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.
Pen and Watercolor sketch. Private Collection.
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.
Visiting a Quechua Village near Tena. June 16, 2013
After spending a week in Quito, Ecuador we loaded our gear into a truck that would be our home for the next couple of months and headed to Otavalo, a city of 90,000 people that is a few hours north of Quito.
Otavalo has a large market that operates everyday. The region is known for its handicrafts and so it is a good opportunity to buy locally made textiles, leather goods, wood carvings, fake shrunken heads etc. We spent more time looking than buying. Traveling around the world with a back pack limits you to purchasing only items that you really want as it means carrying it in your pack for the next seven months or shipping things home.
From Otavalo we drove south east to Tena, which is a small town on the edge of the Amazon rainforest region. Tena is a popular launching point for jungle kayaking and rafting tours.
Our day in Tena started with a drive to the Rio Napo which is a large tributary of the Amazon River. Once at the river our little group were given car tire inner tubes to float down the river on. As a long time river guide used to being in a proper white water raft I felt a bit vulnerable to the elements as I didn’t really know what was in the water.
We were explicitly warned not to pee while in the river. We were told that if you were to pee while in the river there was a good chance that a small fish called the “penis fish” would swim up your urethra and this would not be a good thing. Ok, point taken; I will not pee in the river. I looked into this matter afterwards and found out that the “Candiru” is a species of parasitic fresh water catfish native to the Amazon Basin with one modern day recorded incident of this happening.
All went well and we stopped at a nondescript pull over on the river. We walked through the forest for half a mile until we came to this little traditional Quechua Village that had one foot in the past and one foot in the present. I felt very fortunate to be a guest of the village and to experience a traditional meal of local fish wrapped in banana leaf and cooked over a fire. We learned about many things that day including how this village makes its own special version of “Chicha” which they make with manioc root and plantains and ferment the mash in a large hollowed out log container.
In the watercolor sketch of the kitchen hut there is a log container filled with plantains that will be made into “Chicha”.
A small village along the Rio Napo, a tributary to the Amazon River. Watercolor and Pen. Sold.
A page from my sketch book. Pen and ink.
Woman selling fruit from a wheel barrow. Watercolor and pencil
Pencil and Watercolor sketch of a Quechua Hut showing the fire pit and hanging baskets for smoking food.
Waiting For Our Luggage in Quito, Ecuador June 8th, 2013
Flying into Quito’s new international airport was a roller coaster type landing with a full on brake slam at the end for good measure. There was an older lady from Quito sitting near us and I noticed she was making the sign of the cross as we were descending. She said that this was a normal landing for Quito.
The fun was just beginning as our luggage never arrived and so sadly we headed into the big city with not so much as a tooth brush. Our bags did show up, one bag at a time over the next five days. There was nothing we could do about that and so we made good use of the time and explored the city.
Fortunately we had our cameras and I had my sketching gear. (More important than a toothbrush) The picture at the top of this blog entry is a watercolor and pencil sketch depicting a day of hiking in the hills above Quito. On one of our walkabout’s we came across a construction crew demolishing an old building. All these men standing around looking at a back hoe seemed like a scene I might see back in Canada. I guess construction culture is some what universal.
Quito was a good opportunity to acclimatize to the next two months of travel through South America and to start working on my Spanish.
A page from my sketch book. Pen and watercolor wash.
The View From The San Francisco Monastry
Exploring The Hills above Quito.
Old Man of the Mountains, Pencil and watercolour sketch
Boston. MA. May 31, 2013
Arriving in Boston from Vancouver, Canada by car was the kick off point for our journey around the world. We had a week to explore the Boston area before flying to Quito, Ecuador. We stayed with family in Lincoln County which is very close to where the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War took place on April 19th, 1775.
Walking around Lincoln, Concord and Boston I couldn’t help but feel the presence of early American history. After spending a day in Boston learning about the Freedom Trail we also visited Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau lived in a small cabin from 1845 to 1847.
There is now a replica of his cabin very close to the original site. I have painted a small watercolor of this cabin with out the paved paths and roadway that is nearby. I like to imagine that in his day this cabin was a little more secluded and so I have tried to paint it more in the spirit of what I think it may have been.
I also painted a watercolor of the Old State House which was built in 1713. It is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States. It stands out in that it is surrounded by modern day high rise buildings and the contrast of this made for an interesting composition. I added five birds to the picture in honor of the Boston Massacre which happened very close to this building in 1770.
I look forward to our return to Boston after our trip as there is so much more to see. Our next stop along the way is Quito, Ecuador.
Built in 1713, The Old State House is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States.
17th Century Window looking out at Paul Revere’s House
Henry David Thoreau’s Cabin at Walden Pond
Watercolor and Pen sketch of a bronze sculpture, Make Way For The Ducklings by Nancy Schon. Sold.
Circus World, Baraboo, Wisconsin. May 28, 2013
Having seen the movie “Water for Elephants” we were curious to stop at Circus World in Baraboo, to learn more about the history of the circus in America.
In 1884 the Ringling Brothers began their first tour as a circus and during the winter months Baraboo was their headquarters. The museum is located on the land owned by the Ringling Brothers and is called “Ringlingville”. Their museum features artifacts and exhibits, including some of the movie set props from the movie Water For Elephants.
We spent the afternoon at Circus World and went to a small circus show at the hippodrome which is a permanent big top which houses the daily circus and magic shows. I found visiting circus world was a look back at a by gone era in America and to illustrate this article I thought that the one artifact that really struck me was of an old pair of clown shoes. I have also included a sketch of the little circus show that they put on daily.
Badlands National Park and The Corn Palace May 26, 2013
Camping at Badlands National Park was a serene experience. It was very quiet with only the sound of the wind and birds. We got up early and explored a couple of the short scenic trails in the park.
We didn’t see a lot of wild life however we had an opportunity to get very close to a rabbit that was staying close to this wooden walk way that he could easily hide under for safety. I found that the rabbit made a good subject for a watercolor study in that it represented life in what appears to be a very harsh environment.
The other three sketches are pen and ink drawings with watercolor washes. I drew them very quickly. The idea is to make quick impression studies. Sometimes over thinking gets in the way of an intuitive process.
Driving across South Dakota we visited the Devils Tower National Monument before we went to the Badlands and then we stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. The Mitchell Corn Palace is a folk art wonder and was first built in 1892 to show case the rich soil of South Dakota and encourage people to settle in the area. When you are driving across the United States it is nice to break up the drive with little side trips like this. Our next little adventure takes us to Baraboo, Wisconsin which is home to the Circus World Museum.