Thursday, October 17, 2019

Workshop Report: In Taos with Albert Handell

"They Also Passed Here" 12x14 Oil
One of the  paintings I made in Taos.
If you look closely, you might see petroglyphs.

"Look, bighorn sheep!"  I swivelled my head at the student's call and looked up at the rim of black lava rock high above.  Sure enough, one of the big animals peered down upon us, curious about what our group was up to.

I've painted in northern New Mexico many times, and this was only my second time seeing these beautiful creatures, munching grass along the rim of the Rio Grande gorge in Taos.  I was with master painter Albert Handell's mentoring workshop down in the gorge, by the scenic and historic John Dunn bridge, trying to capture the complex personality of a river rock.   This was only one of six days with the workshop, and every day offered us something new and exciting to paint.

Bighorn Sheep on the rim

I've worked with Albert many times over the last 20 years, both taking workshops and also serving as workshop coordinator.  For this one, I was Albert's invited guest—a real gift for me.  I worked hard this week to honor that gift.  And Albert did, too.  He was tough on me, noting in our final critique that he was a little disappointed that I'd not brought a particular painting to a satisfactory finish.  He said, "The painting has 'carrying power' from a distance, but when I get close to it, I don't see any touches of rich color and detail to excite me." Lesson learned.

Students from Alberta, Massachusetts, Arizona, Texas and Missouri joined us for the week.  For the workshop, Albert shared some of his favorite locations from over 30 years of painting there.  In the mornings, he painted, and if we wished to watch the work as a demonstration, he happily shared his thoughts with us.  Some of us watched; others set up beside him and painted the same subject; now and then, one of us went off on her own to paint.  In the afternoons, he went from easel to easel, offering suggestions and the occasional touch of paint or pastel to illustrate a point.  Then, in the evenings, we joined again for critiques and career-building discussions.  It's rare that Albert has a small group—there were just six of us—and we made sure to make the most of it.  In my view, Albert shared much information that was new to me, even though I've worked with him many times.

I thought I'd share a few photos as well as some of my paintings from the week.  By the way, if you are an experienced painter and would like to paint Taos, I'm scheduling a painting retreat (not a workshop) for October 4-9, 2020.  As with my previous retreats, I'll give preference to previous students.  If you haven't taken a workshop with me yet, I have two coming up in Sedona, Arizona (November 5-8, 2019, and April 7-10, 2020) as well as some in Lubec, Maine, next summer.  If you'd like to be on the "interested" list for Taos, please let me know.  For a full workshop schedule, please visit

Here are some of the paintings:

"Along the Mountain Road" 12x14 Oil

"High Desert Barn" 12x16 Oil

"Rio Grande Quiet" 12x14 Oil

"Rio Hondo Pool" 12x16 Oil

"Taos Field" 12x18 Pastel
"Cliff Shadows" 12x16 Oil

 Here are a couple of videos:

Trina shot this while I painted along the Rio Hondo.
(Can't see the video? Link is here:

This little visitor kept me company.
(Can't see the video? Link is here:

Here are some photos:

I visited the grave of Mabel Dodge Luhan.
Don't know the name?  Look her up.

Aspens were in full color up the mountain.

A cache of petroglphys surprised me at one spot.

One morning, it was cold enough for ice!

Trina and Raku hiked while I painted.

I guess the fishing was good in the river.

Albert making a mark to make a point.

A demonstration in the studio by Albert.

Painting at John Dunn Bridge.

Near John  Dunn Bridge.

On the banks of the Rio Hondo.
It's just a sliver of water with an even narrower sliver
of bank, and my feet got wet.

Taos Mountain and a stage prop.

Demonstrating in the field by Albert.

At John Dunn Bridge.

The famous bridge itself.

After the workshop, I visited the Nicolai Fechin Museum.
This is Fechin's painting of his daughter, Eya, whom I met
years ago just before she died at age 87.


Jo Castillo said...

You have some beautiful work there. That is so beautiful along the Rio Grande. Taos has great painting spots.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thank you, Jo! Yes, it is a beautiful area.