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Archive for February, 2017

Oaxaca Watercolors

While I was in Oaxaca I tried to do a watercolor every day. I didn’t quite manage that, but I was quite prolific by my standards. Kind of fun, I’m hoping to continue maybe once a week throughout the year. This isn’t every single watercolor I did — I did a few others that I’ll mix into my upcoming posts — but it gives a decent overview of my trip while I work on my more targeted posts. The first one is from the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden in the center of town inside the walls of the historic cathedral complex, a fantastic garden; I’ll do a post about it soon. The second shows a booth selling clothing in the street nearby, set up in front of the side entrance to the cathedral.

Both of these views show the cathedral, Santo Domingo. On the left side of the wide angle view is the entrance to a terrific museum. It was featuring an exhibition of one of my favorite sculptors Jorge Yazpik; his work will probably get two separate posts. The agaves in front of the church were wonderfully dramatic. Gotta do agaves and palms if you’re going to watercolor in Oaxaca.

I also went to Monte Alban and Mitla, Oaxaca’s two best Zapotec archaeological sites. Beautiful stonework, I took many photos. Mitla has a Spanish church built onto the Zapotec ruins.

I did some hiking from town to town in the hills above Oaxaca City in an area known as the Pueblos Mancomunados. One section of trail in particular was spectacular, with pre-hispanic stonework to admire and bromeliads flowering in the trees. That will probably be my next post.

After some time in the highlands, I went down to the beach. The coast there is beautiful, warm and friendly and suitably tropical for a January vacation. I made this watercolor of the town laundry in Mazunte. There was a sign boasting that everything was ‘Washed with Love’; I probably should have incorporated that into the painting.

These two are from neighboring San Augustinillo. Walking along the road from Mazunte, the landscape of dusty sun-baked scrub opens onto a view of the ocean surrounded by palms, sudden technicolor like when Dorothy opened her eyes on Oz. I find that Mexico’s beautiful places are often made more impactful by the undistinguished scrubland surrounding them.

Oaxaca has a strong graphic arts tradition, which led me to make several other watercolors which are more graphic, less realistic and perspectival than what I usually do. They’re included below for anyone interested. (more…)

The Tule Tree

TuleTree

Happy new year. I’ve been on a trip to Oaxaca, skipping out on a lot of the rain and mudslides we’ve been having. I’ll probably have some posts related to that at some point — among other things a sinkhole opened in one of my gardens where EBMUD punctured a storm drain — but for now I’ll be posting about Oaxaca. Its stonework, ruins, art, and plants are the stuff DryStoneGarden dreams are made of.

TuleTrunk

One of the first things I did was visit the Tule Tree, a Montezuma Cypress with the world’s widest tree trunk, 46 feet across at its widest point, 147 feet total in diameter. I recommend clicking on the photo to get the full size view. The people in the left corner give a sense of scale.

TuleChurch

The tree is beside a church in the center of a town. One legend says it was planted 1400 years ago by a priest of the Aztec wind god, another legend says it was a walking stick planted by a king or god. More recently, someone planted hollyhocks, roses, and a lawn around it, creating a distinct ‘world’s biggest ball of twine’ vibe. The topiary collection includes a dinosaur, a teddy bear, and kissing ducks.

TuleDucks

TuleTrunk1

But in spite of that, a 1400 year old tree has a presence powerful enough to overcome any indignity presented by its surroundings. The trunk is truly superlative.

TuleTrunk2

Tule2

And even more than the trunk, the canopy is magnificent, like an entire forest in a single tree. The branches droop down nearly to the ground, giving a wonderful sense of enclosure, and the trunks rise up like the clustered columns of a gothic cathedral.

Tule1

I’ve been in groves that felt like a cathedral, but I’d never had that feeling from a single tree.

Tule3

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