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Peacocks, Pigs and Painting in Portugal

What a wonderful week we had in Portugal on our painting holiday this month! Our small group of eight enjoyed an incredible week of cultural travel and art in the Portuguese countryside, while towing along our paints and drawing mediums to capture the beauty. From the views of bright green hills and valleys filled with wild flowers to the beaches, town and castle visits, the experience was authentic and heartfelt.

All of it was new to most of the guests, who had never been to Portugal, but ‘new’ is not the best way to describe where we were. Aldeia da Mata Pequena, a wonderfully restored 400-year-old village reminiscent of a fairy tale, is located in the wholesome countryside just a 30 minute drive from Lisbon.

Upon arrival, we were met with the quiet of a tiny street laid with limestone bricks and lined with stone and white-washed cottages. The sounds and sites were exciting yet comforting. They made us want to explore the small street of quaint guest homes adorned with clay pottery, wild flowers and fruit trees. They made us want to approach the many animals around us, including chickens, roosters, bunnies, a pig, a donkey and two stunning peacocks or snap a photo of one of the numerous sunlit vignettes of serendipitous still life, from a rustic bicycle to a sunlit bowl of lemons. They made us want to paint.

Our outdoor sessions took place on my back ‘porch’, a makeshift studio set up by Diogo, the villa owner. It had a working table, benches and a permanent stone table that had likely been there for hundreds of years. Our stone sink nearby was ideal. The view provided our reference. We did monochromatic still-life studies and colour studies before venturing off to great places.

My next door neighbour, the friendliest pig!

One of the week’s highlights was a visit to Sintra, specifically the Pena Palace and the mystical gardens of Quinta da Regaliera. Colour and drama best describe these two places since the Palace had been restored recently, transformed into a vibrant massive yellow and pink castle with an interesting facade of ball-and-spike impressions and a spectacular entrance. Quinta da Regeliera was a challenging spot for exploring and painting. With bridges and walkways built with unrefined rocks, cascading foliage everywhere and mystical, unusual tunnels and wells, it was a haven for painting and photography. A visit to the fortified town of Obidos with its shops and houses surrounded by a castle wall proved to be more material for inspiration. We also sampled Portuguese tapas and meals that were literally steeped in tradition! One of our best memories is our visit from a local cook, who made fresh bread stuffed with cod (Bacalhau a Bras) right in our very own wood-burning stove in our guest house kitchen. These are just a few highlights of our very special week exploring the Portuguese country and culture. I look forward to another painting holiday again in the summer of 2017 since I know we had so many great ideas that were left unpainted. So many subjects, so little time! Keep in touch for the upcoming 2017 dates.

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