10 Paintings in 10 days? What was I thinking?
I have to admit, I jumped into this challenge without really knowing what I was getting myself into. I had adopted a looser, faster style recently, and felt confident that I could at least make a really strong start on all the pieces for the show coming up in TWO WEEKS.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…
One thing I love about this challenge is that it is keeping me painting in the studio, as non-stop as I can manage between teaching and celebrating life, like you do in Mexico (it’s a requirement here, like sitting in traffic in the states).
I think of painting like working out, you go to the gym and it hurts every time and you sweat every time…but each time you get back in there, you’re able to lift heavier and heavier weights.
But I gotta admit that painting is HARRRD.
I tell my students that, if they’re lucky, they will like 1 out of every 50 pieces of their work. Most often, we see what we want to fix, or what needs work, not the nice painting others see.
For day 8’s painting I revised a canvas I had all but cast aside
I went back to the studio, and knowing that I HAD to paint something tonight, I revised a painting that is very special to me that I had set aside months ago in frustration.
This painting is a gift to the wonderful host family I lived with my first 10 months in San Miguel, a portrait of their 3 fantastic kids.
Breaking my own rules of painting
Unfortunately, when I began the painting, I was out of practice drawing and broke all of the rules I use now. In fact, I learned my rules from my mistakes with this painting: now, I draw the subject at least 2 or three times before painting–the more I draw studies, the better the final painting.
I began this painting a year ago, no drawing studies, little practice. But I did them! Although I wasn’t satisfied with the original lay-in, the drawing in paint that sets the stage for the final piece, I continued on. So today, I had to work on reframing the faces and fixing some basic drawing issues I had in the beginning. Next, I need to add color so they don’t look like vampires and do the background.
I may still have a few more visits to the art-gym before I finish this painting, but I’m grateful this challenge has pushed me to keep working on it!
Painting number 7 is a big step away from what I had envisioned originally for this series. I have gotten away from the pure portraits of the ladies, which were taken from their health registration photo IDs, and I now want to show them in context of their life. The more I study this subject, the more fascinated I am by the daily life and social position of these women.
When I began painting them, I felt sorry for the shady ladies of San Miguel’s past. However, a book I’ve been listening to (audiobook style while I paint, a big time addiction for me) documents the lives of 1860s-1930s harlots from Colorado, and it has introduced me to a new concept of these women’s life. The book, Brothels, Bordellos, and Bad Girls, talks about how many of the ladies of the night were not victims, but wild child types who did not want to live the formulaic, oppressive life of pious mothers with a hoard of children to support. They wanted to get drunk and dance and sleep around, be independent and make their own money. In many ways, the average female U.S. college student has a lifestyle more similar to the bordello girl’s than to the proper social lady’s life a century back.
Anywho, here I used a reference photo from the infamous prostitute shots from Storyville, a 1912 New Orlean’s brothel where photographer E.J. Bellocq got intimate with the madame and was able to peek inside the lives of his muses when they were working, playing, and relaxing.
I’m having so much fun putting the ladies in context–although the scene is from 1912 New Orleans I will be using a face from the San Miguel girls, and with Mexico being a little bit behind the fashion the states I think it is still very fitting. More importantly, these girls shared the connection of their profession, their status, and in this photo in particular, one might imagined that there were times that they enjoyed their job.
Painting this gave me a much bigger appreciation for the composition. Although I loved the photo at first glance, only after I took the time to look deeply as an artist did I notice just how MANY patterns and designs liven up this image. The stockings are the focal point, of course. Love it!
I had no idea how much I would enjoy today’s painting process, even though there are a few lil things I still want to tinker with, as usual.
I knew I wanted all white for this portrait, with the features of the woman coming through almost as if from a fog, ghostly pale, all but for her dark hair and eyes.
Of all the women who once worked at the bordello on San Miguel de Allende, I thought this woman’s innocent visage seemed the most unsuspecting. Her white dress in her photo inspired me to turn up the blanca and use as little of the other colors as possible.
As I began, I feel in love with how the white paint interacted with the sienna toned background. Instead of adding coming to make a shade for the contours of her face, I could just apply LESS white and scrumble the brush into the canvas for the mid tones (scrumbling is when you use very little paint on a stiff bristle brush and rub it into the canvas in a circular motion).
The effect was very soft and lovely, just what I had sensed from the lady of the night’s sad sweet face.
After adding a raw umber (dark dark brown), I was less enchanted. Even the mouth on this lady is turned up like she’s less than pleased. However, after going in to add some light peachy tones and enhancing her eyes, I think she’s coming along rather prettily, as you see below.
I think I might have hints of a subtle rose playing in the layers of white, and I’m debating whether or not to give her deep crimson red lipstick, just on the top lip. Please do comment with your thoughts below, or like on Facebook!
See you tomorrow with another San Miguel de Allende damsel on the easel.
And now, drumroll please…. painting number 4!
Today’s painting really took on a life of its own. It began with a simple concept for the composition, a more of less exact rendering of the photo of a striking woman with fierce eyes but a girlish white bow in her hair, looking through her lashes at the camera.
All of the photos in this series come from the health department credentials the women kept up with once-weekly visits to the doctor’s office to ensure their cleanliness and availability to work. While most of the faces are drawn, this saucy face captured my attention.
I began with an ultramarine blue layout on a dark grey toned canvas.
Next I added in big areas of color. Although I was originally thinking of painting her in creamy white with navy blue and deep red accents, the Mexican flag colors snuck their way onto the canvas. The complementary colors and steamy effect the red had on her face reminded me of the jungle.
The jungle colors reminded me of a photo I took not so long ago in the jardin, the main plaza and heart of San Miguel de Allende, where the Parroquia church is perched like a fanciful sandcastle in the middle of the city. Under the shade of manicured trees, locals and tourists alike sit opposite the church and watch each other coming and going in the flamboyant colors of Mexico. This one particular day, the shows of the trees played like lace on the stones of the jardin square.
I thought that this would be a perfect complement to the portrait of a woman who undoubtedly strolled through the jardin all her life in San Miguel. A source from the documentary on the bordello said that most of the girls had pseudonyms at work, so that they wouldn’t be bothered or known by name when they were out and about in town.
I like how the red creates a sultriness to her personality. A sunset beauty in the shade of the jardin trees.
This canvas might get some lime green and pink added before the night of the opening, but I like the direction so far. Hope you do too!
May I present a composition I completed today for a commission: Abuelo con Ninos.
I struggled for ages with this piece. The concept is poignant, my Spanish teacher told me months ago how her father died of pancreatic cancer only 2 days before she gave birth to her first child, Juan Pablo, who is now my 5 year old art student. Funny how things loop around that way in Mexico.
She wanted me to paint her father with her 2 children, so she could feel that on some level, they were all together.
Unfortunately, she only had one photo for me to work with: her dad, face completely covered in shadows, then separate shots of the kids.
Painting this scene was tricky. I prefer to be very literal in my portraits, but with so little information to go on with this piece I kind of had to make things up.
Tomorrow, worry not, you will see a prostitute, so if your questionable morality was disappointed tonight, worry not! More ladies coming soon. Please do comment below, and thanks for keeping track during this 10 day challenge!
It’s day one, and I’m diving into all kinds of loopholes in my approach to finishing 10 paintings in 10 days.
Loophole 1: To begin with, my first painting (singular) is composed of 6 small canvases, about 5×7 inches more or less, which will be framed together on a dark grey mat. So, woohoo! Bonus paintings and it’s just day one!
Loophole 2: Maybe painting 6 mini-portraits will get help me get away with the fact that this whole process did not happen all in one day.
In fact, let me set the stage for the next 10 days: I will be working on paintings that I will be preparing in advance!
To be fair, only 2 of the other portraits for the Ladies of the Night art opening coming up have got some of the under-paintings begun, so I will paint in the beginning compositions for the others in the coming days. Let’s not make it too easy on me, right?
I so super enjoyed playing with this funky-hued, stencil-like style for the first painting of the challenge.
The playfulness of it allowed me to really feel joyful coming into the studio, which is an excellent way to start things off. I also got a chance to practice painting these particular women, some of whom I am going to paint on a much larger scale. The more I paint and draw a subject, the better I get at capturing them. With these subjects, it’s also been fascinating to imagine their world.
Please comment below to let me know what you think of the piece! I am thinking of re-arranging the 6 ladies as shown in the above shot so that the far left ladies switch places. Thoughts?
Why Interview Art Teachers in San Miguel?
The first thing I did on my very first visit to San Miguel de Allende was look for an art class to take. I was so inspired by the colors and vibrancy of the city, I wanted to jump in to the art scene here.
Much to my millennial-minded dismay, the Google search results in Mexico don’t match up to the extensive answers you get when you ask Siri a question on your iPhone. The art classes I found either no longer existed, or were postponed for another month, or had no one on the other end of the phone number listed.
I wanted it to be easy to find the best art teachers in town.
When I moved to San Miguel just 1 year after I first visited, I began the hunt to find out where to take art classes, and also where to teach them.
I became an art teacher of drawing and portraiture painting, and began to collect the names and contact info of the other wonderful art teachers I met along the way.
Now it’s time to get to know the best art teachers in town.
This list will continue to grow and change as we update our list and get to know more of the teaching talent in San Miguel, be it in painting, assemblage, ceramics, or making the giant traditional Mexican puppets that dance through the center of town.
If you are an art teacher in San Miguel or of you would like to recommend one, please contact us at email@example.com.
What’s the best way to find the right teacher? Videos!
I am a big believer in the idea that different personalities and learning styles need different types of teachers. I decided to not just write out the interviews, but to record them, so that you can get a sense of the personality and teaching style of the SMA art teachers before you sign up for a class.
Time to meet our first art teacher: Joseph Bennett
Artist and teacher Joseph Bennett has enjoyed international acclaim for his found-object assemblage pieces. Joseph is a Renaissance man, with a passion for theatre, art, service, his interior design business, therapeutic services business, and more. In this energy, we see the energy and professionalism that make it all possible, and we get to ogle the wabi-sabi beauty of Joseph’s artworks.Do you have dilapidated treasures hiding in a box in your closet, waiting to be reborn, to tell their story, as art? Assemblage is waiting. In this interview, get to know the teacher and what to expect before your class with Joseph, and learn the keys to creativity that Joseph use to maintain his creative and successful artistic lifestyle.To see more of Joseph’s work or to sign up for a class, please visit www.artbyBennett.com, or like his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArtbyBennettOn Joseph’s work“Bennett’s assemblages range from architectonic, all-white pieces that wouldn’t be out of place in a textbook on Minimalist design, to veritable cornucopias overflowing with surreal, mind-numbing assortments of minor treasures.”
Mark Elliot Lugo, Curator“Joseph Bennett is guided by a love for found objects. His ability to see their potential as bearers of stories guides him as much as a consideration of form, color, contrast, balance and texture. On a formal level, his assemblages show an affinity for the properties of early synthetic cubism, surrealism and
primitive art. On an emotional level, however, the bits and pieces that make up the work are already suffused with meaning and help communicate a more personal message.”
Karen McGuire, CuratorOn Joseph’s Teaching“A ton of specific, practical ideas + applications along with inspirational enthusiasm. Thank you Joseph!”
Eric Peterson“Well- paced, mastery of subject, focused. I can tell that you really know what you are doing. Thank you for a fantastic workshop! You are a pro!”
I have always loved the striking textures and unique way that oil paint mixes when applied to the canvas with a palette knife, so I decided to give it a go and experiment in this portrait of one of the working girls from Casa de la Noche, a bordello that was active here in San Miguel in the last century.
Here is the original photo I was working from.
Or to be clear, I used my nascent skills in PhotoShop (I know, I should have learned it 10 years ago!) to adjust the colors in the above photo so that I could choose a combination I liked without wasting real paint.
Here’s the color animation that I created to help me choose my palette:
Once I saw the color combination I liked best, I simply pause my video and used these colors for my palette knife painting.
What do you like better, the oil painted version or the digital art? Comment below!
Also, stay tuned for some exciting insider art announcements for those interested in taking classes in San Miguel! There’s a Studio Antonelli exclusive coming your way soon.
I’m going to tell you the story of how falling off a ladder trying to get up to a roof in San Miguel de Allende finally helped me to understand the worst cuss-word there is in Mexican spanish: hijo de la chingada.
Along the way, I learned the value of suffering in art through reflections of la chingada in Mexican art, and you can’t talk about women and suffering and Mexico and art without the holy visage of Frida ascending her way into the conversation.
To illustrate, I have 2 Before and After shots to put before you today.
Before and After #1… The Artist on Tuesday.
This was an exciting self portrait, done in less than 2 hours, and much looser than my usual tight, realistic style. I was so excited at the breakthrough in brushstrokes I went out with friends that night. With a mezcalito too many in me, I decided I’d brave a ladder leading up to a scenic roof that I’d been too weenie to climb up before.
But that weenie-ness was wiseness in disguise. I crashed down to the tile floor, landing mostly on my wrist, secondly on my face.
Which leads us to the Artist After the Fall…
I was never as bloody as this intimates with the magenta slipping down the canvas like that, but I was desperate to get some of that raw emotion out of me and note the canvas before I lost the opportunity to catch it in oil instead of bottling it up inside. Frida has a great quote on that:
I couldn’t help googling the wheezy out of Frida while I was recuperating. Mexico is rather famous for it’s suffering females, and Frida Kahlo reached icon status after a lifetime spent suffering from everything from polio, to a spine-crunching trolly accident, to a philandering spouse–the world-famous Diego Rivera, whose betrayals were so devastating he even had an affair with Frida’s sister.
But it wasn’t just Frida who led me to understand one of the worse spanish cuss words. I’ve been hanging out with enough local good influences in Mexico, that after the fall I thought to myself se chingo, that arm got fucked up. Perhaps it was the influence of the anesthesia that had me dreamily wonder about something or other I’d heard about Mexico herself being referred to as la chingada, or the fucked over.
I did some intensive research by typing the question into google.
Please, please, if you have time and any interest in the complexity of Mexican culture and gender and vulgarities and identity crisis, read this excerpt from Octovio Paz’s The Labryrinth of Solitude.
The title in the pdf is Sons of La Malinche, Hijos de la Chingada, and the story of La Malinche came back to me from an early spanish class here in San Miguel de Allende.
La Malinche was in the nobility in her native indian Atzec people when Cortez and his Spaniards arrived with conquest on their minds. The trilingual La Malinche helped translate her native Nahuatl language into Spanish, much to Cortes’s advantage.
Not only did Cortes take advantage of La Malinche’s language skills, he violently opposed and brought down her home nation, had a son by her, and then abandoned it all. No small wonder that her experience of being fucked, being aggressively used and screwed over in both micro and meta ways, have led her to be known as la chingada, the Mexican Eve, and the mother of all Mexicans who call themselves hijos de la chingada.
Octavio Paz says it so much better than me. Here’s another link to read that article, seriously now.
I mentioned I was in an anesthesia haze during all of this, but here’s another Before and After to prove I’m a suffering artist, in case the portraiture didn’t convince you:
Before …The Artist’s LEFT (thank God) Wrist on Tuesday
I will have this apparatus on for the next 6 weeks, and tonight I’m feeling rather grateful that the suffering of a broken wrist has led me to a deeper understanding of Mexican culture and cussing. Without this horrifying clamp in my arm I never would’ve seen Orozco’s haunting and powerful mural image of La Malinche and Cortes, or painted out my feelings in that self-portrait I finished today that exhausted my energy reserves, but still left me feeling stronger.
More importantly I must thank my family and friends who helped me get to the right hospital in Mexico, or immediately flew into San Miguel to nurse me back to health, or were so stinkin’ worried about where I’d disappeared to they filed a missing persons report on me while I was having surgery. Love you guys. Muchas. Muchas. Gracias.
No way were we going to wait in line two hours.
Here’s the Best way to avoid the line at the Frida Museum:
Go online to buy your tickets in advance at this website, show up at your appointed time, and skip the line! It costs a bit more but it’s well worth it. However, weekdays are not as busy as a holiday weekend, so you can probably get in without too long of a wait most of the time.
After escaping the line, we went a few blocks away to the Trotsky Museum, the former residence of the man whose name is it’s own -ism, Trotskyism. In his fort-like home, he was assassinated with an ice pick, although not before carrying on an affair with Frida, who often cheated on her husband Rivera to counter her husband’s many infidelities.
I knew a lot about Frida and Trotsky’s scandalous affair from one of my all time favorite books, Frida, a Biography of Frida Kahlo, by Hayden Herrera. (Her life is beyond fiction. A must read.)
What I did not know is that the Mexican Muralist Siqueiros participated in an attempt to murder Trotsky before the guy with the ice pick finished the job…Can you imagine Diego and Siqueiros as contemporaries, two of the most famous artists of their time, at war over politics that spanned across the globe, rivals in both their views on communism and their approach to painting a wall, Siqueiros actually attempting murder for his ideas… mind boggling.
To visit their homes, and walk the few blocks that Frida would have traversed between her home and Trotsky’s, makes their incredible lives all the more real, and recent.
Here Frida and Diego, an unlikely couple in themselves, pose with Trotsky and other Marxist sympathizers.
The museum also hosts much of the artwork Frida composed in her time at the home in Coyocan, as well as her preserved painting studio.
Frida’s studio. It is worth it to pay and extra 30 pesos to take pictures. Otherwise, you have to put the cameras away!
Visiting edgy Mexico City helped me to understand the raw passion Frida had for life, she having grown up there. It is a city where you must always be alert for trouble, actively keeping track of your purse and how much the taxis are charging. But the alertness makes you feel alive, a part of the city in a way that most safe tourist destinations don’t.
Frida grew up in Mexico City in a time when politics raised blood and saw it spilled in the streets. Diego, who was the most famous artist in Mexico at the time, made artwork a weapon for social change and revolution, favoring a Marxist future for Mexico. His grandiose murals empower the people, the worker, the heart and capable hands of Mexico.
If Diego represents heart and hands, Frida was the soul, la chingada (pardon my spanish) who was ravaged by polio, accidents, heartbreak, and betrayal–and yet her artwork expressed her irreverent attitude toward life, which she laughed at and with, in a way so purely Mexican that it is hard to put in english.
I highly recommend D.F. and Frida’s Museum, but only after reading Frida, a Biography of Frida Kahlo, by Hayden Herrera, which everyone who breaths should read.
Have you been to Mexico City recently? What was your experience? Comment below to share!