Travel-Sketching Oaxaca: Monte Alban and More

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.

Here are the first and second posts from Oaxaca.
Travel-Sketching Oaxaca: Jumping Right in
Travel-Sketching Oaxaca: Capturing Vignettes

There’s a few more in the series coming up!

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in oaxaca, people, Sketch Journal, teaching, Travel, Workshop and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Travel-Sketching Oaxaca: Monte Alban and More

  1. Hi, Suhita,

    I’m a very old friend of Diane Winters, love your blog, have been following it for years! Thanks!

    I live in Paris where I am painter and writer. I have been going to life classes for several years and would like to start a blog where I might post my drawings/paintings. I also draw and paint in museums here, and have done oil copies in the Orsay Museum in their copyist program. I really like the simple format of your blog, but feel lost once I try to navigate the WordPress site. Could you tell me the name of your template? At least I’d have a clue where to start!

    Thanks so much! Bobbie Layne


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just love your watercolors! What beautiful memories and what a great way to share this trip… Almost feels like I was sitting there with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jane Jackson says:

    Hi Suhita, I really enjoyed this post as it reminds me of a wonderful holiday I had in Mexico in the 1980 ‘ s. Your sketches wonderfully capture the scale and atmosphere of Monte Alban. I was amazed to see your sketches of the pottery as I treasure a little black jug from Oaxaca which is a similar shape to the piece being made. Thank you for bringing back some happy memories!

    Liked by 1 person

    • oh how lovely Jane…I would’ve loved to see the Oaxaca you saw. In some ways Oaxaca still maintains so many traditions, but in others you can see how the historic part of downtown is fuelled by tourism from the last 20ish years


  4. fakeflamenco says:

    Looks wonderful. Great vistas and artists!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Debra A Gass says:

    Seems like it was so interesting. Definitely in a place I have never been. Love the colors, notes and your commentary!!

    Liked by 1 person

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