Elvas, the archetypal Portuguese border town, was the stage of an Urban Sketchers Portugal meeting in the spring of 2013. Soon after, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although, a very important city and military outpost in days long gone, and despite the recent UNESCO status attribution, Elvas is still subject to the desertification process that haunts the country’s inland regions. As such, lots of stores are closed, abandoned, covered up in newspaper, waiting for better times.
AIAR is a regional Association that confronts these challenges head-on, using the rich local culture and capitalizing on the UNESCO status. They had a simple but effective and innovative idea: to use the hundreds of sketches produced by the dozens of sketchers in those busy days of the meeting, to decorate the streets of Elvas, using the windows of the closed down shops as frames. The widened sketches now give a purpose to the deserted façades, and convey a sense of hope in that the less sketches there are on the streets, the more lively commerce will be.
I didn’t attend the meeting in 2013, but I had the opportunity to contribute to the street exhibition with a sketch made this summer. Christmas in Elvas became a little sketchier thanks to AIAR.
A year ago, I was invited, along with many other sketchers, illustrators and artists, to contribute with ten sketches from a trip I had made, for a collective book – the second of its kind – edited by Eduardo Salavisa and published by Quimera in Portugal. Last november, that project finally came to life in a book launch I unfortunately couldn’t attend. During the holidays, I finally got my hands on one of the two copies that were sent by the publisher and I must say it’s a true honour to have my work included among such superb artists like Siza Vieira, Lapin, João Catarino, António Jorge Gonçalves and so many others!
The book is yet another step in showing the world what it is that we sketchers do and why do we do it. The following is a free translation of a promotional text about the book by Eduardo Salavisa:
“We know that when we travel, we’re more available and focused to see everything that surrounds us. If we take a sketchbook, a doodler tool and a few watercolours, we’re able to sketch or write down whatever is happening to ourselves, sometimes under difficult circumstances. Some sketches are done in a hurry while others are more elaborate. But all of them are fruit of a period of observation that dents our memory in a permanent way.
The authors, both portuguese and spanish (two of them french but living in Spain), that contributed to this book have good examples of this type of record. Each author tells us the tale of a journey through drawings in their sketchbooks – the Travel Journal – and a short text. It’s 30 journeys told by sketchers-travellers.”
Over the next few months, I’ll post here the full sketchbook of the trip to Poland, including the sketches and texts published in the book Diários de Viagem 2.
In Portugal, the winter has been mild. Sunny afternoons with a touch of chill in the evening. It’s a food-galore period! Lunches and dinners go on for hours, and there are very short periods in-between them. Different parts of the family meet up and go about in a very organic schedule, everything flows in a chaotic order, as in the traffic of an Indian road junction.
The gastronomical selection is ample, but follows a strict years-old rehearsed order. Dinner on the 24th is boiled cod-fish (bacalhau cozido) sided with potatoes, green cabbage, eggs and chickpeas, and lots of olive oil. Lunch on the 25th is farrapo velho (old rags), a recycling of the previous night’s recipe, shredded down to a rugged-looking mixture of whites, greens and pastel yellows – add olive oil for bright colours. In the evening comes the roasted turkey with potatoes and chestnuts, swimming in – you guessed it – olive oil.
This year, we had a bonus meal on the 23rd – a delicious roasted duck with rice in a country house on a top of a hill in the great Algarvian outback (insert banjo riff).
Desserts are also a highlight of the season. Bolo-rei, fritos, aletria, mexidos, queijo da serra, the regional D. Rodrigos and doces finos algarvios. But the star product is the Rabanadas – bread slices wrapped in egg, sugar and cinnamon. I used to eat tens of these in my childhood! Nowadays I can only manage one or two, tops. Still, it’s my favourite feature of these evenings. Here’s a proper recipe from a foodie friend of mine.
The most awesome thing about christmas this year was the newest addition to the family: a one-month old dachshund, sister of the four year old one, who goes by the name of Viviane, although I was rooting for another name.