The early evening light provided perfect shadows in all the right places, so out came the sketchbook, and a happy relaxed hour passed, with happy relaxed people wandering around in the warm sunshine, nobody in a hurry to go anywhere.Have you ever had a picnic by the river with cattle nearby? If so, you will have noticed that eventually their curiosity overcomes their natural animal shyness; and before you’ve poured the tea out there’s a pitch invasion, and they’re trampling the cucumber sandwiches. Well, painting in public places is just the same. In what other circumstances would a single man be sitting alone, and have single women come along and strike up a conversation, even ask personal questions and sit close to you? As a friend of mine pointed out recently – “Sounds a great way to draw the birds!” I don’t draw birds of course.
So there I was, minding my own business and perhaps feeling a little too pleased with my own work, when this rather attractive dusky Spanish woman looks over my shoulder and murmurs praise and encouragement in broken English. This intrusion was a little less invasive than cows at a picnic, so I happily struck up what conversation I could with the little vocabulary we had in common. Mostly I just nodded and smiled, like those toy dogs that you used to see in the back windows of the cars in front. Then she suddenly asked a direct question;
“Would you do a painting of my niňa?”
My throat went dry and I swallowed. I had no idea what a niňa was, but my imagination ran riot. This wasn’t the sort of proposition one got every day, even in England. I gave a sort of nervous laugh, saying “Uno momento…” and turning with my back half to her, rummaged through my bag for the pocket dictionary. I can’t tell you what went through my head before my finger ran down the appropriate page and found the translation ‘daughter’. I looked up and saw her little girl running up to us. She was very pretty, but I don’t do portraits, so I had to disappoint her.
Time to knock off for a beer then.