Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Santa Fe Painting Retreat, Part 3

In Lamy, New Mexico

The storm system that affected our first day parked itself over west Texas and continued to spin clouds our way.  Although it wasn't raining or snowing, it was heavily overcast.  The tops of the Sangre de Cristo mountains were hidden in clouds.  Keeping in mind that, with weather, time is one's friend, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, followed by a group critique of the prior day's paintings.

These critiques are always valuable.  Although I, as the leader of the retreat, initiate the critiques, everyone is welcome to join in, and we always end up having a productive discussion.  I'm not always right, nor do I pretend to be, and sometimes you just have to talk things through to reach the truth.  I think I get as much out of these critiques as participants do!

After the critique, we geared up and headed down to Galisteo.  This tiny town (population something short of 300) was founded about the time of Santa Fe (c. 1612) and features many old adobe homes and ranch structures.  I like it because it is incredibly scenic and has wide side streets with plenty of room for a painter to set up in.   It also has a popular studio tour each fall.

We located ourselves on what appeared to be one of the more important side streets, but the whole time we were there, maybe four vehicles and two women walking a puppy passed us.  I positioned myself by a rock wall topped with barbed wire before a scene that featured a pasture with poplars, cottonwoods and a small adobe building that had a cross out front.  It reminded me of a morada, which is a small chapel used by the Pentitentes.  The damp air conjured up a host of fragrances from the land:  lilac, honeysuckle, and earth.

Galisteo Cottonwood 9x12 oil
by Michael Chesley Johnson

Above is the painting I did.  For this one, I was trying to be very literal with the paint.  That is, I reined in my expressionistic tendencies and tried to paint the scene exactly as I saw it.  It'll be a useful reference for the studio, where I'll be free to push the color and improve the composition.  When you're painting en plein air, you can either be literal or not.  If my goal is to create sketches that will be useful in creating a larger, finished piece, I try to make accurate color notes and save the creativity for the studio.

End of the Line, Lamy

As we finished up, a few raindrops began to come down, so we packed up and headed for nearby Lamy.  Lamy has restrooms in the Amtrak station and picnic tables for lunch.  The depot is actually very historic.  Lamy was made the terminus for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF) when engineers discovered that it was impractical to run the line to Santa Fe because of the hills.  Fred Harvey build his "luxurious" El Ortiz Hotel there in 1896.  Today, Amtrak runs to the depot and a shuttle offers service to Santa Fe.

As scenic as the town is, we could see our future in the sky:  Rain squalls over the mountains were heading our way.  After a quick bite, we packed up and made the short trip back to Santa Fe after stopping for groceries in Eldorado.  We spent the afternoon dodging squalls and scoping out painting spots.  We also visited the Gerald Peters and Nedra Matteuci Galleries.  Nedra Matteuci has swapped out the work that I saw back in January; there are several paintings by Curt Walters and Walt Gonske, two of my favorite painters, that I haven't seen before.

The day ended with a homecooked meal and, of course, more art talk.  We checked the forecast for the next day, and things looked much more promising.

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