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musings from the studio and beyond ~

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

 

the very large triptych, part 8 ~ delivery & installation

All along as I painted the Very Large Triptych I had three concerns:
1) Was the Very Large Triptych really going to fit on the wall where it was intended? TAC and I had triple-measured the wall, and throughout the creation I had checked my notes multiples times. Yet on the easels in my living room, the triptych seemed so Very Large Indeed. Every time I looked at the photo of RAS’s wall and then looked at the canvases, the triptych just seemed soooo big.
Please tell me it will fit.

2) Would the canvases lie flat against the wall? I had invested in top-of-the line aluminum stretcher bars specifically to ensure that the paintings would stay true and not warp. But I’d never used these stretcher bars before, and, as I painted the triptych, the canvases were always on easels.
Please let them lie flat.

3) Would the Very Large Triptych look as good high up on the wall as it looked at eye-level on the easels?
Please let it look even better up there.

I was about 95% confident that the triptych would fit on the wall, that the canvases would lie flat, and that the triptych would look very good high up on the wall where it was intended. But sometimes that niggling 5% of doubt woke me at night.

Regardless, before signing the Very Large Triptych, I wanted one more set of eyes to see it — those of TAC , The Art Consultant, who found me for this project more than a year earlier. In mid-January I invited him over and handed him a cup of coffee as he walked through my door. His eyes lit up as he sipped coffee and took in the gigantic painting. “Wow, Dawn! Outstanding!” I exhaled a deep, satisfied sigh. “Nope; I don’t see anything,” he said when I asked if he saw anything that needed fixing. “Looks great!”

The next day I signed the painting. Now began the long wait for the paint to dry. In truth, it was pretty much dry already, but I had to be sure before applying the varnish.

Artist Dawn Chandler finally finishes and signs the Very Large Triptych in the lower right corner of the right panel.

Varnishing an oil painting is essential for two reasons: It protects the surface or skin of the painting and it evens-out the sheen of the paint overall. Individual paints can have varying degrees of glossiness, where some colors stand out unintentionally, while others fade into the background. Applying a varnish makes it all uniform. I use a special painting wax made by Gamblin that’s easy to use and creates a lovely matte finish when gently buffed.

Artist Dawn Chandler varnishes her Very Large Triptych 'Sangre de Cristo Sunrise - Peaceful Magnificence' with Gamblin cold wax.

A few weeks later I inspected the painting looking for protruding brushstrokes, and into these I pressed the edge of my thumbnail. If my nail left no impression, the paint was dry — as indeed it was. Then, with sunlight streaming through my windows and Miles Davis’ cool and confident notes filling the room, I took an old piece of flannel, dipped my hand into warm wax, and began caressing the surface of my painting. Round, round, round my hand went in slow, sensuous circles.


After two coats and two days, with another clean bit of flannel in hand, I repeated the slow careful circles as I massaged the skin of the painting to a luscious eggshell luster.

Two days before delivery I packed the canvases for transport. We’d be hauling them in the back of TAC’s enclosed pickup truck with layers of blankets to cushion them. Although they’d be traveling only 12 miles, I packed them as though for a cross-country journey.

At 9:00am Tuesday, March 1st, TAC and his installation assistant showed up at my door, and by 10:00 we were unloading the Very Large Triptych at RAS’ Las Campanas home. While I worked in the front hall to unpack the canvases, TAC and his buddy focused on moving furniture to make way for ladders. Finally, once all three canvases were unwrapped and lined-up in the correct order, I allowed RAS to enter the hallway and view their Very Large Triptych. This was their first time seeing the actual painting, and would be their only chance to look at the canvases up close. For once the Very Large Triptych was high on the wall, it would be out of reach. With palpable excitement RAS studied the canvases carefully, intrigued by the paint layers and brushstrokes. I pointed out that that I’d essentially painted for them a self-portrait [Sunrise = DAWN!]. Fortunately for them they’d have to endure my sense of humor for just an hour or two longer.

Artist Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych 'Sangre de Cristo Sunrise - Peaceful Magnificence' wrapped for transport and ready to be delivered.

TAC then moved into action, focusing first on the center panel, while RAS and I conversed in the kitchen. Once the central panel was hung, TAC called us in to check the placement. I suggested raising it just a few more inches, but beyond that it was perfect. RAS and I retreated back to the kitchen so as not to distract our ace installation crew.

As RAS and I stood in the kitchen sipping coffee, I noticed and asked about a a shiny new grill on the patio. “We used it last night — made a whole bunch of pork ribs! In fact, we made far more than we’ll ever eat in a day. Hey! You should take them! Do you eat meat?”
I thought for a moment. The truth is, being plant-based I almost never eat meat anymore. And yet…
“I do when it’s a gift!”
“Great! Don’t let us forget to send them home with you!”

A little while later TAC called us into the living room.

There it was.
After fourteen months of being consumed with this project, the Very Large Triptych was finally on the wall:

BEFORE

BEFORE - The wall in the home at Los Campanas, Santa Fe, where Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych was to be installed.

AFTER

AFTER - Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych  painting, Sangre de Cristo Sunrise ~ Peaceful Magnificence, installed in its forever home in Los Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sangre de Cristo Sunrise ~ Peaceful Magnificence finally installed on the wall.

My worries had been for naught: The triptych fit perfectly on the wall. The canvases laid flat. And high up on the wall, the painting looked even better than I’d hoped.


After rounds of joyful exclamations and high-fives, I pulled out of my bag the final tool for the project: My trusty red button. I placed it on the coffee table and slammed my hand down on it, it’s robotic voice echoing through the room


[click image below to hear it 😆]

“That was easy!”

Later that night, with my fingers sticky with barbecue sauce, I received a message and photo from RAS:

“We are… basking in the glow of “Sangre de Cristo Sunrise ~ Peaceful Magnificence.” If you zoom into the photos you will see the most happy reflections of the vista in all of the windows. It wraps almost the entire room. Everyone around the dining table will have a splendid view of your creation no matter where they sit! We are ENTHRALLED with the triptych! I’m sure it will be the topic of conversation for all who come to our home. It enlivens the space immeasurably and brings such a tremendous amount of joy to gaze at it. Thank you so much for creating it and sharing your gift of art with us. I’ll always marvel at how you did it.”

Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych  painting, Sangre de Cristo Sunrise ~ Peaceful Magnificence, reflected in the windows in its forever home in Los Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

And with that I licked barbecue sauce from my fingers, looked at the three huge empty easels in the center of my home and wondered…

What next?!

Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych painting, Sangre de Cristo Sunrise ~ Peaceful Magnificence, oil on panel, 45" x 162"

Sangre de Cristo Sunrise ~ Peaceful Magnificence ~ by Dawn Chandler
oil on canvas (triptych) ~ 45″ x 162″
~ private collection


This is part eight of a several part series:

the very large triptych, part one ~ the request
the very large triptych, part two ~ the proposal
the very large triptych, part three ~ discovering the landscape
the very large triptych, part four ~ experiencing sky
the very large triptych, part five ~ painting the studies
the very large triptych, part six ~ new studio & first strokes
the very large triptych, part seven ~ the big reveal


Thanks for finding your way here and for reading my musings. If you think others might appreciate them, feel free to share this post. If you’d like to read more of my musings please consider subscribing to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website www.taosdawn.com. Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for TuesdayDawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Find other ways to keep tabs on me via my connect page.

Stay safe. Be kind. Notice what you notice.

~ Dawn Chandler
Painting, writing, photographing, hiking, noticing and breathing deeply in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Free from social media since 2020

the very large triptych, part 7 ~ the big reveal

Let’s step back for a moment.

Recall the study paintings; I never revealed which one RAS chose.

In the photo below, the studies are numbered and were painted in chronological order:
1 – late April sunset over the Jemez
2 – mid May sunset over the Jemez
3 – late June sunset over the Jemez (the evening of the nighthawks)
4 – same June evening as 3, a little bit later
5 – early July sunset (“paella night“) over the Jemez
6 – mid July sunrise over the Sangre de Cristos
7 – same July morning as 6, about an hour later, looking west toward the Jemez

Seven study paintings in oil on panel by Dawn Chandler of Santa Fe skies for her Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting.

All along I think we all had in mind a sunset or late afternoon view for the Very Large Triptych. Yet as we narrowed down the selection, several of the evening scenes felt a bit too dramatic. While awe-some, there was concern that, say, number 5 (paella night) might overwhelm the room. And more than anything, RAS desired at view that felt calm and peaceful.


After much consideration and conversation we narrowed it down to two. A bit to everyone’s surprise they were the morning views — the last two studies I’d painted. In fact, they were still wet.

'Beautiful Santa Fe Summer Morning' original New Mexico landscape painting in oil by artist Dawn Chandler.
'Sangre de Cristo Sunrise' original New Mexico landscape painting in oil by artist Dawn Chandler.

Of the two, we were leaning toward #7, for those puffy white clouds, blue sky and sage- and pinon-dotted hills seemed so quintessentially “New Mexico.” The painting just seemed to invite you to enter it and explore.

Yet when I Photoshopped the two onto the living room wall, the choice was clear. I remember feeling a mix of excitement and dread as I thought to myself GREAT… of the seven studies, we’re going with the most challenging sky to paint! Still, there was no doubt in my mind that we had made the right choice. Besides, stepping up to the daunting challenge seemed to be what this whole Very Large Triptych project was all about!

Here we go then.
Ready?

. . . . . .

The painting of Dawn Chandler's enormous New Mexico landscape Very Large Triptych painting.
Photo by Dawn Chandler.
The painting of Dawn Chandler's enormous New Mexico landscape Very Large Triptych painting.
Photo by Dawn Chandler.
The painting of Dawn Chandler's enormous New Mexico landscape Very Large Triptych painting.
Photo by Dawn Chandler.
The painting of Dawn Chandler's enormous New Mexico landscape Very Large Triptych painting.
Photo by Dawn Chandler.
The painting of Dawn Chandler's enormous New Mexico landscape Very Large Triptych painting.
Photo by Dawn Chandler.
The painting of Dawn Chandler's enormous New Mexico landscape Very Large Triptych painting.
Photo by Dawn Chandler.
Nearly done: the painting of Dawn Chandler's enormous New Mexico landscape Very Large Triptych painting. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

At this point — mid December — I knew the Very Large Triptych was approaching completion. No one had seen it in person yet, but I wanted another set of artist eyes to take a look and make sure I wasn’t overlooking anything. So often when I’m really focused on painting I can become a bit blinded to what I’m working on. ‘Kind of like writing and not spotting an embarrassing typo until you hit Send. One of my biggest fears with the Very Large Triptych was that I would unwittingly paint brushstrokes in the shape of a face or body organ and not notice it until it was hanging on the wall. For this reason I had my longtime friend and fellow landscape painter Shawn come over and take a look. She was kind and generous in her praise (and Whew! saw no phalluses in the clouds!). The one tiny suggestion she offered was that I consider adding a bit of glazing to the large cloud formation just left of center. The moment she suggested it I knew it was a great idea.

A few days later — on the Solstice — I met RAS at their Las Campanas home. Not since my initial brushstrokes had they seen photos of it. Though it still wasn’t quite finished, I thought that before I put any more time into it I’d better make sure they were happy with it.

They were. Very much so.

In early January I made a few more tweaks: To add more visual interest to the foreground I painted in some smaller bushes. I then broke up some of the larger clouds and added a smattering of smaller ones. Finally I added a bit of glazing to the large cloud mass.

And then on January 18 a thought occurred to me:

It’s done.

Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting 'Sangre de Cristo Sunrise - Peaceful Magnificence' is finally complete, sitting on three enormous easels in her Santa Fe studio.

This is part seven of a several part series:

the very large triptych, part one ~ the request
the very large triptych, part two ~ the proposal
the very large triptych, part three ~ discovering the landscape
the very large triptych, part four ~ experiencing sky
the very large triptych, part five ~ painting the studies
the very large triptych, part six ~ new studio & first strokes
the very large triptych, part seven ~ the big reveal **
the very large triptych, part eight ~ delivery & installation


Thanks for finding your way here and for reading my musings. If you think others might appreciate them, feel free to share this post. If you’d like to read more of my musings please consider subscribing to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website www.taosdawn.com. Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for TuesdayDawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Find other ways to keep tabs on me via my connect page.

Stay safe. Be kind. Notice what you notice.

~ Dawn Chandler
Painting, writing, photographing, hiking, noticing and breathing deeply in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Free from social media since 2020

the very large triptych, part 6 ~ new studio & first strokes

The most dreaded phase of this whole Very Large Triptych project involved zero skill or creativity. It required planning, patience, hefting and heaving. That dreaded phase? Swapping my living room with my studio.

The living room of artist Dawn Chandler's Santa Fe home.

Why bother?

I needed to be able to step away from the canvases while painting so that I could take in the full panorama. My studio just didn’t have enough space. Despite the utter pain-in-the-assedness of reconfiguring my entire home — hauling trunks, taborets, lamps, tables, shelves, chairs, bins of paints, and books and books and books and books — it was essential that I do so. That process began in late July.

In August two huge new easels arrived [“some assembly required” READ: complete assembly required] as well as a shipment of 8′ x 4′ sheets of cardboard for the floor.

Three large easels await the canvases for Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting.

Easels? Why not just hang the canvases on the wall?
Because I wanted to be able to turn away the paintings easily [“easel-y” ? ]. Much as stepping back from the canvases is important, so is taking breaks from looking at them. Also, I didn’t want anyone else to see the Very Large Triptych while I was working on it. Although I’m confident in my painting abilities, with such a new, huge and challenging project, the slightest eyebrow raise from the wrong person might cause me to second guess myself, and I wasn’t taking any chances.

Looking down from above into artist Dawn Chandler's living room as she prepares to begin her Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting.

A few days later the canvases arrived. WOW! They were gorgeous!

A blank canvas can be damned intimidating, and here I had three of the largest, most pristine and expensive canvases I’d ever painted on. That blindingly white, intimidating pristine surface had to go. I grabbed a large piece of graphite and wrote in huge sweeping cursive across the canvases statements of affirmation: “I am painting a beautiful New Mexico landscape!” “Joy!” “This painting radiates peace!” It may sound hokey, even — GASP!WOO-WOO, but why the hell not? I wanted the very foundation of this painting to be rooted in positivity.

Next I sketched in the basic shapes of the landscape: foreground trees, mountains, clouds overhead.

Finally, I was ready to begin painting the Very Large Triptych.

Well… no — not quite. First I needed to wake-up my Muse. I pulled out my watercolors and cut several panels of Multimedia Artboard., then put on my headphones. Cued up was a very special audiobook that I knew would speak directly to my Muse: The Creative Act, written and read by Rick Rubin [O Wise One]. For me, Rick’s sonorous Buddha-like voice and wholly inspiring message is like an IV drip of motivation. During those first couple weeks that I worked on the Very Large Triptych, I warmed up with watercolors and the voice of O Wise One.

The Creative Act by Rick Rubin, a cuppa tea and studio tools in Dawn Chandler's studio.

Warm-up complete, now it was time to get down and dirty with my oil paints. Large brushes were needed, and knew just where to find them. I opened a drawer in my taboret, and there they were — my huge old brushes from grad school. Pride rushed over me as I admired how well kept they were; it had been decades since I last used them.

An array of artist Dawn Chandler's large oil painting brushes.

When it comes to painting traditional/representational landscape in oils, I more or less follow Kevin McPherson’s approach: Figure out your darkest darks, and block them in boldly and simply. The darkest darks were the foreground trees, so I started there. Fortunately, as I created the study panels in Phase Two, I had made detailed color notes and swatches, and referred to these now to figure out the foreground colors:

Artist Dawn Chandler's oil painting color swatches from her oil painting studies for her Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting.
Mixing color and laying in the darkest darks of the foreground of artist Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting.

Next came the mountains.

In Dawn Chandler's Santa Fe studio, mixing the colors of distant New Mexico mountains.

Because my painting style is quite loose, I don’t usually get too caught up in getting the silhouette of a mountain range exact. But, since I was commissioned to paint a specific view, I felt it important to depict the lay of the mountains as accurately as possible — hence the numbering of the peaks:

Details of artist Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting. Here, figuring out the exact mountain peaks of the distant ridgeline.
Details of artist Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting. Here, figuring out the exact mountain peaks of the distant ridgeline.
Santa Fe artist Dawn Chandler's Very Large Triptych New Mexico landscape painting with the initial foreground and mountain colors painted.

Now to begin the sky.


This is part six of a several part series:

the very large triptych, part one ~ the request
the very large triptych, part two ~ the proposal
the very large triptych, part three ~ discovering the landscape
the very large triptych, part four ~ experiencing sky
the very large triptych, part five ~ painting the studies
the very large triptych, part six ~ new studio & first strokes **
the very large triptych, part seven ~ the big reveal
the very large triptych, part eight ~ delivery & installation


Thanks for finding your way here and for reading my musings. If you think others might appreciate them, feel free to share this post. If you’d like to read more of my musings please consider subscribing to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website www.taosdawn.com. Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for TuesdayDawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Find other ways to keep tabs on me via my connect page.

Stay safe. Be kind. Notice what you notice.

~ Dawn Chandler
Painting, writing, photographing, hiking, noticing and breathing deeply in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Free from social media since 2020

the very large triptych, part 5 ~ painting the studies

I need to go! I apologized to my hosts. The sky is going to be incredible — I HAVE to photograph it!

That was Sunday, July 2nd, and I couldn’t believe I was bowing out early from a fun party filled with old friends I’d not seen in a long time. But the sky was calling!

I quickly made my exit, left town and rushed out to RAS’ place in Las Campañas, only to find their driveway filled with cars. I knew RAS was in Santa Fe this week, but hadn’t realized they were having a party this evening. They had assured me all along, “Come out whenever you want — you don’t need to alert us before hand!” Yet this evening I hesitated. I didn’t want to crash their party. But DAMN! The sky was incredible!
Laughter and music emanated from inside. I knocked on the door, waited a few minutes, then sheepishly let myself in.

Three hours later, with a belly full of paella and key lime pie and my head spinning with festivity, I was back home in my pajamas. As I stared into the computer screen, my camera downloaded a near endless stream of photos of the evening’s radiant sky.

After that, I returned to RAS’ roof just once more: to capture coral sunrise clouds over the Sangre de Cristos and billowy white mid-morning clouds over the Jemez.

Then I was done: I had all the photos I needed.

Now came the hard part: Culling hundreds of photos to a dozen of the very best.
After many hours sitting at my computer staring into the screen this, too, was done.
I was now ready to begin the oil studies.

In June I had begun the preparation of the study panels. Were the dimensions of the Very Large Triptych (and in turn the studies) more traditional in scale, I would have used Ampersand panels. However since the dimensions were unusual, I had to make my own panels. I chose birch plywood because it is strong, durable and smooth — nothing like your typical plywood. Since it’s raw wood though, it requires some treatment before painting: First a couple of layers of acrylic medium to seal the wood, followed by several layers of gesso to create a smooth white ground. By the time I made my final excursion to the roof in mid-July, the panels were ready.

But before I began the studies, I wanted to do a couple of test studies — “study studies,” if you will.

Test #1: See how the rooftop view translates in oil. I bought a sweet little linen-covered panel and tested painting in oil a scene from one of my first excursions out there:

New Mexico landscape painting in oil of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych ‘project. Oil painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.

Test #2: See what it feels like to paint oil on my new birch plywood panels. I treated a small scrap panel with gel medium and gesso and knocked out a quick little painting of an early view:

New Mexico landscape painting in oil of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych ‘project. Oil painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.

Satisfied with my tests, I was ready to dive into the official oil studies. Proportionate to the overall Very Large Triptych, each measured 11″ x 40.” I began with an April sunset, and continued through spring into summer, wrapping up with mid-July.

All in all I painted seven studies:

New Mexico landscape painting in oil of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych ‘project. Oil painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.
New Mexico landscape painting in oil of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych ‘project. Oil painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.
New Mexico landscape painting in oil of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych ‘project. Oil painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.
New Mexico landscape painting in oil of a dramatic July sunset seen from Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych ‘project. Oil painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.
New Mexico landscape painting in oil of a peacefully magnificent July sunrise seen from Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych ‘project. Oil painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.
New Mexico landscape painting in oil looking toward the Jemez Mountains and early morning clouds over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych ‘project. Oil painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.

On August 31 I brought the panels out to RAS’ Las Campañas home. I lined them up in the entry way, and we slowly walked the length of the hallway, considering each study.

After some discussion, RAS narrowed it down to two, and finally down to one — The One I would transform into the Very Large Triptych.

Which one would you choose?

An array of seven New Mexico landscape paintings in oil of the view from Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study paintings for the 'Very Large Triptych ‘project. Oil paintings and photo by Dawn Chandler.

This is part five of a several part series:

the very large triptych, part one ~ the request
the very large triptych, part two ~ the proposal
the very large triptych, part three ~ discovering the landscape
the very large triptych, part four ~ experiencing sky
the very large triptych, part five ~ painting the studies **
the very large triptych, part six ~ new studio & first strokes
the very large triptych, part seven ~ the big reveal
the very large triptych, part eight ~ delivery & installation


Thanks for finding your way here and for reading my musings. If you think others might appreciate them, feel free to share this post. If you’d like to read more of my musings please consider subscribing to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website www.taosdawn.com. Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for TuesdayDawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Find other ways to keep tabs on me via my connect page.

Stay safe. Be kind. Notice what you notice.

~ Dawn Chandler
Painting, writing, photographing, hiking, noticing and breathing deeply in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Free from social media since 2020

the very large triptych, part 4 ~ experiencing the sky

I was worried about clouds: I needed clouds to pull off the Very Large Triptych.

But clouds were no guarantee. Just the year before, the only clouds over New Mexico from April to June were smoke clouds. And the year before that, our traditional summer rains never developed. I’ve lived in New Mexico for 30 years.* When I think of beautiful Land of Enchantment clouds and skies, I think of summer. True, we get colorful skies throughout the year. But when I think magnificent Land of Enchantment cloud formations, I think summertime. I don’t think of spring.

So you better believe it was a powerful good omen when, on April 26 — the day RAS and I were to sign our Very Large Triptych commission agreement — the sky filled with gorgeous clouds.** And when a rare spring rainbow appeared later that day? Talk about auspicious!

Spring afternoon clouds build over the Jemez Mountains and the Caja del Rio, as seen from Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Dawn Chandler.
A late afternoon spring rainbow over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

From late April through mid-July I made over a dozen trips to RAS’s roof. Come many a late afternoon, if I saw clouds developing, I’d throw together a picnic supper, grab my camera, and drive out there to sit on the roof.

Late springtime early evening late and clouds at last Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

Sometimes the clouds proved disappointing. Yet it was still a joy to sit out there under the New Mexico sky with nothing to do but gaze. Ravens and crows cawed all around me. Several resident ducks flapped and swam in a nearby pond. Somewhere out there was a Pied-billed Grebe.

Most of my excursions were in the evening. Twice though I drove out for sunrise. What a delight to welcome the day with a thermos of tea in one hand, my camera in the other.

Summer sunrise over the sun the Cristo Mountains as seen from Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

One evening stands out: The night I was dive-bombed by marauding nighthawks. Swooping in graceful arcs against a dramatic sunset sky, it was all I could do to try to capture those “bullbats” with my camera. Alas, my camera skills are poor, but those aerobatic soarers are forever etched in my mind’s eye.

A nighthawk soars among the clouds over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Dawn Chandler.
A nighthawk in flight silhouetted against a dramatic sunset sky at lost Companas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Dawn Chandler .
A nighthawk in flight silhouetted against a dramatic sunset sky at lost Companas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Dawn Chandler .
A nighthawk in flight silhouetted against a dramatic sunset sky at lost Companas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Dawn Chandler .

Firmly in Phase One of the project, my focus — as planned — was on photography. Yet I was itching to wet a brush. So I continued the tradition I’d begun on April 1 at the Caja. Take photos in the evening, then follow-up by jotting notes and painting watercolors in my triptych journal:

New Mexico landscape painting in watercolor of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project.Watercolor painting and photo by Dawn Chandler
New Mexico landscape painting in watercolor of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project.Watercolor painting and photo by Dawn Chandler
New Mexico landscape painting in watercolor of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project.Watercolor painting and photo by Dawn Chandler
New Mexico landscape painting in watercolor of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project.Watercolor painting and photo by Dawn Chandler
New Mexico landscape painting in watercolor of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project.Watercolor painting and photo by Dawn Chandler
New Mexico landscape painting in watercolor of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project.Watercolor painting and photo by Dawn Chandler
New Mexico landscape painting in watercolor of a spring evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project.Watercolor painting and photo by Dawn Chandler

To further acquaint my Muse with composing landscape in a very W I D E horizontal format, I played around with painting small (5″ x 20″) and quick study landscapes. These did in acrylic on Multimedia ArtBoard, proportionate to the overall Very Large Triptych:

New Mexico landscape painting in acrylic of a summer evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project. Acrylic painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.
New Mexico landscape painting in acrylic of a summer evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project. Acrylic painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.
New Mexico landscape painting in acrylic of a summer evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project. Acrylic painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.
New Mexico landscape painting in acrylic of a summer evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project. Acrylic painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.
New Mexico landscape painting in acrylic of a summer evening sky over Las Campanas, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Study painting for the 'Very Large Triptych 'project. Acrylic painting and photo by Dawn Chandler.

Meanwhile I was busy gauging and ordering supplies: Quantities of oil paint, two additional easels, and three top-of-the-line custom canvases. After contemplating my space for several months, I realized that the best space in my home to paint the Very Large Triptych was my living room. It simply has better light and more space (at least it would once I moved most of its furnishings into my studio…). Huge sheets of cardboard and rolls of duct tape were added to my shopping list, so as to protect the living room floor.

Now was the time, too, to prep panels for Phase Two (creating oil studies based on the photos). Fortunately My Good Man (a soon to be world class master woodworker) had recently graduated from an Intro to Woodworking class and had access to power tools. I told him what I needed and a few days later he, like the prince that he is, delivered a load of beautiful clean cut boards to me.


*Wow! Has it really been that long?!
** Incredibly we had lots and lots of clouds last spring, for 2023 was one of the wettest springs in memory. Unfortunately, it was followed by one of the driest summers in memory: monsoon season — which usually lasts several weeks — lasted exactly one day in my neighborhood (a Tuesday).


This is part four of a several part series:

the very large triptych, part one ~ the request
the very large triptych, part two ~ the proposal
the very large triptych, part three ~ discovering the landscape
the very large triptych, part four ~ experiencing sky **
the very large triptych, part five ~ painting the studies
the very large triptych, part six ~ new studio & first strokes
the very large triptych, part seven ~ the big reveal
the very large triptych, part eight ~ delivery & installation


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Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website www.taosdawn.com. Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for TuesdayDawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Find other ways to keep tabs on me via my connect page.

Stay safe. Be kind. Notice what you notice.

~ Dawn Chandler
Painting, writing, photographing, hiking, noticing and breathing deeply in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Free from social media since 2020.