Oaxaca Art Retreat

It all still seems like a dream. Spending ten days in the cultural wonderland of Oaxaca was like going down an artisan rabbit hole.

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It all began when a friend notified me that there was an opening in Tracy Verdugo's Paint Mojo Art Retreat in Oaxaca. This was a bit of a miracle since her retreats sell out in 24 hours. I've taken two workshops with Tracy in Dallas, so I knew in a heartbeat that somehow, someway, I must go. As it turned out, myself and three dear friends ended up going on this remarkable journey together.

 Tracy demonstrating                                                                                                                                                                         

Tracy demonstrating                                                                                                                                                                         

 My alibrijes inspired jaguar and mark making

My alibrijes inspired jaguar and mark making

In case this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Oaxaca, you might be wondering how in the heck do you pronounce it. Let me help you out: WAH-ha-ka.

 My group of friends from Texas plus two new friends.

My group of friends from Texas plus two new friends.

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We spent our days painting interspersed with meanderings through the cobblestone streets filled with colorful Spanish Colonial architecture. Dining at exquisite rooftop restaurants and exploring the artisan markets soon became second nature.

Taking a breather from one’s familiar environment and daily routine is one of the gifts of attending an art retreat, especially in a foreign country. Absorbing the sights, sensations, flora, colors, art, and handicrafts of Oaxaca spilled into our artwork. Tracy offers the perfect balance of allowing artistic freedom within her skillful guidance. All types of paintings emerged over the next few days from women with baskets on their heads to donkeys to expressive mark making to mermaids.

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Oaxaca is known for their meticulously hand-painted wooden figures known as the alebrijes. One of our excursions was to San Martin Tilcajete where the alebrijes are made. It was fascinating to learn that the alebrijes represent one’s animal spirit guardian based on one’s birthday. I found out mine was a monkey. From natural dyes, to wood carving to painting by hand, it was fascinating to see the whole process. A jaguar alebrijes found its way into one of my paintings.

 Alebrijes

Alebrijes

After I returned home, I found out that the Abuelita character from the movie “Coco” was inspired by the Aunt of one of the owners of San Martin Tilcajete. I actually saw her in person and took a photo of her.

 Aunt Estella aka Abuelita

Aunt Estella aka Abuelita

Oaxaca is a paradise for weavers and textile lovers. Even though I’m not a weaver, I was captivated by to learn about this ancient craft. Artisan villages are located close to Oaxaca City and make a splendid day trip.  Casa El Encanto, Teotitlan del Valle is known for its textiles, especially rugs, which are woven on hand-operated looms, from wool obtained from local sheep. These textile artisans work to preserve the use of plant and insect dyes.

 Back Strap Weaving

Back Strap Weaving

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 Yarns made from natural dyes for rug weaving

Yarns made from natural dyes for rug weaving

A smaller group of us hired a private driver to take us to the UNESCO archaeological ruins in Mitla, then to the natural infinity pools that fall off a cliff at Hierve El Agua. We also stopped to see the widest tree in the world, El Arbol del Tule inside the gated churchyard in the picturesque town of Santa Maria del Tule.

 Archaeological ruins in Mitla and Hierve El Agua 

Archaeological ruins in Mitla and Hierve El Agua 

Back in Oaxaca City, the tours at The Ethnobotanical Garden focus on the cultural history of the region and are offered at certain times on certain days. I highly recommend going.

 The Ethnobotanical Garden

The Ethnobotanical Garden

Oaxaca is also a culinary mecca. A Mezcal margarita is a must.  I especially loved the rooftop restaurants. Here are some of my favorites:

Casa Oaxaca has a fabulous view of Santo Domingo.

Tres Bistro has a terrific view of the Zocalo.

Vieja Lira is a chamring Italian restaurant. I ate their twice.

Los Danzantes doesn’t have a rooftop, but it has a lovely open courtyard setting.

 Los Danzantes

Los Danzantes

Los Pilares Hotel is fantastic. I loved this place. A charming married couple own this beautiful place and you can tell they put their heart and soul into making your stay there a wonderful experience. I especially loved the rooftop restaurant and pool area.

 Los Pilares Hotel

Los Pilares Hotel

Tracy Verdugo offers workshops and retreats around the world. I know she will come back to Oaxaca one day, meanwhile your can check out her retreats in Bali and Europe. tracyverdugo.com

This Oaxaca experience has deeply influenced me. The images that I saw there are spontaneously popping up in my artwork. I’ve even chosen to make my experience of Oaxaca the inspiration for my next art show scheduled for September 21-23 at The Cove in McKinney, Texas. Hope to see you there!

Photo Credits: Silky Hart, Anya Oram and Tracy Verdugo.

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Save this post to Pinterest for future reference. 

Tiny Art Show

Rarely have I ever painted tiny pieces. When my friend, Wendolin Mercado, announced she was curating a Tiny Art Show, I decided why not give it a try. show. I will have nine paintings in this art show.

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These two medicine men were inspired by masks I saw on a recent trip to Oaxaca. 

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Both of these tiny Medicine Men are acrylic on 3" x 3" wood panel.

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This brand new oil and cold wax painting is 6" x 6" and will also be in the show.

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Tiny Art Show curated by Wendolin Mercado

Art supplies will be provided so you can create your own tiny art! 

June 15-16, 6 to 9 pm

The Cove, 402 N Tennessee St., McKinney, Texas  75019

Hope to see  you there!

Surprising Faces

This Spring I saw a few Instagram Art Challenges focused on the face. Not everyone, but many artists find drawing and painting faces quite challenging. I include myself in this group.

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I decided to spend some time on the dreaded face. I signed up for an online class called Wandering Muse by Jeanne Oliver. There is a section of this class devoted to experimenting with faces. Jeanne emphasizes that these are just studies. Just play and see what happens. And so I did.

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Using charcoal, stabilo pencil, ink, gesso and watercolor pencils I took Jeanne's ideas as a starting place. Some were definitely better than others. With more practice I began to actually enjoy drawing faces. 

I put the more successful ones up up on the wall. Seeing them altogether added another dimension. 

The last two were my personal favorites. Since they were the same size, I experimented with putting half of one face over half of the other. 

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I posted a few of my faces on Instagram and Facebook. The response was truly surprising. I received several Private Messages of friends telling me how much they loved them. One friend drove from Dallas to see them in my home art studio. Another friend who owns a shop on the McKinney Square asked me to bring them up to her Shop. 

I sold several originals including the two large faces to the Shop Owner. She may use a couple in her clothing designs.

My friend from Dallas loved the two half faces. I took them up to a local printer who professionally photographed them to make customized prints.

My big takeaway from this experience is the energy with which I approached these faces. I was experimenting and playing rather than trying to create a masterpiece. The result was something fresh and new.

The Power of Community

Creating an art community offers many powerful benefits including, mutual support and encouragement, forging unseen collaborations, and fostering cross-fertilization of art forms.

McKinney Creative Community 1

My husband and I co-founded the McKinney Creative Community several years ago. Here is a bit about our journey and some tips for making your own creative community if you don't have one. I can't recommend this enough to give your local creative community some juice!

When my husband moved to McKinney, Texas from Austin, he was inspired to create a monthly potluck much like a highly successful one he loved in Austin. As it turns out, this desire was buzzing around for some other folks in McKinney too. So, the McKinney Creative Community was established.

The first year, a local writer generously opened up her home and lovely backyard as our meeting space. Then, we met in various homes for a couple of years which to be honest, was a bit of a pain to constantly have to organize. Next, a lovely workshop space was gifted to us by a local gardening store. Now, we meet at the local artist cooperative known as The Cove. This place is perfect. We pay a nominal fee each month. 

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My advice would be to find a place where it is the same place every month, as well as the same day and time. We always meet on Second Mondays from 5:30 to 8:30 pm.

What happens at our gatherings? It is a potluck, so everyone brings a dish. We also provide wine, tea and water. Upon arriving, folks mingle and partake in the potluck. Then, we sit in a circle and my husband moderates. Everyone introduce themselves, saying what they do and what is new and good in their life plus any announcements to share. He demonstrates by going first. He recommends that there be no cross talk. Otherwise, we might be there 'til two in the morning! If you have a question for someone, you can always go up to them after this part.

A new component of our gatherings is our speaker series. This was Leslee Ortega's brilliant idea. She spearheads organizing our speakers each month which has been highly successful. We've had writers, a musician, artists, a puppet maker, a creativity coach and this month an artisan baker will share her story. 

 Creativity Coach Jill Allison Bryan

Creativity Coach Jill Allison Bryan

After everyone has had a chance to speak, we chat and network some more. It is heart warming and inspiring to have a place where you feel supported. There have also been countless collaborations and friendships formed.

On more component is our annual Holiday Art Bazaar. In a way, this is our gift to the community. My husband and I, along with the amazing Andrea Holmes, organize this event. We team up with our local TUPPS Brewery and provide booth space to the artisan vendors. Each vendor has a six foot table for their handmade creations. It is held on the first Saturday of December. It is a fun and festive day! 

 Holiday Art Bazaar 2017

Holiday Art Bazaar 2017

We have close to 1200 members on our Facebook page which is also a great resource to post events, workshops, classes or just to share your latest creation.

Hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration to create your own creative community. 

 

Unique By Nature Juried Art Show

So happy to announce that Farmers Market was selected for the Unique by Nature Juried Art Show in McKinney, Texas.

  Farmers Market  on View at the McKinney Performing Arts Center

Farmers Market on View at the McKinney Performing Arts Center

Submissions were juried by Karl Buchberg, retired Senior Curator, The Modern Museum of Art and J Patrick Cooney Fine Arts.

Paintings in this wonderful Art Exhibition will be on display and available for purchase through April 28 at the charming courthouse in Historic Downtown McKinney.

Small Works Art Show

Delighted to announce that two of my recent oil and cold wax paintings have been selected for the TAC (Texas Artists Coalition) Small Works Show!

The opening reception is Friday, December 1, 2017 from 6 PM to 9 PM at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. The Small Works Show runs through January 13, 2018.

Would love to see you there!

In My Own Backyard

My brand new series, In My Own Backyard, will make its debut at The Cove in McKinney, Texas. 

 McKinney Farmers Market

McKinney Farmers Market

My new series began with keeping a sketchbook of my backyard. I realized my backyard is bigger than what is behind my house. It extends to what I love about my neighborhood — from the McKinney Farmers Market to goats to front porches to crepe myrtles.

 Morning visit to the goat farm

Morning visit to the goat farm

Here are the details:

The Cove
402 N. Tennessee St.
McKinney, TX  75069

Friday, September 15, 2017  •  7:00 to 9:30 PM
Saturday, September 16, 2017  •  6:00 to 9:30 PM
Sunday, September 17, 2017  • 2:00 to 4:00 PM


Artist talk both evenings at 8:00 PM
Refreshments will be served

Would love to see you there!

 Crepe Myrtle down the street

Crepe Myrtle down the street

Own Your Colors

Last month I took one of the best online class ever from Melinda Cootsana. She is an excellent teacher who gives detailed feedback. The class I took was Own Your Colors Part 2. Nope, I didn't take Part 1 which she said wasn't required.

I'll share a few of my assignments. So many of these ideas were brand new to me.

I wasn't that familiar with the phenomenon of color relativity. It extraordinary how the same color can look completely different given the colors that surround it. Here is my attempt at giving this a try. 

 The top two photos are the same turquoise green. The bottom two are the same yellow green. 

The top two photos are the same turquoise green. The bottom two are the same yellow green. 

Cool light with warm shadows and its counterpart, warm light with cool shadows was a brand new exercise for me. 

 I also learned about bringing reflective color into the shadow.

I also learned about bringing reflective color into the shadow.

Painting a self portrait with a Zorn color palette was a quite challenging! The Zorn color palette ( Cadmium Red Light, Payne's Grey and Yellow Ochre) are colors I usually wouldn't gravitate toward. That is precisely why this assignment was so good for me to try. This is my very first self portrait!

 Yep, this looks like a first attempt at a self portrait. 

Yep, this looks like a first attempt at a self portrait. 

Using mostly neutrals with thimbleful of a primary color opened my eyes to how the brighter colors pop when contrasted against muted colors. I knew this idea theoretically, but this exercise brought it home for me.

 Painting of Birth of Venus by Caz Love. A site specific art installation at Elephant Butte Lake.

Painting of Birth of Venus by Caz Love. A site specific art installation at Elephant Butte Lake.

I highly recommend this class. I'm in love with Melinda's figurative art so I'll be taking her Abstracting the Figure online class coming right up in September!

New Mexico Dreamscapes

I'm delighted to announce the details of my first Solo Art Exhibition. Here is a sneak peek at two of my paintings from New Mexico Dreamscapes

 Road Trippin'

Road Trippin'

New Mexico. It is impossible to describe, but easy to feel. This collection of paintings is a record of my month-long artist residency at Elephant Butte Lake in Southern New Mexico. It reveals what I saw, heard and felt there. It is a transcript in colors and shapes of my deep conversation I had with that mystical landscape.

My art show runs from June 10 - 30, 2017 at The Martin Place, 1799 N. Graves St., McKinney, Texas  75069. 

My opening reception is June 10 from 6 PM to 9 PM. I will give a short artist talk at 7:30 PM.

 Red Hills

Red Hills

Hope to see you there!