Tag Archives: exploration

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



(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.

If You Go: Florence, Part 1



There are a few things that if you go to Florence and do not do, you must lie to me and tell me you did do them. I’m not an expert on the city, I’m just an aficionado, and that can be almost as good. So if you want a few insider ideas from a gal who loves the city, I’m your girl, and read on. Even if you’re not planning a trip, virtual travel can be rewarding, so I say, still read on!

My recent trip to Florence was my fourth visit to the magical Renaissance city, and I’ve come to appreciate its second and third layers beyond the Duomo (and yet, the Duomo is not to be missed). But I want you to think of the city as a multi-layered art-, food- and wine-lover’s paradise, and you do need to peel back the layers.

Italy simply put cannot be lumped together as one. Yes, it’s a single country, and good food, wine and an appreciation of art and beauty can be expected anywhere; however, the country was not united until 1871. Each area has its distinct characteristics and time in history.

Florence’s heyday was the Renaissance. While its rise to power started long before, in the Middle Ages, with Gothic art and Dante’s Divine Comedy, it was the Renaissance when everything came together and Florence became a force in and of itself.

In visiting this city, it is important to keep in mind that Florence, like nowhere else on earth, is the Renaissance. It’s worth doing your homework on this art movement before you go. I recommend Rick Steves’ guide book and TV show as a wonderful art history reference. Steves is an avid lover of art history, and he covers the important details with shocking accuracy — with entertainment thrown in for good measure. For art and history lovers, his book “Europe 101: History & Art for the Traveler” is as good as my college art history textbook and far more interesting. (Or, humbly stated, check out my Florence blogs, where I try to cover the highlights of the Renaissance without too much boring detail.)

So now that you have a reasonable understanding of the Renaissance and you know the difference between Gothic-pointed arches and spires as compared to Renaissance-rounded arches and domes, clean, simple lines and Humanism, you’re ready to visit Florence.

There were no sites I went to that I considered a bore or that could be easily overlooked; they are all fantastic. If your guidebook recommends it, it will be worth your while. But I highly, highly, recommend a guide. Rick Steves lists several in his guidebooks, and TripAdvisor has referrals. There is so much information packed into each site they can almost come alive for you if you have the “key.” A good guide is that key — unlock it! It’s money you will never regret spending. I also strongly recommend going off-season and for several days. Anything shorter than four nights, leaving three full days, is cheating yourself.

So now for my absolutely favorite Florentine experiences. Please, please, please make the effort to find Pizzicheria Antonio Porrati restaurant on the Piazza di S.Pier Maggiore. You can find it on Trip Advisor and the address is 30/R., Bergo Degli Albizi. This is a lunch or late-day snack spot. Check online for hours and grab a table outside and let the folks behind the counter feed you.  Pizzicheri is quite the experience, with the most smiling jolly owner you could ever want to meet.  Don’t forget to ask for the house wine; it’s good — and a dollar a glass. Buon Appetito and Salute!


In art, you have to tell me you went to see The Cenacolo of Sant Apollonia and The Last Supper fresco by Andrea del Castagno. It’s a minor sight — it most likely is not in your guide book — but it’s so worth it. You will find it on Trip Advisor #52 of 224 sights.


So why am I sending you here? It’s a quiet convent in Florence where you can walk right in and be almost alone with a uniquely Florentine Renaissance masterpiece. The fresco is in nearly perfect condition and is the reason you’re here. It’s peaceful, there are no crowds and you can grab a seat and let this work of art fill you. Castagno is a early author of the Renaissance, and his work can only be found in Florence, due to his death at the young age of 26. I could cite for you many reasons this work is important, from its Florentine Renaissance characteristics, like strong use of drawing and each disciple depicting a different emotion (hello, humanism), to the marble backdrop with its nod to Ancient Rome. But this is not why I send you here, I send you here to let the preciousness and beauty wash over you. Behold the Renaissance.

To be continued…