Friday, February 27, 2009


julian merrow-smith plein air3

Julian turned fifty in Barcelona, in the Xampanyet tapas bar, with house cava poured from lemonade bottles and of all things, tinned food: Tinned olives, mussels, tuna, razor clams and anchovies. Why, in an olive growing country and above all why in a port, we were eating tinned food I have no idea, but that's what you do in Barcelona, and, well, we'd had quite alot of cava but it was strangely sublime!


We took in a Sorolla exhibit and lunch in the coolest place we found at the back of the Santa Caterina market and then, after a good night's sleep, we wove our way back to the Northern part of the Costa Brava, in search of magical coves. The plan was that Julian would paint and I assist.

Being a daily painter's assistant can at times be pretty boring: It involves quite a lot of cleaning, bill paying and organising. There is the middle ground stuff which is fun in a meditative sort of way: searching for the perfect pear or jonquil, scanning, documenting and packing paintings, gessoing boards in the sunshine. And then, at least in the case of this daily painter, there are the perks, and this was one of them: Sunbathing! In February!

julian merrow-smith plein air5

Julian, if I am near to the painting process, is normally painting me, so this time I watch. I watch a white stroke appear and stop a group of trees from falling in to the sea, a blob of light green making a pine leap forward into the foreground ('Oh no. I can't believe it. I'm such an idiot. I've just made this pine tree in to a grenadier busby hat.') greys and pinks and greens and yellows bonding and becoming rocks, ('Damd, why did I come out yet again without a sketch book and a pencil?'), the flowering red cactus disappearing ('Too many colours! Bleuurghgh.'). I begin to want to go behind the rock in the middle ground of the painting and see if there is a jewel like beach there. That's a good sign I think. Then I watch the first board with all its blobby rocks sleeping and its playful trees leaping and its sea just starting to glint being scraped. It is heart breaking.

julian merrow-smith plein air9

The next board appears from the Pochard. The rocks start to turn pink in the setting sun. A man pees in between the two exact trees Julian has started to paint. I hear happy humming ('This is more like it. Now I'm having fun!) and then frustrated growling (I don't know what I'm doing!') and, after three hours, I see a second board wiped clean of every careful mark.

julian merrow-smith plein air13

I realise that I have a little strap mark on my shouder where the sun did not hit. Sometimes being the assistant is a whole lot easier than being the painter.

julian merrow-smith plein air2

Luckily there is always manana.....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Robyn said...

Many Happy Returns to The Painter!

I spent quite a few days scraping up my response to turning Fifty too! He's probably his old (oops, sorry about that) brilliant self again already.

I take it that The Assistant isn't anywhere near the big FIVE OH yet, so enjoy.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Svelte Mama (goal not reality) said...

Thank Goodness you're writing again. I was despondent. I have my own blog now but it's about boring dieting. As I have said many times, the combination of Julian's daily masterpieces along with your "behind the scenes" photos and stories are...sublime? I'm kind of at a loss for words. But peeking into your lives makes me so happy.

ps - i have a 6 yr old daughter named natasha, who can sort of use my computer so I hope she didn't leave a silly comment....if so I apologize!

1:36 AM  
Blogger ruth said...

hi robyn, only five years to go and not even a mom yet!

thank you SM. I am busy trying to write a book about all you guys so haven't had time to blog. maybe I'll get back to it when the first draft is done.

i don't think it was YOUR natasha. (If it was I would be worried!) DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK PLEASE and thus encourage spamming!!)

6:23 PM  
Blogger Katherine Tyrrell said...

A belated Happy 50th Birthday to Julian!

I think it should be mandatory that 50th birthday parties should involve a holiday

My 50th involved going to Paris for 3 days and I got to choose the itinerary for looking at paintings, walking around and all the places we went to eat! (Mind you I also had to organise the hotel and the Eurostar!)

Ruth - it's great to start early when planning where you want to go......... :)

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Peach/Henry said...

Fm: "Peach" & Henry
Atlanta, GA. USA
Ruth.....Atta Girl! We want to hear more of your
mananas with your Julian!

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Julian Happy Birthday. Celebrating my birthday is one of my greatest pleasures. It sounds like you had fun even in the bar with tinned condiments. Barbara

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see a new post, Ruth.
Happy birthday, Julian! Inspiring way to celebrate. I might try something like that this May.

4:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home