Over a decade ago,
I was the drawing instructor
for (mostly) Sudanese (mostly) refugee artists.
It was an experimental drawing workshop
held at the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo,
and the director, William Wells,
had promised to personally teach the weekly workshop,
forgetting his incredibly crammed calendar.
So I gladly became the instructor,
needing a break from working (in the gallery’s library)
and wanting to meet other artists who were outsiders, much like myself.
Some were classically trained artists; some were not,
but had a natural ability of storytelling through provoking drawings.
And I was particularly excited to push the experimentation,
going far beyond creative content to materials exploration,
so we ditched the art materials (except the india ink)
and ordered up drinks from the coffeeshop downstairs,
focused working with brewed coffee, black tea, and kircade (hibiscus tea,
a common drink there, bright fuchsia in the glass, various shades of indigo on paper).
Our weekly critiques gave me a real opportunity
to look at other artists’ works with a constructive perspective,
always discussing strengths as well as areas for improvement.
But mostly I appreciated their unique styles of representation,
sometimes bordering on abstraction,
that evolved week by week.
Fast forward to our last few days walking the beach at Zambujeira do Mar,
I am astonished to find some incredible artists at work in the tidal pools.
These small artists were drawing lines through their locomotion,
each ephemeral work recording their recent movements,
traversing the tidal pools in search of sustenance and a safe shelter.
Most of these drawings were done in collaboration with others,
an artist collective of periwinkles and other mollusks,
each tracing lines onto the tidal stones,
contributing to the whole abstract scene.
Reminding me of our experimental drawings decades ago.
While scouting out and shooting their artistic works,
I stumbled upon a few other noteworthy finds:
most striking the sculptural reliefs carved by the waves
and streams as they navigate their way to lower ground.
Their etchings record their reconnection to the great source
of water deep below.