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.

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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.

“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

Mexico Travel Journal Winter 2017 p20

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.

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Mexico Travel Journal Winter 2017 p19

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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.

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wedding at San Andrés

Mexico Travel Journal Winter 2017 p18

Our next stop was Ajijíc on the shores of Lake Chapalla, back in the state of Jalisco.  The easiest way to get to Ajijíc from San Miguel de Allende is to board a first class bus to Guadalajara.  At the bus station, engage a taxi to Ajijic.  Sometimes it is best to agree on the fare before you enter the taxi.  Some drivers are very honest and friendly, while others are tempted to take advantage of Gringos.  Our driver was quite friendly, and like many of our taxi trips, we had the opportunity to practice our conversational Spgringos.jpganish with our driver.  Most drivers know a bit of English, and it is fairly easy to communicate with our “un poco de español.”

Ajijíc lies at an altitude of  5,000 feet along a tropical latitude that moderates the climate year-round to an average temperature of 72 °F.  With the perfect climate, colorful quaint streets,  and a strong dollar, Ajijíc is a popular haven for retirees, particularly from North America.  If you are looking for an authentic immersion experience into Mexico, this is not a destination for you.  Many Americans live here year round, and that influence has changed  Ajijíc from a sleepy Mexican village to a tourist-catering destination.

My first sketchbook entry for Ajijíc was another “window” view from our bungalow.  Enrique, our landlord, is an artist with carpentry skills.  He is creating a lush tropical sanctuary in his backyard, complete with four bungalows.  He has many contacts throughout Mexico, where he acquires antique furniture in a state of disrepair and building refuse, which he repurposes into charming features, niches, and furniture for his bungalows and courtyard garden.

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Dogs repose in along the sidewalk of a charming veterinary clinic

The perfect cup of coffee, Lake Chapalla, & closeup of the vet clinic sign