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Plein Air in Taos

I had a wonderful trip with 2 artist friends Kathy Litwin and Kim Gordon who are oil painters to Taos, New Mexico the first week in June, 2023. We plein air painted for 6 mornings in a row. What a gorgeous place! It was not what I was expecting though. I was expecting to paint the desert but it was so lush and green! Every thing was blooming and it rained every afternoon/ evening. The weather was just perfect while we painted. It wasn't too hot which surprised me but we were over 7,000 ft in altitude.

On Saturday our first morning there, Kathy and Kim were outside checking out the area around our VRBO house on Upper Ranchitos Road. They met the neighbor, Bill across the street who invited us to paint in his yard. WOW what a view! So we painted the view of Picuris Peak with a vast meadow in front. Lucky for me there was a tree to set up under for shade. I was fighting a nasty cold but made the best of it and enjoyed my time immensely. Sadly, Bill told us that the land will soon be developed with 30+ houses! So, that view will soon vanish and he is planning to move away.

On Sunday morning we met up with a local plein air painter, Sheila O'Malley. Sheila used to share a studio years ago in the Twin Cities with Kathy. She took us under her wing and showed us to her favorite painting spots around Taos. We ended up painting with her for the rest of the week. We followed Sheila west to the little town of Pilar where we set up in her friend's yard. We were right on the bank of the Rio Grande river in an area known as the Orillo Verde. Fantastic! The river was really kicking, flowing high and fast. It was loud! Some white water rafting boats went by as we were painting. That looked pretty fun and I'd like to try it sometime. I found a great spot in the shade to set up. My biggest problem other than my terrible cold was I left my cerulean blue at home. It would have been the perfect color for that endless sky! Instead I mixed up cobalt and French Ultramarine blue. It worked out okay. I also had a heck of a time figuring out how to paint these olive trees along the bank. They were a very light shade of sage green that I just couldn't mix. I probably needed that cerulean blue. I did the best I could out there. I'm happy with my result. We went back to Taos and had a delicious lunch on the patio at the Azteca Mexican grill. I had the grilled chicken sandwich with fries. Bacchus, Sheila's dog joined us and enjoyed a few of my fries (with her permission of course).

On Monday Sheila took us about 40 minutes south and west from Taos to a tiny little area she called Placitas or Placita. It was a gorgeous little valley with an old tiny, oval shaped adobe church. I should probably have painted the church and I'm kicking myself for not picking it. I was sucked into the pasture view with the mountains. The problem was I set up in full sun because there was no shade. I have a great hat but no umbrella. Also it was just all green! It was challenging and I was unsatisfied until I got to doodle over it later. Now I like it a lot! We went and had lunch at a Brewery in Taos called, the Taos Tap Room. I had a lager beer and the Italian sandwich with a salad. It was delicious and Sheila's dog, Bacchus joined us on the patio. He enjoyed some of my sandwich too.

On Tuesday we drove to the town of Truchas which was about an hour or so from Taos. I felt really crummy from my cold. We set up on the road and for such a small town we got several onlookers who wanted to chat with us. This is hard for me because it breaks my concentration. The view was so vast and it was really hard to wrap up into my small 10" x 8" paper! Again I was set up in full sun, looking at an all green hillside with houses perched on it. I edited out an ugly trailer. It is challenging to paint with watercolor in full sun as it dries very fast. The local chatterboxs didn't help with this situation! Once I doodled on it I liked it a lot more. We planned to eat lunch at a local place called "Sugar Nymphs" but unfortunately it was closed. So we headed back to Taos and had lunch at a cafe called, Manzanita Market and ate outside on the patio in a pedestrian alleyway alongside a beautiful garden with Iris and peonies in full bloom. I enjoyed the Gobbler sandwich and hibiscus iced tea. It was lovely and next to the gallery where Sheila has work on display.

On Wednesday Sheila took us to the Arroyo Hondo area where we parked at a turn out along a dirt road. Kim and I hiked down a bit off the road and set up along the edge of the gorge. It was all brown and green so I decided to break loose a bit and play with inventive color trying hard to stay loose and charge in the colors. I had so much fun! We had lunch afterwards at Sheila's house in Taos. We met her friend, Joan who is also a local painter as we sat on Sheila's terrace. It was lovely!

Thursday was our last day to paint. We went with Sheila who had organized a paint out with her local plein air group to paint at the John Dunn bridge. This is at the confluence of the Arroyo Hondo and the Rio Grande rivers. What a view!! I was able to set up in a shaded spot along the Rio Grande which was much calmer here. Again I played with more inventive color as the local color was much more subdued. I felt pretty good painting there and received some nice compliments from the locals. We all met up for a picnic lunch among the rocks in the shade on the other side of the bridge from where I painted. It was a fun day and a great way to spend our last day there.

Please see my paintings in my Taos Gallery on here!


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