I made this little pen and watercolour sketch of the view through the castle ramparts at a recent meeting of the Vejer Sketchers.
That’s me, right, in the Plaza de España trying to capture a quick likeness of la Torre del Mayorazgo (above) before the morning sun burnt my shoulders.
Drawing the beautiful view from the living room in my friends’ house on Calle Levante (left) was a more leisurely affair; just as well as it took a few corrections to get the angles of the buildings right.
There’ve been two public holidays in Spain this week; Wednesday the 6th and Friday 8th December to mark the Spanish constitution and the immaculate conception(!) respectively.
So to celebrate, Vejer went into ‘Pueblo Abierto’ (Open Village) mode, flinging back the doors of her monuments and putting on a Ruta de Tapas (tapas route).
During the Ruta de Tapas 12 restaurants put up their best little dishes for sale at 3€ (including a drink) and hundreds of people try to taste them all within the 8 hour over 2 days time frame. There’s a tapas route map which you need to get stamped in every establishment you eat at – if you get the full set of stamps you can vote for your favourite dish and enter a competition to win a computer. Tasty and hectic, start early!
The Vejer Sketchers arranged a meeting on Saturday so I popped into town with the intention of sketching (and eating) food in tapas form.
First stop the market (below)…not strictly part of the official tapas route but hey ho, the only place open when I started sketching. I didn’t eat this one, the roe was pretty but not gastronomically appealing so I gave it back unsullied to the fish counter lady once the sketch was finished.
Next stop, La Posta for some yummy spinach and ricotta pasta in a red onion sauce (below)
Then on to the 4 Estaciones (4 Seasons) for some delicious beef with Japanese flavours in a crunchy filo pocket (below)
Confession time: I ran out of steam and didn’t draw the last dish I ate…the establishment was struggling under the weight of the hoard by then so it took a long time to procure said tapas, which although delicious was not pretty!
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 finally made time to return to Señor Angel’s vintage radio museum in Vejer this week…it had been a year since I made my last radio sketch.
The German company Telefunken manufactured this Capricho model in Spain in the mid to late 1950s. Angel told me that red radios were the most popular choice in Spain at that time….pretty!
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 ‘Dulce de Belén’, a delicious custard tart which originates from Portugal, made by Ceres, Vejer’s very best baker!
Always nice to have a sweet treat at the end of a sketching session!
The Vejer Sketchers met up for the first time in months last Saturday. It was gorgeously sunny and we congregated in Vejer’s Plaza de España.
I chose a quick and simple subject; one of the water spouting ceramic frogs which forms part of the fountain.
And here we are posing with our sketches in front of said fountain!
Yolanda, the delightful proprietor of Vejer’s ‘La Pinturera‘ generously invited me and three other local artists to set up a group exhibition in her hair and beauty salon since she had a great deal of white wall space and the opportunities for sales would be high in the run up to Christmas.
Pinturera means swanky, so it’s quite apt!
We started in the window (left) with a mixture of all the participating artists’ work (below)….
…then each selected a space inside the salon to show our work individually:
My wall – above, me in the mirror
Chio adds the finishing touches to her wall of Vejer themed drawings.
Laura designed the poster, left and we set a date for the official opening…
Laura shows one of her beautiful sketchbooks, left…
…and below, Chio’s jewelry and sketches and my postcards…
I’m feeling very grateful to Yolanda for this wonderful opportunity to exhibit in such a lovely space alongside Chio, Laura and Bryony whose work I truly admire; they’re a great group of people.
Could this be a Recipe for Disaster?
- Take two depressives
- Make sure one is an extrovert, wing-it type and the other an introvert with perfectionist tendencies
- Steep them in the idea of turning their worst mental health experiences into a picture book
- Stir in a plan to raise funds for self-publishing by crowdfunding on Kickstarter
- Slather with a total lack of experience
- Season with a generous pinch of unfounded assumptions
- Leave them to stew
On 12th April 2016 at 7.15pm we let The Black Dawg loose on Kickstarter
Cheered on by lovely supportive friends in the gorgeous Vejer restaurant Corredera 55 we pressed the ‘Launch Now’ button for a month of crowdfunding.
If you google crowdfunding you’ll be supplied with many, many pages of sites offering advice on
- how to choose between crowdfunding platforms (our choice boiled down to Kickstarter vs Indiegogo)
- how to tell your story
- how to make an awesome video
- how many projects are launched each day
- how many of those go on to be funded
- why the successful ones worked
- why the failures failed
- how long it takes to form a crowd and engage them before the project is launched
- the best site on which to promote your project prelaunch
- the best day of the week to launch
- the optimum length for a campaign
- how to set your target
- how to set reward tiers
- what rewards to offer
- how much Kickstarter will charge you
- …etc, etc…
In response to all that information a crowdfunding to do list was started in January 2016, it is nearly a metre tall and that is epic even by a lifelong list-lover’s standards…photographic evidence below.
By the time we hit that launch button the introvert perfectionist was ragged with self imposed over work in her efforts to get the project really, really, really ready. A degree of underlying and unreasonable resentment was also present because the poem had been written in a two night whirl of channelling genius and the illustrations and all the associated social media and internet promotional images had taken months of intense graft.
Add to that a potent mix of excitement and dread about going public with artwork about such an intimate topic and the reawakening of a longstanding medical problem which really needed bed rest and a strict detoxing teetotal vegan diet (that glass of bubbly was a prop for photos only). Hmm…a private crowdfunding launch was hardly an option…
The extrovert was outwardly confident, promotion was his bag – he was off to promote a music project and visit family for a week and promised to step up and take the Kickstarter helm once he returned.
That family visit turned out to be pretty taxing and then the realisation of impending skintness hit home. He came back frazzled and broke the news that he’d accepted a boat delivery job that would take him away from his fatherly and domestic partner duties for a month and his crowdfunding promise evaporated like the post flush sweat from a perimenopausal woman’s furrowed brow.
A positive note at this point, three ‘angel’ backers offered to get the project over the funding line come hell or high water. There were still, however, three weeks remaining of intense promotion needed to reach the ‘top up’ point.
Below is a classic Kickstarter funding curve
There’s a surge at the start when many, many of your wonderfully generous supporters, who you’ve primed for weeks with your project’s exact launch date and time, will sign up and pledge you cash…it’s hugely exhilarating and induces much gratitude and confidence.
Then comes the plateau.
It feels like a dead calm…you find yourself paddling wildly in a vast sea of doubt and potential disappointment and humiliation, spending hours each day messaging everyone in every contact list from LinkedIn, to Twitter, via Facebook, Gmail and Hotmail saying ‘Hi there, how are you? Look at my project. I’ve been depressed, please give me money. Now.’
You’re also urging the people who’ve already backed you to share the shit out of your project so that their friends might chip in.
You’re also wondering why the people who said they’d back you haven’t yet and how many times you can remind them before they tell you to shut the F€$£ up and stick your dawg thing where the sun don’t shine.
It is best, at this point, not to be tempted by the large number of crowdfunding promotion companies who will send you friendly emails urging you to sign up for success for a ‘reasonable’ fee.
The health situation did not improve, the bed was turned into an office and the flat was left about once a week to shop for supplies and go to boxing training because the urge to hit something really hard needed to be channelled in a socially acceptable way.
Occasional email updates arrived from sea (the actual sea, not a metaphorical sea) with news about how relaxing it was to be sailing and were greeted with a silent ‘shut-the-flippedy-F€$£-up, you flaky a-hole!’
The hugely generous end surge happened, some of it was coordinated over three time zones and some of it was spontaneous. The target was reached in a blur of relief, gratitude and jubilation. The introvert celebrated by taking fizzy water (now dubbed vegan champagne) and a break from social media. Health improved.
The extrovert sailor returned and asked ‘Was it stressful?’
‘Of course it was F€$£ing stressful you numpty!!’ sprung forth the answer, despite the introvert’s best intentions to be gracious.
Rows ensued. Boundaries were redrawn. Rows abated.
A few things I’ve learnt from this experience
Never underestimate the work involved in any project. Plan for the long haul and take frequent breaks. Partying does not constitute a break.
You shouldn’t take your health for granted.
As soon as you feel fine again you will want to take your health for granted.
Don’t assume that because someone has a great idea which they present in a confident manner that they have any notion at all of how to make it manifest.
Crowdfunding is not easy money; I wouldn’t do another Kickstarter campaign if you paid me. (Insert ironic laughter).
People’s support for and interest in The Black Dawg project has been truly amazing; so many lives are touched by depression, either first or second hand but it’s not the sort of subject that comes up in casual conversation. And talking about it really does help – if there were any doubts remaining about the wisdom of sharing such intimate and dark experiences they have now evaporated. Completely.
The Black Dawg book really is a beautiful thing! Get yours here!
This post was originally published on 23rd September 2016