Mexico City has gone to Red Level based on the Covid threat, and while I understand it means a high level of precautions must be taken, it’s an absolutely surreal time to be in CDMX, especially as a newbie. So I will do the things that help keep me sane: biking, art and my dogs. Oh and sketch in the Zoom Sketch Sessions with a dedicated group of artists, a good way to ride out this ongoing pandemic, focused on art.
Today I grabbed an Ecobici and rode down to Coyoacán to see what’s happening; it’s definitely quieter and less crowded which made it easier to navigate, but there’s a looming fret in the air due to the Delta situation; I suspect no one knows what’s in store — for any of us. I’m pretty mindful as I maneuver my way around, being on a bike helps, but I spent my time in Coyoacán on foot (no ecobici docks), and even had some time in the mercado because it was so sparse. Gorgeous mercado but limping along (no carnitas and chicharron guys!! Well it is Tuesday…). I ate a delicious Chiles en Nogada standing at a counter (first time I actually liked it because it was not sweet). Of course I went to Museo Frida Kahlo although I didn’t go in, I sat on the curb and drew it. I talked to the mango sellers; they’re from Puebla, their wives were on the corner selling Frida masks and dolls and they are quite nervous about the lack of tourists, the ripple effect is in full ripple. Most of the Centro Plaza with the coyote fountain was roped off, but I enjoyed a refreshing Nieve de los Dioses while taking it all in. I know it is a precarious time to be in Mexico City, and it feels as though I’m seeing and experiencing a moment of great transition of which we’re all uncertain — this could be said of the entire world, but there’s something about the reality of life and death in Mexico that smacks you across the face and asks you to snap out of it. The festiveness of Mexico is on MIA and it appears everyone is holding their breath. But alas there’s still some dancing in the streets! Godspeed to Mexico xx
ooooooMmmg real ramen!! If ya know the Japanese guy who teaches salsa in Parque Mexico, you’d know he puts out a list of his favs + most authentic. This Condesa restaurant is half Asian kitchen/cooking supplies, half restaurant — and it’s riquisimosso
Sidebar: my transportation is the Ecobici, I ride it wherever I go, unless I’m walking with my dogs. Today was the first day I said to myself, “ohhhhh I won’t be gone that long, I won’t need my raincoat nor any other rain gear.” Well naturally the hugest rainstorm blew in just as I finished my ramen and I decided to blast on home for the 13 minute bike ride — and what a treat that was NOT! Literally strikes of lightning and thunder, I was completely soaked to the bone and in hindsight it was a pretty stupid thing to do, but I was fueled by a powerful broth, hiiiiiijole
Sunday inMexico City, after a long bike ride up el Paseo, I stopped on the edge of Chinatown to capture somechaos with my Sharpie penandfluorescent highlighters, inspired by myZoom Sketch Sessions#kaPOW
I moved to Mexico City and I don’t know anyone here. I have my two dogs; Chiquis, who is my “Henny Penny the Sky is Falling”, and often I just hold her and hug her until her breathing returns to normal. In the wee hours of the night however, I’m right there with her: earthquakes, water supply, Covid, banditos and oh yeah right that delta –the hits just keep on hitting. There’s a lot of fear on that side of my mind, but then there’s Bun. She, on the other hand, is having an absolute ball. So many creatures to flirt with, parks to explore, trees to sniff and ohhhh so many butts! I am both my dogs and grateful to have them at my side as I adapt to this new city.
I am also so glad I stumbled upon this Brene Brown video this morning…. that elusive notion of belonging anywhere has always been a thing for me; I never felt I belonged starting with my family and it evolved from there. This past year I truly embraced and honed in on being an artist; I’ve balls-to-the-wall leaned into my craft and it provides me with focus and makes me feel like I belong. I’ve been in Mexico City 10 days and in this short amount of time a few of my drawings are now proudly hanging in some of the corner cafes in this no-gringo neighborhood, and people wave to me as I walk the streets with my dogs. I don’t know anyone but I know everyone. Art is my reason, art makes my life sacred, art connects me to this world. So very grateful for this sense of belonging
My first morning in Navarte, I knew exactly where I wanted to have coffee: Cafe Cafe CDMX. I did my research and wanted to visit the cafes that did their homework, and their research. Oh and I also needed some good neighborhood aesthetics for my early morning coffee sketch!
I’m really enjoying the Continuous Line practice, it feels like a grand roller coaster and I cannot get off until the end. It helps for me to push through the fear of not knowing what to draw next; it doesn’t matter becasue I’m on my way. I’ve incorporated it into my Zoom Sketch Sessions and I hear a number of participants comment that it’s helping them to break through fears as well.
Soooo much amazing architecture in Mexico City; today I chose to draw La Casa de Las Brujas, an incredible building with an incredible history. The building looks like a witch’s hat and the story goes some high-ranking witches used to call this home, and their high-ranking clientele used to visit!
For me the travel sketcher, I threw down some pencil lines to frame it up, then went at it with my sailor fude fountain pen to create a continuous line, a little white crayon then the watercolor. I forgot to add people, I was so in the moment, but I’ll be back to sketch The David, who was right behind me, wooooH0000 Buenas Noches Witches!!
I’ve been wanting to see this church since I arrived; Saturday was the first time I was able to slip in between communions and baptismals, yowzah.
It’s a ginormous concrete of a building, and their website offers a lengthy history, but here’s the final gist:
El Purísimo Corazón de María is a parish which is located on Gabriel Mancera Street between Torres Adalid and Luz Saviñon, where Division del Norte, Amores and Colonia Del Valle avenues converge, in the neighborhood of the same name. The total height of the Parish is 65 meters with its 20 meter high polyhedron dome topped by the image of Mary with semi-open arms that together with its base measures 10 meters and can be seen from a great distance; It is a unique church thanks to such a figure that is at its peak. Few know his name and think that the great figure that crowns its dome is a Christ instead of the Virgin Mary.
There are still more people who do not know the name of the temple and lack to know it, they call it “Our Lady of Transit”, because with its open arms it seems to want to contribute to speed up the vehicular traffic that converges on the neighboring avenues of División del Norte, Colonia Del Valle y Amores around what was the Glorieta de Mariscal Sucre.
Both the exterior and interior are striking for their great beauty, full of extraordinary details on all sides. Inside, its stained glass windows stand out, its candelabra next to the benches, its gilt bronze tabernacle with a revolving base, the main image in its dressing room of the Virgin Mary with the Child God (it measures 4 meters high and is the work of Antonio Ballester), the murals that cover an area of 1400 meters created by the painter Pedro Cruz, the two high reliefs alluding to the motherhood of Mary, on the outside its monumental concrete façade, its staircase, the three wide gilt bronze doors, its two concrete towers symmetrical that finish off the façade, its majestic architecture that is described as a mix between art deco and functionalism with a certain gothic air.
Inside the temple you can see fantastic stained glass windows and murals that represent various biblical passages in an extraordinary architecture.
It is likely that for all these reasons, in 1996 Australian director Baz Luhrmann chose this Parish as one of the main locations for his film “William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
I have my own urban sketchers’ club, since the Covid situation is doing anything but improving, and it’s super important for me to be mindful of what’s happening in Mexico City. I will continue to walk with my “club” members, capture scenes in my sketchbook, and will hope there’s some esperanza for those who can endure through these strange pandemic days (happening all over, not just Mexico).
I think without my art, I would have lost my mind ages ago…. it’s my greatest meditation tool (#continuouslinedrawing #ftw), it helps me connect with people (they stop to say hello to my dogs or look at what I’m doing), and it marks a time and place in my life that’s the greatest and coolest memoir EVAH. Stay safe, maneuver mindfully not insatiably, and help keep your community safe.
I’ve been doing a lot of Continuous Line Drawings these days, as a way to calm myself and get lost in the line making. I drew “The David” on location — that was HARD and I’m not even referring to the fact that it started raining. It takes a lot of inner calm to not worry about the people, my abilities, my materials, my phone, my anxiety — and just lean into the drawings which are honestly so much fun. Red Square and Midwest Carnival done in the Zoom Sketch Sessions, I’m making everyone try this meditative art practice OMMMMMMMMmmmm #dropsmic
Delicious coffee explorations continue, and my coffee sketches are being shared by the cafes I’ve visited! Today we went to Mercado Lazaro Cardenas in Del Valle; no pets are allowed in Mercado, but ask nicely and the Señora selling bancos to the side of the main entrance will kindly watch your doggies while retrieving a delicious swan-topped coffee. Not possible to sketch this one, so I’ll look for another opp Deeeeeeeeelicious coffee!!!
CAFÉ Passmar serves up a damn fine cup of coffee, and I bought some to have on hand.
Adolfo Prieto s/n Local 237 Col. Del Valle Norte, Deleg. Benito Juárez, CDMX
I moved to Mexico City’s Colonia Navarte in July, 2021, with Chiquis and Bunner in tow, just a tad south of Roma Sur— and so far I love it!! It’s a tranquilo residential neighborhood full of people walking their dogs, quality coffee culture and a high ranking neighborhood for taco aficionados. I’m looking forward to becoming a local —and sketching it along the way (temporarily lost my sketching mojo, will trust that it’ll find its way back — we’ve got work to do!!).
Last night I listened to Dr. Temple Grandin’s keynote Zoom speech for Niman Ranch, because I was interested in hearing her thoughts on the meat industry during the Covid days (years). Dr. Grandin is a big part of why I got into the meat industry, because I wanted to make a difference in how cattle were treated before they became part of our food system, and boy oh boy is the food system fractured TO SAY THE LEAST.
First, Dr. Grandin could not stress enough the importance of supporting local. She stays awake at night thinking about the extremely precarious and fragile electric grid; I think we can all see how delicate and jimmy-rigged it all is. Support local as much as possible, and YES it will cost more because they don’t have the convenience of scaling. Know where you can buy everything local, as much as possible. I know we’re all swayed by the convenience of Costco, Amazon, Walmart — they couldn’t make it any easier, but their systems are completely fragile and unbalanced.
Second: educate the children. This is the most uneducated the country has been (isn’t painfully obvious, given the political landscape?). America does not know how to do anything anymore, and it shows. Dr. Grandin is a HUGE advocate for getting the trade skills back in school, which were eliminated about 25 years ago. All meat plants have to be sent over in pieces from China in 100 containers because no one knows how to build them. She said in a million different ways how important it is to support local, and referred to her local Fort Collins economy and the number of craft beer companies who co-exist with Budweiser. You can have big, big is not always bad, but when there is trouble, we all suffer from Big. GO LOCAL
I’m not encouraging supporting local only in the meat industry because I’m connected to Cañada de la Virgen; no matter what your food lifestyle is as this point, meat or no meat, it’s important to support local as much as we can. I know most of us are freaked out about the world, our lives, our families, our jobs, money or lack thereof, every day seems to be a bit whackier the day before, but look at what’s right in front of you and be aware of how you live. Reign in where you can, support local as is possible. Remember to breathe, set your priorities, know and support your neighbors and do your best to not get involved in the wretched hate fest happening in America. That ship is sinking, I think it’s painfully clear, so do what you can to prepare to the future.
Also: Dr. Grandin Zooms in her kitchen and has pictures of cows on her fridge just like me!!!
Although we should be looking at what we can do every day in order to live more responsibly in the world, today that conversation may be louder due to global protests and profound activists. The vegan message is loud, but that’s no solution because massive amounts of industrialized soy and corn are needed to make those fake meat burgers, which is enormously damaging, as is all industrialized farming.
I see lots of people rave about cheap food in Mexico; food is cheap for a lot of reasons, and the industrialized methods are just as prevalent in Mexico as they are with our neighbors to the north. You can eat at Pollo Feliz and watch truckloads of fat, diseased chickens drive by on their way to slaughter, it’s that viceral.
I see people on the pro-meat side of the world encouraging meat eating to save the planet, and none of it means a thing if you source your meat or vegetables from industrialized chemical farms. There’s no easy solution, but maybe together we can help each other be more accountable to our choices.
It goes deeper than the label, deeper than the price. Head swirling with all there is to think about…. get grounded, go local, be present, cut out the middleman, think clearly. Peace out from this ol’Farm Crone #regenerativeagriculture
Mid-September is a gorgeous time on Cañada de la Virgen; fruits and vegetables are coming into full maturation, the days are a bit cooler and ending a bit earlier, insects are moulting into their next carnation, and the full Harvest Moon put on a grand show in the clear dark skies of Central Mexico. I love spending time on the farm and enjoying the fruits of the season, so incredibly special.
The unbearable heatwave in Amsterdam ended almost as soon as the Urban Sketchers Symposium’s closing ceremony, and I was thrilled to jump on a train and head to Belgium, with a stop in Antwerp, bound for Brugge. I’ll be honest I first learned about Brugge about ten years ago when the movie “In Brugge” came out, and knew immediately it was a town I wanted to see and explore, even though it was the butt of many jokes throughout the dark-ish yet hilarious-ish movie.
I was NOT disappointed! It was cloudy and cool when I arrived, and lucky me chose and Airbnb room equipped with a bike, which was the perfect method to travel about the area. I totally fell for medieval Brugge, enjoyed its history museum, the main plaza, the locally produced beer, and I will never, ever forget the incredible Belgium chocolate sold in about every third shoppe. Belgium has never really ranked on a “must-see” list, but now I’m scheming to find ways to return. It was lovely, delightful, gorgeous, so long as you stayed a step ahead of the throngs of tourists who arrive by the busload beginning about 10am, but by that time I was well on my way to see windmills and the beach-loving dachunds on the Netherland coast. Sunset in Brugge, which much like Amsterdam lasted about four hours, was a delightful time to watch the twinkling lights come alive in Brugge, as the horses clopped by, and the action turned local.
On my way to the airport, I stopped for an afternoon in Brussels, and as a good student of Rick Steves, I marched right into the Tourist Office to ask what should I see right here, right now. They told me the Royal Belgium Palace is only open to the public four weeks each each, and today was the first day, so they recommended I march right over — and oo-la-la I did march right over! I saw the Royal Belgium Palace in all its glory! After that, a quick handstand in the Grand Marketplace, followed by some mussels from Brussels and a gorgeous local beer, and then away I went.
Three days, that’s all I had, and I can’t wait to return. I see there’s an illustration workshop there early next year…. hey what a great idea, a sketch workshop IN BRUGGE … <3
July, 2019 I finally attended my first Urban Sketchers Symposium, this year held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands –and it was amazing! The only downside was that there was a historic heatwave throughout all of Europe, and made it quite challenging to endure the long days spent sketching out in the streets. I stayed in an adorable attic apartment, but it was sweltering as well, so it was a crazy-hot and bright week. Would I do it again? IN A HEARTBEAT. Next year’s event will be held in Hong Kong, and it’s my intention to get my heiney and my sketchbook in HKG next April!
My photos and sketches from my time in sweltering Amsterdam, where I took the following workshops:
Memories of a City, Reportage with Veronica Lawlor
Amsterdam Rooftops with Hugo Costa
Urban Portraits with Marina Grechanik
I could not be more delighted to be aligned with Central Mexico’s only certified organic cattle ranch and federally protected sanctuary, Cañada de la Virgen. I’ve been aware of this ranch and it’s owners from the first month I began making grass-fed beef, because their products went in the shelves the same month as the beef products I was producing. In the ensuing months, I watched as their products became more professional; their labels became more informed and I remember declaring to myself, “they are in it to WIN IT.” I studied their pricing structure because I was basically winging it and following prices in America, which made no sense to apply those rigors in Mexico. I searched the internets to discover more about Cañada de la Virgen, and although I found much information about their sacred pyramid and the tourism it supports, I found very little about their beef production. I was intrigued.
I then found myself without a ranch and a place to do business. It was a terrifying time once again, as I had no idea what I was going to do and how I was going to support myself. I quietly crawled through this muck and mire of disillusionment, yet my determination to work in the cattle industry could not be extinguished. Somehow I was going to find a way.
A few weeks later, I received a message to contact Sophia Trapp, the owner and director of Cañada de la Virgen. I knew very little about her, she was this mysterious female cattle rancher living in Mexico, raising her children and carrying on her mother’s work. I had to know her.
I met Sophia and after some initial conversations, I learned her mission was to make and have available clean meat for the mothers of Mexico. Most of the good meat produced in Mexico is exported, leaving the sub-par cuts of meat here at home for the people of Mexico. Sophia has stayed true to this mission, as the meat is packaged for ease of cooking and consumption for mom’s making meals at home. I totally respect this mission and believe in it as well. On about our third meeting, she said, “Why aren’t you working with us? We love your passion and dedication to this industry, and where else in the world would I find someone that gets the spiritual side of sacrificing cows?”
I spent Easter weekend with the family at the Hacienda, and I absolutely love the opportunity to stick my hands and feet into the sacred and magical dirt of Cañada de la Virgen, and hope to return in the years to come.
For some time now, I’ve been searching for a way to get back to the Mother Country, back into the fold, to expand my business, my network, my craft and career. Yet I kept coming up against a big fat stupid wall, and could see no clear path before me. The work I’ve done in Mexico has been like no other work; I’ve had monumental experiences with cattle ranching, butchering, and ethical meat like I never would in America, yet it has all whet my whistle to want to experience more — and become a stronger advocate. I’m extremely grateful to the people and places that have presented and provided opportunities in the past few years, ay Chihuahua what an education!
Somehow along the way while in Mexico, I lost contact with the family I once knew, and it’s been quite odd to no longer have a home nor place in America — anywhere in America. I’ve never been okay with this lack of status. Thankfully, I’ve come to know a vital and strong local community, and continue to meet new friends and allies within my sketching and ethical meat communities.
I’ve had a desire to get back to America for some time now, even as the country marinates in a strange orange hue. My schemes and dreams have often awakened me in the wee hours of the night, because I’m not ready to live full time in a retirement town. There’s still much more to sort out, yet I found a portal opportunity in San Diego, California — and I couldn’t be more delighted to cast the net in that direction.
I’ve been approved to teach “Sketch Balboa Park” as an Airbnb Experience, and I begin in May, as I will be there for an extended Memorial Day holiday. I’m excited to stay at a friend’s house and dog sit her brilliantly bouncy dog, Belle. I’m bringing Art Leap Adventures with me, as it’s time to make it a legit business and expand my efforts into America and market to a larger audience. I’ll to continue to organize sketch tours to Mexico, partner with more top-notch instructors, and explore the fascinating and diverse country that is Mexico.
It’s good to learn how to sketch, and I’ll continue to encourage people to do so. We all need a break from our screaming phones, no?
I am not abandoning my ethical meat and cattle welfare efforts; in fact I feel as though I’ve gone as far as I could in Mexico, and now it’s time to take it home. I continue to stay current with the Regenerative Agriculture communities of America, yet it’s certain more will be revealed when I’m on the ground. Meat is so mysterious in America, mostly fast and cheap, as is much of the food these days. Now it’s my turn to follow my own advice to find a local farmer and hold him or her tight — because I’ll need a local source for good clean meat and bones.
Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee I’m so excited to get back to America!