The plein air paintings and stories associated with them on this page cover many years of visiting New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment. It is one of my favorite of the 50 States.
I credit the colors and art of New Mexico with igniting my own inner fire to create – the mind expanding landscape, dramatic skies and raw talent of New Mexico’s artistic community caught hold of my soul the very first time I went there in 1984.
New Mexico was the spark that catapulted Georgia O’Keeffe to fame. Large numbers of resident and visiting artists continue to draw inspiration from being there. If you haven’t yet visited, maybe this will whet your appetite.Traveling Artists: To get specific directions to great New Mexico plein air painting sites - click here.
An opportunity came up in August to spend a week sharing an old house on the Nambe Pueblo land about 20 miles north of Santa Fe. A group of us who paint together from time to time decided to rent the old adobe called “Casa Nambe” for a week.
We rented a couple of SUV vehicles for hauling all our artist luggage and gear.
August in New Mexico is usually hot and dry with thunderstorms and rain in the late afternoons.
Our days were spent plein air painting each day within easy driving distance from the Casa.
One day we went to Taos for a full day of gallery visiting, shopping and dining out.
The first painting shown here was done in the courtyard of the Casa Nambe during my first full day there. The second painting was done a couple of evenings later as we sat out on the mesa top behind the casa enjoying a little wine and doing our evening cloud paintings.
This was really a fun trip and so enjoyable and inspiring to be with a group of like minded plein air painters – an art retreat to feed the soul.
Another of our day trips from the Casa Nambe took us along The High Road to Taos - we had been invited to paint on the grounds of an art and sculpture gallery in the small town of Truchas. The gallery was located on a hill with wonderful views of the surrounding country and farm land.
The plein air painting you see here is what I painted that day – looking up-slope from the gallery was an old church. It provided a good subject, set in tall wind blown grass and trees.
Since returning from this New Mexico trip I have done a larger pastel painting using this original painting for inspiration.
The Rio Grande has its source in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado. Near Taos, New Mexico, the river has eroded an immense gorge through the flat plain.
As you drive from Santa Fe to Taos an amazing view of the Gorge can be seen. A great gash in the earth that is startling and unexpected in its size and effect. The magnificent scale of landscape, combined with the contrast of flat plain fractured by the gorge is quite breath taking.
This spot is a magnet for artists, both local and visiting.
When plein air painting there you can see for such a distance that you can watch weather as it unfolds. The march of thunderstorms and the play of light and cloud shadow constantly changes the color and feeling of the scene.
This magic spot has been acquired as a park and so will be available for future generations to enjoy
A winter break in Taos, New Mexico - 90 miles north of Santa Fe but in a different "State of Mind".
We stayed at the Old Taos Roadhouse - a bed and Breakfast sort of place. My room was lovely - the building 180 years old and made of adobe with original vigas, kiva fireplace and niches with little figures and pots in them. I had a skylight in both bedroom and bathroom.
The grounds have 2 horses in a field overlooking the Western view - we sat and watched a superb sunset - we talked about our trip from Santa Fe the previous day - we stopped at Tsankawa - a part of Bandalier National Park - we hiked a loop trail and climbed up onto the mesa top and when into cliff dwellings. Sat there and meditated upon what it must have been like to live here with snow everywhere...
Back at the Old Taos Roadhouse, I wrote the following poem to go with this plein air painting I did in the morning light.
"Taos Mountain Blue"
At breakfast we spoke of moradas and penitentes.
Pinon smoke incense in the air,
the cold finger of frost is just lifting.
Across the road from our Inn, Taos Mountain Blue.
Cottonwood trees in winter dress.
Weak winter sun casts spidery shadows,
Taos Mountain in winter is the view.
Taos Mountain Blue.
I love Taos! Wonderful art galleries, good places to eat and great "people watching" opportunities abound.
During our visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico in March, we stayed at the Pueblo Bonita Bed and Breakfast Inn near the State Capitol building rather than in the Plaza area. This saved us quite a bit of money as the room rates are more reasonable in this part of town.
This plein air painting is of the room I stayed in – cute and Santa Fe funky. I had a kiva fireplace. Each room is different but all are decorated in “Santa Fe Style”
I always encounter interesting people in Santa Fe. While I was painting this Adobe in the afternoon light, Bill, the manager of the Pueblo Bonita came by and we chatted about art making. He does sculpture. Everyone in Santa Fe is either an aspiring artist or writer.
My favorite kind of place – the Land of Enchantment!
My sister Katherine and her husband Barrie were visiting New Mexico from England for the first time and found New Mexico quite beguiling – from the landscape to the food and the art.
We skied together the next day at Santa Fe Ski Basin and had a wonderful time on the wide open slopes at 10,000 ft.
In the evening we had dinner at Tomasitas in Santa Fe. They serve the best New Mexican cuisine. It was within easy walking distance of our hotel. Just as well if you try one of their margaritas – and be forewarned – their chili is incendiary.
I was excited to get up early and get going on this day. I stayed with my friend Penny at her beautiful Southwest style home on the outskirts of Santa Fe. It had snowed lightly overnight, and all the dark pinon trees and juniper shrubs had a dusting of sparkling snow.
I sat in the outdoor hot tub with my coffee and watched the sun come up over the mountains. We planned to ski a half day at Santa Fe Ski Basin later. But first, I had a painting to do.
I set up my plein air painting gear in the kitchen looking out at the garden. A wooden carving of St. Francis with snow covered birds on his out stretched arms was calling to me. In the distance, the Santa Fe Ski area could be seen. I had thought about painting this scene for a while and the painting came together almost by itself. A magical and rare experience! This painting remains one of my favorite New Mexico scenes and it hangs on the wall in my California kitchen.
We skied after lunch that day and had great fun skiing from the top of Ski Basin mountain at 10,000+ ft. What a perfect day! Painting the morning light and then skiing in fresh snow with my long time dear friend.
To subscribe to our FREE monthly Newsletter - PLEIN AIR MUSINGS - about all things Plein Air, send us your information below.