In last week’s post, I wrote about an extraordinary Mediterranean house in Paterna, a small town on the outskirts of Valencia. I also posted a photograph of an oil on canvas I had painted in a corner of the garden. The work was a gift for Toti Romero and her husband, Manolo Blasco, who, over the years, had generously allowed me to stay in the house during the summers of some of my visits to Spain. The house was not simply a house. Toti had grown up in it; it had been the center of her life throughout her childhood and adolescence, so it still remained very much her home, even though, for most of the year, she and Manolo and their daughter Elena lived in a spacious flat in Valencia.
The offering of her childhood home to me as a place to live was a gift of generosity and trust that still leaves me, who loves words, without words. I can write about her home and paint images of it, but words of gratitude are inadequate. So are paintings. Even so, in this post I’d like to share with you two images of one of the rooms in the home that became my home.
After several sketches, here’s one that’s fairly developed, which is to say that I was finally able to accurately depict the floor, the windows and chairs, the glass on the table and the sculpture on the mantle. Getting the details right has always been important in what I paint, because if I can’t depict things realistically, how can I expect anyone to believe the strange images of my dreams? Accuracy is fundamental.
As you can see from the finished painting, the biggest challenge was revealing the Mediterranean light sifting through the wisteria into the room. Light, as usual, is what captured my attention in the first place. Light permeates everything; getting it to reflect off the floor tiles, the tables and mirrors, the lamp and the statue and the glass of wine were some of the great pleasures in painting the image.
At some point, I realized that the painting needed something else, a someone, a figure, so I asked Elena to pose for me. Her gift.
For a long time, during the weeks it took me to finish working, I didn’t know what the title of the painting would be. There were two women present: Elena and the statue. Then gradually I noticed that I had unconsciously implied the presence of a third person: Elena had sat in one of the chairs. Who had occupied the other? The statue?
So I titled the painting “Our Lady of July” in honor of the one who was absent, but still very much present.