One and a half thousand people visited the valley this week to check out the view…and dozens of them stayed to paint it while they were here.
Artist and old mate Ed Sumner was in residence at Vale das Estrelas with the family and clocked up his 72nd weekly live paint-off with his daughter Daisy over t’interweb.
Ed’s Cheese & Wine Painting Club has been keeping thousands of people sane during every single week of UK lockdown by hosting free Facebook Live lessons on how to copy famous paintings.
Teaching participants the tricks of the trade, Ed has been running classes for years in pubs while also developing his own original style of big-sky, big-canvas landscapes, but the pandemic forced him to run remote classes from his London studio.
His easy going Yorkshire charm and cheeky, savvy interludes from 11 year old sidekick Daisy has led more than ten thousand people to follow his Facebook page and for hundreds of them to join the weekly classes.
Our box of canvas, easel, paint (and G&T) arrived a few months ago and we’ve been meaning to join in a class since then.
But it was even better to get lessons in person as Ana and I flailed around wondering how Ed’s effortless brushstrokes came together sooooo much better than ours.
Each week he picks a famous painting – from Van Gogh’s Starry Night to Monet’s Tulip Fields and Munch’s Scream – and teaches amateur artists how to recreate their own master…and learn more about painting in the process.
“We’ve done pretty much everyone you can think of: Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Magritte, Constable,” Ed explained.
And not content with just “the usual” sessions, he and Daisy have even run remote themed fancy dress painting discos.
They were supposed to take August off, but when Ed, Rachael and Daisy came to stay for the week and he saw our view, Ed decided to run a pop-up “En Plain Air” paint-off and sent out some photos of the valley to get folks inspired.
His faithful followers rallied and next thing the camera was up and he was slapping paint on canvas with apparent abandon while supping a Sagres.
It was the hottest day of the year so far and we were pleased to be in the shade, although I’m not sure how Ed’s phone managed not to shut down in the heat…my live feed of the “behind the scenes” on our Facebook page lasted less than ten minutes.
The paint was drying on the palette and we were sweating over more than just the pressure of producing a painting with even a smattering of self-respect.
But only an hour and a half later Ed’s stunning image of the view emerged…and then people from all over the world who had dropped in virtually started posting their versions of our valley online.
“Late at night in Tasmania and early morning in Alabama, plus Greece, Sweden, Canada,” Ed told me after checking out where some of the 1,500 people had been when they joined the live session or tuned in after the recording was posted.
We’ve discovered this remote rural spot seems to attract artistic, interesting and odd internationals living and holidaying here and it was great to have even more virtual visitors tuning in for a couple of hours.
Our finished painting looked great…as long as you look at it from a distance and in the way that you look at a cat to make it feel comfortable: scrunching your eyes up so they’re almost shut.
It also looks great in the dark.
Thankfully we did a lot of things in the dark this week as another great artistic friend of ours Ekua made it a full house and we cast our eyes upward to check out the Perseid Meteor shower.
The night skies have been wonderfully clear these past few weeks with the Milky Way cutting right across the valley every night.
“Think of the Milky Way as a disc” I was told – and so my perspective has been transformed from looking at a cloudy mass overhead to imagining us being at the centre of a disc (or more accurately a section of spiral) as we move within our galaxy.
The new moon brought extremes of very high and very low tides and also allowed us to see the mid-week meteor shower even more clearly as the moon set early over the horizon and the fun and games began.
Astronomy dot com tells me that a meteor is a small particle of rock or metal around the size of a grain of sand that enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
“It begins to glow because of friction, and creates a blazing column of gas as it burns up,” the website explains.
So what you see are long streaks of light cutting across the sky.
The shower’s name comes from its location: the Perseid star constellation is where the streaks of light appear to radiate from if you trace them all back to one point.
Most meteor showers are caused by a comet – in this case the Swift-Tuttle comet – which leaves a trail of dust as its ice melts into a gas while approaching the sun.
When the earth enters the trail, the dust burns up in the atmosphere creating a light show at around the same time each year.
So Ed and I laid down on the gravel staring upwards in the general direction of Jupiter and Saturn – which are bright in the sky at the moment – watching out for streaks of light.
And we weren’t disappointed.
A hit rate of around 20 an hour was predicted and dipping in and out during a late dinner we spotted maybe a dozen or so streaks in the sky, but there were some real beauties in there.
We’re so lucky to live away from the light pollution that mostly prevents people from staring up every night with a chart or a phone app and finding out all about astronomy.
Like everything here I have so much to learn, but it’s so much easier knowing by doing.
And that’s just what Ed and Daisy did by going to surf school – with Rachael urging them on from the beach…willing them both to be able to stand up on their boards by the end of lesson one.
It was the first time the guys had stayed with us in Portugal and they were the guinea pigs in the frantically renovated two-bed guesthouse.
As regular readers know, we are trying to start our own cult by luring fun people to come and live nearby on the wild coast of southwestern Portugal.
Some visitors here quickly demand: “take me to your realtor” and we have two recruits so far who have already bought somewhere in the area.
Ana was dropping hints about the nearby international school (“Just sayin’!”), but Daisy didn’t need much persuading when it came to enjoying the ocean.
She managed to exhaust all of us with surfing, bodyboarding and daily beach trips to all of our top spots.
Thankfully there are still plenty more beaches to explore and I’m pleased to report the Sumner-Wilsons enjoyed the week so much that they booked their next flight as soon as they got home…for October!
“We should do a Portugal version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night next time,” Ed told me. Now you’re talking.
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Spool through Ed’s full painting lesson on the Cheese & Wine Painting Club page
Waiting for your series to start on channel 4 soon..
Great post. Keeping a note as this looks like a fab place to visit. Thanks, 'LardButty' Lou