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.

Until….

 

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 I JUST HAD TO PAINT IT!!

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

 

LET THE TRANSFORMATION BEGIN!

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!

🙂