Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Day Two: Tracy Spiers, Cotswold Life journalist enjoys learning new painting techniques on holiday in Gozo

Study with soluble graphite

Gozo day two, by Tracy Spiers

Spend day with the painters, getting to know them and the peaceful surroundings around Xlendi, immediately around hotel area. Authentic Adventures enable guests to have not only a visual experience, but a cultural and culinary one too. It’s quite amazing what comes out of Hotel San Andrea’s kitchen. Staff are calm and nothing is too much trouble. Catering for a large number such as ours must have its challenges, but food is excellently presented and delicious. While the walking group don on boots and head off with their Maltese leader Annalise Falzon, I join the artistic tribe and benefit from watercolour and pen and wash demonstrations from Roger.

Roger Jones demonstrating pen and wash
I’m introduced to soluble graphite pencil and away I go. While others capture the beauty of the place, I’m drawn to the traces and palimpsest on the walls, crumbling buildings and layers of peeling paint and historic building fabric. What narratives and secrets do they hold, who has lived here and enjoyed this place I am now in.

Local boy six-year-old Giuseppe keeps me company with his animated conversation while I attempt to paint and draw, accompanied by my faithful friend Mr. Latte. Like my twins Giuseppe too likes chicken nuggets and pizza. His mother works nearby and he pops home to get his own set of paints to make his own marks.

Roger Jones demonstrating to the group
Texture on wall study, by Tracy Spiers
Painting has its own language. The brush, depending on how it’s used can be used to describe, inform and highlight in the way verbs and adjectives do. The key is to build up your own vocabulary. I enjoy chatting to fellow artists just as much as the act of painting itself. Each individual here has a story to tell and add their own flavour to the holiday as well as art work. A leisurely healthy lunch on the terrace of Hotel San Andrea complete with Gozo’s amazingly mouth-watering strawberries sets off the afternoon. Later run along the coast, up a steep hill and coastal path to reach the Xlendi Tower, the oldest one in Gozo, built in 1650 to prevent enemy fleets invading the bay. Up here get a clear view of this beautiful town and sheer magnificence of steep rock faces; below me salt pans and pure white rock. Imitate land artist Richard Long by leaving my trace by drawing with a stick in the white dust. Get refreshed by devouring Amaretto icecream with Sheila, a fellow painter, before embarking on more line drawings. Later enjoy catching up with walkers who are refreshed yet exhausted after a long day trekking in the fresh air. Group is relaxed as folk get to know each other better. Many of us sample Braggioli, or “beef olives” (although there’s not one olive in sight) - the most famous example of Maltese cuisine.