Having just gotten back from a nine day trip to Spain, I am filled with inspiration. This morning, I’ve been going through my Moleskine sketchbook and watercolor tablet that I took with me on my travels and I decided to share one of the images with you all.
The majority of the trip was spent in Southern Spain, but the last two nights were spent in Madrid. One of my favorite places is a little sherry bar called La Venencia. I first went several years ago because the bar has a Hemingway connection and, when I travel, I tend to seek out those places. I am a big fan of his and, additionally, I love places with a sense of history. The interior of the bar makes you feel as though you’re stepping back in time and I was immediately comfortable there. Were I to live in Madrid, I would be a regular. I often think of La Venencia and I was looking forward to spending time there once we reached Madrid.
After flamenco at the nearby club, Cardamomo, my significant other, David left to make a business call and I settled in at the first table inside the door of La Venencia. While I drew, I sipped manzanilla sherry and watched tourists and locals at the bar. A few men asked me about my work, but neither my Spanish, nor their English was good enough for a conversation. After a short game of charades, they left me to my work.
I imagined Hemingway standing at the bar and talking with Republican soldiers. I could see him petting Lola, the resident bar cat who was asleep on a dresser. Lola is a long-haired, black cat whom I’d met in 2011 when she’d sat in the chair next to me at a table in the back room. I went over to pet her and give her my regards. She didn’t open her eyes but she raised her head in my direction in acknowledgement before curling back up. Nearby, I heard a man with an American accent tell his friend, “I was here nine years ago and saw that same cat in the same place.” I like to think that Lola, through some of the same magic that keeps the bar suspended in time, was here while Hemingway took notes to report on the war… Same cat, napping in the same spot.
There was a man at the end of the bar nearest the door, just opposite my table. He had the look of a university professor who gets into trouble for being subversive. Mostly, he stood silently with his sherry, watching people at the bar and stepping out from time to time for a cigarette. After a while, he slowly walked the few steps to my table, leaned forward and slid a used, but newly sharpened, Staedtler HB 2 pencil into the little box of pencils that I had laying open on the table. He moved slowly and deliberately and said nothing, but gave me a sly smile before walking back to his place at the bar. This little pencil is perhaps my favorite souvenir from the trip.
As David looked at this image this morning, he asked me about the line through the head of the central figure at the bar. I’d already drawn the shelving for the sherry casks behind the bar, but when the man walked in, leaned against the cask on the bar and began reading, I wanted to add him in. Taking a line out was not important in this instance as these sketches serve to be documentation of my memories and not finished drawings. I write about the experience but the drawings are also my notes. When I sit and draw, all my senses are heightened and when I look at the sketchbooks later, I am instantly transported back to that moment.
Usually I travel with a sketchbook only, working mainly in ink with Micron pens. This time, I took the watercolor notebook with me, along with some water-soluble pencils and a Pentel water brush pen – the latter, as you can see, is what I was using for this drawing. At the recent Portrait Society of America, Art of the Portrait Conference, I’d learned from James Gurney about the pencils and water brush pen and decided to try it on my trip. I am glad that I did as I very much enjoyed the medium and will likely have these with me often now.
More posts on Spain to come!