Cristina Bayliss is an artist who arrived on the Costa Chica for a brief vacation 20 years ago and never left. Originally from the UK, she graduated from Bristol Art School in 1983. After teaching for three years she wisely decided that life was too short to spend disciplining children and moved on. Taking a position as a cook aboard a sailboat landed her in the Virgin Islands where she began selling her watercolors.
The plan was eventually to visit Costa Rica but she decided to wait until after the Rainy season. In the meantime she visited a friend who was teaching English in Mexico City. They made what was to be a brief trip to Zipolite and she stayed on. Although she still loves Zipolite, she says “It was so much nicer when I first arrived… There were no cement buildings, everything was bamboo and palm, this was before the hurricane hit and it was really quite an extraordinary place.” Two years ago she moved a few miles down the coast to San Agustinillo which she says “years ago was kind of a wild place but has evolved into this laid back eco-resort”. Costa Rica is still awaiting her arrival.
To support herself she began doing pen and ink drawings. Some pieces were done as commissions others were photo copied, pasted onto Bristol board and sold as postcards. She was doing portraits, seascapes and pictures of cabanas on the beach. These black and white drawings kept her fed but this is Mexico and Mexico demands color. As she began to paint her approach evolved.
Cristina explains that “When I was in Art school, everything was super realistic. It took coming to Mexico to develop my own style.” Some of her inspiration came from indigenous Mexican artists; other influences are from Persia and the orient. This is particularly evident in the pieces with patterned boarders surrounding her work, like that of a Persian carpet.
There is definitely a theme of “naïve art” flowing through her work. Naïve art tends to flatten the perspective and Cristina says this allows her to include more elements into the painting than would otherwise be possible. In traditional painting or realism, perspective both darkens and diminishes details as objects move out of the foreground. She says “I like to capture the essence or atmosphere of a place through carefully observed detail arranged in a way, which enables the viewer to see more than would be possible in a photograph”. Her horizons are often much higher than they would appear in real life so that she can “fit more in and make it more interesting”.
Her primary medium is water color although she often overpaints certain areas, building up the color to become really vivid. There is a great deal of detail, especially among the flora and fauna, as there would have been in her original pen and ink drawings. Aside from the color and detail what I like best is the movement; many naïve painters tend to create somewhat static compositions. Her birds really are in flight, her palm fronds seem to be swaying in the breeze. The paintings may have a charming whimsical characteristic but this is the work of a serious, classically trained artist.
In the beginning Cristina made annual treks across Mexico from Zipolite to Tulum and from San Cristobel to San Miguel, taking commissions and leaving pieces on consignment. Nowadays she stays closer to home and limits her travels to the state of Oaxaca. In addition to showing in several galleries, Cristina Bayliss takes commissions from private individuals and small businesses. Her work might be reproduced on the menu and server’s aprons in a local restaurant or on postcards depicting a hotel. She sells her original paintings as well as numbered prints and her prolific selection of postcards can be found in several gift stores.
To see samples of her work, find out which galleries she is currently displaying or to arrange a commission, go her website www.cristinabayliss.com. It has a wide sampling of her paintings and they are delightful.
Brooke Gazer operates a bed & breakfast in Huatulco www.bbaguaazul.com