The architecture of Santa Fe reflects centuries of sacred traditions.
Santa Fe is home to the oldest churches and home site in the United States, and each of these historic buildings chronicle generations of construction, destruction, rebuilding, and the diverse cultures that have called Santa Fe home. I invite you in to my studio to see the composition studies of these architectural landmarks I have been creating in preparation for a new series of oil paintings.
The Barrio de Analco Historic District is one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in the country with a history that blends Native American, Spanish and American traditions. The Spanish Pueblo and Territorial styles of architecture share the stories that human evolution and culture have imprinted upon this special place. Rustic, small, and simple, the San Miguel Mission and Roque Tudesqui House beckon visitors to feel the age of their stones and the sun-warmed earth of their adobe exteriors.
Using a limited palette of just three primary colors, I layered transparent glazes of watercolor in the color study above to capture the light of the environment, and the aged texture of the stone and adobe under a brilliant blue sky.
Arranging the composition to accommodate both structures involved working from a handful of reference photographs I shot on location. Stripping down an architectural landscape to its essential components creates a feeling of permanence, as well as privacy for the viewer. Road signs, fencing, pedestrians and modern clutter have been removed to focus on the age and style of the architecture, and to allow the viewer to have a quiet moment of reflection and solitude.
Six layers of graphite, ranging from the whitest lights to deep charcoal tones, were applied to complete my value study drawing of this composition. Sharp details of the cross, bell and sign were preserved on the mission, while the clean whitewash effect of direct sunlight draws attention to the historic house.
Situated at the end of San Francisco Street, just off Santa Fe's plaza, the ornate Romanesque Revival style of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi contrasts beautifully with the simple curved lines of Santa Fe's adobe architecture. Proximate to busy shops, galleries and the historic La Fonda hotel, this holy building is an ever-present reminder of the respite from the hectic streets that awaits within.
For my value composition, I used the warm tones of sepia conte to soften lines of the architecture and create a dramatic effect of evening light, which highlights the cathedral, the hotel and the rolling clouds in the sky. As in the Barrio de Analco composition, I removed the cars, pedestrians, signs and chaos of modernity to reflect a simpler time in Santa Fe's history.
I added pedestrians into my color study to capture a contemporary day amid the shops on the narrow streets of town. To preserve a transparent and light quality of these figures, I experimented with a watercolor frisket mask. I have been enjoying using a variety of materials to create these studies, because they allow me to work quickly through ideas and experiment without worrying about committing too much time and materials to one composition. I have discovered ideas for mark-making, color relationships and paint consistency that will be fun to translate into oil paint during longer sessions.
The historic sacred architecture of Santa Fe is a subject matter I will continue to explore. Visually, I love the contrasts in architectural styles, functions, and colors reflected by sunlight. Intellectually, I love researching the rich history of these places and the cultural impact they continue to have. Emotionally, I love these spaces where communities of people can gather to reflect both internally on their own spirit, and also upon things of universal significance.
Additional links for more information about these historic sacred landmarks: