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

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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.

City of Frogs: Guanajuato

…meditando sobre Guanajuato

The name Guanajuato comes from the Purepecha language. Some say it means, “hill of frogs,” contending that in the Purepecha culture, the frog is the god of wisdom. Others believe it means, “place of monstrous frogs,” referring to the rock formations that ring the town.

The city has embraced its amphibious “mascota.” Throughout the city, one can see frog ornamentations on homes and businesses. Streets and callejons are named after the frog. The city’s southwest entrance welcomes visitors with La Plaza de Ranas, a lovely gateway featuring a collection of large sandstone frog sculptures.

Drawings in this post were made in ink wash from selected sculptures from the Plaza. I believe these kissing frogs are some of my favorites.

Based on the diversity of sculptural styles, I would guess a variety of sculptors were invited or competed to create a sandstone frog.

Below are a few of my favorite frog photos from wandering the town:

28 Enero 2018. … A Day in the Park

Cogimos un autobus al Mercado Hidalgo y caminamos hasta el Jardin del Cantador

We have been learning the bus routes and stops. On Sunday morning we took the bus from our neighborhood to Central Historico. We picked up the bus at the beautiful Escuela Normal, (the teacher’s college.). It is an old ornate sandstone building built in the Colonial style. This is the main bus stop for the Presa neighborhood. Because we went by bus, instead of walking, we took a tunnel route. Because it was Sunday, everyone was out- families, teenage couples, groups of college students, and a handful of tourists. Once we hit Zona Central, the crowded sidewalks overflowed into the streets. By the time we hit Hildalgo Market, the streets were so clogged, no traffic could move. We disembarked the bus and headed to a large park called Garden of the Singer.

Though some flowers are blooming and shrubs are still green, the trees are mostly dormant, creating a mass of neutral greys. I decided this journal entry would be made in toned inks. Above the garden, homes are built into the hillside providing a splash of color to the winter landscape. This area could be loosely rendered with watercolor wash. The thin paper of the my bus ticket added a layer of complexity to the composition.

We were confused about how to return by bus. Everyone told us to catch the return bus “abajo,” but we could not find where the bus stopped down below. Yesterday we tried again to figure out the bus route home. Finally a college student showed us that the main upper stop was about half a block away from the lower return route. We walked back to Hildalgo Mercado and after some wandering, we found the stone staircase that took us to the bus stop in the tunnel. Once down there, we learned the little buses, (cambios), stopped at the first stop, so we had to walk deeper into the tunnel to catch the Presa bus. It has been very cold, and everyone rides the bus when the weather is bad. Several full buses passed us by. Eventually our bus arrived. We traveled in tunnels for a long while before finally surfacing at the Plaza Embajadors, (Plaza of the Ambassadors.). It was just a few more stops until we reached our stop at the Escuela Normal.

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.

A Winter’s Visit to Guanajuato, Mexico

Subimos un callejon y encontramos una panaderia anticuada…

On Sunday, January 14, 2018 we landed in Guadalajara airport, found a taxi to Ajijic, and met friends from Colorado. Our reservation for our casita in Guanajuato would begin on Tuesday, so we had a full day to explore some of the villages along Lake Chapalla. Lake Chapalla is the largest lake in Mexico; along its shores are many small villages- each specializing in an industry: berries, woodwork, etc. Ajijic is a popular destination for expats from the US, particularly retirees living on a fixed income.

Tuesday morning, after much map studying, we set off in our friend’s rented car to Guanajuato. Despite all our map studying, we still needed the phone GPS to navigate the roads whose ancient origins create confusion for foreign drivers. We arrived safely, unpacked, and headed out to explore our new neighborhood.

Guanajuato is a beautiful Baroque city, with a population of three quarters of a million people. It is know for its beautiful architecture, winding pedestrian-friendly streets, and a wealth of cultural offerings: museums, art, rich traditions of handicrafts, three theaters, (including the international Cervantes festival), music, & dance. Though many people visit Guanajuato each year, it does not cater to tourists. There are few panhandlers & aggressive vendors selling tourist trinkets. Living here, one gets a true sense of Mexican life. Not much English is spoken here; is is fun to test my Spanish skills. (I have been studying every day since visiting Guanajuato last year. After spending just 5 days here last year, having 6 weeks and my own casita is heaven!)

With our friends from Ajijic in the casita next door, we spent a few days wandering, sightseeing, visiting museums, sampling restaurants, and shopping. When they left, it was time to truly settle in. We did laundry, stocked up on sundries at the Mega, scoped out the local markets, and did lots of exploring. We rearranged our casita, made room for our art supplies and groceries, and I cooked my first meal in Mexico.

We are learning how to navigate a city that has no grid- just a spider web of streets and callejones- narrow alleys that quickly become staircases- they are everywhere!  We’ve been brave, taking lots of narrow streets & callejones- even did a few tunnels!  We’ve discovered that the Panoramica is a road that circles above the city. When you think you are lost, wandering the callejons, and find yourself out of breath above the city, find the Panoramica to navigate a way to the zone you wish to go. Besides walking/climbing, there are 3 ways to get around in Guanajuato. Take a bus or taxi, or walk to Zona Central, take the Funicular to the Panoramica, & navigate from above the city. The third option involves walking, but not so much climbing.

It was on one of these early exploring expeditions that we found a delightful baker- el panadora Pedro. As we were descending a callejon from the Panoramica, I began to smell the delicious aroma of baking bread. I thought it was a housewife. Much to our surprise, we discovered a tiny shop tucked into the alley with an authentic large clay oven. As we peeked in, the baker bid us enter. We remarked on the old oven- “horno viejo,” and he said proudly that it wasn’t so old- only 20 years. He allowed me to photograph him with his oven, which became the inspiration for my first sketchbook entry.

The first drawing shows the callejon that leads to the Pedro’s bakery. It shows the entry of the callejon, where you turn off Paseo de Presa, (where we live for these 6 weeks in Guanajuato), and head to Pedro’s. In this first drawing I wanted to emphasize the color of the city, particularly this location. Some homeowners paint their houses in bright tropical colors, many walls are bordered with red paint, and bright flowers, mostly poinsettias and bougainvillea bloom profusely throughout the winter. To this end, I used ink to depict the masonry, and experimented with watercolor pencils to add the colorful accents. To get the deep colors I was after, I found the need to dip them directly into water and paint with the tips. Applying them like pencil and using water to blend the pigment did not allow the rich effect I was after. Pedro’s portrait was done with 4 values of ink. He stands beside his traditional domed clay oven. An undecorated cake sits on the counter, and collection of rolls are bagged for sale. The rolls are called “bolitos”- taken from “bole,” a large round loaf.

Passionate Pursuits Opens this Friday, June 2, 2017

You are invited to an art reception featuring my watercolor paintings celebrating horses, gardens, and travel.  The reception begins at 5:30 PM.  I will give a gallery talk about my inspirations, techniques, and processes beginning at 6:00 PM.  Along with my watercolor paintings, I am offering a wide selection of prints, notecards, and tiny paintings.  Live music and refreshments are planned.  This event is part of the Gunnison Colorado First Friday Artwork, with many venues in downtown Gunnison participating with art, spirits, music, and food.  For more information, please call Anne at 970-641-6111.

“Passionate Pursuits”  runs through the end of June.  Gallery hours are Monday-Friday 9:00 AM-5:30 PM and Saturdays 9:00 AM-4:00 PM.

 

New Work 2017 “Break in the Clouds”

After seeing my “After School” painting, a good friend sent me a photo she took while traveling in Nicaragua, which she said reminded her of my narrative painting.  (see March 31 post- After School)  I thought the photo would be a perfect subject for a poured watercolor approach.  I will be teaching this technique in Telluride, CO this summer.  If you are intrigued by this method, you can register with this link- poured watercolor workshop

As with many of my paintings, the first step is a study in ink or pencil.  Lately I have been using ink.  These studies are important to determine values for the many pours, along with defining edges and movement in the painting.

1 break

After transferring the drawing to 140 pound Arches watercolor paper, I begin masking and pouring the multiple layers of color and value.  Now that Adobe Photoshop is so popular, many more people understand the process of poured watercolor.  One must think in layers from light to dark.  Details can be painting early and masked, or the area can be defined after all the masks have been removed and the layers integrate into a composition.  I do both depending on the colors needed and the type of detail I will be adding.  Street scenes have far more fussy details than the landscape and horse compositions I have been pouring, so I’ve been improvising the best ways to define details.  If the details have complimentary color in the adjacent background, it works best to paint and mask the details before pouring to keep the colors pure.

After the final pour is dry, the mask can be removed.  This is the time to clean up edges, define shapes, and resolve the composition.  Sometimes this step is like unwrapping a present; the painting revealed under all the drips, masks, layers, and pours is glowing and almost done.  Other times, removing the mask presents a conundrum; how do I pull all the elements together?  This painting presented a conundrum.  I studied this step of the painting for several days before adding the final touches.

4 break

After much study, I cleaned up the painting and started to add dabs of paint in ways that would unify the artwork.  This took a few days, some brainstorming, some problem solving, and outside eyes to discuss where things needed to go.  I was pleased with the solution.  This painting evolved organically, and the original painting I saw in my mind’s eye was not the final result you see here.  As artists, we must be flexible and listen to what the painting is telling us.

Break in the Clouds (1)