It occurred tome that I am VERY behind on my posts. How far behind, you ask? I have been in Chile for over a month already! Here is a quick (VERY) recap:
We left Cusco and went to Arequipa, which is GORGEOUS. From there, it was South to Tacna and across the border to Arica. Two days later, we took an odd 24 hour bus ride down to La Serena (this is all in Chile now) , stayed for two nights and headed to Valparaiso. We crashed at the house of this dude we met through couchsurfing.com for a week or so before landing in a lemon farm just outside Curacavi where we have spent a week earning our keep.
I promise, I will elaborate on all of this in future posts. Internet connection has been spotty at best, so consistency has been a real challenge. Well, that and I am easily distracted. In any case, please enjoy the sketchbook entries below.
When visiting Peru, you HAVE to go to Machu Picchu. It’s just what you do. I don’t think any of our family or friends would have forgiven us if we didn’t go. I mean, it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We had to go! We had no idea what we were in for….
First, we had no idea it would be so expensive to go to Machu Picchu. Many people pay upward of $400 (that’s USD) to take the train there from Cusco, pay the admission fee, and stay in a decent hotel . We didn’t have that kind of money to burn, so we paid $100 each to take a van which picked us up at 7:30 am and drove for seven hours up, around and down these crazy mountain roads. (The train would have taken about 2 hours). It was hot but the driver wouldn’t let us open the windows because of the breeze from the speeding vehicle. This was problematic for one Chilean woman because she wasn’t doing so well. Fortunately she had a plastic bag on hand, or else things could have gotten VERY unpleasant. I had to use the bathroom about 2 hours in but it was not to be. At about the 5 hour mark, as everything was starting to take on a yellow tinge, we stopped for lunch.
There was this stand alone patio area in what could generously be called a town, where there was a buffet setup. A little further down were the bathrooms. I made a bee line for them and all was right with the world again. We ate a simple meal of soup, some kind of stew over rice, and some other stuff I don’t remember anymore, and it was back on the van to continue our journey. Traffic signs are treated as a suggestion, rather than the law and somehow every driver has the right of way. This mentality caused several occasions where our van had to reverse out of a narrow passage because two more vans were coming the other way. Ah… Peruvian driving….
Beyond that the most interesting thing about the drive was the way the landscape changed around us. We were in the mountains the whole time, but we went from a sparse, almost barren landscape with low grasses, to pine trees in the clouds, down to rainforest where there were plants growing on the plants.
When we finally stopped, we were at a train station which hosted a tiny line that took people to Aguas Calientes the small town just outside Machu Picchu. The train ride was not part of package and we didn’t want to shell out $25 each, so we walked to town. They said it would take 2 hours. With our bags it was more like 3.
It was about 7:20 pm when we reached the Plaza de Armas and we were led to our hostel on what felt like the outskirts of town. We were informed that dinner would be at 8pm as we were handed the key to our private room. We asked about the hot springs, the “aguas calientes” after with the town was named. Apparently those closed at 8 pm, were a 20 minute walk away and it was already 7:40 pm, so that was not happening.
We slept on separate beds and awoke at 5am to take a bus up to Machu Picchu. Many people in our group walked up, but Marin had twisted her ankle on all the gravel the day before and though it was feeling a little better, we weren’t taking any chances. We reached the entrance, waited in line, showed our tickets and were finally inside. The view was breathtaking! It seriously made the whole ordeal getting there worthwhile. We had opted to go without a guide, so this ancient civilization was our playground.
Check back in for the rest of the story and the rest of the photos.
Sometimes I start a piece and get a bit overzealous with details. I hit a point with this drawing where I had to remind myself that it’s only a sketch and I don’t have to “finish” it. It helps that the paper is so absorbent, it is difficult to get really small details.
The beauty of the sketchbook is that you can safely experiment with different styles, techniques, and subject matter in a way that is far less daunting than if you are working toward a finished piece every time. This is where practice and exploration happen and is an integral part of every artist’s arsenal.
I had been in “finished piece” mode for quite some time now, leading me to neglect my sketchbooks. Out here, it is both refreshing and frustrating that I am only allowed to sketch. Refreshing because I feel freer than ever to play. Frustrating because when you get into the finished piece cycle, you begin to see unfinished pieces as time wasted. I can’t sell the contents of my sketchbook, the quality isn’t good enough. I have to remind my self that l can draw it bigger and better later, on the good paper.
I also remind myself that I now have more compositions than I had before and that is exciting enough to keep me from picking up a ream of paper in a local art shop.
Ironically, we saw no potatoes.
Marin and I are obsessed with the Choco Museo, or the Chocolate Museum. We discovered it on our first day in Miraflores and have not been able to resist going back again and again.
Both of us are kind of chocolate snobs. We won’t eat milk chocolate, dark chocolate that’s less than 67% or any chocolate containing soy lecithin, the additive that makes chocolate feel waxy in your mouth. We know our chocolate!
When you first walk in, you are handed a cup of chocolate tea. You know how when you drink hot chocolate, there’s this grittiness in your mouth when you’re done? Well, chocolate tea has all the deliciousness of hot chocolate minus the grit. You make it by steeping the hush of the cocoa bean in hot water and adding sugar or honey. We were in love at first taste!
After the tea, we were shown different varieties of beans from different regions in Peru, given samples of white, milk and dark chocolate chips, as well as liqueur, jams, butters and bars.
There are several Choco Museos around the country and each offers chocolate making workshops. We are excited to attend the one in Cusco where we will learn how to make chocolate from bean to bar.
In honor of this magical place, I have created this painting. I am definitely going to have to duplicate it when I get home.
I have been trying to draw paint something in my journal every day. Some times I succeed, sometimes, not so much. Fortunately, the no page days are made up for by three page days, so I still feel good about my progress. Not every page needs its own post, however, so here are a few all in one go. If you would hi he me to elaborate on any one image, please feel free to ask.
I’m loving my fancy new stick pen! I have been fiddling with it a bit and now I think I’ve achieved the perfect balance of sharpness and durability. The pic I posted received a few likes on the old Facebook and a bunch more likes on Instagram, so I thought I’d put together this little how-to illustration to show how, you too, can make your own fancy stick pen.
I haven’t done an instructional illustration in ages, so I’ll talk you through the process here.
- First (and this is very IMPORTANT) find a stick. Make sure you like the way it feels in your hands, otherwise, you will strongly dislike your new pen! Besides, you’re making this for you. It should feel good, otherwise what’s the point? My first stick pen was way too skinny, and I knew I wouldn’t use it much so I started over.
- Get a sharp blade. This could be a pocket knife, box cutter or X-acto. Sharp is important because dull blades drive me crazy! They don’t cut the way you want, so you can’t get good lines or curves and you have to use WAY too much pressure, increasing the likelihood that you’ll cut yourself instead of the stick and they suck! They suck so bad! (End Rant) Remove any excess twigs that would make using your pen awkward.
- Rotate your stick in your writing/drawing hand and decide how you want to hold it. Again, comfort is key.
- Start shaving your stick about half to three quarters of an inch from the end, staying aware of how you want to grip your pen. You want to start making a curved area for your ink (or paint or blood or whatever) to pool in.
- Once you have your curve, start shaving the sides to make your tip. Mine is about a 45° angle which gives me the kind of tip I want to draw with, since I so love my skinny lines.