Looking back on our recent trip to Mexico, let me share with you a most extraordinary thing that happened. I have to begin by rewinding to a previous Mazatlan visit five years earlier...
2010...it's a warm evening on the Plaza Machado; we are enjoying dinner and margaritas, music, lights, and warmth. It's not unusual to have vendors weave their way through the tables of diners selling their wares of jewelry, crafts, even food. It is, however, very unusual for them to have a toddler bundled to their bosom and a young daughter tagging along, selling hair bows and bracelets in the dark.
Something about it just broke my heart as we asked their names and engaged them in conversation (and bought a bunch of stuff.) I never forgot that young mother, Sylvia, and the tender unfairness of life that had her out in the night with her babies. It's not just that I didn't forget her, I felt a precious connection with her that has kept me consistently lifting she and her family in prayer over the years.
Fast forward to 2015...again we are enjoying a warm Mazatlan evening on Plaza Machado: the music, the lights, the artisans. I see one heading for our table with a basket of fabric dolls. She greets us and there is something, something about her voice...I ask, como se llama? It's Sylvia! I swoon! She's older and a little more worn from life, as am I. But her voice is the same and, wow, she can speak a LOT more English! We talk. I tell her how much I am remembering her and her babies over the years. She tells me all about them, how big they are, how good they are. She asks where we stay...it's far from the Plaza and her home...a 20 minute bus ride...so she never goes there. I buy stuff. We take pictures. She says maybe she'll come to the beach where we stay tomorrow. Maybe she will.
She does! The next morning I see her walking towards us on the beach, Sylvia AND her 2 youngest sons and her husband! And they are so sweet, so kind. We visit for a long time...the boys cannot speak English so I amuse them by speaking Spanish-ish. Her darling husband, Angel, thought it would be funny to tell me, "Sylvia say she don't remember you." Hahaha! Of course not...I was just one more margarita-influenced tourist on the Plaza that night. But I remembered her and cannot get over how sweet our God is to allow me to see answers to years of prayer.
And I think, this is art, too...on a God level; stirring time and circumstance with His finger and blessing hearts.
I got some fun and encouraging feedback via "comments", emails, and Facebook on that crazy wind adventure. Haha! I'm so happy to entertain and hopefully take the performance pressure off any of you out there pushing the limits of your comfort zone. So here goes on my do-over:
The day dawned, lovely and still. No clouds, nary a breeze. We ate breakfast on the deck with the sunrise, then packed up the paint gear, counted our pesos for bus fare, and headed out. It was Monday, so it should be quiet and peaceful. At the bus stop we wait. And wait. And wait. Why are there no buses? My sweet dear husband finally decides the next passenger toting vehicle is ours..and what should come along but the nicest, newest taxi we have yet seen in Mazatlan. Pretty sure the driver had not had a plein air painter with all her stuff climb into his cab before.
After a brief, upscale ride to the end of the road, we head down to our familiar little beach. It's a working beach, meaning there is a small fleet of fishing dories unloading their catch. No problem, we thread our way through the activity. On the far side, we find a couple of families wading in the tide pools, so I try to find an out-of-the-way spot to get set up. It truly is a beautiful day.
Ready, set, paint...again, concentrating on the shapes, their relationships with each other, the values, the contrasts. Very quickly I forget there are people around and just focus on the scene and my canvas...until I become vaguely aware that maybe this is a very popular beach...and maybe I might have set up my stuff, well, right in the middle of the favorite path to the tide pool. Oopsie. It did get me a lot of attention and some fun, awkward semi-Spanish conversations with the local population.
(This a photo of the scene)
And here is my painting, untouched up:
(not quite as blurry as this photo!)
AND my new umbrella worked great!
Plein air...short for en plein aire...briefly means take your painting gear outside and paint what you see and feel. It can be a bit intimidating as you begin to gather the things you think you need and the realize, uh oh, this weighs about 300 pounds. So you choose to leave behind half or more, make sure to have your "essentials" (which reminds me of the time we went camping and I remembered absolutely everything except the tent poles...) I bought myself an awesome new "essential" last week: BestBrella, the queen of painters' umbrellas. It attaches to the tripod, shades the palette, and PROMISES not to take your easel and painting parasailing.
So, we are in Mexico and have found a lovely little rocky beach that I want to paint. The wind is a tad strong but we should be protected by the boulders and hillside. After a short bus ride, on which I bash my clunky bags against the door, the seat bars, but fortunately not any people, we head down to the little beach. The wind does not seem to be abating. Hmmm.
How I wish we had remembered to bring a camera, for I feel certain we were a sight to behold: me setting up the tripod in the damp sand, wedging it between a log and a rock, my good spouse handing things to me in proper order so they wouldn't become airborne.
I commence to paint. Hahaha! With one hand gripping my easel, both feet getting wet from the occasional sneaky wave, I (singlehandedly) squirt and mix paint, slap it on the canvas, try to recite in my little head all the wisdom I've learned from my teachers: simple shapes, pleasing composition, value relationships, meaningful paint strokes. The wind blew. The wind gusted. Even the frigate birds could not handle these currents.
I soldiered on for about 30 minutes before throwing up my hands (figuratively of course) and packing it in. It was an excellent experience in painting from the heart with speed and intention.
Back at the condo I spent another 30 minutes adding some highlights and color corrections:
The BestBrella? She functioned fairly well for a minute or two, swiveling gamely in the wind and then flipped inside out and heaped humiliations galore on our brave, brief adventure.
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...