La Finca Paradiso is a green oasis in the Almerian desert; a 33 acre bubble of tranquility where we make time stand still so you can concentrate on your painting and drawing… oh, and your tan… and swimming… and breakfast, lunch and supper of course… and a vino rosado or two in the Taj Mahita by the pool…
Artistically, it was a mixed bag for me, but then, I’m not there to focus on my work; I’m there to make sure you get the best out of yours. I have the privilege of knowing I’ll be back at La Finca Paradiso next year and that masterpiece will come when and only when I’m good and ready. Not that I’ll know! If Cezanne thought his first Mont St. Victoire was a masterpiece, would he have painted sixty-nine more versions, I wonder? How about Van Gogh’s fourteen sunflower paintings? It would be nice if a masterpiece happened at the finca, but it may equally appear at our table on the Stonebridge estate, once I’ve cleared the breakfast things out of the way. That’s why, on our art retreats, I place the emphasis on the work you will do, once that bubble of tranquility pops and you return home to new adventures in art.
My first demo was a landscape in acrylic that clearly showed why it’s so difficult to paint a field full of olive trees when the leaves are shining like little silver shillings in the afternoon sunlight. That green looks heavier than any salad I had for lunch.
My last demo’ was a portrait sketch in watercolour that illustrated just how useful Terre Verte can be when you stop putting it on your landscapes and put it on people instead.
This was my second attempt, by the way. Cezanne declared of one his portraits that after 115 sittings, he was ‘not altogether displeased with the shirt front,’ and John Singer Sargent said, ‘Whenever I paint a portrait, I lose a friend,’ so as P* and I were still speaking when we arrived at Bristol Baggage Reclaim, I have every reason to feel content with the result.
This drawing demo’ was an exercise in delayed gratification, designed to illustrate the value of making a value drawing (i.e. of light and shade) when all you really want to do is splash paint around but don’t know where to begin! Drawing is a good way of discovering what exactly is on your mind. I’m sure so many people avoid it because they’re worried that the answer might actually be… nothing!
And when it comes to working with colour, why can’t we know what we should have done before we paint our picture rather than after? This watercolour of an hibiscus flower was loads better than the one I’d just demo’ed in front of eight or nine people. If regret is illumination come too late, then my watercolour life is bright, indeed.
I announced to everyone on our first full day at the Finca, that they were all getting A’s for their week of art. The only condition was that they had to write to tell me why they got it (it’s not my idea, it’s Benjamin and Rosamund Zander’s from their book, The Art Of Possibility). I received some wonderful responses, but Virginia floored me with the following poem. Thank you Virginia for giving me permission to reproduce it here.
I learned to trust my eye.
I saw the diamond that a corner brings,
I wallowed in the sinuous curves
Where shape and shadow meld
To pictures in my head.
I heard the poetry of art
That noisy silence sings.
I drank the colours clear and clean
And found strength in my heart
To paint, depicting harder things:
The light that makes the water green
And haze that turns the mountains blue,
Magenta flowers, exotic trees,
Small details and the sweep of land.
Such things I painted, and I drew,
As by a magnet drawn to these.
I learned, at last, to trust my hand
When guided by the right side of my brain.
© Virginia Purchon, 2019