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musings from the studio and beyond ~

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


the unusual transformation of a landscape

Wilson Pupster along Santa Fe's Rail Trail. Photo by Santa Fe Artist Dawn ChandlerIt’s a few hours away from the first day of winter and I suppose I should be writing something solstice-y or festive-y or fa-la-la-la-la-lish

But as much as I love this time of year, with the relentless sunshine we’ve been having this month where the skies look more like summer,  I’m going to take a few moments to share something I’ve been wanting to share since August:

It all started just a few miles away from my studio, over on Santa Fe’s RailTrail.
One of may favorite places in all of Santa Fe, the Rail Trail winds from the center of the city south toward the windswept hills and arroyos that spill outward toward Eldorado and Galisteo. My pup & I especially love morning runs on the trail, our goal always being to get out there early enough to have the path and the sky to ourselves — although there’s often a small coterie of early morning trail revelers with whom we sometimes share the path and greet the day.

Although there are houses within view of the trail, they are fairly scattered among the pinon, such that you get the sense of being alone out on the land. The pathway courses along the old railway line that extends from Santa Fe down to Lamy (our nearest Amtrak station, 13 miles south of the capitol). In recent years the rails have grown weeded since the tourist train that used to frequent this line was halted a few years ago. But the tracks and the tressels remain, and in the morning’s early light they become radiant against the dark purple mesa shadows. The views are gorgeous.

A May morning along Santa Fe's Rail Trail; photo by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler

I don’t know how many photos I’ve taken of the light out there, but they number in the hundreds for sure and possibly in the thousands, many of them ridiculously redundant as I photograph again and again the same views, always with an eye Among the colors on Dawn Chandler's studio oil painting palettetoward painting them eventually. Finally, about a year ago I decided to actually DO something with one of those photos:
I started a painting — a fairly large one for me and my tiny studio: an oil on a stretched 24” x 36” canvas of one of my most favorite views out there on the Rail Trail.

If you’re like me then you love “before & after” and “makeover” and progression photography. With that in mind, I thought it would be cool to share the stages of this painting’s development, particularly since this painting takes a most extraordinary and unexpected turn.

Per usual I first stained the canvas a warm hue — in this case light orange mixed with sienna. I do this because — as you may recall me saying in previous posts —  ideally flecks of that underlying color will appear in the final painting, adding a unifying visual effect — in this case an overall warmth. And the land — the earth — out here just exudes warmth, especially under the intense blue sky.

Next I blocked out the darkest areas with a flat dark color  (ultramarine blue mixed with alizarin crimson and burnt sienna), and then started cutting in with areas of light, all the while slowly carving the large masses into to smaller shapes.

Phase one of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail


Phase two of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail


Phase three of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail


Then I really started looking into the grassy weedy area which was just a confusion of colors and textures.

Phase four of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail


Phase five of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail


I felt it was getting too distracted by the different colors in that area, and decided to simplify it again (with the intention of distinguishing more details and colors later). I also started moving in with more realistic colors. At this point the distant mountains and sky felt convincing, as did the the shaded hillside on the left. But overall I was frustrated by the whole thing, especially what to do with that foreground.

Phase six of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail


So I poured some Gamsol (solvent) on it, and let it dribble down the face of the painting, melting and melding the paint in its path. NOW it was starting to look interesting!

Detail of phase six of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail


And that’s how I left it FOR MONTHS, hanging on a wall in my studio, wondering what the heck to do to it next.

Phase six of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail

For months and months it sat on my wall, frustrating me.



I climbed Wheeler.

Where I was enthralled once again by the beauty of the high mountain landscape.

Enthralled by the late summer afternoon light…. the drama of that descent and the jubilant feeling of having once again successfully summitted New Mexico’s highest peak!


And what better canvas to use than that bane of my existence hanging on my studio wall

Phase six of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail



Phase seven of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail being transformed into a view of the Wheeler Peak Trail


Phase eight of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail being transformed into a view of the Wheeler Peak Trail


Phase nine of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail being transformed into a view of the Wheeler Peak Trail


Phase ten of Dawn Chandler's oil painting of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail being transformed into a view of the Wheeler Peak Trail



Welcome to my world, where, if you don’t like something, you can just paint over it and start anew!

Phase eleven — the final painitng of Dawn Chandler's oil painting evolution of a view along Santa Fe Rail Trail transformed into a view of the Wheeler Peak Trail

Descent from the Wheeler Peak Trail ~ by Dawn Chandler ~ 24″ x 36″ ~ oil on canvas
{ this painting is available.}


Okay…. I guess I’m ready now to get back to winter and the solstice and fa-la-la-ing….But first, Hmmm….. maybe I’ll start a new painting of the RailTrail…….

scenes from the winter rail trail by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler

Have a beautiful, joyful, fa-la-la-filled merry everything, everyone!


creating 60 paintings in 30 days and other bad ideas

A selection of landscape paintings from artist Dawn Chandler's recent 60:30 Project

The first 20 “traditional landscapes” of the 2017 60:30 Project. Among them scenes of Santa Fe; the Galisteo Basin; Lake Wentworth, New Hampshire; Haines, Alaska; Los Poblanos in Albuquerque; and Taos.


Back in September — because evidently planning to be away for a month on a 4000+-mile road-trip wasn’t time consuming enough — I decided to set a challenge for myself of creating 60 paintings in 30 days. Lots of artists do this sort of thing from time to time, although most artists are smarter and more reasonable than I am and therefore usually set the goal for a much saner (though still challenging) 30 paintings in 30 days.

I don’t know what I was thinking, if I was thinking at all. Maybe because I know how time-consuming planning for a roadtrip and getting my house, personal life and business life in order in anticipation of being absent for a month can be. I know that when undertaking such planning, my art production always takes a hit. So I wanted to keep creating until my departure, despite the distraction of an upcoming trip.

Also, I’ve done daily paintings before. Back in 2006 or so, I created a small 6″ x 6″ landscape oil painting every day in the month of February, and then offered each painting for auction on eBay. Talk about exciting!! Nearly every one of those paintings sold, and it was pretty cool watching some of those bids com in and then shipping dozens of paintings all across the country

And at other times I’ve dedicated whole years to daily paintings, though these we more like dairy entries. Like in 1999…. oh, but maybe I’ll save that story for another blog post…..

Anyhow. the parameters that I set for myself in September were to do a 30 quick little ‘traditional’ landscape paintings. But I also wanted to stretch myself with a bit of play. So I decided that after I completing each traditional landscape, I would use that as the source of inspiration or “jumping off point” for another painting, this one allowing for more “play” and experimentation. Sometimes this second painting was a clear take on the traditional landscape; other times the two bore little if any resemblance. All, though, were fun to create!

Several contemporary landscape paintings from artist Dawn Chandler's 60:30 Project

A selection of the mixed-media ‘contemporary landscapes’ of the 2017 60:30 painting project. These are fun and loose semi-abstract interpretations of the more “traditional” landscapes done in oil.


Also, September’s 60:30 project was to be more about quantity — getting 60 paintings done — than requiring myself to paint EVERY day. For I just know from past experience that life intervenes and sometimes it’s just impossible to get in the studio some days. In the end though, I did paint most days, though some days I painted more than two while other days I painted none.

And now I have stacks of small paintings taking up space in my studio!

So I’ve decided to make them available to anyone who’s interested, and have a little fun along the way, by putting them on eBay and starting the bidding super low. This means if no one else bids, someone could potentially grab a sweet little painting for a fraction of the usual price, as there will be no minimum reserve price beyond the starting bid.

If, after 24 hours, a painting receives no bids, it will be placed for sale in my online shop at the regular prices. The “buy now price” will be double the usual price, to to encourage people to join in the fun and excitement of bidding.

Here are more details:

Seller Name: taosdawndesigns
Every day through the month of November, 1 – 30, 2017.
Time of Auction: 7:00pm New Mexico time.
Items: 2 paintings each day: One “traditional landscape” and one “contemporary landscape”
Duration: 24 hours

If a painting receives no bids within the 24-hour auction, it will be placed for sale at the regular price on my online gallery store on Etsy.

Medium: oil on panel
Size: 5” x 7” x 1/8”
Regular Price: $225
Starting Bid: $60.30* + $9 shipping/packaging
Buy now price: $450 (this is to encourage people to join in on the fun and excitement of the bidding!)

Medium: acrylic & mixed media on paper mounted on panel
Size: 4” x 6” paper mounted on 5” x 7” x 1/8” panel
Regular Price: $185
Starting Bid: $30.60 *+ $9 shipping/packaging
Buy now price: $370 (this is to encourage people to join in on the fun and excitement of the bidding!)

A plein air oil painting of Santa Fe's Galisteo Basin painted by artist Dawn Chandler

From the 60:30 project: A quick plein air oil painting from out in the Galisteo Basin, south of Santa Fe. Paintings like these are up for auction on Etsy through the month of November with a starting bid of just 30% of the regular price.


A contemporary landscape painting of the Galisteo Basin by artist Dawn Chandler

From the 60:30 project: A more abstract version of the Galisteo Basin, south of Santa Fe. Paintings like these, too, are up for auction this month on eBay, at a greatly reduced starting bid.


Here are the links for the current auctions (updated 11/10/17); these auctions will end at 7:00 this evening, when the next two auctions will begin. [Read below for how to get on a daily announcement list for the day’s paintings.]

Painting 17 in the 60:30 series

Painting 18 in the 60:30 series

Also, I’ve set it up so that if you’re interested in this project but worried that you might forget to check the auctions, you can receive a daily link to the day’s auction paintings:
Simply send an email to
with “LET ME KNOW!” in the subject line.
I’ll shoot you a daily message (just through November) with the links for the day’s two auctions.

Important: you can always do a search on eBay for “Dawn Chandler” to find the current auction)

And — if I can get my act together! — I’ll be posting the auctions daily on FaceBook at
Also also on Instagram at  (where you can view all of the 60:30 paintings via a search for #dawnchandler60in30)


A plein air oil painting of Taos Mountain painted by artist Dawn Chandler

From the 60:30 Project: Many of the paintings are of the Taos area — like this one, from a glorious late summer evening up on The Mesa with friends.


By the way, last night (Thursday November 2nd) concluded the first two auctions and some lucky person in the Southeast won FOR A STEAL these two sweet little paintings of/inspired by an early summer morning up in the “magic aspen forest” above Santa Fe. Basically she just got $500 worth of art for about $100. If you’ve been wanting an original painting of mine, then these November eBay auctions are your chance to score something really fine at a sweet, sweet deal.

Two original paintings of the Santa Fe Forest painted by artist Dawn Chandler and recently auctioned on eBay

Two original paintings of the Santa Fe Forest painted by artist Dawn Chandler and recently auctioned on eBay FOR A STEAL.


Yep. Don’t know what I was thinking — if I was thinking at all…

Now to go ship off these paintings off to their new home in Georgia!























when a journey goes horribly wrong…. and reveals a forgotten forest along the way

October morning light through a Stowe, Vermont, forest - photo by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler

The forest outside my Stowe, Vermont “studio”

As I look out my window just now, I see nothing but a dark tangle of black lines, crisscrossing and knotting up with each other, their shapes carved out by the softest shade of morning, of first light. First this light was pale grey. Now at the base where earth turns to sky, there’s a hint of gold — of softest peach bleeding upward into palest blue. And there now, in the deepest patches of darkness, faint shapes of leaves are revealing. Were I attempting to capture this scene with paint just now rather than with words, I would be struggling with how to convey the color of those leaves — leaves which by day are brilliant gold and crimson, but now are pale ghosts of leaves.

This is why I came here: To be in and observe the Vermont woods again. To breathe in their shifting moods, sifting light. To smell birch bark and beech leaves and pine needles. And maple, of course. To be reminded of the vertical thrust of tree trunks, the tangles of branches, the music of mossy streams. The utter brilliance of sunlit jewel-leaves against shadowed forest.

I came here because for two years I’ve been dreaming of creating a series of paintings based on my long walk across Vermont — a series of semi-abstract paintings inspired by my long solo walk along Vermont’s Long Trail. These imagined paintings would need to be paintings about trees. For the Long Trail is nothing if not a passage through the trees.

So I needed to come back to the forest to remind myself of forest in order to conjure the forest.
But this time, rather than sleeping each night under a thin piece of fabric or on a rustic wood floor after mile upon mile of strenuous hiking, my shelter is a gracious friend’s tiny apartment, tucked on the edge of a gorgeous Vermont wood. Where, each morning, for two weeks, I have watched the woods outside mature and cast away its cloak of autumn to lie in wait of winter. Where, just a few miles from here, I can step onto the very trail that lead me for 274 miles through similar forests and so much more.

But this trip is not what I expected it would be. It’s not the trip I planned.

The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry

The fact of this expression revealed its truth just two hours into my 2,000+ mile road trip from New Mexico to Vermont, when things went horribly, horribly wrong.

For that’s when my travel companion — Wilson, my sweet 10-year old “Taos purebread” — a female mutt laced with a good bit of black lab — and I made our first pit-stop 150 miles into New Mexico’s eastern desolation.

As Wilson cheerfully hopped out of the back seat of the car, I noticed something wasn’t right: her muzzle looked swollen, with what appeared to be a rash developing across the long bridge of her snout.

By evening — in the middle of Oklahoma — the entire surface of her nose was a ghastly eruption of an open, bleeding wound, the bridge so swollen that the bend of it — the “stop” — between the eyes and top of the snout, which is normally a handsome Labrador profile, was puffed up so badly there was no bend in the bridge at all.

My sweet pup Wilson, recovering from a fierce venemous spider bite on her snout - photo by Santa Fe artist Dawn ChandlerI could spend a couple of blog posts and thousands of words detailing the next 216 hours, as my dog’s beautiful face transformed into a horrifying grotesque and festering wound. How I reached out to friends and family and veterinarians across the country, wondering, ever wondering, if, with every mile eastward I should just turn around and head back to New Mexico.
How I drove for 2000 miles in silence in a perpetual state of anxiety.
How the road became a blur as I choked back sobs of concern wondering if I was doing the right thing by continuing on this trip.
I could spend pages telling of how friends and family and acquaintances threw their doors open to welcome us — my physically wounded pup and my emotionally wounded self.
How people waved off my dog’s blood on their white carpets.
How “cat people” made their homes dog-friendly.
How even “dog haters” cooed at and petted my sweet girl, as she stumbled trying to navigate the world with a wide “cone of shame” around her head. How she leaned in and “hugged” everyone who looked kindly upon her, despite her revolting appearance.

The best veterinarians are good, good people, and we consulted with four across the country (including ours back home, via phone & email).
None had ever seen anything like Wilson’s rash. All were confounded. But all agreed that it was likely an extreme allergic reaction to something — quite possibly (probably?) her new tick medication. Something in the environment? A sign of underlying disease? The tick medication — which she had never had before and which we had applied a few days before our departure — just seemed the likely answer. But none of the vets felt certain about it. “This just isn’t presenting like a typical reaction to tick medication. And the timing of the reaction isn’t quite right… And yet it could be…” Yet what else could it be?

The mystery of it was as distressing as the wound itself.

Finally, after more than a week of concern over Wilson’s raging wound, frustration over the lack of answers, and inspired by a text from My Good Man — “could it be a bite of some sort?” — from my aunt’s kitchen in New Hampshire I did a web search.

Mystery solved.

If you’re really curious and you think you can stomach it, Google “spider bite on dog nose” and there you will find image after image of Wilson’s rash.

I feel 99% sure that Wilson was bit by a venomous spider on the morning of our departure. Likely by Loxosceler reclusaa brown recluse.


Wilson now, is fine. Remarkably, extraordinarily fine. it’s really almost as if nothing happened at all.

Artist Dawn Chandler and her sweet pup Wilson atop Mount Mansfield. Photo by Sylvie Vidrine.

TOP DOG of Vermont!! Just two weeks after Wilson’s horrendous ordeal, we summitted Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak — and together kissed the benchmark. Photos by Long Trail legend Sylvie “Charger” Vidrine.


But something did happen. And this unexpected happening just two-hours in to our 5-week journey upended my well-laid plans.

For what I imagined this trip to be and what this trip has become are completely different. When I imagined this journey, I imagined some part of each day — even the long driving days — would be spent making art. That at least once each day out on the road Wilson and I would pull over somewhere and I would spend a few minutes sketch or painting a bit of the landscapes we were driving through.
And that once in Vermont, I would spend some part of each day hiking among and communing with the forests and then an even larger part of each day painting and writing, inspired by and conjuring the forests. There would be only a little socializing, as most of my time would be spent in my “studio,” in blissful silence and solitude making art. The planned equation was rather simple:

Forest walks + time alone + deep reflection + quiet + no distractions + writing + painting + painting + painting + [hopefully, too (editing my Long Trail journal, + culling and editing my Long Trail photos)] = immense creative productivity.

But Wilson’s trauma threw me off. I had little energy or time for the kind of deep creative endeavors I originally intended to undertake .Instead the equation of my trip has evolved into this:

Pet needs + town walks + charming cafes + cool breweries + great bookstores + beautiful autumnal country roads + renewed knitting projects + good books + jigsaw puzzles + visits with veterinarians + visits with auto mechanics + conversations with baristas + conversations with barkeeps + conversations with young musicians + visits with dear elders + visits with Philmont friends + visits with childhood friends + visits with Long Trail friends + tea with Instagram friends + conversations with Wilson + conversations with the geese overhead + conversations with the crows overhead + the maple leaves + the birch bark + the river light and the forest light = little creative productivity.

October color along Stowe's river path, Vermont - photo by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler

Pure October color along Stowe’s river path.


The realization that, when I pack my car in a few days, there will be no sketchbook filled with drawings, no notebook filled with poems, no boxes bursting with plein air paintings…. That the huge sheets of primed painting papers will return home in their original packing…. That the stack of letters I intended to respond to will come home with me, still awaiting replies…. That my 90-page Long Trail Journal will remain unedited.. That the thousands of Vermont photos will remain, for now, largely unculled. And that my bank statements will reflect my weakness in the face of Vermont’s many sweet & savory & crafty temptations…. The realization of all of this — of not accomplishing most of what I had set out to do on this trip — has been gnawing at the back of my head, keeping me awake for some nights.

And yet, this morning, as Wilson and I walked Stowe’s serene river path, and I paused yet again to take yet another photo of the light through the birches…. and as I sit here in my temporary studio and watch gold leaves flit softly to the ground…. as I look over the few painting studies I HAVE done…. as I look through my hundreds of recent photos of the people and places I have connected with and have been enriched by, I realize this trip this autumn has indeed been about trees, about forests.

Some of those forests I’ve communed with this trip — just as I’d planned.

And even a few of those forests I’ve recalled from my long solo hike, and have begun to paint this trip — just as I’d planned.

But there’s a different kind of forest that has revealed itself to me — one that I hadn’t really set out to explore: The forest of friendships that link like branches across my journey’s and life’s map.
From the high desert of New Mexico, across the plains of Oklahoma and Kansas, to the green hills of western Missouri, the rolling farmland of the Finger Lakes, the steepled towns of Massachusetts, to the gold and crimson back roads of New England and Canada, boughs of friendship have reached out to my pup and me like a mighty embrace.

It turns out this journey has been about trees, after all. About a sacred forest filled with old and new growth, ever rooting, ever blooming, ever teaming with life and love.


Creek crossing along the Long Trail, just north of Bear Hollow Shelter, Vermont - photo by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler

From a hike a few days ago with a friend I made during my long walk of 2015 ~ a creek crossing along the Long Trail, just north of Bear Hollow Shelter, Vermont.


Artist Dawn Chandler's beautiful pup's portrait, recovering from a spider bite.

Wilson as of this morning. The fur is starting to grow back across her snout where, nearly 3-weeks earlier, a gruesome wound ravaged the entire length of her nose. She may have permanent scarring….but she doesn’t seem to mind.


Photo montage of friends and familuy from artist Dawn Chandler's autumn roadtrip from New Mexico to Vermont


Photo montage of Artist Dawn Chandler's autumn roadtrip from New Mexico to Vermont


The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. ~ John Muir




of lakeside chairs, vermont gardens, & the contemplation of a new hampshire river….

The final installment of my August painting trip in New Hampshire…

Of all the scenes in this small New Hampshire tract where I spent a few days in early August, none captivated me more than a little corner between my aunt’s tool shed and her guest house. Here, catching the forest-filtered light, are two metal chairs as old as I, maybe even older. They sit there as though conversing with each other under the tall pines. I think my aunt said she painted them with enamel paint some 40+ years ago, and still their color holds up. Every time I look at them I feel a little well of satisfaction at her artistic brilliance in deciding to paint one yellow and one blue. Their surprising jolt of color against the dark brown buildings and even darker backdrop of shadowy evergreens just make my eyes and heart sing.
Needless to say, I just had to try to capture them with paint. Because of that determination I finally pulled out my tube of Cadmium Yellow Medium — to get that yellow chair right — for the Lemon Yellow that I had been using for all my previous paintings is simply the wrong hue.

plein air oil painting of lakeside trees along Lake Wentworth, New hampshire, by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler

Funny thing is I don’t know that I’ve ever sat on these chairs. Rather, I’m content to look at them, and appreciate their quiet invitation: Come, sit among us. Enjoy the company of another, whoever they may be, whatever they believe. You are family. You are safe here.One of my favorite morning spots — a dear friend's porch in Stowe, Vermont. Photo by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler

Three lakeside paintings now tucked in my wet-painting-storage box and I was ready to continue on my journey…

The following morning brought rain to the lake region …and me to Vermont. For if I’m going to go to the trouble to travel from New Mexico to New Hampshire, then I may as well drive the couple hours west to the Green Mountain State and check in with that part of my soul that’s harbored there in the Les Monts Verts. Just a short visit though of two or three nights, staying in Stowe with my First Friend who is also the blessed owner of one of my favorite porches anywhere, ever.

And so it was there, from My Favorite Porch, on the second day of my visit, that I cranked out this little painting. All during my long walk across Vermont in 2015/16, my eye kept catching on the beautiful contrast of bright leaves against dark forest — especially when the leaves began to turn. (One of my countless art dreams is to do a series of paintings focusing on those very contrasts….) Here, from the porch, the brilliant sun-filled yellow flowers just seemed to sing against the darker backdrop of woodlands.


plein air oil painting of golden flowers and green birch leaves catching the sun in a friend's Vermont garden, by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler

Alas, two days in Vermont is not nearly long enough, but I’m hoping to return for a longer spell later this year to really focus on painting (more about that sometime later….) For now, short and sweet would have to suffice, as I loaded my paints back into my sporty little rental car and made my way back to Exeter, for one last night.

My last August morning in New England involved two walks — the first, with my aunt (who, at 87, I can still barely keep up with) over to the cemetery to check in with our beloveds who are lain to rest there among the shading hardwoods. A beautiful sunny day to take in the quiet, pay our respects, and share memories.

My second morning walk was once again fueled with Me & Ollie’s coffee, as I ambled through the streets of Exeter on down to the river. The sun was higher than my first excursion there a week earlier, and shade was limited, but I finally found a cool seat at the opposite end of the river path. The best view here was looking back toward the Power House that I’d painted the week before. From this vantage, the Powder House was hidden, tucked as it was back behind the dark cloak of evergreens, but the flag pole was in view, as well as the roof of a nearby dwelling.

plein air oil painting of the Exeter River, Exeter, New Hampshire, by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler

As I sat there with the river in front of me, a large raft of ducks slowly swam toward me, and then turned around directly in front of me and swam back down the river. Really, it was almost as if they were trying to get my attention, “strutting their stuff.” That, or they were checking me out. Either way, it delighted me — as did every moment of this trip.

ducks congregating in along the Exeter River, Exeter, New Hampshire. Photo by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler
But the moment that delighted me most of all on this trip, was when my aunt said to me — as did my cousin, in her own words later — that my painting her surroundings made her see her surroundings differently. ‘Caused her to notice color and light in a way she hadn’t really noticed color and light before. “I’ll never see this place the same again,” they each confessed to me, with tones of appreciation.

Getting people to see the world differently — to notice the small, quiet, beautiful passages of the world around them.. This might be my greatest source of joy in being a painter.

This noticing. It takes time to notice the world around you. To pause, take a deep breath, and, in silence, look.


I can’t think of a better use of one’s time.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, one which I’ve memorized by heart. I’ll close this post here, with her beautiful words. as you read it, consider well those last four lines.

Snow Geese
by Mary Oliver

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
The geese
flew on,
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.


Links to Dawn Chandler’s posts about her New Hampshire plein air painting trip below

living free and coming home

cool tools of a traveling painter

of painting tidal rivers and tool sheds…..

of sunrise clouds and sunset boats….

of lakeside chairs, vermont gardens, & the contemplation of a new hampshire river….

Thank you for reading


Sunset light across Lake Wentworth, New Hampshire glints off a cousin's boat. Photo by Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler









of sunrise clouds and sunset boats….

I promised a few weeks ago to share with you the several little plein air paintings I did while traveling New Hampshire last month. I’ve fallen behind with that. The truth is I’ve had a hard time turning my thoughts back to New England when my heart is breaking in Texas… It feels in a way disrespectful to all who are suffering such staggering hardship to focus my attention on something as “light” as Art.
But as my aunt said to me in the midst of the financial and housing crisis of 2008, “these may be the times when people need art the most.” I do know that in dealing with my own hardships — admittedly nothing as traumatizing and life-altering as the people of the Gulf Coast are dealing with — that it was art that helped me more than anything work through my grief.

And so, I shall continue sharing my creations.

Recall that I left off at my aunt’s summer home on Lake Wentworth.

The morning of our first full day together at The Lake, I rose early and joined my aunt in the kitchen. As tea water heated, I sat across from her (at what has become maybe my favorite kitchen table anywhere) while we each shuffled our own deck of cards, and commenced with dueling games of Solitaire. After watching her win three games in a row (OK — I’ll fess up: she does NOT cheat, damnit) and me losing three games in a row (which would be the case even if I DID cheat!) I finally had enough and decided to go down to the dock to paint. For I’d noticed that a great distant cloud in the sky over the lake seemed undecided about whether it wanted to be the softest shade of gold or the softest shade of pink. Regardless of which color it settled on, I figured the intensity of the hue was only going to get better. So I grabbed my paints and mug of tea and descended down the steps to the water’s edge.


golden pink sunrise cloud over lake wentworth, new hampshire, painted in oil en plein air by santa fe artist dawn chandler


What really delighted me when I looked out on this scene was how the evergreen line of Stamp Act Island was dark, but the distant shore beyond it was illuminated with sunshine.
The main cloud which initially caught my eye just radiated its pink and gold confusion across the lake. The point that I ultimately captured was when the water just below the island was golden, while gentle waves near me were picking up hues of pink.
Just as I was finishing up my painting, my aunt came down from the house, “I just had to see what you were doing!” She then admitted, “when you first went down, to paint, I looked out to the water and thought ‘now what on earth is she going to paint? There’s nothing of interest going on out there….’ And then I watched as that cloud — and the water — turned pink and gold! I’ve never seen anything like it! I’m so glad you got it!”

I’m glad, too.

Much of the rest of that morning I spent on a long walk through pine forests, exploring the rail trail into the town of Wolfboro. Although I brought my paints with me, there wasn’t time for me to pull them out that during my walk, so instead I took a lot of photos, eventually turning to them back in New Mexico, as I did a couple weeks ago when I recreated this inviting shady scene from the trail, just below Wolfboro.


enjoying a shady spot along the rail trail near wolfboro, new hampshire, painted in oil by santa fe artist dawn chandler


Later in the afternoon (post nap & swim, but before the late-afternoon jigsaw puzzling session lubricated with sherry) I returned to the lakeside, this time at the other of my aunt’s docks, to observe the late afternoon sun on my cousin’s boat. Boats and buoys are intimidating, as they have such perfect geometry, (as does the square dock in the mid-distance of this scene). I struggled for a bit trying to get the boat and buoy the correct brightness (I kept making them too dark), but eventually got them at least pretty close.


suz's boat catching the late afternoon light, lake wentworth, new hampshire, painted in oil by santa fe artist dawn chandler


What I would have given to ship this boat off to Texas last week…..


Links to Dawn Chandler’s posts about her New Hampshire plein air painting trip below

living free and coming home

cool tools of a traveling painter

of painting tidal rivers and tool sheds…..

of sunrise clouds and sunset boats….

of lakeside chairs, vermont gardens, & the contemplation of a new hampshire river….

Thank you for reading