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(For viewers with dial-up connections, I apologize for the file size of these images--they are GIFs, the best format for line drawings, which are a lot bigger than the JPEGs I use for watercolours)

Splendid, gracious Guadalajara, more than 450 years old. We spent a week at the beginning of February, 2003, in the Hotel Frances, built in 1610, wandered the streets and explored the markets. Instead of trying to paint my usual watercolours, I took a small (5 1/2" x 9") sketchbook and a fountain pen, and was able to stand out in the street or lean against a wall or whatever and quickly put down an impression of the surroundings.

After many years of painting, I'm reminded of Renoir's comment following his time attempting to be an impressionist with Monet: he said he could no longer either paint or draw. Too much daubing. I've decided the real pleasure for me in making art (and whatever genius there is in an image) is due more to the drawing than the painting, so this sketchbook represented a new start. I'll no doubt still take watercolours on trips--those that involve travelling through the countryside.

This was a great trip for "looking down on things"--practising absolutely freehand, without any initial pokings with pencil and eraser, the rather difficult perspective of a bird's eye view. The building on the left, which had on its main floor a 2 for 1 clothing liquidation store ("lleva 2 paga 1"), stood kitty-corner across the intersection of Pedro Moreno and Maestranza. We were in the corner suite, #305, with "French" doors at the corner and on the Maestranza side.

The most difficult one to attempt was (below) the fabulous interior of the Teatro Degollado, where we attended a Sunday morning performance of the Ballet Folklorico de Guadalajara. It was dazzling, colourful and entertaining, the women like gorgeous butterflies from our aerie high up in the galleria. We decided to buy the cheap tickets in the galleria (35 pesos, about $3.25 US) for the view of the interior. The Teatro is a fabulous interior space, reminiscent of La Scala in Milan, with five decks of loges encircling the oval orchestra seating, and a domed ceiling painted with angels and aristocratic couples lounging in an arcadian setting.

As you can see, I absolutely blew the location of the railing, first placing it about a third of the way up the page (the horizontal lines through the stage's curtain), then getting it right so that the scene has the vertiginous quality of sitting "in the gods"--looking directly across at the loges on the far side, and almost straight down onto the bald spots of the people in the orchestra seats. The grey vertical line in the middle is the centre bindery edge or "gutter" of the sketchbook.


This was a great church, about a kilometre walk north of "Centro," very dark and colourful inside, very Spanish in its facade and towers.

(I never was very good at planning drawings, as can be seen from the one above where the top of the cathedral's steeple had to be put on the adjoining page)

The Plaza de Armas is the most animated public space in the city, with regular impromptu concerts, including the municipal band, in the bandstand, and a throng of humanity at all hours of the day and evening. The cathedral is ringed by public plazas with, to the right of my bench=viewpoint, the governor's palace illustrated below. The Hotel Frances stands on the block on the opposite side of the governor's palace.

The Hotel Frances


Los Amantes were the house trio in the hotel's wonderful bar--they have a good CD! Friday evening they were replaced by a mariachi band that brought out a big crowd. 2-for-1 margueritas and bowls of red-skinned peanuts contributed to many pleasant hours each evening.


El Parian, the central square at Tlaquepaque

Tlaquepaque was a separate town south of Guadalajara, but has now been swallowed by the sprawl. It is still a centre of crafts and Jalisco culture, with many fine 19th-century haciendas converted now into shops and exhibition spaces. The El Parian square is encircled by cafes charging prices reflecting the "free" entertainment of mariachi bands and strolling guitarists and singers. This Mariachi band had what seemed to be the classic configuration--four violinists, two trumpet players, and two guitarists, with singers (including a woman) taking turns.

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