The Black Place

The Black Place is where Georgia O’Keeffe painted some of her most unique landscapes. It’s right opposite mile marker 111 on highway 550, but unfortunately it’s been taken over by oil drilling and the land is private and separated by barbed wire.

I visited on my way to an overnight in the Bisti Badlands, and managed to find a way to wander around a little bit using some little used dirt roads to get access. This was just a scout really, but it’s an amazing place. The black is from oxidized iron ash, and it’s a combination of the swamps, forest and river sediment that once covered it. Many of the hills are covered in montmorillonite clay, nicknamed ‘popcorn’.

Dawn and Moonrise over Rio Salado. Sandia Mountains in the distance.
snow covering part of the black hills
It’s a very otherwordly and abstract landscape.
Looking north from the hills above the Black Place
Looking east
The San Juan mountains in the distance to the north. Highway 550 bisects the view.
looking south from the hills above the Black Place
The canyons from above
One of the ravens that hang out there passing by

East Fork, Jemez River

I haven’t posted in a while; like many others I’ve been too disturbed by the state of the nation to think about it. But I haven’t been idle! I finally decided to catch up; please forgive me for putting things out of sequence and occasionally out of season!

This is a favorite hike of mine west of Los Alamos, just past the Valles Caldera National Monument, called the Las Conchas trail. It’s  a lovely little valley surrounded by volcanic cliffs with the Jemez River flowing through it. This is from a very early morning hike. I started a watercolor that I worked on when I was showing my work at art festivals, and ended up with a pretty insipid watercolor painting. So, I glued the painting to a panel, covered it with acrylic medium, and turned it into a pointillist painting.

Here are the stages below:


First Prize!

My painting, Cataract Creek 02, (37″ x 57″) won first prize at the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition at the Center for the Arts in Evergreen, Colorado. I’m very grateful for the honor, and very grateful to them for accepting very large paintings! Otherwise, many of my pieces wouldn’t be eligible for any competitions.

Thanks to the juror, Stephen Quiller, and for the very helpful people at the Center for the Arts!


Workshop: Painting Nocturnes in Watercolor

Felton Empire Road

I am going to be teaching a workshop from my studio in Santa Fe from the 29th of September through the 1st of October. (3 days)

Hours: 10 am – 4:30 pm
Location: 20 Vista Calabasas, Santa Fe NM 87506
Cost: $ 300 + $21 tax
Materials: Bring brushes and paints (I’ll send recommendations for those who would like them). Everything else will be provided.

(This will be in my studio at our house, about 15 minutes from the plaza in Santa Fe, on the west side of town)
For more information or to enroll, email me at:

Highway 100

I am going to prepare stretched paper and a preliminary drawing for one nocturne, approximately 12” x 18” , so as to maximize our painting time. I will also have additional stretched paper and transfer paper and tracing paper so that anyone who wants to make more than one will be able to do so.

Nocturne, Rutland VermontOne of the ways I work that I think is helpful is to have a reference print that is exactly the same size as the painting I am making, and I will make two for each image for every participant, one to cut up and lay on the paper for precise reference, and one to refer to for overall visual reference. I’m pretty sure you will become addicted to working this way and we will discuss ways to do this with different kinds of setups and equipment.

Upper Canyon Road

Also, I rely on both liquid frisket, as well as a mixture of Gum Arabic and water, and Winsor Newton lifting preparation. I will have these materials available as well. There may be a slight bottle neck for some of these materials, and you are encouraged to bring some if you’d like – a complete materials list will go out, although these materials won’t be mandatory.

The Boarding House, Madrid, NMWhat distinguishes nocturnes from other watercolors is the need to get watercolors quite dark in order not to lose the mood, and also to have clear highlight areas from lights and moon, etc. often which need to be graduated into very dark surrounding areas with some subtle halation. That is what we will focus on, as well the problems that always attend trying to create a scene complete with its emotional content!

Works in Progress

I have been working in my studio as well! It’s been a little harder with all the political pasticcio, but I am recovering slowly and getting more productive. I re-organized the studio and worked with an electrician adding some lights. I also replaced all the lights with LEDs, as well as adding an industrial fan, just as it started to get hot! Probably most important, there is now a chair in my studio. It’s less of a Shaker studio now, and I can relax occasionally, and read some of the art books in my library.

I finished a small 11 x 14 acrylic painting of the Pecos river, and have been working on several paintings – you can see them below at their current states:

Morning, Pecos River 11 x 14 Acrylic on Board
More lights! And a fan! And a storage cabinet!
WIP Highway One at Waddell Creek  36 x 77 Gouache on Paper
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That distant area used to be pretty dark!
WIP Canyonlands Southern Entrance 26 x 48 Acrylic on Board
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Way back there is the new chair!
WIP Forest at Night, Vermont 26 x 48 Acrylic on Board
WIP Cerrillos Nocturne 16 x 24 Watercolor on Paper

Overnight at Hamilton Mesa

Hamilton Mesa is a beautiful place high in the Pecos Wilderness, one valley over the Sangre de Christo mountains from Santa Fe. Because it takes a while to drive and then hike there – and because I wanted to be there with evening and early morning light – I decided to spend a night. To save room, I just brought a hammock instead of a sleeping bag. Even so, with my cameras and tripods, plus water and some food, it felt like a significant weight on the hike in.

There was a little bit of a storm around, but the main one was supposed to be in a day or so, and I wanted some clouds as opposed to a clear sky. But it rained lightly off and on, and I had to keep my cameras covered, with one in a cheap waterproof housing so I could take photos without worrying too much. Occasionally I sheltered under trees waiting for the rain to pass, and then headed back to my hammock as it got dark.

I really thought I had it worked out. I had rain gear on so if it rained on me I wouldn’t mind, and a hat to cover my face. What I hadn’t realized, though, was how cold it got up there at night. Eventually, after shivering kept me awake, I built a fire and stayed by it’s warmth for the rest of the night.

The path to Hamilton Mesa goes through a pine and aspen forest. In the distance is the valley of the Mora river.
The sunset was pretty much obscured by clouds. One never knows what it will be like each time. even when it’s not perhaps the ideal lighting conditions, it’s always amazing up there. A forest bath.
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In front of the setting sun is the aspen forest on the slopes of the mesa, where my hammock was.
This is just after the sun set, looking southeast. 
Occasionally I would stop under a tree and wait for the rain to let up.
Looking towards Truchas Peaks as rain blows over. Around this time i heard a very large group of coyotes; much more intimidating when you’re camping!
Just as night falls in the aspen forest. The moon was pretty bright.
Here’s the fire that saved me from being so cold! 
Looking out from the forest as the moon rose.
This is the light before dawn; things are just beginning to emerge from the darkness.
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Walking towards the peak of Hamilton Mesa as the sun was about to rise, about 4:30.
Looking east as the sun rises.
Truchas Peaks, just catching the sun, as is the peak that I’m on.
One camera was going as I walked around with my other one. I’m wearing a LOT of clothes.
Day beginning outside the aspen forest.
Real morning now, and the sun is starting penetrate into the woods.
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This is a view looking southwest on the way back to the car. 

Spring Snow in the Mountains

Spring can be pretty unpredictable in Santa Fe, going from warm and sunny one day to snow and hail the next. I saw a storm coming into the mountains and thought it might be my last chance to spend some time in the aspens while they’re standing in snow. It was about 4:30 so I walked the dogs and headed up as fast as I could.


It was lightly snowing and pretty deep snow on the ground when I started climbing – the trail is strenuous at first; but then when one comes to the where the ground is somewhat more level there is a tremendous sense of exhilaration at how beautiful and hidden it is. The snow got stronger to the point where it was difficult to take photographs – but really really beautiful – and I thought I better start heading down as it was getting darker all the time.


I started back, and then suddenly the sun broke through and the snow stopped. It was as if the clock had turned back an hour. So I wandered around some more – everywhere I looked it was amazing. Finally as the sun set I slowly, somewhat reluctantly, headed back down to the car. Such soul food up there!

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The White Place

I spent an afternoon and night at La Plaza Blanca, made well known by Georgia O’Keeffe’s affinity for the place and her wonderful paintings. It’s not a place that many people visit, especially in winter, and it was wonderful to spend a very quiet night (with the coyotes for company) and early morning there.

It feels like the world that we all live in these days is very far away here, and there is a tremendous beauty; especially when the sun has just set or is just beginning to rise. I am very grateful to the Dar Al Islam mosque, on whose land it sits, for allowing people to appreciate it.