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musings from the studio and beyond ~

dawn chandler’s reflections on art and life. . . .

 

the grace of trivial projects

Snow has been falling for hours. And though there doesn’t seem to be much accumulation — it’s too warm — it’s been beautiful to watch. Beyond quenching the earth and sogging the dirt roads, mostly the snow has served to bury my To Do List.

There’s so much I planned to have done by now, the second week of the new year. So many new ideas I intended to embark on.

Oh, but I’m not giving myself enough credit for all that I’ve accomplished in 11 days, all the plans I’ve made progress on. In fact, if anything it’s been a breathless new year, a breathless pace, and in a couple of weeks, if all goes well, I’ll have an exciting announcement to share with you. As a result I’ve been rather glued to my computer these first days of the New Year, my mind spitting rapid fire ideas as my fingers on the keyboard have become cramped from too much activity!

And so that’s exactly why I decided today to let the snow bury my intentions and instead, in the soft grey light of a sunless morning, to work quietly contentedly on the perfectly pleasantly mundane task of organizing my note cards and stationary. Of all the unimportant projects to work on…..
I didn’t plan on it…. it just happened as I sipped my tea and gathered together the bulging stack of notes and cards I’ve received recently and just fell into a kind of quiet trance as I rifled through my large collection of cards to share and decided which ones to send to whom, and further organized the remainder into themes. Was I wasting precious time on a trivial project? Perhaps. But I sure was enjoying myself. And my mind surely enjoyed the break from thinking so hard about more complex projects.

Once that task was done, and I had finished deciding which salutations to send in the coming weeks, I thought of avoiding screens for the rest of the day. For I do so cherish an “unplugged” day…..

But I also wanted to look through my recent photos….

Recall that when last you heard from me — back in the last year — we (my Man & I) had had to postpone my customary birthday celebration, as well as our customary new year celebration due to inclement weather. But a few days later — last weekend — we were able to revel once again in that spectacular country where we love to celebrate life on this earth.

And what we saw there was indeed spectacular….

 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler
 Snowgeese rising en masse at the Bosque del Apache sunset 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler

The savvy birders among you know that this massive flock of winged beings is not of cranes, but of snow geese. The geese at the Bosque are more numerous and much more raucous than the cranes. But their white plumage glows like moonlight when the light is dim, and, at certain times of day, they make the sun seem to dance across the sky in astonishing ways

It’s funny — and maybe a weak analogy — but it occurs to me that these photos represent a bit of what my new year has been like so far: A mass of projects and appointments and To Dos that seemed to rise out of nowhere and overtake me, leaving me breathless, only to then scatter and diminish, giving me a chance to catch my breath as I single out a few to focus on.

 Cranes flying toward the setting sun at the Bosque del Apache 5 January 2019, photo by artist Dawn Chandler

Which brings me back to my humbly blissful task this morning of sorting my stationary: Some of you who are reading this took the time over the holidays to write me a hand-written note. I can hardly think of a more lovely gift than that of a hand-written communication. Thank you for taking the time to take pen to hand to paper and writing to me; I cherish your gift.

.

.

… Okay, enough of screens for now … it’s time to to make a wee bit of art…

details of one of artist Dawn Chandler's mixed media crane paintings in progress

…and then on to packing…. for we’ll be heading back down to the Bosque this weekend…. Our time with the snow geese and cranes is slipping away too quickly. For February approaches and by mid-month, their beautiful wings will stretch and lift away from us, as they head northward again.

snowgeese and sandhill cranes at the Bosque del Apache at sunset, january 5th, 2019, photo by Dawn Chandler

Despite the government shut down, we are grateful that the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge has remained open (though the Visitors’ Center is closed.) Thankfully the Refuge is just far enough off the well-traveled highway that park abusers have kept away, and the people who have ventured to this oasis remain respectful and appreciative.


artist Dawn Chandler's shadowed silhouette against the canyon wall at Bandelier

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings.
If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.
Blessings ~
Dawn Chandler
p.s.: You can find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook.


Montage of images from artist Dawn Chandler's recent blog post 'new year musings'

celebrating grace ~ she paused to listen . . . .

Santa Fe sunrise - 28 December 2018 - by artist Dawn Chandler

As I write this, a gorgeous snow is falling in the soft grey light of dawn. This is the second of two snow storms to move across New Mexico this week: The first arrived mid-morning of the 26th blessing us with four inches of snow. This storm arrived last evening, and when I looked out into the dark silence of midnight, already there was at least half a foot of a fresh blanket.

Two weeks ago, the mountains had already received more snow this season than they had all of last winter.

My heart is bursting with gratitude as I think of the replenishment of mountain streams and forest roots, as I imagine spring wildflowers embroidering across last summer’s black burn scars.

 

photo montage of Santa Fe snow 28 December 2018 - by Dawn Chandler

 

My intention was that as you read this morning’s musings, I would be standing shivering (joyfully!) in the early morning shadow of ten-New Mexico roads map from midday December 28 2018thousand geese and cranes rising. For today is my birthday, and my favorite way to celebrate this day (as you surely know by now if you are a regular reader) is to witness the sunrise wave of wings down at the Bosque.

However heavy snows and treacherous road conditions are causing me to put off this particular form of celebration — for now. Just for now.

But as I wait to witness wingsong again, the ribbons of the Rio Grande are recharging their life force. The shallow waters where the cranes roost are deepening; the fields where they feed are being nourished. And so winter weather cautions me to wait.

I do so patiently.

If I cannot watch the wings this day, then I shall conjure them here, in my little sanctuary of creativity, and let them come to life, lifting and rising from pages of paint and paper.

 

sandhill crane musings by artist dawn chandler 28 december 2018

Meanwhile…. Happy New Year to you good people. You’ve helped make this 54th year a wonderfully good one for me. I appreciate you and count you among my many blessings.

As a small token of my appreciation, and in celebration of my special day, I’ve a small gift for any of you who wish to make use of it ~ 54% off all of my art. Just for today ~ December 29, 2018.

Here’s the coupon code: DAWNROCKS54 ~ Or simply click here for the direct link for the coupon offer.

Come December 30, the coupon will expire (sorry, no exceptions) and come the new year, some of my prices will be going up.
So today’s your chance to get that piece you’ve been longing for…

 

Oh… But what about my crane paintings?

It’s been a while…. so here ~ I can think of none better to share on my favorite day of the year than this one….

 

mixed media painting 'She Paused to Listen - They Were Coming Home Again' by artist Dawn Chandler

 

One of the intriguing aspects of painting for me is that I never know how a painting is going to turn out, or rarely even what it is going to be about. The exception is with my “traditional landscapes,” where I have a general expectation that ultimately it’s going to look (at least somewhat) like the scene I’m trying to capture. But when it comes to my mixed media, collage, and more abstract works, I rarely, if ever, have an end goal in mind. Rather,  details of mixed media painting 'She Paused to Listen - They Were Coming Home Again' by artist Dawn ChandlerI’m open to what evolves from juxtaposing color, shape and line, and seeing what emerges.

I don’t even remember how this painting began. Likely with complete abstraction. I’d bet that once I added light blue, I started seeing sky.

But this figure of the woman…. She is so literal… I imagine she emerged from several white abstract brush strokes… and then I started seeing the suggestion of a female figure in a white dress….
I drew her out with more paint… delineated her shape a bit more, then added a sash of blue…. blue reminiscent of a river, a passage of sky…

The cranes were the last design element I added. I recall my heart quickened when I added them. Whenever that happens, I know my Muse is happy.

I suppose many people see a female figure in a white dress and instantly assume she’s a bride.

Or perhaps she’s a ghost.

So often the first place where my mind goes with a woman in a long white dress is Emily Dickinson.

Our female figure here in this painting may be any of these.
Or all of these.
Or none.

Surely, though, she’s a dreamer.
And a poet, dressed in the colors of cloud and sky….
And a lover of winged beings, one whose pulse quickens with the first sound above of them returning home again.

 

mixed media painting 'She Paused to Listen - They Were Coming Home Again' by artist Dawn Chandler

She Paused to Listen – They Were Coming Home Again ~ by Dawn Chandler
Mixed media on panel ~ 12″ x 12″
This painting is available here.

 

 


An incredibly accurate portrait of artist Dawn Chandler by her incredibly talented nephew Alex Chandler, December 2018Pictured left: A strikingly accurate portrait of artist Dawn Chandler* (“Anty Beebs” ) by her nephew, up-and-coming rock-star artist, Alex Chandler, age 10.

* Note the crane earrings…


 

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings.

If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

Happy New Year!

Dawn Chandler

p.s.: You can find more of my stories, insights and art via my Inside the Studio Notes — and of course here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook.

 


All photos & paintings throughout this blog are by Dawn Chandler unless otherwise noted.

 

 

solace in the spaces where spirit is found

I had in mind sharing something different today. But the response from so many of you to my post “we can only hold so much” was so great, so compassionate, so heartfelt, that I wanted to acknowledge your tremendous big-heartedness.

Thank you.

So many of us are now at the age where our guiding elders are slipping from us.

So many of you shared with me some of your own sorrow of living this truth.

And so many of you extended a message of uplift, a message of comfort. You shared reminders of the places where and moments when you have communed again with the spirits of your loved ones, and made warm suggestions as to where I might commune with mine ~

In the starlit silence of the night.

Smells of bread, of coffee, of roast turkey, of mulled cider, of campfires.

In the stains of old cookbooks.

In the grasp of a beloved mug, a favorite spoon.

In the dog-earned pages of well-worn volumes.

Between lines of poetry.

In the folds of a red bandana.

Among flocks of glass and clay wings.

In well-worn woodworking tools.

In a Bach solo cello…. a Rachmaninoff vesper…

Soaring among hawks.

Grazing among horses.

In the empty spaces within my paintings.

 

It was the Horses That Brought Her Back to Me oil and mixed media painting by artist Dawn Chandler

 details of mixed media landscape painting Spritis of the Winter Bosque by artist Dawn Chandler

 

 

Along forest trails…

 

Along the Appalachian Trail, Vermont; photo by artist Dawn Chandler

 

and mountain tops…

 

Sunset from Roundtop Shelter, Long Trail, Vermont, photo by artist Dawn Chandler

 

and always, always among the cranes …. and geese…

 

First sunset of Winter Canada geese in Denver's City Park; photo by artist Dawn Chandler

 

May our spirits and better angels guide us well in the New Year.

And may there be, truly, peace on Earth, goodwill to all beings.

Happy Holidays to each of you — and thanks so much for being here.

~ Dawn

 

First sunset of Winter, a couple of Canada geese in Denver's City Park; photo by artist Dawn Chandler

 


 

artist Dawn Chandler's shadowed silhouette against the canyon wall at Bandelier

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings

If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

Blessings ~

Dawn Chandler

p.s.: You can find more of my stories, insights and art via my Inside the Studio Notes — and of course here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook.

 


All photos & paintings throughout this blog are by Dawn Chandler unless otherwise noted. Photos of Canada Geese taken in City Park, Denver, on the first full day of Winter, 2018.

 


 

Winter Solstice in City Park, Denver, 2018; photo by artist Dawn Chandler

we can only hold so much

We Can Only Hold So Much headline banner of collaged images by Dawn Chandler

 

I’d been on the verge of tears all day.
I didn’t know why, for the day before I’d felt fine.

But then, later, at the grocery store checkout, my bag of bulk lentils snagged on my shopping cart and exploded in a shower on the floor.
I lost it. Not there — no; I helped clean it up with calm if embarrassed presence.
It was when I got to my car, and climbed into the driver’s seat, my eyes welled and my throat felt sharp.

Everything just seemed so heavy.

The waste.

Disappointments.

Holiday exhaustion.

Back aches and wrist aches and eye aches.

The unimaginable, unbearable reality of more shootings, more wildfires, more environmental degradation, more trauma to our fellow beings, our fellow souls.

And then there was this:

I miss my parents.

Their absence always echoes loudest this time of year…

But maybe most piercing of all in my day-to-day:

 
 

My dog is getting old.

 

… and imagining her gone just then had me gulping sobs…

 
 

Wilson, Dawn Chandler's sweet Taos Purebred black mutt, Wilson, who is almost 12.

 

I sat there in my sorrow in my car in the parking lot and let it spill out.

We can only hold so much.

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . .

. . .

Real despondency for me is rare.
I used to let sadness overtake me more. But changing how I nourish myself in body and soul has made despair an infrequent visitor.
Indeed, my observation is that eating poorly (lots of sugar and processed foods) can trigger emotional roller-coasters.
I also tend to believe that one’s ego is the source of most of one’s suffering.
And that screen time in many way feeds ego time. Too much of others’ chatter hypes up the chatter in one’s own head.

What I also believe is that there’s nothing like being outside and breathing deeply of fresh, clean air to clear the mind and rejuvenate the spirit.

Yet I hadn’t been outside nearly enough recently. My Sweet Pup (now 11.5 yrs) has a gimpy leg, so our daily walks have had to be shortened to just a fraction of what they used to be.

I needed a long walk in fresh air.
I needed no screens.
I needed no consumerism, no holiday thrumming.

. . .

. . . . . .

. . . . . . . . .

Two days later, I set out to seek out the presence of ancients, the embrace of old wisdom.

I went to where the December sun soaks ocher canyon walls with heat, where no sound murmurs but the trickle of river song, breezes brushing up whispers of spirits.

The ancients cliffs shadows of Bandelier National Monument, as observed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

I went there to be enriched by the lack of riches.

To climb a ladder and crawl into a cave and stare out through a sacred circle of blue sky.

 

A ladder leading to an ancient dwelling at Bandelier National Monument as photographed by artist Dawn Chandler

shadows and light as seen from within one of the ruins at Bandelier National Monument, as observed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

More shadows and light as seen from within one of the ruins at Bandelier National Monument, as observed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

I walked, carrying on my back my sustenance.a thermos filled with lentils and a basil makes for a delicious lunch.
Come midday with the sun warming my neck, I sat on a bench among tall Ponderosa pines. Giving a turn of my thermos lid, I dug deeply with a spoon into my warm vessel of now nourishing — rather than tear-inducing — lentils.

As I sat there eating in silence, I noticed a jolting movement in the grey brown woods around me.

Then another small jolt …. and another. And another.

I was surrounded by nuthatches.

Everywhere I looked there was another nuthatch — and another.

white-breasted nuthatches are abundant in December and year-round at Bandelier National Monument. Photo by Sally King.

white-breasted nuthatch ~ photo by Sally King

Suddenly my mother’s spirit was beside me, taking in the wonderment of December birds, as we gazed together into the woods with delight.

My father’s spirit was not far away — his was lingering at every placard, reading, learning, all that he could about this magical place.

Some things never change.

 

And yet all is always changing.

Petroglyphs and ancient architectural beauty found at Bandelier National Monument as photographed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

But on this day…..

On this day I received a tiny gift from a stranger.

By a chance acquaintance I was enriched with poetry and cranes.

My aches evaporated, my thoughts cleared in the warm December sunlight.

On this day I was reminded of the delights to be witnessed in stillness and awareness, under open sky in secluded canyons.

 

The beautiful delicacy of dried flowers against the ancient architectural beauty found at Bandelier National Monument as photographed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

The tall cliffs and dwellings of Bandelier National Monument, photographed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

Later I was reminded of the pleasure of old and enduring friendships.

And come evening I was greeted by an old gimpy pup, who, after a day of rest wanted nothing more than to play, like the young puppy she believes herself still to be.

We played and played and played. Joyfully. Ferociously. Gleefully.

After a day away, I had work to do — spreadsheets to tally, photos to tweak, correspondences to return.

But while my sweet pup’s snores whispered to me from her bed like the trickle of the morning stream, I put my screens away, and opened a long neglected sketchbook instead.

artist Dawn Chandler's watercolor palette and sketchbook

 

Blessed be the day of tears, for it brought me to this, this magical day.

Namaste.

 

an inviting picnic spot at Bandelier National Monument.

 

a half-moon of snow shadow photographed by artist Dawn Chandler


 

artist Dawn Chandler's shadowed silhouette against the canyon wall at Bandelier

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings

If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

Blessings ~

Dawn Chandler

p.s.: You can find more of my stories, insights and art via my Inside the Studio Notes — and of course here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook.

 


All photos & paintings throughout this blog are by Dawn Chandler unless otherwise noted.

 

baldy mountain ~ high country snow ~ new painting & print

I interrupt the steady stream of weekend crane painting posts to share the gift of snow — High Country Snow.

Limited edition prints of High Country Snow - Philmonts Baldy Mountain — by New Mexico artist Dawn ChandlerHigh Country Snow ~ by Dawn Chandler ~ limited edition prints (as well as the painting) now available.

 

I don’t know the exact calendar, but it seems snow this season first fell on the high peaks of Northern New Mexico in early November — maybe even late October. (Now that I think of of it, Yes, it snowed on Halloween…)

What astonishes me is that there has been a constant cap of snow in the high country for weeks and weeks leading into Christmas.

In my quarter-century of living in New Mexico, I have never seen the mountains covered this consistently with late autumn snow like this.

As I write this, more snow is coming.

First morning light before the snow this week in Santa Fe. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler

Sunrise from my home in Santa Fe, with snow on the way…

 

You know the old wisdom:

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

Out here in the land of drought and fire I propose a revision:

Red sky at dawn, rivers rush on.

Rain. Snow. We depend on them.
And so with every fresh white cloaking of the mountains, I utter a silent prayer of thanks.

And of course this time of year, when snow touches the mountains, they just seem dreamlike on account of their frosting.”

As a Northeastern girl, with gorgeous childhood memories of white Christmases, every year the romantic in me hopes upon hope for snow on December 24th.

Blanketed in snow, the childhood home in central New Jersey, of artist Dawn Chandler

My childhood home in central New Jersey.

 

But even if Christmas weren’t part of the equation, there’s something about snow in the high peaks that touches off the romantic in me. ‘Hard to look to those white slopes and not dream of cozy cabins, crackling fires, warm libations and candlelight.

Brings to mind a favorite snowy ballad…

The lamp is burnin’ low upon my table top
The snow is softly fallin’
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly callin’

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon the page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin’
The mornin’ light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin’

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with with you
To be once again with with you

(That is, of course, “Song for A Winter’s Night” by Gordon Lightfoot.)

 

These are among the many thoughts drifting like snow through my mind as I consider my most recent painting, High Country Snow.

High Country Snow — Philmont's Baldy Mountain, oil painting by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler, based on a photo by Douglas FaschingHigh Country Snow
by Dawn Chandler
oil on panel ~ 18″ x 24″

As if I even have to tell most of you that this is the 12,441 ft. Baldy Mountain in Colfax County, New Mexico — Philmont’s Baldy Mountain (as opposed to, say, Santa Fe’s Baldy Mountain, or any of the surely dozens of other “Baldy Mts. in this country!)

My friend (and ace photographer) Douglas Fasching sent me a photo of this scene years ago, and I’ve been meaning to attempt a painting of it ever Funny thing is he caught this image in April — so this is a springtime snow. But April’s snows are maybe even more valued than late autumn snows, dampening and nourishing as they do the parched springtime wind-sucked high desert earth.

Doesn’t matter.

Snow is snow and it’s always welcome here.Numbering of Dawn Chandler's latest print edition ~ High Country Snow

And so this painting High Country Snow is a tribute to that rare sight of snow-capped mountains in New Mexico. And after this year’s brutal Ute Park Fire summer fire across the heart of Philmont, this painting is, well, a sort of prayer, too.
A prayer for a whole lot more snow and rain to come to New Mexico in the new year, and bring green back to the high desert….

I’ve created a very limited edition of 12 medium (12″ x 16″) and 24 small (7.5″ x 10″) prints of High Country Snow; find them here.

And, of course, the original 18″ x 24″ oil painting is available, too — right here.

Or just go shop around at my online store at etsy.com/shop/dawnchandlerstudio

More cranes coming soon….

Meanwhile, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW!

detail of High Country Snow, Dawn Chandler's recent painting of Philmont's Baldy Mountain, shrouded in fresh snow.

 


Thanks so much for reading my blog and appreciating my art!
If you enjoy my musings here, and know others who might enjoy them too, please share this post!

Also, I invite you to discover more of my stories, insights and art via my Inside the Studio Notes — and of course here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook.

Blessings ~

Dawn Chandler


All photos & paintings throughout this blog are by Dawn Chandler unless otherwise noted.