Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Vietnam - January 2014 - #4

The night is alluring.
I don't mean I'm attracted to the dark 'Nosferatu-style' or that I have the full collection of KISS greatest hits. Instead, I find that sketching night scenes is quite a challenge, given the little tools a sketcher can carry. Pencil, a couple pens, watercolors and limited time....
When I began sketching I did not know how to get it, since using watercolor everything tends to look as a sunny midday flowery scene in the park. But some time ago, Robert Muts told me his secret: Before applying watercolor, he paints the shadows with an ink wash, leaving only what will be in the highlights untouched. After that, all hues done in watercolor will be subdued. It has to be waterproof (Noodlers in my case) ink, otherwise it muddles when wet again.
Also, in real life colors in the dark desaturate to the point of total dark. And coloring a highly desaturated scene is a real challenge. So I try once and again.
This sketch was left unfinished half a year ago. I never found the time to finish it, but yesterday I sat and gave it the works.

Three fish sellers  
Three women selling fish in the incredibly busy Hoi An market. Moleskine, Noodler's ink, watercolor and Prismacolor
Bonsai Tree in the Temple of Literature, Hanoi
These trees always amazed me.  Some key principles in bonsai aesthetics include:
-Miniaturization: Trees are kept small enough to be container-grown while fostered to have a mature appearance.
-Proportion among elements: The most prized proportions mimic those of a full-grown tree as closely as possible.
-Asymmetry: Bonsai aesthetics discourage strict radial or bilateral symmetry in branch and root placement.
-No trace of the artist: The designer's touch must not be apparent to the viewer.
-Poignancy: Many of the formal rules of bonsai help the grower create a tree that expresses 'Wabi-sabi', a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.
The Bonsai tradition dates back over a thousand years, a period that not only gives one something to reflect upon, but also equals the age of the Temple of Literature, Hanoi, where this tree lives.
It was built in 1070 then reconstructed several times. In 1076, Vietnam's first university was established within the temple to educate Vietnam's bureaucrats, nobles, royalty and other members of the elite. Over the centuries it lost relevance until in 1800 the Nguyen monarchs founded the Hue capital where they established a new imperial academy. (Moleskine 13x21)

Scooter girl
After going through rice paddies, street vendors, floating houses and women in cone hats, I wanted to draw something modern. Vietnam is not hovering on a sleepy -or bloody- past but facing the future. Not pretty, as today's Vietnamese cities are a beehive of cellphones and activity. But good for them for sure.
I found lately about 'frontier markets': Smaller and less accessible -but still "investable"- markets in countries of the developing world. Wikipedia lists 25: first in the list is Argentina, and last is Vietnam. It seems that after watching so many Vietnam War movies from the comfort of our upholstered cinema chairs, we are now on the same boat.
This makes me wonder -both- why we fell so fast or what these guys did to climb out of the hole. But, anyway, Kudos to that. These people deserve it, they are hard, earnest workers that instead of debating ideology from half a century ago are growing at breakneck speed.
So my choice was this: the modern vietnamese girl you see everywhere, having dropped the cone hat, they proudly ride their (own) scooters, dress western style, a cellphone their lifeline. Usually hidden behind those Surgical masks: funnily, I assumed they wore them to avoid sunburn (in the east clear skin is preferred) but they use at night time too, so who knows.  Of course, I took a picture and drew from it.
Floating houses
So I had no watercolors or the chance to use them, and I painted this with some Derwent I had with me. I'm not sure about the results...
Floating homes. In Vietnam there are many of these. You see them everytime you ride a boat. Big, massive clusters of floating mass. 
Oil barrels, wood planks, metal sheet, barking dogs, hanging wash, crazy faded colors and broken furniture splashing happily.
For who may have some romantic notion about living in something like this, a short train of thought including lack of electricity, water, sewers or gas for cooking/heating is a nice smack of reality. Poor guys, winter there must be hell...
Sketch Blooper # 1
I sketched this one in Saigon. There was the typical pileup of stuff I like so much. Happily I begun drawing, and when finally it was half drawn, I found the the shirts hanging in the middle floor are twice the size as the men top and bottom!.
I finished it anyway and had a great day, so finally I have a love-hate relation with this one.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Vietnam - January 2014 - #3

A Hoi An alley in the dark.
Alleys do attract me quite. Maybe because on our regular Latin American cities -always under an iron square grid- there are no back alleys, only repeating standard size streets.
A side note: spanish colonial urbanists measured all in 'varas' (sticks). A 'vara' is 86,6 cm long: 3 feet. A yard, for anglo culture. Now, it seems that 'conquistadores' wanted it easy on math, as for those enlightened minds anything where you needed more than the fingers to count was rocket science. So every time they could get away with it, things measured 10. Thus: 10 varas (8,66 mt. or 10 yards to you non-metric-heretics)
That's why in every argentine city streets are 8,66 m wide -so you have no space to park or have a decent traffic flow- and most land plots are 10 yards in the front: architectural hell leading to narrow buildings full of twists and quirks, and the reason we have these slivered, hungered facades.
But, maybe I derailed just a tad... The point is, I love alleys, specially when they are dark, dirty, and in the back of restaurants, as this here in the waterfront at Hoi An. It reminds me of the 'spaghetti and meatballs' scene in 'Lady and the Tramp'. (13x21 Watercolor Moleskine).
Hoi An, a 'theme park' experience.
This must have been a beautiful city. It's recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. its Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. It was the largest harbour in Southeast Asia 2000 years ago and was known as Lâm Ấp Phố (Champa City), or city of the Cham, that controlled the strategic spice trade and with this won incredible wealth.
Homes in the ancient town still have wooden fronts, and you can imagine the characters of Marguerite Duras's L'Amant (The Lover) sweating in silent passion behind those closed wooden shutters, under a lazy ceiling fan.
One wonders what would Mme. Duras (or the Cham for that case, should they be looking from their Chinese heaven) think of the manner these wonderful houses and streets metamorphosed into souvenir stalls that'd belong right there in Main Street Fantasyland, Orlando.
This small drawing tries to show the houses as they were (top) and what happened at ground level just in a couple decades, thanks to mass tourism (bottom). 
Street Vendors
Vietnamese street vendors can be roughly divided into three types: those who constantly move around either by bike or on foot, those have a stable stand on a street and, lastly, those who own a shop and expand their products on the pavement. They serve as an informal yet extremely important agent in the local economy.
Those in the first type are all over. One can pick up a meal or snack from them as soon as one gets hungry.
You buy Banh Mi (Bread) or Pho (Soup) from these sellers, among a myriad of goods: water, vegetables, fruit... Usually they carry a crippling load -twice their own weight- in these wicker contraptions, a vietnamese tradition as old as the sea.
I admire how hard they work.  Many people do backbreaking work from 6 AM to midnight daily just to make a few 'Dong'. ($) 
And I specially admire women in Vietnam.  They seem to silently and with immutable elegance handle some of the most difficult jobs, work the longest hours, and are still expected to single-handedly take care of the kids and prepare the family meals. Kudos to the Vietnamese women.
A Saigon Angle
Lately, I'm quite into broken angles. And when it comes to that, any city block in any Asian city will give you more twists, rotations and skewed perspectives than you can bargain for.
This angle here is nothing special, and I have many sketches as this one. An unsung for alley in Saigon, yes. Some hanging wash and uncombed cables
But for my western/latin education, built solidly upon monumental neo-renaissance, main-axis, Vitruvius-kosher architecture, the East is like having your first hamburger after a lifetime of Vitel Tonné and arugula...
The manner people relate to their flag tells volumes about their sense of nation. In some countries...well yes, there is a flag. A well loved symbol appearing here and there, mostly in public buildings, flying a lonely color blur. Argentina is like that: here and there you see a flag hanging from a window on our national holiday. Of course, when the national football (soccer) team plays elsewhere, things are quite different...
Yet in others, flags are everywhere, pinpointing the city as an everyday staple. France, India and the USA being very notable examples.
But nowhere I've seen as many national flags as in Vietnam. That red and yellow patch is everywhere. Maybe it was because I visited on the Chinese New Year?
You walk an alley and find flag after small flag, hanging from the humblest window. The irony of it sharing colors with the -also ever present and many times quite near- Mc Donalds banners seems lost to many.
I tried my hand twice at these flags, but I'm not happy with either. When all the rest is colorless, controlling the reds in these was quite a challenge. (Moleskine 13x21)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Vietnam - January 2014 - #2

I had been sitting in that restaurant some time already, and these two bikes were at the side. Not always one has something nice to draw at hand, but these two were worth it.
Bicycles in Vietnam.... When I visited the first time in 2001, everyone had one, and families struggled to buy a motorcycle. There were motor bikes in the street, yes, but half of all two wheelers were bicycles.
Today... lets say that 13 years ago I panicked riding MY bike in Bangkok, and felt relieved when I arrived in the -relative- quiet of Saigon. Now, there is no difference. Riding a bicycle in today's 'Vietnamese beehive cities' (Hanoi and Saigon) is as safe as BASE jumping.
But... there are still some street vendors immutably -and solemnly- moving back and forth some goods. Brooms, flowers, kitchen pans, and a lot of other stuff imposible to sell from a motorcycle. For them, bicycles are more a moving stall than a vehicle, and most times they WALK the bicycle, rather than ride it.
This chair was there, being fixed at a carpentry shop in Hoi An.
Not only it was an interesting art subject by itself. It also forced me into evaluating the western attitude of replacing perfectly good stuff with new, more fashionable but similar items, against this approach, where things are fixed over and over through generations no matter the effort.
The Red River flows from Yunnan in southwest China through northern Vietnam. It divides Hanoi in half and the historical cantilever Long Biên Bridge connects both halves.
The bridge was heavily (and unsuccessfully) bombarded during the war. Under it and along the river, poor families coming from many rural areas of Vietnam live in boats under canvas and plywood huts.
One of the facts that amazes me the most in Vietnam is the fashion houses are open to the street. In the west, the line between public and private is quite defined. A fence in USA and Europe, and a heavily closed metal door (often with an armed security guy behind) in South America.
In Southeast Asia instead the street is an extension of the house.
Doors? What?
I've seen a 5-table family gathering - maybe a wedding?-  catered for on the alley in front of the houses, with all the neighborhood joining in, apparently. The street is not something 'outside' your house. It's instead part of your home. There you eat, play (maybe pray too), and quite possibly also -though I did not witness it- love.
And inside the houses -as you can inspect them freely from the street- always the same mix: a fridge, a plasma TV, a temple and the motorcycle. Sometimes, a table, but people watch TV and eat sitting on the floor, so tables are not really needed.
Most southamerican cities were built over a grid, brought by spaniards and directly inherited from the Roman Legions. In every argentine city- as in many other countries- the grid is tyrannical, and centers in a square where -unavoidably- there is a statue of the national hero or founding father near the cathedral and a town hall.
For my eyes, these oriental cities, where streets are narrow and winding, house fronts so close to one enother you can jump to the front neighbor's balcony, and building itself a mass of haphazard materials seemingly sewn together by a nightmare of cables, is as strange and alluring as the moons of Jupiter.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vietnam - January 2014 - #1

In Vietnam -as in all the East- life is on the street. Steve McCurry, globally known photographer author of a famous portrait of a green eyed afghan girl, put it beautifully: 'In the secular West, where nothing is sacred, everything seems hidden; yet in Asia, where nothing is hidden, everything is sacred'.
I spent hours photographing from the street the interior of homes and people smiled and seemed happy about it.  Vietnamese folks eat, chat, get a haircut or place some tables on the street to have friends for dinner. And it works wonderfully.
I was specially shocked by the usual lack of chairs, tables or couches. It's because life is not only in the street, it's also on the floor. Since life is done sitting or lying on the floor, furniture makes no sense. Ah, we carry so much overhead here on the west...
Scooters are to Vietnam what horses were to the Far West. People do anything and everything with them.
The first time I went there was 13 years ago. The street was half bicycles and half scooters. Now, only old people use bicycles, and scooters are hot. It makes sense: Vietnam cities are not that big, and in many narrow streets cars are too big. Also, a family can buy a scooter for 1/5 of the price of a car. And they don't need a garage, since in most homes the ground floor -average 3x3 mt.- has to make room for a freezer, a TV, a motorcycle, a small temple and a family dining on the floor. In that order.
One good thing about bikes: you can 'custom fit' them far more than a car. Of course there are many standard scooters carrying from one inexpressive passenger (maybe with a dog sitting behind) to a family of four (really!). But many are customized to a special need.
I've seen scooters carrying 3 live pigs in their bamboo cylindrical capsules, 6 m long aluminum racks (horizontally), a door (vertically), 2m. high tangerine trees, many -many- 'bulky' bulks, half a shop stock and a heavy roll top desk.
This here, customized for a carpenter, carried quite more than a desk. I bet it was a whole week production being delivered.
If you stroll on a Vietnamese town, quite fast you'll be offered a ride in a cyclo, as cycle rickshaws are known in Vietnam. cyclo raiders are thin as wire and stroll endlessly back and forth. Anyone of them could win the Tour de France easily given the chance. 
Cycle rickshaws are found in all the east, with variations:  In India and China (and Cuba!), the passenger seat is located behind the driver, while in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam the driver sits behind the passenger seat.
They make sense, since cyclos are quicker than other forms of transport if traffic congestion is high. Also cycle rickshaw driving provides essential employment for recent immigrants from rural areas, generally impoverished men
In many cities, most drivers do not own their own cycle rickshaws; instead, they rent them from their owners, some of whom own many. My first time in Vietnam 13 ears ago, cyclos were all different. Now, they are homogeneous, a clare sign that they belong to a company. Up to this point: I saw a row of - say- 30 identical cyclos in a row, each one carrying a japanese tourist, camera in hand. And each head with an identical conical paddy straw hat, obviously recently bought 'en masse'.
All over the East people eat on the street. I've seen this in India, Thailand and Vietnam, and for all I know, it's the same in the rest of Southeast Asia. Of course now you have also McDonalds, but there, the 'golden arches' have two funny overtones. First, people visit them as a weekend retreat, not as a quick lunch solution. Families go there sundays to spend the day. And -in Vietnam- McDonalds signs are done in the same yellow and red hue of the 'hammer and sickle' communist banners hanging all over by the sidewalk meters away. Ironies of life.
But when it comes to real food, you go to these street stalls. They are all over the cities, catered by a family, and people sit on the sidewalks in those omnipresent red and blue low stools, and enjoy these 'home meals'. I was always aiming at omelet and 'Bánh mì' (Small baguettes) as I did not understand what was into most food. But you have any kind of food done by the street vendors, and modern life does not seem to be changing this custom.
For whom likes cluttered stuff - as me- Vietnam is heaven. Just sitting in front of one of these ubiquitous food stalls where everything is in the open is a ball.
Pans, skillets, stools, pieces of wood, broken tables, chopsticks, unknown fruit, plastic bottles, 'ad hoc' canopies, fly swatters, light fixtures, soot, big water cans and people (+ kids) busily juggling it all at ease.

A Banyan is a fig that starts its life as an epiphyte (a plant growing on another plant) when its seeds germinate in the cracks and crevices on a host tree. These small seeds are dispersed by birds and many land on branches and stems of trees. When they germinate they send roots down towards the ground, and may envelop part of the host tree, giving banyans the casual name of "strangler fig", as often it applies heavy pressure and kills the tree. Such an 'enveloped' dead tree eventually rots away so that the Da (banyan) becomes a "columnar tree" with a hollow central core. In jungles such hollows are particularly desirable shelters.
Banyans are often symbol of a village or a temple. In Vietnam many temples and pagodas have one of these trees near the entrance. The 'Da' tree stands for strong and admired historical figures. It's also considered witness the changing of people, the heavens and the whole life cycle. Children play in their roots and teens start dating there.
Da trees are a symbol of longevity, strength and wisdom all over Asia and many writers use them. In Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses' the roots of an enormous banyan tree cover an area "half a mile in diameter" and in Brian W Aldiss's 'Hothause' a single huge banyan covers half of the globe.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Luberon, France 2013 3 - Set 2013

Aix-En-Provence, Place des Augustins
The old Augustinian monastery gave its name to this place.
The centerpiece, a fountain, is really a 2.0 version. The first one had been built around 1705, with a pyramid and a ball at the top, but it disappeared without a trace during the French Revolution, possibly part of a barricade. In 1820, after Napoleon's fall, the reinstalled Bourbon regime ordered the construction of a new one. This one was to be built with a circular basin, using an ancient roman column, remnant of an old palace. The local forger Aigueparre executed the bronze 12 points star on the top.
If you visit Aix today, most probably you'll pay more attention to the classy bars and shops that skirt the place, and make it a wonderful watering hole in the shadow of a hot summer day. (And I'm not thinking of the fountain).
El viejo monasterio de Agustinos le dio su nombre al lugar.
La pieza central, esta fuente, es en verdad la version 2.0. La primera habia sido construida en 1705, con una piramide y una bola en el remate, pero desaparecio sin rastro durante la Revolucion Francesa, probablemente dentro de una barricada.
En 1820 tras la caida de Napoleon, el reinstalado regimen Borbon ordeno la construccion de una nueva fuente. Esta iba a tener un baño circular, usando una antigua columna romana, resto de un viejo palacio. El experto en fundiciones local, Aigueparre, realizo una estrella de 12 puntas en bronce para el remate.
Para quien visite Aix hoy, es mas probable que preste atencion a los elegantes bares y negocios que rodean al lugar, y lo hacen un lugar perfecto para refrescarse con un trago en un caluroso dia de verano a la sombra de un caluroso dia de verano (Y no estoy pensando en la fuente)
Ansouis Palet
Ansouis is a very small town made of stone houses perched atop a stony hill. Your typical South-Of-France village, with its friendly people at the bar, its square with charming small church and its WWII resistance bronze memorial.
Walking around in the late afternoon I saw this.
Ansouis es un pequeño pueblo de casas de piedra colgadas sobre una colina rocosa. El tipico pueblo del sur de Francia, con sus parroquianos amistosos en el bar, su plaza con pequeña iglesita encantadora y su memorial de bronce a caidos de la resistencia en la 2da Guerra Mundial.
Caminando por ahi al caer la tarde vi esto.
Bonnieux 1
Bonnieux is one of the many historic "hill villages" in the Luberon region. Dating back to Roman times, it rests on top of the hills casting a watchful gaze across the rest of the valley. I spent a couple days there, as for me it was the most interesting place of my trip.
The main attraction in my eyes (I live in the Pampas!) is that you are always looking down or up. The only flat surface must be the green cloth at 'les billard au café', and I'm not so sure.
Bonnieux es uno de los pueblos montañeses historicos de la region del Luberon. Desde sus origenes Romanos cuelga en la cima de las colinas, deslizando su mirada atenta sobre el resto del valle. Pase un  par de dias alli, dado que para mi fue el lugar mas interesante del viaje.
La mayor atraccion a mis ojos (vivo en las Pampas!) es que siempre estas mirando para arriba o para abajo. la unica superficie plana debe ser el paño verde en 'les billard au café', y no estoy tan seguro.
Bonnieux 2 
Another sketch in Bonnieux, that village that slopes down the hill in the most amazing manner. The worst business proposition I can think of is a gym in Bonnieux, as people need not more than going from home to work everyday.
And they have the best 'Boulangerie' I tried in France. Maybe all that climbing up and down really got me hungry?.
I loved this angle, but the lower part got too heavy. The big roof was TOO big, and at the lower part I could not get good contrast and it all got somewhat muddled. I'm not so happy about this one, but I like the upper half.
Otro dibujo de Bonnieux, este pueblo que baja de forma asombrosa desparramandose por la colina. El peor negocio que me imagino es un gimnasio en Bonnieux, la gente ahi no necesita mas que ir de la casa al trabajo cada dia.
Y tienen la mejor panaderia que probe en Francia. Quiza todo ese subir y bajar me dio mucho hambre?.
Me gusto mucho este angulo, pero la parte de abajo me quedo muy pesada. El techo grande era MUY grande, y en la parte de abajo no pude lograr buen contrasta y me quedo todo un poco empastado. No me gusta tanto este dibujo, pero la parte de arriba si.
Bonnieux 3
This is my last Bonnieux high vantage point sketch.
I posted the three together and this is the one I like less: I have a tendency to put too many players on stage. (If my drawings were literature, they'd be a russian novel!.)
Here, it got totally out of hand. I drew what was close, middle distance and far. Plus lights and shadows and points of interest in both highlights areas.
If I'd had more free space I'd added a car in the street, a woman in some window, and maybe a V of migrating birds in the narrow sky, but luckily that was it.
Este es mi ultimo dibujo desde un punto alto en Bonnieux.
Postee los tres juntos y este es el que me gusta menos: tengo tendencia a poner demasiados actores en el escenario. (Si mis dibujos fueran literatura serian una novela rusa!.)
Aqui se me fue bien la mano.Dibuje lo que esta cerca, a media distancia y lejos. Mas luces y sombras y puntos de interes en ambas zonas de altas luces.
Si hubiera tenido mas lugar hubiera agregado un auto en la calle, una mujer en alguna ventana y quiza hasta una V de pajaros migrando en el angosto cielo, pero por suerte hasta ahi llegue.
Oppède Le Vieux 1
Oppède is in fact two villages: Oppède-le-Vieux (12th century), and modern Oppède-les-Poulivets
The old village, built on a rocky hill for defense convenience, has narrow streets. In winter, the Petit Luberon starts casting its shadow early in the afternoon. Houses beyond the medieval ramparts are dark, humid and tricky to maintain.
In the 19th century, the inhabitants had enough and started to move down in the valley, dismantling the roof of their houses to stop paying property taxes and creating a new, modern community in the valley: 12th century danger was gone.
So by the beginning of the 20th century, Oppède-le-Vieux was a ghost town. This until in 1940 Bernard Zehrfuss founded a commune of artists in the old town, giving it a new life.
Oppède es de hecho dos pueblos: Oppède-le-Vieux (siglo 12), y Oppède-les-Poulivets un pueblo moderno.
El viejo pueblo, construido un una colona rocosa por razones de defensa, tiene calles angostas. En invierno, el Petit Luberon entra en sombras tras mediodia. Las casas tras los muros medievales son humedas, oscuras y dificiles de mantener.
En el siglo 19, los habitantes se cansaron y empezaron a mudarse al valle, desmantelando el techo de sus casas para no pagar mas impuestos y creando una comunidad moderna en el valle: los peligros del siglo 12 se habian ido.

Asi que el principio del siglo 20 Oppède-le-Vieux era un pueblo fantasma. Esto hasta que en 1940 Bernard Zehrfuss fundo una comunidad de artistas en el pueblo viejo, dandole asi una nueva vida.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Luberon, France 2013 2 - Set 2013

Carpentras Rue Des Vignerons
Carpentras is one of the biggest towns I visited in the Luberon. It does not have the small scale of other places, and it was quite busy with all the inconveniences of modern life.
But it has a 'Vieille Quartier', once surrounded by a wall dating from the middle ages, part of which is still visible. And inside that area, a maze.
Winding narrow streets, populated today by muslims and inmigrants of all colors. Smells flowing from kitchens at noon. Shy eyes scouting the alley from a dark opening....  Even not being that wide it was the best the city had to offer under that patch of smashing blue sky.
24x17, Ink, Watercolor and Prismacolor pencils
Carpentras es uno de los pueblos mas grandes que visite en el Luberon. No tiene la pequeña escala de otros lugares, y se veia muy ocupada con todos los inconvenientes de la via moderna.
Pero tiene un Barrio Antiguo, alguna vez rodeado por un muro que data de la edad media, perte del que todavia esta en pie. Y dentro del muro, un laberinto.
Callecitas angostas serpenteantes, habitadas hoy por musulmanes e inmigrantes de todos los colores. Aroma flotando desde las cocinas a mediodia. Ojos timidos controlando el callejon desde una abertura oscura.... Sin ser muy grande, ese barrio era lo mejor que tenia para ofrecer la ciudad bajo ese parche de impactante cielo azul.
Le Grillon Cafe 1 - Aix-En-Provence
People sit and sketch in bars. I never knew how they do it, since every time I sit in a cafe all I see is the back of a fat couple drinking beer.
So I wanted to give it a try. There is this 'promenade' in Aix-En-Provence, the Cours Mirabeau, full of bars (and tourists). I needed breakfast and this cafe, Le Grillon, was quite appealing: Paul Cezanne had it as his watering hole.  So I begun hopping from seat to seat, dodging visual barriers, until I found this viewpoint. Three planes, front, middle and back.
A perfect place to order 'cafe au lait & croissants' on a beautiful autumn morning.  (24x17, Ink, watercolor and Prismacolor)
La gente se sienta y dibuja en bares. Nunca supe como hacen, ya que cada vez que me siento en un cafe todo lo que veo es la espalda de una pareja de gorditos tomando cerveza.
Asi que lo intente. Existe este paseo en Aix-En-Provence, el Cours Mirabeau, lleno de bares (y turistas). Necesitaba desayunar y este cafe, Le Grillon, era muy atractivo: Paul  Cezanne paraba ahi. Asi que empece a saltar de asiento a siento, evitando barreras visuales, hasta que encontre este punto de vista. Tres planos: frente, medio y fondo.
Un lugar perfecto para pedir cafe con leche y medialunas, en una maravillosa mañana de otoño. (24x17. Tinta, acuarela y Prismacolor)

Le Grillon Cafe 2 - Aix-En-Provence
Many sketchers post what they do as they do it. I don't have the time or chance to draw much at home, but I'm lucky I can travel twice a year. Before 2011, I used that chance to do photo, now I sketch. Everytime I travel I come back with 40-50 sketches, so I create an album and add two a week, trying to write something interesting about each one.
I say this now, because some days ago I posted a sketch made at the Cafe Grillon, Aix-En-Provence, and this one is its 'sibling'.
While I was drawing the last one I had to 'wash my hands'. Doing so, I found that in the first floor of the cafe -a classic 19th century rich family 'hotel'- they had had a ballroom with a great chandelier on its center. And below it, a big elliptical hole where, on its railings, I imagine young 'debutantes' leaning lazily on big parties. Who knows...
I made a mental note to remember that place for a rainy day, and had my chance for sure a couple days later.
Muchos dibujantes publican sus sketches a medida que los hacen. Yo no tengo el tiempo o la posibilidad de dibujar mucho en mi vida normal, pero tengo la suerte de poder viajar dos veces al año. Antes de 2011 la usaba para hacer fotos y ahora dibujo. Cada vez que viajo regreso con 40-50 dibujos, asi que creo un album y le agrego dos por semana, tratando de escribir algo de interes sobre cada uno.
Digo esto ahora ya que hace unos dias publique un dibujo hecho en el Cafe Grillon, Aix-En-Provence, y este es su 'hermano'.
Cuando estaba dibujando el anterior tuve que 'lavarme las manos'. Asi descubri que en el primer piso del cafe - una clasica mansion de familia rica del siglo 19- tenian un salon de baile con una gran araña en el centro. Y debajo de ella, un gran agujero eliptico donde -en su baranda- imagino jovenes 'debutantes' apoyadas distraidamente en grandes fiestas. Quien sabe...
Hice una nota mental para recordar ese lugar para un dia lluvioso y tuve la chance un par de dias mas tarde. 
Cavaillon. Place du Clos
When I visited Cavaillon I was getting ill, and after this day, I spent three straight days feverish in bed inside my van.
So I remember this sketch as a big effort. I sat twice to draw that day. The first sketch sucks, as I needed to sit in a bar, and the only place I found to do it had a so-so interesting view.
This place was better, but the final sketch ended as colorless as my spirits. I attacked it with some colored pencils when back home and brought it back to life somewhat.
Cuando visite Cavaillon esta enfermandome y tras ese pase tres dias corridos en cama con fiebre dentro de mi camioneta.
Asi que recuerdo este dibujo como un gran esfuerzo. Me sente dos veces a dibujar ese dia. El primer dibujo es muy malo, ya que tuve que sentarme en un bar, y el unico que encontre tenia una vista muy poco interesante.
Este lugar era mejor, pero el dibujo fin
Oppede Le Vieux window
Oppede Le Vieux is a very small town. I was there just one day, and coming back to my car I saw this small window on a stone wall. The sun was late, and the shadow work, added to the size of the window, quite interesting.
Of course, not only was I leaving, but these late shadows move very fast. I wanted to draw it, so I got a photo and did it at home. What I wanted to get at was the brightness of the wood, almost white, even while the wood itself was blue. So I tried this: I left the wood white, and only painted blue the deep shadows.
I think it works. 
Oppede Le Vieux es un pueblito muy chico. Estuve ahi solo un dia, y volviendo al auto vi esta ventanita en una pared de piedra. El sol estaba bajo. y el juego de sombras sumado al tamaño de la ventana eran muy interesantes.
Por supuesto, no solo me estaba yendo, ademas estas sombras tardias se mueven muy rapido. Queria dibujarla, asi que tome una foto y la dibuje en casa. Lo que queria mostrar era el brillo de la madera, casi blanco, aun cuando la madera en si era azul. Asi que hice esto: deje la madera blanca y solo pinte de azul las sombras.
Creo que funciono.

Vaison-La-Romaine Tree & Flags
What to say about this one... It was a very sunny nice day in this city, all full of tourists and retired people.
After biking up and down the town a couple times, not finding much to draw and with the afternoon light beginning to get low, I crouched between two cars in a narrow alley hoping I'd be able to walk out of that spot unharmed by vehicles passing centimeters away from my knees.
I'd seen the flags when entering the city, and I'm a sucker for flag -or lamp- threads crossing any street. They remind me of wonderful small town festivities I never had the chance to attend, so they play in my imagination much stronger. In the same manner as snow renders far whiter in the mind of who never has set foot on a mountain.
Que decir de este...Era un dia soleado y precioso en esta ciudad, llena de turistas y parejas de retirados.
Despues de pedalear arriba y abajo del pueblo un par de veces, sin encontrar mucho para dibujar y con la luz de la tarde acostandose, me meti entre dos autos en un callejon estrecho esperando poder salir a pie de ese lugar intacto por los autos que pasaban a centimetros de mis rodillas.

Habia visto los banderines al entrar a la ciudad, y me pierden las banderas -o tiras de luces- cruzando cualquier calle. Me recuerdan maravillosos festejos en pequeños pueblos a los que nunca tuve la oportunidad de asistir, asi que actuan mucho mas intensamente en mi imaginacion. Al igual que la nieve es mucho mas blanca en la mente de quien nunca puso un pie en una montaña.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Luberon, France 2013 1 - Set 2013

I've just scanned the first sketch from a long trip at the Luberon, France.
There's not much to say about many of those, since many all just simple, old stone buildings.
This is the front of a small house in Ansouis. I liked the curtain, and the alley was very quiet and dreamy.
Acabo de scanear el primer sketch del largo viaje al Luberon, Francia. No hay mucho para decir de muchos de estos, dado que muchos son solo simples y antiguas construcciones de piedra. Este es el frente de una casita en Ansouis. Me gusto la cortina y la callecita era muy tranquila.
Aix-En-Provence - Place des Prêcheurs
In front of the Palace de Justice at Aix you find the Place des Prêcheurs, center of public life at Aix after the creation of Cours Mirabeau.
Here you find the Madeleine Church and the Fontaine des Prêcheurs. But on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday mornings you will not notice all that, since in front of all that there is a very lively market.
And just go to the Riederer Patisserie just around the corner from the market. You'll find the real meaning of the word 'baguette'.
(I tried to play front and background, keeping the activity and high contrast on the lower third, and the houses and tree in the background more 'muted'. Dropping colors in small bits is fun: lately I'm adding some final touches of very saturated color with some old Prismacolor pencils, but I'm not so sure about that...)
Frente al Palacio de Justicia de Aix esta la Plaza des Prêcheurs, centro de la vida publica de Aix tras la creacion del Cours Mirabeau.
Aqui se encuentran la iglesia de la Madeleine y la Fuente des Prêcheurs. Pero en una mañana de martes, jueves o sabado, no veras nada de eso, dado que en frente de todo hay un mercado lleno de vida.

Y tan solo te toca visitar la Patisserie Riederer a la vuelta del mercado y veras el significado de la palabra 'baguette'.

Aix, Rue de la Masse
I've learned some new things on this trip.
One is the importance of being able to create surface values with a pen: a hatching technique one can use anywhere, nothing fancy or apparent. I owe this to Wes Douglas, Paul Heaston, Fabian Mezquita and Joe Milazzo. Watching carefully what the first three do and reading Joe's comment on his use of the vertical linework, I'm getting mine. I see now how much last year's sketches lacked that texture, difficult to achieve just with watercolor.
Another is the value of getting off a sketch when it needs nothing more. I planed on coloring this one, but I believe it's enough with the monochrome values it already has. Watercolor may add some, but it's not really needed. Just overkill...and this is new for me.
Aprendi algunas cosas nuevas en este viaje.
Una es la importancia de poder crear valores der superficie con una lapicera, una tecnica de tramado que uno pueda usar en cualquier parte, nada muy vistoso o aparente. le debo esto a Wes Douglas, Paul Heaston, Fabian Mezquita y Joe Milazzo. Mirando cuidadosamente lo que hacen los primeros tres y leyendo lo que comento Joe sobre su uso de las lineas verticales, estoy logrando mi estilo. Veo ahora hasta que punto mis dibujos del año pasado no tienen esa textura, muy dificil de lograr solo con acuarela.
Otra es el valor de abandonar un sketch cuando no necesita nada mas. Planeaba colorear este, pero creo que con los valores monocromos que tiene es suficiente. Las acuarelas pueden agregar otras cosas, pero no hacen realmente falta. Estaria de mas...y esto es nuevo para mi. 
 Aix-En-Provence - Rue L' Annonnerie Vielle
Tourism has ruined Europe. When I went to Madrid in 1969 for the first time my father brought me to a tiny hole in the wall of Arco de Cuchilleros. There, in near darkness, a woman -that looked as having been there since it was built - sold almonds from burlap bags. The aroma of that stall, the -never tried before- taste of the almonds and the centuries in the woman's face never left me....
Those textured spots where everywhere. Today, instead, all you see are bars, shops and monuments: polished remnants ready for tourist consumption. The locals shelter behind that lame surface.
So every time I can, I go behind the scenes and visit the back alleys. There, unpolished and fresh, lies the real city in all its mess and magic.
El turismo ha arruinado Europa. Cuando fui a Madrid por primera vez en 1969 mi padre me llevo a un agujero  en la pared del Arco de Cuchilleros. Ahi, casi en tinieblas, una mujer - que parecia haber estado alli desde que se construyo- vendia almendras de una holsa de arpillera. El aroma de ese cuchitril, el -nunca probado antes- sabor de las almendras y los siglos en la cara de la mujer nunca me abandonaron.
Esos lugares texturados estaban en todas partes. Hoy, en cambio, todo lo que uno ve son bares, negocios y monumentos: restos pulidos listos para el consumo turistico. Los locales se esconden tras ese superficie.
Asi que cada vez que puedo, voy tras la escenografia y visito los callejones. Ahi, en crudo y bien fresca, se ve la ciudad verdadera, en todo su desorden y magia.

Gordes is a small town in the Luberon with a population of 2000 'Gordiens'. This is its frontal view as one approaches it.
During World War II, Gordes was an active resistance village. After the war was the place where Marc Chagall and Vasarely lived and worked.
Gordes es un pequeño pueblo del Luberon con una poblacion de 2000 'Gordiens'. Esta es la vista frontal al llegar.
Durante la 2º Guerra Mundial fue un pueblo muy activo en la Resistencia y en la posguerra fue alli donde vivieron y trabajaron Marc Chagall y Vasarely.

Vaison-la-Romaine Fountain
Last time I traveled, this was the first sketch I made. Vaison-la-Romaine is your typical, quiet, charming southern france baguette-carrying-tourist-filled town.
It has a square (this one), many bars and a population of 6000, probably half of them american retired couples. Also some roman ruins, boring as they get. All in all, a nice place to visit.
La ultima vez que viaje, este fue el primer dibujo que hice. Vaison-la-Romaine es el tipico pueblito del sur de Francia. Tranquilo, pintoresco y lleno de turistas con una baguette bajo el brazo. Tiene una plaza (esta), unos cuantos bares y una poblacion de 6000, probablemente la mitad parejas retiradas americanas. Tambien algunas ruinas romanas, muy aburridas. Considerando todo, un lindo pueblo

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Seattle & Vancouver 3 - July 2013

Steve Smith said he'll take me to "his town". He did, we went to Steveston, BC!. Besides an amazing wharf, they have there an old Shipyard, the "Britannia", complete with carpentry, engine and machine shops for boat building and repair.
This is a VERY old industrial planer (I believe that's the name). What impressed me is the contrast between the heavy & dark machinery and the woodwork all around in the structure.
Steve Smith dijo que me iba a llevar a "su pueblo". Era asi, fuimos a Steveston, BC!.  Ademas de un muelle impresionante, hay ahi un viejo astillero, el "Britannia", completo con carpinteria y talleres mecanicos para construir -o reparar- barcos.
Esta es una cepilladora industrial MUY vieja. Lo que me impresiono es el contraste entre la maquinaria pesada y oscura y la estructura de madera que la rodea absolutamente.
It was a very hot and sunny day in Victoria Harbor, BC.
It's difficult for me to depict sun and color when it's so hot; the sun burns every color. Luckily, I could draw most of this from under a shadow on a higher place.
For the people, a movie can be the best source. Colored quite later.
Era un dia muy caliente y soleado en Victoria Harbor, BC.
Me cuesta mucho representar sol y color cuando hace tanto calor; el sol quema todos los colores. Por suerte pude dibujar casi todo esto desde la sombra de un lugar mas alto.
Para la gente, una pelicula es la mejor fuente. Coloreado mucho despues.
I don't have much chance of sketching when I'm home, but when I travel I can make some 60-80 drawings in a month (next month!!), that last thru the year. Then, I try to post my drawings twice a week, as religiously as going to church: Thursday and Sunday. As the US Postal service: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night".  (Why I tell this, I don't know).
This is a hairdresser in Ballard, Seattle on the corner of NW 59th St & 15th Ave. It was closed. I did not know how to color the seats so I left them white and I like it as it is.
No tengo muchas oportunidades de dibujar cuando estoy en casa, pero cuando viajo puedo hacer 60-80 dibujos en un mes (el proximo mes!), que duran todo el año. Y trato de postear mis dibujos dos veces a la semana, religiosamente como ir a misa. Jueves y Domingos. (Porque cuento esto, no lo tengo muy claro)

Esta es una peluqueria en Ballard, Seattle en la esquina de NW 59th St & 15th Ave. Estaba cerrada. No supe como colorear los asientos, asi que los deje blancos y me gustan asi.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cuatro dibujos para La Nacion #3

 Puestos de libros usados en Tribunales
 El Palacio de Tribunales
La Catedral de San isidro
Obras en el Metrobus, en Av. 9 de Julio.