The 10 Day Painting Challenge

During the three months that Jorge and I have been voluntarily isolated, I’ve done a good bit of drawing and painting. It has been my salvation some days, as it has been for many of my friends who paint.

Valerie Pickles is one of them; she is the owner / operator of “The Pickled Onion” in Santa Elena, and like almost all accommodation is Mexico, her place has been closed since early March. She sits down with her paint box and heavy paper every day and has become an accomplished water colourist. She was nominated to participate in a facebook painters’ challenge.

Those who accept the challenge must post a photo of an original piece of their own art, every day for 10 days. They should then nominate another artist to carry on with the challenge… for this Valerie chose me. At first I felt daunted by such an idea, but I did accept and I found the experience to be wonderful. Some of this blog’s followers are not facebook users and a few have asked me to post my 10 facebook art posts on the blog. I am happy to do this and also have printed the intro I wrote for each painting.

Day 1 of 10: I am starting facebook’s 10 day long painters’ challenge by posting a favourite of mine. I used vellum paper placed over a textured board and watercolour paint. The raised pattern on the board showed up in my work, but I quite like the effect. The painting now belongs to my niece.

Day 2 of 10: Today I am posting another portrait. I like to think that much of my painting is inspired by my writing. This piece started out as an attempt to portray the protagonist of my novel, “The Woman Who Wanted the Moon”. And when I finished, I realised that the “inspiration” actually had a very real source. Without meaning to, I had painted my sister-in-law.

Painting number 3 of 10: Today’s painting is a Frida… but with a Modigliani influence… I usually paint in acrylic but this is a water colour… I gave it to my great friend and fellow painter, J.B … who is also an unabashed Frida fan.

Painting number 4 of 10: A lot of of you will be familiar with this Frida. In 2015, I wanted to make a portrait of her but something different… I did not want to paint her full face, but if not, how could I include the emblematic eyebrows? I decided that a tatoo would work… I gifed this painting to my son Carlos.

Painting Number 5 of 10: My teacher, Manuel Ontiveros Chan is an accomplished painter in many mediums. He always stresses the importance of capturing light and reflection. I spent more than 2 months painting this green bottle in front of a stained glass window… When I felt I’d done my best, he asked me to repeat the exercise, but I just couldn’t… I never wanted to see that bottle again. But I should have done what he asked. If I ever do, I wonder if it will take me so long?

Painting number 6 0f 10… “A picture paints a thousand words” , and I use my paintings as well as my writing to tell stories … Whimsical “portraits” of my friends and family members’ much-loved homes are a gift I enjoy giving. I did this one for my brother-in-law on Fathers Day 2018. See? I included the family dog and two cats in the foreground as well as the “big green egg” (Craig’s barbeque) that’s sitting on the porch, waiting to get fired up.

My granddaughter Emma when she was just 2 months old
“The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer

Painting Number 7 of 10. Inspiration for a painting can come from many sources. When my granddaughter was just 2 months old, her dad sent me a photograph he took. Right away I was struck by how her expression mirrored that of the subject in one of my favourite paintings, “The Girl with a Pearl Earring”, by Johannes Vermeer.



IMG_4612 (1)
My portrait of Emma as the “Baby with No Pearl Earring”.

And so I painted Emma as “The Baby with NO Pearl Earring”. I used pastel on cardboard, and so I may redo the painting in acrylic on a proper canvas… one of these days…

Painting Number 8 of 10. Another of my favourite artists is Marc Chagall. His surrealist style in both stained glass and oil painting constantly evolved through his nearly 100 years of life. The piece I am featuring today is my own design but it was inspired by Chagall. As I worked, I realised that the composition of a surrealistic painting is extremely challenging. And in fact, since finishing this one, I have not attempted another. I will though…

Painting Number 9 of 10: Of the many skills needed in painting, capturing light is the most important. My teacher Manuel Ontiveros Chan agrees and he says that reproducing a painting by one of the great masters of art helps to better understand the process. I chose “Palacio Mula”from Claude Monet’s Venice collection. The exercise did help me learn how to build light colour over dark to acheive depth. I donated this piece to an auction at MEL and my good friend, Nancy W. now has it in her house …

Painting Number 10 of 10. Today’s featured painting is one I’ll use on the cover of a children’s book I’m writing. It is the story of a young girl who knows she must be brave to achieve her potential… but she worries she’ll get hurt. Most creative people feel this way about allowing their work to be seen. On one hand we want to share, but we fear that “our babies are not good enough” and we keep them “locked up” for a long time before letting go.

The pandemic causes this same insecurity. The changes being forced upon us are terrifying because we don’t know if we can measure up to what’s being asked of us now… and what we’ll be asked to do in the coming months is anyone’s guess. We have no assurance that the “post-COVID world” will be a good place. Being courageous takes practise… but the more we venture forth, the easier it gets.

I thank all of you who liked my posts and especially those who made comments. Be well, be kind and be creative … this is the only way I know to keep sane in times such as these. I thank Valerie Pickles for nominating me to take the ten day painting challenge, and I in turn nominate my friend and fellow painter, Becky Gebser to carry on for the next ten days.

This morning, I could not stop myself…


This morning, I could not stop myslf…  I read an excellent (make that, THE BEST) description of the Orange Windbag who is the President of the United States of America.  Donald Trump even has the nerve to call himself, “a wartime president”. Churchill must be steaming from his grave!

My utter distaste and distain for this orange menace knows no bounds. If you disagree with me… I regret offending you and I am frightfully sorry for the fact that you have been sucked-in by this parasite who makes Corona virus look benign.

The brilliant author is Nate White, and this is the link to the site where I read the article:

And it begins…

“Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?”

A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul. And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat. He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead. There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.
• You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss. After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid. He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish: ‘My God… what… have… I… created?’ If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.



The Perfect Storm

Waiting for The Perfect Storm to let up…

This post may be too much information for some; I actually thought it would be a journal entry. But for reasons I can’t explain, I feel the need to share.

At 3:30 a.m., I woke up to the sound of rain. More rain, I thought. For a few moments, I stayed put and tried to sort out my emotions. It didn’t take long for me to identify the one whimpering for my undivided attention … emptiness …

It seems that my world has somehow escaped from my grasp and what has taken its place is scary. I did not want to get up. Better to stay in bed. But by 4 o’clock, I felt sure I’d not be able to sleep any more, so I moved over to the computer. I could see my fingers moving desultorily over the keys, so I knew I was physically present in the room. But my mind was not.

In fact, my mind had decided to go “on strike” and it summoned my stubbornness. That in turn summoned my pride. Then my pride summoned my sense of outrage, and I could feel my anger growing and growing. I feel so much anger towards the chain of events and circumstances … “the perfect storm” that has taken over my life.

The perfect storm is destroying the life I have known up until now. I can’t say what I had was perfect, but it was the life I built for myself. Each time I faced a challenge … each time I forced myself to do the “right thing”… each time I fuelled myself with patience, understanding or empathy … I strengthened my life and my world … I made “me” stronger.

But now, all that energy seems depleted and I feel like a deflated balloon.

I decided to make a coffee and it felt comforting as it slid down my throat, washing away my swampy morning mouth. The slightly metallic aftertaste is not offensive and it is familiar.

I can hear Jorge stirring. He always senses when I’ve given up the idea of sleeping any longer, and lunges out from under the covers to look for me. I bless him for this because I know his first thought every morning is of me. The familiar is my proverbial yardstick, and today it seems to be the glue that is keeping me from falling apart.

Depression. Is this the name of the dark fog that has settled into me? Freudian therapists believe that depression is anger turned inward. I think this is true.  When I feel unable to cope, I tend to blame myself and then try to “whip myself into shape”. But there are times when the honest truth is quite different. There are situations that are more difficult than I can cope with. I did not create the instability we live with constantly in Mexico. I did not bring the Narcos, Corruption, nor the Coronavirus to this country. Nor is the looming financial disaster my doing. I have been avoiding newspapers lately so the torrential rain arrived without much warning at all. None the less, I have to find the resources to deal with the perfect storm …

The anger I try to stamp out cuts my feet like sharp barbs.  None of this is my fault, I wail.

Most of the women I know who came to Mexico several decades ago will say they are glad they have lived here and that they had “different” experiences. I know that as sad as I am,  I am still happy this is my home. Jorge and I raised two great kids, and we built a college that made a difference in many people’s lives. We have acted with responsibility and high standards. We made friends from all over the world. We invested and saved money, and we thought we were sitting pretty for retirement. Well, think again Bubba…

The perfect storm has turned everything upside down. Our two adult children will be living abroad, Like most businesses in Mexico, our college is in a precarious position. We can’t even see our friends, and it looks as though this will go on for a long time. And that money we saved? Well it won’t be providing the easy life style we thought we’d get pleasure from in our “golden years”, it will be used for damage control.

I think I am justified in feeling anger and frustration. BUT, BUT, BUT my negative feelings will not help me. Only my attitude can turn this around for me.

If I bang my head against the wall, it will shatter before the wall breaks.

An attitude of gratitude will make me realise what I do have

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

This mess is not fair. It is not right. And you know what; sometimes we don’t get either fair or right. We just don’t. But Jorge and I agree the time has come for us to accept the things we cannot change. We are facing a challenge that we feel unequipped to deal with. In fact, we are totally daunted by it. This will definitely NOT be… “Magic Made in Mexico”.

However, Jorge and I have no choice but pull together and make the best of this perfect storm. And if we manage to crawl up on the other side, THAT will be called… “A Bloody Battle, Fought As-Well-As Possible, by Joanna and Jorge”.