Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mr. Moha of Aït Benhaddou

Beyond the Grand Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the kasbahs are made from a reddish brown mudbrick, what we would call adobe in North America.



In the fortified city of Aït Benhaddou, I met Assofi Moha, a Berber man who sold leather and brass handicrafts to the occasional tourist.


He sat on a short stool in the sunny alley. I sat across from him, and when he saw me sitting on the ground, he took the little cushion off his own stool and offered it to me. We got talking and he agreed to pose for a quick watercolor portrait. The bright sun cast dark shadows from his features.



When the portrait was finished, I handed him a fountain pen, and he wrote his name.

9 comments:

K. W. Broad said...

Oh wow, that looks like quite the place to visit! I'd probably have a blast just painting the scenery there, let alone the people.

Just curious, are you fluent in Arabic? I dabbled in the language at one point, but the greeting alone proved rather intimidating :)

Erik Bongers said...

I hope you'll forgive me for looking mainly at the photograph rather than the drawing.

I just love this blue clothing against those red walls.
I was thinking how I would paint such a thing - the walls are very structured, especially with the sun's position. A dark blue-grey wash for the shadows wouldn't work - they have no blue cast! (on the lowest walls)
Then I remembered this post on this blog: Color obtains in light - especially the exception mentioned.

Pat said...

That's some slick watercolors! I love the dark green shadow shapes.

James Gurney said...

Kyle, no I only learned a few words of Arabic and Berber, just the greetings, really, but people really appreciated the effort. My friend Alan Dean Foster knew quite a few handy phrases, like "No thanks, I already have a carpet."

Erik, yes, I noticed that the shadows of the kasbah architecture were often more influenced by warm bounce light than from the blue sky.

Pat, I have hardly ever painted a portrait from life in direct sunlight, and I was surprised with how strong the shadows were.

keewee said...

The earthy reds and sky blue are one of my favorite color combinations, it's been a real treat to see the fruits of your travels for the past few months.
On an unrelated note, what is the name of that lovely feathered dinosaur in the Old Conductor illustration?

Godo said...

Must have been a nice journey Mr. Gurney. You went back to the roots, James: “Adobe” comes from the Arabic al-tub (الطّوب al "the" + tub "brick") "[mud] brick," (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe). The Moors of Northern Africa brought it to Spain, the Spanish again to the Americas.

vickiandrandyrossart said...

WOW! Thanks so much for including the YouTube so we can hear his pronounce his name...it phoenically makes sense when you see it written!

Txetxu said...

I suppose you know the orientalist painter Jacques Majorelle, he captured the moroccan charm in his works like no one else.
http://www.articlesandtexticles.co.uk/2006/10/25/painters-i-should-have-known-about-007-jacques-majorelle/
(there's even a blue color called with his name).
By the way, "berber" for them has a pejorative meaning ("barbarian"), they prefer to be called "amazigh" ("free man").

I love your blog and your books, congratulations.

*Do you know a spanish painter called Joaquim Mir?, he used dramatically color in many of his paintings:
http://www.foroxerbar.com/viewtopic.php?t=6016

Greetings from the Basque Country.

James Gurney said...

Txetxu, thank for reminding me about the Berber term. I had heard that but forgot.

Majorelle and Mir are new to me. Thanks!