Monday, July 9, 2012

Painting iconic landscapes of northern New Mexico

Back from my trip to Taos.  The monsoon season is in full swing in the southwest, including the Taos area, and that dictated the amount of painting I was able to do.

The rain is a much-needed blessing for the forests and ranch lands of the region, but I cannot say I enjoy driving over mountain passes in the middle of a thunderstorm like I did on Thursday!

That being said, I was happy that I was able to complete two paintings, and start on a third that I'll probably finish up in the studio.

The two paintings here are subjects I've long been wanting to paint.   They've been on my "bucket list", as it were, to paint.  I can't really say why, other than I've seen them rendered in a variety of styles and media, by various artists, and they instantly had appeal to me on that artistic level.

First off is the Taos Gorge.  I believe I'd mentioned wanting to paint it during my March visit, but the wind made that prohibitive.

Morning At Taos Gorge - 8x16",  plein air
pastel on board with Golden pumice ground and black acrylic
© S.Johnson
It was my first priority, so I headed out Friday morning to get a jump before the monsoon clouds filled the sky.  For those visiting the area, the Taos Gorge is located about 6 miles south of town along Hwy 68.  There's a pull-off and picnic area that gives the best views, and a local artist - Kemper Coley - was painting there when I arrived.  It's always a treat to meet other artists while traveling, particularly while painting!

My plan for my drive back today, weather permitting, was to do another painting en route.  I took the longer southern route that goes up along the lower part of the Taos gorge, through several small communities and along the Chama river as it passes through Abiquiu, by Ghost Ranch, and of course, Pedernal - the narrow mesa/flat topped mountain made famous by Georgia O'Keeffe.

Storm Over Pedernal - 12x12", plein air
 pastel on black cardstock
A huge storm was forming over the mountains adjacent to Pedernal, so I worked really fast on this painting.  This was right along the highway about 5 miles south of Ghost Ranch and right near Lake Abiquiu.  I was immediately drawn to the uncluttered orange grass/earth foreground this view offered.

Thankfully, I was more or less finished by the time the wind started to get bad enough to potentially blow my easel over.

Both the gorge and Pedernal were as enjoyable to paint as I thought they would be, and I do hope to revisit both as painting subjects during future trips!


  1. Wow, wow, wow! These are amazing, Sonya. The sky in the lower one has me wanting to run for cover!

    Truly wonderful - and definitely has me hungering for another trip out West......

  2. Beautiful work, Sonya! I love the storm clouds.

  3. Great work, Sonya! I really like the lower one, you did catch the feeling of the storm coming.

    If you ever want to go to Taos again. I have one on my bucket list too I need to finish.

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  5. Thanks so much, Debbie And, you're right about running for cover re the second one: I could see lightning in the mountains where the storm originated, and by the time I finished, I was literally surrounded by storms. And, yes, definitely come for another visit to the west :)!

    Thanks LeAnn - I'm enjoying painting all these monsoon skies we've been having, which is good, because that's what we are getting every day!

    Hi Susan - thanks so much. I would totally be into doing a painting trip to Taos! There are so many areas around there I want to paint that I doubt I could get sick of it. One of these days, we really do need to get together to paint, darn it!

  6. Beautiful as usual! I love the colors you used on both of these.

  7. Thanks Gabrielle - as always, it was a relief to get away from the forest and greens for a bit!


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