plein air

down by the rio grande

hello Santa Fe!

Thrilled to be attending my third Plein Air Painters Convention & Expo in one of my favorite places on earth: Santa Fe!!

Pre-workshop, my friend and fellow artist Sherrie Sinclair (Sinclair Wildlife Art) found a beautiful bend in the road where we could set up and do a little painting. I fell in love with the shadow of an ancient tree as it cast upon a dilapidated adobe.

The sun came and went, as did the shadow! But it felt terrific to break open the pochade and work on a painting! 


weekend warrior

When work is all consuming, deadline, product launching madness, it is a guilty godsend that I signed up for a painting workshop a year ago and just had to escape to the Sierra Foothills for a long weekend.

Thank you self for being a planner!

Also incredibly relieved that I actually, physically, can paint right now... Just barely. This is another long story, but I shredded and partially tore my right rotator cuff a couple of months ago and thanks to PT and acupuncture I am finally FINALLY able to move my arm!

So off I went to Murphys.

A terrific little town that has a Gold Rush history and a wine country renaissance. 

The workshop was with Kathleen Dunphy, who has the rare talent for being a terrific painter AND a really good instructor. On the agenda for weekend learnings: painting with a limited palette and using only big brushes.

What's a limited palette? It's a lighter load that's for sure! All those gorgeous colors in tiny tubes back in my studio...they weren't invited. Only Permanent Red, French Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Lemon and Titanium White. We could also add dashes of Naples Yellow (to lighten and warm) and cool grey (to tone and neutralize.)

Surprisingly you can create about any color you need with these colors and it requires you really observe your scene/subject matter carefully and make up puddles of color you see BEFORE diving into your painting. This slowed me down in a good way, and then you have your local colors ready to go and can add nuances of light and temperature as your painting progresses. I think I'll stick with it for awhile...

Harder to handle for me was getting used to a #10 brush on an 8x10 panel! You have to really move your arm around to achieve different strokes and line weights, which might normally be fine but when you have a gimpy arm... It was not ideal.


First day of the workshop was a lot of good lecture and learning to mix paints and an indoor still life study of pears.


wild horses

Today I stayed 'local.'

I was up very early so got a great start to the day and was scouting out the best view of Cathedral Rock and setting up by 8:45am. 

Pulled over into a few bends and turns but either the location wasn't safe, the shadows weren't great or they wouldn't be great soon... So I ended up painting in the same spot I painted the Cathedral Rock in watercolor when I first arrived. And I do love that view!


I'd like to paint the whole scene sometime but for now zoomed in to that ribbon of dark oranges, yellows, creams, peach and greens... It's just so showy and spectacular! It's Cathedral Rock!

A nice family, a mom with 5 boys, stopped by for a lengthy visit, which was really nice. Other than that, no visitors today. I kept hearing noises like someone walking on gravel behind me, so I'd turn around and then - no one. I finally realized it was miniature rock slides from the opposite side of the road ;)

My god it was hot! I thought I'd pass out so started packing things up before finishing... It's very close though!


I want to knock back a bit of the intensity and value on the orange capped rock but otherwise it came out really nice. 4.5 hours, pretty long for one Plein air painting. It's 11x14. I like that there is a layering in the rocks and a layering of foreground, center, middle and a few background masses. I am pleased with that.


Life is so interesting. I stopped at the Visitors Center to use the restroom and splash some water on my face and as I walked back to my car someone asked me "Are you Sara?" It was Megan, the Ranger from the park that I interviewed with via phone and that I corresponded with when I initially applied for this Residency. She had a vacation planned for the same two weeks of my Residency! Of course I was disappointed I wouldn't get to meet this person who had been so instrumental in my selection to work here.... 

So there she was, saying hi in the parking lot! Also, asking if I was coming over for dinner tonight ;) umm, yes. sure. Where? Was I supposed to know this?

Apparently word was sent and I would have learned about the dinner once I'd returned to Lands Inn. So after a much needed shower and short rest I met up with the girl who runs the Inn, Molly, and her Mom, Carol, and we drove down to Megan's to have dinner along with her friend Betsy, a Ranger from Glen Canyon in Southern Utah (another BEAUTIFUL park!)

Dinner was delicious and fun, and a great change to my routine out here. 

But a gift of gifts, a treat and somehow a spiritual experience, came from our drive back up the mountain. It's of course very dark, Molly's driving and around a curve, through some sage brush came running 3 wild horses!!! Amazing!! A little stocky; 2 larger and one smaller/younger. So cool!