Visiting Taos

So far this summer I have visited and sketched or painted in some very distinctive places. The first was Taos New Mexico. Taos has long been a destination for artists and all lovers of beauty. I was happy to find that popularity hadn’t turned it into a theme-park version of itself. It seems like a town with a real sense of community, and good people who work very hard to make it a pleasant place to live for all levels of the society there. Unlike some other cities with lots of art, galleries in Taos are friendly and welcoming. Often one of the first things I was told as I stepped through the door was “these are local artists”, or New Mexico, or the region. It was great to be in a place where local art is so strongly presented and supported. Almost every gallery promptly recommended at least one other gallery as well. Kent and I make a point of greeting shopkeepers as soon as we enter their space, and in Taos that led to some very entertaining conversations!

I painted one morning at the Rio Grande gorge until sunburn made me stop. I was distracted by watching beautiful tiny tiny birds on the rocks. They were so tiny! Although the chain link fence was ugly, I have long-ago memories of a gust of wind blowing a watercolor down into a gorge in Colorado, so I appreciated its function if not its form.

The skies in New Mexico are beautiful, and the clouds move quickly. It was a good idea to start with a value study because the light changed dramatically in no time at all.

Plein air, pochade
First time with new pochade box.
Canyon, Betty C Bowen, Rio Grande Plein Air, Taos
My canyon results, will finish in the studio

That same afternoon I painted a watercolor of the mountains from the much more comfortable vantage point of the Taos Mesa Brewing Co.. No great final result to show but it was fun. I am very aware that working plein air makes me slow down and observe in ways I simply don’t seem to do without colors to mix. Inside the Brewery was a poetry workshop, and outdoors we enjoyed watching a crew build a large new performance stage area. If we lived in the area I’m pretty sure this would be a regular stop. It has an air of continual creativity I find very attractive.

Plein air, Taos Mesa
The view from our table at Taos Mesa Brewing.

Our visit coincided with the annual re-mudding of the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos. It was very interesting to watch the all-volunteer crew at work maintaining this treasure. The church was begun as early as 1722, and besides continuing to be an active congregation in the Taos community, the building has been a popular subject for painters and photographers. Most people think of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings, but Ansel Adams’s photographs of the same general time period are also very influential. I must confess my embarrassment at realizing I had driven right past it years ago- it is definitely not where I thought it was!

Ranchos de Taos, re-mudding
Volunteers re-mudding the Ranchos de Taos church
Adobe, Taos
Screening the adobe materials

The reason for my visit was to attend the opening of “After Dark III“, a national juried show held at Greg Moon Art. This show focused on a wide interpretation of the theme, and I am proud to have had two paintings included in such a strong and varied show in such a beautiful place. I appreciate the opportunity and the good excuse to take a road trip to ?New Mexico. I hope we will be out there again soon.

Taos, Betty a Busby, Greg Moon, Betty C Bowen
My two small paintings with a gorgeous textle piece “Willow Revisited” by Betty Busby

My show

Friday night I opened the first show of oil paintings since, maybe ever. I have had solo shows of acrylics, mixed media, and woodcut prints. I’ve been included in shows of fine art books and even fiber. But somehow I have never had a gallery show of oil paintings.

Last fall I decided to just use oil or gouache, and to turn away from abstraction to painting what is around me. It is how I started making art and I decided it was pretty stupid for me to care anymore what anybody thinks about it. If I never sell another thing, that’s ok, but I’ll try.

When I was invited to take a wall in a gallery nearly three hours away near the Great Salt Plains, of course I accepted. Thanks for asking! Wow those are some bad roads, but a very good space. bright, loads of natural light, spacious, and super clean. When I go back I will plan time to paint at one of the bird watching outlooks for the lake at the salt plains.


Starting can be ugly

One of the most important qualities, or habits of mind, an artist develops is perseverance. If I didn’t understand what is on my easel right now, I’d quit, wipe it off, turn it to the wall, paint over it later. Earlier this week I quit a painting but I knew why, it was a drawing problem. Some things I just have to draw from life, so I must wait until those flowers bloom again. The rest of it was ok. Well, ok-ish.

But this painting is different. It is a night scene, and I’m working from life plus from both daytime and night photos. The subject is a zoomed-in view of what I see off my back porch. My neighbors houses, my storage shed, and in the distance one of the biggest oil storage tank farms in the country. Today we had great crazy clouds, hail, high winds, rain, and a few counties away, tornados. No earthquake for a few days at least (It’s supposed to freeze tomorrow) So I’m trying to paint the tank farm view with storm clouds. I am leaving out the sofa-recliner one of the neighbors dragged out to the alley a couple of weeks ago. I claim artistic license!20140413-203906.jpg


Snow in shade

I love how intense and varied the blues are on snow in shade. They range from intense ultramarine to almost purple, to almost green. And they change quickly in the very early morning or late evening.
For this picture I did the ground, snow, trees first. It was a rather typical dawn that day, so I can add that any time.
Spring is here, I’m looking forward to painting outdoors, when the Oklahoma wind allows!




Today was warm and bright, but I am still working on three snow paintings I started last week. I’m not a greatly adventurous plein air painter, I did these looking out the window of my warm cozy studio. There has been snow several times this winter but somehow I didn’t want to paint it until it felt like maybe it was the last time. Early flowers are beginning to emerge, we saw bluebirds come check out their box this weekend (yes it is still there and ready), and today I was surprised to find a ladybug in the asparagus bed. This lends a sense of urgency to the snow- paint it before it is gone!
It is fun to try to show the lumps and dents in the snow, and how the shadows are really several colors. The colors change so quickly it is important to get the paint mixed all at once. Otherwise you keep remixing and remixing- I learned this from Doug Braithwhite.


Every day I was home

Last post I mentioned taking my daily garden picture. I did that every day I was home in 2013. It all started because I was playing with my new IPad, and thinking about how to use it to make art on a trip to Yellowstone.

Now that we are just barely beginning to show signs of emerging from a dismal winter, I watched this a few times today. The jonquils and sedum are beginning to break the surface, and I’m starting flats of kale seeds in my studio windows.

I am looking forward to color and light and flowers and painting outdoors.

Here it is–

Evening light

I took a photo in my garden every day I was home last year. One evening, on the way back in to the house the light was hitting a changing maple and some small overturned flowerpots. This is a combination of drawing from life and painting from those photos. Being that it’s in my backyard it was easy to run out and draw, but that flash of evening light only lasted long enough to lift my ipad and snap, so I relied on those photos for the color.

I started painting this last week because i was just so weary of this colorless weather we have been having. It is nearly enough finished to set aside for a few days.


"Painting is another way of keeping a diary"


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