Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Plein Air Adventures- or- What Do Ya Think Yer Doin?

Quite often in painting on location, I set up in places that at first appear to be out of the way and quiet.
Many times, although they may not seem to be so, I have set up in spots that turn out to be on private land (or perceived to be private land) and thus am "challenged" as to- "what da you think yer doin' ?" One painter related that he would load up 5 pound bags of potatoes (being from the San Luis Valley, major Potatoville) as bribes to soften property disputes with skeptical natives.

This painting site was off on the right of way along a county road in Conejos County, Colorado. It is on the way to my friend and painter Charley Ewing's home and I have traveled it many times. I have been drawn to this old adobe set off the road nestled in some fine mature cottonwoods and check it out every trip I take. The adobe has been a repeat subject matter for me, painting it several times.
So I set up for a larger plein air panel - 16 x 20, and, as anticipated, it took two days to capture the scene. I did not have any territory issues and being within the San Luis Valley, the potato bribe thing wouldn't have worked anyway. Like trying to sell ice to an Eskimo.
What did transpire- and a partial reason it took me two days to complete- was a steady stream of folks curious as to what I was doing. They would pull over and we would blab about the area, the many adobe remnants in the neighborhood and the verdant bottom lands saturated by the acequias coming off the Conejos River.
Several of the visitors were from the Espinosa and Mestas clans, two families that pioneered this area coming up from what is now New Mexico in the 1800's. So here are some other historical tidbits that I learned during both painting days:
- The county road CR 17 is known as Espinosa Lane, named after the now-sixth-generation community that peppered the area with farmsteads, many older homes now abandoned and melting back into the earth.
- There was an attempt to renovate the adobe closest to my paint site, although not the subject of the painting. There was such an infestation of "water" snakes (garter) that they gave up.
- The subject of my painting was an original Espinosa family building, now vacant. One of the informants grandfathers was around when the Espinosas took in a frozen company of Mormons who had trekked over the Sangre de Cristos in the dead of winter. Of the 40 that left Pueblo only 17 arrived in desperate need at their doorstep. The Espinosa's harbored the travelers and butchered a calf. Shortly thereafter, the survivors helped found the town of Manassa just a few miles north.

All in all it was very poignant for me, and I hope for my visitors as wells, as we passed a pleasant day sharing the bounty of the acequias with stories and appreciation for the vibrant and verdent bottomlands along the Conejos.

- A short distance to the south of my painting spot is the community church known as La Capilla de Santo Nino which served the Espinosa community for over a hundred years. It collapsed on October 21, 2016 from old age. Very sad.
"Bounty of the Acequia" plein air oil on linen, 16" x 20"
This painting will be part of the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico 8th Annual Juried Members Show opening with a public reception at the Sorrel Sky Gallery, 125 West Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, NM, 87501 from 5 to 8 pm on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. The show will be open for regular business hours until Nov. 27. 

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