Monday, March 22, 2010

A Walk About in No Man's Land

I went down south of Alamosa and met up with my ol' friend Don Richmond in the old town of San Luis. We proceeded on many back roads to the vicinity of the large round mound now known as Ute Mountain.

I wanted to take Donnie to some petroglyphs that were near this mountain. We followed a now dry creek bed and shortly after where this ancient stream started to cut into the volcanic bedrock to form a gorge that leads to the Rio Grande there is a special sunny spot facing south where people have lingered for many generations.

On the south facing cliffs etched into the dark and burnished rock faces of basalt are numerous drawings pecked and scraped into the surface. These were laid down in ancient history by artists that we can only speculate as to their clan and circumstance.

There are several styles of petroglyphs here; some abstract, curvilinear with oval shapes and interconnected rounded forms. In one alcove there are three prominent human like figures. One of them is a distinctive representation of a man who appears to have only one arm.

It seems that both Don and I had a long winter because with the pleasant weather, the abundant sunshine and the peculiar quiet of the outback we became suddenly inert. We hesitated after a quick site-see and leaned up against the rock faces soaking up the sun like cold-blooded lizards.

As we drank in the atmosphere of where we were in a shallow gorge, far away from people and their trappings, we sampled various spots along the cliff face and whether it imagined or not became recharged and revitalized by the energy we seemed to pick up there. Some spots seemed to warm our hearts while Donnie commented on another spot where he felt he had grown roots into the depths of the earth below us.

We then headed down the canyon after lounging for a long time. The side walls became steeper and steeper very rapidly. We were probably at least a couple of miles away from the deeper gorge on the main Rio Grande channel.

We soon turned around and climbed back out on top to witness the open spaces the huge sky and the horizons filled with the round volcanoes and distant jagged snow covered peaks that are the hallmark of what Don calls No Man's Land. This is indeed exactly the sort of field trip I love to take. Breathtaking vistas, weird rocks, a strong presence of Indian heritage and a good companion.

Another great way to be paid to wander.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dunes Tapestry

I challenged myself with this piece. I wanted to portray the staggering variety of landscapes and environments in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in a small format. I witnessed this view- ready made. When I saw this, I new I would have to break several compositional rules- such as the need to break through planes using vertical devices. Trees are usually good for this. Instead I chose to feature how in a single vista you can witness the many transitions from high desert to 14,000 foot peaks. When I finished the painting I noticed that this piece was almost like a weaving or a tapestry wrought on a loom.
Dunes Tapestry 9 x 12 oil on linen

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

High Valley Ranch

I have noticed two genres of pioneer structures in the San Luis Valley that seem to be culturally determined. The first variety is the log cabin which is usually associated with immigrants from northern Europe and their descendants.
The other is the adobe structure which derives from Hispanic and Pueblo Indian heritage. There is also a hybrid of these two types made of vertical poles and then stuccoed-over called jacal.
This view is of some early buildings made of felled logs on the Zapata Ranch in the San Luis Valley.
A storm was just clearing to reveal the huge massif of Sierra Blanca with a fresh dusting of June snow.
"High Valley Ranch" 9 x 12 oil on linen

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bloom time

Spring in Taos is always accompanied by fruit trees in bloom. This is one well-established apple tree in Arroyo Hondo on the road to the Gorge. The Sangre de Cristos still hold patches of winter snow that will soon vanish under the approaching rain showers.

"Bloom Time" 16 x 20 oil on linen

Friday, March 5, 2010


My wife and I walk by this view several times a week along with our dog. It is an old meander of the Rio Grande that now holds fluctuating water levels throughout the year. A constant feed is from a warm artesian well that flows through ditches from a mile away.
This is one of the rare sources of open water in the winter. A clue that the seasons are changing is when we notice the spread of the thaw start to grow- a harbinger of Spring approaching.
"Harbinger" oil on linen 9 x 12

Monday, March 1, 2010

First Blog

Well, here goes. Someone asked me what my ideal job would be. I thought about what I would like to do- in a sense of doing absolutley nothing-- and get paid for it! I thought with great affection on how I have always loved to wander and explore the wilds and backroads of the rural Southwest. To just drive around, get out at a point of interest and start to wander.
This is probably why I enjoy plein air painting so much.
So I will post as things happen including art and what ever else might pop up.