My previous post - Part 1 - is about my full experience in San Miguel de Allende - so much went on besides painting ;). I split my journey into two posts as it felt too big to put into one. Part 2 (here) is about my actual painting experience.
As I mentioned in Part 1 - this journey felt like a coming back to center, pulling it all together, and a homecoming - back to the place in me that used to create just because I love/d it (as I did almost every day of my childhood). I always knew I wanted to “be an artist” (except for the brief period where I wanted to be a lion tamer after having gone to the circus as a child).
I told my parents I wanted to go to college to be a painter (way back when..). They were supportive of my creative leanings, and...(strongly) suggested graphic design thinking it would be easier to make a living. I had done some of that in junior high (often known as "commercial art" then) and I liked it pretty well too, so it wasn’t totally off-base. However, I’ve never let go of my desire to paint, to create from me, share what’s inside, what I love - instead of solely being creative within someone else’s lines and parameters, and for someone else’s project/s. Don’t get me wrong, I still love graphic design, and I've had the joy of working on some amazing projects. I adore letter forms (fonts, calligraphy, wood type) and combining words with images. In any case, it was time for me to start painting again. And I’m loving it big time!
Our week with awesome Flora Bowley wasn't about "finishing" paintings. It was about process. About being brave, trying new things, "fucking it up" - yes, that's right. It was about having NO idea what we were going to paint (I sure didn't) - flipping things on their sides, upside-down, covering over everything, trying colors we don't usually go for, using our fingers, painting with our eyes closed (while dancing to music!), collaborating with others - being open, willing, courageous, and trusting.
We were a group of 16 women, plus Flora, her assistant Rachael Rice and and our host Rebecca Brooks - all totally lovable gals that are wildly talented, generous, patient, and fun (and Rachael's also an awesome musician - we got to play some, but not enough!). One of our main themes or "motto" for the week quickly became "fuck it up!" Our youngest group member, Cloe said that when the going gets tough she sometimes just says "fuck it" to help her get through challenging times. This prompted Flora to share a story about a time where she was at an open mic and a fellow got up to play guitar, bravely admitting he was afraid he would "fuck it up." Flora said she surprised herself when she yelled out "Fuck it up!" Later, some of us went to the big Tuesday market and found this baseball cap that we couldn't resist getting for her.
My painting of the "shoe shine man" began as layers of colors, shapes, drips, slight texture, finger strokes, transparent and opaque sections, stenciled areas (i.e., from a fly swatter market find here) - you name it. In the middle of painting we went out for a 20-minute sketch session. I sketched typical Mexican swirls and flourishes, lamp posts, women selling dolls in their traditional clothing, and, yep, the shoe shine man in action. Earlier that morning, Rachael had led us in a visualization at the soothing Escondido hot springs that also stuck with me - where I thought about comforting places, and "visually stepping into" this comfort place. I thought of "home," the beach/ocean, and visual delights such as the papel picado we saw every day while painting in the courtyard. So, for my next layers I decided to include these 3 elements - which ended up being a bit too static and safe. I thought, ok, I didn't come all the way to San Miguel to study with Flora, and play it safe, so I said to Flora, "I'm ready to 'fuck it up'". She helped me look at my painting turned it on its side and upside down. We both agreed on a direction that looked good for the next step (papel picado on its side!? What the?) I had no idea what to do next, but I was wanting to go for it. I looked to my sketches... and voila - who knew I'd be painting the shoe shine man? I certainly didn't. Anyways... it was an eye-opening and fun experience to say the least. I am so grateful for Flora!!
Here's a little photo gallery of more paintings in different stages, demos by Flora, making first marks, quick sketches, completely changing things up, collaborations (mine were with the lovely and fun Patty and Mel), the canvas off the frame (so we could get them home in our suitcases - so fun to paint big!), and our "gallery viewing," and the last photo features Flora's two fabulous finished paintings (in the middle). One says "con la familia" (Flora said that was us, our group - and Mel ending up buying it for her home - sweet!).
I also included a photo of the super-inspiring Anahata Katkin painting her "white" painting. I've adored her artwork and company PaPaYa for a long time - it was a treat to have her as part of our group. (I didn't realize until recently that PaPaYa features artwork from only Anahata and Flora - both so prolific!) She and Flora spent a month in San Miguel doing collaborations (also with Alena Hennessy) which are fabulous! Check them out here.
Thanks for checking out my post. I hope you all get to play with paint soon (even if you never have before). I can't recommend it enough! x L