Sketching at the Teatro Romano Malaga

Teatro Romano Malaga
Teatro Romano, Malaga 2016.

There’s a spot  where you can sit on a wall at the edge of a vibrant plaza, overlooking the remains of the Teatro Romano Malaga. The towers of Alcazaba look down at the commotion on the ground. Small children run giddy as their parents natter unconcerned. Quite often from the far side of the plaza you can hear the street sellers laugh. They’re working with their hands, making jewellery or bending and snapping wire into the shapes of trees and small animals.

Teatro Romano Malaga
Sketchbook. Malaga 2016.

Sometimes there’s a man whose Michael Jackson puppet dances to Billy Jean, amusing the people pouring out of the narrow alley that leads away from the Picasso museum. Or other times a group of musicians playing, including a rich saxophone which makes me smile every time I hear it. They laugh at each other, not worrying when one stops playing to talk to a passer-by. The music flows.

I sketch. The sun is warm. I have strawberries (which I share with a passing homeless chap), a carton of orange juice and just perhaps a handful of chocolate digestive biscuits.

In the evening, slightly further down the street another man plays the saxophone alone. When I’m walking (or running) home from the port or the beach, he’s always there, always playing the Pink Panther as I pass.

The restaurants overflow. It’s February, but people huddle together outside, comfortable in the glow of the electric heaters. Large, round wine glasses kiss with a chime. Hours slip by unnoticed.

It’s the sort of place where it’s easy to practice living in the moment.

The Nonna and the art gallery – a story

Art painting
This artwork was done by my cousin and I for Tall Aunty’s school play, July 2018.

When the Midget and I took the Nonna to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and showed her one of the galleries, she was amazed. She told us that she’d never before been to such a place. I laughed and didn’t understand. How could anyone get so old but never walk inside an art gallery?

The exhibition was of the artist Joan Miró, whose art is a childlike scribble, colouring between the lines with bold reds and blues. It’s fun art and demands a sense of humour. At first, the Nonna, who I believe saw the world as if through a pinhole*, had no idea what she was looking at. There were paintings that people seemed to be staring at quite intently and sculptures that people congregated around for a moment or two to exchange a gently spoken opinion, but to her that was it.

First, in true Nonna fashion, she stated that she was missing whatever skill or knowledge one should possess when looking at art. I smiled and held her arm tight in mine. Then I guided her gently though questions I go through when I look at a piece of art.

When she started suggesting opinions she was hesitant, as if expecting it to be a test in which there was a right and a wrong.

But soon the Nonna’s eyes sparkled. Verbose by nature, the Nonna quickly got the hang of sharing what she thought might be going on in the picture. She was leading the conversation about the art she was seeing. Although a lot of the time the Nonna had a tendency towards the pessimistic, in Miro’s paintings, the Nonna saw sunsets and gardens. A yellow circle here or a green shape there might represent the sun or a tree. She was interpreting the picture in her own way, drawing out her own unique meaning from the art.

And she loved it.


*The Nonna’s many years of diabetes resulted in eyesight that lacked periphery vision. What she saw, she seemed to see well. Most things, however, she didn’t see. To compensate she used her walking stick as a method of attack to clear the way of puppies and small children alike.

The Nonna died in the Spring of 2014.


Two days more of painting walls (trees and leopard spots)

Apologies, this is an old post and I’ve mislaid the original pictures of the painting…

I have an arrangement with the Mother. I don’t have to do any washing-up, or drying-up. I don’t have to do any cooking. Instead, what I must do is paint the bathroom in the style of an Ancient Egyptian tomb.

This just goes to show how amazing the Mother is. Of course, most people don’t have the desire to paint walls with ancient tomb designs. Oddly I do, but I wouldn’t have come to that conclusion if it wasn’t that the Mother gave me the space to play.

However, all those trees that you now see on the wall, I didn’t paint them. The Mother did, along with the cooking and the cleaning etc.. I sketched the trees, I’ve sketched all the figures, I’ve worked out how to draw a man chopping down a tree in the same style as a scribe 3500 years ago. I’ve done a lot of work with a ruler and a pencil, but little with an actual paint brush. However, if you look carefully at the edge below the pond you’ll see some narrow black lines. The black paint work – that’s mine.

Between life drawing class on Tuesday, my Zebraphant and the bathroom walls it feels like I’ve barely been without a pencil or paintbrush in my hand. This is definitely an improvement. There’s something magical about being absorbed by a painting. It’s like all the rest of the world is a game and the only things that matter are the lines you’re manipulating there in front of you.

At this point in my writing, the mother ran into the living-room screeching “strawberries”. To set the scene, I’m wearing a tatty old pair of ripped jeans and my faded Credit Suisse t-shirt that I was once given as a freebie as I passed through a corridor on the university campus. I’m sitting on the floor. The sun has suddenly appeared.

Within a minute or two we’re all sitting in the garden sipping champagne and nibbling strawberries.

I do love my family, and all their eccentricities.

If I draw every day, am I an artist?

a watercolour mess

Have you ever just paused and done a quick and instant list of all the things that make you happy? Apparently I did, one evening before bed. I know this not because I remember writing such a list, but because I found it in my diary.

Drawing jumps in at third place, yet I can go weeks without drawing anything. Sometimes I lose hours sat on the floor with a large sheet of white paper and a HB pencil. I’m really not fussy –  although a pillow or a cushion is crucial to cope with the Hovel’s solid floors.

Dedicating an entire afternoon to drawing isn’t really feasible most days. Or even most weeks. I have a job, and I do have to eat and sleep. Often I am visiting, or have visitors, or have to deal with the invading cobwebs and filth. Art just doesn’t find itself as the top (or third) priority most of the time.

As a side note, try turning up at work on a Monday morning, asking your colleagues how their weekends were, settle into your chair with your first cup of tea, and when the inevitable question of what you did arises, pause thoughtfully, then state ‘I drew a camel’.

It beats:

“See you tomorrow.”

“I won’t be in tomorrow, I’ll see you Monday.”

“Oh, are you doing anything nice?”

“I’m going to a funeral.”

End of side note.

Back to art, and pretty things.

I have a new solution to drawing often and therefore maintaining my happiness levels. The barrier for doing any art or any writing is never the art or the writing itself, but manoeuvring my bum into the right place, picking up the pen and forming that first line.

chopped up coloured paper

Pieces of the coloured mess hide in my diary (a benefit of a Moleskine notebook is the pocket) and scattered on my bedside table. Once you start, art is addictive.

Meanwhile, whilst I’m busy drawing, here is some art that I do rather like.

[Worryingly physics made the list.]

Red polka-dot knickers

Imagine you are my mother. You go to America for a week to be educated. You arrive home, exhausted but happy. It’s been a long flight, and you’re not used to being away from your family. You walk through the front door, through the hallway and into the kitchen. You walk across to the sink. You’re thirsty. Yet something is different. The walls have changed colour. You turn around.

Your daughter stands, giggling with a video camera in her hand.

You see what your daughter has painted on the kitchen wall.

Polka dot knickers mural
Never bland.