[By Marc Taro Holmes in Montreal, CA] Every so often an inspiring project is brought to my attention. The Capillas of San Miguel de Allende: A Legacy of Faith by Lorie Topinka and Linda Whynman is exactly the kind of sketching narrative that I love to hear about.
Their book is an excellent resource for anyone inspired to try an off-the-beaten-path sketching adventure near San Miguel, Mexico.
I was pleased to get a copy from Lorie, and am excited to give everyone a peek inside.
Some time ago, these two painters began a personal project to visit and paint as many of the local Capillas as possible. They have taken their 'treasure hunt' for these historic brick and plaster chapels and expanded it into an informative guide for other travelling sketchers.
I have to admire their unflagging motivation to explore the area around San Miguel. It's a kind of self-appointed artistic obsession that I always enjoy on my own. It's great to see what other artists latch onto. This kind of painting series is such a great way to learn first hand about a region and its rich cultural heritage.
I feel like the current growth of field sketching as a past-time in North America and beyond is creating a growing interest in this sort of project. Half art book, and half guide book. I hope to see more of these 'passion projects' over the next few years.
The authors showcase their own favorite sketches, collected over months of travelling back roads. At the same time, they give us some historical background and little bit of local color for each of the individual monuments, and most importantly - there are maps! So that other sketchers, history buffs, and visitors to San Miguel can follow in their footsteps and experience these fascinating locations.
Many of the sites look to be half way between restored, and on their way to ruin. Some of these will be brought back into use by the community, but I'm sure over time, others of them will vanish. Making this guide is an interesting document of a time and place that may one day be lost.
The book is 95 pages, with dozens of illustrations and photographs. Chapters are divided, like most tour guides, into a one day highlights tour, and shorter trips to specific destinations. As well, it has a most intriguing bonus chapter on Hidden Capillas. Places that are not marked on any map, or visible from roads.
The authors offer a few clues to finding these spots, but I think, for these hidden gems, would-be artist/adventurers would need a comfort level with being lost, a good knowledge of Spanish, and willingness to talk to the locals about gaining access. Perhaps there is a future in the San Miguel sketchers offering tours? Who knows!
You can order the book from Amazon via their Create Space publishing program.
As well, you can find our more about the authors, and the region, at their website: CapillasMA.org .
Also, on an only partially related topic, if you were serious about a trip to the area, you might follow Urban Sketchers San Miguel de Allende on Facebook.