Lovely sunny day. Quiet here and wanting to be outside, my friend and I set out to spend an hour with our mini palettes and brushes and small watercolor pads. This is the wading pool in my (coto) community. It is complete with great healthy palm trees and singing birds. It is important and joyful to paint outside. It is a liberating experience. Tiny brush, tiny palette, tiny view of a huge scene. Plein aire paintings are super honest. Perhaps because you have to be quick before the moving sun changes your view. To purchase prints or textiles, click here
Walking in downtown Ajijic, along a small crowded street, a shock of white caught my eye. It was coming from a dark doorway. I couldn’t make out what it was exactly so I stepped closer to get a better look. There were art objects in the doorway as well; a big earthenware bare brown jug with a minimum of decoration, as well as tables with sculptures and displayed paintings.
Then I saw the white of the lilies. I snapped some shots and felt privileged. I just loved them. They were dropping red pollen from their stamens onto the lower gigantic petals. They were on their last leg as cut flowers. I knew them as stargazer lilies. I had grown them in Washington. Mine were many colors of pinks, but I had never seen white ones like these. I looked up and saw a woman staring at me and smiling. Apparently I thought I was walking into an art gallery when in reality, I walked right into someone’s studio. I was embarrassed and apologized and stepped back quickly. She did not seem to mind.
I felt both silly and lucky at the same time.
Even though I have been in Mexico almost a year, I have not seen one calla lily yet. I have seen only a few backyard versions while walking in my neighborhood. They were shades of red and I noticed that they seemed happy in shady gardens.
Diego Rivera painted many works using the calla lily. Even though we see these images over and over just about everywhere, I don’t get tired of them. He also painted them so well that he transformed from the well known flower into abstract shapes molded around his figures as perfect adornments. He found a perfect prop for his figures and faces.
This wonderful happy man can be seen in the villlage of Chapala Mexico in the state of Jalisco. On weekends you can pretty much always find him pushing his tomato red cart. He sells ice cream, called helado in Spanish. He has lots of flavors to make you happy. The atmosphere is pleasant and the malecon (tiled walkway along the water’s edge) and the plaza are just lovely. The lake is beautiful and cools the air. Right now there has been so much rain that the lake is the highest its been in 50 years.
You can stroll and eat and take in all the sights and sounds. Very often you can find people dancing in the plaza to the music of local musicians. Some of the bands will be a collection of guitars, drums, and various brasses including tubas. Chapala is a great town. Some may call it a city. If it sounds like I am selling the place, I’m not really. I just enjoy it.
In Mexico they churn the ice cream by hand, in huge metal canisters called garrafas. The canisters are filled with the ice cream base and placed inside of wooden barrels full of ice and salt, and then it’s someone’s job to stir the ice cream with a large wooden paddle as it slowly freezes.
This technique gives the ice cream a unique texture. “Mexican ice cream is closer to gelato, as it has less fat and air than American style,”
When I saw this guy, I was immediately attracted to the cart and his infectious smile. I just had to paint him. happy happy happy.
If you are interested, click the picture to purchase a print or a textile of this watercolor.
I know it’s just not me, but I believe there are people here in Ajijic who definitely make a difference. They make an impact on our daily lives. Being a newbie here, I can only comment on some of the ones who have impressed me enough to photograph and paint them. I like to call them “people landmarks” because when you talk about them to friends, they respond with “Oh yeah, I know him, or I’ve seen her.” Usually they are vendors who have a following and a great variety of merchandise they collect and sell, or they are artisans themselves.
They usually claim a street corner or familiar area where they’ve built their reputation. I know that my “orange juice guy” can be found in front of Guadalajara Pharmacy on the Carretera.
Dave is an artist–a sculptor. He wears more than one hat which many of us have to do, I’ve bought juice from him before and it is really good juice. He’s one of several people I have enjoyed photographing and painting in watercolor. He has a very friendly nature. He always has a big smile and love for conversation and a little pleasant joking. He takes great pride in what he does. He is always cutting, cleaning, organizing his booth and presenting his beautiful juice with an air of confidence and generosity. How could you not buy juice from him?
He certainly loves this juicer. I do too. It’s one of those tools that is really well built and functions without electricity or batteries. It’s durable, honest and trustworthy. It’s like his good oranges and clean knives and counter. I have never seen such a super sized juicer and watching him operate it is a pleasure. I can only imagine how excited he must have been when he bought it.
He plays it like a violinist plays his violin. Buen provecho.
I thought I would try one of these exercises to see if people are interested. I would appreciate input. I am considering doing more of these so let me know if you like it and want more.
Sometimes we can get stuck or bored or get cold feet in how to start a painting. Here is a really fun way to jump in from another angle. These are some underpaintings I did last week,
The one with the red splash in the corner is the one I chose this time. What you need to do for these underpaintings is some kind of a permanent color medium. Watercolor will not work because when you go over this first layer, it can lift or blend with your top layer. Lacquer based inks, liquid acrylic or Intense inks are great. For liquid acrylic I like Golden and/or Holbein. They are very rich in color and a tiny amount goes a long way. I happen to have some inks and some Intense colors so I used a little of each. I mixed a dash or two of Intense inks (this is the name brand) with a little water in a small bowl.
Make 3 small bowls–one red, one yellow, one blue. You can use a big brush, a sponge, an eyedropper, or the pour and splash technique. One color splashing for each sheet of paper. Drain, drip or brush off what you don’t want.
I had Arches 130# paper so that’s what I used. The paper needs to be a watercolor paper that is heavy duty enough to withstand getting pretty wet without curling. That’s why I like blocks because all the sheets are glued together and the paper can withstand a beating. Just jump in and have fun and don’t try to control the underpainting too much. Then I just threw the wet blocks on the bathroom floor and waited until the next day to paint.
First off, here is the photo I took of this giant split leaf philodendron while walking to class last week.
This photo is the color shot right from the camera. You can see here the darks are prominent in the splits of the leaves and in the shadows. The color is drab and very muted. Mostly you get the size of the plant and the basic growing structure. I like the folded leaves because when they fold over, you can see through to the other underneath side. Most of the time you are not sure if it’s the same leaf. That makes it interesting and poses questions. Yes. There’s the storytelling element here.
Here is the line art of the plant done with a soft, dark pencil. As you can see, it’s just a sketch that captures (I hope) the simple outlines of the leaves, the splits, and the basic shape of the plant. I thought some details were important, like the tendril type grow on the long stem of one of the shoots. Wherever the reds and yellows landed did not matter to me. There isn’t too much control at this point. But so far, I like it.
The next step is to ink the pencil lines with my green Higgins ink and my Speedball pen. I have been using the Speedball nibs for 30 years and the most I’ve bought aside from inks are special handles. This is my favorite pen with a cork handle I bought in Portland years and years ago when Utrecht still had a store there. I have a great collection of fine drawing nibs and handles for delicate pen and ink work too, It’s amazing how much ink a Speedball pen can hold and what an even smooth line you can get.
When the ink is dry, I erase the graphite lines with a good white eraser…aka Magic Rub.
I like Maimeri Blu watercolors, but I also like Holbein and W&N too. I think I like it all. I am anxious to try new ones whenever I can.
I always use a test sheet on a small pad to choose which colors I might use.
So here is my final painting. It’s first and foremost a design with emphasis on color, shapes and negative spaces. Each color was applied a very small amount at a time with one full and soft brush (see above) the yellows in particular were blended in with the greens. The darks and purples came last. The background turned out to be a mixure of lights and darks.
Very little may be compared with the original photo but that does not matter. Once this was completed with both lights and darks in the background and the basic leaf established, I think the best part of this painting is the dancing back and forth of colors and shapes. Primarily, it was lots of fun. But the fun is not really done because…..
I take it another step and can turn it into clothing, or products. I know lots of people shun this. But not everything needs to hang on a wall. Sometimes I like to wear what I draw.