CADIZ AND JEREZ
Sketching trip 8th -15th May 2016
A travelogue as written up in my sketchbooks alongside my sketches during the trip.
Monday 9th May 16
My arrival in Cadiz has been characterised by sudden and violent thunderstorms, a deluge of biblical proportions, and then clearing to bright sunshine towards the end of the day. This causes problems for even a seasoned outdoor sketcher such as I am. So as my first morning was heavy rain showing no signs of improvement I found a recessed doorway in the Cathedral and managed to draw and aint the scene before me, in which is the Church of Santiago. If the watercolour sketch looks a bit messy and wet – well that’s how it was! Even in the Cathedral Square one can taste the sea breeze, the air is fresh and I think Cadiz is always windy.
Just behind the Cathedral the Atlantic Ocean licks the shore and there is a lovely scene before me. Making the most of sunshine I draw the scene but don’t notice a fresh storm creeping up. A few drops, and then a deluge! I pack up hurriedly but am soaked through and then it’s all gone again in minuts. But with a dark sky behind the domes of the Cathedral I like the drama and tried to convey it in my watercolour. It’s a messy sketch but I was buffeted by the elements and the Gods were toying with me! Strictly speaking the paper this is drawn on is not watercolour paper but it’s doing me well. (Fabriano Accademia drawing paper)
The end of the first day and the sun shines in the evening. Sit in the square of San Antonio and sketch the Church in lovely evening light. I did no research before coming here but decided to come as a child would go on holiday, with an innocent eye. A hard thing to do in this age when the sum total of all human knowledge is available at any time from one’s phone. But as I round each corner a fresh delight awaits me.
Tuesday 10th May 16
The morning is a complete washout, with more biblical thunderstorms. Sketch the Plaza San Franciso from photos in the hotel room, and make it particularly bright and sunny by way of rebellion at my fate. Why do old churches with bell-towers make such romantic subjects? They are reassuringly beautiful and suggest permanence.
The front of the Cathedral is absolutely stunning and the moment I started to draw it I realised that I could do it no justice, but I soldiered on, and at least have recorded an impression.
As before the evening is saved by some sunshine so I defer the Vino Tinto and make hay in my book here, so to speak. The main Plaza depicted here is a beauty and the baroque tower on the Town Hall seems to gaze out over the sea, the bell in the tower marks the hours with the tune of “El Amor Brujo” by one of my favourite Spanish composers Manual de Falla, who lived here in Cadiz.
JEREZ de la Frontera
Wednesday 11th May 16
A short but pleasant train journey takes me from Cadiz across wetlands full of birds to Jerez de la Frontera. I know not what to expect other than more rain which comes as I am trailing my damp suitcase to the city centre. By a stroke of good fortune I find myself able to take shelter in an empty bandstand with one of the nicest views of the trip. A little sunshine appears in between deluges, and I manage a colourwash sketch before it’s time to check in to my hotel. Both my pairs of shoes are wet, my toes are purple. I hang up my clothes on doors and my hotel room looks like a Chinese laundry.
Thursday 12th May 16
This morning is probably the lowest point of the week. There always has to be a nadir of each sketching holiday. It’s not just that my back and legs ached so much, perhaps from the damp, but the tiredness of ages seemed to come over me. Frustration – I have come here to draw, and whilst I can tolerate wind and the cold, continual rain day after day makes it impossible and time slips by seemingly wasted. But in a lull I manage the next view and am pleased with the atmosphere in it. There is only so much coffee you can drink whilst waiting in cafes.
After the last sketch I gave up and had lunch at the nearest bar. A small dark hostelry with pictures on the walls of Catholic festivals, matadors and flamenco. The owner looked as weathered as the bar. On one wall was an old flamenco guitar, signed, with no strings and soundboard was worn to shreds by all the years of playing with long nails. It told tales of all the music it had made, just as lines on our faces can tell of all the life we have lived. We should be proud of our wrinkles. I had a nap in the Cathedral after shaking the bar owner’s hand like an old friend. He seemed to know I was at home there. Emerging later – sunshine! And more in prospect. So an evening sketch in the Plaza de la Ansuncion. And the first sketchbook is filled.
Friday 13th May 16
And what a difference a bit of sunshine makes! After many thunderstorms and sometimes hours on end of continuous rain all this week, first in Cadiz and now in Jerez, I have been trying to ‘make the best of things’ and be opportunistic in the dry bits. But a full sunny and warm day raises the spirits and make sketching the greatest pleasure there can be. I have already filled my ‘perpetual sketchbook’ so am now into the Concertina one (nice paper – Bockingford NOT 140lb proper watercolour paper.)
The old historic centre of Jerez de la Frontera is mostly pedestrianised, which is very nice for the café culture that prevails. This rather dramatic building which we would call a Rotunda is known here as ‘El Gallo Azul’. It seems to be a tribute to Pedro Domecq, one of the original sherry founders, revered in this city. I don’t normally do sherry, but I will admit that it tastes glorious. There is a bar underneath the blue canopies which have been enjoying in the evenings.
Just a very sketchy end of day impression of the crumbling old walls of the Alcazar fortress. Palm trees and orange trees everywhere.
Saturday 14th May 16
And my last day of this trip. Just another excuse to do a bit of the Cathedral, but the statue of M.M.Gonzalez is very special to the people of Jerez as so much of the prosperity of the city came from its sherry trade. Lots of tourists looking over my shoulder on this one.
As I stop for lunch at the Plaza de Arenal there is a flamenco guitarist strumming away round the tables. It is a bit rough but the waiters seem to more than tolerate him despite his completely dishevelled aspect. The music seems to soften those it touches. It soothes my restless spirit. I have found this week quite a struggle, not just with the weather but with tiredness and perhaps most of all self-doubt. But then perhaps I should embrace the struggle. Struggle is an essential part of life, and certainly part of the creative spirit. We need to always s move forwards, leave the past to itself and savour the moments as they happen.