A new design for Society6 (at last!)

Casa das Flores

I think my craving for old colonial buildings in Brazil is finally mellowing. I am spending less time running around trying to draw them all, and more time being inspired by my own sketches, using them as a springboard for more imaginative works.
Casa das Flores (detail)
In this one I imagined a three-storey building as a vase for giant flowers and foliage.
Casa das Flores (detail)The original painting was made with watercolours, gouache, and a sepia drawing pen on Arches HP paper. At first I really meant to colour the house as brightly as the flowers, using this sketch of Theatro Santa Roza as my guide, but after drawing the building in pen, saw that an almost black-and-white house provided better contrast.
Theatro Santa Roza

I can always try again: the ideas that I didn’t use in this painting will probably turn up in the next, and in the ones after that…
studies and thumbnails (Casa das Flores)This is available as an Art Print on paper and canvas in my SOCIETY6 shop. I will try to have the design available as bags, throw pillows, phone cases, and other products, before the end of the week.

Casa das Flores art print on Society6

(more) Joao Pessoa street art

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rainy day painting

cerveja Bohemia
The rainy season started a few days ago…and on Sunday the trains don’t run, either (boo!) I stayed home, on the gloomy shadowy boat, shut in to keep the rain out, making postcards out of cereal boxes and sketching a bottle of my favorite local beer.
March 8 rainy day
Also a salgadinho…a fancy name for any savoury snack. This one was sort of like a sausage roll, but made with better pastry. A dollar for three, but they were small.
salgadinho

sketchbook pages

sketch mosaicIn case you weren’t aware of it, I keep images of most of my recent sketchbook pages on another blog, schizzograffia.

I haven’t been taking many photos or doing much in the way of deep thinking, lately (LOL) but Kris and I have been going out to sketch things in the towns to our left and right (João Pessoa and Cabedelo) pretty much every other day. Full-sized images are on there…you can click the mosaic of pages, too.

street art, João Pessoa (Brasil)

street art around Joao Pessoa

street art around Joao Pessoa

street art around Joao Pessoa

street art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoastreet art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoa

street art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoa

street art, Olinda (Brasil)

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Carnaval em Olinda

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Carnaval em Olinda

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Carnaval em Olinda

street art around Joao Pessoa

sketchwalk

26 Feb sketchwalk1
We went on a proper sketchwalk yesterday…left the camera at home to avoid the temptation to be lazy and use the excuse that I’m going to draw from photographs, later (really, really not the same…and you can see it very clearly in the drawings). I took a homemade brown paper bag sketchbook, a sepia felt-tip pen, a water brush and my watercolors, a white Steadtler Omnichrom pencil for highlights.

We took the 7:35 train into the Centro Historico, walked up the hill to the same mustard-yellow church, Igreja de São Pedro Gonçalves, that I’d photographed last Monday, and I found a cozy corner to sit in, right next to the Hotel Globo, a grand first subject. Kris walked off toward the train crossing to draw the little shacks and people on the other side of the tracks (European-style architecture doesn’t stir his soup, he grew up drawing castles and medieval buildings in Prague).

An hour and a half later we wandered up a cobbled street so steep that it was astounding (the aptly named “Ladeira de São Francisco” or Slope of Saint Francis) till we came to a stone bunker, the Casa da Pólvora (Gunpowder House, where they kept the gunpowder to defend the city). From this high vantage point I sketched the church we’d just left behind, looking over the brick roofs of its abandoned abbey buildings, the city, mangroves and hazy river lying behind.
26 Feb sketchwalk2

I only got two drawings done…I think I was trying too hard to accurately draw the Hotel Globo, and got mired in the details of perspective for far too long. We stopped at noon, when the sun beat down on the cobbled streets and there were no patches of shade to hide under in the Historical Center. We had lunch at a little open air rodizio (you are given a plate piled high with black bean stew, rice, and spaghetti noodles…and a waiter walks around with huge skewers of various char-grilled meats, and slices of the pieces you choose. He will keep on coming around, to pile more meat on your plate, until you ask him to stop. We pay $5.50 for two)

Then we went home.

The train runs from Cabedelo to Sta. Rita, along the ancient sugarcane-hauling route; João Pessoa and Jacaré are just two stations apart. One ride on the train, from anywhere to anywhere, costs 50 centavos…that’s 17 US cents. Mass transport is heavily subsidized by the Brazilian government. The trains are old, but very clean, extremely safe (two armed military police walk the length of the train during every single trip it makes) punctual, and never crowded. With going into the city so easy and cheap, I would like to go on sketchwalks several times a week…I have found that nothing makes me happier, while here, than sitting for a few hours and drawing what I see.

A city’s historical center

As casas do colonial

I sure hope you like the colonial Portuguese style of colorful, baroque houses as much as I do…because here are some more, and I suspect there will be months and months more of these confections.

As casas do colonial

We took the train into João Pessoa the other day, and walked around the city’s Centro Historico. This is where the city was founded in 1585…not at all near the beaches on the coast, overlooking the Atlantic ocean, but a good way inland, along the sleepy banks of the Rio Paraiba, where ships could dock and load up on sugar and extremely valuable brasil wood coming from the interior (hence the proximity of the railway to the Historical Center).

As casas do colonial

Unlike Olinda, with its very narrow streets and its air of a museum and residential area, the “wedding cake” buildings of João Pessoa are actively used as business premises.

As casas do colonial

At seeming variance with the vivid colour combinations, the frilly plaster mouldings, and the wrought iron balconies, the businesses housed in this area are mostly hardware and construction supplies, industrial spare parts, automobile parts and garages.

As casas do colonial

And while there are pockets in the area where the houses have been restored and done up to please the tourists and to live up to the bright images in the brochures, most of the buildings are succumbing to a slow decay. On some streets, entire house blocks have not been touched since the houses were built, 500 years ago. These houses are stripped to bare brickwork. The roofs are gone. The doors have been boarded up (sometimes the entire house has been filled in, with rubble and concrete, to discourage squatters). Trees grow inside the houses, vines creep up the once-ornate baroque facades.

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And much as I love the candy-coloured houses restored by money from benevolent societies in Switzerland and the UNESCO, I am more affected by the untouched buildings that stand as they have since they were built.

As casas do colonial

As casas do colonial

I think of what glorious, grand homes for the wealthy Portuguese traders they must have once been, and what an amazing little city João Pessoa must have been at the height of its commercial and political eminence, when it was the “CBD” of the state, and not just a patchily preserved wreck, propped up by historical societies.

As casas do colonial