PAINTER ADVENTURES By Federico León de La Vega ● December 2013
I had been looking for a change in my painting for months. I strived to innovate, but my creativity seemed restricted to subjects only; my brushstroke and my colors felt boring to me, always more of the same. Impatiently I delved in my long art book collection. Among the many, one jumped out which I had bought a few years ago yet never really read: Kevin Macpherson’s “Fill Your Paintings with Light and Color” I picked it up and browsed through the photos, finding the brushstrokes fresh and spontaneous. So I took this book to my comfortable read-nap chair; the ideas and process of this author drew me into present American impressionists. Later on, consulting with Saint Google, more names of artists quickly jumped out after I typed this first one. So I came to be captivated by the exquisite style of Carolyn Anderson. The passion her work arose in me was such that I learned everything I could about her. She was soon to offer a Workshop, so I quickly wrote an e-mail applying to attend, but days went by without an answer, so I tried the telephone. No luck; the only human contact I was able to make was with a secretary who informed me the workshops was completely full. As I said before, Carolyn’s painting had inspired me as few have; it had a spontaneity that I much longed for. If there was something I could learn from her I did not want to wait.
Among the clients of my Estudio-Café is a wonderful couple from Albuquerque. Patti and Don are very sociable and active. Although they only come to Vallarta for a few weeks of the year, they have become well known by locals. We are fortunate to have them as friends. In addition to her beauty and smarts, Patti is the most dynamic woman I have ever met. One e-mail to her explaining my problem was enough to get her started. A few days later we were packing our bags for the trip to New Mexico. I left my family in Albuquerque with our friends, rented a car and headed north. After passing Santa Fe I followed on towards Las Vegas –not the one in Nevada, with the casinos and glitz, but a little town on the way to Taos. State road 518 took me meandering through beautiful forests and hills, connecting to highway 94 and then to 105. Finally I arrived to the tiny village of Rociada, in time to start the Carolyn Anderson Workshops the next day. I must warn my readers, in spite of my detailed account, you may have trouble finding the place in the map.
The Workshop turned out wonderful from the first minute in day one till the end. The organizers did a very good job. Carolyn is a generous but strict instructor. Among the others attending there was also much to be learned. Very soon we were all submerged in this mystic world of easy music and inspiration, hour after hour, model after model, painting from morning to evening and after dinner some nights too. There are not many distractions in Rociada, with the exception of the bar, where one night I decided to so some story telling with the material I publish monthly (which you may read here in pvmirror.com). Most nights by ten I drove back to the Totem Ranch, a very picturesque, comfortable place to stay; a proof that civilization can bloom in the remote province if the proper person is present. I drove slowly, because there were cows and other fauna to care for, while listening to cricket music. Once home I turned the lights off and there it was: the whole milky way lit up with more brilliance than I have seen even in Vallarta.
Among the most gratifying things I got from the workshop, asides from a significant break through in painting technique, was the fellowship with other artists, painters and even writers, for the place holds other types of workshops too. This relaxed ambiance that brings us together in the wish to understand and produce the beautiful is the same in every artists’ lace I visit. A common thread connects painters like Shelley, Pat Ríos, Jim Cobb or Michelle Torrez, and many others, even writers such as Gerald Hausman, all creative fellows I dedicate this article to.
The workshop finished, my family and I stayed on a few more days in New Mexico. In Santa Fe we had the chance to enjoy Spanish Fair. A Flamenco group danced in the central park kiosk and transported me to my days in Mexico City, we then enjoyed Sonora recipes that evoked my wife’s birthplace. I was touched by the evidence that this country had so much of my own!
Rather than presenting you with one more of my paintings as I usually do, here is one of Carolyn Anderson’s. Surely you will admire her American impressionism, spontaneous and natural, yet modern and to a point abstract. I have invited everyone I met to Vallarta. Perhaps some artists could get together and do a workshop in San Sebastian with artists from our bay.
It would be interesting to experience the similarities this colonial town holds to New Mexico along the shock of modern Mexican painting, so different, magical and whimsical. What could come of mixing the likes of Tamayo, Francisco Toledo or Rodolfo Morales with modern American impressionism? In any case, art, as well as our historic background will always will bring us some common ground.
For anyone interested, the workshop was organized by the Fredericksburg Artist’s School: www.fbgartschool.com
This is a chapter of a book I am writing about my adventures as a painter artist.
The Federico León de la Vega Estudio – Café is open to the public and is located in Paseo de la Marina 31, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sundays from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.