Early morning, cuppa coffee, feet up, watching the path of the sunlight: first the thatch of the Palapa, then the little palm, then the edge of the waves, the beach, the wall, until all is sunlight, all day long.
That little palm was my initial delight and focal point. It lit up like a candle every morning. I couldn't stand to miss it. As the painting progressed I decided to include the Shrimp Guy, who showed up around 9AM every single day with a small red cooler filled with fresh and delicious 4 inch long (headless) cameroons. By that time, there were lots more people milling about, but I didn't want to include them in my painting. Just the bright little palm and the gentle, humble Cameroon Man.
This time I set my easel up on our 4th floor balcony, which gives the viewer a more elevated perspective. Once I committed to the light areas I was free to paint any time of day, since the basic structures remained static. Omitted were all the bustle of resort life: the pool, lounge chairs, waiters, vendors, shoppers, sunbathers, etc etc.
Don't get the wrong idea about me: I did NOT paint all day long! We were definitely a part of the daily bustle, enjoying guacamole and Pacifico just like the next guy!
The next few blog posts are going to be about each of the 4 Mexico paintings I did last month…the backstory, process, experience and outcome. Don't worry, they ain't gonna be long. I am all about short and sweet!
So, once we got ourselves acclimated, inebriated, and calibrated, I went for a stroll around the grounds of Torres Mazatlan resort to find some inspiration. I don't know what you've read lately about travel in Mexico, but some people won't go there anymore (I'm talking to you, Douglas). We don't have such trepidation, but we're not stupid either. I thought it best to stay in our compound to do my painting this trip. I also wanted to be close to our room so I could escape quickly if the painting was terrible.
So in my morning wandering I found this beautiful creamy wall with lots of interesting features. It was off to the side of the gardens, pretty solitary…well, except for (as I later discovered) the walking track that turned out to be quite popular in the A.M. So much for my shyness. What I especially loved was the way the palm fronds were shadowed soft and blue on the solid wall. God was painting it with the sunlight right in front of me.
I took a few photos and did some sketches and then went back to our condo to lay in the early stage. This is NOT what I learned last year in the workshops; I was just so nervous about painting with people walking by. I wanted to have something that wasn't awful and avoid those averted, sad glances from the public. Once I had a passable start I gathered my gear and went OUT.
Timing is everything, so the painting had to be done with the same light and once the sun moved too far, I had to pack it up. It turned out to be such a great experience! I was surprised to learn that I didn't mind at all having people walk by and it was really fun to talk with the ones who stopped to observe. There weren't many and all were lovely to me. There was that one guy who went to great lengths to not look my way on every single lap of the walking track, but there was also Barbara and Bob, who stopped and talked to me for a nice long time.
I did some finishing touches back in the condo and some additional corrections and adjustments once I got back home. Every painting is a journey and this one was sweet.
So, we were relaxing on the beach…may or may not have been "happy hour"….and the following dialogue took place:
Me: Oh look, horses! Do you want to ride a horse on the beach?
Him: I've never been all that interested in horses.
Me: I wanted to be a horse when I was a kid.
Him: I would have ridden you.
Me: Very funny. Why don't you want to ride a horse now? Horses are intelligent and relational.
Him: Like dogs?
Me: Well, more like cats. I mean, they aren't as obedient as dogs. More independent-minded, like a cat.
Him: So horses are like cats. I don't ride cats.
A limited palette
Here's what happens when you limit your artist colors to just a few: you learn well the properties of color mixing. I learned the split-primary color system from a color workshop a few years ago: each primary color has a cool version and a warm version. Thus, there are really six primary colors instead of three. For example, mixing a warm yellow and a warm blue will result in a very warm secondary hue of green. A cool blue with a cool red will give you a deep and cool purple,etc.
So it's great if you remember to bring all six primaries…which I didn't, of course, on our Mexico trip. I left a cool yellow at home. I figured that Mexico being all warm and stucco-ey, a warm yellow and an earthy yellow ochre would do the trick.
I missed my lemon yellow.
It became clear that the new leaves struck by the early morning sun were a cooler, brighter green than I could get with the colors I brought. It was fun, though, and a challenge, to get as close as possible with what I had. In fact, the best part of painting in Mexico was the challenge of identifying the colors my eyes were seeing and then rapidly recreating them with paint. That was probably the area I had the most artistic growth in over the two weeks, getting well-versed in fiddling with color.
My all-time favorite Mazatlan color was a reddish-orangish-peach…it was gorgeous in the sunshine and in the shadow and I had everything I needed to get it just right: both reds, a yellow and white, with a touch of blue for shadowing. Thrilling…I know!
We just got back from a 2 week vacay in Mazatlan, Mexico…the first time we've gone for so long, but not the first time we've gone there. It's just about the perfect temperature in February…85 in the day and 60 at night. Not humid and has friendly 2-4 foot warmish ocean waves. Our timeshare condo has the sweetest sunset views over the grounds, pool and ocean. Yes, I know the Federales' arrested the biggest drug lord in the Northern Hemisphere while we were there,
but, hey, now everyone is safer!
2 weeks is a long time, so we each brought our favorite pastimes…my paints and his guitar. We created our own little art colony!
I put into practice the things I learned about travel and plein air painting, packing carefully and as lightly as possible. I tried to limit my palette; which means bringing as few tubes of paint as possible, but still ended up packing 10 tubes. I'm so impressed by those artists who get by with 4 or 5 colors. Each tube ended up in it's own snack sized ziplock, labeled "artist color" because, apparently. the TSA gets all edgy with the word "paint"…I learned this on an art forum. Also, to include the flammability (which is zero) of each brand and a note that artist colors are vegetable oil based. I don't think my suitcase got inspected, but I was sure ready if it did!
So I packed: tripod, pochade box (french for the thing I stick on top of tripod that holds my canvas and palette), paints…I mean, artist colors!…canvas panels to paint on, brushes, plexiglass palette, metal turp container, and a few miscellaneous items. Since it's an international flight, we could check 2 bags free so were able to distribute the weight between the bags and still be ok.
The only thing I couldn't bring along was odorless solvent…needed to thin the first layer of paint. There must be a way around needing it, but after much internet searching for alternatives, I gave up and emailed an American artist living in Mazatlan for the location of artist supplies. No problemo…she sent me the address and we went shopping a day after arrival for a tiny bottle of artist solvent. (Oh yeah, that was the day they nabbed the Drug King…a few blocks from the art supply store)
I was a little nervous about setting up and painting around other vacationers so I took the easy way out and started my painting in the privacy of our condo using photos taken with my iPad. I figured if I could get a good start then I wouldn't feel like such a dork about people watching me. That actually worked well since painting from life requires quick decisions on color, value, drawing etc…that darn sun moves so fast, changing everything! I took my show on the road with a partial painting the next day at the same time so the shadows were in the same spots. And people were impressed! 2 people. The rest just walked by, avoiding eye contact. Ha! I tried to not take it personally.
Hello! My name is Wendy and I am passionate about oil painting! Whether in the studio or out in Mother Nature, I get lost in the experience of capturing on canvas the moment and the feel of what I am painting. I pour my love and energy into every single piece of artwork and I hope it shows! This blog is a place where I can use words to talk about art, painting, life, faith, things that make me laugh, and things that inspire. I love every response, so don't be shy about leaving a comment...