This post is about my personal experience participating in an outdoor painting competition in the city of Granada. The event was organised by Caja Granada foundation on the 22nd September 2019. I painted from 10—4:30 pm and it was a beautiful day. On registration (where we got our blank canvases stamped) we got given a little bag with a free packed lunch inside – a bottle of water, a carton of chocolate milk and a Maritoni cake.

The Gates of Justice

This is the oil painting I produced – The Gates of Justice. It’s 80 x 60 cm in size. I really enjoyed daubing on all those vivid colours but it was a rush to get the painting down and whole canvas covered.

Oil painting of The Gates of Justice, Alhambra, Granada.


I walked around the free part of the Alhambra the week before to select my ideal painting spot, taking into account that I wanted to be painting in the shade. I drew a rough sketch of the composition and made some notes of how I wanted to approach the painting.

My notes

Get the perspective right by hand, get the angles in, cut in the sky like a mask. Loose underpainting – WILD, EXCITING & FREE. Architectural background with people holding cameras to give a sense of the era and scale of the monument. The architecture sets the scene for something to happen, capture something live. Modigliani style female figure in the foreground.

Equipment list

Materials: oil paints – oxide black, titanium white, 2 x reds (cadmium and rose), 3 x blues (cobalt and phthalo turquoise, turquoise), 2 x yellow (cadmium and lemon) and 2 x green (sap, emerald and yellow-green) some burnt sienna and orange. Brushes x 3 – 1-inch chisel tip, half-inch chisel tip and a selection of quarter-inch, smaller brushes and palette knives. Four empty jars. Bottle of white spirit. Rags. Canvas. Palette. Easel.

The Gates of Justice – work in progress

My husband Honza kindly accompanied me and took these action photos of me painting. I’m not usually seen in public wearing my granny painting smock. However, I’m such a paint magnet that I have to cover up from head to toe.

Paint faster than you think! Alex Katz

Spontaneous artists’ model

I didn’t have a model but trusted I would paint on the spot whoever turned up – and she did!

An exhibition on the streets of Granada

When it became time to exhibit our paintings, finding the right spot took a while for me. Firstly, I set up next to the children because I felt timid and a little out of my depth being with the other artists. I moved again to a spot further away from the kids corner because, well you know… I knew that wasn’t my place and I was starting to get a feel for how things were. Some people travel around Spain doing this competition professionally. I was blown away by all the high standard of art that was arriving, large scale canvases were flowing down through the streets of Granada that evening. I wandered around to see the artwork on display. I felt the need to check that it had all been painted that day, (all contestants were given a number and unbelievably each piece had a number). It was incredible what the artists had achieved in the small window of painting time allowed.

Finding my place

I found my artist friend Laura Aitken (she was the one who had told me about the competition). We laughed about what kind of witchcraft the other artists had used to produce such high caliber art, the impressive quality of craftsmanship and all in such a short period of time – I moved my easel over to be near her. However, I found I was still on the outskirts. My neighbour then moved his painting forward, which blocked access to mine. I bucked up the courage to face up to the large in stature, macho artists – I got some help to move two of the paintings over a bit. The large painting was gaining a great deal of attention. Even so, I muscled in, placing my little colourful exhibit next to this serious piece, so the work was all in more of a curved line. My work filled the gap nicely and made for a commanding corner of art. I thought to myself, “All the artwork is really benefitting much more from being placed together like this.”

Magical lighting

Then I realised my work was having some kind of spiritual moment – the sun was setting and it was reflecting off the window of a building opposite and was casting a warm light directly over my canvas! And it wasn’t a spiritual moment, it went on for at least half an hour and it was only my painting that was being spotlit by nature.

Oil painting of The Gates of Justice, Alhambra, Granada.

There were at least a 100 paintings on display at the Fuente de las Batallas, a fountain in the center of Granada city. Lots of people were milling around and the judges were marking the work. Someone asked me if there was a catalogue and when I told her, “Everything has been painted today and some of the paintings are still wet!” She ran off all excited.

Would I do it again?

The competition side was a bit stressful timewise but it motivated me to go out and paint something that I’ve been meaning to paint for a long time – a Moorish archway. It was also really good for me to experience being a small fish in the big pond of Spanish painters. To discover how far I still need to come with my painting. So yes, I would do it again.


Every artist poured their hearts out painting in this competition and I think it’s a great event. My painting was a very different style from that of the other contestants and it didn’t get much attention from the public during the exhibition. Even so, the people who did take a closer look spoke with me and gave me lovely feedback. I also met some really interesting people while I was up at the Alhambra painting. In general, it was a good day out – even though I didn’t win!

Sometimes when you experience a piece of art, it makes you see the whole world differently. We’re not always aware of the power the art has on us at the time. Emma Plunkett

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