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Musings on Marbella: My little neighbourhood

Marbella is a name synonymous with glamorous hotel resorts, mass tourism and indulgent beach parties, tacky celebrities and multiple cosmetic surgeries. But as I have pointed out so many times before, beyond Puerto Banus and the vast stretches of tourist-ravaged coast either side, the actual centre of Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol is an authentic gem in the crown of Andalucia. Not only does the town boast an utterly picturesque old town at its core, including a baroque masterpiece of a church and ancient Moorish walls, but its modern expansion has an altogether more down to earth atmosphere, where chirpy Andalucian locals take a coffee on the sidewalk, walk along the seaside and even head occasionally to the gym.

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This is the real Marbella which I am lucky enough to call my neighbourhood, for my family have owned a home at the heart of the old town for almost a decade and a half, and as a result I have become well accustomed to this part of the world. The result is that when I visit, I reflect more introspectively, and create on canvas rather than take a whole raft of new photos of sights often explored before. My collection from this year’s trip is not therefore extensive. But it is characterised by the very authenticity which makes this area of Marbella the real soul of the city, rather than the superficiality which exists at its fringes.

These photos were taken in literally a few hundred square metres of my house and the little hilly street we live in. They present just a few details from the neighbourhood we live in… the real Marbella which so many visitors miss.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

My travel sketchbook: One-armed lady

There was an awful lot I could have sketched when I was recently in Malaga. It wasn’t just that I was inspired to paint the landscape interpretation I went on to create shortly after our return, but I also felt the need to flip open my sketchbook and capture the captivating elements of the city. And I didn’t need to look much further than the view from my hotel, the Molina Lario, to find inspiration.

For the rooftop of the hotel is easily its best attraction. With a little pool and poolside bar, the roof allows you to splash around to your heart’s content with the most stunning city view as your backdrop. In fact the view had inspired me before, when last year I created a mixed-technique etching and woodcut print of the view. But not content with that, I decided to return to the same inspiration, focusing in on Malaga’s famously unfinished single-towered cathedral for inspiration. And here is the result. The latest page of my travel sketchbook, all with pen.

Malaga Cathedral, detail (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Malaga Cathedral, detail (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Ocho Balcones (No.2): Cables in the Calle

Another week has begun, time continues to traverse its fleeting path through the year, and it’s time for me to present this week’s second addition to my new Ocho Balcones collection: a series of small gouache paintings illustrating the views which I am lucky enough to enjoy from the 8 balconies of my Palma de Mallorca flat.

Today’s view is has a much more narrow field of vision than the first. The balcony from which the aspect is seen is not even in view. Instead, the painting focuses in on a particular aspect of this view from our dining table, namely the electricity (or are they telephone?) cables which are so characteristic of the old town of Palma, and which hang directly outside our apartment.

Ocho Balcones No. 2: Cables in the Calle (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Ocho Balcones No. 2: Cables in the Calle (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

From the first day we moved into this flat last autumn, I have been fascinated by these cables which hang at the same level as our apartment, and which provide a divertingly original aspect to an otherwise colourful view of pastel houses and the typical Mallorquin green shutters. Enveloped in some kind of striped cloth, they almost look like a complex form of flag pole suspended midair over the street. In reality I have no idea what the cables are for, nor what function the striped material has. I only know that I love to look at these structures each day, and thoroughly enjoyed capturing them in this second sunny scene from my new gouache collection.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown 2000-2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included on this website without express and written permission from Nicholas de Lacy-Brown is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Interpretation No. 15 – Malaga

The week ends as it begun, with the introduction of another of my new little paintings, created comparatively quickly (that is, in relation to my oil works) with gouache on paper, and inspired by another stunning landscape of the Mediterranean. As with the other works in my collection of “interpretations” which began back last summer on the Amalfi Coast, my landscape of Malaga attempts to simplify the forms of the landscape by stripping out many of the architectural details, while using flat areas of colour to delineate architectural forms and their contrast with the haphazard lines of nature around them.

Interpretation No. 15 - Malaga (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Interpretation No. 15 – Malaga (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

My photos on Wednesday will hopefully help to persuade you as to why the southernmost large Spanish city of Malaga should have brought out the artist within me, and in creating this 15th interpretative landscape, I have attempted to catch the city at one of its most alluring times, when the sun has set to create a golden backdrop to the diverse architectural shapes of the city: from the baroque majesty of the “one-armed lady” (the cathedral) to the simplified robust walls of the ancient moorish Alcazaba palace.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Musings on Málaga: Southernmost City

The beautiful city of Malaga in Southern Spain is not only the 6th largest city in Spain, but also the southernmost large city in Europe. Located alongside the sparkling Mediterranean sea just south of the sun-roasted mountain plains of Andalucia, Malaga is an ancient city whose streets, style and very essence seem to reflect the baking heat of this most southern of European suns. And while its beating heart may run volcanically hot, the city has recently shown itself to be a hot pick for visitors too, boasting some of the best historical sights and cultural highlights in all of Spain.

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Its ancient historical centre is crowned by a magnificent cathedral, unique thanks to its unfinished second tower which has led the monument to become known as “the one-armed lady”. Its eastern hills are topped by the even older Castle of Gibralfaro and the Alcazaba fortress, a potent reminder of the region’s moorish heritage, heavily reminiscent of similar treasures in nearby Granada and Seville. Its newly renovated port and seaside front-line is fringed by stunning botanical gardens which sway gently alongside baroque palaces. And amongst its fantastic collection of impressive museums, the city can count the Picasso Museum, the Carmen Thyssen Museum, the new Russian Museum, the CAC Málaga Contemporary Art Museum and the recently opened Pompidou Centre Málaga amongst its collection. 

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it was largely because of the opening of this new branch of Paris’ Pompidou Centre that I strayed back to Malaga this month as part of my annual trip to my family home in Marbella, the smaller seaside town nestling on Malaga’s infamous Costa del Sol. Not only was I desperate to see the new Pompidou, but equally attracted by a temporary exhibition of Louise Bourgeois at the Picasso Museum and an exhibition of Summer-inspired works at the Thyssen. While I could easily fill this post with my reactions from those shows, I decided instead to be more visual in expressing my Malaga experience by sharing a few of the photos I took in the city. There aren’t many mind you… we were there only 24 hours after all, much of which was spent within art galleries. But I think this little collection pretty much sums up the heat, the colour and the spirit of this southernmost city.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.

Ocho Balcones (No.1): From the bedroom

Beloved readers of The Daily Norm may remember that during my recent blissful honeymoon, I painted a group of bedroom views which collectively became knowns as The Honeymoon Suite, for obvious reasons. I would never have thought that something so simple as a bedroom and its view might provide such potent inspiration, but then again, I am a home-loving man, and this applies as much to my trips away as to when I am in my own humble abode… and the cosier the bedroom, the happier, and consequently inspired, I feel within it.

Somewhat ironically, it took a trip away from Mallorca for me to realise just how inspirational are the surroundings of my home here in the beautiful city of Palma, and soon enough I set about painting a new collection, still very much in the production line, of views from my apartment. I am lucky enough to live in a home benefitting from some 8 little balconies, and hence my collection of the super-colourful street views we enjoy from those balconies is appropriately named: Ocho Balcones. Today I present you with the first – the view from our bedroom.

Ocho Balcones (No.1): From the bedroom

Ocho Balcones (No.1): From the bedroom (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown 2000-2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included on this website without express and written permission from Nicholas de Lacy-Brown is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Discovering Mallorca: Palma’s secret city

Regular readers of The Daily Norm will remember that I am utterly captivated by the charms of a cemetery. It’s not a morbid fascination – far from it. For me, cemeteries are amongst the most beautiful and thought-provoking places you can visit. Somewhere to escape the noise of life, to reflect on the emotional strength of people’s devotion to their families, and to admire some of the most startling sculptures you are likely to see in a small compact space. I have been to many cemeteries in my time, not least here in Spain where the mix of sunshine strained through shady cypress trees is particularly poetic. But if the cemeteries I have seen here before were works of poetry, the municipal cemetery in Palma de Mallorca was nothing short of a masterpiece of theatre.

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Located close to the outer ring road, the cemetery is not exactly walkable from the centre of town, and as a result, it was not until now, with a hire care at our disposal, that we were able to pass by. But this cemetery was worth the wait. Never in all my life have I ever seen such a vast collection of intricately crafted, magnificently devotional sculpture and stunning architecture in such a compact space. The cemetery is probably the biggest I have ever been in, but it is also amongst the most crowded, and row after row and row after row of tombstones are loaded not with simple flat graves, but elegantly and theatrically decorated with stone crosses, angels and other elaborate sculptures so that the result is a veritable forest of ancient stone.

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And most magnificently of all are the series of lavish little side chapels which line the perimeters of the cemetery. Utterly elaborate, constructed in a number of styles from baroque to classical and even 20th century modernist, this collection of buildings looks like an ancient empire, resembling the kind of spectacle which may have been found when entering a roman forum lined with temples.

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But that was not all. For beneath ground level, a secret staircase led down into what was probably the most spectacular aspect of the whole cemetery – a vast double horseshoe-shaped catacomb itself lined with tombs from floor to ceiling, flooded with light from holes in the ceiling, and slowly sprinkled with dust gently falling in the rays of sunshine. It was like something from Indiana Jones, and with road names engraved in latin we felt like we have been catapulted centuries back to an ancient civilisation.

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It was only when we emerged back into the heat of the Mallorca day, the sounds of the nearby ring-road resounding nearby, that we realised we had just found Palma’s secret city.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Mallorca Landscape (Chiringuitos)

Last Friday I was thrilled and proud to have one of my paintings featured on the front cover of the food magazine supplement of Diario de Mallorca, the island’s principal daily newspaper. The work was painted especially for the monthly supplement, which included a special feature on chiringuitos, the uniquely haphazard little beach cafe-grills which pop up all over the island on some of the most hard to reach beaches and calas and serve up the freshest fish to those lucky enough to reach them.

Mallorca Landscape (Chiringuitos) (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Mallorca Landscape (Chiringuitos) (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

But my painting represents more than just chiringuitos, although it features two, one precariously balanced on long spindly legs, and the other nestled against the side of a pile of rocks. This painting is also my homage to Mallorca, with a backdrop of the famous blue and white lenguas material which has been a protagonist of traditional Mallorquin design for centuries, and with a rocky beach setting closely resembling the kind of mysteriously surreal craggy rock forms which characterise Mallorca’s consistently surprising rocky coast.

Mallorca Landscape (detail)

Mallorca Landscape (detail)

Returning somewhat to my more surreal style, but injecting a fresh whiteness which I have not exhibited much in previous works, this feels like both a welcome reprise of a favourite style, and a new departure onto artistic pastures new, and in all things a devoted homage to the island I now love to call home.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown 2000-2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included on this website without express and written permission from Nicholas de Lacy-Brown is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Like snow in summertime

You’d have been forgiven for thinking that the photos below, taken the other day, showed freak climatic conditions – of snow freshly laid on olive trees ripe with fruit, freshly laid in the middle of the summer. But on closer sight, another thing becomes noticeable: the startling contrast between icy white and vivid summertime greens, not to mention the rich rusty coloured ground which had largely escaped a white covering, nor the cerulean blue sky glimmering brightly under an intense sunshine.

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Rather than snow in summer, these photos show one of the most interesting sights which can currently be discovered on the road from Valldemossa to Deia in Mallorca: olive trees densely sprayed in a covering of chalky white, their fruit still intact beneath it. Why this winter coat has been applied I have no idea: I can only guess that it is some kind of insecticide applied at the crucial time when the olives are almost ripe. Whatever the reason, the colour contrast presented is undoubtedly striking, and as ripe an inspiration for my camera as the juicy round olives steadily growing on those white branches.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

On the trail of S’Arxiduc (Part 2): Monestir de Miramar

Following on from our visit to Son Marroig, our tour of the Deia coast on the trail of S’Arxiduc, the Archduke Ludwig Salvador, took us back towards Valldemossa and to the Miramar Monastery. Contrary to the name, there is very little left of the 13th Century monastery which once stood on the site, other than one length of what must have been a stunning cloister, now to be found almost floating amidst a garden full of flowers. However what was left of the monastery was purchased by the Archduke in 1872 when he fell head over heels in love with the coast, and there he converted the site into another of his great coastal houses.

The old monastery, the house an its gardens

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Today the main attraction of the house is undoubtedly the gardens and land which surround it. As the Archduke himself declared: “Without doubt no other place on earth deserves with more reason the name Miramar”. And on this count, I could not disagree, for just beyond the more formal gardens which surround the ancient chapel and old cloister remains, extensive land takes the visitor all the way to a cliff edge which benefits from utterly breathtaking views over to Son Marroig and the stunning emerald sea below. From there, the grounds lead on to a mysterious Italianate pool, and beyond a series of canals and mills which appear to be left over from the ingenious reign of the Moors whose engineering innovations managed to tame this otherwise uninhabitable land long before the Archduke arrived.

Views and aspects of the land beyond

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It is not at all hard to appreciate why the Archduke fell so in love with this incredible strip of coastline, and it is thanks to him that much of the coast today remains unspoilt and unashamedly beautiful for us all to enjoy today.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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