Leslie Gerry, “Havana”

Cover of Havana.

Cloth bound with gigantic letters hot foil stamped in 3 colours.
It sits in a drop-back cloth covered solander box.

Spread – Old Man Portrait

Spread – Avenida de Belgica

Spread – Red Ford Taxi

Spread – The Chess Match

Leslie Gerry
Dowdeswell, Gloucestershire UK

Archival inkjet
edition of 70
60 pages
18.5 in x 28 in open
18.5 in x 14 in closed


I like to choose a location unfamiliar to me and of architectural interest, although it is often the street life that instills inspiration. I will spend two to three weeks walking around, sketching and taking many reference photographs, recording the colours, light, shadows and patterns. It is that first exposure which is so intense; you see things locals are often unaware of and that you will not notice on subsequent visits. I try to capture this intensity in the paintings I am about to do. On returning home to my studio I will run through the reference material over and over again, absorbing and reflecting on the images, until some sort of narrative develops. This will then become the basis of my book.

Painting on the computer, in Illustrator, I use a tablet and stylus. Working only with flat areas of colour and no tone, I “cut out” the shapes with the stylus, arranging them on different layers, creating a collage. In fact, I first started working this way years ago by cutting into sheets of coloured paper with scissors, similar to the way Matisse created his paper collages. I will start by sketching out a composition in blocks of colour as I would have done painting in oils. Using the reference photos as guidance only, I gradually build up the painting with darker areas first and then lighter shades.

The paintings end up as digital files; vector images which can be reduced or enlarged to any size. Havana was printed using archival inks with an Epson 7880 ink jet printer on Somerset Folio, a mould-made cotton paper.

I like the idea of accompanying the paintings with a text describing the location, either historical or contemporary – a different perspective, through different eyes.

In Havana I have used extracts from Cuba, by Irene A Wright, an American journalist / editor. Published in 1910, it contains impressions of Havana gathered during ten years living in Cuba, providing interesting first-hand insights as to the ongoing rich tapestry of daily life; full of curious flavour, detail and manners of the period.