I have two shows coming up this spring/summer. My solo show opens in June at the Gunnison Gallery. I will also be showing in June with Debbie Watkins, fiber artist and Lynn Vogle, fiber/metal artist at Backstreet in Montrose. New works for these shows will feature my flower/garden paintings, watercolor works developed from my sketches and photos from Mexico this past winter, and of course more horse paintings.
This series of photos shows my process; how I create from initial studies/ ink drawing to final watercolor painting.
From Ajijíc, we traveled with friends to the state of Michoacán. Our first stop was to El Rosario Sanctuario de las Mariposas Monarca. The experience of seeing thousands of Monarch butterflies was magical- un milagro! (My beloved horse was born in Florida in a field of Monarch butterflies; hence he was named Monarch. To watch a small clip of the Monarchs at Rosario, visit my Instagram account- see link to the right.)
After visiting the Monarchs, our next destination was Pátzcuaro, the picturesque city of red tiled roofs and blocks of red-banded adobe buildings. Pàtzcuaro was founded in the 1320s as the capital seat of the Tarascan state, which included Michoacán, Jalisco, and Guanajuato, rivaling the Aztecs in power and influence. Even today, native peoples retain their colorful dress, food, and traditions.
The center of social life in Ajijíc is the Plaza. Along one side is the Cultural Center; along another side is the old stone church, Capilla Nuestra Señora del Rosario. The church was started in 1550 and dedicated in 1600. Its unique masonry features small stones outlining the larger building rock. Just down the street is the larger San Andrés church.
(similar composition to Page 10) This is a studio study of Guanajuato for my next painting which I plan to pour. (Stay tuned…) I call it “After School.” I took this photo because the lighting made a good composition, and the flagstone pattern in the sidewalk and street made an inviting entrance into the picture plane. It was only after I returned that I noticed the strong visual connection between the mother and her daughter. Even with her back turned away from the camera, I could see this pair had eyes only for each other. Such a sweet subject.
Just a quick sketch while we sipped our beers. Gardens abound everywhere in Mexico- not just on the ground or in courtyards. You find them on almost every rooftop, even welded to windows in small apartments.
Our next destination was Guanajuato, capital city of the state of Guanajuato. Known as the birthplace of Diego Rivera and the origin of the Mexican independence, Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the Mexican Highlands, its origins are in gold and silver mining, bringing great wealth to the city. These mining tunnels have been converted to auto thoroughfares. The surface streets are narrow and winding. Most are alleys that cars cannot pass; some are long sets of stairs taxing the legs and lungs of even the locals. The historic Centro has numerous lush plazas and opulent, Baroque colonial-era buildings crammed along the mountainsides.
The Guanajuato Funicular whisks visitors and locals up the steep, 30° slope above Guanajuato, to the monument, El Pipila and the best view over Guanajuato. Though tempting to ride back down, take the time to walk through the charming alleyways back into Centro.
Tonalá, just outside Guadalajara Ciudad, is best known as a major handcrafts center for Jalisco, particularly the large Thursday and Sunday street markets dedicated to handicrafts. We went on a Thursday, which was great for shopping, but not so good for drawing. It was packed with vendors, often booths erected four deep with double alley ways. The views of street life and municipal buildings were blocked by the market. We had to get creative to record what we were experiencing.
As a handicraft center, I was struck by the gorgeous handcrafted street lights made with wrought iron and blown glass celebrating the importance of bees to the ecosystem. These whimsical sculptures reflect the ways Mexican culture beautifies even mundane utilitarian objects. I later noticed this charming style adapted to one of the local Tonalá homes.
We had five nights in Guadalajara, staying at the Hotel Dali in Guadalajara Centro. We spent each day exploring different city zones, visiting museums, drawing, and searching out local food. We ate from the markets and bakeries, at restaurants, and even from the street vendors. We rarely at at tourist high-end restaurants, preferring to experience the local color. I was careful to always order bottled water, and I had no trouble with the food as long as I told the server that I was lactose intolerant. “No puedo comer lactose, no queso, no crema, no leche.” The servers were quite accommodating to my needs.
One day we took the tour bus to visit Tlaquepaque, an area famous for its pottery and blown glass. The name derives from Nahuatl and means “place above clay land”. Historically San Pedro Tlaquepaque was a distinct village. During the 20th century, it was absorbed in Guadalajara, the state capital of Jalisco. In Tlaquepaque, one can find many fine galleries and beautiful native arts.
In Mexico, one sees many pruned and shaped trees. The formal garden in the Basilica Laternensis courtyard features free-standing espalier trees. Just beyond the basilica walls is a large church, almost as grand as the basilica itself.
Even a simple drawing, such as this involved the set up of perspective grids including the layout of formal gardens, courtyard walls, and a church beyond the walls. By the time we reached Guadalajara and were sketching for several days, my brain became entangled with perspective lines and multiple vanishing points.
While traveling in the colonial cities, I was struck by all the beautiful Catholic churches in Mexico. Every city has at least one cathedral and often a basilica as well. In addition, every neighborhood also has a church. This means that every few blocks one sees another opulent church! These churches are not what we would see in the US; they are large, ornate buildings resplendent with precious metals, chandeliers, paintings, frescoes, multiple altars, and nearly as big as the city’s main cathedral. They are old, built in the 16th – 18th centuries in Baroque, Classical, or Gothic styles. Some of the newer churches were built as late as 1800!
The main bus stop for Tapico Tours, where we could inexpensively travel to Talaquepaque and Tonalá was across from the Guadalajara Cathedral. The first sketch depicts a vignette from the plaza gardens looking at the corner of the Cathedral. In the distance the dome of another church is visible. The second sketch depicts as much of the cathedral as I could fit in my small 6″ square sketch book. The building is actually about one third bigger, where it fades off the left side of my sketch book.