I've often described plein painting to non-painters as a sport.
You have to be physically agile, strong and flexible.
You need to work fast and stay focused. And,
as in every sport, you must prepare for the unexpected.
Marrakech was no exception!
We began every morning on the rooftop terrace of our riad with plenty of coffee and breakfast: homemade yogurts, breads, and cheeses. Of course we had a weather discussion as had drawn an unseasonably cool and wet week, cobbling together clothes was a group effort.
Flexible? Note the tiny stool Birgit carries in her backpack, also note that without a stool I had to make do, concret bags are not exactly fine upholstery. Guerrilla street painters are more concerned about the scene and the light than they are about locating bathrooms and benches.
Unexpected hazards are keeping your toes out of the way of donkey carts (L below) and keeping your concentration (R) when children gather to discuss your work right over your shoulder.
We often engaged with the children to the extent language permitted. They were not as bashful as the adults who were equally curious as to what we were up to. Occasionally someone did not want us to paint them or their area, and we respected their wishes. We all felt an innate desire to be polite and friendly, to positively represent our nationality (German, Italian, American and Spanish) as well leave good will from painters in general. (And no, no one ever asked me about U.S. politics.)
Christine (R) managed to find an overhang of shade for
her work. If you didn't pack sunscreen you might
return with a nasty sunburn. Also note her large bottle
of water...that one was for drinking.
Joe was consistently out painting before breakfast, a feat I admired but didn't even attempt to
duplicate. He would dash back for breakfast with ideas of new locations to paint.
As for lunch, sometimes we all caved at once, other times a bad painting drove you to seek lunch before the others lost their groove. Making a food run was always a surprise dependent on where we were. We ate a lot of street food that week and all lived to tell about it. Mostly meat skewers done on a little grill and shoved into a bread pocket with other assorted goodies (fava bean soup or tomatoes and cucumbers or, worse: nada). Kelly enjoys a good one below.
After several days we were anxious to leave the city and see some countryside. A visit to the Atlas Mountains was suggested, a driver arranged and off we went. A walk in the country turned into a 2 hour rugged hike zig zagging through rocks and mud and small villages. A beautiful passage seen mostly by the folks who lived there and made the trek daily. Our legs and lungs were put to the test especially when the down trek was done in rain and hail.....
Feeling energized by the gorgeous mountains and lack of city busy-ness, I had been told that a traditional lunch of tagine and vegetables would be served to us in a hikers hut at the top...if we ever reached the top.
Birgit, in painters glory! See the dark clouds gathering? By now we had pulled out whatever we had in the way of warmth but little did we know the fun was soon to begin. I now know what the term "shoe sucking mud" means.
And then it was back to the medina, the old city within the wall, to painting on our little stools in interesting places. I never produce very good work on these excursions and I debate as to the reasons why. Sometimes I think the being out is somewhat overstimulating and I lose focus, other times I just think I have not practiced this skill to the same degree as the hours I spend in the studio. Whichever, I have no intention of quitting. Even with crappy paintings I still see more than the average looker, still make more authentic notes than I would with a photo alone and I somehow burn it all into my mental camera better than I would otherwise. And who knows, a few more outings and the quality of the output just might start improving.
I'll share more soon.
Making Marrakech Memories,