10 years after I visited (on my last trip to Oaxaca) I clearly remember the magic of Monte Alban. It’s hard to put it into words. There are more famous pyramids in Mexico. I’ve visited a few in the Yucantan Peninsula ( here, here, here, and here) and around Mexico City that are much grander. But the site of Monte Alban has a special feel to it.
On our way there, we stopped at a little mercado. Some of us sketched the flower stands. Some of us went in search of amazing mango smoothies. I loved the giant calla lilies, and if I’d painted this a wee bit slower, I’d have found a way to bring more focus to them. But we had to move on!
At Monte Alban we painted from the bottom of the Pyramid, and talked about capturing a sense of big space and scale, among other things.
And then I joined a bunch of adventurous sketcher that climbed to the top of the pyramid for a second sketch.
That afternoon we visited San Bartolo Coyotepec, a town that makes a distinctively Oaxacan black pottery. I loved watching and sketching maestra Adé at work: such simple tools and such beautiful work. Process sketches like this one, with little notes (and the piece of clay I pressed on the page) are just the sort of thing I like to look back at later.
It was a super-long day, and I was tired in the evening, but I’m glad I took my sketchbook with me when we stepped out for a nightcap later that night. The bartender Carlos explained the craft of making mezcal and then he poured us two ‘craft’ mezcals and had us try to guess what they were flavored with. The first one, it turns out, had cooked chicken mole mixed in it before it was distilled. The second one, a bigger surprise, had a whole rattlesnake right there in the bottle it sat in!
The evening makes for a great story. And that bottle with a snake in it was quite a sight to see… but I have to admit it: with a drink that’s 75 proof, it’s hard for me to taste anything more than the alcohol.
There’s a few more in the series coming up!