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  • Writer's pictureWill Topley

Barbados in February

February is a great time to get away from the short, cold and wet days we have in the UK at that time. Winter has gone on long enough but there seems no end in sight. This year we were lucky enough to go to Barbados for 3 weeks where I was planning to paint. I usually do some drawings and watercolours or perhaps some oil paintings but my oil painting take me a really long time and I wanted to make a change in t he way I work. I had read something of the recent interest in Pleine Aire. This is something I have done a bit of but the last series of quick open air paintings I had done was some years ago when I went to stay with my mother for a few weeks at the house we had in Haute Vienne There I got in to the way of painting a picture a day, and  somehow the ideas kept coming, I never had to move very far to get another idea but as can often happen, I found that when I got home the spell was broken. My children were very young and there never seemed a decent stretch of time to get fully involved in painting – perhaps I should have been stronger willed – but the magical moment seemed to have gone.

One of the few examples I still have from that time;

Red Ladder Moulin de Bret w

Red Ladder, Moulin de Bret

So excited was I by the imminent trip to Barbados, 3 weeks with no chores and no excuses, that I started organising my kit well in advance. I was going to have to take a large amount of clothing, it is about 30 degrees there in the day and never cool enough for a sweater but as it is hot you can find yourself having to change 3 times a day, particularly when the social life heats up. This meant being careful not to take too much heavy art kit. I bought this 8 x 6 inch pochade box from amazon

Realising that there was only a small amount of room for paints, I bought a 100 20ml syringes to transfer paint to. They then take up less space and weight allowance. I had thought of buying some empty tubes and decanting small amounts of paint into them but then I thought of using syringes and the idea works really well. I also took my Herring easel, an aluminium fishing stool and a memory foam cushion. You would think that you could always borrow a stool in any house but experience has taught me otherwise.The Herring easel is not really the same system as the pochade which is supposed to replace the easel but I knew I could rely on my trusty Herring and it weighs very little.The first place we stayed in was Callaloo, a house on the Sandy Lane Old Nine golf course that gets less use now-a-days. There I sketched the guest house. It is based on the local Chattel House design.

Callaloo Chatel House w

Chattel House

We then went on to Heron Bay which is possibly the nicest place on the Island. There I did 2 more paintings of a Chattel House.

Here is the setup for the Chattel House pictures. This one was being used as the office.


Liz and Betty at the Chattel House

Betty Rayside is the power behind Heron Bay and helps make everything run smoothly.  Liz works at Heron Bay, she has been there a few years now and she often has a great hair style, something that girls in the Caribbean excel at.

I also did a few drawings.

The third stop was Leigh House. We went for the last hurrah as the house was in the process of being sold and we were part of the final party of guests. The owner, David Bernstein, had inherited the house from his father, it was one of the earlier designs of houses typical of Barbados, built with large doors that open onto the outside space so that you are cooled by the sea breeze as opposed to the more contemporary styled hermetically sealed, air conditioned boxes that some people have built in recent years.

I did one picture of the guests at lunch

Lunch Leigh House w

One of the outdoor shower

and one of the sea gate.

Beach Gate w

The painting are all 6 x 8 inches or smaller and I didn’t get up to the one a day rate I aspired to but I feel that I made some real progress.One other thing I tried with some success was painting on a specialised oil painting paper. On this occasion I used Arches oil paper. It’s quite good but the brush drags along it a little too drily for my taste. Using oil paper does mean you can take alot with you as it weighs next to nothing and the paintings can be transported quite easily. Two of mine were still wet when I packed for the flight home so I masking taped them to the inside of a chocolate box and put them in my suitcase. They can then be glued to a board when you get home. I bought Lineco ph neutral pva for the purpose.

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