Preparations for Painting Trip in Mexico

My husband and I like to get away in the winter and focus on making art, rather than teaching or exhibiting.  This year we will spend 4 weeks in Old Mexico, drawing, painting, soaking in the sights and culture in the Baroque cities of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, enjoying the rich craft traditions of Guadalajara, exploring Viejo Puerto Vallarta, and warming up along the beaches of Nayarit.

This week has been spent in preparation of being away from home for four weeks.  Well of course there are all those mundane things like getting reservations, arranging for a house sitter, and packing…….Then there’s the fun stuff: research and dreaming: looking at maps, watching travel vids on YouTube, networking with friends; shopping for the holes in my travel wardrobe; and preparing for making art-on-the-go.

As a painter of horses, flowers, gardens, etc, I also spent the past week brushing up on my perspective principles and skills.  The weather here has been really snowy, cold, etc, and my days have been taken with other prep chores, so I worked from photos in the evenings.  Making these drawings gave me time to acquaint myself with the environment I will be visiting, as well as revisit places from earlier travels.

This is a street scene from Guanajuato I found online.  From watching YouTube, I learned that Guanajuato is considered the “Gem of Mexico.”  It is built into the mountains in the state of Guanajuato during  Colonial times from an economy originally based on silver mining.  Guanajuato is a prosperous city with well-preserved neoclassical architecture featuring carved granite facades, soaring towers, archways, European-style plazas, and a network of winding cobblestone streets.  This pedestrian-friendly city has redirected the bulk of motor traffic below the city into the old mining tunnels.  in 1988, Guanajuato was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  I intend to find out more about these “chopped off” trees, which I found in all the videos and many photographs of the area.  What variety, why they are shaped this way, etc…..guanajuato

This street scene came up in my Guanajuato image search.  As I got into the drawing, I realized the shop signs were not in Spanish.  Unlikely to be Guanajuato; still good practice for perspective drawing.  My sketchbook page was small, and this scene had many characterizing details that I felt needed to be included, so I chose to unify the whole by working in value markers, rather than painting.street

With the sumptuous architecture and perhaps some questionable mountainous winter weather, drawing interiors will be profitable to practice as well.  I took this photo while visiting Fredericksburg, Texas last winter.  It is a charming, old-fashioned candy store.  You may notice the distortion of the paper, painted in a “dry media 80 lb” sketchbook.  The focal point is an M&M dispenser.  I imagine you choose the color blends you prefer and pay for the candy by the pound.  It looks rather like a coffee bean dispenser.candy

The last drawing is from an earlier trip last winter to visit my family on the West Coast of Florida.  My sister took me to a gelato shop.  The macaroon counter was amazing, with all the colors from the different macaroon flavors… coloring?  Like the candy store, I was drawn to the patterns of the geometric lineup of colorful shapes.  It was fun to play with the transparencies in the display while practicing perspective rules.macaroon

Travel Sketching

My husband, artist Kurt Isgreen, and I just returned from a three week road trip to the Texas hill country and Gulf coast.  After acquiring a small Hawk popup camper for our pickup truck last winter and taking several short trips last year, we decided we were ready for a more ambitious trip.  After three days of traveling and figuring out the logistics of camping, grocery shopping, and navigating, we were ready to begin recording our travels in sketches.

cheri isgreen
Along the San Antonio Riverwalk, 2/14/16

For this trip I took a 6″ square multimedia sketchbook.  The size was a bit of a challenge; being quite small, I had to determine what to include and what needed to be simplified.  The square format was also somewhat of a challenge, as city scenes lend themselves better in landscape layout.  The plus side: the size was ideal for walking and hopping buses; the paper weight allowed for a variety of media, including markers and watercolor.

San Antonio:

First evening, too late to explore the Alamo, but good light for drawing
Day 2 San Antonio- our plan was to see the many historic homes in the King William neighborhood, San Antonio


Day 3 San Antonio- took the bus to the Museum of Fine Arts- one of the best art museums I have visited.  Very impressive for a small city.  Then down the Riverwalk to the Pearl neighborhood.
Final day in San Antonio, then on to Goliad, TX
Visited 4 missions, explored all 4 missions and sketched 2.
Espirtu Santo Mission is right on the grounds of Goliad State Park, where we camped


The town of Goliad is a short walk from the park along a well-kept trail/bridge system

After leaving the Hill Country, we traveled to the Gulf Coast.  We camped at Mustang Island the first night, visited Padre Island National Seashore, then on to Rockport, Fulton, Goose Island State Park, and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.




Rockport-Fulton had the best seafood I have ever eaten.  I ordered the shrimp pasta, which were absolutely HUGE and fresh off the boat!

Leaving the Coast, we camped a Blanco State Park.  We explored the smaller towns of the Hill Country, including Luckenbach, Texas and Fredericksburg.  Both Rockport and Fredericksburg are art colonies.  The final night at Blanco, a hard rain fell which made national news.  I was quite worried about flooding and tornados, but we came through it safely.




Seven Days

Drawing in an investigative process; as one draws, one learns about a chosen subject.  Monet was the master of learning through repeated studies of the same subject: Rouen Cathedral, the train station Saint-Lazare, and of course his beloved waterlily pond and bridge.

Inspired by my sister’s arrangement of tangerines and tangelos, I decided to make a seven day study of the fruit.  I love the Italian desert server on which she arranged her fruit.  The fruit was fresh from the grove, with intriguing almost pear-like shapes.

The first drawing captures the arrangement in ink.

Day 1

I was very drawn to the leaves still clinging to a few of the fresh tangelos.  I knew that the contrast of the green and orange would make a striking little watercolor painting.


“Zooming in close allowed me to explore how light influences color on a form.  The red shadows from the reflected light surprised me.”

With so many shapes and overlaps, I decided to explore how that overlap would be exploited in a Cubistic manner.  I chose blue complements for the server’s outlines.


“LOOKING THROUGH- observe carefully and imagine how to complete each shape- though hidden by overlap.  Painting allows abstract pattern of color to develop.  This is my take on cubism.

Further exploring the “orange-ness” of the fruit, I played with the essence of sun and citrus- similar colors, shapes, even texture.


“An orange is a small package of liquid sunshine.”

Each day’s study suggests a new direction for the subsequent journal entry.  The oranges and sunshine reminded me of the creative approach the program CBS Sunday takes with its iconic sun.


Drawing and painting reflections, rather than object, forces an artist to search for true shape and color, instead of an object’s symbolic elements.  To emphasize the reflections, I left the rest of the drawing as minimal tonal values and details.


What better way to end this study on Super Bowl Sunday?


……….a Bronco line-up…………….

Holiday Market Sampler: “Before Breakfast”

"Why I've imagined at least six things before breakfast."
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”   -Alice; Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland


Mixed media collage on board was designed from a drawing in my sketchbook and printed on archival Reeves paper.  I see my collages as iconic with references and realia enhancing the original artwork.  For this piece, I included a tiny Queen of Hearts playing card and the key Alice is too tiny, and then too big to use.  The March Hare’s pocket watch was made from copper wire and bead, antiqued chain, and a metal watch face.  The border references Alice’s very psychedelic journey to Wonderland.  8” square panel  $40

To purchase visit the Gunnison Arts Center or contact me through this website.  Here’s the link to order:

Building Study

The elevation view is when the artist looks straight at a building.  Both the horizontal and the vertical lines are straight with no converging lines.  For a quick exercise, I sketched the Great Harvest building in downtown Montrose.  It was built in the early 1900’s with some classical architectural detail.

Great Harvest bldg, copyright C Isgreen 2015, ink on paper, 6" x 6"
Great Harvest bldg, copyright C Isgreen 2015, ink on paper, 6″ x 6″