There was a time a long time ago when I considered signing my name on my paintings with my initials, because a landscape painter named “Dawn” seemed a little too sweet, maybe even cliche´.
I’m glad I got over that.
According to my mother, it was my father who suggested “Dawn.”
I’m so grateful that he did.*
Half a century since that that bestowement, I realize my life has largely become a dedication to — an honoring of — that name. Whether it be in my regular early morning risings to witness my namesake spread across the sky, or whether it be in my constant striving with paint and brush to capture the ever-changing New Mexico sky, I can’t help but think that my father’s naming of me was both a blessing and a pathway.
I’m a child of nature and an outdoors women; there are infinite aspects to the outdoors and the landscape that I love. During a recent walk in February snow, I was reminded of how much I adore seeing tracks in snow, especially of the birds who dart around my feeders. I love noting how the rabbit and coyote tracks reveal otherwise invisible passageways. I love the purple-blue shadows at the base of the chamisa and sage, and how the snow mounds like uneven globes on their gold clusters.
I love how the snow etches the branches of the cottonwoods and elms, revealing the “bones of the trees.”
Every season out here has its uniquely gorgeous details, of course.
But for me, more than anything, it’s the sky that calls to me; it’s the sky I can’t ignore.
It’s the sky I can never forget.
And it’s the sky I keep returning to in my paintings.
Today — March 2nd — would have been my father’s 90th birthday.
It seems an auspicious day to release to the world my newest painting series: New Mexico Sky Musings.
I’ve been working on this series off and on for a couple of years, first hinting at it in one of my newsletters and sharing another in my springtime card last year. Other than that, I’ve kept these paintings close, developing them slowly, enjoying their presence, not wanting to part with them too soon.
Each is inspired by the New Mexico sky, yet each is abstracted, at least partly so. Most don’t attempt to capture a specific location, though some do, especially the first few.
Others, as I’ve developed them and landscape passages have emerged from the abstraction, I’ve been reminded of specific places and memories. When that happens, I often push or develop the sense of that place more.
These are skies of my imagination seeped in New Mexico memories, mixed with wildness of texture and color and feeling. They’re diary skies, reflecting my moods and emotions while immersed in artistic creation.
All are mixed media, primarily a combination of collage (papers with text) and acrylic paint, though some have colored pencil, ink and graphite. Most are what I call “textual,” in that they incorporate text — my writing — into the paintings. In the case of all of these, the writings are from my journal reflections and observations of the land and sky of Northern New Mexico.
The New Mexico Sky Musings are created on heavy watercolor paper and each is mounted to an 8” x 8” x .75” panel, the sides of which are painted grey; the backs are wired for immediate display.
I’ll be releasing my New Mexico Sky Musings to collectors this month — a new one every few days — on my online art gallery store on Etsy.
Here now are the first two:
New Mexico Sky Musing, No. 1 (above) ~ mixed media on paper mounted on panel ~ 8 x 8 inches
This is one that is, indeed, inspired by a specific place: The view from a friend’s home on Taos Mesa, looking east to the sun-lit Sangres one beautiful late summer evening — an evening that I’ve revisited several times in my paintings. For that that was a day when My Good Man and I had attempted to climb Wheeler Peak, but, just as we were breaking out above the treeline, had to turn around due to an impending storm. By the time we got back down to our car, cold rain was dumping down.
New Mexico Sky Musing, No. 1 is available here.
As we descended down the road and out of the mountains, dramatic clouds were moving across the sky, with sunlight streaming through them. The sky remained that way all the rest of the afternoon into evening. It was a day — and sky — I’ll never forget.
New Mexico Sky Musing, No. 2 (above) ~ mixed media on paper mounted on panel ~ 8 x 8 inches
This one actually sold soon after I created it to a collector who was visiting my studio. It wasn’t even mounted on a panel yet, yet he fell in love with it. Living in the upper Midwest, this wee painting captured for him the essence of New Mexico. I love the play of warm and cool colors, and how that tall rectangle feels like a doorway into the sky. I also love the ambiguity of that horizontal patch of brilliant light blue just about the greenery: is it water? sky? I like the mystery.
One thing that I really enjoy about my New Mexico Sky Musings: They really seem much larger than they are, capturing the grandeur of the western landscape on a small scale. Though diminutive in size, they pack a big punch.
And they’re signed not with my initials, but with the name my father gave me, and proudly so.
- “Dawn” was an uncommon name back in 1964. Proof in point: In all my life I’ve only ever met one other person older than me named “Dawn.”
Thank you for being here and reading my musings. If you enjoy my posts I invite you to subscribe to this, my blog so you catch all my occasional musings. And by all means, if you know others who might enjoy these writings, please feel free to share this post with them.
Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. Peruse and shop for my art here. And please consider joining me for TuesdayDawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity.
Stay safe. Be kind.
~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico
Me in my studio with my Watercolor Wanderings Series on the wall.