Campground Map and Sign

I was staying at Camping Schoonenberg, a beautiful campgound set in woodland in North Holland when one of the staff members saw me painting a portrait. He showed a photo of my painting to the manager who asked me to make a new combined sign and map for the campground. Delighted!

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I started by making a rough map of the campground as I walked around it, using an aerial view from google earth as a template for the outline. The manager then helped me number the camping places and mark which ones had electricity.

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I then drew the full size map out on paper and added all the details and text (above). 

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Once the draft had been approved I traced it onto a piece of primed marine plywood which had been cut to allow a narrow unpainted border.

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Since the sign will be hung in a place which is sheltered from direct sunlight and rain and will be stored inside during the winter months when the campground is closed I chose to use acrylic paints which are water based. That makes the whole process much cleaner and odour free.

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Artwork in India (5) – Jaisalmar Workaway

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I chose to do a Workaway at a hostel in Jaisalmar because I wanted to go on a desert safari and the hostel owner said he wanted some help to decorate the rooftop terrace (along with some basic IT tasks).

When I got here it was apparent that many people had already contributed to the roof terrace decoration…some in a lovely way, some in quite a haphazard way!

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So, my exclusive rights to the wall space scuppered I set about capturing the beautiful view (above) of the fort while planning my strategy for mural painting in limited areas amongst a hotch-potch of other images.

camel, stencil, cutting, drawing, craft knife

I decided on a stencil with the .most obvious theme for a desert safari hostel – the camel.

camel, stencil, cutting, drawing, cardboard

I found a craft knife and the lid of a photocopy paper box in the market by the fort and set about preparing my template.

camel, stencil, painting, mural, illustration, repeat, acrylic paint

Having painted several camels, a bit of red shading and yellow highlighting  I added a border inspired by a Rajasthani folk art design.

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wonbin safari hostel, roof terrace, jaisalmar, rajasthan, India, camel, decorative painting, mural, wall art, wall painting, folk art, acrylic paint, illustration, stencil, camels

wonbin safari hostel, roof terrace, fort, jaisalmar, rajasthan, India, camel, decorative painting, mural, wall art, wall painting, folk art, acrylic paint, illustration, stencil, camels

I did go on a camel safari, it was tremendous fun if a little hard on the thighs. Even though we didn’t venture very deep into the Thar desert the peace and vastness of the landscape were still impressive. We had chai on the dunes while watching the sunset, then ate dinner around a campfire before settling down to sleep under the stars. Gorgeous.

camel, camels, desert, dunes, safari, desert safari, Jaisalmar, wonbin safari hostel, rajasthan, India, travel, adventure, camping, sand, trek

While wandering around Jaisalmar old town I was struck by the number of Ganeshes painted on the houses.

jaisalmar, Ganesh, wall painting, elephant, elephants, god, hindu, marriage, rajasthan, india

Then someone told me that since Ganesh is the Hindu god that removes obstacles and blesses new starts the people get him painted on their houses every time there’s a wedding.  In fact the paintings serve as a kind of invitation since they contain the names, date and location of the union. Ah-ha!

I had a go at a Ganesh…

jaisalmar, Ganesh, watercolour, pen and wash, drawing, painting, illustration, elephant, elephants, god, hindu, rajasthan, india

Then I got invited to a wedding! I went up to the fort for a massage, my second in a week since hard beds, overnight travel and painting have taken their toll on my middleaged bones. There’s a team of sisters who offer Ayurvedic loveliness in their home but the house was very busy when I got there so I expected to be turned away. One of the sisters explained that they were preparing for her niece’s nuptials and I got my massage and an invitation to the part of the wedding ceremony which would take place two days later.

hindu, wedding, bride, saris, jaisalmer, rajasthan, india

And it was a delightfully colourful evening – the whole marriage ceremony takes place over several days and nights and costs the bride’s family an absolute fortune. There were saris of every hue, mountains of delicious food being cooked and consumed (the bride’s family aren’t allowed to eat though) and a cocophany of drums and firecrackers when the groom finally arrived at midnight. He strode moodily to the stage at the front of the main room at the ashram and sat on a sofa.

The bride, who was hidden in a back room for most of the evening then walked to the stage under a kind of awning. The groom appeared to ignore her completely for a good long while. I left the party at that point.

I saw the bride’s brother a couple of days later. He said his whole family were exhausted after the extensive marriage ceremony – the final part of which lasted through the night. They were also grieving the loss of the their sister / daughter / niece from the household but grateful that at least she still lived in Jaisalmer. He added that he had already started saving up for the eventual wedding of his eight year old daughter.

Jaisalmer has a frontier town feel – it’s close to the border with Pakistan and there were several days when there were fighter jets roaring overhead (Indian government posturing I was  told). It’s certainly the most ‘male’ place I have stayed in so far. There were a few women with jewelry and vegetable stalls in the market and a few women street cleaners but their presence was mainly domestic and behind closed doors.

There were no female staff at the hostel and while I was mostly treated with kindness and respect there were times when I had to robustly defend my boundaries around personal space. I did it with as much patience and good humour as I could muster.

There is definitely an advantage to sticking around in one place for a bit longer than is usual on the backpacker trail. Taking time to talk with local people and other travelers creates deeper connections and insights.

I met a splendid fellow from Spain who went to the wedding with me, then the following evening I joined him for dinner at the home of a delightful local couple who have a shop. They were all so sweet and generous and the food was the best I’ve had in India.

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To add to the excitement there was an election for the legislative assembly of Rajasthan on the 7th of December. The election takes place every five years and this one was eagerly anticipated because the people were generally bitterly disappointed by the broken promises of Modi and the right wing BJP who won in 2013.

The BJP is India’s largest political party in terms of representation in the national parliament.

Campaigning for the centre left Congress party (INC) which is associated with the Gandhi family was enthusiastically underway while I was still in Bikaner and in Pushkar there were reminders to vote spray painted on the lakeside ghats.

It took four days for the votes to be counted and when Congress was declared the winner on the 11th of December there were fireworks, drumming, chanting and cheering well into the night.

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Artwork in India (3) – Pushkar

Pushkar has been wonderful; a strange and delightful mix of the spiritual and the decadent with a bit of filth and hassle thrown in for good measure.

pushkar, India, camel, temple, travel blog

Don’t touch the flowers that are offered down by the ghats (sacred lakeside bathing areas)- you’ll get dragged into a lakeside blessing ceremony  and charged well for the honour.

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I sat in the doorway with some kind young musicians while I sketched this little market stall. They insisted that I showed the greengrocer the painting afterwards. He loved it.

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Unknowingly I arrived in Pushkar during the most sacred week of the Hindu calendar, which coincided with the famous camel fair.

The streets were full of pilgrims from all over India and beyond. I met an Argentinian Hindu who was staying at the same hotel and he explained a bit about the bathing rituals and took me to a couple of temples.

Photography is strictly prohibited at the lakeside so I thought I’d sketch the scene instead.

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The photography ban didn’t stop me being asked to pose for a couple of pictures!

camel, pushkar, camel fair, camel decoration, pen and wash, watercolour, drawing, sketchbook, watercolor

In Udaipur I met a lovely young camel expert from New Zealand who spoke so passionately about the camel fair that I decided to visit. When I arrived in Pushkar I met up with her again and spent a very interesting hour or so meeting the camels. They’re surprisingly sweet and dignified.

Inspired, I drew the camel above, the circle is a design based on the ornaments the camels are dressed with.

camel, mural, pushkar, camel fair, wall painting, painting, decoration, decorative painting, acrylic paint, illustration, travel, india

I then painted this version on the hotel wall before I left.

pushkar, moustache competition, moustache, beard, facial hair, rajasthani

The annual moustache competition was a hilarious highlight of the camel fair – Rajasthanis are certainly blessed in the hair department!  

Amalia’s Arch Mural

My lovely friend Amalia (herself a talented watercolourist) asked me to design and paint a mural for the back room in her Vejer pharmacy which she is renovating.

arch, mural, drawing, plants, flowers, illustration, valerian, chamomile, passion flower, kava, herbalism, natural remedies, calm, tranquillising, tranqullizing, stress relief, botanical, pharmacy, sketchbook

The room has an impressive archway and will be used as a venue for workshops on health related matters such as diabetes, pre- and post-natal care and managing stress through yoga and meditation.

Amalia’s brief for the mural was that it should include plants and impart a sense of harmony and tranquility.

I selected various plants with tranquililising properties during a web search, printed photos and set about developing drawings in my sketchbook.

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I came up with two options for the mural; one using the arch as a frame for a botanical drawing of an entire valerian plant 

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the other embelleshing the arch itself with a more stylised arrangement of kava, valerian, passionflower and chamomile.

arch, mural, drawing, plants, flowers, illustration, valerian, chamomile, passion flower, kava, herbalism, natural remedies, calm, tranquillising, tranqullizing, stress relief, botanical, pharmacy, sketchbook

Amalia selected the second option which I then developed into a more detailed drawing (below). 

arch, mural, drawing, plants, flowers, illustration, valerian, chamomile, passion flower, kava, herbalism, natural remedies, calm, tranquillising, tranqullizing, stress relief, botanical, pharmacy, sketchbook

I drew just the left half of the design in detail. I then photographed it and used Photoshop to duplicate and flip it to create a mirror image. I printed out the drawing and packed it in my suitcase in readiness for my trip to Vejer.

Being faced with the actual wall was quite daunting at first, I had to be up and down a ladder to gain proper perspective as I worked which took its toll on my neck and ankles! 

passion flower, drawing, pencil, mural, illustration, surface pattern, wall, art

I drew the left side of the mural onto the wall in pencil. When I was happy with the layout I traced it in sections, flipping each one over so that I could copy the mirror image to the right side of the arch.

I painted the white parts first; then came the colour…I made a chart as a mixing guide.

colour, chart, emulsion, acrylic, paint, mix

Using the grey-green wall colour as a base I added tiny amounts of acrylic paint to get all the subtle shades required to colour the mural.

arch, mural, drawing, plants, passion, flowers, illustration, decoration

arch, mural, drawing, plants, passion, flowers, illustration, decoration

The mural is certainly subtle and elegant and has been received very generously.

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The pale colours do make it difficult to photograph the entire mural well however, so here are some details:

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passion flower, wall art, mural, painting, illustration, botanical, leaves, flower, emulsion, acrylic, paint, surface, decoration, art

Herman@ de Tod@s

Arte Vejer recently staged a group exhibition of artworks made by local artists inspired by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca who was murdered 80 years ago on the orders of Franco the fascist dictator.

Lorca was born on the 5th June (the same day as me) in 1898 (several years before me) in a small town close to Granada. That’s why I chose the pomegranate as the theme for my collage; granada means pomegranate in Spanish and the ancient town was renamed after the fruit during the Moorish period.

lorca, tribute, homage, granada, pomegranate, mixed media, collage, map, charcoal, acrylic paint, crackle glaze, betun stain, fairy light, arte vejer

The pomegranate is also a symbol of abundance and fertility which aptly describes Lorca’s imagination, passion and creative genius; he was a  prolific writer, considered to be one of Spain’s most important poets and published his first book at the age of 21.

The first stage of the process (above) was to blacken the background (paper on cardboard) and outline the pomegranate seeds with layers of charcoal.

lorca, tribute, homage, granada, pomegranate, mixed media, collage, map, charcoal, acrylic paint, crackle glaze, betun stain, fairy light, arte vejer

Lorca moved to Madrid in 1919 and devoted himself entirely to his art which was infused with the flamenco culture of his native Andalusia. He was a contemporary of Buñuel and Dalí who introduced him to surrealism. Lorca and Dalí had a particularly intimate relationship involving ‘love, passion and respect‘ but it is rumoured that Dalí’s aversion to physical contact and his repressed sexuality led him to reject Lorca’s advances.

I painted the seeds and persistent calyx (the bit at the top of the fruit) with acrylic.

lorca, tribute, homage, granada, pomegranate, mixed media, collage, map, charcoal, acrylic paint, crackle glaze, betun stain, fairy light, arte vejer

In 1929 Lorca left Spain to spend a year in New York where he was inspired by the African-American spirituals he heard in Harlem, his favourite part of the city.

Next I collaged a map of the world over the background (above), this represents the international reach of Lorca’s work and art in general as well as his time abroad. I then painted over it with acrylic.

lorca, tribute, homage, granada, pomegranate, mixed media, collage, map, charcoal, acrylic paint, crackle glaze, betun stain, fairy light, arte vejer

The text is an extract from one of Lorca’s last interviews.

Here’s the full quote in Spanish:

“Yo soy español integral y me sería imposible vivir fuera de mis límites geográficos; pero odio al que es español por ser español nada más, yo soy hermano de todos y execro al hombre que se sacrifica por una idea nacionalista, abstracta, por el sólo hecho de que ama a su patria con una venda en los ojos. El chino bueno está más cerca de mí que el español malo. Canto a España y la siento hasta la médula, pero antes que esto soy hombre del mundo y hermano de todos. Desde luego no creo en la frontera política.”

And translated into English

“I am Spanish through and through and it would be impossible for me to live outside my geographic boundaries; but I hate those Spanish people who are merely Spanish and nothing more, I am brother to all and abhor the man who sacrifices himself to an abstract nationalist idea purely because he blindly loves his homeland. I feel closer to the good Chinese man than the bad Spanish man. I sing to Spain and feel her in my marrow, but before that I am a man of the world and brother of all. Of course I don’t believe in political borders.”

The quote really sang to me when I came across it; it seems particularly apposite in these times of Brexit and Trump when ugly nationalism and bigotry are on the rise again. 

I cut the letters for the text from magazines and stuck them down in the style of an old fashioned ransom note (above) as a reference to the fact that Lorca was abducted before being killed by a falangist firing squad.

I added ‘A’s to the ‘O’s of ‘hermano’ and ‘todos’ to explicitly make the words gender neutral which also happily turned those letters into anarchist symbols.

Next I painted electrical cables emerging from the calyx of the pomegranate (below) to turn it into a fairy light. I made this piece just before Christmas so it was seasonally apt (although I am a huge fan of the year round fairy light) and it also suggests that the earth is but a bauble hanging in the vastness of the universe and that we humans take our opinions about our piffling differences far too seriously.

The final stage of the process (below) was to paint crackle glaze over the whole of the image before applying bitumen, gold paint and glitter as stains.

lorca, tribute, homage, granada, pomegranate, mixed media, collage, map, charcoal, acrylic paint, crackle glaze, betun stain, fairy light, arte vejer

Lorca was staying at his family’s country home just outside Granada when the civil war started in 1936. About a month before his incarceration and murder on August 19th Lorca had a disturbing dream in which he was being menaced by a group of grieving women waving black crucifixes.

Archaeologists are still searching for the exact burial site of Lorca’s body. 

Cockerels for Terry

cockerel, mural, stencil, rooster, acrylic paint

Having recently refurbished the chimney pipes for his wood burner in preparation for winter, Terry asked me if I’d paint some cockerels for him in the alcove behind the stove.

cockerel, mural, stencil, rooster, acrylic paint

Stenciling in there was a bit of a tight squeeze but they turned out rather well.

cockerel, mural, stencil, rooster, acrylic paint

…roast chicken all winter!

Click here to see photos of my cockerels stenciled in other locations in my Signs and Murals gallery

Mini Art Works

These are my mini art works for tonight’s (22nd December 2014) fundraising party organised by the community group Arte Vejer.

coffee pot, candle, gas bottle, bombona, bomba, bomb

They’re post card sized and will go on sale for 5 euros each along with the mini artworks of other contributing local artists.

Here they are in more detail:

coffee pot, candle, charcoal, acrylic paint, crackle glaze, bitumen staingas bottle, bomb, bombona, charcoal, acrylic paint, crackle glaze, bitumen stain

Both drawings were made with charcoal which I fixed before applying a wash of acrylic paint and a crackle glaze. The glaze was then stained with white acrylic paint and bitumen in beeswax with a smear of glitter gel over the top…very festive!

Cockerels for Kelly

Cockerel -mural-stencil-kathryn-hockey-artist-illustratorKelly1-web

Another outing for my strutting friends, in another beautiful Vejer town house…lucky chaps.

Two Cockerels

Here´s a repeat of the cockerel image.

This time I applied the stencil twice to a door (acrylic paint)

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