I have just returned from a lovely trip to Essaouira in Morocco. It is an incredibly vibrant place with its ancient medina full of tiny medieval alley ways. It also benefits from being on the Atlantic coast. The fishing harbour is one of the most exciting I have visited in all my travels with an incredible display of colourful wooden boats and ships creating a chaotic jumble of shapes and pattern. The fishing folk gather around the harbour walls to display their catch in assorted collections of boxes, wheelbarrows and baskets. The Berber characters are immensely interesting with ancient faces wrinkled and distorted by the Atlantic weather. I find it really frustrating not to be able to photograph them. I do ask but they invariably wag their fingers sternly or hide their faces. They believe that having their photographs ’taken’ means that their soul is also captured. So I contented myself with soaking up the electric atmosphere as the sun gradually sank into the ocean spreading its orange glow over the water. The many noisy seagulls swooped and soared wildly above and around waiting to grab tasty titbits, whilst cats of all shapes and sizes prowled and watched more stealthily from hidden corners.
When I go abroad and see all these colourful scenes I am often asked how I will use them in my subsequent paintings. Quite often, I soak up these experiences but rarely use the information gathered in an obvious way. When you have an artists voice I think it will show through in whatever subject you choose to paint but personally I like to limit my subjects so that they are all linked to a theme. My Moroccan experiences are likely to influence my thinking but perhaps towards certain spicy colours , for example, or a magical oriental atmosphere rather than in terms of the actual subject itself . Some of these, like the fishing boats are outside the ‘nature’ theme that I am committed to at the moment. However, when away from home I am also looking out for familiar subjects with a different flavour. In Morocco I was drawn towards the light shining through gaps in the argan and olive trees, I photographed farm animals in country settings and textures in the landscape. It is just lovely to have a change of scene and come back feeling refreshed and invigorated.