My watercolor sketches from the streets of Oaxaca Mexico

Sketching the streets of Oaxaca

I spent nearly a year and a half years wandering, photographing and sketching the streets of Oaxaca Mexico. I was never short of visual inspiration, from the brightly colored cinder blocks buildings to the dilapidated but timeless colonial masterpieces.

Watercolor sketch of a colonial building in Oaxaca Mexico with graffiti on the wall

The watercolor and ink digital process

During this period I experimented with new techniques that combined my traditional drawing and painting skills with my digital tools (the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil).

A simple photograph or quick sketch never seemed to fully capture the feelings of the streets so I started to integrate color and texture. I developed a technique that combined my sketches with watercolor washes using the ProCreate App.

My digital art process

I first started with a sketch or photograph as reference then scanned in a series of watercolor washes and textures I had made. I would overlay the sketch and manipulate the size, position and sometimes color of the main watercolor texture underneath. I then burned or dodged areas of the textures to creating shadows or tonal differences.

Iteration & exploration

I loved this process and often would change out the textures and adjust the colors experimenting with different compositions. Many times I would end up with half a dozen versions until I settled on the final pieces of art.

Watercolor sketch of a colonial church in Oaxaca Mexico by Joseph Kiely

My Oaxaca inspirational photographs

Whenever something grabbed my attention on my way to the markets or Spanish class I would snap a picture. As time went by I became more fascinated with the side streets then the touristic areas – they seemed more authentic to me.

Finding inspiration in the every day

When you leave your home town and go live a new city, experience a new culture and adapt to a new lifestyle suddenly your ordinary life and surroundings become extraordinary and a source of inspiration. As time passes we often loose that inspiration and have to work harder to re-disocver it.

For me Oaxaca never lost its charm and still calls me back to it’s colorful streets, delicious restaurants and crumbling buildings. It makes me wonder… are there places in the world that are a permanent spring of creative inspiration?