Guanajuato Color

The city of Guanajuato is a Unesco World Heritage site, named for its opulent Baroque and Neoclassical buildings, elegant plazas, and abundant theaters, museums, and galleries. Over and above, (quite literally) the rich heritage in Zona Central Historical, the city’s innate expression of color manifests itself in vibrant markets and neighborhoods. The city sits in a “valley bowl” with bright houses crammed into the steep slopes, ringing the city, and coloring the hillsides.

“Guanajuato Color” watercolor 16″ x 20″ $350

Mexican love of color is expressed everywhere from folk arts, to charming business signs and posters, to flower-filled balconies overlooking every street and callejon. (Stay tuned…….I have a post planned for this theme. Today is Valentines Day. Our landlady just gave us a most charming invitation to her restaurant for a special dinner and musical evening. “Musica Francesa” will feature French cafe-style music, in the vein of Edith Piaffe, one of my favorite singers. Our reservation is for 7:30).

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Museo & Casa de Olga Costa & Jose Chavez Morado

Today we visited the Museo de Olga Costa-Jose Chavez Morado. Artists Costa & Chavez Morado shared a partnership of art and marriage. The museum is Costa and Chavez Morado’s former home and studio, which they donated to the city of Guanajuato, along with their art collection. On display is a rich collection of ceramics, (both pre-Hispanic and 20th Century local talavera), furniture, masks, textiles, and their own artworks. Across the courtyard, exhibitions of rotating contemporary art is shown. Learn more: Olga Costa & Jose Chavez Morado

To find the museum, one walks along the picturesque Rio Pastita, which parallels Calle Pastita in the Pastita Bario. Along the route is the old Colonial-era aqueduct. Costa and Chavez Morado converted a massive old well into their home and studio. Based on the shape of the back walls, I imagine the artists removed the original back part of the well to build additional walls and enlarge their living/studio space. This back area opens to lovely gardens and a spacious courtyard.

Ink drawing: old well beautifully converted to artists’ home & section of old aqueduct

Colorful Hillside

From above the classical theaters and baroque churches crammed within the labyrinthine alleyways of the city center, haphazard stacks of sherbet-colored houses rise along the hillsides in perfect disorganization…..Moon Guide to Guanajuato, p. 123 San Miguel de Allende, including Guanajuato & Queretaro, Julie Meade

This perfect description draws me to paint the city. Small watercolor 6″ x 9″ on Arches cold press watercolor block using my new Koi pocket field sketch box of pan watercolors and small travel brushes. The brushes and pan colors took some getting used too.

A Night at the Symphony

Una noche en la sinfonia, Teatro Juarez, Guanajuato……Viernes 2 de febrero, 2018

Every since seeing Guanajuato’s crown jewel, the Juarez Theater during my visit last year, I have been wanting to attend a performance. Friday night was the season opener for Orquesta Sinfonica de la Universidad de Guanajuato. The name is somewhat misleading, as it is not a student orchestra. It is Mexico’s most prestigious orchestra: a full symphonic orchestra with accomplished residential and invited international musicians, soloists, and conductors.

The neo-classical jewel was commissioned by President Porfirio Diaz, reflecting his opulent tastes. It features twelve Doric columns with brass capitals, supporting a cornice topped with a row of black stone muses. The ornate lamp posts illuminate the theatre in an elegant glow. The interior is every bit as spectacular as the exterior promises. The bar and lobby gleam with carved wood, stained glass, and precious metals. Heavily influenced by Moorish design, the Gran Salon Auditorio dazzles with elaborately carved wood and stucco relief, painted brilliant tones of red, blue, and gold.

Designed by Antonio Rivas Mercado, work began in 1873, finished in 1903, and inaugurated by Diaz in 1910 with a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida. (Pictured: Auditorium before the performance, as people were finding their seats). The 2018 Apertura de Temporada began with Johann Strauss, The Bat Overture. Sitting in sumptuous elegance with strains of classical harmonies washing over me, I felt I was transported in time, (and perhaps even place to nineteenth century Vienna). Next on the bill was Dvorak, Concert for Violin Opus 53, with invited soloist Karen Su. After intermission, the performance resumed with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #1 in E Major, Titian. I was very moved by this innovative piece that continued to build through all four movements.

The performance was preceded by a lecture by the conductor, Roberto Beltran Zavala in the upstairs salon. The art nouveau salon is complemented by more neoclassical carved wood, gold, and marble architectural details. The floor is glass block, enhancing the airy, light-filled environment. It was the Art Nouveau Salon that inspired my collage, which appears in the preview above this post. Ink and ephemera from the night: playbill; theater ticket, bus ticket, & found-text.

Guanajuato’s Panoramica

Subimos hasta la Panoramica y miramos abajo en la cuidad…..

Above its network of roads, alleys, and tunnels rings Guanajuato’s high road, La Panoramica. It seems most alleys that climb steeply skyward eventually come out on the Panoramica. The Panoramica affords amazing views of the city and takes you to historical sites above the city. For the faint of heart (or body), one can take the Funicular cog railway to the revolutionary monument, El Pepilar and the Panoramica. Just a block from our casita, we discovered an actual road that connects to the Panoramica. Though not as steep as the callejon escaleras , (alley staircases), the road is still a strenuous hike. The reward is the view!

We found a spot overlooking the city, “Zona Central,” where the big landmarks were easily identified. Here we sat and began a drawing. I was charmed by the house just across the street from where we sat. Built into the mountain hillside, it spreads organically with niches, patios, and additions built from angles that mirror its topography, and crowned with a cupola. A gang of ninos chattered almost constantly while we worked, peppering us with questions. Concentrating on the complex scene in front of me was a challenge! As my drawing began to take shape, the children were delighted to discover the house I was drawing belonged to their grandmother. “Es la casa de mi abuelita!” exclaimed Diego, the leader of this group of primos y amigos.

I am enjoying mixing media for artwork on this trip. For this drawing, I drew the house in ink, then added color with watercolor pencil. In my first drawing, (Jan. 26), I was not happy with the watercolor wash I tried. To deepen and saturate the color, I found I needed to dip the pencil tip directly in water. With that technique, I was able to add strong color in spots and dashes, but could not apply deep colors in large areas. This time, instead of adding water to the colored areas, I blended and toned the colored pigments with Copic markers- warm #1 & warm #4. The alcohol-based ink blended and deepened the color much better than water. I think clear alcohol would make a good blending wash for watercolor pencils where no tone is desired. Notice in the preview image, the main cathedral, Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato, and the university, Universidad de Guanajuato were visible from our vantage point. In the full drawing, these features are bookended by the house focal points: the cupola and the large patio light.

Paseo de San Renovato

Habia varios murales ceramicos historical…….

Our casita in Guanajuato is in the Paseo de la Presa neighborhood. Literally this means, “walk of the dam.” Just up the street from us is el Palacio del Gobierno, the Governor’s Palace. As you walk up this street toward the dams, you will see several graceful government buildings from the Diaz era, (around the turn of the last century), in Classical Revival style, adorned with pink and/or green sandstone columns, friezes, pediments, etc. In the mid-1800’s Guanajuato began constructing dams for flood control. Paseo de Olla is the original dam built just above the Governor’s Palace, constructed in Colonial style with a large park just below the dam, beginning steps from the Governor’s Palace.

Above Paseo de Olla, a second dam and park was built to reinforce the lower dam, Paseo de San Renovato, C. 1852. Rather than excavate, the engineers used the natural topography of the ravines for this dam. The walls of San Renovato lead you through a lovely walk. The middle section features beautiful tile murals depicting reproductions of paintings showing daily life of Guanajuato artisans & workers of the day by the artist, Manuel Lael. The upper walk, accessed by two flights of stairs and topped by a pergola, gives a good view of the dam. At the base of the lower wall is a small garden containing two monumental stone figures, a snake and a crocodile. According to local legend, two deceitful, mean-spirited neighbors were turned into animals as punishment. Even that punishment could not keep them from arguing, as you can see when you visit this appealing sculpture.

Watercolor & Ink, 24 enero 2018

This garden with the “grumpy neighbors,” (los vecinos grunones), is found at the base of the dam structure.)

Notice the huge scale of the sculptures, actually an installation sculpture garden. The snake’s head peeks up over the higher terrace level to shout down to his neighbor.

And one more shot of the crocodile in all his toothy glory.

Colorful Staircase: Escalera Colorida en Plazuela de San Roque

Wandering around the city of Guanajuato, we passed this charming casa. On a faded ceramic plaque, we were barely able to discern that this was the home of “Los Juglares,” the jugglers en la Calle Cantaritos. La casa faces the small plaza, Plazuela de San Roque. (Saint Roch is a French Catholic saint, who is invoked to guard against plague.). My Spanish dictionary does not define, “cantaritos,” though an internet search gives many entries. Cantaritos is a tequila drink, close cousin to a margarita.

Red geraniums in bright blue pots shout, “bienvenido!” Watercolor & Ink

As best as I can see, the jugglers were honored by the city of Guanajuato for 35 years of artistic performance and presented the plaque in August by the municipal “president,” Dr. Eduardo Romero Hicks.

Time to Register “A Sense of Place” Sketch Journal Class in Montrose

I will be teaching part II of the sketch journal series, “A Sense of Place.”  Learn how perspective works, how to simplify perspective principles, and how to use this understanding to capture a sense of place in your drawings.  We will meet at the Montrose Plaza downtown under the covered pavilion on Tuesday, July 11, 4-6 PM.  The image above is a winding street in San Miguel DeAllende, Mex.  It simplifies a very complex street scene with multiple vanishing points.  You do not need to be concerned with the complexities of winding streets, hills, vanishing points, etc.  to capture a sense of  the place you are drawing.  Use this link to register:         sketch workshop registration

Please bring a sketch book, pencil, eraser, and fine line ink pen.

If you wish to add color, bring a small portable watercolor set.  For those without a professional pleine air travel kit, make a paint kit with the following items:

TRAVEL KIT

  • box of Prang watercolors found in the school supply section.  Do not buy Crayola washable watercolors; the paint has no color saturation.  They also come in a plastic box which breaks over time.  The Prang set comes in a metal box with a palette for mixing in the lid.  This can be refilled with your choice of tube watercolors as the original set is used.
  • watercolor brushes- at the minimum get a very thin round brush to complement the bigger brush that comes with the Prang set.  A 1″ flat brush is also handy to have.
  • a small container for holding water- go to a camping store and purchase a collapsible drinking cup.  They are plastic and come in bright colors.  They also come with a lid.
  • sponge- cut the sponge into small pieces that will fit inside your collapsible water cup.
  • old wash cloth- cut this in half- wrap your paint brushes inside the 1 of the washcloth pieces.
  • large ziplock baggie or zippered pencil case; small ziplock baggie; paper towel- use the paper towel to blot your paint set when you are ready to put it away.  Zip it into the small baggie.  Put the whole paint kit into the large baggie: sketchbook, pen, pencil, eraser, watercolor materials.

“A Sense of Place”

We met today at Centennial Plaza, Montrose, Colorado for the first session in improving on site architectural sketching. Beginning with pencil, we practiced getting correct proportions in an elevation view of City Hall. After recording big shapes, we added smaller shapes, and finished with architectural details and foundation plantings.  Using a fine tip waterproof marker, we refined shapes.  Then students were introduced to techniques for adding watercolor to enhance their sketches.

place

Students learned new skills and gained confidence in their drawings.  Said one participant, “I wish I had known this when I went to Durango last month.”  We will continue these ideas next month, again focusing on elevation view and proportions.  Drawing is a learned skill.   With instruction, support, practice, tips, and techniques, you will learn to capture a sense of place in your sketch book.

Join us for the next “A Sense of Place” sketch journal workshop.  There is always review of concepts and techniques, so don’t be intimidated if you miss a class.  You can catch up in no time!  Sign up using this link: WORKSHOP REGISTRATION

We meet monthly on the second Tuesday or Saturday of each month :

  • July 11- Centennial Plaza  4:30-6:30 Tuesday
  • August 12- Backstreet Bagels  2:30-4:30  Saturday
  • September 9- Backstreet Bagels  2:30-4:30  Saturday
  • October 14- Backstreet Bagels  2:30-4:30  Saturday
  • November 14- Centennial Plaza  4:30-6:30 Tuesday
  • December 9- Backstreet Bagels  2:30-4:30  Saturday

NEW 2017 SKETCH JOURNAL WORKSHOPS

I am offering two approaches to sketch journaling this summer.  In Montrose we will focus on capturing a sense of place through the study of onsite perspective.  In Gunnison we will express our thoughts, ideas, and feelings through visual journaling.

goliad
Goliad, Texas, February 2016, Part I: elevation view and proportion 

The Montrose Class is designed for those

who want to use journals to record their travels, but have found perspective difficult.  If you have struggled with perspective, I will present an easy system to convey accuracy in your drawings with perspective.  Drawing is a skill, and it can be learned.  Drawing is not just for “natural artists.”  If you love to travel and want to make your trips more meaningful, join us at Centennial Plaza at Tuesday, June 13 from 4:30-6:30  PM.  Bring  a small sketch book, pencils, eraser, straight edge or drafting  square, fine line black pen, small watercolor kit with a brush, (like Prang student watercolors), small cup for cleaning the brush, and a sponge.  REGISTER HERE    $25  We meet either the second Tuesday (4:30-6:30) at Centennial Plaza or Saturday (2:30-4:30) at Backstreet Bagels each month.  Dates: TUESDAY- June 13; July 11; November 14;  SATURDAY- August 12; September 9; October 14; December 9

The Gunnison Class is designed for those

who have kept journals or want to start keeping a journal with more pizzazz than simply writing about the day.  We will use a variety of visual strategies to bring your journals alive with drawings, color, pattern, and text.  Classes are held at the Gunnison Arts Center through a partnership with Western State Colorado University.  Optional university credit is available for these classes.  Classes begin Wednesday June 14, 2017 and run every other Wednesday through August 9th.  To register, contact Gunnison Center for the Arts 970-641-4029 or use this link: GAC EDUCATION

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“Why sometimes I’ve imagined as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  Alice  Sketch Journals with Cheri Isgreen, Wednesdays at Western through the Gunnison Arts Center