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I was 15 when I first visited my homeland for the first time. My mother’s stories and media like “Coco” had familiarized me with aspects of my Mexican culture, but this didn’t compare to seeing it in person. One of the things that stood out to me the most from my two-month excursion was the Hacienda-style homes in Guanajuato. The neon and pastel tones were beautiful expressions of individuality, life, and joy. Now my mother’s insistence on hand painting our living room in the bright pastel blue shades and the light-colored yellow tones of my childhood bedroom (however tacky they might have seemed at the time) made sense.
Because of the complex variations in color, lighting, and texture in landscapes like Veracruz and Guanjuato (note the deep purple stones of the bridge versus the bright bushy tops of the trees), I often use underpaintings to guide my work. Underpaintings are monochromatic compositional base layers that help match color values, create tonal foundations, and add warmth and unity to a piece.
In this underpainting, I used diluted Winsor and Newton Burnt Umber (oil paint mixed with Linseed oil, a fast drying paint medium) to map out the various shades prior to beginning the painting. I added more linseed oil to areas with more light (like the rightmost edge of the dome) and added more paint to deepen dark shades (like the edge of the mountain tops and the shadows looming over the water below the bridge). Although I never did get around to finishing this painting, this and the watercolor piece (both of which currently hang in my mother’s room) serve as a reminder of my family’s cultural ties and the complex beauty of Mexican architecture.
— Katherrin A. Billordo ’26’s column, Corazón, is a painting/sculptural series that depicts and explains aspects of her lived Hispanic-American experience and the technical artistic decisions behind the pieces.
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