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Overlooking San Miguel de Allende

On the first day of our stay we climbed up to the “Mirador”, or overlook, for a view of the city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  The oldest structures in town, the “Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel” (pink wedding cake-style Neo-Gothic church built in the 17th century) and the bullring, are still the most prominent features in the landscape.  But in the last few decades the town has expanded for miles outward into the hinterland.  Below this spot, one can hear the church bells ringing their deep chimes to mark the hour and the faint sound of music playing in the Jardin, or central square.  People who have lived in the town for decades voiced frustration with the extent of the development and the gradual destruction of the views of San Miguel, but it’s still possible to appreciate the beauty of the town.

In this piece, sketched by pencil initially at the overlook, I tried using De Atramentis “Fog Grey Ink” for the first time, which blended sometimes unhelpfully with the watercolor.  This ink is made for use in fountain pens but is not as waterproof as it’s claimed to be.  Knowing that it will run makes it useful for experiments.  Finally I ended up using Platinum Carbon black waterproof ink and then a Tombow brush pen for some accents.  Art is all about “problem-solving,” it turns out:  how to shield oneself from strong sunlight, sketch in bright light, carry the right supplies, and develop a sense of composition.  A visit a few days ago to the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City provided powerful reminders of the value of side-stepping the details and aiming for simplicity.  This is very hard for anyone trained to focus on details, and who isn’t?  But more on that later…

Mirador 2 view

Illustration: Watercolor and pen-and-ink sketch, “View from the Mirador of San Miguel de Allende, June 2016” in a Stillman & Birn “Zeta” sketchbook by the Black Elephant Blog author

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