Tuesday, August 15, 2006

19th July - Chilis and a big elephant butt

Kathy contrejour against the Cochise Stronghold (Tombstone, Arizona)
pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
I laughed out loud when I came up with the title of this post. (Don't you just wilt at the extent to which we are sometime amused by our own humour?!) The explanation is further down the page..........

The view from my motel bedroom door
We woke on Wednesday morning to that sort of light high cloud you often get after a big rainstorm. From my open motel door I could see straight across to the dip in the Dragoon Mountains where the Cochise Stronghold is - and which is where, after he retired, Cochise lived, died and was buried.

You can read more about the activities of Cochise and the local Apache Indians during the mid-nineteenth century of on this very informative website. Did you know that Cochise means 'Hard Wood' in Chirachua Apache language? I didn't realise until we got home that Tombstone is located in Cochise County.

The air was very fresh at 6.30am and the humming birds were feeding on the verandah - and I managed to get a photo of one!

Humming bird feeding from sugar water
At breakfast, I sketched Kathy "contrejour" (which for those unfamiliar with the term term means 'against the daylight').  I really got carried away with the alliteration in the note which says "Kathy contrejour at Cochise Stronghold!

Kathy wishes to point out that I've aged her and got the chin wrong and that it doesn't have any hint of a companion. I wish to point out that getting any sort of sketch done in 15 minutes while eating breakfast means you're apt to get it a bit wrong, especially when your involuntary model will insist on eating, talking and drinking her tea! :)

I spent a lot of time in the car with the coloured pencils trying for an optical mixing effect to get the colours I wanted - with some success. I should point out that drawing contre jour means that her skin tone is supposed to be on the bluey purple side! There again I was trying for some unity of colour with the very bluey purple colour of the distant mountains!

Into New Mexico
pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Soon after we left Tombstone (on I-80 and then I-10) we crossed the border into New Mexico and needed to adjust our watches by an hour for the change in time zone.

This sketch, done in my Moleskine while driving, is what it looked like as we crossed over the border and travelled alongside more spectacular rock formations from a massive uplift millions of years ago. You get a new perspective on things when surrounded by so much evidence of ancient rock all the time.

We left I-10 at Deming and travelled up Highway 26 to Hatch - the home of a friend of Louise and her husband - and the hot chili capital of the world with 30,000 acres of cultivated pods. It was very, very hot - over 100 degrees - but by then the record-breaking hot weather of the summer of 2006 had started so in retrospect that wasn't entirely surprising.

Hanging Deer, Elk and a Ristra @ La Cocina in Truth and Consequencespencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
After a visit with Louise's friend and armed with information about where was best to eat we headed up the Rio Grande valley on I-25 to Truth or Consequences for lunch at La Cocina. I can't remember what I had to eat but I do remember that I was asking less about what all the names of the different Mexican food items actually meant! Louise introduced us all to sopaidillas. I've included a link below for a review below which is pretty accurate.

During lunch, I sketched the things hanging up in the restaurant that I could see from where I sat - a ristra of chilis, a deer and an elk. A ristra is a bunch of chilis which have been tied on to a string and hung up. They can be edible (rehydrated when popped in water) or treated for decorative purposes. They dry to this amazing deep purpley crimson colour. This was a really BIG one. I've included a link at the end to a place in Hatch which makes chili ristras.

You might think hunting was a big sport in the area - until you saw the number of boats in town........in the middle of a desert area.

Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico
I'd spotted what looked like a lake on the map and insisted we had a quick diversion to go and look at the view (I like views!) Our jaws all collectively dropped when we saw the size of the lake. It was huge and took six photos to get a panorama shot!

This was Elephant Butte Lake which turns out to be the largest reservoir in New Mexico.  It obviously hosted a wide variety of water-based activities. I've always had a problem with the promunciation of buttes and mesas ever since I first learned about them in a geography lesson. Let's just say my pronunciation of butte in the UK causes much less hilarity than in the USA where it sounds like 'butt'. This is already a long post so I'll just make it a bit longer by quoting from the New Mexico Tourism people about the nature and origins of the lake
The name "Elephant Butte" was derived from the eroded core of an ancient volcano, now an island in the reservoir, in the shape of an elephant. Elephant Butte Reservoir, created by a dam constructed in 1916 across the Rio Grande, is 40 miles long with more than 200 miles of shoreline. Although constructed to provide for irrigation and flood control, the lake is New Mexico’s premier water recreation facility.

Over 100 million years ago, the area was part of a vast shallow ocean. Once the sea receded, the area was the favorite hunting ground of the tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur. Evidence of the Rex, the largest land-dwelling predator of all time, and other species of dinosaur have been discovered in area rock formations.
We then headed on up the Rio Grande valley to Albuquerque - and the CPSA Convention.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,
, , , , , , , , ,


  1. Huh, and I always thought the way you Brits said things was funny. Now you must know how we feel here on the other side of the pond! Could you say "garage" and "schedule" for me? Always worth a giggle . . .

    Seriously, I do like your road sketch the best of these here. You've got such a nice sense of vastness.

  2. As Sargent surely said, ' A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the chin ;D.' And then there's his 'Every time I paint a portrait, I lose a friend.' I do hope you've kept a few friends from your exhausing Western tour. I'm very impressed at how much you got done, though--I find it so hard to travel with other people. They have their own ideas about what to do!!! Annoying creatures, those other people ;D. Kidding, of course. My favorite here is the restaurant interior sketch, with the mounted heads and the chilis. Your beautiful way with texture and color are really highlighted in this one.

  3. Thanks for the comments

    Hi Maggie - I'll practice 'schedule' for when I next see you as in 'my schedule has you picking me up from the airport!' ;)

    Thanks Laura. When you're in a car for four days with three other people in a lot of heat you all work very hard to keep a lid on irritations - both 'being' and 'feeling'! I know we did. Kathy and Louise both know me very well and Gordon became a big chum during the course of the trip. They all know that sketching is my passion - and their permission has been given for all sketches shown. I think the only images we've drawn a veil over so far is what Louise's white pants looked like after she sat on a pastel - and anything which reveals too much Rubens influence in anybody's profile!

  4. It is so fun touring the US through your eyes. Our "common" language can sure be a problem sometimes. Heh, heh. Our bisquits are quite different from yours, etc.

    Your sketches have inspired me, it is something I'm working hard at doing well.

    Thanks for sharing all your wealth of information and fun.



I always check identities and ALL links in comments for spam.

Due to excessive attempts to introduce spam via comments on this blog, I've introduced a regime where all comments with links in the ID or text to the websites of hotels/resorts/tourist destinations will NOT be approved and are deleted. The websites of repeat spammers are also reported to Google.

Nice, sensible people who are not new to blogging probably don't need to read my Comments Policy