Exploring Buenos Aires August 4th to August 12, 2013
After leaving the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia we traveled south into Argentina. We drove through a number of interesting towns and cities including Salta, Cafayate and Cordoba. We were excited to get to Buenos Aires which would be our last stop in South America before flying to South Africa.
Lyn and I had been to Buenos Aires a few years earlier but we didn’t stay long enough to really explore “The Paris of The South”. With eight days available to us we rented a short term apartment and started our grand walking tour.
Our apartment was in the barrio (neighborhood) of Recoleta, which was central to most of the places we planned on walking to. Everyday we plotted with our trusty map where we would walk to and what we would see. We met local people that were very helpful with suggestions for us and so our plans were always fluid. As always I carry a sketch book and a camera in the hopes that I will get some good sketches and photos for future paintings.
The National Museum of Fine Arts in Recoleta was a great surprize with a wide range of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings plus paintings by El Greco, Titian, Rembrant, Goya and many more. The museum opened my eyes to some amazing Argentinian artists from the 19th and 20th centuries.
High on our list of to do’s was going to a tango show and wandering the antique markets in San Telmo.
Buenos Aires is a city that really comes to life at night. Many locals or Portenos as they like to call themselves have dinner after 8 and 9pm. Some bars and cafe’s stay open most of the night. For us going to an authentic Argentinian Grill for Parilla (grill or BBQ) was something we managed to do but the restaurant didn’t open until 8 pm and so after walking all day this was a bit of a stretch to wait but well worth it.
Most evenings we cooked from our apartment and shopped at the local mercados for our food. This was its own adventure.
After a week in this beautiful city we boarded a plane for South Africa. As exciting as the next leg of our trip would be I felt a little sadness at leaving such an amazing place.
Pen and Watercolor sketch.
Pencil and Watercolor sketch of Rodin sculpture “The Thinker” with the Plaza Congreso in the back ground.
Cafe Tortoni is the oldest cafe in Argentina. Pencil Crayon
Pen and Watercolor sketch. Available for sale.
A new landmark in Buenos Aires, The solar flower or steel flower automatically opens and closes with the level of light. Created by Eduardo Catalona
Driving South from La Paz to the Uyuni Salt Flats July 19 to 24th, 2013
After leaving Puno, Peru on the shores of Lake Titicaca we headed south into Bolivia through the high arid plains known as the altiplano. We spent a couple of days in La Paz, which is considered the highest capital city in the world at 11,975 feet. We stayed at a small hotel in the central area of the city and made up our own walking tour as we went.
The Witches Market also known as La Hechiceria was really interesting in that they sold witch craft supplies with lots of obscure and strange products necessary to carry out traditional spiritual rituals from the Aymara world. Dozens of vendors line the streets and sell everything from dried frogs, snakes, owl feathers, llama fetus as well as the usual things like post cards and key rings. Good times.
While I was in La Paz I read a book called “Marching Powder”, by Rusty Young; A true story of friendship, Cocaine and South America’s strangest jail. If you are planning a trip to La Paz this book is a cautionary tale and will give you an interesting perspective on drug smuggling and prison life in Bolivia. You can also visit this prison which is now officially closed.
Back on the road to the Uyuni Salt Flats we ran into a road block in Oruro that lasted for about twelve hours which offered me the opportunity to sketch and paint. When the road finally opened again it was getting dark and so we pulled over to a road side stop to camp for the night. In reality it was more or less a garbage dump and make shift memorial for unfortunate travelers. I normally only post pictures of my art work for this blog but sometimes a photograph tells the story better.
The salt flats at Uyuni are the largest in the world at 4,086 square miles. We spent a day driving on the flats and for the most part it looks like snow. A popular tourist excursion is to drive to Incahuasi “island” in the center of the salt flats. The island is covered in very large cactus and offers a really good vantage to see the salt flats from a higher view point. The sketch I did of the Cemetery of Trains was inspired from this day trip. It is a place very close to Uyuni and unique in its own way. It seems like the kind of place Pink Floyd would have used for an album cover.
Home Stay on Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru July 17, 2013
Our trip to Amantani Island started with a day at Puno which is a city on the shores of Lake Titicaca in southern Peru. We found that it was very cold at night even though it was July. This is in large part due to the altitude of 12,507 ft.
Arranging a home stay on Amantani or Taquile Island can be done easily from Puno. This was an amazing cultural experience that was another high light of our time in Peru. This was also another great opportunity to sketch and gather material for future paintings.
On Amantani Island we stayed at Isabel’s Bed and Breakfast. There were no cars on the island and so the absence of cars was quite a pleasant experience. People live a traditional life style of fishing and farming the land. This was another one of those places I could go and paint for the summer that is like going back in time. It reminded me of the Mediterranean in that it was arid and rocky, plus it was hot during the day. At the time that we were there they were building a hospital on the island and so things may have changed a little since our visit.
As part of this excursion we spent the following day exploring Taquile Island as well as visiting The Uros, a group of 42 man made islands inhabited by the Uru people. The islands are made out of totora reeds and have to be replenished with more reeds as they only last for about 3 months in the water. This is the big tourist attraction on Lake Titicaca and is a fascinating place to visit.
Lake Titicaca, 9.75 in. x13.25 in.
Pencil and Watercolor sketch of Isabel, our home stay host on Amantani Island.
Pen and Watercolor sketch from Isabel’s back yard.
Lake Titicaca, 9.75 in. x13.5 in.
A pen sketch of the bell tower in the main plaza on Taquile Island, Peru.
Pen and Watercolor sketch.
A Day To Remember At Machu Picchu July 13, 2013
We boarded a bus this morning at 5:30 am, a short ride to the top of the steep mountain road where Machu Picchu is. We arrived just as the sun was coming up, and we were able to see an amazing view over the valley.
As an artist I felt like a little kid having a birthday; the opportunity to paint and sketch in a place like this does not happen as often as I would like. The day went by rather quickly and I managed to get a couple of watercolor sketches done. I also took a lot of reference photo’s in the hope that I would be able to paint some pictures back in my studio.
The sketches I have posted here were all done in my studio almost a year after visiting Machu Picchu. Sometimes I will do multiple sketches together on one page. I find that making a collage of pictures together makes a good trip souvenir and is a fun way to do preliminary drawings.
Watercolor and Pen sketches from Machu Picchu and The Salkantay Trail in Peru
Watercolor and Pencil sketch at Machu Picchu. Available for sale.
Machu Picchu, 10.25 in. x 14 in.
A photo of me painting at Machu Picchu
One of my favorite painting trips each year is to the Sunshine Coast which is just north of Vancouver, BC. In past years while I was still working full time as a chef, a couple of weeks away from the grind of cooking was an opportunity to sketch quietly by the lake or in the woods. Now that I am working full time as an artist I guess I can say that this is a chance to get away from my studio and just paint.
The sketches and paintings shown below were all painted on location with the exception of the watercolor of the cedar tree which was done in my studio. Over the years I have done a lot of sketches up at this cabin and these pictures are just a small sample of the last twenty three years. For me this place has given me a lot of inspiration and the opportunity to experiment with my art work.
Pencil sketch behind the main cabin.
Banjo in the water at Pat Lake
Cedar Tree, 15 in. x 11 in.
Driving Down The Peruvian Coast June 23, 2013
As we were leaving Ecuador, we drove past miles and miles of banana plantations. The bananas while still on the trees were in these blue plastic bags. These bags I found out usually contain an insecticide called chlorpyrifos to protect the bananas during their growth. Apparently this chemical leaches into the ground after rain storms. After the bananas are picked they are treated with another chemical before being shipped. Good to know!
Our first stop in Peru was Mancora, a coastal town known for surfing and its white sand beach. The main street in Mancora is also the Pan American Highway. It is a nice little tourist town with lots of restaurants and beach resorts. We were happy to stay one night and move on as we were looking forward to going to some of the more famous archaeological sites such as the Chan Chan ruins in Trujillo.
The Peruvian coast is primarily desert with some fertile valleys here and there. These valleys are irrigated by rivers flowing down from the Andes. For the most part the scenery is very stark along the coast very similar to the coast in Namibia, South Africa. This stark desert coast would be the back drop for the next couple of weeks.
Mototaxi in Mancora, Peru
These traditional reed fishing boats have been used in Peru for almost 3000 years.
Fishing Boats, Chimbote, Peru
This week I wanted to share with you some of my recent paintings and sketches from the forests here on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. I find that I paint in different styles depending on the subject matter and where I am.
If I am on the road and sketching in a city with lots of people around my working style will be more about line work and simple watercolor washes. The private side of my self is saying “This is great!, I love this, but lets get this done quickly and get out of here”. When I am out in a forest or any place in nature where there are less people I tend to work in a slower more methodical way.
Producing art by its very nature is a solitary process and for me I can settle down into a longer working session with less distractions and delve deeper into the subject matter when I am out in nature.
The picture of Salal bushes in the forest at the top of this post I spent all afternoon painting. It is very easy to get lost in the moment and do this.
Douglas Fir tree on the Sunshine Coast. Watercolor
Lightining Strike on Mt. Seymour, North Vancouver, BC. Watercolor
Along The Varley Trail, Lynn Headwaters Park, North Vancouver, BC. Watercolor study.
Salal bushes on the Sunshine Coast. Watercolor painting
My out door studio.
A Day in Cuenca June 21, 2013
After leaving Banos, we drove south through the Andes to Cuenca, which would be our last stop before arriving in Mancora, Peru.
Cuenca is a city of around 260,000 people that has become a very popular place to retire. Our impression of Cuenca is that it would be an easy place to live with plenty of cheap restaurants, beautiful colonial architecture, museums and a national park near by for hiking and exploring.
I managed to do some simple sketches while in Cuenca. The sketches were all done in black pen and I gave them simple watercolor washes later on. I don’t always find it easy to sketch in public but that is the nature of the beast.
Sometimes I meet local artists as a result of sketching out doors and so this can be a rewarding exchange of thoughts and experiences. Once I settle in to the place I am sketching I tend to be too busy to notice or care about people looking over my shoulder. All of my out door sketching practice in South America would be a good warm up for painting and drawing in India, but that is another story down the road a bit.
Cuenca, Ecuador, 10 in. x 14 in.
Waterfalls and Hot Springs June 18, 2013
As we were leaving Tena we stopped along the way to go caving. This was a mud filled adventure climbing up through a cave with very little light with a stream flowing through it and bats to keep us company. We were covered in mud by the time we got back to the truck and so when we arrived at our camp site near Banos we were happy to have a warm shower.
Banos or Banos de Agua Santa (Spanish for Baths of Holy Water) is a tourist town in the mountains on the edge of the Amazon Jungle known for thermal hot springs located around town. There are also over sixty waterfalls in the area. We stayed here for a few days and explored the town site and hiked to Pailon del Diablo or Devil’s Cauldron which is an amazing waterfall worth visiting.
While on this trip we were looking for places that we would come back to and stay for an extended period of time. Banos is like a tropical version of a mountain town and I would love to go back there and stay for a month or two.
Deep Frying Empanadas in Banos
Shopping at a Mercado near Banos
I thought that this week I would take a break from posting about my journey around the world in 2013. In real time I am working on new watercolor paintings everyday. I decided to enter into another on line challenge about painting weeds in their outdoor location. Painting outdoors is a very different experience compared to studio work.
In the studio I have the luxury of stopping whenever I need to. I can use a hairdryer to dry my watercolor painting and most important I have a comfortable chair. The biggest advantage to painting in the studio is that you can control every aspect and stage of the painting with in reason.
This painting challenge on face book is hosted by James Gurney, author, illustrator and an exceptionally talented artist. His out door painting studies are an inspiration to many artists at different stages in their development. To see his blog and the Weed Painting Challenge you can go to http://www.gurneyjourney.blogspot.com and look for weed painting challenge in the index.
The title of my picture is Persicaria and Driftwood and was painted by the Fraser River in Richmond, BC. just a few miles from home.
Persicaria Maculosa, Watercolor and pencil
My painting gear beside the Fraser River.