To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Birth of a Graphic Image

TaDA!  Behold, the Turnip-tailed Gecko! 
(click image to enlarge)
If you've ever wondered about the process of getting artwork ready for reproduction online or in a book, read the rest of this blog entry.  If you haven't, well, co ahead if you don't have anything better to do.  Just sayin'.....

For people who aren’t practicing artists or designers, or are not comfortable messing around with graphics programs, scanning or photographing their art is the final step before posting it to the blog.  They post it as-is.

A scanner usually gives better results, but if a scanner isn’t available, it is possible to make do with a photograph. But unless lighting conditions are excellent, a photograph may not produce a very good image, and it may not be true to the original by a long measure.
The process that happens to photos or art between the production by the artist and the publication online or in a book can be compared to what happens to a musical performance before it is released to the public. The original performance is given, then an audio engineer mixes results from several microphones, adjusts the volume, bass and treble, speeds it up or slows it down, dubs in instruments or vocals, adds various effects and generally changes the overall sound of the music before it is released to the public. And oh yes, often the original music was electronically produced, not performed with traditional instruments.  The public praises the composer, artist/s and conductor, but the contribution and skill of the audio engineer goes unnoticed.  Alas, such is life.
What happens to art is similar to the audio-mixing process noted above. A lot of things can be done to make the captured image truer to the original art, and sometime things are done to make it better or different.  When I post art or photos, I usually at least improve the color/lighting.  Look what a difference just raising the light level in a graphics program can make in a photo:

Here in my kitchen, I was trying out a recipe for avocado toast on my comal (ko-MALL), a flat slab of aluminum or steel commonly used here in Belize for toasting, heating, and frying.  With the aid of the graphics program, I made the sun shine outside and turned on the light in the kitchen so you can see everything and sense the warmth of the room.  

So if my scanner is not working and I photograph one of my sketches, it can look pretty bad at first, like the first image of the gecko here, and I have to do a LOT of things to make it finally look the way the sketch actually appears in my sketchpad.  It may take me an hour or two of adjustments to reach a point where I am satisfied that I can’t improve it further. 

Here are the steps, in the order that I do them:
  • rotate the image until it is level
  • crop and remove the coil because it would take a lot of work to make this one look good. I'll replace it later.
  • lighten the entire image globally
  • cut and remove most of the darkest garbage 
  • resize – if I am making a series, the pages all need to be the same size.
Now it looks like this:

Keeping an eye on the colors to make sure I don’t lose anything, I:
  • apply a Gaussian blur filter to the entire page with a radius of .5 pixels. This smooths out lines and softens the look slightly. This is important because some pixels disappear from light areas during adjustments, creating rough edges, but with the slight blur, any additional changes will work better.
  • hand darken (burn) and lighten (dodge) various areas to make the image even-toned
  • globally adjust the contrast levels of everything – the highlights, the midtones, and the shadows for the entire image, then hand dodge or burn areas that need more individual change
  • select all the text with the lasso tool and desaturate it to remove any color, then increase the shadow and midtone levels until the text is strong and black
  • hand dodge for highlights and burn to strengthen shadows and color tones  again until all the paper is white, all the text is evenly dark, and I haven’t lost anything important from the colors of the image
  • paste on a cleaned-up version of the sketchbook coil. I paste this same coil image on each of my sketchbook pages since they are a set.
 Now it looks like this:
The paper and text look pretty good, but the drawings aren't right yet, so I warm up, cool down, and slightly shift the color of the entire image. Then I make  final improvements and corrections to the original. 
I decide to:

  • select everything and reduce the size of the sketch to fit on the page better.
  • move the gecko’s foot and text in the lower left corner higher up on the page for better balance
  • put highlights in the eyes
  • clone markings on the gecko’s top side to closer resemble the original colors
  • continue to adjust color lighter and darker, more and less constrasty, adding cloned color markings where needed
  • remove speckles, erase some extra lines, shorten a front toe, correct text, and replace or improve some letters which were poorly executed.
  • add a 2-pixel stroke around the sketch page to outline it.
and I’m done.  If you compare the last two images below, you’ll see where I’ve

edited and improved the original to make it more accurate, tidier, or create a better design.  Like the orchestral recording, things have been changed and improved. In this case, it’s my own personal effort that changed my own personal art, and I’m glad I didn’t have to ask a technician to do it!  Here's the previous step next to the final one so you can compare.

Everything I’ve changed is something I would have done on the original if:  a) I could erase the ballpoint pen ink I use in this moist climate, b) I got everything perfect the first time around. 

Since I'm the technician (YAYYY!) I get a do-over. Can you find the toe I shortened?  Also notice my notes say the gecko had only four toes on the rear feet, but I later realized there were five. Highlights on the eyes make them look a whole lot livelier.

A scan is usually more accurate than a photo in producing the image, so it won’t be necessary to do so much tweaking to a scan to bring the paper up to white without also losing the color and shading in the drawing. But no matter how you upload the art, there are always things that need to be adjusted to accurately represent the original.

Fortunately, I think all this twiddling is fun.  Go figure.

Friday, January 19, 2018

New Sketches from my New Studio

It’s been cold here for the last few weeks, colder than I remember it being in the last three years, and it sometimes makes it difficult to do more than wrap up in a fleecy blanket in my armchair and read.  

I’m hoping {these folks} (click on the link) will soon get their solar grill to market and maybe between grilling gibnuts and chugging cervesas I can blow a fan across the top of the grill and heat my house during the several weeks of “winter” here.  It’s amazing how cold 63° can feel in an unheated house if there is no place to occasionally warm up  [blows on fingers, twitches blanket over legs].

Those of you who are experiencing sub-zero temperatures, wind, snow and Frozen Nozes are likely chuckling disdainfully at my so-called “problem.”  I understand.  I would probably be doing the same if I were way up north listening to such a lament from someone down here in balmy Belize.  Go ahead. Mock me.  I can take it. But I’m shivering nevertheless .

However, that being the case, and not to put too fine a point on it, I am pleased with the new art studio I have created up in the loft of my earth bag house. 

It is a relatively warm spot with unbeatable lighting both day and night, being directly under a skylight (which is three feet overhead) for daytime art and with spotlight lighting (originally meant to spotlight the lion carving on the bathroom door before I put the loft between the two) which is a perfect light for my sketchbook work after dark.

And so, I have finished two more sketches, the Cecropia Trunks and the Fungus. I did the initial fungus ink drawing at Micasa in the jungle in November, using a tree stump for an easel on my veranda. 
 I finally got the color onto the sketch last week. 

In retrospect, I don’t think this is a bracket fungus, as bracket fungi tend to make “shelves,” more like the one I sketched in my Oregon woods in 2011, shown here.

So I’ll have to get creative and paste a piece of paper with a more accurate descriptive name over the word “bracket.”

Alternately, and probably more simply, I could fix it in Photoshop. We'll see.

The Cecropia Trunks sketch got colored, too, and here's how it looks now. It turned out to be more complicated than I expected, but I managed to do a serviceable job.

When I compare it to the bracket fungus I did when I was sketching daily in 2011, though, I can see that I need to practice to get up to my old speed.  You'd think it would stick with you, but it's easy to forget little tricks and things one does to create effects.  I'll have to relearn them.

On a slightly different note, back in 2013, during the vacation trip wherein I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life in Belize, I made sketches along the banks of the Macal River about five miles south of here where I stayed at a resort for about a week.  It was my second stay there, the first one being celebrated in my sketchbook “Belize – Jungle & Beach Adventures.”

My life shifted gears at that point as I decided to fling caution and old age to the wind and change my entire life by moving here.  As a result of the following chaos, I never finished or uploaded those sketches – or any later ones done here in Belize – to the web for people to purchase and enjoy.  And now I am debating…..should I go back to these uncolored sketches and finish them to make a new Belize offering?  Then keep going with more?

I could start a series such as: “Belize – Along the Macal River” or “Belize – Sketches from my Jungle Cabin” or “Belize – Some Rainforest Wildlife” or “Belize – Orchids & Palm Trees”, or “Belize – A Mayan Healing Herbarium”  stuff like that that.  What do you think?  Do you think anyone would be interested? And if not, should I just do them anyway for my own entertainment?  Feedback, please????

My last (74th) birthday was spent at Micasa, which I mentioned briefly in the last blog entry, although I forgot to mention the lovely surprise birthday party Millie and the Riveras, my extended family,  gave me before I left. It was a complete surprise, and it made me feel very warm and beloved.  

Up at Micasa I managed to get a LOT done – I posted {a video} of some of it on Facebook.  I had measured the spaces for the shelves on my previous visit, bought the wood, and had Freddy cut them to length for me on his Sunday work day since they’re dense, heavy hardwood and I didn’t want to spend all my time at Micasa sawing them with a handsaw.

 Nacho, Darwin and Estuardo had to haul the planks the last 500 feet on their shoulders because the road was impassable. 
Putting the shelves up by myself was a challenge since they’re so heavy. I screwed the shelf braces onto the shelves first, then propped each shelf into place with miscellaneous boards, broom handles, whatever, while I screwed it to the wall.  It felt really good to get things off the heap on the table and up onto shelves.  

With the shelves up, I moved on to put shelf paper on the kitchen counter.  

Tiles would be nicer, of course, but I am now on a strict budget, having spent all my loose cash and beginning my life of austerity on Social Security. I just wanted to cover up the raw wood and make it washable.  I'll be interested to see how well shelf paper holds up on a kitchen counter.... Gotta say, it made washing off the possum footprints super easy.

The curtains add a bit of a domestic touch,  softening the roughness of the chainsaw-cut planks.  Dontcha think?

One of the things that interests me  is:  how much "stuff" and "polish" does one need to live a comfortable, satisfying life.  What difference does it make if the walls are painted, or whether the kitchen counter has tiles or shelf paper on it, as long as it's clean.  I do like nice things, but how much do I NEED them?   (Probably only as much as I "need" them to impress other people.)  Still, if I can also make it pretty..... as well as serviceable and please myself ... that's a fine goal, I'd think.  Serviceable. That's the keyword.

Micasa, last September. I'll take a new picture.
Next visit, I'll put up more shelves, install the rocket stove Nacho made for me, put screens over the possum cracks,  and get the solar panel and battery connected to the lighting system I installed last time. My tall ladder is the problem.  I keep hauling it back and forth from this house to that house in Nacho's pickup, but it always seems to be at the wrong house when I need it.  The road is still next to impassable, so I can't just go fetch it when I need it.

Still, things are moving along nicely. It’s been nearly three weeks since my last visit, and I think it’s time for another trip to the woods and mi casa, Micasa.   

p.s.  Next entry, I’ll show you the finished jaguar art at my earth bag house entrance.  Maybe.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Cacao Pod Mini-adventure

Sooking Cacao Beans.
Last Wednesday was our weekly Garden Share Day in the milpa at Better In Belize, the ecovillage where I live, and there were cacao pods on the share table, so I brought one home to my little earth bag house. In case you didn’t know, cacao pods are the source of chocolate in all its many guises.  Here’s the pod, about eight inches long, and a brilliant shiny yellow.  It grows from the trunk of the cacao tree – I have been watching a crop of them ripen from green to yellow in the milpa for some time now.  

When my friend José came today to use the internet I asked him to educate me about cacao matters. José is Belizean, and one of my go-to persons for advice and information.

“Well, first you split the pod with your machete,” he said, “then you open it up and the cacao beans are inside…” 

“Will you show me?” I asked, fetching my machete for him. And so began my cacao pod education.

José opened it carefully, first slicing down its length with the machete to open up a crack, then prying it apart with both hands to reveal the cluster of beans inside, each enveloped in a juicy, sweet, rose-scented silver-white jacket.  I caught the rose scent as soon as the crack widened upon opening.  

“Taste one,” he said, passing the pod to me. I shivvied one of the beans out and popped it into my mouth, sucking and tonguing it.  Heavenly!  

“Help yourself,” I motioned for José to enjoy them, too.  We talked for a while about the next steps in cacao culture as we popped and sucked the beans, and since José’s mom used to work on a cacao plantation in Guatemala, I expect he knows what he’s talking about.  

He told me the beans are removed from the husk, sucked if you wish (the sucking isn’t necessary if you are harvesting a lot of them), then they’re spread out in the sunshine to dry if they're to be shipped off to the chocolate factory. We had a good laugh imagining a production scenario where every bean needed to be sucked clean before drying -- “Hurry! Hurry! Suck faster! Faster!”

I’m sitting here plucking the slick, gooey beans from the husk as I write, sooking and sighing with pleasure then ejecting each now nearly naked inch-long bean into the empty half of the husk after the goodness has been sooked off. There’s not a lot to sook, but what there is, is delicious. “Sooking” by the way, is an old Scottish word I have a fondness for. It sounds so much more, well, sucky, than the word “sucking.”

Tomorrow, on José’s advice, I’ll put the cacao beans out on a plate in the sunshine to dry so that they won’t rot or get moldy. When dry, they can be planted by simply poking them into the soil in the rainforest, or they can be started out in grow-bags like any other nursery crop. 

“Hey, José,” I call out from my computer.  “Do cacao trees like sun or shade better?”
“They like to grow in shade,” he responds from where he is surfing the web out on the
veranda.  A moment later he adds, “with a little bit of sun, too.”

 I think I will plant a bunch of these at Micasa, my jungle retreat, and someday (about four years, I believe) I shall pluck a pod from one of my trees and make up a cup of steaming hot, sweet, homemade-from-the-get-go cocoa.  

And when my coffee plants also have a bit more age on them, maybe I’ll add a little of my home-grown, roasted coffee bean essence for a homemade-from-the-get-go mocha. Oh my!  The possibilities are endless.

[Later:  there were sixty beans in that pod. I shall have a veritable chocolate ORCHARD! ]

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Christmas 2017 -- Making Tamales

Happy New Year!  
banana leaves prepared for tamale wrapping 
Last year I shared the narrative of my Christmas festivities with people on my mailing list (I know, I know, I am incredibly old-fashioned in these days of Snapchat, Facebook, etc., but I really LIKE the easy-going ramble of email and blogging)  but people who are now reading this blog may not have seen last year's Christmas celebration, so I'll share the pictures of this year's good times which I enjoyed with my Rivera family and friends.

It's a tradition in Belize to celebrate Christmas with tamales. Grinding the corn for the tamales, preparing the ingredients to put in the tamales, wrapping the tamales, steaming the tamales, then eating them and taking some to share with neighbors who might not have a large family with which to enjoy such festivities.  We did all those things. 

Nacho and Nora prepare the masa
By the time I arrived at Riveras' house at 8:30am on Christmas Eve Day, the banana leaf wrappers had already been cut and held over flames to soften them, and Yesenia a neighbor who had come for the day with her little girl Caroline, and Gaby, the only girl in the Rivera family, were cleaning smoke off the leaves. So I cleared a space on the outdoor kitchen table and joined in with the task with a damp cloth. 

As we were finishing, Doña Nora and Don Nacho returned from Benque in the truck with a five gallon bucket of the masa, corn flour made from corn they had just taken to town to be ground at the tortilla factory (a little tienda in Benque with a grinding mill).

Kevin stirs the masa as it thickens
We mixed the masa with water in dishpans, squishing it between our fingers until it made a slippery gruel, then Nacho poured it into a cauldron and added water while Nora stirred. Then they put it over an outdoor cooking fire to thicken under Kevin's vigorous paddling. 

When it was properly thickened, José was set to stirring the home-made tomato sauce over the fire while four of us -- Nora, my friend Millie who lives with the oldest Rivera son Oscar, Gaby and I -- set out piles of banana leaves, chicken and pork chunks, the masa dough, and the tomato sauce when it came off the fire. 

Jose cooks the tomato sauce
First, a large spoonful of masa dough was patted onto a double layer of banana leaves.  Then a piece of chicken or pork was pressed into it and a spoonful of sauce was ladeled over it.

Nacho had to teach me again how to wrap the banana leaves around the tamale so no sauce could escape and no water could enter when they would be later steamed. 

It's fun working together. That's me on the right.
Soon my fingers recalled the dance from the many tamales I had made last year, and we all spent a couple of hours spooning, scooping, patting, folding, and piling our finished tamales on the table to be snatched up by Kevin, the tamale-runner, who stacked them in a big tub to await their debut in the giant cauldron, which would soon be emptied of masa, scrubbed out, and filled with tamales for steaming. 

Tamale making as spectator sport
It was a warm, fun time, with laughter, joking, an occasional "Ooops!" when a banana wrapper would split and need repair or replacement before being carried away by Kevin.  This was Gaby' first year making Christmas tamales, as last year she just watched. It IS a bit of a spectator sport as you can see here. 

Total immersion is a great way to learn Spanish

It was a lovely sunny day, in the 70s, perfect for our energetic activity on the wooden table next to the clay cooking fogón where Nora and Gaby prepare family meals.  My Spanish is still rudimentary, but now and then I understood an entire sentence, which was a great pleasure to me.

That night, we feasted on the perfectly cooked tamales, and after dinner Nora, Millie and I carried a stack of them to Millie's father and stepmother, who live about half a mile down the road, then stayed to chat an hour or so until Nacho came to find us. We walked back to Riveras by the light of a half moon, accompanied by cricket chirps and a couple of refrains of Feliz Navidad.

Wrapped tamales, ready to steam
I particularly enjoyed the tamale delivery, because it was the first time I had been able to see how my Lights for Students project lights up a family's house at night (I have been purchasing and installing solar lighting in the homes of neighborhood students so they can do homework after dark, and the entire family benefits from this project -- maybe I'll do a blog about that later). 

All in all, it was a lovely day. We ate tamales the next day, too, Christmas, but it seems that most Belizeans celebrate Christmas and New Years Eves, for the most part, and just eat and socialize on the actually holiday. 

Micasa, my little jungle house
So that was my Christmas. A few days later I spent my 74th birthday solo (by choice) at Micasa, my tiny Belizean house in the jungle which I had built this summer, and which I am still working on -- shelves, curtains, stuff like that. 
It's gradually becoming my second home, with a few little adventures along the way -- like this one which I journaled my last morning there: 
I'll blog my progress with Micasa later, too. 

And with that, I leave you with my fine memories of 2017 in the Belizean jungle, and with hopes for many more good ones in 2018 for us all.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Adding Color to the Wasps! I DID IT!

I am now officially past my "artist's block," 
thanks to you
I expect to be adding more entries from time to time, so if you want to know about it, put your email over there in that box to the right so you will be notified. Just in case you didn't do it before, you may have missed the second entry I made, a couple of weeks ago (this is the third one).  If so, just scroll down.

Here's the wasp drawing with color added.  It's a lot easier to understand what's happening, isn't it?

Check below in the previous entry to see what this drawing looked like before color was added.  I also wrote in that entry about how I painted the mural on my house walls -- lots of pictures.
Macal in May. Now it's 8' tall.
That's Nacho's thatched hut where
he stays when we go out to El Rancho.

Stay tuned. I'll be adding color to the cecropia drawing (my first one), and also to a drawing I just finished this week out at Micasa, my little house in the jungle at El Rancho.  I finally was able to get there after seven weeks of the road resembling a turtle pond (complete with turtles) and pretty much impassable. When at last I arrived, I fulfilled my vow to make at least one sketch during each visit. (Hint: this latest one is a fungus).  

And they're improving the road -- there's a crop of macal out there that's due to be harvested in January!  

Hasta mas tarde!  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Mural Painting Tutorial (and Sketch #2)

Onward with my quest to restart my sketch journaling while balanced daintily on a 6’ ladder. 

Where am I on my journey to Restart My Journaling? Well....I have actually gotten out my watercolor pencil box. It is lying on the desk. 

A ladder got me really close
nice, calm wasps
I have not opened it yet, but I will, because this sketch is a little confusing in black and white.

But color will improve it, and what better way to jog my hand to apply the color than to tell you about my intentions? 

I’ll scan in the colored drawing when I get it done.  Hold my feet to the fire, my friends!!!!!


a panorama photo of my house mural about half-way
before the house was re-painted cream.
Okay, now, I promised in my November 11 blog that I would do  step-by-step tutorial on how I painted the murals on my house walls. 
If you aren’t into details, this one may be a bit “much" and you can stop here. But if you’ve ever wondered how the heck one gets that art from a  sketchpad up onto the wall, read on.
I’d gotten a little experience at mural painting on the walls of the North Mountain Park Nature Center in Ashland, Oregon a few years back, so I was intrigued by the invitingly blank walls of my new Belize house. 

a Mayan ball player
My earthbag house, which I have cunningly named Casa de la Tierra (House of Earth)  is actually built on an old Mayan terrace, next to a completely buried (it is said) Mayan temple ruin, so obviously the most appropriate decorations would be Mayan in nature. I wanted them to look authentic, so I nosed around on the internet to see if I could find some good subjects. 

Chilam Balam texts of Chumayel
My research turned up ancient figurines, hieroglyphs, wall paintings bas-reliefs carved into stone stelae (like this one of Lady Wac-chanil-ahau standing atop a bound captive warrior), plus painted or inked codices – bark-paper books the Mayans created around the 1100s. Some were pretty gruesome, so I avoided those. Others, like this winsome little jaguar tickled my funny-bone.

With lots of subjects to choose from, I picked out several for my mural, looking for drama and detail and avoiding modern interpretations (as far as I could tell) with which the internet is flooded. I decided to copy them almost exactly to keep them authentic-looking.   
feathered serpent god and supplicant
I originally planned to make the serpent god, a really stupendously magnificent being, the first thing you see as you come up the walk to the house. I even had it all graphed out and ready to transfer.  But after a few months of thought (you shouldn’t rush such things) a benign realistic jaguar began to manifest itself, because really, the jaguars have a wonderfully strong presence here, they, and the other wildlife, are some of the main reason I chose to live here. I wanted to honor that. 

Ready to begin muraling, I took photos of my house walls (not so easy on a round house!).  I joined them together in Photoshop and created a flat view to use as a template with correct proportions (I could have just sketched out the plan, but I was having fun in Photoshop).
this plan is called a "cartoon" by muralists
On the house, I measured and recorded every wall space, the distance between windows, and the distance from the floor to what would be the bottom of every image. Then, in Photoshop, I superimposed a transparent grid sheet over the plan, sizing it so that each square represented one inch. Then I “pasted” a mural image into each spot onscreen.

my 8½x11" working cartoon
Now, with subject choices made, I created a fresh 8½” x 11” .jpg file for each image and superimposed a transparent grid on THAT so that every inch grid line on the house wall plan corresponded with the inch markings on my printed-out paper grid.

On the paper grid (my "cartoon"), I counted squares and wrote down measurements (in red on the ballplayer figure here) to correspond to measurements of the actual wall. That done I slipped the gridded diagram into a plastic sheet protector to keep it from getting wet or dirty – I didn’t want to have to re-count all those measurements.   

Time to transfer!  Using a #2 pencil, a yardstick, and a kneaded eraser, I measured the wall up from the floor and in from the window to find the outermost point of the ballplayer's toe (27” up and 4” in from the door frame – see the red arrow on the cartoon) and made a dot there.  Then I located a distinctive spot a few inches up, at the edge of his anklet (34” up and 7” in) and put a dot there.  I kept working, finding important points on the drawing, measuring VERY carefully.

the ballplayers feet, pencil outline
Finally, I had a dot-to-dot outline.  I went back and added some dots. Then checking back and forth frequently, I sketched the outline, erasing when I goofed, redrawing again, and re-checking measurements if something looked off. It is much easier to draw the outline with all the dots to aim for (I’ve enlarged the dots on the ballplayer grid so you can see them) than to try to do it freehand.

I didn’t put all the details in this pencil outline on the wall. I added those later when I was actually painting it.

the ballplayer, checking out my cleavage
At first, I thought I would color the figures, but after looking at the black outlines awhile, I realized that the simple black outlines looked elegant and that adding all the colors might make the mural too overpowering.

But it did need some color, so studying Mayan drawings online I found a motif called a skyband, a horizontal element which supposedly was used as a division between the natural and the supernatural worlds in Mayan mythology. It’s usually brightly colored in Mayan paintings, and I used it to connect all the murals into one continuous design.  

A short section of Mayan skyband
With the ballplayer outlined in black paint, I penciled in then painted a section of skyband in the colors that seemed typical to many Mayan paintings: teal green, cinnamon, a darker red-brown, light yellow, and yellow ochre (back to the paint store in San Ignacio!). Just for the record, the mural paint I’m using is Comex Vinimex, pintura vinil-acrilica premium, interiores/exteriores, satinado, which is pretty easy to translate: Interior/exterior vinyl-acrylic, satin finish house paint.

Ix Chel, holding Moon Rabbit
Over a period of several months, I penciled in, then painted outlines for the rest of the figures, plus some fascinating glyphs like these at left (I’ve no idea what this one  means.  Maybe “Your grandma was a howler monkey!”?  Fortunately, few other people can read them either, so I’m probably safe.) I continued the skyband as I worked my way around the house toward the entry, completing Ix Chel, the moon goddess holding the moon rabbit (did you know many people don’t see a Man In The Moon? They see a Rabbit!). 

Then I added that whimsical jaguar with a lotus on its head (jaguars often swim, coming up draped with pond -- or lotus -- weeds). 
Lady Wac-chanil-ahau

jaguar figure
Lady Wac-chanil-ahau with her basket of offerings (but without her doomed captive!) came next. 

One other thing happened before the mural was done. When I’d finished with the Mayan parts, I saw that I was having a problem with the natural red clay wall surface crumbling off, sand-grain by sand-grain. 

I realized that my murals were destined for a short life unless I took measures.  So I painted cream-colored house paint carefully around each figure while Freddy, who has been working at my house to pay off the price of items brought to him from the US, painted the rest of the house. 
house-painting in progress

That stabilized the walls around the figures, and I then varnished the figures themselves to glue all their little sand grains to the wall.

Only then did I paint the jaguar on the cream-colored wall, using the same grid and dot technique. Jaguar spots were applied free-hand. Here’s my feline friend, the life-size jaguar in full color, who now greets visitors with his inquisitive and riveting gaze. I still need to paint the rock he is perched on. The skyband will continue around the rock to be covered by his front paws. 

The jaguar is a powerful god in Mayan mythology, so to my mind, he guards the entrance and graciously protects all within.

SO!  Now to show you the whole series, finished (including the guardian jaguar above) in the order in which they appear from the front door to the entrance,  where the guardian jaguar dwells:

So there you have it -- "How I Painted My House Murals." 
That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it
Hasta mas tarde - until later!

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