The distinct contradiction of frosty snow and sun-warmed adobe architecture, of the hard icy crunch and the spongy, sandy earth underfoot during my travels to Taos Pueblo inspired my new charcoal drawing.
Natural materials and their innate color palettes are highly valued to the Red Willow people of Taos Pueblo, so I was compelled to turn to charcoal as the medium for creating this new drawing. Its velvety texture and malleable shape allowed me to stretch value ranges and create varieties of soft and hard edges, imparting abundant visual interest to this artwork.
Initial gestures for a new charcoal drawing
Immersing myself in the physical nature of drawing, I mounted cream white artist paper to my studio wall. This empowered me to use more of my arm and body as I approached and withdrew from the paper's surface. Applying the pointed tip and broad sides of willow charcoal, active lines and expressive gestures were used to set up the composition framework.
Establishing shadows and light in soft willow charcoal
I formed the plane of the ground and the architecture of the pueblo with the light of the paper and shades of charcoal. The soft charcoal responds well to an eraser, and I move frequently back and forth between applying and removing material from the paper.
Darkening shadows and creating structure with hard compressed charcoal
Branches and leaves were overhead of my view across the trickling winter creek waters to the South House of Taos Pueblo, called "Hlaukwima" in the native Tiwa of the Red Willow people. Using hard compressed charcoal, I darkened the shadows of the distant mountains, the pueblo buildings and the surrounding landscape. The charcoal retains edges in each line applied, which begins to create a visual structure in the artwork.
Blending edges and lifting values with a pliable eraser
Continually refining each area of the composition, I smudged the charcoal with my fingers, and softened edges with my eraser, lifting charcoal from the paper and reapplying it, allowing my marks to render a visual rhythm across the surface. The paper itself becomes silky and velutinous when worked in this manner, creating a highly tactile experience.
"Hlaukwima, Taos Pueblo (South House)" charcoal on paper, ©2016 Erin Fickert-Rowland
I love the quiet serenity of this creekside view of the South House of Taos Pueblo in late fall. Though crisp leaves are still clinging to nearby trees, most foliage has abandoned the scrubby ground brush covered in snow. The smooth lines of the adobe architecture seem to echo the forms of the distant Sangre de Cristo mountains. This historic place still reflects the values and wisdom of its people, who live in harmony with the landscape.
The completed original charcoal on paper drawing of "Hlaukwima, Taos Pueblo (South House)" measures 14 inches wide and 16 1/2 inches tall. It is currently available for purchase in my Etsy shop.