“The kids just show up. I never know how many or who will come, but each class is at the same time on a certain day each week,” says artist-instructor and outdoor painter Jolyn Wells-Moran about her art classes in Mexico. Children she has never seen before hear about it and drop in, for a total of anywhere from three to 18 students per class. She doesn’t charge, there’s no registration, the students range from four years old to 15, and Wells-Moran has never met their parents.
The kids get themselves to and from her casita in the small pueblo (village) of Pescadero (fisherman) in the state of Baja Sur. She sets up tables and chairs on her patio with all the materials they’ll need for plein air painting lessons and waits with a lesson plan to see who her students will be that week. She says that sometimes a few of the kids just stop by, sometimes to get pencil or paint and, at other times, asking to stay and get an impromptu lesson. Wells-Moran says she tries to accommodate them if and when she can. They tell her that they’re bored, and she’s pleased to fill that need with painting, the one passion she’s held throughout life.
The structure is much like an adult painting workshop in the U.S., but Wells-Moran’s Spanish is somewhat limited, and the kids speak very limited English, so she has to look up many of the particular words needed to describe concepts, tools, and methods. A gringa (non-Mexican) friend sometimes translates. “It can be a circus at times, especially if there are any two kids who are wound up and we’re all struggling with language comprehension and a complex topic, but I mostly stick to perspective, composition, color, and values. Overall, though, I’ve been amazed at their seriousness about the art and their focus on it,” says Jolyn. One thing she hasn’t been surprised by, though, is their joy and excitement in plein air painting. After all, she loves it too. “Many of these kids have made real progress. I see it all the time, often even when natural talent hasn’t been apparent at the outset.”
“We use tempera paints and white butcher paper as our main materials. Quality art materials are difficult to come by here. The subjects are still lifes that I set up, the natural environment or objects of a natural origin set on a table,” reports Wells-Moran. She says there isn’t much opportunity for the arts in the pueblo’s schools, and most of the kids wouldn’t be able to pay for classes, but the rewards are inherent. “Those proud and happy smiles when they hang their works in ‘Galeria Pescadero’ (my clothesline) are some of my happiest days.”
Jolyn Wells-Moran, PhD, is a full-time artist and has been teaching in Mexico since 2015. She has been visiting and living in Pescadero part-time for more than a decade, and otherwise resides in Shoreline, Washington. She shows her work in galleries, juried shows, and other venues, and has won local and international awards. She focuses on plein air and studio landscape oil painting, intent on capturing “the spirit of nature.” Her website is jwellsmoran.com.