BP Portrait Award 2014

Its that time of year again, I have just four weeks to paint a credible portrait, from life, that might stand out amongst the usual 2000 or so entrants’ works.

Only 55 paintings are selected in total to be exhibited, the top prize this year is £30,000. The award is made for “outstanding and innovative work ” – it is increasingly  hard to produce something that is innovative without bordering on the pretentious.

I chose to paint a friend, who is a painter herself, indeed she only paints herself, often in elaborate guises, adopting personas or attitudes, situations or allegories. I know what she really looks like as a friend but does she show me the face that she paints or someone else?

Here is my beginning – the first day of oil paint after many pencil sketches. I love the background and the shapes but I’m anxious about her dress, which is made of thick wool, dark blue with a contrasting maroon panel on the front. She was also wearing a necklace made of felt but I have decided to leave that out.  I might try to make to the wool look like silk instead.

Her hair – a  halo of marvellous auburn curls, will be back lit by a nearby standard lamp to the right. In this image, the holo of hair is much smaller than it will be when finished. She is sporting navy blue tights with white spots, I’m looking forward to painting those.

Its all looking raw and too bright just now and with no details but hopefully things will come together soon.

BP portrait 2014

Cuba – more Havana

old paint
Why bother to paint a door when it looks as interesting as this one and still does its job. Ada in flat A has great style.
Food store
There is a real divide between products for sale to Cubans and those for tourists, even separate currencies, the Cuban shops are sparse and dark with only whatever happens to be available that day for sale. These shops are not for tourists, there are dual currencies inCuba, the Cuban Peso for locals and the Convertible Pesos for tourists, (CUC) There are 25 pesos too one CUC, £1 will buy you around 1.5 CUC. 
old Havana
Havana has been immensely wealthy at various times in the past, here is sad evidence of grand colonnial architecture suffering from neglect.
street artists
Streets artists draw their surroundings for tourists and ask just a few pesos for their work.
contrast
A city of contrasts, as in any place anywhere, it is most striking between the old and the young
Women
Women dress up in more-or-less traditional colourful costumes and parade around often with a large cigar in their mouths, hoping that tourists will offer them a few pesos to take their photos.
Revolution Square
Revolution Square, a vast empty square – plenty of space for the tourist coaches in high season. The vintage cars chase each other around the square, showing off their shiny curves in front of the iconic face of Che Guevera keeping lookout above.
restaurant workers
These  restaurant workers have come outside for a well-deserved breath of fresh air, the two men are oblivious but the woman is understandably unhappy that I am taking their photograph, though I had tried to be inconspicuous, shooting from the hip. She’s too canny for that to have passed her by.
grilles
Every house has grilles over the windows, often intricate and delicate-looking designs. The windows are rarely glazed but have internal wooden shutters.
grilles
Here the metal bars have been adapted to fit the space to be secured. Frequently there are door sections too and even space cut out for air conditioners.
Vintage cars
Vintage cars are highly prized possessions passed down through 3 generations. Emilio runs his grandfather’s car, bought new in the 50’s as a taxi/sightseeing service, he says its a nightmare to keep it on the road, its so hard to get parts but the body and upholstery he keeps in good condition. The petrol consumption is huge, hence the prices the tourists must pay, though a half hour trip is still a bargain compared to London fares.
decay
A typical street in old Havana, regeneration is painfully slow, materials abandoned and rusting in the roadway.
vintage motorcycle
This guy polishes his vintage motorcycle which provides him with a livelihood
bicycle taxis
Bicycle taxis abound, ad- hoc constructions made from recycled metal components and topped off with jaunty awnings to protect the passengers from the midday sun.
courtyard
Muh of Havana is built on the pattern of houses in a block built around a central courtyard, here filled with smoke from an open fire.
pool
Dawn from the roof-top pool of one of the hotels in central Havana which have been re-vamped for tourists demanding international standards of amenities.There is a vast divide between the sumptuous surroundings on this roof-top and the palpable material poverty in the streets below.

CUBA

CubaThe stories are true, Cuba is passion, heat, decay, music and vintage cars but so much more. After a regrettably short visit my mind and my mind’s eye are bursting with sounds and colours, people and sensations. I travelled with a small group of keen photographers in a coach over dusty pock-marked roads from Havana to CienFuego, to Trinidad and Santa Clara and finally back to Havana. My amigos also visited Vinales but a short interlude with the excellent Cuban health system prevented me from joining them. Frui runs holidays (with a photographic tutor) to Cuba and many other great destinations.

We flourished in the expert guidance of Giselle our Cuban chaperone and our driver Candito, who both went far beyond the call of duty to find us the perfect places and situations for our photographic purposes.

Cuba is not an easy country to understand, its history is complex and thrilling. Stuck as it is with the US trade embargo still in place, the Cubans are short of all sorts of modern and everyday products which are so familiar to us. Cuba is not short of welcome and rhythm. The salsa beat is with you day and night, sit down in a cafe and within moments a live band will be serenading you and musicians set up in the street in the most unlikely places. Tourism is Cuba ‘s money-maker, life there will change very quickly when the Castro dynasty ends, tourism will be the big draw for foreign entrepreneurs, who no doubt will suck away all the profits leaving the Cubans to make what they can with an infra-structure that has been starved of regeneration funds for more than 50 years.

Havana

Happy to be potographed for a small fee of 5 Cuban Pesos (c. 2p)
Happy to be photographed for a small fee of 5 Cuban Pesos (c. 2p)
There are not many new books to be had but there are good libraries and second-hand book stalls and shops abound.
There are not many new books to be had but there are good libraries and second-hand book stalls and shops abound.
Cuban life is lived on the streets, everyone has a chair or a box to sit on.
Cuban life is lived on the streets, everyone has a chair or a box to sit on.
Dusk
Dusk
Dawn
Dawn
1930's Bacardi building and vintage car
1930’s Bacardi building and vintage car
Spanish colonial style arcades provide welcome shelter from the sun as well as torrential rain. Tiny shops open at random selling hot drinks or cakes.
Spanish colonial style arcades provide welcome shelter from the sun as well as torrential rain. Tiny shops open at random selling hot drinks or cakes.
The heat and humidity slows you down, nothing is done in a rush, sit a while on a bench and enjoy the banter
The heat and humidity slows you down, nothing is done in a rush, sit a while on a bench and enjoy the banter
Education is free for everyone, school uniform included.
Education is free for everyone, school uniform included.
There is music playing everywhere, even outside this long-abandoned building supposedly being re-constructed.
There is music playing everywhere, even outside this long-abandoned building supposedly being re-constructed.

People

Blanket coat and a pastie
Great blanket coat and a pastie
Orange juice and a cigarette, putting the world to rights
Orange juice and a cigarette, putting the world to rights
Seen through a window, the scarf, the hand, the face in shadow, I wonder who he is.
Seen through a window, the scarf, the hand, the face in shadow, I wonder who he is.
The reddest hair and the blackest clothes
Vibrant orange hair and the blackest clothes
An engineer, deep in thought
An engineer, deep in thought

Downward gaze

Dazzling inside a mirrored lift
Dazzling inside a mirrored lift
The last supper
The last supper
The serving hatch
The serving hatch
The Bauhaus follower
The Bauhaus follower
Comtemplation
Comtemplation
IMG_6174
Serious and reflective with impeccable taste
IMG_6172
On the way home from the market – thinking about lunch
The Beret
The Beret
Really - I'm not sure I agree
Really – I’m not sure I agree
Where's my pint
Where’s my pint
Good-day to you sir!
Good-day to you sir!

Berlin – Architecture, Streets and People

Thomas - Expert Guide
Thomas – Expert Guide, joining the coach in Potsdamer Platz

One day in Berlin is not enough – of course! I was there to visit the Bauhaus Archives, the most comprehensive representation of information about the mid 20th C design school. I also enjoyed a 3 hour coach tour with a certain Thomas who was the most informed and amusing guide I have ever met. He skilfully took us around or past every historic point, every breath-taking piece of modern architecture with an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything Berlin has to offer the coach-bound traveller. Due to lack of time we could only leave the coach twice and for just a few moments, so many of  the photos are compromised by having been taken through the coach window as the coach was moving.

Jewish Museum - Daniel Libeskind
Jewish Museum – Daniel Libeskind’s radical, zigzag design

Just one photograph hardly does justice to this complex building, light and shadows dance across the angled facades and jagged chasms and take your breath away.  Daniel Libeskind

Berlin Hauptbahnhof - Meinhard von Gerkan

Berlin Hauptbahnhof – Meinhard von Gerkan

Meinhard von Gerkan The station looks particularly marvellous at night, streaks of light gliding through and out of the enormous glazed tube of a roof.

Topographie Des Terrors - Ursula Wilms (Heinle, Wischer and Partner) and the landscape architect Professor Heinz W. Hallmann
Topographie Des Terrors – Ursula Wilms (Heinle, Wischer and Partner) and the landscape architect Professor Heinz W. Hallmann

The external structure of steel rods or shafts catch the light and cast shadows giving the whole structure a nebulous appearance, quite the antithesis of the stern buildings that preceded it under the Third Reich. Ursula Wilm

The New Art Gallery - Mies Van de Rohe
The New Art Gallery – Mies Van de Rohe
Deutsches Technikmuseum - Helge Pitz and Hoh
Deutsches Technikmuseum – Helge Pitz and Hoh
IBA Housing - Zaha Hadid
IBA Housing – Zaha Hadid
Berlin Shell Haus – 1932 – designed by German architect Emil Fahrenkamp. Noted for its striking wave-like façade, and for being one of the first steel-framed high-rise buildings in Berlin.

Lots more building projects underway.
Judging by the number of cranes on the skyline, there are many more building projects underway.
bicycle and shed
Bicycle, tarpaulin and timber shed
Fluorescent jacket
Fluorescent Jacket

At first sight this appears to be a man with no head! Actually he is bending his scarf-covered head forward sharply in order to better read his phone.

Daimler Chrysler  - Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Steps at Daimler Chrysler – Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

I was too close to be able to capture much of the facade but I love the steps. Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate

CyclistCyclist

Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights – including the expert installer
Berliners 2
Two smart Berliners going about their business
IMG_6635
Berlin woman
IMG_6649
Hemispherical concrete bollards – what a lovely curve
IMG_6617
Replica of Checkpoint Charlie, complete with actor/soldiers – watched over by Albert Einstein
IMG_6540
An ingenious and space-saving bicycle rack, German bikes seem to be characterised by a curved crossbar making them look very decorative in pairs.
IMG_6510
The Colour Pillar in the garden of  the Bauhaus Archive – Walter Gropius

Bauhaus Archive

Perched

IMG_2429

On the day Prince George was born crowds of people waited outside Buckingham Palace for news. These two young men seemed a little out of place but they looked so good perched on the narrow ledge of the Victoria Memorial like a couple of large pigeons with immaculate white shoes.