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 would...er... 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, 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.
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.
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.
Luckily there is always manana.....