I took a few days out from my Spanish commission to visit the town of Ronda, famous for its bullring and for the Puente Nuevo. The temperature here in Augustexceeds 40°Cduring the middle of the day, so I worked in the morning and in the late afternoon when it was cooler.
Some artists have a motif which they find so fascinating that they return to it again and again. In my case (and that of David Bomberg before me), it is the ‘new’ bridge at Ronda. Built from 1751–1793 by Juan Antonio Díaz Machuca to a design by José Martín de Aldehuela, it is the most recent of the three bridges which cross the river Guadalevín. The earlier ones were built further upstream where the river is not as wide, as only smaller spans were possible at the times of their construction. The building at the top of the gorge is the Parador, which I have simplified for effect.
I have already shown you some prints of the dramatic gorge in my first blog. Here are some more images showing different approaches to the same motif:
One way of adding colour to prints is to apply individual coloursto a single plate surface with small inking tools called ‘dollies’. The technique is known as à la poupée ( French for ‘ with a doll’). As you can imagine, it is a delicate operation and takes time. I used this method in the colour intaglio prints shown in the Gallery.
This watercolour was exhibited at The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.
The ‘Morning’ version was also shown at The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and at the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolourin their Contemporary Watercolours Exhibition.
See the Gallery, for more of Ronda: intaglio prints, some touched with pastel; and a Lithograph.
The prints of the bullfight and of the Sherry bar in Madrid are from a later trip but I’ve included them in this Spanish blog.
Sol y Sombrawas drawn from a photo in the Tauromachy Museum– the bullfightingmuseum at the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda. This was printed from two plates (another way of adding colour) and is a varied edition.
La Venencia is also a two-colour edition. The actual venencia from which this unspoilt Madrid tapas bar gets its name can be seen hanging behind the bar to the left of the picture
When I moved from Sanlúcar to Jerez, I made sure that I had an air-conditioned room. Result, bliss!
August is the end of the season for the sherry makers, the harvest is in and it is just too hot to work.Jane C. Ward was kind enough to invite me to their end-of-year party at Lustau. After swirling the amber nectar round the glass, the professionals always throw a little onto the floor. I never discovered the origin nor reason for this habit. I think it might be superstitious, like, for example, throwing salt over the shoulder.
Historically, there is quite a lot of British influence in the sherry houses. Sr Beltrán Domecq WilliamsGonzález gave me a tasting of the entire Domecq range. Sadly, Domecq has been taken over but Sr Domecq is now President of the Consejo Regulador of Jerez. Domecq and González Byass also took me to their vineyards, where I made a couple of pastel sketches.
Before I made this visit to Spain, I was not a fan of sherry. When I returned, I definitely was! If you are prepared not to follow fashion and choose carefully, I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by the variety and the quality of this undervalued wine.
My trip to the sherry region was a commission fromTheWine Society, whose current list contains examples from each of these producers – Domecq is now listed as Osborne.
I have included some prints of other parts of Spain:
A triptych of Arcos, a hill town. This is a two-colour varied edition (sometimes called a monoprint) where each print is unique.
The Aficionado(a portrait of a guest at Lustau’s party) is a soft-ground etching in a two-colour edition.
Fixing the Cask is a portrait of a tonelero working in one of Lustau’s bodegas
On the left, is a page from my sketchbook. On the right, is the etchingthat I made from it – one of a number that I made of the bodegas in the Sherry Triangle.
Below are seven development stages of an etching of another bodega.
All bodegas are dark, all the windows are small and are covered with a woven strawmat. The idea is to keep out the light. The etching plate initially does not show this darkness. Proof no. 2 is shown with a blue tint(I mention this, just so you can work out the order). The remainder have been proofed in black ink.
After each proof is taken off the press, the plate is assessed and might receive further work before placing it back in the acid bath and inking up for the next proof.
This process continues – in this case, seven times – until the artist is satisfiedwith the result. Further proofs may be taken from the final ‘state’, to assess the result of using different inksand/or papers.
Here is another page from my sketchbook
and the hand-coloured etching which developed from it.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda is a seaside town on the Southern coast of Spain. The majority of visitors are Spaniards and the town retains its workaday character. A major industry here is the production of Manzanilla, a dry fino sherry. Its maturation in the damp bodegas of Sanlúcar de Barrameda gives it a slightly salty tang and distinguishes it from the finos of El Puerto Santa María and Jerez.
Although I was on the coast, there was little in the way of cooling breezes, and my choice of a traditional hotel – complete with an internal courtyard and a well for water – was thus, ill founded, especially as it was August. For the first few days, I raced around the town making sketches and taking photos. I thought that the long Siesta was for wimps. ¡Pero no! As Noel Coward used to sing: ‘…mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day Sun’. I found out the hard way why the locals keep to the shade and rest after lunch.
On my wanderings around the town, I came across the sherry makers Messrs Barbadillo and after a time of watching the coopers (toneleros) at work in their yard, I was invited in for a closer look. One man in particular was keen to show me the different tasks and tools involved in creating a butt. Subsequently, I made a series of etchings of this man’s skills.
One morning, I called Sr Hidalgo out of the blue. On hearing that I was in Sanlúcar, he invited me to visit him immediately and took me personally to some of the Hidalgobodegas. I made an etching of him wielding the venencia, which is the long ladle-like tool used to extract samples of the sherry from below the level of the flor in the butt. There is nothing quite like tasting sherry straight from the butt. Recently, the producers have marketed Sherry en rama, which tries to replicate this taste experience by bottling without filtration and sterilisation.
Sr Hidalgo’s assistant, Tim, was kind enough to demonstrate the use of the jarra, the traditional implement used to transfer wine from one solera to the next.
The high point of the year in Sanlúcar is the annual horse racing along the beach. Sr Javier Hidalgo loves to compete in these races. He is also a keen ornithologist and donates to a local wildlife fund from the sales of his best sherry (with a bird on the label).
My reason for being in the ‘sherry triangle’ (Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa María) was to carry out an illustration commission for TheWine Society (examples from Barbadillo and from Hidalgo are in their current list). In addition to vignettes to illustrate their List, they also wanted a view of the restaurants along the Sanlúcar seafront for the cover. My illustration employs a degree of artistic licence, grouping together the best buildings and showing holiday diners in full flow.