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


Workshop Offerings 2017

I am pleased to work with the Western Colorado Center for the Arts, Telluride’s Ah Haa School of the Art, Montrose  Center for the Arts, and Gunnison Arts Center to offer a variety of workshops in watercolor, sketch journaling and mixed media.  I am currently scheduled to offer four watercolor classes and three sketch classes this spring, plus an intermediate/advanced watercolor class this summer in Telluride.  As the schedule develops, I will continue to update the WORKSHOP SCHEDULE.  These offerings are in the works and will be scheduled later in 2017: off-loom weaving to create whimsical broaches, art history through hands-on creative art making, special effects to enhance water-based painting, journal making.


Please use this link to access descriptions, schedules, and registration to classes:  WORKSHOP SCHEDULE


Bursting from the picture plane and leaping into the room, “Power,” depicts the lovely Lipizzan stallion, Conversano Mima.  Mima, a USDF grand prix horse, stands at White Horse Vale Lipizzans in Goldendale, WA.  As a commissioned painting, I did several studies in pencil and watercolor before I began the final painting.  Living with him in photographs, drawings, and paintings, I came to know him quite well.   He is painted in a simple triad: raw sienna, (yellow); burnt sienna, (red); and 3 blues, (manganese blue, Windsor blue-green, cobalt blue).  I was able to mix a variety of colors with this palette.  The mixed siennas lent an earthy, neutralized tone- a counterpoint to the pure, unmixed pigments.  The strong direction of the splatter paint in the mane balances the horizontal movement in the dust and shadows.  To keep the eye moving around the composition, this painting has two focal points- the stallion’s beautiful, noble face and the action of the three legs coming together, as he strikes off into the first beat of the next canter sequence.  The canter is a circular gait, reminiscent of a wheel.  Using the canter in a painting encourages the eye to circle the painting in the same path that the eye follows when watching the 3 beats of the canter.

"Conversano Mima" watercolor, copyright C Isgreen
“Conversano Mima” watercolor, copyright C Isgreen

Poured Watercolor Demo

%22Riding for Rain*%22
“Riding for Rain” poured watercolor, sold/private collection; copyright Cheri Isgreen

Why Pour?

Painting wet-into-wet is so much quicker and uses far less paint.  Why would I bother to mask and pour?

  • Because the amount of paint applied to the surface of the paper is so saturated, (even when making early light value layers), spontaneous color mixtures combine in unique ways that can’t be achieved any other way.
  • Layers can be built undisturbed by any brushwork, resulting in luminous, clean colors with neutral mixtures occurring without muddy passages.
  • Though it appears that masking would restrict the element of spontaneity, pouring allows the artist to exploit the unexpected by controlling how the pour will run.  This is particularly effective in areas with large passages of color where there is potential for  a great variety of subtle variation in color, value, and texture.
  • Pouring allows the artist to emphasize shapes and negative space, as well as to imply meaning through the use of lost and found edges.
%22Out of the Shadows%22
“Out of the Shadows” poured watercolor, sold/private collection; copyright Cheri Isgreen

 Critical concerns to Ensure a Successful Painting

  • The artist needs to make studies before painting.   For each mask layer to be successful, a careful drawing must be executed with accurate shapes and values .  Additionally, the artist needs to consider all the elements, (line, color, texture, form,  and space, as well as shape and value), to insure a balanced composition.  Though pouring is primarily a studio technique and not suitable for pleine aire painting, poured watercolor develops technical skills, habits of mind, and the awareness of compositional elements that are critical in the field when an artist must work quickly to capture the light.
  • When developing compositional studies, develop your ideas into connected shapes with three or more values.
  • Edges matter- draw and mask shapes very carefully, so the painting will read when the mask is removed.  Buy the best brushes you can afford for masking, (you will need a variety), and take good care of them, so the mask doesn’t destroy them.  Mask brushes and water containers must be dedicated for masking only.
  • Exploit lost & found edges, negative space, and counter-change when developing compositional studies.
  • Avoid details until the end, when the mask is off.
  • When the mask is off, find areas where the edges must be softened.
%22pause in the day's occupation%22 *G
“Pause in the Day’s Occupation” 21″x28″ sold/private collection; sold/private collection

To schedule a workshop for your organization or find out where the next workshop will be held, comment below.

Tomorrow: steps for completing the demo painting begun at the Brush and Palette Club demo