Monday, October 31, 2011

Kitchen Mesa Shapes, Ghost Ranch 23

Years ago, when I first came back to painting after years being a graphic designer, I met and became friends with another painter in a class we both took at CCAC. Over the years, we have spent regular time painting together. When ever I am in California I make sure to build in time to work together in her studio and she does the same when she visits me in New Mexico. Having a "painting partner" has made all the difference for both of us.

This last week, I spent two days in her new studio in Point Richmond. I came with sketches for this painting and an idea that I would start it here. We made our regular visit to Blick Art Supply and I looked for a surface to paint on. Blick has their own brand of cradled board which I had rejected because it has a manufactured surface that is textured in a regular texture that looks and feels like manufactured laminate. I had been struggling with a painting on smooth board where the colors just seemed to mush together. I felt like I needed to change something...so why not the surface. I also decided to start the painting in acrylic and then decide if I wanted to to finish in oil paint.

I know Ghost Ranch. I can locate the most interesting shapes in the landscape and take students there. But lately I have been feeling like I have painted every red hill in the painted desert and wanted to focus on another aspect of the landscape. The shapes of the golden cliffs on either end of Kitchen Mesa are amazing when the late afternoon light hits them. Earlier, I had painted the "Rock Fall" end of the formation and felt it was one of my best paintings. Actually, my painting partner Susan had purchased  it so I am able to see it when I visit.

I am not sure this painting is finished but it is a great start and I was able to finish it in a day. A record for me! More to come.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Casa Del Sol Hill, Ghost Ranch 20

8 x 8 inches, oil on panel, © Ann Painter 2011

Actually painting "en plein air" is exhilarating and challenging. August in Northern New Mexico is hot. Cloudy skies come and go, the light changes constantly and the gnats and mosquitoes can be maddening. If you find a shady spot to paint from, the sun moves and you are suddenly in the bright sun, or that perfect spot turns out to have cactus thorns or an ant hill right where you are sitting. 

Lots of painters work in their comfortable studio from photographs. Their only "plein air" experience is to go out into the landscape and take the photos they paint from. I noticed some time ago, when I was out doing this kind of non-painting, that the camera distorted the size and relationship of the shapes I was photographing. So if Pedernal appeared large to my eye, it appeared small in the photo I took of the same scene. I realized that if I didn't capture the images as I saw them with my eye, the painting I created would have very little relationship to what inspired me in the first place. So, I slather on bug-off, wrap my neck in a wet scarf, cover my ears with a bandanna, my head with a hat and my arms and legs with long clothing, and sit in the landscape until I have what I want or at least, a good start.

This painting of a hill opposite Casa del Sol, beneath the Puerto del Sol chimney at Ghost Ranch was a challenge for all the reasons noted above and more. I couldn't seem to "get it" and must have wiped the start of a painting off the board 3 times before I decided to slow down and take it piece by piece. I drew with a pencil and then painted, drew again and painted again. The colors were soft and subtle and I decided to stay closer to what I saw than I usually do, and include more of the textural detail. At a certain point, I stopped looking at the actual subject and began painting what I remembered and felt about it. This is my favorite part...the place where I let go of the "out there" to paint the "in here". This painting felt like a turning point and is, to date, one of my favorite paintings in the Ghost Ranch series.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ghost House Interior, Ghost Ranch 19

 6" x 6 inches, oil on panel, © Ann Painter, 2011
SOLD

On rainy or cold days, I often take students inside Ghost House to paint from the interior of this old adobe building that housed early visitors to the Ranch. Built by hand in 1886, the building has been restored to retain the original character or the structure. There are stories of cattle rustlers, hangings in the huge cottonwood tree out front and ghosts that continue to haunt the place to this day.  The warm adobe walls change color all day long, depending on light, time of day and weather conditions. The interior of the building is lit by daylight streaming through the small original windows built into the the thick adobe walls.  It is this light and the glow it created that inspired this painting of chairs and table in the main room. This commissioned painting was created as a companion piece for the earlier Ghost House Exterior, Ghost Ranch 13.  

Monday, February 28, 2011

Green Chair and Kiva, Ghost Ranch 18

6 x 6 inches, oil on panel, © Ann Painter 2011

The shape of the kiva fireplace that is traditional to adobe architecture is very organic. Kivas were made of the same adobe mud as the walls of the house. Many were quite small but able, with very little wood, to warm the whole room in winter. Unfortunately, the kivas that still exist in Ghost House, are decorative rather than functional. I understand the reasons for this but none-the-less, find it disappointing, especially on cold days when fire would make painting in this room so much more comfortable. In this painting, I was interested in the contrast between the soft shapes of the kiva and the hard, linear shapes of the chair and space behind it. The glow on the interior wall came from warm afternoon light that steamed in through the window on the opposite wall.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ghost House Interior, Ghost Ranch 19

 6" x 6 inches, oil on panel, © Ann Painter, 2011
SOLD

On rainy or cold days, I often take students inside Ghost House to paint from the interior of this old adobe building that housed early visitors to the Ranch. Built by hand in 1886, the building has been restored to retain the original character or the structure. There are stories of cattle rustlers, hangings in the huge cottonwood tree out front and ghosts that continue to haunt the place to this day.  The warm adobe walls change color all day long, depending on light, time of day and weather conditions. The interior of the building is lit by daylight streaming through the small original windows built into the the thick adobe walls.  It is this light and the glow it created that inspired this painting of chairs and table in the main room. This commissioned painting was created as a companion piece for the earlier Ghost House Exterior, Ghost Ranch 13.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cedar Tree, Ghost Ranch 17

8 x 8 inches, Oil on Masonite, © Ann Painter, 2010
SOLD

The Badlands at Ghost Ranch are filled with old cedar trees that have stood unchanged, for decades. During my last plein air painting class, I found myself feeling drawn to paint several of them. This particular tree is set into the landscape in an area not easily seen from the road. There is an arroyo winding along in front of it and, depending on your point of view, purple hills in the background. The twists and turns of the tree and the way it framed the background hills really drew my eye, and I wanted to see if I could create an image that would represent my experience of this place.

These old cedars have endured years of weather that would have destroyed many other trees and yet, they stand year after year, virtually unchanged. Their roots are dried up and branches broken but they continue to stand. Each tree has a unique character and spirit reflected in the twists and turns of its dried out limbs reaching toward the sky. They are not dead, but very alive.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gerald's Tree, Ghost Ranch 16

8 x 8 inches, oil on masonite, © Ann Painter, 2010
SOLD

There is some question whether this is really the tree that Gerald danced around and that O'Keeffe painted but the tour bus that stops at all the places O'Keeffe painted at Ghost Ranch always says it is. I have my doubts but no matter. It is a wonderful old cedar that stands by the side of the dirt road that leads to the home O'Keeffe owned and lived in during the summer at Ghost Ranch for over 50 years. The view behind it changes depending on the angle it is viewed from. I have stood in front of it and had my picture taken as have so many others. It's that kind of place. Over the years, I did not feel particularly moved to paint it. If it was really Gerald's Tree, O'Keeffe had already done it better than anyone else might, or so I thought. I have passed by, sat under and had students photograph, draw and paint the tree over the past decade and finally decided, despite my misgivings, that it had to be part of this series of paintings I am doing about Ghost Ranch.

All the previous paintings in the Ghost Ranch series have been 6 x 6 inches. Painting so small offers its own set of challenges and after 15 Ghost Ranch paintings and 10 butterflies the same size, I felt ready for something different. I used an 8 x 8 inch panel for this piece. Like the others, the archival masonite panel was primed with black gesso but instead of going directly to oil, I did an under painting in acrylic which seemed to brighten the oil colors and give a richness to the piece that I am very pleased with. Painting has always created an experience of intimacy for me with my subject. I am forced to stop and really look, to pay attention and be in the moment as I look and then paint my impressions of what I see and feel about the subject. I know this tree now, in ways I did not before and that is the magic for me. It is what keeps me coming back over and over to paint the things that catch my eye and interest me.