Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Easel. The Best Taboret. More New Mexico Painting

Cerro Pedernal #1 Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

Today, hiding out in my Tucson cave, otherwise known as 'The Strawbale Room,' I worked some more on Cerro Pedernal #1. I'm not sure if it's done yet, but it's looking a bit more finished now. It's 30" x 30", oil on canvas. It was a blistering 108 degrees today, but a storm is coming in from the east which we hope will cool things down--maybe to a cardigan donning 100 degrees!

Missing the smaller 8" x 8" format this week inspired me to paint another view of a New Mexico hill with fancy junipers. They looked like they were posing or getting ready to dance.

New Mexico Hill and Junipers Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

I was thinking, too, about the equipment we use in our artwork.

A few years back, I needed to buy an easel and a taboret for the studio. These things are so expensive. The prices were astonishing.

Monterey Multi-Angle Easel Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

My quest led me to find two really good studio aids. This Monterey multi-angle easel is really wonderful. I've not been super happy with the wiggly-ness, but wow, when you want to lay on some paint and don't want it to run, nothing beats this easel.

I couldn't find a taboret that I could afford. So, I looked on eBay for something like it. I found this:

Innovex three drawer file cabinet with glass top Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

If you've ever worked in an office and wished you were at home in a studio, this image could be a treat. I never worked in an office, but opening a file cabinet to find oil paints is a dream come true. It's great because it has wheels, and the glass top serves as another palette surface! I'll bet the manufacturers didn't think of that.

Hope you all are well, safe and happy. Be careful, Easterners! After the earthquake comes some heavy rain. Gee. I thought Tucson weather was challenging...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tucson Artist Melinda's Magical Journey Continued

First look, first draft of Cerro Pedernal Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

As we drove toward Albuquerque a few weeks ago, I thought, What was it again that compels me in this direction? I mean, there aren't any saguaros or very many ocotillos there. And gee, in Arizona, there are as many spectacular vistas as New Mexico, right?...Hmmm.

It's about six hours from Tucson to Albuquerque, if you take the cutoff toward Hatch (where all the yummiest chile peppers are grown) through Deming. It is our custom to stop in Lordsburg for fuel. Right away, there were strange things afoot. My favorite hills were being mined and the machines were busily scratching at the hems of their skirts.

Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

Journal entry: On the way up to Albuquerque, I saw a young calf standing under a lone billboard with these words written in bold letters, "Fresh Jerky," and a hill whose vegetation formed the stylized image of a running horse-- like cave paintings. Light and shadows danced along the ground as storm clouds gathered.

The second day, we were in Santa Fe fueling up and about to get lost. I was not feeling well. I did not pay attention. My internal GPS was not working. We headed northeast instead of northwest to Abiquiu. Driving through the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains and rounding the bend, I saw a flat topped mountain that seemed to appear suddenly over the top of the other hills. Was it smiling? I was overjoyed that I had, perhaps glimpsed Cerro Pedernal. I was wrong, and drove further until I could tell from the incredible grassy plains (like Kansas) that something was not right. At Wagon Mound, I melted down. Ill that I had made such a mistake. Ill that I now must drive back toward Santa Fe and begin again toward the northwest. Stopping in Las Vegas, NM, we found the Comfort Inn and crashed. Lucky to get any room (Harley motorcycle rally in town), we had a clogged sink...on the second floor, and had to brush our teeth while taking our showers. Ha.

From Ghost Ranch Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

Storms come to New Mexico Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

Third day journal entry: On the way to S. F., I saw the monsoon come in a cloud like an Indian dancer in the sky, the Pecos River and a hundred happy bikers listening to ZZ Top, as we ate French 'Ready to Eat' meals at the Pecos River Station. Made it to S. F. and saw antique cars, one Cobra.

Penitente Morado Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

It seemed like the Trickster, the devil and a small host of angels vied for mastery of our journey. We were like confused observers, trying to listen to the right voice. The Sage Inn became our refuge, and I cancelled my Ranch adventure. The faucet in our room's sink would not turn off and a kindly maintenance man came and replaced the faucet. The next night, in a different room again, he came to replace something else and we gave him our treasured tamales from Tucson's Larua's Restaurant.

Fourth day: Still ill, but painted in my room (That's fun. Put down a small tarp to protect the carpet.)Had a pleasant lunch along the Santa Fe River where birds fought amongst themselves and only we noticed. See Arty Fice.

Fifth day: A setback. Slept most of the day. Drove around a bit and took a few photos and shot a little video. Hope to upload that someday...

View from Abhiquiu Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

Sixth day: Alright now, think I'm gonna live. Mr. Artyfice suggests we drive to Abiquiu and see if we can salvage the time. My first meal--Abiquiu Inn. Wow. With a trout in my belly and my eyes full of desert, we headed out. I took over 400 photos, mostly from the car.

Near Ghost Ranch Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

The last night we stayed at the Hotel Parq (Albuquerque) that was so new everything worked. We were the unwashed coming in from the storm and we enjoyed the hotel robes--a lot.

And on the seventh day we drove home to an exquisite Arizona sunset and a gourmet dinner prepared by Ell and his girlfriend.

A few days later, as written in the last post, our trusty SUV lost its serpentine belt, which runs the water pump. Then, our washing machine broke. It was the water pump.

Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza
For once, I had a clean house. A dear family friend joined us for dinner Sunday, completing some kind of circle that I've yet to figure out. But, I see signs everywhere.
Not Like O'Keeffe Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

This is just a taste of what it's like traveling to New Mexico. It has its own reality--not to be trifled with. Loved, but not to be trifled with.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

So, I Shall Go There--New Mexico!

San Miguel Mission, Santa Fe (8" x 8", oil on artists' board), Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

The Good, the bad, the spectacular news.

What do you do when you've planned an artist's retreat for months, only to have it all fall apart due to illness?

We have choices, don't we? We can scrap everything. We can use we what we've learned through mindful meditation. We can redeem some portion of any time available.

This is what I did.

I left for New Mexico last July 28th, hoping to spend one night in Albuquerque and then on to stay for eleven days at the Gallina Canyon Ranch north of Abiquiu. Yes, that Abiquiu made famous by Georgia O'Keeffe. I packed everything, including all of my food and large canvases, pochades and palette tools.

Some kind of food borne illness got to me before I could get to Santa Fe.

There is so much that happened that I can't really write it all. Yet, I would like to say 'Thank you' to Elizabeth, one of the owners, and David, ranch employee, for more kindness, help and generosity than I would ever have expected from people I have never met. I would highly recommend traveling there because of the incredible beauty, but mostly for their beautiful spirits.

Enchanted by Juniper (8" x 8", oil on artists' board), Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

I let go of my plans, got well in Santa Fe, and decided that taking over 400 photos from the car would redeem some of what I had lost.

wearing my purple huaraches, Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza

It was a proud moment standing at the entrance to the Ghost Ranch, turning to view the Pedernal that is now iconic as a result of O'Keeffe's work. I cried when I made it one mile onto the road that led to the ranch.


Something amazing happened while I was recovering in Santa Fe.

My son sent me a text that a packet had arrived from Flagstaff, AZ--not the usual rejection letter that an artist can receive in the mail after a submission...but a large envelope. Should he open it?

The spectacular news: I've been accepted as next summer's visual Artist-in-Residence at the Grand Canyon...for three weeks...an apartment on the rim...with a studio. Did I mention it would be for three weeks?

I'm kind of speechless.

P. S. Two days after I returned home, our vehicle's power steering belt jumped off its pulley. This could have happened two hours from Santa Fe, in the middle of the wilderness. It could have blown the engine, because the belt also drives the water pump. I accept that circumstances change and letting go can reveal the reasons later. I am grateful.

The Road to Ghost Ranch, NM Image © 2011 Melinda S. Esparza