Category Archives: Mexico: February 2015

Mexico: Filling the Creative Well

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(Part 2 of my recap of a week in the Boca de Tamatlan artist retreat)

Learn, grow, learn, grow, and then learn and grow. May we never stop seeking. Never stop filling our creative well. When we are 80, may we still be taking classes and stretching ourselves.

Casa de Los Artisas is a magical place to do this. We went snorkeling. We dined on a secluded beach while watching the surf roll in (let me insert here we ate very, very well, always). We discovered a small mountain town that seemed ready-made to film a old Western, and as I recall, a movie was filmed in that enchanted little village. We explored a tequila producer that actually produced raicilla. There were even drumming and salsa lessons on the side. And lots and lots of painting. Creative and spiritual wells are definitely filled up at this place.

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Every day in life we output. We produce. As a full-time artist, I produce art everyday. We cannot keep producing without replenishing our creative wells, or we are running on empty. There are many ways to do this, but that is a subject for another blog post. Today, we will focus on the learning vacation.

Art and travel just go together, and I dare say they are two of the rare things in life you can buy that make you richer — spiritually, that is.

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After a week in Boca de Tomatlan at the Casa de Los Artistas, I am richer in spirit and my creative well is full to the brim.

Every teacher has something different to remind you of or introduce you to. Sterling Edwards, our maestro for this week, was masterful at this. He hit on all those basics that simply can not be ignored, like value studies, simplifying and contrast. Then, he brought in his own voice in art to show us things we may not have thought of, like what can be done with long, narrow brushes and negative shape painting. And a credit card. An old discarded one on paper. Plus, that abstract demonstration I mentioned in my last blog that has me playing in a new and unexpected direction. It has me making time to play. Art is about discovery, and discovery happens in play. I’m playing again, and it feels as good as it did as a child.

I’d love to know: Where do you make time for play? How you fill your creative well and when/where are you booking your next learning vacation?

Until next time, happy learning and growing!

Mexico: Learning and Growing and Headed in Two Directions at the Same Time

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(Part 1 of my recap of a week in the Boca de Tamatlan artist retreat)

The heat must have gotten to me — or was it the cold?

Whichever it was, I blinked my eyes and was painting wild abstract watercolors in a tiny and completely charming fishing village in Mexico with a fabulous maestro I had never heard of before but should have.

Winter is beautiful — really, it is. The weather cannot be controlled, so we’d better embrace it. Still, looking out my studio window on one of the coldest Februarys on record, I snapped. Due to some work commitments, my sweetie was not able to take time off, so I started Googling artist retreats somewhere warm and sunny. Before I knew it, I was booked to take off in ten days to Casa de Los Artistas.

I can only say it was not a disappointment. In fact, I urge you to book your time there next year. I sure hope to.

The place felt like a fantasy. Lush, tropical river valley spilling into the Pacific with little boats, dogs and frolicking children sprinkled about. Throw in some Ranchero music and the sound of waves crashing and you have the idea.

The best part, the jewel, is the artist retreat in this paradise. All art, all the time — or almost. My maestro for the week was Sterling Edwards. Though I had not heard of him before (which is not a surprise, as I am not a watercolorist and he is), he was, simply put, a true maestro in every sense of the word. His work, I can say with confidence, is brilliant. (Don’t take my word for it: Look him up!)

abstract3815-3I was so happy he was a giving and open teacher. But watercolor? Me? I hadn’t studied watercolor since college — a very long time ago — and I quickly abandoned it for oil color, then acrylic. Still, something in me said it would be good for me, stretch me and expand upon the discipline that I had returned to in while studying in Florence last September.

And it did. Also, as an artist, I want to remain open and not fall into any boxes or comfort zones.

The first thing that happened was that I was humbled. My skills from all these many years as an acrylic painter were not translating to watercolors. Perseverance really is so crucial in art, as in life, and I did keep at it.

Sterling is a wild watercolorist. Disciplined? Yes, but his freedom kinda blew my mind; he got really abstract and reminded me of how important it is to simplify. It is the essence that matters, not every detail of a given scene. Then he went full-on abstract.

abstract3815-5I want to be an abstract painter when I grow up. It just hasn’t happened for me. As I have written before, abstract painting is HARD. Your kid cannot do that. The reason it is hard is that there is no information in front of you. When I draw, it is so relaxing. I have a photo in front of me and I copy it. Usually sitting down with a cup of tea. I don’t have to make anything up. It’s right in front of me. But abstract is all about your imagination. It is also deeply personal. It’s about getting everything inside of you outside of you.

My art in recent months has been heading more in a direction of realism. Now, as a painter that values keeping a painting VERY painterly (as opposed to wanting it to look like a photo), it might be a stretch to use the term “realism,” but I have been drawing more with my paint and tightening up a bit. I promised myself this would help me when it was time to go abstract and it will, it has. The more you can automatically use your skills, the better they are all around. Practice, practice, practice! So I find myself headed in two different directions at once. Tightening up, drawing and abstracting. Wheeeeee, it’s good to be a artist!

Stay tuned on this journey, as I’ll be writing more about the Casa and painting. This is only Part 1.

As always share your own experiences or comments below. I love hearing from you all.