This is the story of a journey: a journey without words, one that takes us beyond postcards. This is the story of #Onthedraw, an initiative that asked artists to show us the Canary Islands in a new way.
Promotur Turismo and the Veintiocho y Medio creativity agency got together to promote a destination that is, at the end of the day, very easy to sell. Or perhaps not so easy, given that everyone has a preconceived idea about the Canary Islands; an idea that skims over the reality of the place and reduces its natural and cultural riches to a handful of identical beaches and nightclubs; an idea that lumps seven very different islands together.
These two organizations wanted to bring a breath of fresh air, a bit of reality to that collective attitude, and they decided that art was the way to do it. They invited seven international illustrators to spend a week in the archipelago, each one on a different island. The Barcelona artist Paula Bonet fell in love with Gran Canaria; the Russian-German Ekaterina Koroleva portrayed Lanzarote; Malika Favre (France) was based on Fuerteventura; Ben Heine left Belgium to spend a few days on Tenerife; Jens Magnusson (Sweden) visited La Gomera; the Irishman Steve Simpson was allocated to La Palma and the Dane Mads Berg wandered the lunar landscapes of El Hierro.
They were not alone. Each artist had a host, a local artist whose job it was to show them their island, to help their guest get past the sights and the beaches and visit the places they considered most authentic and memorable. The island would become the muse. “When you travel it is different seeing a place on your own, as a tourist, and when you are shown around by a friend,” explains Cristina Rebolo from Veintiocho y Medio. “Our project involves recovering the host figure.” And so an element of collaboration between artists, of shared inspiration, entered the equation.
So before the guest artists started to draw, the resident artists did their own sketch: a planned route around their island. The organizers gave them plenty of freedom to organize the trip. “That is why the experiences drawn are not the most obvious ones,” says Rebolo. For example: in the series painted by Steve Simpson, there is an image of a paella inside a grotto with the sea in the background. What happened was that the Canarian illustrator Víctor Jaubert took him to eat this rice dish, more associated with parts of the Spanish mainland than these islands, inside a rocky cove on La Palma. This is the project’s magic. “Part of this shared experience can be seen in the drawings. Looking at them, it gives you another idea of what it might be like to visit these islands,” explains Rebolo.
In fact, as she points out, the trip itself is the star of #Onthedraw and the illustrations are a by-product of it. In many cases, the experience has become more than just a brief contact, since some of the local and international artists are still in touch, three years on.
There is much to enjoy: from the richness of Gran Canaria’s landscapes in Paula Bonet’s drawings, to the quirky humour and curious details of the work of Steve Simpson, and the striking, simple images of Mads Berg. The images of #Onthedraw represent the seven islands of the archipelago, the vision of each of the artists, and the experience of a week in which postcards have been left behind and a different reality glimpsed.
Mads Berg, El Hierro