Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ghost Ranch Painting Weekend Day 1

This weekend, I joined  a dozen or so other painters from PAPNM, Plein Air Painters of New Mexico at Ghost Ranch Conference Center, in Abiquiu, NM. Ghost Ranch is now owned by the Presbyterian Church, and is used as summer camp, retreat center, and guest lodging.  Many artists groups visit, as you can imagine. There were at least two other painting groups there this weekend. This is without question a painter's paradise.  It is where Georgia O'Keefe lived, and the subject of many of her paintings.  Here's an outline you might recognize if you are familiar with her work.

Pedernal, that flat-topped mesa on the horizon, appears in many of Georgia's paintings.

I arrived mid- morning on Friday, too late for morning light, and the group was scheduled to meet at noon, so I decided to spend what time I had scouting out some areas, and getting in a little run at the same time.

It is almost sensory overload at Ghost Ranch.. everywhere you look, there are paintings!   
After eating lunch with the PAPNM crew, I went to check into my room, and check out some more views.

Turns out my room was in a 1930's Hacienda - one of the first such buildings built on the Ranch, and almost next door to Georgia's home, which is of course off limits.  Our house was  Casa del Sol (house of the sun), a picturesque adobe built in a "U" shape, with a porch along the inside perimeter and a tiled patio with views of Pedernal and distant mountains.   A kitchen and gathering room made for a homey feel, and we could fix our own meals and talk art sitting by the fireplace.  And, here is the view right out the front door.

I did a couple of sketches in the afternoon, waiting for the good late day light to hit on those chimney rocks.
I'll post those tomorrow.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

a few field sketches

Jemez Monument

This is a 12x16 plein air sketch  of the Jemez Monument, down in "the village". (That's what we call Jemez Springs, which is where our address is listed, but which is actually about 15 miles away.)  Its just that, a sketch, and might serve as reference for a more completed painting some day.

here's a little history of the place, which contains the ruins of an old Catholic mission, built in the 1600's, and the ruins (not visible in my painting) of an ancient pueblo called Giusewa.

The mission was built by the Spanish in 1621 and called the San Jose de los Jemez.  The Jemez people living at Giusewa did not want to convert to Catholicism and eventually all the pueblos united in 1680 and revolted, driving the Spanish completely out of New Mexico. This Mission was burned during the crisis.  This pueblo revolt is still celebrated to this day.
The Jemez people rebuilt their pueblo further down the valley in a place called Walatowa, which is where they live to this day.  

Here's the inside of the Mission. Steve and I attended Easter Sunrise service here. That was pretty awesome actually with the light coming in over the ruins...

I was going to post another plein air sketch.
OOPS!!! I can't find the photo right now, and it's late and I gotta go to bed. Oh well, maybe next time.
Here's the scene anyway...

And for good measure, here's one of the "girls".  She is a Sicilian Buttercup by breed. Sicilian?Hmmmm... I had to name her after the Sopranos.  Meet Carmella. She's small, but bossy. Figures.....

 Tomorrow and Saturday I am joining PAPNM (Plein Air Painters of New Mexico) for a weekend of painting at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM, and the Chama River Wilderness.  I'm looking forward to getting to meet a few fellow painters, and painting in some awesome locations!!  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Plein air adventures

Today, I decided to hike down into a great painting spot.  Reportedly, the 4WD road that leads into the canyon where I wanted to go is in pretty bad shape, so rather than risk getting stuck (who wants THAT?)  I hiked in about 3 miles.  Since I was carrying a pretty heavy painting pack with all my gear plus water, drinks, and snacks for the day, this 6 mile round trip over some rather rough terrain felt like plenty. Especially on the way back, which entailed an extremely steep ascent up to the ridge - about 1000 feet in a half mile.(I'm guessing here, but I'm a pretty good guesser on stuff like that)

My journey would take me from the top of Thompson Ridge, at about 8200 feet elevation, down (steeply) into San Antonio canyon. I wanted to paint by the river. This canyon is one of most beautiful spots around here - expect to see it again on this blog. (hope they get that road graded soon).

By the way, I HATE my voice on recordings, but I'm just gritting my teeth and posting anyway.

After a nice leisurely hike for a little over a mile,  I had to descend down steeply into the canyon.  I did take some video here, but I won't  post it. Just take my word that it is STEEP, RUGGED, and tricky carrying a 50 pound pack.  I slipped a couple of times because the pumice soil common here is like little ball bearings underfoot. Plus, this is not a maintained trail, but just a local shortcut.

Before I reached the river, my final destination, I stopped at the natural hot springs, about 200 feet above the canyon floor. These natural thermal springs come out of the side of the cliffs, and are just FABULOUS.
You'll have to take my word for this too.... for some reason, neither my video or the photos I took here came out.
Maybe it was because of the naked people.  Folks like to bath  sans clothes in the hot springs. It never fails that I come down here and there's people hanging around without clothes. Usually it's people you'd rather not see naked..  Anyway, the hot springs are pretty awesome - maybe next time I'll get some photos.  I did meet a local ladies hiking group who had hiked in from the other side of the river - had thought about hiking with them today, but painting seemed like more fun - it  was good to say hi to them however. They were sitting next to the naked people, but nobody seems to notice much around here.

Here's the parking lot and bridge down by the river. Obviously some people made it on the 4wd road.  But most of them are on ATV's.

Here's one place I considered setting up....
And another ( I liked those backlit rocks on the hillside)

Here's where I finally ended up.. I really liked that dead snag by the river, and the opportunity to have a dark background with the trees behind it.

And here's my painting in progress on location. Of course I didn't take any close ups. (I had good intentions of showing the whole thing in progress, but just FORGOT once I started painting. It's that whole right brain/left brain thing). I'll try to post the finished version - needs a little tuning in the studio. Knowing I had a tough hike back out of the canyon, I had to head on back home so I could cook supper. You know, that whole "women's work is never done" thing.    (we had beans and rice, so not really much "cooking".)

I know there are some really great places further up canyon, but I'll save those for another day when maybe I can get closer by car.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Heading to High Country

I made some further changes to this and now feel it is at least approaching my original intention.  Sometimes a painting has to sit and brew for awhile before I can see what needs to be done. The changes were not huge, you might have difficulty seeing all of them, but they're there, and hopefully contribute to a more successful

In particular, I darkened the foreground grasses. When I viewed the painting in grayscale, the foreground seemed to rival the sky in value, so it needed to come down a notch. 
I made the foreground snag (that's "dead tree" for you easterners) larger.
I revised the front rider and horse just a tad. Some drawing issues needed to be corrected.
I changed the one smaller dead tree above the rider to a shadowed green tree. Better emphasis with his red shirt, which also got toned down in saturation a bit, because at the distance we view him, the color would not be so rich. (remember, everything gets grayer and lighter as it recedes into distance, even short distances)
And though the glare (which I could NOT seem to avoid in photographing today) keeps us from seeing it, the trees have been refined and some brought forward, and some thrown into shadow.  They look better, even though this photo doesn't show it so much.

And finally, I "smuggled red" in there (for all you Stapleton Kearns fans, you know what that is).  Little touches of red added here and there to compliment an overall green landscape. Can you find the smuggled reds?