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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
I don’t know when it began or where, but there has been a devious lie circulating for ages about artistic ability. People believe that you are either born with artistic talent, or not. I haven’t heard of a single scientist coming out with evidence that drawing skill has been linked to the 15th chromosome, or that it has to do with the same gene that signals for dark eyes, and yet people take it as a fact that you are naturally an artist, or you are doomed to a life of stick-figures and self-depricating jokes. However, as you can see above in this thoroughly scientific graph by comic genius Demetri Martin, drawing skill is directly related to the amount of time spent practicing it.
A very big thanks to everyone who was a part of Sketching San Miguel: Developing a Sense of Place! In only 3 days it was wonderful to see marked improvement in your skills.
More drawing classes will be offered during the last 2 weeks of February, stay tuned for details!
Each class is 2 hours long, with a little under one hour of drawing lessons and warm-ups, then one hour on location.
Thursday, Jan. 29th, 1:00-3:00pm– Instituto Allende, Ancha de San Antonio 20, meet at the fountain in the center courtyard. Class focus: Learning from the Maestros. In partnership with B’nai Or Gallery, we will study in the tradition of renaissance masters: by copying the great works of local artists in San Miguel. We will choose one or two paintings to study in depth, and may also find time to sketch the Parroquia from the back patio, which offers one of the best views in town.
Friday, Jan. 30th, 1:00-3:00pm– Bellas Artes, Hernández Macías 75, Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, GTO. Meet at the fountain in the inner courtyard. We will begin with warm up drawing drills, review linear perspective, then break into small groups to sketch the lovely architecture of the building, which includes a stunning mural from Mexican mural master Siqueiros.
Saturday, Jan 31st, 1:00-3:00pm– Instituto Allende, Ancha de San Antonio 20, Arts and Crafts Fair. Each student will be given $50 pesos to buy one item which we will use to do a group still life. Class will meet outside of the Instituto, and after we shop for our objects we will sketch on the back patio. Brave souls who care to try to sketch amidst the bustle of the fair will be welcome to sketch in the vendor area as well, where the layers of booths stacks and bursting with goods would make an excellent composition.
Classes are $600 pesos for 3 days, or $250 pesos for drop-ins. Please sign up here