Sunday, May 1, 2016

Painting Cuba

Earlier this year, my husband and I joined the group of painters that Eric Rhodes, publisher of Plein Air Magazine, took to Cuba for a trip of a lifetime!  We've always been interested in Cuba, having lived during the rein of the dictator Batista, the subsequent Castro revolution, and the American embargo.   The Cuban people are amazingly resilient, having been ruled by one dictator after another beginning with the Spanish. Unfortunately, the 50 year American Embargo  has forced Cuba into a devastating economic isolation which has had many harsh consequences for the Cuban people like the food supply and repairing their architecture. However, unintended consequences have made Cuba famous for the ubiquitous and lovingly preserved Classic Cars of the 1950's and 60's.

"Cuban Lady" oil, 16" x 20"  studio painting

The Cuban people are exceedingly friendly and seem very happy.  This woman in my painting is relaxing on a Sunday afternoon on her second story porch in old Havana,looking down on a beautiful tree lined boulevard called the Prado, filled with tourists.  My husband, Howie, is a musician and took his banjo so music was a very important component for both of us on this trip. The local musicians invited us (I played spoons) to play with them at every turn--which made the trip very special indeed.

Our Plein Air group consisted of seventy painters and thirty spouses, the big group was then divided into three smaller groups of 33 whom we usually traveled and ate with.  We all ate breakfast together in the hotel. Then each group was dropped off in one location of Old Havana in the morning to wander and paint whatever struck or fancy, then together again for lunch in a local restaurant, and painting in a different location in the afternoon. If we wanted to go somewhere else on our own, we could take a taxi back to the hotel.  We were like kids in a candy store, only candy for the eyes. Old Havana felt a little like Venice or maybe old Barcelona, with its Spanish Colonial architecture.  The group also got to enjoy the Cuban Art Museum with a very informative talk of important Cuban artists and their expressive paintings relating to Cuban history.

During the week, we traveled out of Havana, along the coast to Cojimar, Hemingway's home, and further into the countryside to a Spanish Sugar Plantation ruin where we loved painting the ancient house, bell tower, and stone walls.  The main house was in the process of being conserved.  To keep my backpack as light as possible,  I took Twinrocker paper, drawing sketches and painting watercolors, and of course lots of photos to use later in my studio for oils.   Here are some pics:

"Cuban Sugar Plantation Ruin"  11" x 14" watercolor on Twinrocker watercolor paper

"Cojimar, Cuba"  9" x 12" drawing with watercolor on Twinrocker drawing paper

"Broken Dock" 11" x 14" watercolor on Twinrocker watercolor paper

Well, I hope this has given you a taste of Cuba and our painting trip.  I drew other sketches and painted 5 studio oils after I returned while playing the Cuban CDs we purchased from the small three and four piece bands we heard in the restaurants.   You can see all of those Cuban paintings and drawings on my web site.    Also, my current website Newsletter which has completely different photos of Cuba, and all my Studio oils of Cuba can be seen by clicking on "Newsletter" on the home page, then "Archive".  Enjoy!

For those of you who are within driving distance of Lafayette, Indiana, I'm going to give an evening program  "Painting Cuba" at the Lafayette Art Museum on Tuesday, May 17th from 7-8:30pm with Howie's help.  There'll be photos of Cuba, with those CDs playing in the background, all the sketches, watercolors, and the five studio oil paintings.   Also, I am honored that the "Cuban Lady" was accepted in the soon-to-open INDIANA NOW juried exhibition at the Lafayette Art Museum which will be on display all summer.  

Happy travels this summer, and please share this blog with anyone you think might enjoy it. 
--Kathryn Clark

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