Liz Steel an I were out sketching the front entrance of the Mosterio Dos Jerónimos at high noon. It was so hot watercolors would dry instantly on the page. These marble structures are an education in reflected light. The combination of brilliant sunlight and white cobblestone bouncing light from below create these pale violet shadows. (Which I’ve cheerfully exaggerated). In other places around Lisbon white walls will take on pink and orange tones from the light bounced off tile roofs and brightly plastered apartments.
The next day we returned to do the interior – I am enjoying myself most here – beautiful warm sandy stone, covered in intricate carvings over all surfaces. Who could ask for a better time than drawing inside the monastery :)
Back in town, painting the monumental Santa Engrácia. This immense dome dominates the entire Alfama area. It can be seen from nearly every street corner. The nearby streets host the ‘thieves market’ – a colorful bazaar that might as well have been named for merchants selling ‘antique’ tiles and architectural fragments swiped from various restoration projects. The square around the Engrácia is actually quite barren – this one tree provided a little break from the surrounding marble desert. It is however, quite magnificent inside – a vast lofty space filled with slanting light.
I feel this sketch is kind of a breakthrough for me. It’s the first in while that I feel is a ‘painting’ vs. a color drawing. As well, I think this one captures the colored shadows so unique to the city.
And finally, the Sé. We arrived late in the afternoon to find the blocky towers of the city’s oldest cathedral painted with warm evening light. It has the worn face of an old peasant. The stone has been patched and repaired over the years. There is no profusion of statuary or gilt ornament. It feels as if you’re transported to the middle ages.
This was the one time I struggled with watercolor refusing to dry – as I was working in a area of deep shadow. But the granular washes left behind seem to have some of the feeling of the old stone. So that’s the kind of happy accident you get from working on location.
So that’s goodbye for now to Lisbon. I hope I get a chance to go back. Especially as we now know so many artists there!