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Mesoamerican Clay Figurines at the MBAM

March 20, 2018

There’s a little side-room in the permanent collection at MBAM where they keep some cultural artifacts from Mesoamerica. They don’t get as much traffic as the big shows. It’s easy to pass right by them on the way to something more ‘exciting’.

My favorite display case has three small shelves of tiny clay figurines. They’re small – smaller than the palm of your hand.

I didn’t read too much about them – we were just sketching and chatting. But it’s most likely they’re fertility wishes. Something someone would make and say a prayer for conception or a safe childbirth.

Any anthropologists out there can chime in on what these are all about? (Jennifer? are you reading?)

I’ve really been enjoying tiny little sketches lately. I have no time right now – life is a bit crazy – and it’s one way to keep going with not-really-daily-drawing.

There’s no watercolor allowed in our art gallery exhibits, so they’re simple pencil drawings, which I tinted later on.

I would call this tinting approach – “Puddle and Poke”.

Make a wet shape with a base tone that fills the entire figure (minus the highlights) and touch-in contrasting (cool) color washes. Then – as things begin to dry down – add some small darker accents with pure pigment. Sometimes these are tiny dots or dashes of pigment – like the eyes and mouth on the mask-like heads below.

I love the free interpretation in these figurines. It would be fun to make some of these.

Maybe I’ll get out some polymer clay someday and play around with some arcane little characters!


12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2018 1:56 PM


  2. Bev permalink
    March 20, 2018 2:26 PM

    Great sketches I love that you have a painterly approach to urban sketching , very inspiring

  3. March 20, 2018 3:43 PM

    Love the idea of puddle and poke. Sounds so friendly and fun (little loving pokes at least!)

  4. Robert Glazauskis permalink
    March 20, 2018 3:52 PM

    I’ve only known about you for about 9 or so months Marc from taking a couple of your craftsy classes and reading your urban sketching books and these interesting Citizen Sketcher posts. But I have really learned a lot of new things from you and love your approach to things.

  5. March 20, 2018 4:01 PM

    These are great Marc, very lively and fresh.. I love how you capture life!

  6. Carol permalink
    March 20, 2018 6:51 PM

    love your figurative work

  7. Isy Falkner permalink
    March 20, 2018 7:20 PM

    What wonderful figurines. And thank you for the puddle and poke method – love it!

  8. joantav permalink
    March 20, 2018 9:04 PM

    These are so loose and wonderful!

  9. Judy Parker permalink
    March 20, 2018 9:38 PM

    Marc….these are fabulous
    You are a real inspiration.

  10. March 21, 2018 2:21 AM

    love the term. puddle and poke. :) love that you are finding a way to keep sketching in the middle of madness

  11. March 21, 2018 3:29 PM

    Good to see how you keep your painting rolling by scaling it down. Love the idea of making some of these in clay too….good plan…then paint those :-)

  12. Ingrid Hajek permalink
    March 25, 2018 2:07 AM

    Although on a completely different continent I feel reminded on the venus from Willendorf/Austria ( That’s interesting.

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