Sketchbook Skool Sends Me Down Memory Lane (or Island)

As I mentioned before, I have joined the class named "Beginnings" at the Sketchbook Skool.

The first week--spent with the very special Danny Gregory--is over. Today is the start of Week 2, and we are spending it with Kooesje Koene. I can't think of two artists who are so different, yet they are both co-founders of the "skool" (always spelled with a "k"!).

The course is quite interactive, with its student galleries and discussion forums. For instance, today we are asked to answer this question:
Have you ever had positive reactions on your work? Who gave it to you and how did you feel about it?
I figured it would take too long and too much space to answer that question fully there, so I decided to do it here.

The most recent example of a positive reaction to my work is the one I described in this recent post.

And the oldest example--and the one that is dearest to my heart--is represented by this entry in my travel scrapbook from December 15, 1995 (which happened to be my birthday, to boot).

Mexican Travel Scrapbook, Janitzio 15 Dec. 1995
I was living in Mexico at the time, and I was badly in need of a rest, so I headed to neighbouring Michoacan State, to take advantage of the many natural hot springs there.

Eventually, I wound up at Lake Patzcuaro, and caught the boat for the island of Janitzio, famous for its "butterfly" fishermen and other local customs.

For that entire week's trip, I had decided to leave the camera at home, and just take a sketchbook, some pencils and watercolours, and a folding stool. Once there, I was stuck: if I wanted an image of something, I had to draw it or paint it.

Once on Janitzio, I looked for a perfect spot for painting the quaint fishing harbour, and found it, up on a small hill, under a shade tree.

I did a pencil sketch, then started to apply some colour when I realized I had a visitor. A young boy was watching me. Suddenly, I felt inhibited and wondering how to get rid of him. I reached in my bag , pulled out an orange and gave it to him. It worked! The boy sauntered away, and I went back to my paints.

My peace was short-lived, however. Soon, the boy was back and he had brought all his friends with him! Suddenly, I had not one "fan", but eight of them!

Thinking that maybe it was the free oranges that had attracted them, I grabbed my bag of oranges and gave one to each boy. They were very thankful, but they didn't go away! Actually, one of them did, but soon he came back dragging a toddler with him, then stopped about ten feet way and, holding the child under the arms, he shouted, "Paint my little brother!".  So I cleaned my brush, and quickly, without thinking, I added this little figure at the bottom of the page.

El Pelón (click to enlarge)

My audience was very encouraging. They were jumping up and down, yelling, "yes, yes, that's it, that's the colour", or "yes, his hair is just like that!", and so on.

That's when I realized that I was not going to get rid of my fan club, no matter what I did, so I decided that if I couldn't fight it, I might as well join it--as they say. So I asked them if they wanted to help me finish my painting, and they all jumped up and down again, and shouted "Si! Si! Si!" Eight times.

So the colours you see were all selected by my helpers. The blue of the lake, the red of the boats, the rust of the roofs, and the different greens. One boy went and stood there, posing so I could include him, and so I did.

When we all decided that the painting was done, I had them all sign their names on the page.

It's probably the worst painting I've ever done, but you can see why it's my favourite. Thank you José Jesús Campos López, Abraham Campos Campos, Rolando Reyes Guzman, Gerardo Campos Candelario, Mario Reyes Flores, Jorge Luis Campos, José Carmen Campos M., and Cesar Reyes Cortes, for my best birthday present ever.

After we were finished, a lady showed up, looked at my book, pointed to the picture of the toddler, and said, "That's my Pelón!".  "That's your boy?", I asked. "Yes," she said. "And you call him "Pelón"?" "Yes." (In Spanish, the nickname "Pelón" usually means "bald" (as in "Baldie"), and the boy had a thick head of hair so maybe it has a different meaning on Janitzio!) So I wrote "Pelón" beside his picture.

P.S. The small sketch at the top is of Laguna Larga and its rustic cabins. The hostel is right next to Los Azufres' hot sulfur springs.

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