Tuesday, May 5, 2015


After a very long rest I have decided to keep my blog more or less alive. A few months back I ran into a spate of posting glitches, and as I neared the point of tearing out hair, I figured it just wasn't worth the anguish. Well "a change is as good as a rest" and at about the same time a lot of change began to stir up my life:

First of all, last summer I started feeling a bit ill – aches and pains, bad sinus headaches with a bit of trouble walking thrown in. It got worse over a period of months and I started seeing doctors. We went out to the coast a couple of times, and I felt a lot better with the added heat and humidity. Still not 100%, but better. We decided to rent a very nice, well lit studio overlooking Jaltemba Bay, on the coast north of Puerto Vallarta. That was a good decision. We are now happily ensconced and painting high above the ocean, but that is getting ahead of the tale a bit...

Back in San Miguel de Allende about the beginning of February, I felt (wrongly as it turned out) that I was about as miserable as I could get. The doctors all were thinking allergies and putting me on elimination diets of one kind or other. I lost about 12 pounds and by the beginning of March the situation was getting pretty serious. By the first of April I was suffering pain from just about every joint in my body and I could hardly stand to put my weight on my feet. I was shuffling around like a sick man in his 90's!

And that was just about the time we were totally immersed in the process of moving to our new studio on the coast. The first part of April was a living hell for me. But at the same time, a fellow San Miguel artist (Karen Lee) told Donna about the clever doctor in Mexico city who had diagnosed her illness, when many others had totally misinterpreted her symptoms. It turned out she has an autoimmune disease, and this guy saved her when she was fading fast. She introduced me to him and, though retired, he offered to give me a consultation. And what a consult it was! 3 hours of examination and probing questions. He entered it all into his computer and came up with a preliminary diagnosis which has, in the last week been positively confirmed:
Wegener's disease.

Yes, the wegeners (another autoimmune sucker) have got me, but it's a bad news/good news thing. Where people used to contract this very rare illness (20 new cases each year in all of Mexico) and just keep going down hill, they now have an arsenal of meds to fight back with, and a disciplined diet to go along. As it turned out, we happen to be vegans already, and that was exactly the direction the specialist was pointing us in. I started popping the pills in our hotel room in Mexico city and was incredulous when about 8 hours later the pain began to slightly subside. I thought "placebo effect", but much to my surprise it just kept receding. At the point of this writing I'm about totally free from pain – just a little numbness left in my feet. There are only 4 specialists in the entire U.S.A. that focus on this disease. I've been referred to the only one in Mexico, and I'll be seeing him on the 12th. of this month. Both doctors have been surprised by my rapid turn around. They expect a full recovery...over time.

So now I'm feeling a bit "reborn" here on the "Riviera Nayarit". I can hardly believe what has gone down in the last 6 months! I'm painting again!! – I had thought that was history. Happy, hardly describes the state we are in. I'll post a photo or two today, but fully intend to get some new paintings onto the blog as they roll off the press. They might be San Miguel subjects over the summer (we have a show there in August), but thereafter they might start taking on a more tropical flavour. 





Sunday, February 1, 2015

Plaza Civica Painting: "After Comida"

"After Comida" 18x14 ins. oil on panel
(Plaza Civica, San Miguel de Allende)

This one was started last Tuesday afternoon in one of SMA's main downtown plaza's. There was a mix-up with the students and half of them didn't show up. We did have Al Skarr who is a very good painter in his own right, so we had a great time, anyway! Lots of appreciative Mexicans monitoring our progress through the late afternoon. Lots of kids leaning across our palettes to get a better look. I always just cringe when they do this, thinking about how their mothers are going to howl when they see all that fresh paint on there crisp, clean clothes. We try our best to let them know we're only concerned about the oil paint, and the effect it's going to have on mama –they back off for a few seconds, but then they're right back for another look! They are the sweetest, well mannered, respectful children imaginable. And they sometimes have surprisingly subtle questions about what we're doing, and why. I must add, it is sometimes a bit of a challenge to give them the attention they deserve when you're very, very deep in concentration. But we try our best, even though it's a supreme challenge a veces en Espanol. Our Spanish doesn't really encompass...subtle.
This painting started it's life being broadly painted, but ended up, after several days as a complex thing. Donna posted it to the "Plein Air Painters" FB site and I was afraid it was going to give all the pros a headache. Judging from their response though, lots of them seem to like it, so I guess the week was well spent after all.

Wyliss Heaton is flying into S.M today, and is going to join us for plein air Tuesday afternoon at 1:30, on Garita (above Barranca) near where the old fountain is. So, if you want to paint with a real master (or two), and you happen to be in town, you're welcome to join us. Students welcome –as always. (more info on Donna Dickson's blog)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Al Lado del Jardin

Al Lado del Jardin 12" x 16" oil on panel

   Started this sitting on the west wall of the Jardin Principal for a couple of hours. I'm pretty happy with it, although the camera has kind of enhanced the yellows beyond what they are in the painting, so I'm cringing a bit as I look now at the photo. Oh well, you get the idea...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Colouring on Montes de Oca

"Calle Montes de Oca"
12 x 16 ins. oil on panel

I started this one in the street and finished up in the studio today. I've been sacrificing gospel true value relations for greater colour saturation, lately. I like the direction and wish I'd gone that way about 30 years ago! But I suppose I had to do the other thing first - right to the end of the line. I had a very strong, you could say "scientific" desire to understand the phenom of seeing, right from when I was a young child.  This is fun though. And it's tricky, because you can lose control of the light pretty fast, if you're not really, really careful. You've got to still understand, and be very aware of the interaction of the actual tonal values in the scene...and then do some serious tweaking.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Colour on calle Recreo

"Colour on calle Recreo"
12 x 16 ins. oil on panel

There are lots of colourful little scenes like this one in San Miguel de Allende. The trick is to find a safe spot to paint them from! The sidewalk here was about 2 feet wide with lots of pedestrian traffic, and cars parked on the narrow street beside it. I didn't want to block the busy sidewalk so I located on the street, at the edge of the sidewalk, after a car miraculously pulled out.  So, I painted happily for a couple of hours, feeling a little guilty that I was taking up about a fifth of a potential parking spot, struggled a bit with those exact tints; at first erring a little on the saturation as opposed to glare side, - all in all having a very enjoyable afternoon. No one seemed to find me "in their way". In fact most seemed very appreciative, indeed. Just when I'd gotten well used to the idea, this Mexican lady pulled up in her rather nice car, to a dead stop in front of me, put it in park, and started haranguing me at the top of her lungs. It normally takes a lot to get a Mexican upset. This one must have been having a muy malo dia. She repeated half a dozen times over, that the spot I had my easel on was for coches solamente and I had no business being there. I tried to be nice, but as the traffic backed up behind her we were facing an increasingly serious traffic jamb. I finally dismissed her with a "get moving" in Espanol and she just about went ballistic - I thought she was going to exit the car and come after me swinging. The long lineup was honking by this time, so I guess she finally thought a retreat was in order and with some final cussing hanging in the air, wisely fled the scene. I started cleaning up just about then -the spell having been more or less broken.
As I say, there are lots of great pictures to be made, but it's hard to find a good vantage point from which to paint on the street. Dan Rueffert used to park his half ton truck on the street, and paint from the box on the back...not a bad idea. If I was not moving to the coast soon, I would give that solution the consideration it deserves. Of course, that way you'd be taking up a FULL parking spot - ah...the guilt!

Thursday, December 4, 2014


"Calle Aldama"
14 x 18 ins.
oil on panel

I don't like painting under pressure. I don't like deadlines, don't like competitions – don't even like commissions much.  All the same, there was lots of pressure on calle Aldama Monday afternoon! It was a combined plein air session/photo shoot and the subject was not our choice for a quick study. Galleries West magazine is doing a piece on Canadian artists in San Miguel de Allende, and their excellent photographer, Bob Barros, liked the above scene; as he said, "it tells the whole story, perfectly". He was right, of course, but we were hoping for something a little less challenging... the pressure and all, you understand. On top of it all, we were kindly asked to do larger "canvases" as they would show better in the pics. – maybe 16 x 20 in. We knew we were in trouble as soon as we heard the plan! 
  So, we arrived an hour early and desperately tried to get as accurate a sketch as we could, down, before the shoot would begin at 3 pm. This was "trial by fire" in the worst sense, but to our surprise, once we got into it, it was at least half fun and we were pretty much lost in our work when the crew arrived. I don't have any pics yet of the paintings in process, unfortunately. What you see above is not the state it was in when the shoot finally ended after dark! There was no way I could handle all that information in 3 hours. As the afternoon wore on, the light kept getting better and better and I couldn't resist chasing that around...natch! I think Donna ( her painting below ) did much better at simplifying her composition, right from the start, and holding to that. Anyway, we were both quite exhausted when we finally stumbled to the car and stowed our gear, well after dark.

 Donna Dickson
 untitled (so far)
12 x 16 ins.
oil on panel

Thursday, November 27, 2014

New painting – still warm...

24 x 20 ins.
oil on canvas

I've done this subject a few times over the years, but never in this way. I was in search of a nice scene to paint plein air, and happened upon these two who had already found their quarry. For once I had remembered my camera and took a few shots of them shooting the old, rusty gas pump, a dearly beloved relic in a town renown for it's abundance of significant, historical landmarks. That pump used to service the whole town when there were only a few dozen coches. In it's afterlife, it's now being "photographed to death" like everything else in this unique little jewel of antiquity.