More images from Mexico, this time a familiar scene in the Fall going to Alcocer where our house is in Mexico. The 2.5 mile road starts at the bypass around San Miguel at the southeast corner of the city and gradually ascends to the village, curving through fields of grass and corn. It’s a typical cobblestone affair that you learn to drive about 30 miles per hour lest you jar your fillings loose. Speed tends to even out the bumpiness.Â Around October the farmers, our neighbors, harvest the corn and then make piles of fodder from the cornstalks that will eventually become food for their livestock during the winter months. It’s not the cold and snow they put up this larder for, but rather the long dry season which is just beginning at that time and that will last until mid-June.
I love these stacks dotting the Fall fields. Just like Monet’s haystacks they reflect the waning light as the sun recedes in the west, making a wonderful canvas of changing color. It’s an old fashioned scene that we don’t see in the states. The cones of cornstalks are painstakingly gathered and shaped by hand, groups of people arriving in the fields early in the morning and working through the day each day until everything is gathered. Then in the days ahead the farmers will load their mules and wagons with enormous loads from the stacks to transport to their property in preparation for the coming months. It’s like stepping back in time to see the Fall harvest.
Like yesterday, this is mostly a direct painting without a preliminary drawing. I did put in a few lines to designate the chimney as well as the general location of the flowers. But it was just that, a few lines, nothing to tell me where every petal or leaf was. I find that this approach works best for me when trying to do an array of flowers like this. You want the mind to fill in the blanks, giving the viewer just enough information to get the idea of the flowers you’re painting.
Bougainvilleas grown in wild abandon in San Miguel and all of Mexico for as far as I can tell. They are in great profusion during the rainy season, and I find their brilliance almost unimaginable against the bright blue sky. It truly is azur, no other word for it, and certainly not the kind of blue I ever see in the north. The light that makes these colors possible is indescribable.
I sometimes like to paint directly without preliminary drawing. It forces me to work more quickly without thinking so much and to be looser in my technique. I always have to kind of steel myself for possible failure, but I’ve done some of these before so I’ve gotten more used to flying without a net. With a packed schedule today I didn’t have a lot of time for fussing and so when I chose my photo I decided I just needed to do it, be damned.
The result is today’s painting and a fair effort, if I do say so myself. The guy with the bass would have been nicer a bit to the right so that everything was in the picture, but that’s what happens when you go at it as I did today. You commit with the brush and deal with whatever comes. That meant that my bass player lost a bit of his instrument. The figures in the back are believable though I’m still working to improve that kind of figured work. Background people are really hard to do convincingly and at the same time look fluid and natural. Still workin’ on it.
The two guys in the foreground are street musicians in a little town not far from San Miguel. The one on the right has an accordian, though you really can’t see much of it. People freely play on the street for a little money, ride buses with their guitars to serenade the passengers, and then there’s the ever present mariachis. You come to expect a little background music with your day in Mexico.
A lot of people ask us what San Miguel is like during the summer. Here it is in August during our first trip in 2004. A late afternoon shower was arriving from the west over the Sierra Madres on the horizon. We had this incredible view from our apartment rooftop terrace which took in not only the views to the west but a fabulous 360 degree panorama. I remember watching this storm approach and being awe struck by the beauty, the intensity of colors, and the power displayed before our eyes.
Each day during the rainy season, which starts in June, the rains move in in late afternoon and roll across the sky, bathing the land with a brief shower or two, watering the plants, trees, and crops so that everything is green and in bloom. It’s the lush time of year, and the colors explode. Summer is magic in San Miguel. And after the rains come the cool breezes and the fresh smell after a shower. Those skies full of drama and color are one of the things I miss from up here.
While we were building our casita in Alcocer outside of San Miguel we rented a place that was part of a large house with a fantastic yard and lots of flowers. We felt like lords of the manor, it was so stately in appearance. Roses climbed the property wall, different ones constantly blooming. The ones just inside the main gate were showy red beauties that I kept my eye on to see their latest production. One morning when we’d not been there too long I took a series of photos of the roses to capture how the rain droplets they’d collected shown like jewels on the their petals.
For some reason the red on my screen isn’t quite matching the painting in real life, no matter my attempts to color correct. Reds are tricky and my computer makes this a little dull. But I love all those droplets everywhere, the rose just out of the shower.
Yesterday was jam packed with activities and distractions and so I got off schedule. Only got halfway through today’s painting before Dave and I headed north to Mt. Vernon for his exhibition reception. A quality show at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. Check it out through mid October.
Part of our neighbors in Mexico are various herds of farm animals. We see them every morning and evening as they make their way to the pond just to the north of our place. Cows, horses, sheep, goats. Dogs and their masters guide their charges for a brief drink before heading out to mountain pastures for the day or back to paddocks to bed down for the night. Among them are a few billies, lording their dominion of the ladies over lesser creatures among them. Theirs is an envied position and their powerful stature gives presence to the herds. Love those curved graceful horns and that beatnik beard. He definitely has a swagger to make these girls not stray too far.