Where’s weird now?

Move over Austin, there’s a new weird kid in town


Jaén. No, not Jane. “Hayen”, and if you can cough up that “h” like a furball, all the better (you’ll be needing it later).

I’ve often not chosen great places to live, rather, I’ve had great places thrust upon me.

Saving some money to live in Paris, I found myself in London’s Homerton during the “fried chicken years”. First impressions weren’t good. The only shop open after 9pm was “Senoritas”, whose services I was unlikely to require. But over the subsequent four years, and during the early days of it’s gentrification, Homerton was an edgy and exciting place to live.

And throughout my time in Paris, I felt like I’d ditched my quirky, funny boyfriend for a superficially superior specimen, but longed for the weird goings-on at the canals and in the basements of Stoke Newington.*

I came to Spain to learn Spanish and live in Seville. And I did, for four months.

I found some quirky cafes (Thank you Alameda), some tourist strongholds and a picturesque river walk but when I started to look for permanent work, I cast my net wide, knowing this postcard city and I weren’t a match.

I wasn’t keen to come to Jaén, but soon-to-be-beggars certainly can’t be choosers, and I passed up some poorly paid work in the charming Cadiz to come to a town which advertises it’s self as “an interior paradise”. Someone should tell 1) the Jaen tourist board: “ONLY ONE HOUR FROM GRANADA”, they scream, and 2) the Jaén wikipedia entry, which features a large roundabout as it’s main image. I was reassured by my at the time Pamplonian flatmate “It can’t be that bad” she said, “it’s got a  Corte Inglés”.

But she makes a striking impression, arriving from the west, with white houses lapping on the steep hills of Jabalcuz (“Habalcooth”, again go for it with that furball).

Architecturally, she’s underwhelming. Four weeks prior to the famously commemorated bombing of Guernica, Jaén suffered similar, devastating losses during a bombing raid as part of the Spanish Civil War. Narrow arabic streets provided a high concentration of deaths and casualties, and many of the old parts of the town were lost.

There’s not much said, on the internet or otherwise about small town architecture post war and during the Franco era. With good reason: the preferred style was ugly, or should that be cheap.

But Jaen got’s something about it.

It’s weird.

And it’s ok with that.

*There was an excellent Tuesday evening life drawing group in a Stokey basement. Great tunes. I hope it’s still there!

Colour Madness en el Parque


Back at the park and I had a lot of fun doing this, I’m happier with it than I’ve been with my watercolour efforts so far, but it’s admittedly gone a bit wild with the colour.

In addition, after fretting a bit about which grade of pencil to use, I realised, on my arrival in “el parque” that I had forgotten both of them, and have had to make do with a standard black ink pen, which has’t really run – hurrah! I suspect it has helped along with keeping forms distinct, which I might have struggled with with watercolour + pencil 🙂 !

The original plan for a contour drawing got a bit lost in the palm trees, but it was towards the end and my stamina was waning!

En el parque


Out to explore tone and watercolour, I thought I’d have a go at keeping it monotone.

I live in southern Spain and the temperatures now are conducive to getting outdoors 🙂 hurrah!

But I image I am not alone in feeling a bit conspicuous drawing and painting outside, although every time I do it, I recall why it’s worth the initial “feeling a bit awkward with your sketchbook stage”.

I’m not sure I’ve really explored the properties of watercolour here. It feels more like an “underpainting” for oils. I really did try to keep my pencil “guidelines” to a minimum and then work on the darkest areas, gradually lightening down.  Problems with quick drying and hard edges… but I think that is lack of confidence on the wetness and speed front…  I’ reasonably happy with the stairs/ path element, the trees/shrubs/grass confusion reflects a real “is this shape darker than that shape?” confusion and the less said about those railings the better.

I think I might continue on this line for a bit, but trying to explore the “blooms” and “runs” of the medium a bit more, possibly with 2 colours…

Many thanks to those who gave me some watercolour suggestions on my last post, I hope to continue to experiment with the suggestions you have made 🙂 ! I’ve now seen king of watercolour Charles Reid (as suggested by Mel is North) and feel both humbled and inspired to go on…!

I think I’m happy enough with this overall though to convert it into a postcard and have it travel to the UK to a friend with whom a “creative correspondence” has lapsed!

Hitting one of the “Via Verde” paths around here in the next couple of days so hopefully I’ll do some more outdoor images from there.