Oaxaca lunch

Last week, I gave up trying to post from my hotel room in Oaxaca, and decided to wait for my return to Montreal to post my sketches. As with my most recent hotel wifi experiences, transmission was uneven and frustrating. Maybe I need to stay in better hotels : )

Now that I’m back, it’s fun to relive the Oaxacan experience as I flip through my sketchbook. I went to Oaxaca with the intention of absorbing the atmosphere and colours of Mexico, in preparation for my upcoming workshops in San Miguel de Allende in January. I managed to complete 10 spreads in my Etchr sketchbook, which is quite a lot since this is an A4 size book. I’ll be scanning all of them in the coming days. The experience in Oaxaca was so rich that I’d like to take the time to write about each sketching experience on its own, rather than add them all to one post like I did for New York City.

Two things that amazed me on this first trip to Mexico were the vivid colours of the building facades, and the shapes and sizes of the agave plants! After a long day of touring the city, I found a quiet spot on a bench in a little square, a bit off the beaten path, with a great view of both agave and colourful facades. A man across the plaza was eating his lunch, which was followed by a short siesta. You can’t find a better model than a sleeping one, right?

In a scene like this, where do you start? Since I’ve been trying to add more people into my travel sketches, I started by drawing the man on the bench first. I knew that if he finished his sandwich before my sketch was done, I would at least have a drawing of him and I could add colour from memory. From there, I was able to add in the bench he was sitting on, the agaves, and finally the buildings. I painted this pretty quickly because the sun was going down, but I was happy to have started with a figure in the scene.

Interested in joining me for some travel sketching in Mexico in January? Yesterday we had a cancellation in one of my groups. If you think you might be interested, here’s the link. You can be sure we’ll be sketching lots of colourful facades (and people!) in San Miguel de Allende.

6 Comments on “Oaxaca lunch”

  1. Bernadette says:

    Great post and painting. I have wondered how to start including people in my own work. For several months now I have been painting in our beautiful Botanical Gardens. People often sit at tables under umbrellas enjoying the outdoors and eating lunch or a snack. I’ve been timid to begin with painting the people who often stay for only short periods of time. No sleeping models have I found!
    Our weather has changed and no one will be found sitting in the frosty air now. Should I see a good scene including people, I’ll take your example and begin with people first and fill in the surrounding later. Love the pose you have in this painting.
    Thanks for sharing.


    • I hope it’s a helpful technique for you Bernadette. It’s something I learned from James Richards. He often puts the people in first and then adds the background buildings. It’s been working really well for me lately.


  2. joantav says:

    I find it is always smart to start with the person or people in the scene. They are likely to move…and usually do. Nice colors and interesting shadows. Very nice!!


  3. Uma Maheswar Nakka says:

    Good Afternoon dear Shari,

    I always say this is the best from you and you always prove me wrong by producing another BEST.

    What can I say. I wonder, the way you have drawn that man on the bench with his shopping bag by side.

    That gave a wonderful natural look to your sketch, not ignoring the other parts of the sketch.

    A wonderful and awesome sketch you produced and thanks for sharing.
    And you are champ with color combination.


    Regards and blessings,


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