Painting outdoors en plein air in Portugal's Alentejo Rob Miller
s a selection of paintings in oils acrylics watercolour by the Lancashire
painter and artist Rob Miller. I'm not only passionate about my work my
paintings I'm also passionate about the environment we live in at home in the
Northern Uk as well as those in Europe. Global environmental change doesn't
recognise Nation States.
The other vision of Montado; An English
Painter in the Iberian Montado
The colour was a deeper pink, bright, despite the
shade, with tints of yellow caused by the flight of small birds, which flew,
landed and perched amongst its branches. Below, a long quivering flash of
yellow ochre, interspersed with even brighter light cadmiums’ and pale blue
lights. All around, above and to the side, lush cobalt greens with deeper tones
of mauve and purple. All of this was set in a deep shade which delivered a cool
heat to my skin. A welcome break from the searing light that vibrated from the
palest lemon grasslands which moved and crashed like the sea against the grove
of Cork Oak trees and the small Tamarisks that sheltered beneath them.
I am not surprised the Tamarisk is described in the
book of Genesis as the tree were Abraham first met God. For the vision I beheld
was wonderful and alongside the noise of creation in an air that was static
with insects, birds and the smells of this warm earthy land, a delicious
light musk: which cleared my mind like an angel. How can I explain in words? I
set to with my watercolours, my ink, pen and brush on my pad of paper to record
this vision, this experience, painting like a poet would write.
Sometimes the best relationships that you can have
do occur purely by chance. This is how it happens. You meet someone who
you didn’t know; you have no preconceptions, no knowledge of who or what they
are; no understanding of their language, their history; their success, their
troubles, their joy or their sadness. You walk into a room and though you
didn’t expect anything to happen, there they are and you feel that you already
know them and you like them very much.
It was the same thing for me as a painter when I met
the Iberian Montado. It was pure chance. I stayed for some months near Estapona
in a new development on the coast. Around us the concrete housing blocks
sprawled in between golf courses, endlessly swallowing the campo beneath a dust
filled sky. By the second month I had had enough. I headed for the Seirra.
Within 30 minutes I had entered a different landscape, the Iberian
Montado. By chance I had met a new world and I liked it very much.
The next year I explored deeper into the Seirras de
las Nieves and the biosphere reserve the Seirra de Grazalema. Finally I
produced a body of work that I showed in the First International Arts
Exhibition in Marbella.
Since then I have read essays on the Iberian
Montado. There are it appears, many issues. Changing agricultural practices,
desertification, aging populations, the destruction of woodland. As a
landscape painter I work very hard to drop all intellectualism so that I can be
mentally naked for the days painting looking, feeling and responding with
unfettered lines, shapes and colour.
A painting is worth a thousand words.
Different lines and shapes create different
emotional responses in people. The gentle slopes of the Alentejo Montado make
the old forests a unique visual experience. The oaks dominate on a macro
is the classic linear Alantejo, a small stand of oaks amongst sloping
grasslands with a more distant forest stretching as far as the eye can see.
Painting on my own one day near Evora, I wanted to feel the micro climate of
the bio mass. I was a little lost, deep in an old large wood. I was fully
focussed on making my painting. In the background I hear the occasional cows
bell, birds and animals. Then I heard someone sighing, followed by stillness.
Again I hear the sigh and I see a narrow shimmer of leaves moving towards
me between 1 and 1.5metres high, a light moist wind touched my face then is
gone. I try to paint this unique bio sensation. I need my brush strokes to record
the moment, like a musical note. So I paint each sigh, making intuitive marks
moving my brush quickly across the canvas in shimmering, cobalt green and
silver mauve. I suppose the bigger the forest the better the lungs.
Certainly in the higher parts of the Montado were
the woodland is less and the thinner soils look overworked, the air is
dry to the skin and my palate becomes more tawny and desert
like, with only small amounts of distant green and blue. You find more interesting
shapes and busier places when you look for lush green in the Alantejo.
The white and orange rectangles of casarural
and the bright colours of the women at work in the smaller vine fields
such as at Santa Margarida close to clear streams, olives, fruit trees
and diverse crops.
was introduced to the Alentejo by the Painter Manuel Casa Branca we had a joint
interest in the biomass of the cork oak and the Cork harvest.. On the
day, we woke early and drew the cork oak being harvested. Dependant on the
amount of tree cover, the dappled light changed the visual situation.
Moving from warm ochre’s were the trees thinned to the coolest and deepest of
grey greens in the thickest woodland. The opportunity was fantastic the gang
workers moved very quickly working with ancient tools in a primordial way. We
worked hard drawing and following them through rolling dense woodland, were the
undergrowth tore at our clothes and skin, we went by abandoned, adobe, rural
buildings and neglected meadows. It was hot and dusty except by a small stream.
I worked in charcoal on large organic papers. The pattern of colours was
shifting as the sun rose, my point of interest moving from green blues to
oranges then reds. Strong curving verticals dominated everything, below a dense
roof of twisted branches, the men’s shapes appeared small against the large
oaks as they moved in a ritual dance from tree to tree. Finally they were gone
from sight and sound and then there was nothing, that is apart from the long
low mauve, horizon line and above it a searing lemon globe of light, higher
still dusted pinks melting into azure blues and then infinity.
return every year to paint en plain air, exhibit my work, meet friends and join
with an enthusiastic group of Portuguese, Spanish and German artists, poets and
art lovers at Herdado do Gaviaso Casa Rural.