Archive for Creative Course / En Plein Air

New Comments in our Guest Book…

It’s great when guests really get a handle on what we are all about. This is from a Texan architect turned teacher after a weeks course with us. You can read more comments in our guest book here…

Laura Williams

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En Plein Air / Don’t think just pink…

En Plein Air February 500

Spain is the worlds second largest producer of almonds at 282.100 tons per year and especially, in our arid piece of Spain, it is an essential cash crop growing as it does at altitude.

almond blossom scan copy

It flowers early too compared to other fruiting trees. This year with the winter being mild we can expect it to be flowering at the end of February which is why we have programmed this course for this time of year.

almond blossom:telecoms

But don’t assume that the landscape becomes just pink. More often it is the relationship between the colour of the blossom and the surrounding landscape that makes a truly observed picture successful. And importantly February makes for increased drama…

blossom 12:03:09

And it’s important to consider that earth colours, siennas, ochres and umbers are opaque. Light bounces off their surfaces. Light is reflected into you eye whereas almond blossom (for example) is translucent…

almond blossom

and the sunlight passes through the flower petal. This is why watercolour is such a wonderful medium for like almond blossom the colour is translucent. Light passes through watercolour and bounces off the white reflective paper back to your eye. This is what gives water colour such vivaciousness.

blossom below la muela


Van Gogh was keen on almond blossom too.

On January 31, 1890, Theo wrote to Vincent of the birth of his son, whom he had named Vincent Willem Van Gogh, (as we know he was extremely close to his younger brother), Van Gogh immediately set about making him a painting of his favorite subject: blossoming branches against a blue sky. The gift was meant to hang over the couple’s bed. As a symbol of this new life, Vincent chose an almond tree, which blooms early in southern regions, announcing the coming spring as early as February. Van Gogh Museum

almond blossom event

If you would like to come and join us all are welcome. The weeks course is 850€ all inclusive apart from airport transfers. Expect sunny, beautiful days painting and convivial evenings by the wood fire and eating good food. For further details contact Simon at [email protected] This will be a quality learning experience.

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Creative Course / En Plein Air


There is a good chance that we are going to have an early Spring this year as the weather has been so mild and warm. Come and join us…..

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Creative Course / ‘En Plein Air’


At 15 m high (50ft), a canopy of 20m in diameter (65ft) and a trunk nearly 2m (6 1/2 ft) thick, this is the Aleppo pine growing at Cortijo del Pino. It’s 200 years old.

Holm Oak

A Holm Oak, (Quercus ilex) it’s grazing line determined by hungry wild boar looking for acorns.


A creative guest painting in the shade of  the awning…

rio caramel

Early evening, an abandoned farm house on the Rio Caramel

Torre de Salazar

Torre de Salazar with cave houses on the Alto Plano.

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Making Paint

paint pigment

Here at Los Gázquez we realised, a long time ago, that the best way to connect to a landscape you may want to include in any prospective art piece, is to make colour from the very land you are using as your subject.

samara 1We start the day with our ‘creative guests’ setting out for a walk from the cortijada into the nearby sierras. These are sedimentary, rocky mountain ranges that stretch from the Sierra Nevada all the way to Italy and are rich in calcium carbonates (obviously) and sand stone. The combination of the two create some fantastic chemical precipitates which are there for the taking. Erosion through the action of extreme weather events coursing down normally dry fluvial systems reveal a rich source of colour and variety.

samara 2Some deposits are pure chalk and are equally useful in creating colour as well as a medium for holding colour such as gouache or even pastel.

I love it when at a thousand meters or more up in the mountains you can uncover shells from the sea bed. It’s interesting to note that even forested slopes, after a little observation, start to reveal their strata.

samara 3

Even minerals that are mixed with higher amounts of organic matter are permissible. As long as it has a high ‘tinting’ strength then it is fine to use. For our purposes ‘fugitive’ pigments (pigments which are impermanent and may blacken in time) are fine as this is more of an exercise than a commercial operation. High tannin levels in the forest floor help. Our samples are ‘riddled’ and ground into fine powder and then added to a variety of ‘vehicles’ such as water, which on paper sufficiently textured to adopt colour is fine, Gum Arabic, which is the sappy excreta of acacia as well as co-polymer (wood glue) diluted with water.

samara 4Different qualities of refraction are achieved depending upon the tinting strength of the pigment and the texture and absorbency of the paper it is being applied to.

It’s a simple observation really, and one that escapes people, but to capture the colour of a mountain, a good place to start is to capture the colour of a mountain.

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Slow Life

Cortijada Los Gázquez had more than a few kind words from these interesting folks last week…

slow life

and you can read more by looking here.

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Comments (1)

‘THE GREAT ALMOND BLOSSOM SPECTACULAR’. Creative Courses / Spring 2010 @ Cortijada Los Gázquez


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