictures after painting.

I am annoyed with the photos I took of some of the pictures, which is not the fault of the camera but my own carelessness. So I must endeavor to improve that.


Travel is often detestable. Of course seeing new places new places and trying new food and so on is wonderful. I mean lugging things about, waiting in check-in queues, feeling very tired, being ripped off and worriying about something or other; misunderstanding something pitifully simple because your school French is rusty. Unpacking is a bore too, as is packing and wearing grubby clothes. If I were wealthy these travails would lessen considerably: sadly the likelihood of that in the near future is not high. The poorer traveller must rely on wit, good planning, stamina and  the friendship of strangers.

The Tunisia trip was reasonably good in this respect: I had the sensible notion that staying anywhere for less than two nights would mean all the above challenges would be increased. And the Rough Guide is really very good (though I arrived in El Jem to find that the only hotel had been demolished).

If one is visiting a new country there is the tendency to want to see everything. But really good painting, is not a product so much of the subject as the mindset of the maker. Good pictures are constructed on a balance of knowledge and its opposite: ignorance and surprise. So a short-ish  trip allows both, and fleeting fleeting visits are usually hopeless (digital photography, which has become almost cost free, is aften a false friend to the traveller as it encourages an erroneous notion that experience can effortlessly be "captured").


Many thanks to those who helped me over this trip : Lise, Chris, my parents, Anna and Kenneth, Matthew Cushen, Chris Anderson, Bilel,  and Chokri.

And thanks to the many anonymous souls who helped out in the innumerable small ways that make life more than tolerable.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tunisia: a selection of pochades


Douz central market, oil on card, 9/ 13 cm SOLD

Oasis, Tozeur, oil on card, 9/ 11 cm    SOLD

Tunis, The French Quarter, oil on card, 14.5 / 12.5 cm

The Mediteranean Sea, Sidi Bou Said, oil on card, 15 / 12 cm

Evening, El Jem, oil on card, 12 / 14 cm

Carthage, Tunis, oil on card, 14 / 13 cm

A football pitch, Matmata, oil on card, 13 / 13 cm

 Olive plantations, Sfax, oil on card, 10/ 12 cm   SOLD

Tozeur, a mosque, oil on card, 10 / 12.5 cm   SOLD

 Sfax, Docks, oil on card, 10/ 12 cm   SOLD

A side street, Tozeur, oil on card, 10/ 8.5 cm   SOLD

Here's a selection from Tunisia:. All the places I visited have features of obvious tourist appeal: Tunis  (Carthage/ Medina/ French  Quarter/ Sidi Bou Said), El Jem (the Roman Collosseum), Sfax (Medina), Tozeur (Medina, Oasis), Douz (central Market) and Matmata (Pit dwellings), in a journey that took me roughly south.

I went by train (very cheap and pleasant) bus and louage. It's not as orderly as Northern Europe, nor is it quite as messy as Brazil.

For me the pleasure of painting in Tunisia wass largely in depicting the white, very geometric buildings, which are set off by brilliantly coloured doors and windows, or the lands itself, which varied where I was from sandy and rocky to the sandy and green. The light is very bright in winter, coming in from the side lending wonderfully contrasts between darks and lights.

I also liked, in the smaller towns such as Tozeur, the little workshops where things are made or repaired, the tiny motorbikes, and seeing the markets though the traders often bored me with their sales pitches (Douz was considerably less annoying in this resepct and for some local cultural reasons that I can't fathom no-one hassled me at all there).

The contrasts between colonial districts -so very French with their crumbling Ecole de Beaux Arts stucco and patisseries- and the older Medinas are fascinating too, though as I have a strong aversion to tightly enclosed spaces and disorder,  I found spending a huge amount of time in these old, closed commercial areas intolerable. But they are certainly interesting, with wonderful doors and arches. There are stray cats everywhere.

But I was able to paint the Medina in Tozeur and Douz from above, thanks to the help of a shopkeeper and a hotel terrace respectively.

Perhaps it was the unusually cold weather, but the mood, especially of Tunis, was sullen, and while people were helpful enough, and occasionally kind, the country did not convey the sense of hopefulness that one imagines a new democratic settlement would bring.

I also felt that being North European was not seen positively, perhaps not surprisingly given the legacy of Western meddling and exploitation in North Africa. I told some people that I was Brazillian but they weren´t having it: too white they said. They´ve obviously never been to Santa Catarina.

Some of the paintings edge towards tourist painting- that is, tracing obvious set views. But, I think, most do not. And sometimes the set-piece tourist view is the set-piece because it is indeed striking, and to stating the obvious is not the same as being platitudinous.

Tozeur, view from a cafe, oil on card, 14 / 12 cm


Six of these paintings from Tunisia were taken by Rose Issa Projects, a gallery in Kensington specialising in Middle-Eastern and Arabic art.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Back from a painting trip to London, Edinburgh and Tunisia: London: a selection


The Tower, oil on card, 14.5 / 9.5 cm  NOT FOR SALE

Well, I am back, and it is tremendously hot here. I've been to Tunisia and Edinburgh. These visits were bookended by London, and instead of posting absolutely chronologically, I´ll post according to place categories: its just easier to make sense of a broken up painting trip.


A view near Earls Court, oil on card, 10 x 10 cm

I stayed in Kensington and most of the pictures are from my wanderings in Kensington and its fringes: up near Kensal Rise and across to Shepherds Bush. 

The days varied, sometimes with that incredibly crisp winter light you get in London, to days of unrelenting grey: both have their charm. 

Holy Trinity, Brompton, oil on card, 12 / 10 cm

An old pub, the North end of Ladbroke Grove, oil on card, 12 / 14 cm  NOT FOR SALE

Kensington Gardens, Winter, oil on card, 14 / 13 cm   SOLD

 A house in Kensington, oil on card, 12 / 10.5 cm  NOT FOR SALE

Warehouses serving a shopping mall, Shepherds Bush, oil on card, 8 / 10 cm  SOLD

Ladbroke Grove, looking North, oil on card, 13.5 / 10.5 cm  NOT FOR SALE

I generally feel that the fringes of a place offer the key to understanding the centres: life is less regimented, there are more spaces, things have gone wrong, the clock shows its mechanisms.


The London trip ended with a show of pictures at Matthew Cushen's beautiful apartment overlooking the river: thanks to him, and to Lise and Chris for hosting me, and making my time in London so pleasant.