Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Santa Fe Painting Retreat, Day 4

Painting El Cuarto de Familia (Reception Room) at El Rancho de las Golondrinas

As predicted, morning came cold and clear.  When I stepped out to walk the dog and listen to the birds, I was surprised to see a thin, grey layer of frost decorating the cars.  But the air's sharpness felt good - and there wasn't a scrap of cloud to be seen.  I knew it was going to be a great day.

After a breakfast of eggs and potatoes, we looked at our work from the day before.  We patted ourselves on the back for doing such good work on a challenging day of fickle weather.  Even though we were eager to get started on our first truly sunny day, we took the time to give each painting its due respect.  But as soon as we were done, we hustled to the cars.

The Torreon

I had arranged for our group to spend the day at El Rancho de las Golondrinas or "Ranch of the Swallows."  This 200-acre ranch dates from the early 1700s and was a popular stop on the historic Camino Real, the "Royal Road," which ran from Mexico City to Sante Fe.  Today, it is a living history museum.  For painters, it is a gold mind:  adobe buildings, including a capilla (chapel) and even sheep!

Adobe walls really show their best when illuminated by the full New Mexican sun on a clear day with a hard blue sky.  On this day, the stars aligned just right, and we got our sun, we got our adobes, and we got our paintings.

Adam Sandler Is Here - Well, Not Just Yet
Just to show that we know how to pick a  site, consider this.  Adam Sandler is shooting his new film, "Ridiculous 6," here, as well.  Yellow signs saying things like "SLOW DOWN," "CATERING," and "SET" with arrows pointing different directions steered a variety of motorized, wheeled vehicles to their destinations.  There were even trucks carrying loads of juniper limbs, no doubt to serve as set dressing.  Fortunately, the set was at the far end of the ranch, and we had no intention of dragging our gear so far.  But it was entertaining to guess which shiny black Cadillac Escalade was carrying Mr Sandler.  (We learned later that he wouldn't arrive on the set until Thursday.  So it goes.)

As attractive as the landscape was with winding dirt roads, towering cottonwoods and distant vistas, I felt that I needed to paint things made of adobe.  When in Santa Fe, paint what the city is famous for.  So I did two:

La Capilla 9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Hacienda Afternoon 11x14 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Photo by Trina Stephenson

At the end of the day, a wrong turn on the way home landed us in the parking lot of Artisan Santa Fe, probably one of the best art supply stores I've ever seen.


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