Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sheer Joy ... People, Teaching & Children ... in Mexico

This full spread page is all about the people experience of being in Mexico. We just found not only the Mexican people, but the ex-pats too, were all of exceptional warmth and caring. These images just portray just a snippet of our experiences there!

While in Mexico, I wanted to find a way to teach and share my beloved watercolor journaling process. Early on I discovered the Lake Chapala Society (LCS) which is a hub of ex-patriot activity including classes, a library, a cafe, extensive garden and plenty of off campus activities too. Of course, I quickly joined the LCS ranks and planned an early January "Watercolor Journaling Class". Advertising at the LCS Center, online and at several local bulletin boards around Ajijic reached a few people.

When I arrived to set up my class there was a lovely young woman and her two beautiful boys playing on my assigned tables. She said they'd move on by the time my class arrived. But on that first day of class, the two women who'd talked of coming, had complications and didn't come. Then, out of the bushes, returns this lovely mom, asking if she could take the class if we could occupy the boys. "Of course!!" I rely. So we start working on drawing and ends up the two boys model for us and do a great job of it. They return for the second class, showing off all the journal work they'd enjoyed in between. Even the boys had gotten into it using paper punches, one of which was tiny little angel shapes! This second class we focused on color theory and the boys brought along their own paints with which to play. When the class comes to a close, they bring me an apple pie treat and bid g'byes because they were leaving town and wouldn't make the third class. I felt like I'd made friends with this wonderful family and adored the precious boys!!

Then, I was all set up for the last class, waiting for students, when, looking amongst the green grass, I spied a perfectly white lil' angel ... it was like my sweet family was there in spirit.

Earlier in the week, New Year's Eve to be exact, we'd been invited by artist friends (a couple I'd met at that Art Club meeting) over to their home for an early dinner or late lunch, depending upon how one viewed it. It was like a "treasure hunt" finding their spot but it was worth the hunt. The six homes arranged in graduated distances apart, three on each side of the central grassy path and turquoise blue pool, so that each had views out onto the lake. Cody was in heaven, since this was the first grass he was freely invited to roll, stretch and lounge upon. Us humans were equally happy, dining on fresh made bread, avocado soup (fresh from the nearby trees) and yummy shrimp salads!! Our friends chattered about their experience moving to Mexico (from Golden, Colorado, my ole' stomping grounds, of all places!!) and livin' in Ajijic. They were generous with their info and their sweet home, really making us feel at home. It was greatly appreciated during these holiday times being away from home.

Over and over again the hospitality and kindnesses paid to us were above generous and really touched our hearts. We found the world really is a small place if one opens ones heart :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Journaling Mexico Christmas ... in March

Many of you know from my previous photo blog entries of our Christmas pleasures in Mexico.
Here, I've plucked my very favorites to illustrate.

A Mexican Christmas tradition is the neighborhood "Posadas". I'd even had my dear friend, Cheryl, require of us to "not miss the Posada Parades thru the neighborhoods. We'd noticed days before Christmas, children, musicians and adults leading, as they sang and processioned down each street. Each street around us did one and the huge honor was bestowed upon us, when we were invited to partake in the Posada of our street!! We were overjoyed to accept!

Roland and I were to be "Zacharia & Isabella" (I Americanized it to "Zac & Izzie") and we were welcoming Joseph & Mary at our entryway. The troupe of children singing intertwined with explanations read by the adults meandered past us and when done, we joined at the back of the group. My favorite "scene" on our street was the precious children kneeling as angels. Aren't they just divine? It was so special following the procession all the way to the church yard where they celebrated with their families.

The next day was Christmas and with the kind heart of our hostess, Connie, she included us in her "orphan" brunch. It included three other couples and a gentlemen, all Canadian, all whom have stayed at Connie's sweet casitas at some time. Our brunch took place at "Mannix", a popular Mexican family owned restaurant in downtown Ajijic. Roland and I'd visited there earlier in the week to double check that it would be appropriate for Cody (our sweet Golden Retriever) to dine with us - and yes, it was (the Mexican perspective is so much more realistic and down-to-earth regarding people and their pets). Cody nestled between Roland and my chairs and we all enjoyed savory eats. Conversation was around every one's experiences in Mexico and their homelands too. Very interesting and a wide, diverse spectrum of experiences and personalities. Here, I've captured several of us at the dessert table, trying to decide what to take and, oh heck, just getting them all! A great, family-felt gathering thanks to Connie!

My armadillo image is very special ... my Christmas gift from Roland. When we'd first arrived in Ajijic, I saw a street vendor with furniture and this character for sale on the main street. I mentioned how I loved the lil guy and Roland, with his usual memory for remembering things I love and secretly getting it for me, noted this! On Christmas Eve day, he and Cody walked all the way downtown to try and nab my favorite armadillo, but, alas, the vendor wasn't there. Then a couple day belated, Ro proudly marches into the RV, requesting I close my eyes and he hands me, you guessed it, my armadillo. I was charmed ... he now greets everyone who enters our Oregon home. We've searched for a name for him, thinking "rascal" is appropriate as he has this very mischievous smile. But have had difficulty getting the accurate word in Spanish. So anyone with suggestions, please send them my way.

It's nice to remember Christmas, even in March ... counting our blessings is never out of date!

Monday, March 14, 2011

From Guadalajara Art Store ... to an Orphanage

These pages cover a wide range of experiences in the Lake Chapala area. All the way from what we thought would be a fun trip to Guadalajara to check out art stores back down to nearby orphanages. Sit back and I'll give you guided tour.

I'd asked around local artists to check out available art supplies and was told the two best sources were two art stores in Guadalajara. Now we should have gotten a clue about how the search would go when we found neither of the stores had street addresses, only one street name. We'd also been given the "last resort" suggestion to get to the big city and hire a cab to take us to both stores. Ro had an address on the same street and attempted to follow the street around to the art store, but the street ended, abruptly. We tried running the shopping center location of one art store in the GPS "Points of Interest" and - WHELLAH - it took us there!!! This store, of the two suggested, was said to have everything. So, I was jazzed, hoping to find quality watercolor materials . . . but, nope. Still only student grade Winsor-Newton pigments, a WC paper of "acid-free" quality (those of us who have experienced "100% rag" can never go back), and brushes that don't even come to a point (and that was the very best brush they had). By the time we'd found the store, gotten something to eat and had a toasty warm coffee, we surely had no time nor energy to look for the second store. As quickly as possible we exited the big city . . . and beat feet quick, back to Ajijic!

As Christmas day approached, Roland and I were percolating into what or to whom we would dedicate our "annual holiday gifting" this year. Usually we invest in an animal or group of animals from Heifer International. And if you aren't familiar with this fantastic group, I strongly suggest you check it out:

But this year we wanted our gift to go somewhere in Mexico, local, here. We'd talked about selecting one of the native peoples who consistently ask for donations in the streets or the neighboring people on our street. But I wondered how we could explain to them what/why we were doing what we wanted to do. These are a very proud people and I surely didn't want to offend anyone!

I had noticed an ad in the local English-speaking monthly magazine that requested that the five orphanages not be forgotten in everyone's holiday giving. I offered up the page for Ro to examine, and we narrowed it down to the closest facility, and one we could easily find to visit in person. The "Centro Amor En Accion" won out!! We used our trusty GPS with the address, and yes, that got us to the street. We stopped the car where the street number should have been. But, as we've learned . . . street numbers do not go in sequence here in Mexico. Oh my.

Well, once again we are blessed with the kindness of the Mexican people. This lovely woman walking home detects were are looking for something we're not finding and looks at our magazine page for the address. She points us down the street "by that blue car there" and there we found the orphanage. We were greeted at the gate by a gentleman who got in touch with the director. This bi-lingual lady chattered with us as we asked about her children, how many, how long may they live here (up to when they are children and even some may stay past when they are out in the working world). There were beautifully kept grounds, numerous buildings and smiling children sprinkled around.

I yearned to take photos, but wanted to honor the dignity of these special children, so didn't. The smiling faces I've used in my journal are from the magazine page ad . . . and it well represents those precious young spirits. We left there smiling too ~ knowing how blessed we really are.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Start of a New Journal Book . . . at Ajijic Art Club

Some of us are frightened with the start of a fresh, new, virgin journal ... oh GRIEF ... it has to be a dynamic start for this first page to the entire journal or I might as well not even begin!!! Right?!? My advice is ... just to start. One of my favorite artists, Judy Morris, begins her travel journals with great research. She'll do a small map of the area, with delicious illustrations around the map of her favorite places. Oh, and did I mention, she'll also select specialized text using a font that is theme specific (Mexican style for a trip to Mazatlan, Southwest for Arizona, etc.)? Goodness, I would LOVE to do that. But, honestly, I just am not that organized, pre-planned or extensive. Now, I don't expect everyone to know this ... this insight has just come over time with my continued journaling. If I want to continue consistently with my journal work ... I need to be realistic with what I will keep up with. And, beginning a new journal has become easier ... I just treat it as another page entry. And so this start to 2011 begins ...

One of the most exciting discoveries while in Ajijic, Mexico was their outrageously active "Ajijic Society for the Arts" group. I became aware of them in the first couple of weeks we were there and dedicated my first Friday's of December and January to attending their 10am meetings. Not only was I impressed with their numerous activities (hey, a bus ride into Guadalajara and having the Mayor of Tonola tour them thru the ceramic artisans was one) but their enthusiasm and inclusion of all media too, was titillating. Every meeting carried the gift of a talk, presentation and/or demo by an artist. HOW delicious ... my lil' creative juices were just oozing!!!

But blessed with my "wandering eye" - not on the opposite sex - but on the wonder of visuals, I couldn't help but be excited by the view across the room. The early morn clear lighting flooded at a slant across the glowing colors in the interior of the room. Dappled patterns danced where the outside leaves created shadows. When I decided to enter this image in my journal, I pondered whether or not to go dark blue with the surrounding room value and color. And I'm still toying with "blue-ing" it - it would possibly be stronger with the compliments butting up against one another, but I like the warmth this color creates in the room. I don't know . . . anyone have an opinion?

At the second ASA meeting, the professional presentation was by a gentleman artist, Frank - - -, (anyone pleeeeeeeeeeaaasssee help with Frank's last name). He's been doing high fire beautiful work all his life and was at ease, even humorous during his demo. I enjoyed the sequence of how the lump of clay, touched by Frank's expertise, was coaxed into a graceful balanced vessel. Of course, I had to remember it in a sketch!

After I'd finished the sketches and text on this journal page . . . I wanted something on that big blank adjacent page and realized a third poinsettia, placed just like it was in the next window sill would be a colorful introduction to the page . . . and into the fresh year "2011". I'm pleased with how it all came together.

Monday, March 7, 2011

More of San Miguel, then Ratindra Das Watercolor Workshop

These final pages in this particular journal book travel thru our final day in San Miguel de Allende and then into the learning experience with Ratindra Das' Watercolor Workshop in Ajijic, Mexico.

The time spent in San Miguel was even more rich amplified by fascinating new acquaintances and beautiful architecture. The charming La Maison del Bosque, our place of lodging, offered both breakfast and dinners served right there in a cozy dining room. When we took advantage of the evening meal, we savored not only the food but the pleasure of mixing with diverse guests also staying there. One couple in particular enriched my experience there ... their business cards reside in the top left corner of my page. A delightful couple that lead an annual retreat here in San Miguel (and have for 15 years) working around spirit expansion and awakening the individual. I wanted to take their retreat!! But on to our day around and about San Miguel. Numerous are the churches here, but one I found most beautiful was the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri Church out of the main square but, glorious in it's glowing coral and yellow hues for this artist! But this city offers a plethora of picturesque structures ~ I just couldn't paint nor photo fast enough.

My opposite journal page is in honor of a wonderful gentle man and refreshing artist, Ratindra Das ( I knew I was at home in his workshop when he opens saying he doesn't want us to take everything he says as an absolute ... that it is what works for him and to just try what he suggests and keep it if it works for you! His soft sense of humor complimented his passion for mixing pure pigments right out of the tube ~ and the brilliance that came from that made us aim to replicate. But few of us in the workshop mimicked accurately. He was a master and he showed us his entire process, from sketchbooks, to transfer to completion of painting. Here, I've caught him in his beginning stages of painting, still looking back at his sketchbook in his left hand. I love that I've captured him visually, sort of in this dance with the women in one of Efren Gonzales' large oil paintings. I have to admit that I've simplified Efren's image some to keep the focus and interest mainly on Ratindra. I saved the class notes and materials list in an envelope here to the right. But it all brings back many fond memories of the two days spent in the Efren Gonzales Art Center under the tutelage of Ratindra.

Stay tuned for more from my Mexico journal pages ...