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Posts from the ‘sketchbook’ Category

My Sicily Sketchbook: Bellini’s Fountain, Catania

It’s been a while since I last opened the pages of my travel sketchbook. I believe the last time was in sunny Granada, almost one year ago, when I sat in Andalucian cafes, happily sketching away at views of the Alhambra and the rooftops of the Albayzín. In fact part of the problem (asides from a vast international house move from which I am still recovering) is the fact that with my last sketch, I filled the final page of my first travel sketchbook, and there was something about starting a new volume which I found daunting, especially because this one is a sexy Fabriano sketchbook, with a ravishing red cover designed to resemble the tiles of San Marco’s basilica in Venice.

But as I suppose was inevitable, it was the bright light and the perfumed air of the Mediterranean which had me taking out my sketching pens once again to create this first creation of my new travel sketchbook vol.2. This deliciously baroque fountain, with four handsome dolphins spitting water across a round stone pool, sits at the centre of the Piazza Vincenzo Bellini in the heart of Catania, Sicily. Celebrating the life of Catania’s favourite son, opera composer Vincenzo Bellini, the Piazza is also the location of the resplendent Teatro Bellini, which can be seen to the right of the fountain.

Catania Sketch

Bellini’s Fountain, Catania (©2017, Nicholas de-Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Requiring an awful lot of details and the challenge of drawing water to boot, this sketch was my first lesson in how tricky the baroque details of Sicily can prove. But it made for an enjoyable and meditative experience, and is a welcome first page of my new travel sketchbook.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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 artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

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.

Granada Bib Rambla

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

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.

Granada Albayzín Rooftops

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

My Granada Sketchbook: Patio de Daraxa

Sometimes it can be pretty unnerving sketching in public, especially when to do so means being sat in the heart of a tourist location. Very quickly, the budding artist finds themselves being subsumed into the attraction itself, and becoming every bit the focus of the tourists´gaze. This is the position in which I found myself in the Alhambra when, desperate to sit down in a shady spot after hours of queuing and touring the mammoth complex of the Alhambra, the Alcazaba and the Nazrid Palace, we found a perfect little bench in the Patio de Daraxa, an idyllic little shady garden set at the very heart of the palace complex.

With a direct view onto the patio’s ancient fountain, its water sparkling in the light, and surrounded by the intricately trimmed box-tree hedges, fragrant orange and cypress trees, and agapanthus flowers dancing around in a gentle breeze, I knew that I had to capture the essence of this space in my sketchbook. So reaching more my pen, I started nervously mapping out the space, hoping to do homage to the perfect symmetry which the Moorish inhabitants had executed with such precision. However no sooner had I placed pen to paper, than tourists, without any kind of timid apology, started peering onto the page, beckoning their friends closer, taking my photo and waiting stubbornly for the completion of the piece. That never happened. After only a basic sketch I retired from the spot, unable to bare the intensity of the tourists´gaze any longer.

Granada Garden Alhambra

Patio de Daraxa, Alhambra (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

 

This sketch was finished over coffee in one of my favourite haunts in Marbella. Despite that, I believe it still captures the magical spirit of that perfect Alhambra resting place.

© 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

My Granada Sketchbook: Alhambra Aniconism

Andalucia, perhaps the most iconic region of Spain – the land of flamenco and polka dots, sun-scarred landscapes and toreros – owes a huge bulk of its entire identity to the cultural and aesthetic character of the Nasrid dynasty of Al Andalus, the islamic rule which gives the area its name. Despite having been flushed out by the reconquering Catholics, the arabic influence lives strong in the region, from the wailing arabesque of the flamenco cry, to the geometric imagery which characterises the multi-coloured ceramic tiles lining the walls of traditional patio gardens in practically every Spanish house.

The predominance of geometric patterns in Arabic art resulted as a cleverly constructed, beautifully executed solution to the rule of aniconism, that is the proscription in Islam against the creation of images of sentient beings. The most absolute proscription is of images of God in Islam, followed by depictions of Muhammad, and then Islamic prophets and the relatives of Muhammad, but the depiction of all humans and non-human animals is likewise discouraged. The result, especially in the times of Al Andalus when the style was still finding its feet, was to decorate palaces not only with geometric patterns, but also with calligraphy and the barely representational foliage patterns of the arabesque.

The palace of the Alhambra in Granada is renowned for boasting some of, if not the best examples of early Islamic wall decoration in the world, and it is the plethora of incredibly intricate wall calligraphy there, surrounded by delicate renderings of foliage patterns, which inspired my next Granada sketch.

Granada Motif Alhambra

Alhambra wall detail (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Spelling out what I believe inscribes the Nasrid motto “There is no victor but Allah” (but correct me if I’m wrong) – this is a pattern which can be found repeated endlessly around the palace as a kind of freeze above and below relentlessly repeated geometric constructs in the most splendid and mind-bogglingly calculated patterns. When I came to sketch just this tiny portion, it made me fully realise the astonishing detail with which the Alhambra decoration has been created. No wonder it is today the most visited of all attractions in Spain.

© 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

My Granada Sketchbook: Alhambra, viewed from the Albayzín

I have just returned from Andalucia in Southern Spain. It’s an annual pilgrimage to a place which inspires me deep from within its passionately romantic soul. While the old town of Marbella, in a house radiated by the fragrant perfume of jasmine, is always my base, each year I try to embellish my trip with a sampling of the region’s rich cultural offerings. This year it was the turn of Granada, a true jewel of the Iberian Peninsula, a city so rich in cultural and religious heritage that from one street to another you find yourself whisked across different centuries and richly divergent cultures.

A combination of 4 nights in Granada followed by 12 in Marbella meant for a trip front-loaded by inspirational madness, and a fortnight which then provided ample opportunity to live out the fruit of those ideas. This meant that my trusty sketchbook went with me not just in Granada, where I would sketch sat in shady plazas, and in the echoing gardens of the Alhambra, but also in Marbella, where every morning I got into the habit of finishing off my Granada sketches over a rich coffee and a slice of spongy bizchoco.

Granada Mirador Alhambra

The Alhambra viewed from the Mirador San Nicolas, Granada (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Today, I considered this sketch to be the best way to start my Granada tales, for it shows perhaps the most famous Granada view – the stunning Alhambra palace as viewed from the Mirador de San Nicolas, with the might of the Sierra mountains behind it. I’m not going to talk too much about the Alhambra for now… that time will surely arise as I share my Granada adventure with you. But for now I hope you enjoy this first of 9 works created on this very inspirational trip. I look forward to sharing them all with you.

© 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

My travel sketchbook: Hvar

I’ve already described those dying moments of a creamy honey-coloured sunset when we sat in the perfectly picturesque port of Hvar, the indulgently exclusive little island off the coast of Croatia, waiting for our ferry to take us back to Split. The ferry arrived late, a fact which might have caused vexation were it not for the opportunity it provided for the commencement of a new sketch in my trusty travel sketchbook. That same enthusiastically filled moleskin book was mercifully one item which the woefully incapable lost luggage services of Vueling did not have at their relentless disposal, and constantly, deprived of my paints, I was at least able to sketch out the most significant and happy episodes from our trip.

The beauty of Hvar Town’s little harbour, looking over to the Italianate cathedral of St Stephen’s, was one view which could not go unaccounted for as I embarked upon my last sketch of the trip. Here is the result, hoping as ever that in its creation and subsequent sharing, I can relive with you a little of those special moments of our brief Croatian summer.

Hvar

Hvar (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen 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

My travel sketchbook: The Iron Gate

Having left the seaside and retreated back within the ancient solid walls of Diocletian’s Palace, it was always a pleasure to enjoy the very active café culture which is so prevalent in Split. High quality restaurants and laid back bars alike spill out onto the ancient cobbled restaurants where once the Emperor Diocletian himself might have reclined back on a couch to drink a cup of Zinfandel wine (the famous Croatian-born grape). Despite the excellence of their food, Split’s eateries are far from pretentious. Rather, Split is alive with an atmosphere of the bohemian, a resolutely relaxed happiness which is underpinned by a plethora of live music performances from one business to the next. I will always remember one evening sitting in a cosy wine bar, funnily enough called Zinfandel, where live music was being played. Suddenly some girls started dancing to the music out in the street, and their energetic vivacity for life spread like wild fire. Within seconds the rhythm of the night had spread, and practically the whole restaurant and much of the nearby street too were dancing with strangers, inhibitions completely set aside. It was a magical moment.

Split Sketch 3

The Iron Gate (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Anyway, I digress. One day, heading back to the city from the beach, we stopped off in one of the spiritual hearts of the city, the Pjaca, or People’s Square, which was the first inhabited section of the city set just outside of Diocletian’s Palace. With all of the beautiful renaissance palaces which can be found in the square, the visitor is rather spoilt for choice in terms of the views on offer from one of its many cafes, but perhaps the best of the lot is the view afforded of the Iron Gate. One of four gates (Golden, Silver, Iron and Brass) which mark the four original entrances to Diocletian’s heavily fortified palace complex, the Iron Gate is one of the most distinctive, with its addition of a famous Renaissance clock characterised by its 24 digits instead of 12.

I loved this view, for all its layered complexity. Arch laid upon ancient arch, the renaissance bell tower of St Theodor, and the Venetian style palace overlapping the lot… it all made for a wonderful sight, and a clear requisite of my travel sketchbook. So sitting at a cafe I made a start on this sketch. Made with pen on paper, it’s a quick capture of a view which remain active in my mind for a long time.

© 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

My travel sketchbook: Diocletian’s Mausoleum

The fact that Vueling, easily the most incompetent airline in the world, lost my luggage throughout the entire course of our holiday to Croatia and Rome meant that I was travelling paintless, and brushless – something of a desperate state of affairs for an artist seeking inspiration abroad. Mercifully I had packed my trusty travel sketchbook in my hand luggage, and as though in defiance of the airline’s ineptitude, I set about sketching with even more gusto than ever.

So having completed my first sketch of the view from our room in Split, I moved onto the next without so much as a breath between turning the page, and I didn’t need to go far to find another inspirational view. In fact by turning my head about an inch, I was able to enjoy, a mere two metres away from the bell tower of St Domnius, this incredibly antiquated, beautifully decadent landscape of ancient Roman columns being hit by the long shadows of a sunny Split morning.

Split Sketch 2

Diocletian’s Mausoleum (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

The ancient walls and the freestanding colonnade alongside them are today part of St Domnius Cathedral, but at the time of their construction, almost 2,000 years ago, comprised the mausoleum building at the centre of Diocletian’s Palace where said emperor was destined to live out the afterlife. Despite now housing the Christian centre of Split, the Roman origins of this miraculously intact building are highly evident. Draped with shadow and exhibiting all the signs of their age and glorious past, I found this small corner of architecture both captivating and inspiring. Hence why I rushed to sketch it. Take that Veiling!!

© 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

My travel sketchbook: St Domnius detail

It’s been far too long since I last opened up the pages of my now almost full travel sketchbook. But who could possibly resist the lure of the ancient Roman bricks and the Medieval buildings piggybacking onto the remains of Emperor Diocletian’s palace which form the central foundations of old town Split. And that very same view was one we became well accustomed to, as staying in the incredible Antique Split Hotel, we benefitted from a hotel room which looked directly onto the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, and more specifically the iconic St Domnius Cathedral which is built on the ruins of Diocletian’s mausoleum.

More than any other building, the bell tower of St Domnius marks out the landscape of Split, distinguishing the city from the other smaller towns along the Croatian coast. From a distance, the bell tower is a delicate, multilayered construct which ascends in a series of cake layers narrowing in size. From up close, it is even more exquisitely detailed, and it is one such layer of details which was the focus of my first sketch, drawn directly from our hotel bedroom.

Split Sketch 1

Detail view of St Domnius Cathedral bellower, Split (pen on paper, 2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Now back at home, I miss those moments when, with the windows wide open, I was able to stare in amazement at the incredible views before us, while low flying swifts accompanied by gentle sketching with their harmonious call. It is a moment which comes back to me the instant I open my sketchbook. It’s a true treasure-trove of memories to be long cherished.

© 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