DBW1As you will read, Donald Bruce Wright’s road to becoming a painter started later in life. His story and experiences in Mexico will inspire you. He’s a great example of what happens when you stay open to all possibilities.-dek


You were the first oil painter here at 360 Xochi Quetzal. Give us some background about your development as an artist, and your influences.

dbw2Making art is something that I have come to later in life. Despite having a very successful business career, I found myself feeling miserable in my 40’s.  With some professional help, I uncovered the fact that I had been repressing an interest in the creative arts.  Then, in an introductory drawing class, I also discovered that I might actually have some artistic talent.  I began taking classes, more and more over time, which eventually led me to graduate art school, where I focused on oil painting.  Since graduating in 2007, I have been working to develop my voice as an artist and find what place I want to occupy in the art world.   In this exploration, I have produced two very different series of works – one of complex narratives aimed at the collector market using realism,the figure and supporting iconography; and the other aimed at the decorator market creating unconventional, modern interpretations of a conventional, traditional subject: the still life.

My influences for these two lines of work have been very different.  All the artists whose work I admire have  strong technical skills in common. For the figurative work, I have studied both modern and classical masters.  Modern favorites include Vincent Desiderio, Odd Nerdrum, JulioLarraz, Edward Hopper, Komar and Melamid, and Neo Rauch.  Among the classical masters, my favorites are Reubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio – I especially love the Baroque era for the depiction of drama and intensity.

dbw3For inspiration in my contemporary still life inventions, I must first genuflect at the feet of Picasso.  His innovations remain fresh and exciting all these years later, as do the creations of Stuart Davis, whose work has a deceptively simple elegance.  I also try to channel the energy and fun embedded in the work of Elizabeth Murray.  David Bates is another modern favorite as is Amy Sillman for her color choices.  Actually, I am constantly coming across interesting work that affects how I want topaint.The latest artist whose work I have embraced for instruction is an accomplished Mexican painter based in San Miguel de Allende named Mariló Carral.  She uses color brilliantly and her mark-making vernacular is very interesting.

Sometimes the residency plan changes once the artist arrives. How did you spend the residency and how different was that from your original plan?

dbw4I wound up spending half of my time very differently than I had expected.  On the first Friday of the residency, my wife and I were waiting for a table at the wonderful restaurant in Ajijic called Tango.  We were admiring the art prints displayed on the walls all around the restaurant.  The senior partner in the group that owns the restaurant approached me and we struck up a conversation about the art.  One topic led to another, including the fact that I was an artist, and he asked to see samples of my work.  The next day he and his business partner decided that they wanted to make prints of ten of my paintings and put them in the restaurant for sale.  I spent many hours with them over the next few weeks proofing the work and getting it ready for hanging in the restaurant.   Through this process, I learned a lot about making giclée prints.

The rest of the time in Chapala was spent exactly as I had planned: painting new work in the studio.  I was very pleased that by the end of the residency, despite having spent so much time on the print project, I had also created two strong new paintings in my invented still life series.

6a0133ed05424c970b01b8d09776cf970c-320wiOur program welcomes partners and you spent half the residency with your wife who is also an artist. How was that for you and for her?

It was wonderful to have her there for the first half of the residency.   Adventures are always more fun when we can share them together.  Since Leslie couldn’t work on her fiber art while she was visiting, she indulged her creative needs by taking photographs.   Leslie takes lots of macro shots of nature for inspiration.  While I’m often looking at broader vistas, Leslie is noticing and documenting what’s beautiful and interesting close-up.   She really enjoyed the two weeks we had together in Chapala.

What were some of the highlights of the residency for you? What parts were hard for you?

One of the highlights was obviously the validation I felt when the owners of the Tango Restaurant, embraced my new work and asked to include it on their walls.  Regardless of whether those prints sell or not, this expression of interest confirmed for me that my new series of work has strong appeal and that I am heading in the right  direction.  I also really enjoyed the simplicity of my life while I was in the residency.  That is what a residency should be all about.  It was wonderful to be able to focus on little else but making art for weeks on end.  Would that life were that simple at home.

What else can you share about your residency experience? What advice would you give to other applicants?

dbw6It was surprising how easy it was to get to Chapala.  With the airport just thirty minutes away in Guadalajara, the trip in and out was easy.  I was also surprised that there were not more visitors in the town and more development around the lake, given that Guadalajara, a city with a metropolitan population of over  four million,  is only half an hour away.  In a comparable situation in the U.S. or Canada, the lake would be packed with second homes and small towns.

One thing I would say to those who might consider applying for the residency is that you have to be prepared for how rough around the edges it can be in Mexico.  It’s not for people who require their environs to be polished.  My wife and I visit Mexico regularly and we are very comfortable there.  But, I can think of many friends and relatives who would have trouble seeing past the coarseness that can be part of life there, especially in the poorer sections.  I always find that when I first arrive in Mexico, all I see is its coarseness.  But very quickly that disappears and then all I see are its charms and intrinsic beauty.  That is what brings us back over and over again.


We were new to Mexico and had no idea what to expect from the Residency or Chapala. Both were delightful! I was able to work successfully on two projects that have been germinating for some time, and also enjoy the friendly, lovely and accessible town with its many colors and flavors. Our casita was comfortable, spacious and nicely furnished. It included a studio, patio and a private balcony perfect for an end-of-day cocktail. Deborah, Christian and colleagues were the perfect hosts who fostered a very satisfying creative experience in an environment that was at once stimulating and restful. Muchisimas gracias!

Diana Leidel, Visual Artist Brooklyn, NY

Our residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal was more than we had hoped for! The time and space to work, think, and explore–without deadlines or requirements–opened up our practice in a way we had not imagined. The town is lovely, easy to navigate, with everything within walking distance. The locals were so welcoming; we felt at home right away. Our accommodations in Lopez Cotilla were clean, comfortable and allowed both of us to have our own studio space. We really enjoyed quiet evenings on the patio watching the sun set over beautiful Chapala and meet ups with the other residents. Muchisimas gracias!

Suzanne Stroebe, Artist Bernard Cousins, Musician Brooklyn, NY

After a beautiful and adventurous journey from Europe, we found ourselves in a taxi descending the hills of Sierra de San Juan Cosala with the full moon reflected in the lake. The word “magia and maravilla” crossed my mind and I got goose bumps.

Chapala is indeed a magical place, colourful, charming and very safe with friendly people everywhere. We were blown away by the bird life, vegetation, architecture, which are so different from ours in Hungary.

Our casita was a for us: comfortable, well-equipped and authentically Mexican. The Residency Handbook answered all our questions before we even asked them. Cobra and Christian are very attentive and kind, and their hospitality was unmatchable.

Zsuzsa and Istvan visual artists from Hungary, Europe

As painting and writing residents during 2017, we both would like to thank you for the opportunity to be able to focus and collaborate on a project, entitled Immigrants. We had been thinking about it, had discussed it, but never quite got around to doing it until this residency. The atmosphere, encouragement, feedback and like-mindedness of all involved in Chapala gave us both the inspiration to move forward.

It was a productive and great experience for us both and we thank you.


Joyce and Hector DeCordova

I visited the 360 Xochi Quetzal Artist Residency in Chapala, Mexico for the entire month of April 2017.  It was a perfect retreat for me.  I loved watching the cowboys ride in on their horses.  My work flourished, inspired by the other visiting artists and the tranquil nature of the town.  I went to Ajijic and attended figure drawing and portrait sessions up to three times per week.  I made new friends and felt encouraged in my writing and art making.  I am so glad I had a chance to participate in this program. Chapala is a perfect place to get your work done with little distraction.

Anna Roach, Mixed Media-Seattle,WA

360 Xochi Quetzal was my first residency and I loved every bit of it. The opportunity to get away and single-task toward my writing instead of routinely multitasking was priceless. My studio was cute, clean, and well-equipped. Deborah and Sandra were very approachable, helpful, and I loved connecting with fellow-residents from different disciplines too. Most of all, the location of our residence across from the Malecón buzzing with artisans, vendors and restaurants offered to me just the right balance of isolation toward focused work and a community around. I hope to return soon.

Namrata Poddar, Writer-California

My time in Chapala was pivotal for me as a writer. You can’t understand the effect Chapala has until you arrive. Its splashes of color, rhythms and scenic beauty will inspire you. Scribbling away at Café Paris, locals ambling by, a cool glass of beer sweating on the table… I felt like Hemingway. This residency gave all that to me and more. It is a gift I continue to cherish; a feeling I look back on when in need of encouragement, inspiration, and motivation.

Sean Hammer, Writer – New York City

Everyone comes to the residency for different reasons. For me it was a time to reflect upon this whirlwind past year. I lead a hectic life and often feel like I run from exhibition to exhibition without time for contemplation. I really needed to slow down and think about the next direction for my work. I got that and a lot more! I finished two small projects and reveled in the beautiful environment. I was able see the Monarch butterfly migration and experience an indigenous fiesta with my fellow artists. I left the residency refreshed, with new friends and purpose!

Jenny Angus, Installation Artist - Madison, WI

I had no expectations when I headed to Mexico for a personal residency, and the entire experience was a wonderful surprise. I loved Chapala: its realness, its people, the lake, the restaurants, and especially my casita where I could work outside on the patio. I met wonderful people that made my trip even more enjoyable. I had no agenda as I worked, but I was pondering an exhibition for the following December.  I didn’t realize until I returned home and began working on the show in earnest how beneficial the weeks in Chapala were.  I will certainly return.

Lori Goodman, Artist – Eureka, CA

My personal residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal was wonderfully productive and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a creative project that requires some quiet, focused time.  The casita was lovely – spacious, fully furnished, very clean and stocked.  The residency hosts, Cobra and Christian, are welcoming, fun and engaging.  My casita was steps away from the Malecón and within walking or bike riding to Ajijic.  The locals are friendly and engaging-quick to suggest a favorite taco stand or even invite you to join them for a hike.  I will definitely be back!

Lenna Minion, Writer-Dubai

The 360 Xochi Quetzel Personal Residency Program was a perfect place for me to focus on my children’s book. I wanted an authentic Mexico experience where I would be submersed in the culture and language. Chapala was easy to get around and affordable. The Lopez Cotilla casita was cool, breezy and comfortable. It had everything I needed. I woke up in the morning to hummingbirds buzzing around a tree outside my window. Sunsets were beautiful from the outdoor terrace and an occasional dramatic thunderstorm just to let you know who is really in charge around here. Muchas Gracias!!

Kristin Balouch, Writer-Brooklyn, NY

We have one word to describe the our experience here at 360 Xochi Quetzal, and that is MAGIC! The casita is very spacious, allowing for lots of room to create. It is very comfortable and clean, and has everything you could possibly need for your personal residency. We especially enjoy spending time on the relaxing balcony. Cobra and Chris are available and very helpful. The Residency Handbook in the casita addresses all of our questions in detail and offers suggestions for things to try around the area. You will often hear live music in the early evening from the Malecon. It feels very safe here, and even more secure having the Red Cross right across the street. It has been a wonderful experience, and Kristen and I  would like to return each year.

Orion Kugel, Photographer-New Hampshire

We have one word to describe the our experience here at 360 Xochi Quetzal, and that is MAGIC! The casita is very spacious, allowing for lots of room to create. It is very comfortable and clean, and has everything you could possibly need for your personal residency. We especially enjoy spending time on the relaxing balcony. Cobra and Chris are available and very helpful. The Residency Handbook in the casita addresses all of our questions in detail and offers suggestions for things to try around the area. You will often hear live music in the early evening from the Malecon. It feels very safe here, and even more secure having the Red Cross right across the street. It has been a wonderful experience, and Orion and I would like to return each year.

Kristen Pobatschnig, Painter-New Hampshire
“Applying for the free Winter residency of Xochi Quetzal was the start of many positive transformations. The silence I found for myself during the residency, allowed me not only to write the best last chapter I can write at this stage of my evolution, it also granted me a most sought-after introspection moment during which I read my dreams and studied ancient Eastern writings. The serenity of the lake and presence of other artists inspired me to get mentally ready and organized for my future as a novelist. I am particularly fond of spending the holidays abroad with ‘strangers’. It always infuses me with these wild insights and whims. Our group was just lovely, the artists one by one very interesting. Cobra and Christian are warm and graceful hosts who made life easy. All in all, Xochi Quetzal was a weighty meditation, a poetic experience that carried me through the rest of Mexico in newness and will resonate long after.”
Heidi Souffriau, Writer-Brussels
“I was partly inspired to apply for the Xochi Quetzal residency by The Retro Cocktail Hour — a popular Saturday night radio show on Kansas Public Radio 91.5 that features exotica music (a form of tropical jazz).  My hope was for the palm trees,  lakeside sunrises, and culture of Chapala & Mexico at large to inform my creative process.  These elements did precisely that, and the generous hospitality of Cobra & her partner Christian provided me with a cozy composing environment.”
Note from Staff: Listen to the music created during Andrew’s residency -Winter 2016
Andrew Morgan, Composer-Lawrence, KS

Chapala is a safe, spiritually charged, beautiful place. Wild horses run through town.  It’s a place where you greet strangers on the street.

I walked along the lake in meditation a great deal. I hiked the looming cerro overlooking town. I biked all over the countryside. I wrote, documented, created composed soundscapes utilizing field recordings, and built small maquette light sculptures based on my experiences. I attended traditional temazcals, and sat alone in cathedrals.

It was pivotal for me in a spiritual sense more than a career advancing experience. I’m very grateful for it, and Deborah Kruger is a wonderful advocate to keep in contact with. I truly recommend the residency.

Justin R. Lytle, Sculptor-California

My residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal in summer 2015 was both restorative and productive.  I was inspired by the beautiful studio and the surrounding Chapala  / Jalisco region.  The setting worked well for me in terms of inspiring and completing new work, and learning the history and customs of the area.  The flexible residency requirements allowed an easy engagement with other residents, and encouraged me to participate in Chapala and Guadalajara communities.  There are many contemporary art venues in Guadalajara, which are an easy bus ride from Chapala.

Michael Pribich, Sculptor-New York City

“Not only was this residency situated in one of the most beautifully mystical, culturally resonant, and stimulating settings imaginable, it also managed to be both peaceful and galvanizing: the perfect combination for immersing oneself in a creative project without hesitation or distraction. Deborah and Christian’s home was an oasis. One of my fellow residents remarked to me that “this place has amazing energy for getting work done,” and I wholeheartedly agree: the atmosphere seemed to hum with a low-key, generative productivity, one that helped me get closer than I’d been in many months to actually fully realizing and finishing a long story. I wish I was still there among the bougainvillea, the jade vines, the dogs and the pelicans.”

Suzanne K. Rivecca, Author-San Francisco, CA

Chapala has become my home away from home. The Xochi Quetztal residency is run efficiently. Cobra and her team are friendly, accessible, and professional. My stay in Chapala is enhanced by the personal relationships I have developed with several of the team members. The casita I stay in is very well maintained and fully equipped. The studio area is large and ready for me to engage in art as soon as I arrive.  The weather is always fantastic. The lake, the town(s), the life, the restaurants, the view, the very friendly local people all call me back again and again. I love it!

Zahava Sherez, Sculptor-Oakland, CA

“This was the most work I’ve ever done in a single month in my life. I will never forget what an incredible experience this was and I thank you for honoring me with a residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal. The reference material I gathered throughout the trip to Chapala, Mexico is going to fuel my work for years to come. Thank you for everything! You run an incredible residency program!!!”

Santiago Galeas, Painter-Philadelphia, PA