Water in the high desert of New Mexico where I live is a precious, non-abundant resource. It is for me a necessity to get to the ocean whenever possible to get my water fix. I have been heading south of the border in winter since 1997 when I first landed in Baja. I recall thinking as I was seeing it from the air for the first time how it looked just like the high desert except it had an ocean. I knew I would love it here, and couldn’t wait to create a series of original art paintings of Baja.
Baja is not the lush, tropical part of Mexico.
It is very much desert with areas near water that are more lush and fertile. It is a long narrow peninsula with the Pacific ocean on the west side, and the Sea of Cortez on the east side. Running down the middle between these two coasts are the huge Sierra de La Laguna mountains. I would park for as long as possible in the small coastal village of Todos Santos, which means All Saints. It was founded in 1724 as a Jesuit mission, and in the late 1800’s became a prosperous cane-milling town producing a dark sugar called “panocha.” Todos Santos is a charming village rich in history and culture that attracts many artists, and an ideal place to buy Baja art. You will find all the wonderful art and crafts made by the Mexican people as well as beautiful paintings of Baja by the local artists. I always brought an extra bag that came home stuffed full with Mexican blankets, pottery and assorted colorful textiles.
I am a total fan of Mexican culture, food, art and the people.
They are warm, family oriented and always have a smile for you. They always seem to be celebrating something(lots of Saints) with music, dance and food. Todos Santos is big on art festivals that include both the locals and the many transplanted gringos. Attending one of these festivals is fun with a great atmosphere, and a perfect place to buy artwork of Mexico. Mexicans are very open to negotiating prices with you, but it is important to be respectful and not offer bottom dollar. They are hard working people who take much pride in all the beautiful arts and crafts they have made. Even if you pay the full price asking price, it is always less than what you would pay in the USA. There are numerous working studios set up by both Americans and Mexicans where you can stroll in and meet the artist at work. Most of these artists are living there because they truly love the area, and this passion shows in their work. You will pay more if you want to buy original art from these artists, but you will get something special.
Life in this small coastal fishing village is so utterly sweet and simple.
Life in America has become so stressed and complicated, and you forget how sweet a simple life can be. I was extremely content being surrounded by beautiful colors, good, simple food and the ocean. I often wondered why I ever wanted anything more.
Baja is wonderful because of all the diversity between the mountains, and the differences on both coasts.
You can drive across Baja in a few hours, and explore some mountain villages along the way that are famous for their crafts. The west coast with the Pacific ocean beckons to surfers and wave lovers while the east coast appeals to wind-surfers and deep sea fishermen. All of this fabulous diversity is a paradise for any painter or photographer. The open air markets are paintings waiting to happen with all their colorful food and products, while old painted doors, framed in cascading bougainvillea, lead to lush tropical gardens, and the dusty roads take you past giant cactus to the tops of mountains for electric sunsets over the ocean. In short, there is no lack of inspiration here from which to create Baja art. I still have piles of sketches and photos so that I can continue to paint Baja even when I cannot be there. It is a magical place that will keep calling you back.