September 5, 2020

View from a hotel window in Ribeiro (riverside) district, Virtual Visit to Proto Portugal, August 8, 2020 (black ink and Inktense pencil on 6 in by 9 in watercolor paper)

Church (Igreja de Santo Ildefonso) with azulejo tiles and streetcar, Virtual Visit to Proto Portugal, August 8, 2020 (black ink and Inktense pencil on 6 in by 9 in watercolor paper)

Virtual View of street scene in Porto, Portugal, August 8, 2020 (black ink and Inktense pencils on 6 in by 9 in watercolor paper)

On July 4, 2020 I wrote about my June 5th virtual sketching tour of Italy. It didn’t go well, artistically speaking, for me and several days later I took myself on a solo tour of Vernazza. While looking at photos I had taken on a previous visit there I came across a view from our hotel window. The memory of my looking out that window immediately transported me to a pleasant virtual visit to the Cinque Terre. I think that image transferred much more successfully with my water soluble pastels on pastel board than the watercolors I did while virtually visiting Pienza and Bolsa, Italy. (I will probably never post those watercolors on One CA Girl.) Fast forward two months to August 8, and on to yet another virtual sketching event. This time we went to Porto, Portugal. Several of my sketching friends had been there for the July 2018 Urban Sketchers symposium. Each of those attendees said they had had a lovely time there and wanted to go back for another visit. I have never been to Portugal, but was definitely game for this trip as I had a plan to make this journey more successful than the June 5th trip to Italy. For our three thirty minute sketches in Porto I planned not to do full on watercolors, like I had previously attempted. Instead I had 6 by 9 rectangles of watercolor paper at the ready. And I was prepared to use only permanent black ink and a few colors of Inktense pencil. Then, when our group leader told us we had 5 minutes or less to finish a sketch, I stopped what I was doing, adding water to each piece as either a spray or a wet brush. 

I think my sketching plan worked. These pieces are OK. But I have to say that even though our “Porto” leader was playing music from Portugal while we were painting I was expecting to hear a different kind of singing, a different sound. What was I looking for? You’ll never guess. I was looking to hear a Bossa Nova beat, like something from Brazil. In fact I am listening to just that kind of music as I am writing this. I know, I know, just because the people in both countries speak Portuguese, I shouldn’t expect them to have the same kind of music, right?

So, I put it to you, if you could go somewhere to either sketch or just hang out (maybe listening to some music), where would you go? Maybe there’s someplace you have always wanted to visit. I have a few places on my list: several castles in Scotland, a couple gardens in Ireland, the Nairobi National Park, Vancouver/Victoria BC and Japan’s Nakasendo Trail, to name just a few. Of course if I could take a virtual trip in the Star Ship Enterprise’s Holodeck, I could go to all of those places and more. Because not only could I journey anywhere in real time, but I could also go back in time to a certain place as well. That would be amazing. 

Well, here we go! Set the Holodeck controls for 1960s Rio de Janeiro. I can just imagine a young girl walking down a street on her way to Ipanema Beach. A song was written about just such a girl by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, who sat many afternoons at a bar watching her walk by. In 1964 a song called The Girl from Ipanema was released on an album featuring Jobim, with his unique vocals and guitar and the bossa nova sound. But there was much more to this first recording and subsequent album because it also included the saxophone stylings of Stan Getz, a prominent and well known American jazz musician at that time. (Getz and Gilberto on the Verve label) And as I am still in the Holodeck I can listen to that hypnotic sound as it comes through my dad’s huge speakers in our living room in San Jose. He was enchanted with almost every song from both sides of that LP. And because we were surrounded with such music on a daily basis, I also became enchanted with that bossa nova jazz sound—even though most of the songs were sung in Portuguese. (I couldn’t understand a word.) But what’s great about that virtual trip is that I will never really need the Holodeck to go there. If I wish to be transported to that place and time all I need is the Getz and Gilberto album cover. Olga Albizu, an abstract impressionist from Puerto Rico, did the painting for it. Check out her work and music that went with it. You won’t be disappointed. As for me, I didn’t have to even take out my paints or brushes for this virtual sketching trip. I was just along for the ride.

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