Monday, March 14, 2011

Chaco #6 - Ancient Architecture series

More Chacos...

Chaco #6 - Window with Beam
pastel on black Strathmore

I'd planned to start with the Hovenweep series, but we took another trip to Chaco Culture National Historical Park (official, formal name) this past Saturday, and I came back loaded with enough reference photos to keep me painting for weeks if I chose.

I guess I must really like this green, because even though I am trying not to repeat colors, I discovered after I had finished the painting that I had used it on #3.  But, it gives a different look with a deep earthy red and robin's egg blue sky.  

This particular image is based on photos taken at the Chacoan Great House Pueblo Del Arroyo (house by the gully or creek), so named as it is closest to the banks of the Chaco Wash that runs through the canyon.  

On this trip, we also took the ~8 mile round-trip hike to the most remote of the Great Houses in the park:  Penasco Blanco (white rocks).  The weather was in the low 70's with a breeze and ideal for hiking.  

Below are some photos taken from the hike, some converted to sepia or b/w.

Monolithic sandstone cliffs form the edges of Chaco canyon
A trio of petroglyphs high up on the cliff face is seen below a cluster of old mud nests (swallows, I'm guessing).

A large raptor coasts silently on the thermals above.  Possibly a red-tailed hawk, but much larger than most I've seen.  

Grown-over ruins at Penasco Blanco.  This is one of the few pueblos in Chaco that archaeologists have chosen not to excavate, and I'm glad.  The Chacoan people deserve to have at least some of their history left untrammeled and not picked over and reconstituted.

The "keyhole" door at Penasco Blanco.  Original wood beams are visible in the small adjacent windows.  Given that this was built around 1100 AD, that even this much remains is remarkable.  Piles of rock from collapsed walls are seen in front.

The same wall and door as seen from behind (north).

A look down and across the canyon coming back from Penasco Blanco; it is one of the only ruins found on the south side of the wash and overlooks the canyon itself.  Willow and salt cedar (aka tamarisk - an invasive species found around most southwest waterways) line the edges of this now-dry wash.  

One of the larger petroglyph panels in the afternoon sun.

Casa Chiquita on the hike back.

A balanced rock sits precariously atop a narrow base along the edge of the canyon.


  1. Now I see why you're so enthralled with the place. Thanks for the snaps! What a hike! Wm

  2. Yes, it's an enchanting and special place, I think. Filled with a past and a people that were enigmatic. It's easy to feel peace there, and there is something wonderful about holding a piece of pottery, expertly crafted 900 years ago, in one's hand.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the trip, Wm!

  3. This painting is wonderful. Your sense of color is dramatic and appreciated. Wow. The interest created by the two shadow lengths is very fun.

  4. Thanks, Casey. For me to work with colors in this capacity is not something that comes easily. So, I appreciate your comments. The beam shadows were what attracted my eye, and without them, the composition would have lacked sufficient appeal to paint.

  5. Wonderful - wonderful - photos and painting. You live in a magical place!

  6. Thanks, Helen! Chaco is about 2 hrs. from where we live, but it's definitely worth the drive.


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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