The cloud-filled skies and resilient flora of Santa Fe's desert landscape are captured in my new series of artwork on paper.
Cloud formations propelled by desert winds move quickly across the New Mexican sky, frequently shifting its color from a calm blue to the dusky violet that signals an impending storm. Fleeting sunlight falls dramatically across the landscape, and creates incredible contrasts between the luminous colors of light and deep recesses of shadows. I have created a new series of works on paper in soft and oil pastel, graphite and watercolor. These are all preliminary works for new oil paintings. I welcome you to view the finished pieces, as well as some of the works as they were in stages of creation.
Working directly with concentrated color in hand, I enjoyed layering and blending soft pastels to create the colors and movement of the clouds over the adobe rooftop of a building in Santa Fe. Because my color choices were limited by the size of my pastel set, I had to manipulate hues to create light and shadow. As a result, solid tones of cool lilac purple and warm red oranges are used to create shadows against butter yellow and pure white marks of light in the clouds. I also created a black and white graphite drawing of this composition to intently focus on the dark, mid and light values.
During my recent travels to Santa Fe, my family enjoyed some peaceful moments under the autumn amber canopy of this large tree in the courtyard of The Palace of the Governors. I love the way the simple lines of the adobe architecture contrast with the organic shape of the tree in this composition. Working each composition in both black and white and color has helped me to develop a commitment to the composition. Different materials have their own unique limitations, and they force me to make decisions of elimination. For example, because I had to eliminate color when using graphite, I was able to focus upon line and sharp detail in the above version of the composition, which created a quiet, contemplative mood in the image.
The characteristics of oil pastels are a much more tactile, smooshy, affair, so refined line and detail is not as much as an option for an artist. The limited color choices of the sticks coerce me to layer and use different colors to achieve a harmonious composition. The yellow leaves of the tree can't just be yellow. It would look flat and would be quite boring. Instead, tones of orange, green, and purple are used to make the tree much more voluminous and interesting. The grass isn't just green, but has blue, yellow and orange throughout to convey light and shadow. The oil pastels quickly get thick, so I was constantly scraping the paper surface down and building the layers of pastel back up. This created a mood of vibrant energy for this version of the composition.
Instead of scraping to remove medium (as in the tree oil pastel), for this drawing I used the eraser to remove areas and lines of graphite while continuing to build layers of mark and value with different pencils. In this composition, primitive designs have been woven through the realist landscape to narrate the influence ancient people have had on the land, which is still felt in contemporary culture.
Museum Hill in Santa Fe is home to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the International Folk Art Museum and the Wheelwright Museum. I wanted to explore the ideas inherent to this location: native landscape, ancient art, diverse cultural heritages and history, and contemporary architecture.
I enjoyed researching historical patterns of the Hopi and Pueblo Native Americans. These are patterns they applied to their pottery, rugs and baskets. The materials for all of these art forms came from the land and were handcrafted into objects that helped people live more efficiently off of the land. Pottery to cook and carry water, baskets to collect and store food, rugs and blankets to warm homes and humans.
As a substitute for the eraser, I experimented with liquid frisket, or mask, to develop the pattern in the watercolor version of the Museum Hill composition. There was a fine balance between maintaining control and allowing the watercolor to do its thing. Water is meant to drip, ripple and flow. This makes watercolor a difficult medium to work with, but is why we love looking at the luminous color and texture that results! I enjoyed exploring this idea, and it was very challenging to develop techniques to weave the imagery in the composition together.
I'm looking forward to translating all of the ideas into oil paint! Each of these pieces was created as a study, but they are each a finished piece of art on their own. Once I complete the paintings for each composition, these pieces will be released for sale.