Painting on location and the practice of mindful observation

Thoughts from G Caruso’s travels to Morocco

I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the power of nature and the beauty of this land. I would need to spend a month here just to understand all the colors and the way light works.

When mediterranean people move to Berlin, sooner or later the lack of sunlight starts to kick in. That’s why me and @saska_ithiur decided to escape the Berlin winter and go spend a week painting in Morocco. After being fascinated for years by Eugene Delacroix’s carnet de voyage, I really wanted to go see the country that inspired so many artists.

Upon arrival, I realized I underestimated… everything. The intensity of the colors. The width of the sky. The majesty of the land. One week was barely enough to scratch the surface of the beauty and complexity of that place.

I just realized that my usual muted palette it’s not gonna work in the land of bright saturated colors that is africa. This is gonna be harder than I thought, but that’s why it’s always important to challenge yourself.

The reason why I love painting or drawing on location is that it forces me to be fully present and connect deeply with what is in front of me. It’s usually a well tuned and fluent process, after decades of practice. Morocco brought me back to the start. I was not used to the color palette, the scale of space, the shape of the plants. Everything has been a challenge and a discovery, with the culmination of the day we travelled to the edge of the desert. I was moved to tears by the power of the landscape before me, and struggled to translate on paper all the shades of earthy colors or the intensity of the blue sky.

Painting on location is a practice that requires mindfulness and kindness towards ourselves. What we put on paper may not always be perfect or satisfying to our inner critic, but the time we spend in communion with the beauty before us, our eyes wide open and receptive, is an invaluable gift.

With @saska_ithiur we decided to publish a limited edition print of postcards of our gouache paintings. You can pre-order it here

I will be teaching sketchbook techniques and insights in my new year long series of workshops called “Sketchbook Practice Workshop” with the Berlin Drawing Room starting in January 2020. It is possible to join this workshop group at the start of every new module, throughout all of 2020.