I made this little pen and watercolour sketch of the view through the castle ramparts at a recent meeting of the Vejer Sketchers.
I had a lovely surprise during my recent visit to Vejer (after an absence of several months) – the fabulous people at the delightful Corredera 55 restaurant had updated their business card to include the pen and watercolour sketch I made of the restaurant facade back in 2016 (below).
I knew they were planning to change their business card, in fact I prepared the file for the printer some time ago, but seeing the dinky little versions of the original painting sitting there in the restaurant made me smile.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Corredera 55 this summer I can highly recommend the baked sardines with sumac, damascan lemon, black olives and cherry tomatoes; a luscious oily concoction which melts in the mouth and goes down particularly well after the green gazpacho; a pea, mint, avocado and cucumber variation of the traditional Spanish cold summer soup.
The delightful Annie B of Spanish Kitchen fame recently asked me to paint her a map showing the eating and drinking delights of the area around Vejer de la Frontera, where we are both based.
Annie runs sherry tasting classes and cookery courses as well as tapas and wine tasting tours in Andalusia and Morocco. I made a food and drink themed sketch style painting for her a couple of years ago which she used as a Christmas card (right) and she had the idea to turn the food map into her Christmas card this year.
So the first stage of the map design was to work out the extent of the area which could be comfortably accommodated in the same card format.
I roughly sketched the map in coloured pencil (above) and then cropped it until Annie was happy with the layout; then we decided which food and drink elements would be represented and Annie gave me specific tips on how they should be shown. For instance the tuna fish needed yellow spines on their backs, the Retinto cow should be sitting on the beach and the Osborne sherry bull needed well defined ‘cojones’ (I’ll leave you to google that if you’re unsure of the meaning!).
At this stage I got the posh paper out (Arches 300g cold pressed watercolour), tore it to the correct size and taped it to a board before drawing the finalised map carefully in pencil (above).
Once I was happy with the outline I drew over it in water resistant pen (above) and added colour in layers of watercolour paint (below).
The final stage was to add a bit of multicoloured ‘magic splatter’ by tapping my loaded paintbrush all over the map which I find makes the texture more interesting as well as unifying the image (below and top).
The cards should be delivered next week, I’m really looking forward to popping in to Annie’s to collect mine with a nice drop of sherry on the side!
I’m delighted to have finally found a chumbera (prickly pear) with some lush new growth; the once ubiquitous and beautiful cactus is suffering an infestation of insects and slowly dying out here in Andalusia.
Moi from the gorgeous Ecléctica Deco shop in Vejer suggested that I sketch a chumbera a good while ago; he told me he’d seen a good one in La Breña national park so I set off for a hike on a really hot day search of it…needle in a haystack situation ensued. His next sighting was luckily closer to home and much easier to find.
I missed it in flower but hey-ho…the heart shaped leaf was a bonus…promise it was actually like that!
This is a tale of a wild goose chase!
Sadly all the prickly pears are in Andalusia are dying because of an infestation of insects but someone told me that there was one still alive on the coastal path which runs through the natural park known locally as La Breña, a pine forrest which covers the area between Barbate, San Ambrosio and Los Caños de Meca in the province of Cádiz.
So I set off to find it and draw it…
It was a needle in a haystack situation!
I did however enjoy the spectacular views from the cliff top and sat up there in a howling wind for an hour or so to sketch this view out over the Atlantic to Atlantera. That´s Morocco in the background.
I have a new tip off for a live prickly pear which is closer to home…fingers crossed!
I worked from photos as there was an element of surprise involved in the project.
First I roughed out the composition by making a preliminary sketch (right).
The bike is part of the exterior decor!
Next came the watercolour painting…
And here’s the finished piece…(click on the image to enlarge)
With a couple of details singled out below…
The food is a clever and delicious blend of the homely, exotic, luxurious and healthy; the wine list is extensive and expertly composed; the staff are incredibly warm and hospitable while at the same time being efficient and savvy; the outside terrace is sunny, shady and breezy with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside (Vejer’s perched on top of a steep hill, 200m above sea level); the interior is cosy and gorgeously crafted from reclaimed materials (by Retro Nuevo) and houses an extensive collection of Vejer themed paintings by local artists.
As the sign says Comer – Amar – Vivir = Eat – Love – Live
This is a delightful place full of loving touches.
The pen and watercolour sketch to the left was my first of the autumn season, having been invited to see the sherry grape harvest in the the Faustino González vineyard just outside Jerez.
The grape pickers moved too fast for me to capture with my painting hands!
The sketch on the right is of one of the old town gates in Vejer de la Frontera, you can see one of my fellow sketchers on the left.
The last sketch in this trio is of the Roman aquaduct in the beautiful village of Santa Lucia.
Mr Groovy and the Blue Heads are a band of hugely talented and versatile musicians, one of the best on the Spanish rhythm and blues scene.
As well as revisiting classic blues themes and interpreting the music of more recent artists (such as Lloyd Jones, Los Deltonos and Vaughan Brothers), they play their own compositions, offering a rollicking live show to lovers of the blues in all its variations.
Back in 2012 Mr Groovy and the Blue Heads commissioned me to design the cover for their excellent third album ‘Jauja‘, so I was flattered to be asked to do the same for their latest release ‘Somos Más’ which celebrates their 10th birthday.
Mr Groovy and the Blue Heads are almost constantly on the road, which is what inspired me to suggest a tour bus for the CD cover. There are now several more ‘Blue Heads’ amongst their number, mostly woodwind and brass players, which is why they chose the title ‘Somos Más’ (meaning ‘there are more of us’). It’s also a nod to the growing number of people who are disillusioned by a corrupt political system which creates and perpetuates austerity.
The rough sketch above helped me to decide on the layout for the front cover which I then redrew carefully in pencil onto fine grained watercolour paper, followed by water resistant pen (below).
The landscape depicted in the background is typically Andalusian, it’s inspired by the view from my studio.
I used pencils to colour in a photocopy of the finished pen drawing as a trial and then applied colour to the actual drawing with watercolour paints. It’s a traditional and time consuming method but I love the warmth that hand painted textures impart to an image.
I scanned the finished painting into Photoshop where I added the text, taking the same hand drawn text style for the band name that I had made for the Jauja cover. I also replaced the white border with a black one (below).
And then on to the back cover…which had to be the back of the bus!
The scene in the background is inspired by the bamboo fringed sand dunes of the Atlantic coast where we live, dotted with bright flowering succulents in the spring.
I worked from my rough sketch (above) in the same way as I had for the front cover, just changing the layout to make space for the track list.
That’s Mr Groovy playing his harmonica in the back of the bus (below)
Having scanned the painting into Photoshop I added the text and digitally collaged the CD covers from the band’s three previous albums and the sea and sky which I had painted separately.
Mr Groovy and the Blue Heads are working non-stop for the imminent release of Somos Más which promises to be a superb mix of swing, funk, blues and second line.
Don’t miss it!