My portrait of Sally Moore sadly did not make it through to the final 55 from a submission of around 2400 paintings for the BP Portrait Award 2014. Try again next year!
I am carrying on with other projects.
Is it creepy to take photos of people without them realising that you are doing so? Looking back at photographs I’ve taken in the past few months, I see that I do indeed seem to be rather fascinated by people, going about their business or gazing into the middle distance. I have sometimes gone on to make paintings of some of them and am hoping to do more.
My recent painting “The Street of Bitterness” is a case in point and here is another image that I would like to recreate in oil paint. I was travelling past this man’s house and took a shot whilst stopped in traffic (I was not the driver). I was struck by his sombre expression and his stillness, staring out form an upper window, watching for someone of something unknown.
I will most probably just paint the figure and the window but I want to keep the sense of looking upwards at is face.
The young men in uniform (personalised of course) making a racket on their way home from school, look so irresistibly vibrant. The photo was taken in one of the poorest districts of Havana, Cuba where every child has free education and uniforms.
Watching and rocking at his post the shade, the guard sometimes appears to be asleep but who could blame him, its been a long day.
I managed to trace the steps I’d taken as I wandered around old Havana, these people are standing in Calle Amargura, outside the Conde del Castillo restaurant which is within the Marqués de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal hotel on the corner of Calle Amargura and Plaza San Fransisco near the port.
I was struck by their expressions, a mix of boredom, anticipation of the hard work to come during the busy midday period and their suspicion of me taking their photographs. They made such an interesting composition, the two men looking over the woman’s head, the pot-bellied chef’s whites stark against the dark background, that same darkness almost engulfing the taller man, concentrating the eye on his upward-pointing arm resting on the door frame.
Amargura translates as Bitterness.
The painting is not quite finished, a few refinements and adjustments to make yet.
I’m taking a break from painting the portrait to let the oil paint dry for a couple of days. Here’s what I’m painting instead, three restaurant workers taking a break before the lunchtime rush in old Havana, Cuba. I was aiming to take the photograph without them noticing me, shooting from the hip but the woman caught me, though she didn’t seem to mind too much. I have just laid in the first colours, lots more detail to fill in. Its a small painting, only 30x30cms.
Trinidad is very different now from its heyday during the height of sugar cane production in the surrounding valleys. It is now a UNESCO site and much of its building stock is being restored albeit slowly and there are museums on archaeology, colonial architecture and history. An architectural historian’s experience of visiting Trinidad.
I wandered the streets seeing how life is lived today and imagining what it might have been like 200 years ago.
It is hard to imagine such times, where now the main industry is tourism, most locals are employed in the servicing of the tourist industry or making and selling trinkets on the streets to the passing crowds.
It is a vibrant town, colourful and busy with musicians playing everywhere, in restaurants and cafes as well as on the street. Salsa is danced every night on the steps of the church, life is lived on the street where people congregate to watch passers-by and to catch the breeze.
Children play everywhere in the streets, happy and safe, motorised traffic is banned from the centre of the old town so the streets become a playground.
I stayed in a Casa Particular “Casa Carlos Sotolongo” on Plaza Major – the Cuban version of a bed and breakfast house. In Trinidad, these are often grand houses full of antique furniture, china and glassware imported by the Spanish plantation owners in the 19th Century. They usually only have one or two bedrooms for hire and modern bathrooms have been added.The hosts are very happy to cook for their guests, breakfast is included but they can provide lunch and dinner as well.
Hostal Maria and Enddy, 407 Calle José Martí, Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba.
Email enddymar[at]yahoo.es. Look them up on Tripadvisor
Traditionally houses in Trinidad are high single storey in long terraces running between the cross streets . They have grilles, rejas de la ventana over their tall windows and wooden shutters, contraventa inside. Historically these grilles were made of wood, madera, in simple rod-like designs or for the Spanish sugar barons, ornate turned verticals and carved top and bottom boards. Grilles were also made from wrought iron, hierro forjado where the iron-workers were adept at making wonderfully decorative swirls and details, latterly grilles might be made with simple rebars (reinforcement bars) barras de armadura, efficient but not as attractive.