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Norms Palma Series: On La Rambla

Norms adore flowers. When they get a hint of floral perfume wafting in the air, they follow it like a dog going after a bone. For them, flowers encase the very merriment of life and encapsulate the hopes of spring. They are the very best manifestation of Nature’s natural gift. And so when it comes to the city of Palma de Mallorca, one of the places you will regularly find a whole host of Norms will be La Rambla, the beautiful tree lined avenue whose wide central promenade plays host to the majority of the city’s florists.

Walking along La Rambla is like that moment of entering the ground floor of a department store. A waft of dense perfume greets the senses and sends them spiralling into a full-flow of memories of Spring days and surprise gifts. And on La Rambla, you are greeted not just by an assault of delicious smells, but buy a host of colours too. Flowers and plants of every shape and size can be found there, and there is a gift for every Norm in need.

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Norms on La Rambla (2016 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

So here we can see the Norms bouncing along La Rambla, enjoying the trickle of the fountain which sits at the avenue’s climax…some Norms even like to do their laundry there, which frankly others feel is one step too far beyond excepted social norms. But be that what it may, one Norm norm is accepted as a fact. Buy a Norm some flowers and you will make him or her very, bouncily, happy.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Discovering Mallorca: Parc Natural de Montragó

A visit to the Parc Natural de Montragó on Mallorca’s South East coast pretty much summed up the current state of the Seasons. Walking through its abundantly planted forests of pines and locally occurring flora and fauna offered an embrace of the Autumn. There, the colours shone in the sunny September warmth with an auburn glow – even the greens had turned a golden-green, as though touched by a veil of Royal splendour. Yet as the forests gradually thinned and the shallow stream fanned out as it reached the sea, the colours transformed. No longer did the subtlety of Autumn reside, but the all conquering splendour of the summer, as we reached the most incredibly turquoise expanse of water I think I have ever seen.

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It’s no wonder that the beach was unnaturally packed with people who, despite the promise of a swathe of untouched natural park, had somehow managed to find this little slice of paradise (as had an ugly prefab hotel, presumably constructed before the natural park status was awarded to the area). But who could blame them? With colour as vivid as this, Mallorca’s Montragó beach is every bit the Caribbean idyll whose image we all pour over in travel catalogues and whose colours we assume are faked. I expect those beaches are crowded in reality too.

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Despite the crowds, there was no doubting the very invigorating thrill of swimming in waters which were almost electric in their colour. As the ripples of light passed over our skin, it was like being immersed in a Hockney painting in 60s LA. And as the Natural Park is indeed large, it didn’t require a whole lot of exploring to escape the more crowded areas. Strolling around a rocky headland, we soon found ourselves with access to a cove of water all of our own. Jumping into the sea from the precarious rocky outcrops, finally we had found the in Natural. Just the two of us and a complete immersion in the outstanding beauty of nature.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 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. 

 

Norms Palma Series: Café Gran Hotel

The Norms have been away for an awfully long time. Unreasonably long, one might surmise. After all, The Daily Norm is a blog named after the funny little blob like creature, and it feels somewhat redundant when the eponymous protagonist of the piece is missing. But everyone is entitled to a rest, Norms included, and the Norms have been taking their time off seriously indeed, partly meditating amongst the citrus trees of Capri, and party philosophising deep in a Grenadian jungle.

But now the Norms are back, where they have returned to their favourite mediterranean city of Palma de Mallorca. Everyone knows that the Norms are a social folk, and they love nothing more than to sit back in a bustling cafe and watch the world go by. In Palma, there are plenty of cafes to choose from, but one of their decided favourites is the Cafe Gran Hotel, directly outside what was once a likewise named hotel of supreme art nouveau elegance. These days it finds itself the home of one of Spain’s many bank-run art foundations, a fact which both vexes the Norms and delights them in equal measure. But whatever the contents, the building retains its period glamour. Hence why the ever elegant Norms adore to sit in its shadow.

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Norms at the Café Gran Hotel, Palma (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Autumn returns to Palma

It’s incredible how quickly Summer has given way to autumn. One week ago I was still swimming in the sea. Even by moonlight it was warm enough to take a dip. This week things have changed. Clouds have broken into days of untouched blue, the sun graces us with its welcome smile for fewer hours, and everything seems to be taking on the calm melancholy which characterises the season.

But while in England I may have recorded the entry of the new season through walks in the  parks of London, kicking through crispy leaves to find the conkers that lie in wait beneath, here in Palma my autumn is decidedly more maritime. On these September mornings, as the sun rises that much later, I enjoy nothing more than walking in the ultimate in open spaces – the incredible marina of Palma, which in the morning can always be found basked in a tangible balm of tranquility.

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The photos I wanted to share today were all taken on a couple of walks I took last week, as I noted the first seasonal changes. Along the dockside, the only sign of the change is the quality of the light – altogether more caramelised in its amber warmth than the intensity of summer sunshine. But within the town, the turn of the season is especially notable in the metamorphosis of the leaves, painting the city a wonderful shade of toffee.

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Of course we are still in September, and the summer may not have had its last hurrah. But for the moment at least, the autumn of 2016 has made its first debut. And for all of the beauty it brings, I give it a warm welcome.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 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. 

La Señora de Granada

Painting in Marbella is undoubtedly my greatest pleasure. Because there I can realise what must be the idyll of every artist – the ability to paint out in the open, but undisturbed by curious onlookers, in an utterly tranquil atmosphere with nothing to break the flow of the artist’s paintbrush or inspiration. And in my open-air studio in Marbella, I am able to enjoy the heady perfume of jasmine as I paint. What could provide better inspiration? It is perhaps no wonder that in that same garden space, I have painted some of my greatest, and most freely whimsical works over the years.

This year, I have had Granada on the mind. You may have noticed. And in my Andalucían garden, this manifested in the painting I am sharing today – an appropriate close to my Granada season, but a consistent continuation of the interpretative abstract style which has dominated my work this year. For this piece, I was not only inspired by Granada, but by another treasure of Andalucía – one Pablo Picasso – whose work has motivated me to paint many times before. My painting, named La Señora de Granada, was at least partially based on an interesting pointillist work by the great artist. Entitled Woman with Spanish Dress, this 1917 work is notable for its unfinished quality, and the resulting luminosity of whites and creams which dominate the work.

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La Señora de Granada (after Picasso) (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Whether or not Picasso intended his work to end up so white, I took this palette as inspiration for my own interpretation. Using his colours, and basic composition, my Spanish woman is at once enigmatic but full of personality. With her simplified coffee coloured lace, kinetic rose and flame like colours bursting as though from within her, she is the personification of Granada, the city that made my summer.

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Pablo Picasso, Lady with Spanish Dress (1917)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

The Greatness of Granada, Part 5: Final reflections

It’s funny, because when I think back to our time in Granada it feels like a different time and place, even though as I sit here contemplating the holiday, I do so still surrounded by Spain. Of course I always knew that Mallorca was very different from Andalucia, but Granada has something about it which marks it out from the rest. It might be that very distinctive perfume of arabia which wafts around the street full of oriental musk and spices. Or perhaps it is the fact that wherever you turn, the imposing ochre silhouette of the Alhambra is never far from view. Granada is a city whose surroundings are baked like the crunchy top of a Crema Catalana, but whose inner heart beats with a lazy vivacity, and whose lifeblood is the range of mountains whose outline is like a theatrical backdrop to the city-show, and whose icy heights provide the fresh water which runs through Granada like a god-given lifeline.

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This final post of my Granada adventure is more of a reflective musing, sharing those photos which I like, but which somehow never slotted into my otherwise tidy rendering of our city trip story. So here you will find a few ghoulish gargoyles, plenty of sunbaked landscapes, a fountain or two, and a panoply of architectural details. All combined they are the well-spiced ingredients that make up the visually rich, exotically perfumed city of Granada.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 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 Granada Sketchbook: La Plaza Bib-Rambla

I’ve lost count of quite how many pages my leather-bound moleskin sketchbook has. What I do know is that it has been my trusty travel companion for over 2 years now, from the first tentative sketches in Dubrovnik in May 2014, through to Capri, Marbella, Mallorca, Venice, Vienna and of course Granada to name but a few. And finally, with its corners now thoroughly battered and its pages filled, I have reached the last page of the sketchbook, and drawn my last sketch.

Between you and me, my last page was actually the rooftops of the Albayzín which I shared on The Daily Norm last week. It was an appropriate last sketch, since with its terracotta tiled rooftops it very closely resembled the first sketch I made in Croatia, albeit that there has been a clear improvement in my technique (practice makes perfect). But today’s sketch, while  being the first I undertook in Granada, is the last I have to share from my sketchbook of plenty.

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Tree in the Plaza Bib-Rambla, Granada (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

The scene was set for this sketch in the beautiful Plaza Bib-Rambla, a tranquil leafy square a stone’s throw from Granada’s imposing cathedral, and a real centre point for restaurants and cafes, and a place merely to relax surrounded by flowerbeds full of roses. When I sat down to make the sketch, my initial strokes made to shape the image of the rather unusual fountain, complete with ogres holding up the main basin of water, which sits at the centre of the square. But within seconds of starting, my attention was captured by this beautifully bumpy looking tree standing by a kiosk near the cafe where we were enjoying afternoon tea. So I quickly changed tack and the result was this far less clichéd, much more atmospheric sketch.

And with that, my sketchbook is at an end, a true testament to my travels and my enjoyment of capturing those experiences on paper. It will not be my last sketch however, of that I am sure. Once a new sketchbook is purchased, the journey will continue…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Tierra Lorca

Granada had so much to offer us. We only went for a few days and yet look how I can go on about the place on The Daily Norm for what must seem like an eternity! Two clear highlights of our trip had to be the stunning Generalife gardens, followed by those similarly lush gardens surrounding the previous family home of Federico Garcia Lorca. In both places, a truly poetic sensibility lingered in the air, making each of the senses stand on high alert as perfumes, colours and ambience were magnified in turn. Imagine then just how good it got when these two experiences came together. And that is exactly what happened when, on the night of my 33rd birthday, we headed to a flamenco concert in the Generalife gardens, whose choreography and artistic direction was entirely based on the life and work of Lorca. It was a match made in heaven.

Sitting in an audience of plenty, out in the open air on a warm balmy night in the Generalife gardens seeing before me an incredibly original modern flamenco spectacle based on the work of one of my all time favourite poets, I felt like a truly well-treated birthday boy. The stars were shining so brightly above us that they felt like part of the stage set, while in front of us, the stage itself was constructed from wings and scenery made from the perfectly erect rows of cypress trees which fill the gardens. For someone rather in love with cypress trees, this was a spectacle indeed, and I was particularly thrilled when the director of the show used various lighting effects to make the magnificent natural surroundings part of the show’s scenery.

The performance, with its mix of traditional and modern flamenco was a true spectacle, and the essence of Lorca transmitted was particularly engaging. The effect of the show was long lasting, and when finally we arrived in Marbella after our stay in Granada, I was moved to paint a small work based on the performance.

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Tierra Lorca (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

So the painting I post today is entitled, like the show, Tierra Lorca, for Granada is indeed the land from which Lorca came. With its simple shapes and a frame like the proscenium arch around a stage, this painting focuses on the line of poker straight cypress trees which so enthralled me, and the energetic movement of the incredibly agile flamenco dancers, illustrated by the rose like kinetic shape flowing onto (or off?) the stage. On the right, a black and white photo of Lorca reminds of the protagonist of the piece – a poignant memorial to a genius who himself put so many masterpieces on the stage.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

The Greatness of Granada, Part 4: Lorca’s Legacy

Federico Garcia Lorca was easily one of Spain’s greatest ever creative talents, and his premature death at the hands of Franco’s fascists one of its greatest tragedies.

Lorca was many things. Artist, poet, playwright, musician, but across the board he was a true Andalucían, a man whose sensitive heart was worn on a sleeve embroidered from the sun of the south, and whose soul was moved by Granada’s gypsy cry. Reading Lorca’s poetry in both Spanish and even in English is to take a path across the heat-baked planes of the South of Spain. His words resonate with the visceral emotion which Andalucía lays bare. His verses are characterised by a spirit lifted free by the pure power of the sun’s optimism and the darker mysteries of the night.

Gardens of the Huerta de San Vicente today

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Lorca, Granada’s favourite son, is everywhere in the city. He was the fresh human face of a city otherwise characterised by its ancient history. And today his forward thinking mind and bohemian spirit fits perfectly with the 21st century manifestation of Granada. While his tragic loss in the early months of the Spanish Civil War took Lorca from the city long ago, a reminder of his life in his most devoted home town remains in the form of the Huerta de San Vicente, the Lorca’s happy holiday home on the city’s outskirts. The pretty little white house would once have been surrounded by open countryside. Today, it remains a bucolic enclave in a concrete jungle, but happily the land immediately surrounding it has been converted into a park.

The Huerta de San Vicente in Lorca’s day

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Lavishly planted with roses and agapanthus, cypress trees and palms, it a garden of reflection whose mood is somehow rendered all the more romantic by association with the home of a poet who used to find so much inspiration here. In fact Lorca was so moved by the Huerta that he used to refer to it as his “Poetry factory”. The energy which drove him to write the most spectacular poetry ripples through the house today, and the ability to walk within and around this space remains for me a true highlight of any Granada trip. It is a home exuding the creative energy and the familial love which was so clearly integral to Lorca’s writing, and the foundation of his overflowing love for the city which continued to inspire him right up until the end.

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That inspiration resulted in the most stunning body of written works which today is Lorca’s lasting and most precious legacy. Moved by our visit to the Huerta, Dominik and I would sit up at night, both in Granada and then besides our jasmine tree in Marbella, reciting his verses, first in Spanish and then in English, loving how the sound of his verses would run over the tongue like water bubbling over a mountain brook, full of free sentiment and the most mellifluous melody.

This post includes my photos of the gardens surrounding the Huerta de San Vicente (photos inside the house were prohibited) as well as a glimpse of how the house, and of course Lorca himself, had looked. But it wouldn’t be complete without a few of his words too. Chosen at random from my precious anthology of his work, it was a coincidence that the page should fall open at a poem written in evident homage to both Granada and nearby Córdoba. It is a perfect demonstration of Lorca’s love for Andalucía, and his ability to capture its soul in just a few expertly chosen words.

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Alba / Dawn

Campanas de Córdoba / Bells of Córdoba
en la madrugada. / in the early hours.
Campanas de amanecer /Bells of dawn
en Granada. / in Granada
Os sienten todas las muchachas / They hear you,
que lloran a la tierna / all the girls who cry
Soleá enlutada. / for the tender Soleá in mourning.
Las muchachas / The girls
de Andalucía la alta / of Andalucía the High
y la baja. / and the low
Las niñas de España, / Young girls of Spain
de pie menudo / with tiny feet
 y temblorosas faldas, / and trembling skirts
que han llenado de luces / who’ve filled the crossroads
las encrucijadas. / with light. 
¡Oh campanas de Córdoba / Oh bells of Córdoba
en la madrugada, / in the early hours
y oh campanas de amanecer / and oh, bells of dawn
en Granada! / in Granada!
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Own photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 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 Granada Sketchbook: Rooftops of the Albayzín

I love people watching, especially over a coffee in the most chic of cafeterias, but I love view-watching more. It’s why I always ask a hotel for the best view they have available and so often they come up trumps. This was very much the case during my recent stay at the Casa 1800 Hotel in Granada where a room with terrace provided exceptional inspiration for a painting of the Alhambra seen from our own exclusive viewing space. But this was a terrace with much to offer, and sat looking the other way, we were able to enjoy an equally appealing view of the ancient rooftops of the Albayzin.

Famed for its tiny narrow maze like streets and its historical Islamic heritage, the Albayzin is one of the most iconic areas of Granada. Seen from above, it is just as alluring, as layer upon layer of rickety roof tops and old wooden balconies appear to interweave like a well-trodden tapestry. Keen to capture the sight, I set about sketching it in my now almost complete travel sketchbook.

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Rooftops of the Albayzín (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

I never imagined there would be so many terracotta tiles to draw, but as I sat on our terrace slowly executing the piece I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the monotony of it all!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com