Cine Nuevo

Cine Nuevo – Watercolor – 14 x 19 in.

The train ride from Madrid had been tiring. It was only my second visit to Spain and my first to Barcelona. It was nearly night when I checked into the hotel, so I paid little attention to the neighborhood, just collapsed into bed. But in the morning when I opened the curtains and saw these ruins across the street, it felt like the opening of a new day into what a future might become.

Creating images involves a lot of paying attention. You have to draw proportions of cars and people in relation to buildings, and also angles of light and shadow. Everything changes quickly. The man in the bottom left corner consulting the Metro schedule will either descend the steps into the subway or walk out of the picture. Someone will get into one of the cars and drive away; someone else will park another car. Meanwhile the sun rises higher, a family of five on their way home from Mass will appear. Then a bus or two, and a taxi on its way to the airport.

So the next mornings you open the curtains and continue to work. Gradually the thought occurs that you’re not simply painting light and colors, but layers of Time: The tattered posters advertise a concert that happens next week, or maybe it happened a week ago? The day you are painting, today, will in a few hours become another day, tomorrow. The Cine Nuevo is only a husk of what it had been. Behind it, the Teatro Nuevo, built in 1901 and rebuilt in 1922, is a relic skeleton of even earlier eras. (Only later you peel yet another layer: Both theaters burned to the ground in 1988.)

Over many years, through paintings like this, I created a future life on the other side of the world. In a week I’ll return to that home again. So until November, the next posts will come to you from Spain, adding, I hope, even more layers.


Diamondwater – Watercolor & gouache – 10 x 14 inches.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been puzzled by the fact that I can feel like a Christian only when I am indoors. As soon as I get into the open air, I feel entirely out of relation with everything that goes on in a church – including both the worship and the theology.”
— Alan Watts

When you walk along the eastern edge of the Maestrazgo above the Mediterranean, there’s little to tell you about the bones of dinosaurs sleeping beneath your feet, or the footprints of Knights Templars, Moors and Romans who walked here long before you were born, or cave paintings from the Pleistocene Era, or the Maquis guerillas who hid in these mountains and fought the Fascists in both France and Spain long after the Civil War ended in 1939. There’s only the bright ocean that makes you imagine that if the sun were not so radiant you would be able to see the North coast of Africa.

It’s a drowsy Sunday afternoon in early Autumn. Your Spanish friends, who have graciously included you in their hike, are curled up with their packs under the shade of black pines. You hear the chirp of insects and the cries of hawks high above in the bright blue air, and faintly at your feet, the murmur of a stream that frets and pools around stones on its long journey to the sea.

You listen, and draw, draw quickly, remember the colors for later tonight, draw quickly, because your friends will stir out of their siestas soon, and it will be time to lace up your boots and walk home with them.

For a while with your pencil you held the stones and light and the trickle of water on the paper of your book. It was only later that the stream came back to you in memory: Like a friend, it had been holding you as well.


Bridge – Oil on Masonite – 36 x 48 inches.

As foolish as it may seem, I have been trying for years to paint things I can’t see. The word, “things” is hardly accurate because it’s a noun. “Verbs” comes closer to what I have been chasing, but how does one paint verbs? Here’s an example of an attempt from a while ago.

Earth: Nine trees in a row, except that they don’t act like trees; I wanted them to be transparent, like doors opening to reveal a blue sky.

Water: From the bottom left a coastline and sea waves intersect with the sky.

Air: A layer of high clouds floats into the scene from the top right.

Fire: I wanted to paint a lightning storm, but didn’t have the skill. So I tried to suggest fire’s presence by an orange glow in the sky.

Four elements coming together from three different perspectives. Does this convergence suggest the action of invisible forces? I had hoped that it would, but that was years ago, and I’m still trying to visualize what isn’t visible.