San Luis Potosí

Last night we returned from a weekend in the colonial city and capital seat of San Luis Potosí. Founded in 1592, El Centro abounds with stunning architecture in a variety of styles including Moorish domes, ornate Baroque, and stately neo-classical, (to name just a few). Named a Unesco World Heritage site, the city appeals to both visitors’ and citizens’ aesthetic senses. El Teatro de Paz, a palatial neoclassical period theater, seats 1200 patrons. World-class museums abound, including Museo de la Mascara, a three story, fully restored Baroque government building, exhibiting masks from around the world. Lavish cathedrals, encircled by manicured gardens, elegant plazas, and tinkling fountains dot each city block . La Calzada de Guadalupe, a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard, leads the faithful from El Centro to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora Guadalupe. Music is celebrated throughout the streets. We were treated to open air opera arias, Latin jazz fusion, Chicago blues with a Mexican twist, a kids’ percussion band complete with homemade instruments, and traditional Mexican music. The International Chocolate festival, running the weekend we visited, featured some of the best chocolate I have ever eaten, along with beautiful chocolate sculptures and displays, all housed in a sumptuous neoclassical edifice from the 1800’s.

A weekend in the city of San Luis Potosí is not nearly enough time to explore all the city has to offer. We are already planning a return trip next year.

Plaza Aranzazu; ink drawing

Check out this travel guide with photos: San Luis Potosí

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).

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.