I absolutely love being outside the Prado. When in Madrid, my favorite museum is actually the Reina Sofia, which is the modern art museum there, famous as the home for Picasso's Guernica. As a big Pablo fan, it's the obvious choice for my painting-hopping that I consider a necessity while traveling in Europe.
But it's the spirit AROUND the Prado that gets me. If the walls contain past accomplishments by the country's artists, then the land surrounding it is the living, breathing pulse of Madrid's art scene. I absorb more about this city by wandering through the sidewalks here than I did in hours walking through the hallways.
At first glance, it simply looks like hawkers trying to sell as many cheap trinkets to tourists as they can—but if you get past the enormous collection of Don Quixote and bull images, you can actually meet local artists as they guide you through their collections or paint new additions.
I was happy yesterday to meet Yonathan Haroch again, an Israeli who has adopted Spain as his home. Yonathan started by painting the more generic Madrid scenes and has branched out into more abstract, colorful expressions featuring Hebrew letters. I have bought from him before, and I am glad to say that I made additions to my collection of his art. Over a coke in the plaza, he introduced me to Carlos Alvarez, who does limited edition prints made with thin pieces of metal that he etches and then presses into the paper.
Walking around with my new acquisitions, I took some time to watch about a dozen other artists with their easels set up, deeply intent on creating their first (or next) masterpiece. Undisturbed by the onlookers, they spend all day soaking up the sun and the atmosphere. I told one woman I liked her work, and she jumped at the chance to tell me about several of her paintings, some with acrylic, others of watercolor, and some with both mediums intertwined.
One of the gentlemen on a bench got his current project and showed me how he used his black, grey, and cream paints and small pallette. A thick layer of paint was applied in a block, and then he would cut back through with the tool and the ridges added the contrast. It is the definitive Spanish spirit; they bend over backwards to be friendly to everyone.
I love to take a few extra minutes while there in the warm Spanish sun; see the artists; be in the midst of the lovers on picnics all around; watch the tourists waiting for the newest temporary exhibit. The atmosphere can't be beat.