Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hondo Valley Farm

This plein air painting was done during a paintout in Lincoln County, New Mexico. It was quite a contrast from the farmland I painted in Sonoma County, California just the week before. New Mexico is in the midst of a drought. I was told that as of the beginning of June, Lincoln County had received no measurable rain since last year. What attracted me to this subject was the perspective created by furrows in the field and the telephone poles. This, along with the strong value contrast between the light roof against the dark trees made the house the center of interest.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sobre Vista Vineyard

This plein air painting was done along a quiet road, beside a vineyard in Sonoma County. It was an eventful day in beautiful surroundings. The first "adventure" happened when a sudden gust of wind knocked over my easel, sending my painting, face down, into a pile of organic debris. It was my official initiation into the brotherhood of plein air painters. Since it was my first accident, I wasn't sure if I could save the painting. I spent about 20 minutes excising bits of pine bark and compost from the wet paint, and, lo, I was able to salvage the painting. I guess I should feel fortunate it happened in a place like Sonoma rather than in New Mexico, where the painting might have landed in a cow pie.

I made the acquaintance of a friendly woman, Nan, who lived in a small house across the road from where I was painting. She was very generous in sharing refreshments and interesting conversation. She offered to show me some places close by that were potential painting spots. That was the second adventure. It was a pleasant walk through woods and tall grass, complete with ... a rattlesnake! First we saw a small snake that had the appearance of a viper, but without a rattle (perhaps an immature rattler?). A moment later, Nan spotted a large rattlesnake slithering in the tall grass in the trail. Of all the years I have lived and hiked in the Southwest, this was only the third rattlesnake I had ever seen, and it was, by far, the largest! Who would've ever thunk there would be rattlesnakes just north of San Francisco? I learned that they are, in fact, pretty common to that area, and that they are at least one reason why the grass is cut low in the vineyards (note the areas of dirt in the painting).

Getting back to the painting, what attracted me to this scene was the pattern created by the rows of grapes along the changing contours of the land, punctuated by tall coniferous trees and the blue of distant trees.

Oh, one more thing: While I was painting, I could hear the rattle of machinery and the voices of laborers who were singing — the sound echoing through the trees from afar.

These are memories and impressions left from a trip to a wonderful place.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vadasz Barn

This is an oil painting I did during the Sonoma Plein Air Festival May 18-23. The misty atmosphere and the geography of this wine country, just north of San Francisco, were quite different from what I was used to painting in the desert southwest. My intention with this painting was to convey a sense of the character of this rural country side, with its rolling, grass covered hills, ubitquitous oak trees and hazy late afternoon light.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rio Ruidoso

Rio Ruidoso flows through the Hondo Valley in Lincoln County, New Mexico. The plein air painting was done during a recent outing with artists from Plein Air Painters of New Mexico. Some finishing touches were done back in the studio later. I had just gotten back from a week of painting at the Sonoma Plein Air Festival in California. I will post paintings from that event soon.