Twilight in Old San Juan: Starting a New Painting


The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
-H.P. Lovecraft from The Call of Cthulhu

Two years ago we went to Puerto Rico with the kids and some close friends, and spent some time wandering through Old San Juan. We often returned to this square. For some reason, it was the only place I could seem to orient myself to. Fortunately our friends had been several times, so knew the way around. Old San Juan was a fascinating city of many identities: city of soldiers, rum, and pirates, but also city of churches; cruise ship destination with high end shopping, but also a source for cheap tourist kitsch like body part shaped shot glasses that said Puerto Rico; home to delicious fancy restaurants, but also cheap food, and even Ben and Jerry’s; a city built for walking, but full of cars upon cars in streets to small to accommodate them (not to mention the afternoon trash pick-ups with trucks made for the narrow streets, which led to both general cleanliness and a lingering odor of trash in the humid air as the truck lumbered by); a city loaded with wandering tourists, but also people in doorways and upper windows who called the place home. In short, it was a place of many spatial identities superimposed and syncretized, with an underlying feeling of the fantastic. H.P. Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood would have felt just as at home here as a Travel Channel camera crew.

Painting the scene photographed above is going to be a challenge. The drawing alone was a challenge, and there will be so much to incorporate and decide on once I get to painting. I am sure I will learn a lot from this not only on the technical side, but also in terms if capturing those syncretized and layered identities in a way that can be felt by the viewer. I also think I want to draw out that fantastical element (hence the creepy Lovecraft quote). This one may be slow to develop. For now, here’s my rough framing drawing.

Thanks for reading.