Havana: Leon Morrocco

1 - 30 September 2006

"This was one of the best drawing trips that i have been on"

My wife, Jean, accompanied me and we were fortunate to have the help and guidance of a well-known Havana painter, Jose Antonio Hechavarria. We were introduced to many painters, sculptors, ceramicists, printmakers and filmmakers. We were also taken to the National Art School in Havana and met students and staff as well as seeing a survey of student work, some of which was impressive. Sitting in on rehearsals at the Cuban National Ballet was a highlight.


What impressed us most was a strong sense of camaraderie amongst artists of all disciplines. There seemed to be a common understanding to support each other in the face of what were often extreme difficulties, not just in the sense of political censorship

(certain subject matter was problematic) but also in coping with severe shortages in basic materials. Some painters we met were short of essential colours and one art shop we were taken to had only tubes of sap-green in stock. Printmakers we met had no metal etching or lithography plates and were resorting to thick cardboard or plastic tiles to scratch into. A large box of printing inks and zinc plates that I sent to a young printmaker never reached him and was confiscated by Cuban Customs and sent back to me in London six months later.


Visually Havana was exciting to respond to: the crumbling buildings of the old town, the decorative verandas, the everpresent lines of washing and life lived essentially outside –

all rich pickings for the inquisitive eye of the painter. Days were spent drawing in the back alleys of old-Havana, often accompanied by the sound of live music emanating from some open window.