Coffee and birds

After my portrait of the Ethiopian priest (in my last post), I tried my luck with an Ethiopian coffee pot, the gabana. This pot is used to pour out the traditional Ethiopian coffee as I have drunk it many times. It’s generally served with some herb and way too much sugar. The herb is said to be good for the stomach.


Most of my try-outs turn out to be better than expected and then I regret having used my crappy sketch paper. I have to become more confident and start using my thick paper for watercolours straight away. In the above case for example, the pot needs to be darker, but I’m afraid that if I paint an extra layer, the paper would buckle and warp too much.


The above watercolour is a Turaco, but it’s hard to see because of the lack of colour that makes this bird so spectacular. So, why no colour? Because it was  my first commission! On the terrace of the  hotel I had met a Danish guy who is working on a website for birding in Ethiopia. When we looked at his photos I said that it would be nice to make a watercolour of one. He said he actually wanted a logo for his website and so he asked me to make a watercolour of a photo he liked. That afternoon I made a draft and put some watercolour in it to see if could do it and when I showed it to him he was very excited. He said he couldn’t believe I had done that in an hours work. I made a few tiny adjustments and then he said it was perfect, even though it was only the draft on the crappy paper! He offered to pay me, but I said I was happy to accept dinner in the restaurant next door.

After the bird I  made a study of a girl, but near the end I realised I had forgotten the background, so I repaired that with GIMP. I am not so sure if that improved the painting at all, so I have uploaded both versions for the reader to judge.

Living in the hotel for quite a while now, I’ve become familiar with quite a few characters that surround the place and I’ve come to fear the greetings that involve meeting these people: I never know what kind of handshake is coming and exactly what to do. Some come in with their hand in a high position and some as if they go for a regular handshake. What follows is a kind of judo: they jerk your hand down and lean over to touch shoulders. Embarrassing is not knowing the number of times: often one time, but one guy said three times is good practice among good friends to which position I was apparently just elevated. Besides these common manoeuvres, there exist a number of cool hip-hop style (what do I know) shakes, sometimes a normal handshake is unexpectedly changed in an overhand shake. Sometimes people merely caress the palm of your hand rather than shake it. And so forth. It is complicated.


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