Sunday, August 29, 2021

WORD PAINTINGS #113 - THE LITTLE RED FOX AND A GIFT OF FRESH PEACHES

 
"To deliver oneself up, hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hill, or sea, or desert: to sit still while the sun comes up over the land and fills its silence with light. To pray and work in the morning and to labor in meditation in the evening when night falls upon that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars.  This is a true and special vocation.  There are few who are willing to belong completely tot such silence, to let it soak into their bones, to breathe nothing but silence, and to turn the very substance of their life into a living and vigilant silence."  Thomas Merton
 
29 August 2021 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico)  - 10AM on a quiet Sunday morning - still in bed with my cup of coffee! What a luxury! Peaceful. Memories....

This time next week I will be 82 years of age! How the did this happen?  How did a really naive Chicago girl end up living  the dream of an art life in the high desert of northern New Mexico  for 54 years?  There is a wonderful photographer who lives on Taos Mesa with her two dogs Roxie and Santo.  Almost every evening they walk and she takes photos of the sunsets - the amazing clouds, the weather!  It is her calling to share these amazing photos on Facebook.  Not long ago she posted an image of a dark and stormy sky and I remembered something so deep it was hidden from me for years!

Back in the late fifties/early sixties I worked in the Advertising Department of  Holiday Magazine.  One year their special summer issue was the Rockies featuring a double page spread of a lightening storm over a mountain range - all blues and purples - dramatic!!!  It struck my heart.  I fell in love! That is where I wanted to spend my life - in those mysterious mountains.  At the time I was attending night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Thinking I might want to paint that photo some day I cut it out and saved it in box that traveled with me everywhere through good times and all the surprise twists and turns of a life hard lived.  Life intervened and all my good intentions faded after my marriage and three little babies.

Fast forward many years....a move to Santa Fe in 1967, marriage, divorce - the children grown and gone and a major move to 313 Santistevan Lane, Taos, New Mexico.  A huge yard facing the Pecos Wilderness to the east.  And back beyond the garage a place to sit on a lawn chair  to watch the sun setting over the mountains to the north.  One evening a lightning storm - tremendous wind, the clouds around Taos Mountain turned deep blue and wild purples - flashes of light and brilliant thunder.  There they were!! The mountains in the photo I carried with me for so many years!!!  So struck by this revelation I kept this to myself until I messaged my Facebook friend earlier this month and told her this story.  That memory rose from the deepest part of me and I am still in awe - there are no accidents!
 
Fast forward to this morning...musing on this past month.  My Art Monster reared its ugly head.  Self imposed deadlines, unforseen delays, short tempers - surprise sale...varnishing and framing the painting; timelines - deadlines.  The chaos of my old life came back to haunt me.  A bad case of Monkey Mind took over.  Caught up in the frenzy of striving one more time. FULL STOP!   

At the perfect moment a little red fox appeared in my backyard and a dear friend arrived with a gift of sweet and delicious peaches from Colorado.  Two weeks have passed.  The little fox still lives in the tall grasses and I catch glimpses of her walking around as if she is the new owner.  Put out a big aluminum turkey pan of water for her yesterday and heard her lapping it up about 10pm.  Her surprise arrival makes my heart happy.  The peaches on cereal, ice cream - unforgettable!  I will dream about them this winter!  I can see Taos Mountain from my bed this morning.  One day of absolute perfection earlier this week - huge billowing monsoon clouds and a breathtaking sunset.  Total silence.  Just look - breathe -
 
Silence always brings me back to what is real and beautiful.   Grateful....   

 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

WORD PAINTINGS #112 - DUST DEVILS AND A DOUBLE RAINBOW!

 
12 August 2021 -Llano Quemado, New Mexico - Early Evening view from my front portal - storm has moved off to Eastern foothills.  The sun is coming in low from the West.
             _______________________________________________

15 August 2021 - Low rumblings and grumblings - thunder and dark clouds moving in from the eastern foothills in front of my house.  Weather-wise this past week was one for the books.  Last Monday we were befogged by smoke from wildfires all around us - California, Arizona, Colorado.  The air was heavy and it became hard to breathe!  Muscle aches - itchy red eyes.  It is possible there aren't enough brave firemen in the whole world capable of containing these catastrophes.  We complained of the physical inconvenience, but I can't imagine what it is like for the victims of these fires and the men and women trying to contain them.
 
The air began to clear on Wednesday.  Prayed for rain to dissipate the smoke.  By late Thursday our prayers were answered!  If wishes were fishes....  Skies darkened in the east and wild and wacky winds whipped up a series of dust devils (mini tornadoes of loose sand and soil) beginning on the road in front of my house.  My neighbors big crazy wind-loving dog escaped from his front yard.  He waited on the road; as the little tornadoes began to form he raced with the wind - jaws open and ears flapping running hell-bent toward my house.  When he could go no further he ran back to the road and waited patiently for the next whirlwind to form.  Watched him from the window for about fifteen full speed trips!  Finally exhausted he slowly walked back to his house - Mother Nature definitely delivered some giant chills and thrills for this brave little guy.

The heaviness of the storm lifted and the sun broke through from the west.  Still some dark clouds and then the magic happened - a double rainbow!  For at least an hour, breathless, I went from one window to another in awe of the special effects.  One more marvelous treat at sunset....  a puffy halo of pink clouds over the  peaks of Tres Orejas in the west.  What a day!!  

The mountains and clouds in this new place have me hypnotized.  Below is my most recent painting called Taos Morning Clouds.  The bottom two-thirds of the canvas was completed but did not have a vision to complete the sky.  I was stumped and all progress came to a halt. One morning I walked past my easel still half asleep, raised the window shade and over Taos Mountain monsoon clouds were beginning to form.  Perfection!  Definitely a special gift from my Art Gods!!! 

TAOS MORNING CLOUDS - New 24"x36" - Sold

At least six new paintings in the early stages of completion.  On the easel - Thunderspirit - a  30"x40" monsoon cloud which rose up one afternoon.  Spending
many afternoons sitting on a bench under the portal of my house just watching clouds.  And....a special 20"x20' canvas from a delightful afternoon spent with my daughter Sarah.  These two canvases make me happy!  Sending virtual hugs to Art Friends everywhere!!! DC





Sunday, August 1, 2021

WORD PAINTINGS #111 - THIS HOUSE OF CLOUDS AND BIRDS

1 August 2021 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - Sleepy Sunday afternoon.  Actually a long nap sounds wonderful right now.  Waiting for my yard helpers Gerald and Junior.  These brothers have been helping me keep up landscape appearances for almost 20 years.  Only needed to do the yard once last year - no real monsoon season.  This is so different - rain almost every afternoon for over two weeks.  Heavy blustery thunderstorms.  The roof leaked over the canale out front and water poured in for a couple of hours the other afternoon.  

Beyond grateful for the moisture.  The weeds and grasses are high.  Thinking this is the way it was before people bought their acres and built the few scattered houses in this place.  In a dry year, there is silence.  Now the sounds of weed eaters and mowers give off some very suburban vibes!

The clouds start to pop up behind the mountains early in the morning.  Big window next to my easel with a view of Taos mountain and the surrounding foothills.  Absorbed by my work I forget to look out the window.  When I do turn around - late morning - the view is heart-stopping! Dropping my brushes, I grab my camera sit on the bench under the portal - and try to remember to breathe!!!  Most often the camera sits idle. In awe I watch the clouds form and listen to thunder in the distance.

 
 
By noon the skies darken and the winds start to howl and roar. Mother Nature is in charge.  The ferocity of one storm this week was a great reminder of that simple truth.

Missing my birds today - they are silent - so unusual.  Have they been exhausted by the storms and need to rest? Every morning about 4AM there is the rooster to the East and another to the West side of the house.  Never annoyed to hear them crow - just grateful for another day in this place. They waken the first morning birds. Soon the chorus begins!  One birdsong is so sweet and lyrical I stand still and listen. The other day there was a family of about seven birds perched on the fence in the back.  One of the group got very cackly and it was obvious she was scolding them all (her nestlings?).  There was an "Aw, heck" moment and they all flew away leaving her alone.  She became quiet - they returned and she started in again very noisily letting them have it - they left and did not return!  She was left to cackle on... 

Joyful birdsongs surround the house from morning to dusk.  When night falls the coyotes down by the river start to sing.  How many days have I failed to look at the sky? How many beautiful days have I forgotten to stop and just listen?  Grace has brought me to this place...  

 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Word Paintings #110 - MONSOON

MONSOON - (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - 6"x8" Original Oil-Available 

"Put a man in the wrong atmosphere and nothing will function as it should. He will seem unhealthy in every part. Put him back into his proper element and everything will blossom and look healthy." ~LudwigWittgenstein  

15 July 2021 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) -  6:30 AM - Up with the sun this morning. It must have rained all night.  This is definitely a real monsoon season! What a blessing!  Opened my bedroom window - the birds are singing their happy songs - the morning air is fresh and sweet.  This must be Heaven!

Celebrating two years in this house on the Llano.  More rain yesterday afternoon.   Looked out my studio window and saw an image just perfect for a painting. Photographed a wooden structure across the field - dark and wet against a hazy blue sky over the foothills.  A shock of yellow-white weeds in front of the building.  Going to sketch a small study today - paint it while the image is fresh in my mind.  Thinking back through all my years in New Mexico, so many paintings just from looking out my windows - the front yard in Tesuque. Twenty-three seasons from the kitchen window (view toward the Pecos Wilderness) at the house on Santistevan Lane in Taos. I still miss that window!  My private world!  Now the wide open spaces of Llano Quemado - mountains, clouds, sunsets.... 

Have spent many afternoons this summer photographing the monsoon clouds building over Taos Mountain.  So grateful for this time and place.  Yes, I am in my "proper element".  Now what?  Paintings of clouds?  Yes, maybe.

All of my new work has been consigned to Chimayo Trading del Norte,  just down the road from me in Ranchos de Taos Plaza next to the old church, San Francisco de Asis.  My studio walls are bare!

Took a short break after completing "Rio Chiquito" (photo below).  Back at the easel. Working on smaller paintings.  Some are studies for larger canvases.  Think often of the old man who gave me his wooden box filled with paints and brushes when I was about eight years old.  Wonder if he knows that his precious gift has sustained me for 74 years!  (Blog post: My Old Artist)

Time to begin again.  My last four paintings are the first in a new series - The Spirit of Place.  How else can I begin to express the depth of my gratitude - the unhappy accident that led to this long journey so many years ago?  Yes, another New Beginning...forever the Optimist!!!

Back to the easel - my daily practice.  This house is peaceful and quiet.  A good place to work. New palette with gobs of juicy color! How can I resist?  Blank canvases, empty frames all over the studio - it is off to work!!


 
RIO CHIQUITO (Ojo Sarco, New Mexico) - NEW! 40"x30" Original
 Oil on Belgian Linen, framed - available at Chimayo Trading del Norte,
 Ranchos de Taos Plaza, New Mexico.



Sunday, June 20, 2021

WORD PAINTINGS #109 - RETURN TO LIFE

17 May 2021 - ON MY EASEL TODAY - Works in Progress (Underpaintings) - RIO FERNANDO (New Mexico) 40"x30" and LOS CAMPOS DEL LLANO, 24"x30" Original Oils.

20 June 2021 - 6AM (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - A month since I've posted.  Joyfully returning to some semblance of normalcy. This was a week of firsts.  A short field trip north to Cerro and Questa to scout for new material.  Yesterday a really wonderful visit to Chimayo Trading Del Norte.  Strangeness - a kind of fuzzy excitement.  Like waking up on a new planet.  No masks.  So heartening to see people smiles and happy eyes!!  A quiet sense of freedom - renewal.    

Went in to sign a large painting and met Rebecca who works at the gallery every weekend.  Met a great couple from Colorado who bought a small painting.  Picked up my "birthday/Christmas" present - a beautiful Hopi Kachina "The Morning Singer" by Chester Poleyestewa.  Owners of Chimayo Trading, Gabe and Alicia Abrums stopped in on their way to Chimayo. Gabe showed me several new and amazing acquisitions.  I held a Navajo woman's dress - indigo and cochineal heavy weaving from the 1700's.  More great weavings from that time...an unbelievable serape from Mexico, a Navajo child's blanket.  Exciting conversation.  Art talk - the joy of meeting people who speak my language!! The afternoon was topped off by a most welcome and drenching rainstorm and a nap! 

Los Campos de Llano Quemado has been finished since my last post and Rio Fernando will be completed today or tomorrow.  These new canvases are colorful and solid - good quality.   Two weeks ago Gabe took eight new paintings to the gallery.  My studio walls are empty.  This is another New Beginning.  I will be 82 in September.  Have been roaming the back roads of northern New Mexico for 54 years.  Deep gratitude.  A good life!  Earlier this year told Gabe I thought it was time for me to retire. Surprise, surprise - the spark is alive and well.  A contract with myself to produce a series of new paintings - first are the two pictured above and earlier this year "Lazy River Dreaming" which has been sold.  The working title of the series is The Spirit of Place.

Another adventure - an empty-handed leap into the Great Unknown. Purpose and meaning....

                  LOS CAMPOS DEL LLANO - NEW 24x30 Original Oil on Belgian Linen

Saturday, May 8, 2021

WORD PAINTINGS #108 - INTO THE DREAMTIME

25 April 2021 - Llano Quemado, New Mexico - Sitting in front of a blank canvas waiting to make that first brushstroke is exciting-much like opening the first page of a much anticipated book - it is a mystery, a surprise and you never know how it will end ......unless you begin!  Real life is a mystery to me. It has taken many twists and turns and in many ways I've come full circle.  Reading Ursula le Guin's book No Time to Spare - she takes the reality of the end of life head on.  Me? I've decided to make another visit to my favorite place - The Dreamtime.  That self-induced hypnosis from whence most of my work is created.  I can hide and disappear into the paint and canvas - my own little world.. 

27 April 2021 - Some people might call a very still and quiet time - a time out - laziness.  Have done three small studies since Cielo Azul was completed.  Instead cleaned closets, did taxes and a hundred small jobs that hopefully will keep my life in order.  All the while I've been gathering material for the new work.  Varnishing and signing the small paintings today; they will be framed tomorrow.  Blocking in a 40"x30" autumn painting - the Rio Fernando near Ojo Sarco.   Gessoing about ten blank canvases.  Preparation.  Truthfully this time of "doing stuff" is the most fruitful.  Working with my sources, I can visualize each finished canvas.  This is the Dreamtime - that hazy headspace where all the paintings begin. 

2 May 2021 - Climbed out of my hidey-hole today - a severe case of pandemic procrastination. Wrote to my daughter Sarah that creative work block is the artistic drought and sometimes all you can do is wait for rain!  Almost convinced myself that it was time to quit - think it is the tail end of a panic attack. The second vaccine shot I took activated a lot of pain - lasted for a couple of  weeks - slowed me down in a big way.  A lot of rest time helped me to put things in perspective - what can I say - I LOVE TO PAINT!  The gesso is all mixed up for the bare canvases - my intentions to do them last week was brave and courageous of me.  A reality check - I got the taxes done, did loads of laundry and housework.  Adjusting to my slower pace....back at the easel with great joy this afternoon!  Sorted the material for four new paintings.  Feeling good! 

5/8/21 (Llano Quemado, N.M.) - IN THE STUDIO - PREPARING TO PAINT - A Toned Ground.  Mix in aluminum can (not plastic!) - I use Jerry's Gesso (Artarama), acrylic Payne's Grey and water - not too thck and not to thin.  It usually takes two coats for a good ground. I like a medium grey.  Apply second coat only after the first is completely dry.  A good start today!!!!


  FIVE FINGER EXERCISES - Three new studies (now available at my Online Gallery/Store)

                               SAN JOSE DE GRACIA (Las Trampas, NM) New 8"x10"


THE LITTLE PINK HOUSE, (Ranchitos Road, Taos NM) NEW 8"X8" 

PASSING STORM (Llano Quemado, N.M.) - New 10"x8"

ENJOY!!!

 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

WORD PAINTINGS #107 - WITH EYES TO SEE...

 
28 March 2021 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - By definition I am a "studio" painter - which means I bring my source material back to my easel and stay with the work until it is finished.
 
There must be a million ways to make a painting.  the key is to just start and once you begin Never Stop!   I am also an "episodic" painter - three or four months of fury, then some rest time to organize my thoughts and gather my source material.  My last painting was Cielo Azul which was completed last month.   The restlessness has set in and now it is time to begin again. Preparation.   All my canvases are "gessoed" with a toned ground.  My source material has been painted in my head many times.   However it is so much easier to "imagine" a painting than it is to do it.  Life intrudes.  Shutting down in order to  set up a new palette and begin again.  A reminder that I am sharing my process, this is not dogma.  Finding your own way is an essential part of the journey.  

Each blank canvas is a wonderful, mysterious adventure!!
 
 _______________________________________________________
 
Excerpted from a previous post:  Spirit of Place - Andrew Wyeth
   
I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious.
One's art goes as far and as deep as one's love goes.
It's all in how you arrange the thing... the careful balance of the design is the motion.
-Andrew Wyeth-

Chicago 1967 - The Chicago Art Institute mounted a major exhibit of Andrew Wyeth's paintings. 
 
Rushed over to the Art Institute - the line was quite long - eventually it would stretch all around the museum and almost reached Lake Michigan!  Bought my ticket and was informed that it would be a moving line because of the crowd.  The guards saw to it that we did not dawdle!  

Unaware that this was my last visit to the home of my Art Gods (the following week we were on our way to New Mexico!), I moved through the line, absorbing the essence of the paintings.  There was no time to study the brushstrokes, only enough to "feel" the essence of the work.  Perhaps that was the best way to view this man's work - it is so strong and deeply emotional.  I felt the familiarity with which he painted his neighbors and the landscape....sombre colors - browns, black, ochres.  His limited palette amplified his familiarity with his subject matter. Took the train back to home in a dreamlike state, still feeling the wholeness of my experience!
 ________________________________________________________________
 
To start purchase a good camera with a wide-angle zoom lens - LOVE YOUR  SUBJECT AND LOVE YOUR CAMERA!  Open your eyes - FEEL the time and place, point and shoot! 
  
My best paintings are brief moments in time - truly "happy accidents" - being in the right place at the right time. Favorite times of the day to scout for new source material is very early in the morning, stormy days and late afternoon to early evening.  The richest source for my work are the back roads of northern New Mexico. I wander and look. My happy places!!  This part of my process is intuitive - I can actually "see" the composition of the painting through the lens of the camera. Storm clouds, snow squalls - an early spring sunset.  Who knows?  There are always surprises out there just waiting.  On rare occasions  I will take my camera and head out to a specific location, otherwise I just roam and LOOK!  Rarely do I come home with less than 100 photos.  Put them through Photos.  Usually I will find four or five that could be paintings.  I pull them up and tweak them in Photoshop....and run a copy through my printer.  The entire process is my creation.   From this point forward, I am free to "tweak" the image in order to make my painting!
 
 

 
Many years ago when I first arrived in Santa Fe (1967) and became acquainted with a few of the local artists, none of them would admit to using photographs as source material.   A friend gifted me with a new Canon with a zoom lens.  There was so much negativity around artists using a camera! Shame, shame, shame! Guilt! Then it was revealed that one of the best-selling painters of market scenes went to Mexico and Central America with his camera - and a lens that would take photos over his shoulder while he was pointing the camera away from his subject.  He was using his camera as a tool in his creative process.
 
Another moment of Grace when I met Van Deren Coke in the law office where I worked on Cathedral Place in Santa Fe (Sommer & Lawler).  Mr. Coke was the founding Director of the New Mexico Art Museum in Albuquerque. During a short conversation he mentioned his new book (pictured above).  Revelation! Free at last!!!  I could roam the back roads of New Mexico without any self-imposed guilt - recognizing that my camera was merely a tool - I was the artist! The finished painting was my creation from start to finish! 
 
Get vaccinated - stay safe, stay healthy! DC   

WORD PAINTINGS #113 - THE LITTLE RED FOX AND A GIFT OF FRESH PEACHES

  "To deliver oneself up, hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hill, or sea, o...