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Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

Monte Alban is a vast landscape of ruins that have been carefully restored – a tribute to the Zapotec culture that once created this mountaintop city of stone! Scholars believe it began around 500BC and mysteriously ended about 850AD. This religious center was built on top of a mountain to be closer to the gods. Our guide explained that one prevailing theory about why the city was abandoned related to lack of water. Evidently for many centuries the priests, who were the leaders and revered, were able to foresee when the rains would come by creating a “keyhole” in the stones (similar devices can be found at Mayan pyramid ruins as well). When the time came and no shadow was being cast inside this keyhole, they knew that the rainy season would be coming soon. They would predict this to the people who would then begin planting. Over the life of this huge colony, the priests would predict rain, the people grew food to support their lives, and the culture thrived.

Evidently, a climate change event occurred and this entire part of the world experienced a drought cycle that was extended. The priests predicted rain, the rain did not come, the people could not grow food, and they no longer believed in the priests and began to move to other areas closer to water sources. It appears that when the priests lost control, the military came into power. Hmmm – I wonder if there are any lessons for us to learn here?

We were fortunate to have had great guides who told us to get there first thing in the morning, so we were the first ones to walk around in silence. I headed straight for the end (seen above) and climbed up the stairs that didn’t look real steep from a distance, but oh boy! Took several rests on the way up to take pics etc.

When I got to the top and saw yet another pyramid with a tree growing exactly in the middle, I spotted a good stone to sit on and sketched it.

It was fun because Kate had told us to get a 6B pencil – so instead of a pen, I used that to sketch and what a liberation! It really was fun to just draw again! I’ve been a pen and ink person for so long and love the sinuous nature of clean plain lines – but I want to do more of this type of drawing. Sadly, the next day as I tried sharpening the pencil – it would not form a point and kept breaking – all the way to the stub! Not meant to be, I said to myself!

Here’s another drawing I did from the center of the plaza.

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Our first day in Oaxaca we set out for the Zocolo, sketchbooks in hand! Kate gave us the assignment to look at the darks and lights, the positive and negative spaces created by all the dynamic elements of this great location. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Oaxaca, this large square is full of huge trees (I wish I could have identified the variety) that perhaps 6-8 people could lock arms around the base of their trunks! There are gardens throughout with benches and people of all walks of life strolling, people watching, reading, enjoying the sun, mariachis playing – and surrounded by outdoor cafes and stores.

At first, walking around I was a little overwhelmed. “Where will I start? What should I pick to sketch?” Eventually, I realized I was most taken by the trees – very curvilinear with huge strong sinuous trunks, and huge limbs breaking off at extreme angles. And then behind them, many layers of other tree branches with light and shadow – arched doorways in shadow. OK, here we go – let’s just dive in and start! And so to my delight, the two kind gentlemen that I began sketching in front of one of these huge trees, had the courtesy to continue visiting until I was almost finished with the sketch. This is certainly different than the pace people race around in our American culture!

After the first sketch, I walked around looking for something different to catch my eye – and ended up being completely taken with another one of the huge trees. And fortunately, a solo gentleman made a wonderful model, to help complete the exercise in scale!

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