© Rita Draper Frazão

Inner Tour is a blog about People, Arts and Traveling by Rita Draper Frazão.
If you want to use my work, presented here, please send me a message.

quarta-feira, 25 de abril de 2018

Prince João Figueira Nogueira

It was back in the days of Casa d'Os Dias da Água that I've first met João Figueira Nogueira, but it was only years later, that we became friends.

João passed away, days ago. 
We said the final goodbye to him today, in Portugal's day of Freedom, the 25th of April with a glorious sun shining, and flowers (carnation revolution) all over town. 
A day full of color and light to him. Sure deserved and appropriated.

João worked with costume and set design. I remember his set of different shoe laces, with several colors he combined according to his outfit. It was just a slight manifestation of his acute aesthetic sense, always present.

Still so vivid in my mind, his scratched voice, amongst his will to see things, until the end. Last time I met him, was a couple of weeks ago at the theatre.

Wherever he went to, even when he was most ill, João had an aristocratic countenance that led me to affectionately, call him Prince

Not long ago, I have made a portrait from him, and he took this picture of me, doing it. 
According to his visual precepts, I had to chose the majestic golden color, to wrap him.

So here it is, my tribute to a friend who will always be a bright star, for all of us.

sábado, 17 de março de 2018

My next Portrait, You!

New Self Portrait © Rita Draper Frazão

Hi everybody! A lot has been going on: new projects, new persons in my life, new me! Hence, I also felt the need to make a new self portrait.

I have so many persons asking me about my portraits.
So, I decided to do an article as a private tour of my drawings, my story and relation with portraits and new ideas I'm having.  

If you want to be my next portrait, keep reading. This is for you!

My Roots in drawing

For you to know the point I'm at now, I feel like, I need to share with you a bit of my personal story.

I love persons! That's why the tagline of this blog is, Ideas with people.

It was from early age, that I've developed curiosity about the other, the gusto of listening their stories, see the essence of the person, and try to convey that, in my artistic work.

I don't remember when I made my first portrait. But I know, that when I was about six years old, I've portrayed my Mum "officially", because she still has that drawing. I could barely write, but in that portrait, I drew her hairstyle, her glasses, her multiple color striped shirt with detail, her sandals, and even the sofa pattern where she was sat. According to my parents, I'd spend hours drawing, it was my favorite play. I think it still is!

Overtime, and regarding arts, I had several important teachers. Here, I will speak just about the ones, that, somehow, are related to my portrait practice.

Sweet Child of mine

Within drawing, portraits have a special place in my heart.
I grew up with it. I come from a family of artists, and my grandmother, Ildema who was a painter, did a lot of portraits too. She was my first real art teacher, during my childhood. And one I will never forget! It was with her I've learned all the drawing basics, for sure!
She was, also, the one that has taught me the importance of drawing daily, and to have a sketch book, always close, even beside my bedside table.
As a child, I was a model for some of her portraits, and later on, she was my model too (see here and here).
One of her wise advices was that hands and feet were the hardest to draw.
I wanted so bad to learn how to do it, that it led me to draw many. Ever since, I became an enthusiast of that theme. And it's kind of crazy to think how it's still, so very present in my work now!  Some examples of that are Helena Espvall's hands portrait, or Miguel Mira's foot.

Back then, and for a long while, my uncle - that is also an artist - had his studio at my grandparents' place, where I'd spend afternoons after afternoons watching them (him and my Grandmother) paint.
I admired his obsession with painting, his surrealistic imaginary and his technique. I think kids are like sponges, and they can learn so much just through observing. 

My Father's inspiration, artsy stuff at hand, in our place, and in his architect studio, were very important too. And I don't mean just paper and inks, but musical instruments along with other things as well. In fact, this self portrait you see above, was made with colored pencils, that once belong to him. His influence was absolutely crucial in my life choices. And a lot more would have to be said regarding that.

My grandmother, Néné, and my Mother, were another major influence on my way, and in my deep love for Art's History that, later on, would reveal to be fundamental for my portrait practice.
My mother's graduated in History, and my grandmother was a living Art, Literature, Poetry, Travel, Languages and History encyclopedia.

Mum's always handed me a lot of history books. But two of them were special. One was about Ancient Egypt in particular, and the other one was about Everyday life in Ancient Art. Both were packed with illustrations, and photos that kept me dreaming. Eventually, those two became my favorite childhood stories. One can see a direct reference to this in my Hamid Drake's Egyptian God inspired portrait.

Also, I grew up with family and friends from several countries always around. I think, growing up in such a multicultural environment, has helped me a lot with being curious towards what was foreign or unknown. And portrait also became a way to overcome that. All this was very important for me and, and also the literary inspiration I got from here. Another theme, for another story!

Smells Like Teen Spirit 

For four years, Dina Gimenez and Patrícia Fonseca were my teachers during high school, and both have been absolutely instrumental. 

It was with my teacher, Dina Gimenez, that I've found my favorite ancient portraits, such as Romans' psychological portraits, and Minoan portraits, just to name a few.
I had such strong Art's History basis with her, that I never really had to study it hard, when I was in college.
She also helped to plant the photography seed, raised the team working spirit, and made us try different painting materials.

Dina was one of the teachers that led and supervised our work, for the biggest school party at the end of the year (called the Smashing Awards), so that an artistic work of excellence could be done.
We were involved in the whole visual concept of it, working for months, in costumes, prizes, props and theatre settings. I have so many good memories of this art laboratory-factory classes! With us all happy working, like ants, and knowing that, in tiny pieces, we were all laboring for the big picture, for the common good. A remarkable experience for the rest of my life!

One can see a bit of the traces Dina left in me, through some works that relate particularly to experimenting, Art's History and Photography.
 Some examples are in the content of my exhibition in Zaratan, in my illustration from a text of Bataille, inspired by the Katsushika Hokusai's wave, in the photos I took for my article about Coimbra, or in my group work with And Lab.

In this other Art Subject we had, there was some sort of suspense in the beginning of the year, since we were with a substitute teacher and didn't quite knew what was going on with our real teacher.

That happened because Patrícia Fonseca lived in Macao (China) for several years, and I suppose that due to it, she had some extra time off.
I was so happy to meet her afterwards and I had no idea how this person and would later be a key figure to me. It was definitely worth the wait!

When her classes finally kicked off, she blew my mind with her instigating drawing exercises. It was a boost in my visual synthesis capability. She also instilled in me the possibility of the graphic narrative, which is not surprising, since she's a brilliant comics author! For years, she's worked for the Macanese press. And boy, was I fascinated by the Universe she brought from her China years! Won't forget the day I saw her book Um caso de Ópio (A case of Opium with Carlos Morais José), during one of our art classes, twenty years ago. It was an eye opener!

She was also the first one to commission me, works of illustration and writing about music for the School Journal. My first press collaboration! Funnily enough, back then, I wrote an article about the Smoke City band, with whom I would work many years later. Who would've guessed that?

Besides that, I loved her living in the clouds, kind of almost permanent, state! She has inspired me in a way, very few did. An example of that, is my Stars Driller drawing, made in my graphic diary, in one of her classes.

And speaking of sketchbooks... I feel like she genuinely believed in my potential, and it was also her interest in my graphic diaries that kept me doing them until today! In fact, that graphic-chronicle-narrative axis, is still one of the basis of my work, today. Having this blog, with all its visual and written content is a great example of that.

Everything in its right place

My experience of entering the Fine Arts Faculty in Lisbon, was kind of surreal. I remember in the first days of college, it strangely felt like home. There was this weird, unexplainable, and really strong feeling of belonging to this place, where I had never entered before as a student.
My grandmother Ildema, my uncle and my Dad all studied there too, and who knows if there was some sort of relation to this fact. Anyways, I simply felt I was in my element.

There, I was extremely lucky to have Américo Marcelino, as my drawing teacher. He is simply a true master in motivating students and conveying drawing techniques in a graceful way.

Funny, that his Phd thesis theme is the relation between optical devices and drawing, because one of the major things I feel I've learnt from him, is how to look and see. Or how to see and have a vision. Know what I mean?
(By the way, take a look at his impressive amount of inspiring drawings and portraits in the second part of his online phd thesis, here)

Also, he's pushed me to look, and find inside my personality, things I didn't know I had, and could bring to my drawings. Those drawing exercises changed my personality awareness. It pretty much changed my life, I have to say. I find this last aspect, regarding portraits, extremely important. 
I think that, that was the time I truly understood the psychological potential of drawing.

He's also found a way of making unforgettable our last day of classes with him, since he did a movie, with classical music and all of our best works. This was such a success that, he later told me, he started doing it every year. No wonder we loved him so much, and affectionately nicknamed him Superman 

Be my next Portrait

Writing about all those key figures and moments in my evolution process, can make you understand my work now, a bit better.

I'm truly passionate about depth and the conjuncture of people, things, and places. That being said, it's obvious why I mind so much about the personality of the person, and to what is happening in the moment that I'm making the drawing. So, for me, and depending on the circumstances, the personality and the moment are two ingredients that really need to be in a portrait.

When I think about drawing someone, I think about which drawing expression I want the portrait to have, which colors, textures, and senses that person carries in her soul. I feel like I need to adjust, all that, to the person standing in front of me.

I have been drawing lots of people, in the street, in public transports, in school, while traveling, during shows and now I feel an urge to draw people in other contexts too. I feel like there are endless possibilities here! 

A portrait is something that lasts and that doesn't resemble to anything else! It's a unique and unrepeatable moment.

Whoever's been portrayed by me, and feels like commenting it, please share your experience here!

And if you are interested in being portrayed by me or in having a portrait of someone else made by me, you can order it to me. Please send me a message for more details.

The portrait can be of yourself, to mark an important moment of your life, to make timeless a certain phase of your children or parents, to have your idol represented in a different way, a special gift to surprise your girlfriend, husband, best friend, or can even be a reminder of that special someone that's already gone. It's up to you!

My core concept in these portraits is that together, we can make unforgettable what we have best!

sábado, 27 de maio de 2017

A few more of these, please

This year, May was a full month, around here. Why? 

Regarding Portugal, I can't fail to mention, three important events that happened, all at the same time. 

The Pope Francis visited Portugal (in the centenary of the Fatima apparitions), the Portuguese song, Amar pelos dois (sang by Salvador Sobral and written by Luísa Sobral) won the Eurovision contest, plus, the MIA Festival (in Atouguia da Baleia) happened. I had the privilege to be drawing there, and this year, that wasn't the only task I had.

Curious to know more, and find out about the stuff that inspired me the most in this year's edition? Take a look below!

Warming up

This year, my inspiration started with a beautiful car trip with the guitar player Nuno Ribeiro, on our way to the festival. 
He was driving, and decided not to go on the main highway, so we could enjoy the imposing landscape - rocks, trees, mountains, and our amazing sea shore. It was my first present of the weekend.

The first drawing I did in MIA Festival, was during Carlo Mascolo's and Fernando Simões's performance. 

The beauty in MIA is that we never know what's going to happen and the chances are that, even if you are not a musician, somehow you will have to improvise as well.

Arriving at the St. Joseph's Church, where this gig took place, I was struck by the seat's disposition. They weren't aligned, and were placed in all possible directions - not towards the stage, how we usually see. So the public was invited to "improvise in space" as we chose our seats. I actually changed seats during the performance too.

From the very start, in its own structure, the whole device was creative and inspired right away - as soon as I entered - the idea of seeing the musicians and us, the audience, as being part of a Tetris game - the concert. 

Also, from one point to the other, both Carlo Mascolo's (M) and Fernando Simões's (S) (two trombone players I have drawn before. See their portraits here and here) wandered in the church, exploring sight and sound possibilities. All of that were triggers for this drawing.

Nicola Guazzaloca

Here's my portrait of the Italian pianist Nicola Guazzaloca, very graphic and loose.
Every note of his, sounded like a brushstroke.

André Hencleeday

This is my André Hencleeday work in progress. 
I mentioned, that it's a work in progress, because I feel like it's an image of a moment, an ephemeral passage, or just a slice of his cake.

His search, intensity and contrast, playing drums were the things I wanted to convey the most, while drawing him.

He plays piano too and participates in projects like Crua or VGO.
Besides our musical interest, André and I, share anglophone family roots.


Mestre André playing doublebass

I loved the fact that the double-bassist Bernardo Álvares and the saxophonist Mestre André swapped instruments (they don't play) in the middle of MIA.

Thumbs up, for these two musicians, for having the guts to step out of their comfort zone and trying out new stuff!

In fact, I can understand that, regarding artists, MIA festival might be the perfect laboratory for new experiences, and that's just one of the reasons why it is so exciting to be there. 

You can see and read more about Mestre André in the other portrait I did from him, further below.

About Space

About space is a drawing I did, taking into account, experimental music.
It was done during Fanfarra Bizzara's concert at the Gothic font (also called Our Lady of Conception Font).

It's about the self, the group, listening and talking, and in this case, about a musical conversation.
But that could take the form of any other type of relation with at least two elements involved. Reflected, one can read what I wrote: about my space, about our space. The space to be and explore other possibilities.

The musicians that played in this concert were: António Alexandre Pinto, António Manuel Ramos, Felice FuriosoFernando Simões, José Lencastre, Mauro Medda, Miquel Jorda, and Pedro Castello Lopes. Thank's for inspiring me!

Life zest

Life in Guy Stralle

In fact, if that was possible in my sketch book, the pianist Guy Strale would deserve a drawing with living plants. As I couldn't make that happen yet, I drew them!

His playing and his look transmitted me such life and sensibility. No other color besides chlorophyl*, could I chose to portray him, exchanging vibes with the incredible nature of life. 

*Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green pigment, and is also what allows them to absorb energy from the light, consequently giving them life.

The Indian River

This is my portrait of the Italian singer Pat Lugo.

Maybe it's got to do with her long black hair, the outline of her nose or her almond shaped eyes, but something in her, reminds me of India.

I imagined Pat, being a river, flowing, being an ever-changing vehicle of communication and emotions as she is!

The Growing Tree - Paulo Curado

The flute and saxophone player, Paulo Curado is someone I have already drawn several times (See other portraits of him herehere and this one drawing I've made for him, here). 
Nevertheless, he seems to step it up every time I see him, delivering a new look on things, which I find pretty refreshing. Hence, this time I pictured him as a growing tree with a golden flute - a metaphor for transformation and evolution. 

Miquel Jorda

Miquel Jorda is a Spanish saxophone player. 
This drawing is about the space, the individual and the light in this musician. 

I was intrigued with his physiognomy, the peculiar shapes of his face, and his complexion. I think this last one gave me the clue for the golden shade I ended up using here. I kind of had a voice-off in the back of my mind, telling me how his skin carried sun with it!

I didn't draw any seat for him, and with that, I wanted to underline his strong sense of identity and independency: someone  - firmly ready to go - with no crutches needed. 

Mutant instants

Bruno Gonçalves

I Feel like the guitarist Bruno Gonçalves is in a completely different phase now, and so is this portrait of him - that's so far away from the one I did from him, two years ago.

Bruno has something very graphic, very pop about him. Of course his t-shirts set the tone, but it's not just that!

This year, the festival lightning was kind of a mess, and I struggled in many concerts to see the musicians. This one of Bruno wasn't done looking at him, but, actually, looking to his shadow in the wall (super graphic!). 

It's about liquids, immersion, soap and air. Things that make you daydream, slip or shake, but also things that allow you to see other colors, reflections and directions in music and in life. Or, in other words, my version of Bruno now.

Sternenstaub - Edith Steyer

Sternenstaub (or Stardust) is my portrait of Edith Steyer.

About this German clarinet & alto saxophone player, I felt a strong and mutant energy, and several images crossed my mind while doing her portrait.  

 I wanted to convey in this drawing, a grungy feeling, also by the way I stirred the brown pencil and golden color pen, to paint it. So, I guess, that gesture, and the stardust fall movement in her, is also implicit here. 

Some of the things I pictured were, sludge (and therefore this specific type of pale brown), grunge music, Édith Piaf, a wild and bohemian spirit and, somehow, holes, that allowed the shine to enter in her, and, ultimately, become her - Sternenstaub (Stardust).

Most of all, this drawing is about her creative ability to soak and transform with glow.

The eye

The eye is the portrait of Fernanda Lopes. She plays percussion, drums and also sings.
This was made in one of the first Jam Sessions, while she was singing.

This drawing is about everyone's - and particularly her - ability to be happy, transforming one's tears into bright colors and generosity. 

Revelation time

Rural Tableau - Marialuisa Capurso

Rural Tableau is one of the projects of the Italian singer and performer, Marialuisa Capurso. It's no secret she's inspired me over the past few years in my work. But this concert, where I did this drawing, reached other heights.

Rural Tableau started out with a video performance, field recordings, a graphical score, and of course music. But, in a snap, all of that sounded too little, and even quite theoretical, for the voracity this performance was. 

This was about people, space, sound and their relations. 
Marialuisa started saying some beautiful poetry oh hers, in the middle of the audience and, as the concert went on, she outlined, as a snake, all the seats, and steps, in a real gravity defying dance, until she arrived to the stage.

My drawing caught her when she was in the steps, almost reaching the stage. Rather than her figure, this was about the space fractionating her body into different sections, each with a different texture, a different color, a different emotion, a different sound. 
Well, and I guess all of this was possible because of her curiosity towards the unknown, her inner travel bug, her restless nature. But, hey, she did it with such grace and generosity. 
It was my favorite concert of the festival.

Sofia Borges

Sofia Borges is a Portuguese percussionist, currently based in Berlin.
She was a revelation! I loved her confident playing.
The colors I chose to her portrait relate to that - all are strong and contrasting shades.
The yellow is originally fluorescent and, unfortunately, not easily reproducible here.

Andreas Fulgosi

This was one of the drawings I did with very very few light. I mean, I could barely see, literally!

 Regardless, I could see one of the most important things about the guitar player Andreas Fulgosi: his open spirit and high level of emotiveness, summarized here in his heart shaped ring and in the movement of this drawing.

Only much afterwards the concert, when I showed Andreas this drawing, I could realize the ring was not a heart, but a lovely iguana! Nevertheless, the outline of the ring could be perceived as a heart.

Sometimes we have no idea how inspiring we can be with a little something that, in other's eyes, can turn into the beauty I saw in him.

Casting a spell 

The drum wizard
The Drum Wizard is my portrait of Steve Hubback.
Steve's a musician originally from the UK, but he has lived in many other places too. He is also a visual artist, considering that he forges his own instruments, which, to me, are not less than sound sculptures.

But regarding Steve, it's not just about the original instruments he plays with, but how he does it too.
He caught my attention, with his intense presence (and to mention that, as far as I remember, he played just once in the whole festival!) and, specially, with the vibe I got from him. His sound felt to me like a spell coming from the woods, where bats, witches and mushrooms all get along, in a perfect symbiosis.

The watercolors I chose to paint it afterwards, were purple (the spirit), dark blue (the night) and dark green (the forest) in a subtle color gradient.

A different stain in the paper (close to his chin) appeared, when I finished painting. I couldn't see it before. Not editing it in Photoshop was a conscious option, since I felt, the act of bringing to the surface invisible things is also the artistry of this individual.

The pirate

I've made this portrait of André Pinto (best know as Mestre André) while he was playing with the Baphomet ship.

Here, in this drawing, he was piloting the electronics (and later on, the tenor saxophone too) in a position of total energy discharge, intensity and commitment with the high frequencies of the music in question. Whenever required, a real pirate, ready to draw a sound out of the situation!

Baphomet visual score 

At some point, the scarce lightning forced me leave the first row and jump closer to the stage, so I could actually see better. 

In this case, hadn't I had earplugs and it would not have been possible to draw this concert that close, because this music was meant to be played out loud.

Baphomet, is the type of music that fills up a room - it is strong, visceral and, ultimately, a purge of all the evil and the good or, who know if not also about the brutal changes in this crazy world we are living in.

In this project participate: Mestre André, Guilherme CarmeloJorge NunoMonsieur Trinité and Pedro Santo. In this concert Paulo Leal Duarte was playing instead of Jorge Nuno.

This drawing was made to their sound, and having in mind the movements and noise they were making (and how). 
It was done without looking to the paper, I just looked at the colors I was using.

I saw it as a city, a fever, a trance, a ritual, a dance. That's one whole possible reading of this drawing. Another one is what, singly made me feel that way. And the whole and the parts are not the same thing, as already the Gestalt psychologist, Kurt Koffka, said

 The black stands for the Santo's drum rhythms, like coal pounding, the light blue for the André's saxophone that, felt to me like as if it was permanently boiling out in the surface, the light brown stands for the martial art of Trinité, or his dust metal cleaning (I chose a copper shade, the conducting metal), and the orange stands for the guitars, abrasive as the color chosen.

I heard their new album too (after this concert) and felt that, live they were even more present and galloping. A true statement. Well done guys!

Flowers blooming

You, soft and only

The image above is my portrait of the New Zealander violinist, Sarah Claman.
You, soft and only is the title of her drawing, and is also a quote from The Cure's song Just like heaven.

Sure thing, redheads never never go unnoticed, but besides that natural spark, it was in Sarah's playing that I noticed her fast reactions and vivacity, with a warm and curious attitude, at the same time. Pretty unique.

I remembered that song of Cure, because I link it to a princess-alike girl, just like Sarah is.

Carlo Mezzino

If it wasn't for Carlo Mezzino's collaboration, this portrait would've never been finished. 
At a certain point, this drawing was almost done, but his sweatshirt wasn't finished yet. I shared that fact with him, and he, very kindly, agreed to wear the same outfit again, even though I know that was not his will. So, thank's in advance for that!

The importance of this sweatshirt was simple: its color. I tried to edit it in the scan, the best I could,  since that was not a minor detail, in my approach. 

This blue has shades of lavender and light grey. And this is not just some random blue. It has the perfume of flowers (lavender), the color of stones (light grey), and the serenity of a placid night (that blue). Sometimes I feel the need to explain the composition of the colors I use, because they have a meaning! In Carlo's case, I wanted the colors, in his drawing, to be soft and poetic, to match the gentleness I saw in him.

This drawing was made during the concert of Camerata Mia, at St. Leonard's church.
These are Helena Espvall's hands.

The beauty and delicacy of the hands of this Swedish-American cellist, seemed to me the perfect metaphor for her lexicon: hypnotic, sensitive, peculiar and magic.
Somehow, Victor Fleming's Wizard of Oz (and the ruby slippers) crossed my mind while drawing her and writing this text. Both, have a certain candor and profess the power of believing in your dreams. (And the white in the drawing can be whatever you imagine it is.)

Some years ago I have done another portrait of Helena Espvall. It was one of the never published drawings I showed during one of the concerts in MIA. But we didn't meet in person on that occasion. We did it now.

It was moving to know, afterwards this concert, that both of us followed each other's work. It was another present from the Universe this festival brought.

Stars breeze bathed

It's impossible to look at Karoline Leblanc without being fulminated by the power of her blue eyes! 
I had no doubts when I had to chose which color to use in her portrait.

The clearness, beauty and healing properties in her musical speech, gave name to this drawing (Rock Crystal). 

She is like a mineral with special properties, a brilliant Canadian pianist, to pay close attention to.

A Certain lightness is my portrait of the Spanish cellist Pau Sola. Pau has a sort of elegance playing, that resembles a dance of the birds. So inspiring!

I imagined his arms moving to the sides, as wings.
Very centered, free and beautiful.

Music, Drawings & Poetry

Quinto Fabriziani

The Italian violin player, Quinto Fabriziano, had to have a portrait with a poem. That was mandatory for me due to his lyricism.

Since the day I've met him, some years ago, he's spoken about his love for poetry, literature and specifically for the Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa. The poem I wrote for him in Italian, includes that Poet's surname, which is simultaneously the word that means person (Pessoa) in Portuguese.

Sarebbe la "pessoa"
della scritta,
scelta di giorni stanchi,
domanda di ore di vento,
sarebbe la "pessoa"
delle cinque punti,
con la delicatezza di una penna
e il ritmo della cera


Would it be the "pessoa"
of the writing,
choice of tired days,
demand of wind hours,
would it be the "pessoa"
of the five points,
with the delicacy of a pen
and the rhythm of the wax

Thank you Pat Lugo for helping me out avoiding misspelling in Italian!

During Maresia & Co soundcheck

Paulo Chagas had asked me to do a silent film to be projected during Maresia&Co concert. And that was my other task, this year in MIA.
I wrote a poem, on purpose, for this event, to guideline the sequence of these drawings.
I called it Maresia (smell of the sea, sea breeze in Portuguese), and the remaining text was originally written in English, so that everyone there could understand.

It was very hard to chose which items to include, and I ended up sharing diverse drawings, I have been making over the past 20 years. The majority were musicians portraits (and many of the portrayed were actually there) but there were drawings of music and other stuff too.

In the meantime, I invited the American musician and poet, Elliott Levin to read and record this poem, so that I could share it with you guys, in a different way.

I have made a portrait of this saxophone and flute player, sometime ago. This portrait is in the lot of  drawings I have never published, and in the group of the few, never published drawings, I decided to show for the first time ever, in this occasion.

Levin has published several books of his own, and has worked with people like Cecil TaylorUrsula RuckerFrank Messina or Luís Lopes, just to name a few.

You can listen to him reading my poem here, in a transatlantic mode phone call.

Thank you, Elliott, for giving life to my words.

Sustainable guerrilla

The world in José Lencastre

José Maria Lencastre is a saxophone player I wanted to draw for ages, and I finally did! 
For a little while it wasn't that easy to see him perform here, since he was abroad. He's participated in the very first edition of MIA and has been active in the improvisation scene for several years. 
Last time I had seen him playing was, probably, with Cacique 97, a super band whom he still plays with.

My portrait of him, relates to his ability to observe, absorb, and, at the same time, the diversity and unity I feel in him. And, I wonder how these qualities are so required in these troubled times we are living in...

Concerning the background, I was inspired by Bob Marley's Survivor album cover, that, back then, claimed for African countries' unity. 

I carefully chose the flags I wanted to be here, but with slight a different concept. The choice had in mind the music from these countries, the provenance of some of the MIA Festival's participants this year, and countries that are or have been socially afflicted. 

Some of the flags images are a bit covered. Therefore, and following the drawing's order, the flags of the countries present in this portrait are: Italy, Israel, Spain, São Tomé and Principe, New Zealand, Canada, France, Sweden, Jamaica, Ukraine, India, Syria, Greece, Portugal, Botswana, United Kingdom, Angola, Brazil, Germany, Uruguay, Japan, Cape Verde, United States of America, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Somalia, and East Timor.

Gianna de Toni

Gianna de Toni is an Italian double-bass player living in Ponta Delgada, in the Azores archipelago. 

Her strong ideas & convictions were visible not only in her playing (and hence the red alert in her portrait) but also in the appeal she has made in the end of the last concert of the festival. Curiously, I did this drawing before she shared with us that special message.

She informed us about the incinerator planned to be built in São Miguel Island and how, for several reasons, people there were trying to fight against it. 
To help pressing the ones in charge, she had the initiative to take a group photograph carrying a message she had previously written, against the referred incinerator. Bravo Gianna!

It's a pity I couldn't find any news in English about this subject, and to my surprise, even in Portuguese was hard to find!  (Read one in Portuguese, here). 
There is a public petition going on, a Facebook page, called Salvar a Ilha (Save the Island) and a site with the same name, all related to this issue. 

For further information, I suggest that you visit those links, and if you're interested in joining and helping this cause, please sign the petition here. The planet thank's you.

Those late night ends


Overnight is a visual improvisation I have made with the French saxophone player, Benoît Crauste.
In between concerts, jams, late dinners and wonderful chats, here we were, visual improvising to the rhythm of the wind!

I chose it to be the cover of this article because I think it can fairly represent the great environment lived in this festival.
Some words that crossed my mind to describe it: share, intersection, creativity and, of course, the glorious capacity to stay awake all night!!! Just kidding!!

I have also made a portrait from Benoît. This one below:


Benuit was made in the very last jam session of MIA. It was the hardest drawing to finish, because I had in mind a very specific ink to paint it. I had to go to four different stores until I found it! (Thank's Vera Ferreira da Costa for your great help!)

This ink is a special one. Yes, it's blue but at the same time, it has red, purple and brown shades in it too.

It is usually used to write, not to draw or paint. I loved the idea of using something literary related, in his portrait, since I got the feeling he's a story teller, through his music too.

Here are some more pictures of the same drawing, so that you can see the color variations I was talking about.

The title of the portrait is a mix of his name with nuit (night).

This drawing is about Benoît's reactivity and his idealistic imprint. This special blue could symbolize an impulse, a chemical reaction, a night dream and, above all, something (as a color) you didn't know yet, because of the place from where you looking at it. Which leads me to quote Kant, with his famous sentence: Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.


After an intensive three day festival, this drawing matched the exact point of the night where we were all completely exhausted but happy!

While we were talking about that, I have learnt with the cellist Pau Sola, a new word to describe that feeling: Podrida (rotten in Spanish). It suited, so well, the moment, that I invited him to do a visual improvisation to illustrate that same concept. 

He first said he didn't know how to draw, but then he accepted my challenge. Actually, I believe everybody can draw and, all we needed to do was, to free ourselves and think about the sensations Podrida made us feel. The result is what you see!

A few more of these, please

Η αγάπη στην Ντίνα

In the next morning, during breakfast, I have made this last drawing with the Greek fine artist Dina Manavi. Writing something in Greek, was a first for me. I also had in mind, my relatives in Greece when I did wrote this. (Big hug to you!)

We were lucky enough to taste a special delicacy they had brought from Syrus IslandLoukoumi.
The ones we tasted were made with honey and walnuts. Eating this was a trip! Loved it to the moon and back!!!

Dina Manavi, Ayis Kelpekis and I, were all staying at the same hostel, and we've developed a beautiful friendship. 

Last year I have portrayed Ayis, and this year I could not leave without having a little bit of Dina in my sketch book! So I asked her to draw a picture with me. She drew an angel and the hearts and I drew her hand, the pink scribbles, and asked her to help me translate to Greek what I wanted to write there: The love in Dina (Η αγάπη στην Ντίνα). I feel she is such a special person, with whom I had the privilege to share visual thoughts in this drawing.

Turns out that, in the end, its concept is what this festival represented for me, this year: a place full of good people that strive and commit with their ideas, work, and with others, in a way that makes this crazy world, we are living in, a better place. I guess we're in need of a few more of these, don't you think?

It felt bittersweet that MIA was over but also that I was leaving Villa Hostel, where this year I had the honor of being their first guest in the new room they have just built!

I praise the owner's (Sofia Tavares) dedication and patience to this bunch of artists that always pack her hostel, by this time of the year. Sofia's all about pampering. From the cakes she baked, to the super sweet loquats she handpicked for me... I mean... her will to help and good energy surely don't go unnoticed.

For all the participants in the festival (musicians, all the staff, cooks...), thank you for making me feel so welcomed and for inspiring me in the smallest details.

Finally, I left Atouguia da Baleia, proud of the organizers of this event.
Paulo Chagas and Fernando Simões, both won a medal of merit of Atouguia da Baleia's Parish Council, due to their contribute for the region's development with this Festival.
The faith the curators of MIA have in this event is remarkable and I thank you guys for, against all odds, keep going with such fantastic work and for providing the time of our lives whenever this time of the year comes. I can still feel the fullness, now.

Long live MIA!

quinta-feira, 30 de março de 2017

The (En)chants in Coimbra

In the Northern Hemisphere, warmer weather is arriving, and along with it, is spring break too!
Here's what I took as an inspiration last time I was in Coimbra. These are stories and images made with joy and brought to you with Spring energy. Being North or South, might it inspire you in your next holidays! Take a look!

The Architecture blend

One of the things I find fascinating about Coimbra is the quality and the historical mix of architecture it covers. Architecture built over centuries lives harmoniously in this city in a very special way. 

Roman, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, Modernism, International Style, Português Suave style (one of Estado Novo's architecture style) and Modern architecture are all present! Here's a taste of my my inner tour in some of those striking examples.

In the urbanist and archaeological chapter of this city, are included buildings from the 18th century (as the Botanical Garden), 16th century (e.g. University royal palace), 11th century (e.g. Almedina Tower), or the 1st/2nd century (e.g. Roman underground city Aeminium, whose cryptoporticus can be visited in the Machado de Castro Museum. It is the biggest of its kind in Portugal).

Santiago Church silhouette, in São Bartolomeu District. 
One of the examples of the Romanesque architecture in the city.

Detail of the Old cathedral of Coimbra (foundations built in 1139)

Santa Cruz Monastery

One other example, is the Monastery of Santa Cruz.
 The foundations of one of the National Pantheons, are Romanesque and dated between 1132 and 1223. Though, over time, the church had several refurbishments done, until what we can see today. Those include a full refurbishment in the 16th century in Manueline style, tiles from the 18th century, and a triumphal arch from the 19th century, just to name a few. Defining, here, was the artistic contribute of Diogo de BoitacaNicolau ChantereneJoão de RuãoGrão Vasco and Cristóvão de Figueiredo.

King Afonso Henriques (the 1st king of Portugal, founder of the nation and of this monastery) and his son, King Sancho I, are buried here. The monastery was also one of the best ecclesiastical schools in medieval Portugal, and was where Saint Anthony of Padua (or Saint Anthony of Lisbon) studied Latin and Theology. Reportedly, Luis de Camões studied there too.

Right next to this historical city hub, there is a musical oasis, Salão Brazil, one of my favorite concert venues in Coimbra. I have made several drawings there, and have published one of them here.

Interior of the New Cathedral of Coimbra. Tiles from the 17th century and holy water sink.

One can read "Please do not talk in the church", a detail inside the New Cathedral of Coimbra. The Cathedral started to be built in 1598.  I felt the need to photograph this, in contrast to the smashing magnificence of this church.

Besides all that, in the 20th century, and during almost 30 years (from the 40's to the early 70's), the Alta district was largely refurbished. The biggest national names in the arts scene were called to participate, and forever mark this city's identity. 

Top-notch painters, sculptures and architects carried out an urbanist revolution here.
Almada NegreirosLeopoldo de AlmeidaCottinelli TelmoCristino da Silva, and many others, were some of the major figures involved.

Salvador Barata Feyo's sculptures (from 1951) at the entrance of the Letters College, with the University Palace as background. The four figures represent Demosthenes (Politics & Eloquence), Aristotle (Philosophy), Thucydides (History) and Sappho (Poetry). 

South wing of the Department of Mathematics

The Department of Mathematics dates from 1969 and it's a project from the Portuguese architect Lucínio Guia da Cruz. It is one of my favorite buildings in Coimbra! The concept, the breeziness... I absolutely love it!!

View to the Queen Elizabeth or Europe Bridge and Mondego River

On top of that, more recently, all this amazing background was enriched with contemporary architecture examples, such as Museu Machado de Castro (I wrote more about it below), and the view you have from Alta to the bridge (Engineered by António Reis and designed by Bureau d'études Greisch).
Inside the buildings, there are also pearls, like the recent Law College Auditorium done by Architect Fernando Távora.
With all this, no wonder Alta and Sofia districts are UNESCO's world Heritage!

Other points of interest inside the University, include, for instance, the Joanina Library in full Barroque style or the Fox tile.

The "Raposa" or the Fox tile

Why am I mentioning a single tile? Well, this one holds an interesting story and reveals a lot of the student life in Coimbra.
It is said that out of the hundreds of tiles existent in the University, there is only one with a fox. This tile is located in a small atrium in the way from Via Latina to Gerais.
It has a sort of a ritual associated with it. It is said that touching or kicking three times (!!) this fox tile, will help students pass their exams. This explains the lousy state the tile is in!

A fresh look to the ancient

Still in Alta de Coimbra district, is located Machado de Castro's Museum where once was, the former Bishop's Palace. Keeping and restoring the old structures, it was refurbished and expanded in 2008, with a project by the Portuguese architect Gonçalo Byrne. The building won the Piranesi Prix de Rome

And there are so many reasons for that! This is not a "regular" museum, since its building actually is itself a piece of live history of the genesis of the city. 

In the terrace of the museum's restaurant, Loggia.

Besides that, Loggia is the perfect spot for a sunny lunch break.
The package includes a meal with a fantastic view over the city.

A visit is worth, not only by the astonishing museum collection, as by the architecture, the location, the city view, the restaurant and the graphic design, inside. It is also an accessible museum, with special activities for such publics.

The light maneuvered as play-doh, wrapping the space and the masterpieces.

A witty light design

This museum, is a great example of how architecture perfectly manipulated the light, in favor of the existent masterpieces, from the dark and massive Roman cryptoporticus, passing through the light design, to where the windows, are placed, in the newest part.  Absolutely sublime. 

Not revealing much about any museum's masterpiece, was a deliberate choice of mine. I find it all so good, that I think you should see it with your own eyes!

Inspiring calls

The time passed in Coimbra, was creative time to me.
Not only historically, but also visually, I felt like this city was having marvelous dialogues with me.
The proof is here.

Beauty in small details

The colors, the movement and the happy-go-lucky attitude

A colorful clothes-line flutters the white street

The colors, the light, the shapes and the angles

The different volumetry, height and color combo

Detail of the cloister of the New Cathedral of Coimbra

Sunset between Colleges

The elegance and the dignity of this balcony

Coverlet and pillow's fabric detail in the New Cathedral of Coimbra

Clinical Analysis, roses and a balcony. Sounds much more dulcet. And reminded me of the Saint Elizabeth's miracle, with bread transformed into roses. A religious legend of the city.

This is my city type

You guys know I can't resist a type! Wherever I looked, there was an interesting typography to photograph! Here are some of the alphabets I loved the most.

Horticultural of Coimbra

Letters College

Carlos Guimarães Lawyer

The cats street

Modern Salon Hairdresser

Street poetry

And how would it be if - besides the official typography - walls would calligraphically scream at you feelings, doubts, quotes, or sounds? That's exactly the feeling I had when I took these pics: an open book of the city's soul.

"Don't want to hear catcalls in the street"

? ? ? Why ? !!!

"Fear kills"

Bird song

A bird landed on my shoulder. What can I do?
Music follows me everywhere :)

Life (vida) Toilets (sanitários)

- Here no hazing
- If Medicine doesn't want to

Controversial or not, initiation rituals known as Praxe, make part of Coimbra's University current practice. I found funny that this "confront" about hazing, kept the black and white colors, in line with the ones in Coimbra's Academic Association logo and Coimbra's academic dresses (Batina and capa).

"What is good for garbage is good for poetry"

This one up, quotes a poem by the Brazilian Poet, Manoel de Barros. The original poem can be read here.

The obligation to produce alienates the passion to create.

The one above, is a sentence written by the Belgium philosopher Raoul Vaneigem, in his book The Decline and Fall of Work

Overall, these street poets made my city stroll much more fun and unexpected!

Literary Nest

Here's some facts about the Portuguese language: it's the 4th language most spoken in the world, the 3rd most spoken in Europe and the 1st most spoken in Southern hemisphere. It is spoken by 250 million people all over the world.

That being said, it's good to remind that the city that gave birth to the Portuguese language as we know it nowadays, was Coimbra!

For many centuries, Coimbra had the only Portuguese language University in the world.
It welcomed and educated several generations of thinkers, decision makers in the country, politicians, writers, philosophers, musicians and many other relevant Portuguese-speaking icons.

So, no wonder the city is also known for its literary strand.

The facade of the house where the poet Eugénio de Castro was born, in 1869.

Besides Eugénio de Castro, the city gave birth to other poets such as Sá de Miranda. And, the University of Coimbra, was a place where poets and writers from various epochs, like Luís de Camões, Antero de Quental, Almeida GarrettMário de Sá Carneiro, Vergílio FerreiraMiguel Torga, Ruben A. and many others passed by, as students. 

Since Luís de Camões is considered the most important Lusophone poet, and Portugal is a country of poets itself, the Day of Portugal, Camões, and the Portuguese Communities, is in the day he died.

But exactly when (it's only known his birth year was around 1524) and where he was born (guesses include Alenquer, Coimbra, Constância, and Lisbon) is still a mystery.
His tomb is next to Vasco da Gama's, in Jerónimos Monastery, in Lisbon. (Jerónimos Monastery, Santa Cruz Monastery, Santa Engrácia Church and Batalha Monastery are all national pantheons)

Other notorious students of the University of Coimbra, include Marquis of Pombal (Head of the Portuguese Government in the 18th century, and great reformer of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake), Egas Moniz (who won the Medicine Nobel Prize) and Manuel de Arriaga (1st Portuguese President). Many musicians studied there too, but I will write a bit more about that, below.

The University & Fado Music

Coimbra is one of the Portuguese cities that has a music style and instrument of its own: Coimbra's Fado and the Coimbra Portuguese guitar. Fado music (from which Coimbra's Fado is a specific genre) is UNESCO's intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Being a lively student City, Coimbra has one of the oldest Universities in the world. It was started in 1290 in Lisbon, and then relocated in Coimbra until now, since 1537! Many Portuguese Kings were born here, and a lot of politic decisions were made inside the University too.

A student's black cape, part of the official Coimbra's Academic Dress, also used in Tunas.

These two - Fado music and the University - kept, until nowadays, a close relationship through the "Tunas" (academic musical groups) and by musician-students like Artur ParedesEdmundo BettencourtAntónio MenanoLuíz GoesCarlos ParedesFernando AlvimAntónio BrojoZeca AfonsoAdriano Correia de OliveiraJorge ChaminéJosé Cid, and many others!
Not all of them followed the Fado expression. And sure one should have in mind, that Coimbra has provided much more than this musical style.

Anyways, from the 1950's on, and as a reaction towards Salazar's dictatorship, the older Coimbra Fado approach gave place to a new movement. Musicians like Adriano Correia de Oliveira and Zeca Afonso, started to use as lyrics, classic and contemporary Portuguese poetry, having a greater focus on folk music and ballads. They totally revolutionized the music scene in Portugal. 

Grândola Vila Morena (a censorship banned song, at the time) by Zeca Afonso, was the song broadcasted in Radio Renascença, on the 25th of April of 1974 at 12:20am, and used as a code to announce the troops to move forward and make the Portuguese Carnation Revolution happen. Embracing the ideals of democracy and freedom, Zeca Afonso and his music, became a major cultural icon for generations to come.

On the other hand, Carlos Paredes's family, was already rich in elements (Artur Paredes, his dad; Gonçalo Paredes, his grandfather, and Manuel Rodrigues Paredes, his great-uncle) that mastered the Portuguese Coimbra Guitar. But he, not only soaked up all his family's and Coimbra's musical tradition, as he changed the course and the identity of Portuguese traditional music.
Adding innovative elements and his own composition style, he recorded several albums and collaborated with artists like Amália RodriguesCharlie Haden, Chico Buarque, or Carlos do Carmo (Latin Grammy Award winner). 
He died in 2004, but his worth remains unquestionable and his talent recognized worldwide. 
His legacy is alive, not only through his music, as through contemporary artists, that use samples of his music, and contribute to keep making the Portuguese music evolve to something continuously new, as he also did. One of my favorite examples thereof, is the song Viva! from Sam the Kid

And speaking about Sam the Kid, he will be the headline act of the next Queima das Fitas (Burning of the Ribbons). This is the golden moment of the year regarding Coimbra's student life, and also of Coimbra Fado. It's a huge city party, organized by the Students Commission, on the pretext of the new graduates. It includes a week full of concerts, bands, photography, poetry and stand up comedy contests, and many other activities. Take a look at this Monumental Serenade, from last year's event opening.

As the previous link proves, to this day, most of Coimbra songs' thematic is about the student life, the life in the city, the romances, and the history of Coimbra.
A popular song of this type of genre, that I must mention - because it was the inspiration for this article's title - is Balada da despedida, from Fernando Machado Soares. The lyrics say: "Coimbra tem mais encanto na hora da despedida" (something like "Coimbra has more enchant at the time of farewell". See the full lyrics translation here).  

Capital of love 

But, one the most famous Coimbra Fado music's worldwide, probably is Coimbra, sung by Amália Rodrigues.

Originally, the song made part of the movie Black Capes (1947), that was the first movie Amália starred in (She did plenty more. See here). It was a blockbuster in Portuguese Cinema, and propelled Amália to an internationally acclaimed career. The success was such, that later on, an English version of the song was made (called April in Portugal).
Great artists, like Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Perez Prado, Chet Atkins, and Roberto Carlos got inspired (check the links to hear their amazing versions!), and all of them have made covers of that song.
 Unsurprisingly, Amália Rodrigues has sold over 30 million records worldwide and is still the best selling artist in Portugal. She passed away in 1999 and the country mourned deeply. Amália is so emblematic in Portuguese culture, that she is buried among the kings, in the Santa Engrácia Church (National Pantheon) in Lisbon.

The portuguese lyrics of "Coimbra" have several references to the university course, and to the romance of Inês de Castro and King Pedro I of Portugal. (Lyrics translation can be found here).
The link between this love story and this university city, lies in the fact that, that was where they both secretly used to meet, more specifically in Quinta das Lágrimas, whose name (Estate of Tears) derives from the tragic end of this story.
Back then, the hunting grounds of the royal family was Quinta das Lágrimas, where Inês de Castro was killed at the behest of King Pedro I's father (King Afonso IV, who was against the relationship). She died for love, and therefore, perpetuated herself for eternity as a heroine.
This whole story, generated a love legend and inspired many artists over centuries, to do texts and songs like Coimbra. Nowadays the property is a 5* hotel and one of its restaurants, Arcadas, has one Michelin star. For our delight, the gardens can be visited.

 There are so many good things to discover, and to say about this city. I hope you enjoyed the ride!
I have been many times to this town, and I'm looking forward for the next time I go there.
Meanwhile, Coimbra, will remain in my memory with great (en)chant.

This article is dedicated to Néné.