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Mexico a Painters Goldmine

December 12th, 2007

Mexico a Painters Goldmine

This painting was done of a scene in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. San Miguel is a beautiful Spanish colonial town situated in central Mexico in the western Sierra Madre mountains. It attracts people of all types including artists from all over. I have been there several times at different times of the year and know the town quite well, but I will never live long enough to paint all of the possibilities that exist there from landscapes in the countryside, to in town cityscapes, festivals, colors, people, sellers of every stripe, flowers and foliage-on and on. September/October is the most colorful time of year and full of festivals and parties celebrating whatever the fun-loving Mexicans can dream up. That ends in early November with the Day of the Dead, the biggest party of all. December through May is what is called the dry season and the landscape takes on a sere, white look that highlights the remaining green foliage, and the bright colors in clothing and buildings. It gets quite cool in January, down into the 30s F at night, but the days remain mild and pleasant for the most part. May/June get quite hot and a lot of people travel to the coasts to cool off. The rains return in June and last through August more or less which produce the fantastic floral landscapes with fields of wildflowers sometimes stretching as far as the eye can see. San Miguel is at 6300 ft., so there is tremendous clarity and brilliance in the light.
When in San Miguel I have studied and painted with Frank Gardner -http://.www.frankgardner.com -who is an expat American who paints and runs his own gallery there. Frank taught me much including painting in plein air, using the sketches done on location for later work in the studio. Visit his website to see the variety of his work. One of Frank's workshops is featured in the Dec. issue of American Artist, Workshop edition. I attend it with 8 or 9 others and we had a great time and learned a lot. If you are ever there, be sure to be in touch with him.
The scene in the picture is in the center of town in the central square which in many Mexican towns is the center of social life, for music, for vendors surrounded by great shops and restaurants. These squares usually have garden--jardins--and in San Miguel the jardin is especially lovely. In the morning people congregate to get the newspapers, gossip, flirt, shop the vendors and do what people do in such places. I tried to catch the to-and-fro of the place having been attracted by the brilliant morning light and the dark tree canopy over head. I started with a dark blue ground so I could get a real "pop" with the pastelly pinks and lavenders in the scene. Also, the blue gave me the dark interiors in the tree foliage to help with the greens of the leaves. I made the focus the lady at the left in sunglasses and kept the hardest edges in the structures that surround her. The fellow in brown moving away from her to the right helps get your eye moving, but the tree trunks and the foliage of the trees keep you into the picture, as do the vertical structures in the background. I used a photo taken by a friend as a reference. The rest comes from familiarity of the place.
I have several pictures of Mexico on this site and on my own website http://www.jackthepainter.com. If you want to find out more about San Miguel visit www.portalsanmiguel.com.

My Mentors and Muses

November 15th, 2007

I am a self-taught painter, but not really. My good friend Mary Hall got me started on painting during a trip to Tuscany in Sept. 2001. I think the events of he 11th of that month caused me to take what had been a lifelong interest in art to the next step. Who knows how much time we have left? I decided to waste none of it and buried myself in learning to paint. Mary started me off and, with indulgent encouragement from friends and family, I kept at it. I took drawing classes with Kathleen Boldt who got my "mind right" about seeing. I followed up with courses in painting and art at Maine College of Art (MECA) and University of Southern Maine. My teacher at MECA was Diane Dahlke who is a wonderful artist who constantly challenged me and helped me take an approach to painting that opened my brain to the possibilities of the art form. During this period, I painted as much as I could using subjects that primarily involved my travels.
When in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I came in contact with Frank Gardner, an expat American artist who now lives, paints and runs his own gallery in Mexico--visit www.FrankGardner.com. Frank gave occasional painting workshops in the area around San Miguel which I attended and have been much influenced by. He also led me to important books on painting by Robert Henri, "The Art Spirit," John Carlson's "Guide to Landscape Painting," Kevin MacPherson's "Fill Your Paintings with Light and Color," Hawthorne's "On Painting" and others. I should also credit Kathi Boldt with her reading recommendations including Jean Edward's "Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain" and Dan McCaw's "A Proven Strategy for Creating Great Art." I strongly recommend these books for any artists from beginner on up. I refer to them all the time. I also study the work of the masters and am gathering a nice libraryof art books.
Now retired from my business career, I paint every day and am responsive to subjects from all over the map--landscape and scenes from travels, Maine landscapes and seascapes, paintings from my trips to Mexico, plein air work, portraits of artists and musicians, still lifes and random subjects I come across that stimulate me somehow. There are ironies in my work and some forms of loneliness a la Edward Hopper. I don't know where these things come from, but that's one of the fascinations that come with the art form. Sometimes I feel naked after showing my work--it gets that personal.
I show my work a lot as I seek acceptance and criticism from whoever responds. Right now, I have a show at the Thomas Library in Cape Elizabeth, Maine and one at a bank in Kennebunk, Maine. I'll show wherever I can wangle an invitation and where I know my work will be seen. I'm happy when I get emails from people responding to the work, positive or negative or neutral. I'm amazed at what people respond to. Often it has nothing to do with the raison d'etre of the painting!
I'll continue to post new work on this site and add to this blog some of the new work and discussions of same. I look forward to pursuing our mutual passion with you.