For years several 24’ x 36’ stretched canvases were tucked in a corner of my studio. Every time I looked at them I had a smoldering desire to transform them into paintings. Yet year after year they sat there, untouched.
Ahhh the War of Art, as Steve Pressfield rightly calls it. Another of Steve’s accurate words for it: Resistance.
Even though a part of me longed to paint these larger canvases, subconsciously I’d made up all kinds of excuses to not paint them:
I’m too busy with other art projects…
I don’t know if I have the energy to shift creative gears like that…
Do I have enough studio space to work larger…
Do I even have a market for larger landscapes…
Will larger pieces even sell on Etsy?
RESISTANCE, every one of them.
Finally this winter I realized I was just plain tired of painting small.
So I pulled out those 2′ x 3′ canvases and began preparing them for paintings. My theme for these canvases would be — SURPRISE! — the New Mexico sky, and the new series would be called New Mexico Big Sky Vistas. I have thousands of sky photos that I always figured would make majestic larger paintings; now to choose a few and get busy.
What’s funny or kismit or serendipitous or beautifully coincidental is that within a few days of pulling out those canvases, the husband of a dear long-ago friend contacted me: He was seeking a special gift for his beloved’s 50th birthday this April, and, when coming across one of my cards, he suddenly had the idea to give her one of my paintings.
Evidently there was some planetary realignment going on, for he was seeking a large — 2’ x 3’ — New Mexico landscape, ideally with an emphasis on sky.
Unfortunately I had decided a couple of years ago that I would no longer do commissions. Although everyone I’ve ever done a painting for has been lovely and appreciative, the truth is I don’t enjoy the pressure of painting to please someone other than myself. And besides, I have far, far too many of my own painting projects that I want to focus on.
However — fortunately! — what he was seeking was exactly what I was planning on creating, and soon.
I was confident that I could have two or three Vistas completed within a few weeks. I offered to let him see the paintings before making them available to anyone else, and if one really spoke to him, it was his to purchase.
laura’s new mexico
To our mutual delight this played out exactly as proposed, and I’m deeply satisfied that come April he presented New Mexico Big Sky Vista, No. 1 to his wife, my friend Laura:
He made the perfect choice, IMHO, for it being the first painting I did after our arrangement, I had Laura on my mind a great deal as I painted it.
The scene here is in Rio Arriba County, on that stretch of land between Espanola and Velarde. Any time I drive that section of road my gaze is pulled like a magnet to those hills east of Hwy 68. The maze of arroyos and mesas holds so much mystery. My mind brims with imaginings of history and stories that I I’ll never know. And the clouds! Especially on a summer’s afternoon the clouds can just be …well, enchanting.
The photo which this painting is based was one of dozens I snapped during a summer’s afternoon a few years ago, during one of our all-too-rare “rain years.” The high desert was green — for when the high desert gets a good rain, it literally turns from brown to green overnight.
THIS DAY I was coming back form Colfax or Taos County and the clouds were especially magnificent. My eyes shone bright as I snapped image upon image, knowing these photos would make wonderful paintings. Despite that realization, it wasn’t until this year that I finally got around to translating one of those photos into a painting!
abiquiu afternoon anticipation
New Mexico Big Sky Vista, No. 2 — Abiquiu Afternoon Anticipation will be familiar to my TuesdayDawnings circle and anyone who follows my Dawn Chandler Painting Folio blog, for I revealed this one to a few weeks ago:
As the subtitle reveals this is out in “O’Keeffe Country.” I’ve countless fond memories of this landscape, especially from last year, when it served a welcome escape from Covid isolation for My Good Man and me. For a string of late summer weekends, we’d drive out there each Saturday afternoon, enchanted by the clouds dancing over red earth and sage brush. Eventually we’d make our way to a secret spot, and dine on homemade sourdough bread and soup, while watching the sun set over the lake.
taos calling me home
With the third New Mexico Big Sky Vista I return to a view loved by so many of us, and one which I’ve painted several times before (and which I’ll likely paint many more times). I can’t imagine ever tiring of it:
Obviously I’m especially enchanted by the high desert during “rain years” and clearly, based on how green that sagebrush plain is, this painting captures a moment of one such year.
When I painted this, I debated whether or not to include the road — Hwy 68. I’m glad I did, for I like the way it suggests that when we take that turn off and out of the canvas toward those mountains — the Sangre de Cristos — further adventure awaits.
For the fourth large canvas, I’m taking a slight detour from New Mexico and heading north. Just a wee sojourn as I delve, thanks to a special request, into some memories of Wyoming’s big sky vistas.
Whether New Mexico or Wyoming — no matter. It just feels darn good to resist the resistance and finally get some paint on these large canvases. Yay!
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Stay safe. Be kind.
~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico
Me in my studio with my Watercolor Wanderings Series on the wall.