Monday, September 23, 2013

Ghost Town

Welcome to Steins Pass, New Mexico, USA.  This is the real deal, a historic town standing much like it has for over 100 years in the wild west.  Bad guys still come into town now and then.  The owner of this place was murdered here a few years ago.  Drug runners come through on the freeway and up from Mexico every day.  Cars rush past it on I-10 and the trains don't even stop here anymore, but it remains, day in and day out, a silent witness to the decades.  An interesting page that tells more can be found here:

Someday, I will knock on the door of the new owner and ask for permission to come inside the fence and sketch this place.  Those tiny, stalwart buildings need to be put into a painting.  One of these days..

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Roadrunner Finished

Ready for the sky and details:

Done and waiting to go to it's new home.  I hope they like it!  

Monday, September 16, 2013


I finally got some time to paint today.  I can make goals and tell myself I am going to spend more time in my studio like crazy.  What I can't seem to do it get control over my time enough to do it these days.  School is keeping me hopping.

Well, Sr. Piasano is coming along nicely.  I've been nervous about tackling him, but it turned out to be fun.

Sepia, Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna for the feather areas..

and a nice warm red for his eye area.

I've been stewing and wondering about colors for the cactus pads and finally decided to use my favorite triad of Pthalo Blue, Lemon Yellow and Rose Madder.  I'm wondering if he needs green and red reflected up on his underside from the cactus pad and pear.  We'll see.

So, this is as far as I've gotten this afternoon.  It's frustrating to get in the groove and have to leave it for school tomorrow, but that's how it goes.  So far, so good!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Working For Commission

I have been putting off working on a commission of a roadrunner on a prickly pear cactus for several weeks.  It's my first real commission, and it has thrown me off of my groove!  What if what I see in my head doesn't suit what my customer has in his head?  Whoa, what if I put all the work into it and they hate it!?  This person I'm painting for is really nice, but he reads (yes, reads) Cabellas catalogues!  Realistic wildlife art is what he's used to looking at.  What was I thinking?

However, I am intrigued by the thought...  Might be fun....  Who knew taking on a project like this would put me into such a funk?

I've been trying to get my own photos of roadrunners.  No deal, they weren't putting up with that.  Well, it was time to look at the photos of the pros.  I don't want to step on artist rights by copying; I've compromised by using multiple photos to draw my own version.  So, without boring you any more with my agonizing, here is the beginning of what is on my board today, "Home Boy."  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Well, I was afraid that school starting up would make it difficult to blog regularly, and boy was I right!  If blogging is tough, getting time to paint is worse.  Hopefully, today will be a painting day if I can get my tomatoes put up and out of the way.  My heart is heavy today, being 9/11.  So much has changed and I miss more carefree days.  But, this blog is not about that.  I have written about that day elsewhere and here I will stick to the subject of creativity.

Lately, many people have expressed interest in my horno.  If you are not familiar with the baking customs of Native American cultures, an horno is an oven made of adobe bricks.  I thought maybe it would be interesting to show you mine, and the baked goods that I make in it.  If you are interested in more information about it, I would be happy to share what we have learned with you.  Just shoot me an email to with questions.

My husband and sons made all the bricks and the base to lay them on.  The floor is brick, within cinder block walls.  The adobes are laid up on that.  So.. my oven:

This is my first horno, the one I learned on.

Burning takes 3 hours and I use mesquite and oak for my fire.  

After the burn, I shovel the coals out and put the plug into the smoke-hole. The oven is nearly 1,000 degrees at this point inside. Not hot on the outside, though.

The plug.

A small baking.  Now that our 6 kids are gone from home, baking for two is a snap! This baking will last us for several weeks.  I just freeze it as soon as it cools.

Pizza is SO good baked in this thing.  Crisp, snapping crust.

The oven is packed with the loaves.  In about 17 minutes they'll be done.

Bread coming out of the oven.  Bread baked in the house oven is good, bread baked in this heat is fantastic.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013


This weekend I will be out of range of an internet signal much of the time.  We are going wandering.  There are so many beautiful places to see and enjoy in New Mexico alone that we could do all of our wandering right here in our home state and never see all of it in our lives.  I guess I'll have to blog again when we get home.

As we wander and explore I enjoy taking pictures of what we see and do.  While I am not a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination, my photos make me happy and that is enough!  I'm sharing a few of them here from other wanders, just for fun.  Have a great weekend!

Granite Gap, NM, Ice Storm

Sunset Above the San Fransico River, Arizona

Remains of the Fire, Barfoot Park, Chiracahua Mountains, AZ

Cemetery, Middle Animas, NM

Remains of the Day, Middle Animas, NM

Who Can Resist a Ghost Town? Mogollon, NM

3 Point Perspective

Sometimes, you just have to find a new way to look at your subject to help you stay fresh and not just imitate what you see.  The first time I realized this was painting a still life for a class.  My painting teacher in Santa Fe was a big proponent of the idea "Paint From LIFE!"  She hated to see any student working to reproduce a photo.  "If you want it to look like a photo," she'd say, "take a picture and be done."  I realized she was right and began to try to work from life when ever I could.  I still do.  Photos stifle the creative process.

After my props were set up for this painting and I began to draw, she came by and suggested I find a new way to present my piece.  I've spent years learning to make things look on canvas and paper just like they, well.. LOOK.  Changing it up was a new concept.  I stewed on it awhile and finally decided to draw it out in three point perspective.  What a difference it made in my finished piece. This piece reminds me to stay fresh. Sometimes, you just have to shake it up.

Study Time, Oils, 20" x 24"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Leading a Rich Life

Pastel artist, Richard McKinley recently wrote, "Remember, art is the cultural bedrock of a civilization and its worth is beyond measure." I believe all forms of creativity are the cultural bedrocks of our society. Thinking, sharing ideas and expressing ourselves is a wonderful part of our humanity. For myself, however, painting and visual arts are the form I choose for this expression. But, where does the inspiration for this come from?

As I learn my own language of expression, the writings and work of others influences are of utmost importance in that journey. John of Salisbury said, "We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours." What a great and enduring idea! As we seek to learn to speak artistically, it isn't "bad" to use the ideas of others, it is progress. To build on the work of others is to become part of a procession of people maintaining that cultural bedrock McKinley refers to. Someday, someone may draw inspiration from MY work, keeping the chain going on into the future.

Whoever first said that there are no original ideas was right. We are influenced by everything we see, read and hear. Our own inspiration is a unique combination of the influences that have made impressions on us. This, I believe, is what makes our personal vision so individual. What each of us has to say is the product of what we have experienced through our senses. What we produce will change and evolve as we learn and grow.

Seeing as much beauty as I can, reading about the ideas of others and experiencing new adventures in my life can only influence my art for good, helping me to expand my vision and ability. And my friends, doesn't that make for a rich life?

(To read a great article by Richard McKinley on being an artist, go to )

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dry Spells

I think most people hit creative dry spells along their way, no matter what medium they pursue.  I've found that I usually tank after I ruin a painting.  After the Steeple Rock piece I could feel the dread settling in.  It is recognizable by the way I avoid coming out to my studio.  Usually, my house gets very clean during these times.  Good thing, too, because during a productive time, the house doesn't even exist as far as I'm concerned.  A good dry spell keeps us from becoming a health hazard..

My husband's wood studio is right outside the back door of my painting studio.  He's been avoiding it all summer.  However, the last few days he's beginning to hit his stride again.   A client ordered a cabinet for her latest remodel, so Tom has been working on it and getting back into the creative process.  This makes me happy, as all the wood and materials are just waiting for him to make me a new sofa out in that shop! Come on Tom!

So, it's time to work my way through this slump.  I have a commission due the end of Oct.  I have to hit a good stride and get cranking on it pronto.  Going out to look at the trains Sunday evening was part of that process of waiting for the muse to hit me upside the head.  Along with the painting-for-hire going on here, I have an idea cooking in the back of my mind.  The more I spend time outdoors, the more I will be itching to get back in the proverbial saddle again. 

Another way to work through this is to just force myself to paint and draw till the magic steals over my mind and I begin to feel it again.  Last dry spell I had, I sat down with my Graphitint pencils and began to play with them.  By the time I was done, I had cooked up the idea for my Bottles With Apple still life.  You never know what will pull you out of a dead spell, but the old adage of "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" really applies here.  Work is the key to finding your way back to the top of the pile again.  I'm off to work!  

Bottle Study, Graphitint watersoluable graphite and white pencil 
on paper, 10"x16"

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Of Peace and Freight Trains..

I get restless.  Sometimes, everything feels too big in the world and I need space around me to get my mind back in line.  Tonight, my husband and I went for a walk in Steins Pass, NM so that I could see the trains.   
What a thrill!  How close have you ever stood to a moving freight train?  This is the closest I ever have and my fingers fairly itched to grab hold of a ladder and let that train take me where it would!

The engineers waved and blew the horn as they drove by, not bothered at all by a person getting that close to the tracks.  My stress just rode away on those trains tonight.  I will have to go back again.  Image
As I sat and watched the sun setting and the light reflecting off of the steel rails, I felt peace settle over me, sink into my heart and the renewal of being in the wild country begin to have its effect.  I can pick up my burdens again tomorrow and move along.  

Onion and Potatoes

Sometimes the sketch and the finished painting don't look much like each other.  In this piece, I did a sketch in charcoal to see how my idea would flesh out.  I was feeling rather out of place in a new situation and decided I was an onion among potatoes.  The potatoes know the onion is different and the onion knows it stands out.  The thing they don't realize is how much better they are together.  (Fried, if you ask me)  Anyway, in my self pity I did this piece and actually ended up liking it.  It hangs in my studio to remind me that self pity is dumb and that creating something always makes me feel better!

A simple piece, but a good lesson.

I think one reason the sketch and painting turned out so different, was we had the sketch for dinner.  The painting was a whole new set of veggies.