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what do you do after standing in front of that altar….

by | Feb 15, 2020 | Uncategorized

{ part 2 ~ why my new year began the last monday of january }

So what do you do after standing in a Museum before the altar of a magnificent Monet and you are just bursting with desire to be outside, be in the land, be bathed in color, be one with paintbrush and paper? But here you are, surrounded by people and enclosed walls and pavement and urban clutter and, for the first time in a very long while you are without any art-making accoutrements. (Well, not totally without art-making accoutrements: You’ve simply left you’re travel watercolor kit and large sketchbook back where you’re staying at your brother’s house and GOD, you just really don’t want to take the time to drive all the way across town to retrieve them.)

You are in the midst of what can only be described as an artistic emergency. ACK!
What to do?!

Well first, you dash breathlessly into the museum gift-shop desperately searching for anything with which you can draw or paint COLOR. There among all the Monet merch you purchase or yourself a ridiculous set of amateur colored pencils that are encased, no less, in a snappy decorative tin emblazoned with (quelle surprise!) Monet’s waterlilies.

Colored pencils bought by Dawn Chandler during a creative emergency at the DAM Monet show.

Then you drive yourself as quickly as you can through the city to the Denver Botanic Gardens, hopeful that, it being late January, you’ll have the brown and grey winter gardens to yourself.

Next you fill your thermos with coffee in the cafe and study the map. Then, with camera in hand, you take a deep breath and set out on an amble curious to see what beauties may reveal themselves to you.
Soon you are crouching among curled dead leaves, brown petals and seed pods.

The delicate colors of winter Hydrangea blossoms. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Beautiful winter textures of the Denver Botanic Garden. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Eventually you find the perfect secluded bench beside a sun-warmed wall that looks out across a small wave of short-grass prairie to a stand of white birches; music of nearby cascading water muffles the city’s sirens.

A sunny spot at the Denver Botanic Gardens in January. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
January birch tree, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Here you pull out your tiny little notebook (gifted to you by a faraway friend along with its perfect hip bag he made for you, his “artist friend”) in which you’d scrawled your museum notes, and you begin to draw.

Dawn Chandler's emergency botanic garden sketching kit.

No matter that your new colored pencils kind of suck and that your notebook’s paper isn’t really dense enough for artwork. You’re just downright happy — thankful! — to be here, doing just this: quietly looking, quietly noticing, quietly drawing, away from the crowds.

Colored pencil sketch by artist Dawn Chandler of a January birch, Denver Botanic Garden.

After about an hour, you decide to get up and stretch your legs. And you see that over there where the sound of cascading water is coming from, there’s a wall between you and the falling water. Then you notice there’s also a bench beside the wall. You look around to see if anyone is watching, as though you are about to do something mischievous, and assured that you are alone, you step up and stand on the bench and peer over the wall.

And who looks back at you but a Cooper’s Hawk. Beside the water’s edge, her puffed-up grey body blends in with rounded river stones; she’s hidden in a tiny cove at the base of the waterfall, surely as surprised to see you popping up over the wall as you are to see her on the other side of it.

A Coopers Hawk hidden beside a stream, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Your brown eyes meet her red.
You feel your whole being smiling.
You take a deep breath of gratitude and whisper: Be safe.

Back on your saunter you go.

A turn here…. a turn there…. noticing all the way….

Winter beauty spotted at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Nature's beautiful winter textures, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Nature's beautiful winter patterns, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Mesmerized by the koi, Denver Botanic Garden. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Delicate and elegant seed pods, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.
Snowdrop blossoms, Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Two days later you’re back home in Santa Fe.
Despite the excellence of your trip, you are just so excited to be home again, because you are so ready to get to painting in your studio.

And then you get some news that requires you to run an essential errand up to Taos the next day. You have no choice — you have to go the very day after returning home.
And you are cursing the Fates because after a week away you just really really want to spend the day in your studio painting and if you were fifty years younger you’d sure as heck throw a tantrum.

And then your Muse whispers to you The Obvious:

Go — Paint anyway — paint on your way.

Dawn Chandler's road trip watercolor sketches from near Taos, New Mexico
Dawn Chandler's assorted and various watercolor roadtrip sketches

Mostly abstract & playful watercolor musings, some inspired by Monet (center & on the right), others (on the left) inspired by the New Mexico landscape.

New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler aka 'Taos Dawn' in her Santa Fe studio.

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings!
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Find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website,, as well as on Instagram and Facebook. Peruse and shop for my art here. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Learn more about it here.

~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico