Saturday, 23 March 2013


I always enjoyed Art at school, especially painting and chalk drawings and I always thought I’d keep it up after I left school, but here I am many years later faced with a blank canvass and oil paints wondering where to start!

I had walked into Studio 16 a few days ago hoping to say hi to Rances and find out more about the Painting / Art lessons and I ended up signing up for a 2 day mini course.  Well the best way to find out is to give it a try!

The gallery located in the heart of the historical centre in Trinidad, near the Plaza Mayor, boldly displays a number of his and his fellow Artist’s pieces.  Rances is a Lyrical Abstract Artist, influenced by Impressionism, whom enjoys using vivid colours, however he explains that doesn’t stop him from teaching various techniques and styles.  Rances appreciates that each student has their own vision and style.  The lesson is all about you and your experience and it is his role as the teacher to guide you and help you reach your own personal artistic style and objectives.

So he when he asked me ‘what is your artistic objective?’  I already knew, completely enticed by the abstract art all around me that I too was a follower of the same artistic movement.

Walking through the cobbled streets of Trinidad to the studio for my first lesson, I was a little apprehensive, ‘do I have what it takes?  Will I respond to Rances and his guidance?’  He had asked me to think about colours.  Orange had been my new favourite colour for a while and I knew I wanted to paint a sunset over the ocean; influenced by my Pacific beach days in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, where I had been blessed with many marvellous sunsets. 

When I arrived at the Studio, timid and uncertain, Rances was there waiting for me, he gently took me through the foundations; the size of the canvass, the position of the horizontal lines, primary and secondary colours, mixing of the colours, light and dark shades, brush techniques on the canvass.....and then he left me alone and allowed me to make the first bold moves without feeling like I was in the spotlight.  ‘Where do I begin?’

Rances would come and go always inspecting the way I was working and giving me additional tips; how to hold the brush, how to mix the colours on the canvass, how to give the perception of distance.  He was an endless source of encouragement.  My insecurities had been forgotten, I became absorbed in my art, still feeling hesitant at times, but not letting it stop me go with my instincts.  By the end of the day I had managed to fill the canvass with colour, I had finished the foundation of my painting.  Rances assured me that the following day I would begin to paint the details of the painting.  Surprisingly pleased with what I had accomplished after a couple of hours, I took a couple of photos so I could show everyone at the casa.

End of Day 1 - Painting Workshop - Cuba

The second day I arrived a little late at the gallery, the English inside of me was trying to rush so as not to be too late, but when I got to the gallery, Rances was nowhere to be seen.  A little while later he strolls into the gallery, completely oblivious of time.  Off course, why did I even think about rushing, this is Cuba!  We picked up where we left off and he explained how to give the painting more definition, making the colours even bolder than the day before.  He told me that a tourist had passed by the gallery after I had left and had enquired about the painting, he proudly told them that it belonged to one of his students!!!! With my new sense of confidence, I continued to follow Rances’s guidance and began to put definition and a sense of distance into the painting.  I was inspired by the sound of passing tourists on the street, the Cuban traditional musicians playing on the street, listening to their beautiful harmonies and was pleasantly greeted by tourists and locals popping into the gallery, having a quick chat, it’s certainly a relaxed atmosphere.

A couple of hours later my master piece was finished.  Even though I had felt nervous at times and unsure of myself and what I was painting, Rances had a calming influence, which gave me the confidence to believe in me and my painting.  Trinidad is certainly an inspiration to me, I only wish I had more time to stay in Trinidad and paint more.  Maybe next time.

Me & My Lyrical Abstract Masterpiece

Donated to my amiga in Trinidad.

Friday, 1 March 2013



It has become our custom to escape the kitchen sink at least a couple of times during my visits, so we can wonder around the cobbled streets of Trinidad and enjoy this beautiful colonial town (now a firm member of the family I too take part in some of the cooking and cleaning activities when I am in Trinidad).  We like to look our best, so we dress up a little and then we head out, stopping now and then to gossip in the street with other 'Trinitarios'.  We visit one of the museums that Trinidad has to offer and then sit and have a heart to heart.  We always seem to have a lot of catching up to do, no matter how long it has been since we last saw each other.

Over the years we have regularly gone to what is now known as 'our bar', but as we were re-exploring the streets of Trinidad, looking for a new restaurant in town, we came across a place that caught our eye.  Instantly we were enamoured with this beautiful courtyard, curious to know what it was, never having seen it before.

Upon entering the place we were instantly hit by the luscious green garden, with lots of tall trees providing welcome shade, plants and flowers dotted around, tables and chairs inviting you in to take a break, it was like a mini heaven, 'I would love to have a place like this' I sighed.  Then I noticed how tastefully decorated it was, antiques, coffee pots, brewing instruments etc hanging on the walls.  We were both seduced by its gorgeousness and decided not to go to 'our place'; time for a change of scenery. 

We sit down at one of the beautifully carved wooden tables and admire the menu and the gardens simultaneously.  It has an extensive menu, coffee made in a variety of ways, both hot and cold, with or without alcohol.  The coffee is grown locally at a farm in the Sierra de Escambray mountains, it is freshly ground in the bar and the bar even sell bags of the aromatic Cuban coffee for you to take away. 

The service is friendly, the toilets are amazingly clean and the music traditional.  The music, a C.D., plays at a tasteful level, not too loud, so we can hear each other speak and actually it is a relief not to have a live band playing for once, so our ever so important heart to heart is not disturbed by a man with a cap in hand, asking for a 'propina'!

We both choose a cold coffee, with a little rum, ice-cream and cinnamon, and it is divine.  The prices for the coffee drinks, around 2-5 CUC. 

We both enjoyed this new little hideaway by the side of the Plaza, near the Museo Contra los Bandidos.  It is ideally located but it can be easily missed, if you don't know where it is.

Café Don Pepe - Trinidad, Cuba

Café Don Pepe Bar - Trinidad, Cuba

Antiques on the wall, Trinidad, Cuba

Luscious Gardens, Café Don Pepe

Enjoying a chat and a coffee