As I was travelling through Portugal some years ago I had started sketching old people, together or lonely. And last year when I was in Italy I got the idea to make a series about old people from around the world, meaning, wherever I go, I try to capture them in their special loneliness or togetherness. A theme very dear to my heart, as I am generally very fond of our senior citizens, loving to see them still enjoying life, and hating to see them lonely. I called the series:
“My Dear Old People”
I have painted so far old people from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Republic Czech and Morocco. And now from Cyprus.
I had hardly a chance to catch sight of old people in Ayia Napa, it being more oriented towards fun and youth I would say. It was certainly better in our next port of call, in Nicosia, the “last divided” capital in the world, apparently – and especially in the Turkish part of it. We had entered it on foot, via the “No Borders Street”, and got a three month visa at the end of it. A very weird feeling by the way. I meant to do a painting of that street full of poignant graffiti and political slogans, but somehow I felt that it would be some kind of inappropriate voyeurism and I let the motif go… It hurt though!
Most of the tourists who had crossed seemed to stay close to the border, not daring to venture further, probably scared of what would befall them. Much blood had been spilled in the Turkish/Greek conflict in Cyprus, so perhaps it was better to be careful. But Kevin and me, we are two daredevils and we walked a long way away. In fact I wanted to have a better look at the mountain on which an enormous Turkish flag was painted. But after many kilometres the mountain still hadn’t appeared, as if it vanished once one was in Turkey!
Instead I saw these two old men walking the street together… just wonderful!
I don’t really like to photograph old people, too scared to offend them. So if I want to paint them, I have to be quick, or have a good photographic memory. In fact, no, scratch that, I haven’t got such a memory, it does not work with me, my brain is a machine which transforms everything my eyes see into a mathematical form, and there is hardly any way for me to transform it back into a picture when I need it. So, I have normally to make a sketch on the site, or take a quick photo when they don’t look. Neither of these 2 alternatives is easy. Sometimes the sketches are good enough, other times I have to redo them at home.
I saw the old woman knitting in an old open-air building, with interesting multiple arch architecture, and a kind of inside patio. Through the combination of the warm old stones and the blue sunny sky above the light inside there was simply divine. The place was vibrant, full of people sitting around, most of them were men though. And there were also plenty of great motifs for my old people series
That woman did look immersed in her activity, so I thought I could perhaps risk a photo. I observed her for a while first, and came to the conclusion that she didn’t lose one detail of everything which was going on around her! One might think that old people are often absent-minded … no way! They rarely miss a thing, and considering their wisdom -which is not a myth…- and their life experience, they don’t need long to understand what is going on.
So I went away and made a fast sketch from a distance, drawing only the main lines. The painting is based on that sketch.
I adored that motif of these 4 old guys sitting together around a table and intensely chatting behind a book stand. I don’t believe they were discussing any of the books, as there were no books on the table. Curious as I am, I would have loved to know what they were talking about!
A difficult theme though, but I did my best… One will notice that James Patterson is also read in Turkish Nicosia!
This old guy and the whole stuff around was certainly a delight for my artist’s eyes!
I think every scene I saw in that building was a potential painting as such and I wished I had had time to paint some more. But we had to head back to the other part of Nicosia, not before having a well-deserved “occupied latte” which I will publish in this blog later when I start presenting my new ‘travel mugs’ series…
There will be more paintings from my dear old people in Cyprus, but it is enough for now. The walk through the Turkish part of Nicosia was really like a trip to another continent, and the paintings done there should be treated separately, I feel. I would like to add that these four have been done on a very simple sketching paper, usually used for pencil and certainly not adequate for watercolour painting. But I had nothing else with me. It is interesting though to see that this paper is taking the watercolour in a very weird way, it sucks it inside instantaneously, and the colour vanishes slightly from the surface, giving the paintings some kind of old fashioned, ancient look and consequently historic depth. And somehow, I feel, it suits very well the motifs and the place. So, ultimately, I am quite happy about it.
Oh yes, for those who don’t know where is Nicosia, or Cyprus, here it is (according to Google Map):
These paintings are available directly online as Giclee print in many different dimensions, on paper or canvas, and also as greeting cards. Just click on the widget below to access my FAA Gallery