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: jonathan.keeton@gmail.com

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
_DSC9411 Panorama
That distant area used to be pretty dark!
WIP Canyonlands Southern Entrance 26 x 48 Acrylic on Board
_DSC9414 Panorama
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.
IMG_5117 Panorama
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.
_DSC9233_4_5HDR Panorama
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.
_DSC9315_6_4HDR Panorama
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!

IMG_4523IMG_4584_5_6HDRIMG_4575_6_7HDR PanoramaIMG_4581_2_3HDRIMG_4644_5_6HDRIMG_4653_4_5HDRIMG_4680_1_2HDR

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.


Jemez River Canyon

So here’s the thing. I’ve been a few times to this beautiful place where the east fork of the Jemez river travels through this beautiful little meadow with volcanic rock formations along it. But the trail stops about 2 miles in, and the river goes through a steep canyon where there is no room for a trail, and very steep cliffs. There’s another way in from the other side, but that stops at the canyon as well.

So I went out and bought some waders and strapped my crampons on them and headed out the other day. It’s a really beautiful place, absolutely quiet and remote feeling. It’s a little hard to tell from Santa Fe what the weather is going to be like, so it was overcast much of the time, but still very worth seeing.

This is the entrance from the west side, where I had to stop last time.
Looking down from the first cliff.
Heading into the canyon
this was taken by a Russian drone that went by
I had to climb to get past a steep ice covered fall – this is the view from up there
Sun breaking through towards the end of the day
Hillside in shadow and sun
Here I was following a coyote’s tracks the rest of the way
Looking east looking back towards the sun hitting the trees
Late afternoon light
Lovely little meadow towards the end of the hike