We sit in the heart of the vast landscape of Extremadura, which belies the pre-conceived ideas of those who have yet to experience it by its diversity and dynamism. Although well-known as a top destination for lovers of nature and for those seeking an authenicity of rural Spain, it is still hardly known as a place for painters... but this may be about to change.
Early autumn in Extremadura is an ideal time for landascape painting. The dramatic tones and contrasts of the dry ground vegetation against the dark evergreen trees of the dehesas remain from summer, yet the temperatures are gentle enough to sit outside throughout the day. The promise of autumnal rain brings sometimes dramatic skies. Careful observation reveals a dynamism as well, with the emergence of life as manifest by the appearance of the tiny shoots of new grass. This brings subtle and interesting tonal change to the landscape as well.
This year we have hosted our first two landscape watercolour holidays, each five days long and led by Peter Delahaye, who is not only an accomplished international painter, but also an expert mentor.
Peter and Martin had carefully developed an itinerary based on a selection of sites which allowed participants (from Italy, UK and Canada) to explore a selection of different landscapes, each opening up opportunities too to develop different techniques and approaches.
These included the ancient olive groves of the Sierra de los Lagares, a landscape of hillslopes, ascents and descents, with the stands of olive trees, each distinctively shaped. We viewed the medieval town of Trujillo from the berrocal of granite outcrops.
The Villuercas Mountains offered participants extraordinary rock formations, colours and reflections, whilst the plains brought views of wide open space with distant forested sierras. The holiday concluded with the challenge of painting in the spectacular Monfragüe National Park, massive cliffs and vast dehesas.
For some of the participants it was the first time since their schooldays that they had painted, for others an opportunity to experiment with different techniques. Everyone explored new territories and the results were a fascinating portrayal of these experiences, in both figurative and abstract.
We are now preparing plans for the watercolour painting holidays for 2016, so pleased are we with the sense of satisfaction and achievement shown by all the participants this year. A big thank you to all of them and to Peter for inspiring us all.