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Posts from the ‘sketchbook’ Category

My Travel Sketchbook: Naples

Many berate Naples for being a filthy city; strewn with graffiti, laden down by crime, full of waifs and strays wandering the menacing dark streets until visitors are so scared they depart swiftly on a ferry for Capri…Are such concerns an illusion? For me, the madness of Napoli is what makes the city so enduring alluring. Yes, it’s somewhat tragic that the local authorities turn a blind eye to the relentless street art and vandalism coating some of Italy’s most beautiful baroque palazzi. But look beyond it, and you will find a city as architecturally rich as Rome or Palermo, with countless sources of visual spectacle.

So when it came to flicking over the pages of my sketchbook from Pompeii to this great city, I was once again spoiled for choice. I settled upon a location that we discovered when we were in search of Naples’ undisputed masterpiece – Caravaggio’s Seven Acts of MercyThe painting’s location, in the Pio Monte della Misericordia is right opposite one of Naples’ smallest but most beautfiul squares, the Piazza Sisto Riario Sforza, in the centre of which stands a structure of breathtaking baroque beauty… the Obelisco di San Gennaro. And here it was that I settled down to sketch.

Naples San Gennaro.jpg

Obelisco di San Gennaro (©2019 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

It was an ambitious composition to choose to be sure. During the hours of sketching which proceeded, I secretly cursed all of those elaborate baroque embellishments which made the scene such a challenge to draw. I also didn’t realise at the time that the stunning domed structure which can be seen in the distance is the cupola of Naples’ Duomo. So a significant scene to sketch indeed. And at the end of my many baroque-induced struggles, I must say that I am pretty pleased with the result.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2019. 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 Travel Sketchbook: Pompeii

How could I not take my travel sketchbook out with me on this trip? With antiquity abound, stunning scenery and the ancient city of Naples splayed out before me, I could have sketched non-stop. Sadly, time never allows for such a frequency of activity. But it did allow for this sketch of a pile of ruins in Pompeii.

Pompeii is the kind of place which lends itself to monochrome sketching at every turn. With so many ruins, textures, half-battered statues, discarded pots and mosaics (to name but a few features), all set against a backdrop of mountains and that ubiquitous Vesuvius, I was spoilt for choice in my decision of where to open my sketchbook. In the end I opted for this place – a pile of rubble towards the exit of the archaeological site, which appeared to lack the significance attributed to some areas, but which had one very striking highlight at its heart – a magnificent bronze nude, rising from the rubble and set against a staggering mountainous panorama.

Pompeii Sketch

Pompeii Ruins (©2019 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

The statue itself is a modern addition to Pompeii, but by no means an unwelcome one, embodying the spirit of the place but providing a startling green/ bronze contrast to the monochrome colour of rubble and ruins. Of course the colours cannot be appreciated from this sketch in black pen, but the variance of topography it provides is what, for me, makes the landscape, and the composition of this sketch, interesting.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2019. 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 Travel Sketchbook: Garden of the Gonville Hotel

Cambridge is not all that far from London, but when we visited over the Easter weekend, we wanted to truly relax. And such a state was never going to be possible if we were day-tripping, with all the stress that repeated train travel would inevitably entail. Pampering campaign commenced and justified, we opted for a hotel stay in Cambridge, bedding down for the night at the Gonville Hotel, a delightfully appointed boutique establishment just off Parker’s Piece, one of the city’s largest stretches of green.

Our hotel stay was a real treat. The entire accommodation was designed with style in mind. Elegant colours, textures and fabrics combined with modern lighting, plush contemporary furniture, and all the mod cons to create an experience replete with comfort. Our bedroom had its own terrace, a soft lavish bed piled with mountains of snow-soft cushions, a little seating area, and even our first taste of Netflix. But best of all things, it had its own private garden, resplendent with a soft bouncy lawn, trees bursting into blossom, and a feel of careful but decadent neglect.

Gonville Garden sketch

Garden of the Gonville Hotel, ©2019 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper

It was in that garden that we spent a good deal of time relaxing after the excitement of the city, taking the time out to rest in the sun, revel in the simple purity of birdsong, and drink some tea, as one must in England. It was there that I once again opened my travel sketchbook, drawing this sketch of that very garden.

It is a simple image, or perhaps the simplicity is in the collection of roughly piled bricks it depicts. But they were a sight which caught my eye when I saw them, late in the afternoon sun, dappled with sunlight and surrounded by trees not quite in bloom. The sketch started as something of an exercise of angles and shadows, and ended up being one of my favourites of my sketchbook.

It was a truly tranquil spot in which to engage in a little sketching, and a marvellous hotel in which to extend and augment our Cambridge stay.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2019. 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 Travel Sketchbook: St John’s College, Cambridge

It’s been some time since I opened up the pages of my travel sketchbook. I had to wipe from the cover a layer of dust accumulated since I was last inspired to sketch, under the trees of Clapham Common last summer. The delay between sketches can’t be helped. I am largely creatively barren in the winter, as the minimal light and the discomfort of cold place something of a turgid dampener upon my creative energies. When the sun (and the summertime) came back last weekend, my sketchbook opened up with it. It just so happened that I was in Cambridge when this moment occurred, and I was inspired to make this little sketch with my customary pen and paper method.

St Johns sketch

St John’s College, Cambridge (©2019 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

While the method has little tolerance for errors, I like the spontaneity of applying pen directly to the paper. It allows me to progress rapidly on site, although this particular sketch was completed a little afterwards, in the tranquil surroundings of our leafy hotel garden. I think the tranquility of both the original spot, and the subsequent finishing-place rubbed off on this image. It is one which sums up the historical magnificence of one of Cambridge’s most famous sights – the Bridge of Sighs of St. John’s College – while the still waters and leafy river bank are characteristic of what is a very green and halcyon city.

It was a perfect spot for sketching, and one apt in which to begin a new season of Travel Sketchbooking.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2019. 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 

Breakfast at La Baita

Autumn is a love-hate time for me. On the one hand, I relish the new spectacle of fiery colours transforming the landscape from green lushness to a wealth of auburn warmth. On the other, I bemoan the passing of my favourite season of Summer, and the conclusion of my sun-drenched travels, which feel as though they have ended before they even begun. But in this latter respect, I have an antidote, right around the corner from my London home; a place where I can go and feel every inch as though I am back on holiday, surrounded by the vivacity of the Sicilian spirit, and food to match the very best Italian fare: La Baita on Clapham Common.

Located at the very centre of the Common, alongside the grand Victorian bandstand after which the cafe is named, from a distance you would assume La Baita is your bog-standard park cafe selling bacon butties and ice cream. However the Italian name signifies that this cafe is more than your British norm. Rather, run by Sicilians and southern Italians with a true passion for the food of their great nation, it is a fantastic little eatery with food so good that I have never found an Italian restaurant in London to beat it.

Clapham Bandstand

Breakfast at La Baita (2018© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Whether it be because of the fine food, the passionate staff, or the beauty of its parkland surroundings, La Baita has become our “local” in every sense of the word. Some weekends we even go twice a day! So it felt only natural that over our last few visits, I should capture the cafe’s terrace in my sketchbook, at the season’s leafy best. After all, it won’t be long before those leaves have fallen ground-wards, and the terrace of La Baita becomes paved with a transient crispy carpet of auburn gold.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. 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 Travel Sketchbook: Ancient Rubble in Jerez Cathedral

Having dusted off the pages of my travel sketchbook twice now this summer, once in Crete and again in Cadiz, I was on a roll, and it felt only natural that I would get drawing again once we had arrived in Jerez. However, while a natural choice for a sketch might have been the impressive baroque dome of the city’s Cathedral, rising over the skyline, or perhaps a barrel or three at one of Jerez’s famous bodegas, my attention was caught by a pile of ancient rubble looking rather abandoned in a corner of some sunny cloisters, hidden at the back of the Cathedral.

I can’t tell you how the rubble came to be in the Cathedral, nor exactly how ancient it is, but the splendid mix of lines and angles, dimensions and textures was a real temptation for me, and I set to work almost immediately, taking great care over the shadows cast and the rough texture remaining from these once fine architectural elements.

Jerez Ruins

Ancient Rubble, Jerez de la Frontera (©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

The result is a sketch which shows very little of Jerez itself, but certainly captures something of the historically rich, often dilapidated fabric of this beautiful Andalucian city. And for that reason alone, it seems like an appropriate note on which to end this series on Cadiz and Jerez… until Southern Spain beckons again. It won’t be long in coming.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. 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 Travel Sketchbook: The Parque Genovés

The curves, the twirls, the uninhibited wonder of the topiary of the Parque Genovés could not help but sew the seeds of creation in my head. From one creator to another, the spirit of free and unhindered artistry traversed the air like pollen flying on a Summer’s breeze. Within minutes of entering this verdant wonderland I put pen to paper, and this was the result.

Sat on a bench in this hallway of manicured box-hedge, it was difficult to feel totally at ease. Somehow those twisted and tailored trees took on an anthropomorphic quality; like statesman gathering for a discussion of grave national import. Yet at the same time, the quality of the air, filtered through a haze of botanical layering, and the sound of nearby birds fluttering from one crafted bush to another, induced a somniferous sense of tranquility which pervaded the moment, and this sketch.

Parque Genovés

The Parque Genovés, Cadiz (©2018, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Lucky I had my trusty travel sketchbook with me to capture this scene. As gardens go, the Parque Genovés is a true mark of humankind getting creative with nature, and nature seemingly condescending to the mark of beauty which ensnares it.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. 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 Travel Sketchbook: Chania Harbour

It’s been a long time since I took out travel sketchbook. Not since Aix-en-Provence have I set pen to paper, and yet I suppose there’s plenty of argument for London being sufficient source of sketching inspiration. Sadly, this life of ours does not provide time for everything, but our Cretan Odyssey was one such occasion which felt apt for a little sketching. So to Crete we return (after our brief sojourn in Sussex) and onto the pages of my sketchbook which had turned their sights in the direction of Chania’s stunning little Venetian harbour.

Chania Harbour

Chania’s Venetian Harbour, looking East (©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

When we first arrived out our hotel in Chania, and stepped onto the balcony, light met our eyes with a dazzling intensity as the Grecian sunshine reflected off the cerulean sea and onto the glimmering whites and creams of the painted harbourside buildings. As an artist, spoilt for choice was to put it mildly. I could have painted and sketched and taken inspiration from 50 or so details of the awe-inspiring views set out before us. But sadly, time was short. With only 4 days to enjoy the vistas, I set about painting the view looking East in the evenings, when the sun from the West illuminated the mosque and the surrounding buildings, and in the mornings, I would turn Westwards, to this beautiful view of the harbour curving its way around the sea, like a mother’s embrace of the ocean – her favourite child.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. 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 Travel Sketchbook: A Fountain in Aix

I dragged my trusty travel sketchbook all the way down to the South of France, and in my bag from Marseille to Cassis to L’Estaque. Yet it wasn’t until we got to Aix-en-Provence that I was inspired to take it out, and begin sketching the romantically quaint streets of this Provençal gem. Aix is a town of such interrupted charm that any part of the place could have been picked at random and replicated as a painting or sketch. Yet for me, Aix’s enduring appeal arises in the trickling of its fountains, be they wall-mounted masterpieces or the large round basins from which statues peruse the streets and spray water high into the air while around them diners sit and enjoy the somniferous trickle.

A study of Aix’s many fountains could easily occupy a day, at the very least, especially if you take time to sit back and enjoy a glass or two of rosé wine alongside their ripped waters. It was a study which inspired my painting of Aix’s many fountains shortly after my last trip to the city, yet the hours of work which that painting required did not render them commonplace in my eyes. Rather, it was one of my favourites of the lot – the fountain just off the Cours Mirabeau, with a three dimensional star crowning its apex- which finally encouraged me to reopen my sketchbook to the light of day. This is the result.

Aix Sketch

Aix, street detail (©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2017, pen on paper)

© 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 Sicily Sketchbook: An Aperol in Taormina

Just when it looked like the Daily Norm’s Sicily series was at a close, I have a few final hurrahs to add to the collection, in the form of Sicily inspired artworks, naturally. The first is this one, a further page of the second volume of my trusty travel sketchbook, which was started in Catania and went with me along my travels across the south east of Italy’s most inspiring island. This sketch depicts the Piazza 9 Aprile in the bustling little hilltop town of Taormina.

Taormina Sketch

Drinks on the Piazza 9 Aprile, Taormina (© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2017, pen on paper)

Given its reputation as the Capri of Sicilia, Taormina is a town aptly peppered with plenty of boutique designer stores, baroque embellished houses and a panoply of cafes, their tables spilling out onto the black and white chequerboard pavements. It was in one such café that I began this sketch, an aperol spritz appropriately placed on the table before me, while around us, street musicians provided the perfect accompaniment to a wonderful afternoon moment. But the aperol did not last long, and soon enough we were off to dinner. The completion of this sketch had to wait, therefore, until many weeks later back in a decidedly less Sicilian UK… hence its delayed publication on The Daily Norm. But as they say, better late than never…

© 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