I'm just back from a great 4 day trip to Marrakesh, spent drawing and painting with seven artists/designers/illustrators. I was invited by a hugely talented artist friend Lara Harwood who will be returning to Morocco in a month with a larger group. She wanted to soft-test the experience with friends and we were all willing advocates! I didn't initially know any of the others, but grabbed the opportunity to dedicate solid time to making art in the company of new people.
The challenge of painting 'Au Plein Air' is not something I've done a lot of, having been mainly a studio based designer and painter. What to bring? Everything had to fit into a small suitcase and the hold of an easy jet flight.
Lara suggested taking a traditional cardboard portfolio folder which could act as a knee rest table top and place to store finished sheets. So - this was generally my set up along with a small tin of 'Inktense' (water soluble ink) block colours, brushes, permanent fine pens, pencils, inks (dangerous territory as they always seemed to leak!) and good quality water colour papers. A few people brought a small stool too, but my case was too bulging already to fit one.
Day 1, we set out through busy streets for the highly ornate 19th Century Bahia Palace, which was chocked full of tourists. An intimidating start to be surrounded by people, so we all scattered, and I found a room with a tiled window ledge and tucked myself in a corner hoping to go unnoticed. I got quite obsessed with the walled tile patterns, building a background, then overlaying the window's wrought iron patterns in a contrasting colour. I stepped outside and found some shelter from the oncoming rain underneath a tree with a good view of the surrounding wall and did some quick washy sketches.
Day 2, and the forecast was for more rain. Our plan was to visit the Majorelle Gardens. We decided instead to start by visiting the recently opened Yves St Laurent gallery, honouring his legacy and love of Marrakesh where he lived for many years. The modern slick building full of wealthy tourists is in stark contrast to the slightly crumbling streets all around and you are jolted into another world. I love these emerald tiles which form part of a stunning entrance. It's a colour you see a lot in Marrakesh.
Just down the street, we arrived at the Majorelle Gardens, famed for its beautiful gardens full of cacti and exotic plants and bright powder blue buildings. We had a frustrating time trying to dodge the rain and my drawing here probably reflects this and the lack of sunshine.. You can see how many layers we're dressed in in the image below!
Day 3, we had booked a trip out to Anima Sculpture Park, which is a half hour drive out of Marrakesh with wonderful views of the Atlas Mountains in the distance, and at last the sun shone! Woven into the lush gardens are sculptures, and here I am snapped by a passing visitor who enjoyed what I was painting.
Our last day, we ventured out into the streets of Marrakesh close to our Riad. It's a real and lively area full of market sellers and traditional light orange buildings and shaded areas. This was my favourite part, and my approach was to try and capture a layered collage of elements within my sight and then flit around like a bird capturing snippets of what caught my eye.
Now home, I miss the comraderie and sharing of food and our work at the end of the day. I miss the warm golden colours. London is sunny but all the colours seem cold. I am looking forward to starting work again with more familiar acrylic paints. I'm looking forward to mixing colours and creating textures inspired by the many images and memories I gathered on this lovely brief trip.
If you'd like to see the work of the other artists on the trip, enjoy here: