Portugal Roundabouts

In Portugal, there are some unique things you take notice.  How the homes sparkle with hand-painted tiles, the abundance of lemon and orange trees, and the popularity of pastelerias, or bakeries in English.

But if you’re living in a small town such as Sao Joao Da Madeira, what is quite noticeable are the roundabouts.  Yes, the little circles that makes the cars go round and round.  There are more roundabouts in this town than any others in Portugal.  Because of the abundance of these man-made wonders, there are maybe one or two stoplights in the entire town.

My studio window faces one, and believe me it’s always action-packed.  There’s a poetry in motion of watching cars going around these circles.  Many cars don’t slow down.  They can’t go too fast though because of the pedestrian crosswalks.  Not by law, but by honor the drivers must stop whenever someone crosses the street.  It’s one of those things that just makes you go “I don’t ever see that in the USA”.

Which brings me to painting two different “Roundabouts” paintings.  Two different perspectives.  The centerpiece is the oval-size water fountain in the middle of the circle.  But I wanted to try different things with both works.  The sunlight on the streets, the shadows, the depths of the trees.  “12pm” was done a few days before “6pm”.  Rather than usually explaining, I would like for you to observe and see the difference and make your own conclusions with both paintings.  The only intentional plan I had in mind was to keep the brushstrokes simple in a complex composition.  I also saved the cars for last, as I wanted to add a little life to the roads.  If you ever get to Portugal, you’ll see what I mean.  What do you think?


Portugal Roundabout 6pm

Portugal Roundabout 12pm


Yellow Porto House

Yellow Porto House was done from one of my trips to lovely Porto.  It’s a rustic, gritty and hilly (but never silly) old city that has a lot of charm and history.  One of my favorite things to do in Porto is just walking around and taking every sight, smell and hint of Portuguese food in through my senses.  There’s always something new to discover every time I visit.  Last time I visited Porto, I went to the Gaiya section, which really is the tourist part of town along the river.  And it’s quite nice as you might expect.  Lots of new and old shops, filled with antiques and local crafts.  Personally, I can’t get enough of the Ginja (cherry liquor) in a small chocolate edible cup that’s so divine, it yells out, “here I am, now we can celebrate!”.

So after my short affair in that part of town, I walked in the quiet parts of the neighborhood nearby.  I love the old homes and the way the tiles and rooftops just have its own character.  The old homes are the true personalities of Porto.  When I came across a yellow house on a short and narrow path, I was in awe.  I had to stop and marvel the beauty surrounding it.  The house in-between two other buildings.  But even more, the view ahead of the house.  The Porto Eifel bridge, built by the same guy who built the Eifel tower in France in the distance.  The natural blue skies with the fluffy clouds from an old Portuguese storybook, it all made for the perfect setting of my next painting.

I used my limited palette of colors on an orange background along with a sketch of the scenes.  I knew ahead that the yellow house was the main focal point and the lightest object, and the path in front would be the darkest.  Painting the river and its bridges in the background, I had to lighten up so they would recede in the distance.  I used limited brushstrokes for the yellow house and that turned out great.  I got expressive with the rooftop and added the stones for the walls in the foreground.  There was a lot going on, but also a lot of variety.  And the angles of perspective helped.  So glad I did this one, it was fun and can’t wait to do the next one!


Yellow Porto House
11×14 inches
oil on canvas board

Innocent Jim Morrison

Being Jim Morrison couldn’t have been easy.  Was he really an innocent bystander of the chaos around him?  You have all these adoring fans who love you for the wrong reasons perhaps?  At least that’s what Jim must have thought while his tenure was in The Doors.  Outside of his bubble, people assumed he was a spastic, wild man at a rock-n-roll circus.


Painting an innocent, poetic legend…

Inspired by the lizard king himself,  I wanted to see what my rendition would look like from a tv photo I saw from a soundstage performance.  I wasn’t trying to get the likeness as much as the essence.  And I used a limited palette of colors and brushstrokes.  With unapologetic, decisive calligraphy-like brushstrokes, It resulted in a clean, unfiltered version which surprised me when I saw the result.  I’m a huge Robert Henri fan and his influence was clear from this oil study.  Not really a finished painting, but just a quick drawing of possibilities.  I was trying to break through my own personal boundaries as well.


Back to the Lizard

The Doors were often mentioned like a “mirror”, to reflect what was happening in the 60’s.  Jim expressed himself in a highly intelligent form of music that was truly poetic, because that’s what his mystical lyrics were.  Mystical and beautiful.  Pure Poetry.  Purer Magic.  Bob Dylan was similar in that he express his poetic views of the times as well, but Jim took that to another cosmic dimension where abstract thinking and the sublime subconscious brought us to different worlds to help see our own from a different perspective.  Maybe not so innocent?


Rebelling against himself?

Yes, the Doors and especially Jim Morrison helped break boundaries of what reality was and could possibly be.   He lived, breathed and believed his own art and wanted people to believe it with him.  Unsurprisingly, Jim became antagonistic towards most of his fans because he thought all they wanted to witness was the spectacle of a wild child rock god.  “Hear my words if you want to understand me”.  How displeasing Jim must have felt knowing most people didn’t quite understand his words at that time.

Years after Jim broke through to the other side, his music and words endure today.  Time has revealed the endurance of the artist’s poetry and persona.  In fact, the lizard was deemed a mythical figure and somehow gave the audience exactly what they wanted.  A legend or jester?  A musical shaman or superficial showman?  Additionally, Jim was never perceived as an innocent artist in the circus of life.  As a result, he became an unapologetic outlaw wearing his snakeskin soul on his sleeve.


This is the end…

To conclude, Jim Morrison tested the boundaries of music and life.  Most of all, he gave us a new meaning of what possibilities are within us if we just recognize the beauty in our light and darkness.  Expressing your own art isn’t always rainbows or roses.  Especially if you’re an artist and sometimes you have to let the darkness in to make it free again.  Painting Jim was great for me and personally I felt like I broke through something special.  Jim broke through the darkness to help us see our own insecurities and accept them, so that we may bravely experience some personal revelation within ourselves.  And through his art, we sure did.