La Parroquia... her infinite variety
A Sketchy Life

by Rhoda Draws

La Parroquia is the most iconic structure in San Miguel, the signature image for our charming and historic town. Viewed from the front or the back, above or below, at high noon or sunset, La Parroquia is marvelous to behold. Even if it is just one element in a grander scene, La Parroquia commands our attention.

It can be the backdrop for a group of parasol-wielding tourists, or serve as a canvas for special-effects lighting. It's also a setting for a glamour photo, here with dancer Rasa Vitalia.

As an Urban Sketcher, I am drawn to drawing La Parroquia again and again. I sketch it from different points of view, in different media, with or without balloon vendors in the foreground.

When I teach Sketching Fast & Loose workshops in San Miguel, I often use La Parroquia to demonstrate techniques for simplifying a complex subject. First, choose how much of the church to include in a drawing. Remembering that “less is more,” I focus on one of the two side sections. A few strokes to indicate a palm tree, the terra-cotta wall or bronze statue can serve as “seasoning” for the main dish.

Here's a sketch that features the tower on the right, as you face the church, and also includes most of the remaining structures in less detail. There is also less contrast as I fade out on the left. The result is a strong focal point on the right, and softer focus in the less important sections. Not a bed way to imitate the way we look at things in real life: focus on the interesting part, and the rest is peripheral.

I encourage my students to give up accuracy in favor of capturing the essence of a subject in as few strokes as possible. It is helpful to see La Parroquia as a collection of tall peaks, pointy arches and thin cylinders.

One of my favorite ways to begin a sketch is with a “blind” stroke. That simply means not looking down at your paper, but keeping your eyes fixed on the subject. Here's an example of a couple of blind strokes that I made looking at the church, along with the finished sketch.

My basic sketching kit contains a Micron .08 black waterproof pen, a flexible or brush-tip black pen and a handful of aquarelle (water-soluble) colored pencils. A special brush with a hollow barrel for water allows me to create watercolor effects without the need for a traditional watercolor setup. A sketchbook with Mixed Media weight and texture is best for working with both wet and dry media.

The luscious colors of La Parroquia in full sunlight require sketching with some warm pinks and oranges.

My attitude about accuracy in color is pretty much the same as my opinion about form and structure: reality is just a suggestion. This colorful sketch, labelled “muy rapido”, was done in about 5 minutes. In addition to pink and orange, I included red and purple. The cool greens of the palm tree and rather abstract bronze statue contrast well with the warm colors of the church.

Here is my impression of a view from the terrace of the Baja Fish Taquito restaurant at Mesones 11B. La Parroquia appears as only one of several elements. I created the first stage with a multi-colored rainbow pencil. Aquarelle pencils and black pens helped to develop the final drawing.

I might not even have known about this great view of Centro if not for the Urban Sketchers of San Miguel. We are the local chapter of a world-wide phenomenon whose slogan is “show the world, one drawing at a time.” The SMA Urban Sketchers gather to sketch every Tuesday from about noon to 1:30. Each venue is announced via email on the previous Sunday. There is no fee to join or attend a session. Everyone works in his or her own style, with any medium, and there is no instruction or critique. We have a “throwdown” at the end, with everyone tossing their sketchbooks down on the ground so we can easily see each others work. We take a group photo, too, and post our work on the group's FaceBook page.

OK, one last sketch of La Parroquia....just to remind you that you can return to the same subject over and over again and every sketch will be unique. Or, as Heraclitus put it, “you can't step into the same river twice.”

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Rhoda Draws (that's her legal name since 2009), teaches Sketching “Fast & Loose” classes in San Miguel and other locations. Rhoda offers a series of three classes most every week from 10:00am to 1:00pm devoted to sketching THINGS (Thursdays), PLACES (Fridays) and PEOPLE (Saturdays). Take all three sessions for a well-rounded introduction to Sketching Fast & Loose. For more information, contact rhodadraws@gmail.com, or visit her website: www.rhodadraws.com.

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