It takes a gifted artist to become a great teacher and those who dare to teach never cease to learn.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

Castilleja sp., watercolor by Cathleen Harrington

Friday, December 21, 2018

The final days of our 2018 SMA Tour

Roberta Lutgen's Frida Kahlo influenced interpretation (in process)

Our two last days in San Miguel went very fast: the Frida Kahlo class in the morning followed by more independent exploration of SMA during the afternoons. We all agreed that ten days is too short a period to absorb all the information, and learn about San Miguel’s colorful past. 
Many of the participants would have enjoyed more sketching which we will be doing in March 2019 when Dr. Sarah Simblet from Oxford, U.K.  will teach a sketching class on birds and plants of El Charco (March 16-24). During that week we’ll be spending the majority of the class time in El Charco del Ingenio gardens. For the cultural part we’ll explore Guanajuato, Atotonilco with Dolores Hidalgo, and the Cañada de la Virgen Archaeological Site in addition to specific tours around the heart of San Miguel de Allende.
To see some photos from our final days in San Miguel de Allende, please click here.
While the Frida Kahlo class was working inside, Randy went back to El Charco and did some painting of the canyon and the old water pipe (Randy Raak, gouache) - please click to enlarge

Friday, December 14, 2018

Different media - same result

Four different media to depict the same feather by Barbara Anderson (please click the image to enlarge)

On our Feathers and eggs class the students tested different media to find out the best way to render the delicate feather structures, varied textures and colors both on the eggs and feathers. One of the students rendered the same feather in four media: watercolor, colored pencil, charcoal and graphite - when the application is successful it is hard to see the differences in the final result.
For more images form our Feathers and Eggs class, please click here 
"Angry Bird" - in the emu family the female lays the eggs and the 'father' tales care of them. In this case he finds one of the eggs cracked which really upsets him. Excellent colored pencil rendering of both the bird, the feather and the egg by Thea Carruth (please click the image to enlarge) 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

2018 SMA-Tour: The collections of El Charco and Indigenous Masks

El Charco's Herbarium now contains over 1000 mounted sheets. The dried plants are attached mostly with cotton thread as the traditional way is. Flower parts are collected separately for a color reference (covered with clear tape)

After a short introduction to second workshop: Frida Kahlo’s Botanicals with Meredith we were picked up to visit El Charco again and focus this time on it’s collections.  El Charco has currently the biggest living cactus collection and gene bank (for example 180 mamillaria species), their collections include numerous rare and endangered  cactus species all collected around Mexico. The Garden has an extensive propagation program and a permit to sell a certain number of plants all grown from seeds  every year. El Charco started their own herbarium collection four years ago and at the moment the collection includes little over 1000 plants.
In the afternoon many of us visited a private mask collection (OtraCara de Mexico) including over 500 ceremonial masks collected around the indigenous villages in Mexico. 
For more photos, please click here.

From the private mask collection, this one was one for sale, we couldn't take any photos in the museum.

Friday, December 7, 2018

2018 SMA-Tour: Parroquia, Toys and Tin

Opuntia ficus-indica (dry land prickly pear), gouache by Lynn Williamson

It is surprising how much students can do in less than eight hours if the environment is inspirational! Gouache was a new medium for most of the workshop participants and all did produce, if not completely finished piece, very close to a plate ready to be matted and framed. The plant was Opuntia ficus-indica

In the afternoon we got a tour of of the second oldest church of San Miguel, Iglesia de San Rafael founded in 1742. We also took a closer look at the Parroquia and learned if its underground tunnels. The tunnel system connects all the other churches and the richest houses in San Miguel, they are wide enough for horses and wagons!!!
We visited the fantastic toy museum (with more than 1000 handmade toys) and then drove little outside of town to a tin workshop, Arte de San Miguel. Finally we finished the day at the artisan/organic food market.
More pictures from the day please click here  
Handmade tin stars for the Christmas decoration made by Arte de San Miguel

Thursday, December 6, 2018

2018 SMA Tour: Cañada de la Virgen Archaeological Site -

The House of the Thirteen Heavens 

Cañada de la Virgen is located some 25 km outside San Miguel. This ceremonial site was occupied between 540 and 1050 CE, when it was abandoned like many other sites in the region, likely because of the severe drought that lasted for an extended period of time. It covers about 16 hectares on a private land but is now government property.

We could see three complexes: A, B, C. The Complex A, House of the Thirteen Heavens (or Skies) served as an observatory and a burial site for the elite. The complex is aligned to the rising and setting sun, and the movements of Jupiter and Venus. All these movements were related to the Otomi calendar. Complex B is called The House of the Longest Night; and Complex C The House of the Wind.
We had an exceptional tour led by Alberto Aveleyra, anthropologist by the National School of Anthropology and History. He is specialized in the interpretation of the ancient Otomi codex and the history of precolumbian cultures related to the San Miguel De Allende surroundings. The day was filled with outstanding information about the past cultures and an overall very pleasant experience.

For more pictures, please click here
Alberto - our exceptional guide for the day

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Gouache, Chapel of Calvary and Dolore Hidalgo

Individual guidance in the gouache class

Tuesday morning Randy’s gouache class started and in 4 hours all 11 students got their pieces well started.
In the afternoon we returned to Atotonilco and the The Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno de Atatonilco. Being a Tuesday (with no services) we could study the murals, mostly done by Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre and enter and study the six lateral chapels surrounding the nave, concentrating mainly in the Chapel of Calvary (from 1776) and the chapel of De La Virgen Del Rosaro (from 1766).  This site, constructed by Father Felipe Neri  Alfaro, represents an important example of the cultural exchange between European and Latin American cultures and is a masterpiece of Mexican Baroque.
After a late but very tasty lunch in Dolores Hidalgo we visited the home of MiguelHidalgo y Costilla, the initial leader of the insurgent army against Spaniards in 1810 (Grito of Dolores) - the war and the Spanish rule ended in 1821. We also visited the incredible Parroquia of Our Lady of Sorrows in Dolores Hidalgo before heading back to San Miguel. Dolores is a very nice little, authentic Mexican town with almost no tourists. Another day filled with Mexican history! 
For more pictures, please click here

Stunning Golden altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin Mary at the Parroquia of Our Lady of Sorrows in Dolores Hidalgo (also called as the Church of the Grito), Cradle of the Mexican Independence. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

2018 SMA tour: El Charco del Ingenio and Instituto Allende

Mario Hernandez, the director of El Charco del Ingenio welcoming our group to the Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve. On the left David, our excellent guide for the day

In the morning Mario, the director of the Botanical Garden and Nature Reserve took us to El Charco del Ingenio. We had a fantastic 3-hour tour of the 170 acre Botanical Garden led by volunteer David, who had previously worked with the education at the Botanical Garden of University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 
After a short introduction to the succulent workshop by Randy we visited the Instituto Allende, weaving studios and the Factory Aurora.
Maestro Agapito Jimenez Rodriquez demonstrating the traditional weaving methods of San Miguel de Allende

For more images from the day, please click here.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

2018 SMA-tour: First Day

Inside Posada Corazon's Courtyard 
All 14 participants of the 2018 SMA, So Much Art and Culture – tour arrived to San Miguel de Allende last night and our 10-day long adventure kicked of with a welcome-dinner at Posada Corazon.  
After well deserved rest we started our Sunday program 7 a.m. as our guide for the day, Carlos, picked us up from Posada Corazon. 
Our day began with a visit to the historic La Gruta thermal springs outside SAN Miguel on the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (the old trade road between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo New Mexico, 1598-1882). The group enjoyed the hot water and relaxing morning swim before the very tasty breakfast.
We continued to the Sanctuary of Atatonilco, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2008. The sanctuary was completed in 1748 and contains incredible paintings by the indigenous Mexicans and is known as the Sistine Chapel of America. Carlos, who is a part of the sanctuary’s restoration team, gave us an excellent historical review of the place.
 The original decorated mesquite-door to the Atotonilco sanctuary 

Finally we visited San Miguel Viejo, the location where San Miguel de Allende was founded in 1542. This was a full day history lesson thanks to our guide, Carlos.

At San Miguel Viejo, this little chapel is from the 16th century

Tomorrow we start our Illustration class with a tour if El Charco del Ingenio and later in the afternoon we have a 3-4 hour Arts and Crafts’ tour.
Aldama street - our main location for the week is on this street (right where the group of people is), the most photographed street in San Miguel

For more pictures from the day, please click here.