Watercolour Paintings of India
Arriving in Paradise
From the moment we stepped out of the little airport in Dabolim, Southern Goa, our senses were assailed by the heat, the clamour, the colour and bustle, and, not least, the delicious smell of spices in the air.
Those few weeks in Goa provided me with a fascinating window into an exotic world and a different culture. It also gave me the inspiration and material for an exhibition of watercolour paintings - “Spice Coast”. Here are some of those paintings combined with observations and notes on sources of inspiration.
Bumping along dusty, red earth tracks, negotiating cows, rickshaws and other traffic, horns blaring, past paddy fields and palm trees we finally arrived at our destination, Cavelossim, tucked into the crook of the Sal river where it joins the Arabian Sea.
Our hotel balcony provided a view over the tops of coconut palms to the sea and hazy blue mountains inland. Down below, women with impossible loads of firewood balanced on their heads moved elegantly across the sand while children washed and played by a well. A fishing eagle flew overhead on it's way to the river and colourful Bee-eaters flitted around, settling on telegraph wires.
The sea was a short walk away through the village past a row of street stalls selling brightly coloured clothes, incense and jewellery. Passing by Lolita, Laxmi, Leela, Cara and friends with their cries of “You want? You like? You look? You buy? You promise, You promise!” became a daily challenge – we did buy of course but sometimes we chose the quieter route to the beach, over the dunes, checking for snakes, and stopping to watch the gorgeous big chocolate, white and turquoise kingfishers poised over still pools.
Cavelossim beach was a long, palm-fringed arc of white sand, compact enough for us to ride bicycles along it for miles. The shoreline was punctuated by the occasional black curved hulls of fishing boats, and small clusters of little beach shacks selling food and drink. Walking along the beach at sunrise we'd catch the fishing boats pulling in their nets close to shore. The sky – pale gold at this time of day – appeared subtly graded, shades of pink, peach, gold and aquamarine. The sand squeaked underfoot and was home to miriads of small transparent crabs that scuttled out of our way on tippy-toes.
We spent many a happy hour in beach shacks such as Edwin's, Fawlty's and The Lonely Place, cooling off with a Kingfisher beer. Food would be locally sourced fish and seafood, cooked in a simple way but always very tasty. The sunsets were beautiful – at around 7.30pm the sun would start to sink and morph quite rapidly from gold through apricot to watermelon pink leaving an indigo sky streaked with mango and pink. A water-colourist's dream...
The village houses were an eclectic mixture of elegant faded Portuguese villas, mud huts with palm frond roofs, and corrugated shacks plastered in tin signs – yellow Cadbury's and red Coca-cola – all scattered beneath tall coconut palms. The air smelled divine – of spices and wood smoke. Under the dappled shade cast by the lush jungle trees, chickens, pigs, cows and the ubiquitous yellow dogs, pecked, rootled, roamed and slept in the heat. The village provided an unending source of inspiration for me - from the abstract layered dappling of foliage to the faded colour and textures of the buildings. Rusted iron contrasted with mud bricks, dusty red, turquoise and yellow painted walls, and loud advertising signs. The locals were friendly and appeared content, despite – or maybe due to - their apparently simple lives.
The river Sal flowed into the sea at Cavelossim and was home to a large fishing fleet - bright little boats, red yellow blue and white paint peeling, elegant dark wood dug-outs and other vessels of all shapes and sizes – moored along the banks.
Out cycling one day we wanted to cross the river but the ferry wasn't working so we accepted a lift in a dug-out made from a hollowed out mango tree – I was concerned about fitting everything into the little boat but we managed to cram ourselves, the bikes and the dugout owner's two little girls into it! It certainly gave us a very different perspective of the river at water level!
Sitting on the riverside in the village the reflections of trees and boats in the still water created a peaceful scene. White egrets and fishing eagles flew over the river and one of the many thin village cats attempted to steal our lunch!
We hired a taxi one day to take us to the ruined fort at Cabo de Rama, along the coast. We drove past bright green paddy fields, pale stone temples, sugar plantations, bananas and cashew nut trees to reach the fort. Groups of monkeys climbed over the ruins which had crumbled picturesquely and were in the process of being assimilated into the surrounding jungle. Fantastic views over the sea became poignant as we found out they were the last thing some prisoners would see before meeting their demise....
Drove to beautiful Palolem beach on the way back – a white sickle-shaped beach shelving gently into a quiet sea, aptly known as Paradise Beach. Huts on stilts, shacks and tree-houses clustered along the tree-line fringing the shore.
Most of the paintings produced for "Spice Coast" were straight watercolour landscapes but I also painted two abstracts. This abstract painting was inspired by the effects of light playing on the jungle canopy, creating layered effects and abstract shapes. I have taken the reality of the outlines of leaves and trunks but played around with tone and emphasis to create a balanced composition.
I have described my sources of inspiration throughout this article - I think that any artist visiting such a beautiful and exotic part of the world would be inspired, each in their own way. I hope I get a chance to return to India one day - it may influence me in a totally different way, and it would be sure to excite, surprise and inspire me anew.
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© 2014 Helen Lush