Who among us doesn’t think about giving up the high life of coastal OC for a simpler, more inspired, peaceful, more affordable, and less harried life? Jill Logan, an accomplished artist who used to paint daily for hours in her Laguna Canyon studio, did just that almost 20 years ago.
She gave up Laguna Beach for magical Todos Santos, the gem of a coastal fishing, agriculture and surfing town near the tip of the Baja Peninsula.
This wasn’t flight driven by disgust with higher taxes, weird new laws or regulations, or a sense that everything was getting more crowded and less special – the things that are driving some to flee our state these days.
Rather, it was a response to the pull of the soul, and to the irresistible siren song of a sleepy, friendly and unassuming 300-year-old town on the cusp of a cultural awakening.
“In 1994, I spent three months alone here on a painting sabbatical,” says Logan. “I rented a small casita on a hill overlooking the town, the surrounding mountains that frame it, and the Pacific from a local Mexican woman. I didn’t know Spanish. But I fell in love with who I was on my own here. I finished 32 paintings and wrote 150 pages of a memoir before returning to Laguna.”
In 1998, she returned to co-star in a new Festival of Arts that featured 14 artists from Mexico City and Tijuana, and two other American painters.
The hook was set.
Soon after, she found a rental in Todos Santos that would become her new home and gallery in a prime location next to the Hotel California in the middle of town.
Nineteen years after her first visit, Logan is a fixture there, painting what she savors about Todos Santos: the long, sparsely developed beaches along the Pacific; the brilliant and stunning sunsets; the mix of coastal mountains, ocean outcrops and desert landscape; the abundant groves of palms, mangos, papayas, and avocados; the gardens; and notable structures that reflect the arc of daily life there.
It’s a rich, natural and largely untouched palate, perfectly set along the Tropic of Cancer, where temperatures are more moderate than nearby Cabo or La Paz.
“The magic starts with the crystal-clear air that artists prize, and which creates amazing light and shadows everywhere, any time of the day,” she says.
Life has always been simpler for Logan in Todos Santos, and better with each passing year.
In the last two decades, an artistic renaissance has blossomed, gradually leading to a flowering of galleries, handicraft shops, upscale restaurants, coffee shops, boutique hotels, and organic marketplaces.
Think of early Santa Fe with dusty roads, potholes and telephone and utility lines everywhere now growing into a prized Mexican cultural center for accomplished native and American artists.
In fact, Todos Santos has been designated one of 20 “Pueblos Magicos” by the Mexican government. It recognizes towns that possess historical, cultural and architectural significance and the unique value they offer to the tourism industry.
With the recognition has come a flow of federal funding to complete a four-lane highway that speeds visitors and commerce to and from Cabo in 45 minutes. It will also fund the undergrounding of phone and electrical lines, and the installation of cobblestones on the main streets in town.
“From my first days here, I sold my work and have been very successful. I knew Todos Santos would become the next Santa Fe with a Hispanic bent. It has. I trusted that feeling, and have never regretted my decision.”
Still, she misses “movie theaters, a wider range of culture, my children and grandchildren. I don’t miss the traffic, television or the obsessive consumerism.”
And what about those big, scary things casting a cloud on American perceptions of life in Mexico these days?
“I have lived alone here for 17 years with no problems,” she says. “I feel very comfortable and safe. I have a number of single women friends. There’s a large community of interesting retirees from many places. We have some petty theft, but no serious crime. No cartels or drug lords.
“I’ve been hospitalized here three times, and the care was exceptional. And so was the price. A fraction of what you pay in the U.S. There are great doctors here who speak English, and who exhibit great care and concern. I’ve never felt like a number to be rushed.”
By all appearances, Logan’s a successful and celebrated pioneer.
Her gallery, which she now owns, is beautiful. She is prolific, with a deep client base of repeat buyers, and a steady flow of visitors who are attracted to her distinctive style and her bright and colorful and sometimes whimsical interpretations of this special place.
She longs for more time to paint, and fewer demands of managing her gallery. But she also says that owning her own gallery lets her “meet the world,” and develop a more personal relationship with her customers.
When we last spoke, Logan was on a road trip up the West Coast and into Canada – and then to Utah to visit her mother.
She loves returning, but her heart and home are in Todos Santos.
Where to shop for art
Jill Logan Gallery
Where to eat
Café Santa Fe
Where to stay
Los Posada La Poza
Where to have a drink at sunset
The Rooftop of Guayacura Boutique Hotel