Bisti Badlands

I had heard about the Bisti (BIS-tie) Badlands ever since moving to New Mexico and have always wanted to visit. It’s pretty far from Santa Fe; about 40 minutes south of Farmington in the middle of nowhere. About 50-70 million years ago it was a riverine delta on the edge of the Great Western Seaway, which covered much of New Mexico and the west. The remains of that, as well as volcanic ash, now make up this surreal landscape. I spent a day and night there so I could get up early and explore before dawn. Despite being somewhat warm during the day, it was crazy cold at night, and the first hour of tramping through the cold darkness before pre dawn arrived was a little challenging.

It’s a giant area, and takes a little orienting to figure out where to go. This was my first exploration, so I’m looking forward to returning now that I have a somewhat better sense of the place.

pre dawn with the black hills in the foreground
Dawn just breaking. It seems like another planet, And NO ONE is out here at this time.
Looking north over the flat area between two lines of hills as the sun starts to rise.
The different kinds of rock deposits erode at different rates, making these hoodoos.
Looking down into a little valley of hoodoos.
This is a tree that fell some 50 million years ago, and the wood was replaced by minerals.
more hoodoos
canyon of hoodoos
rock formations at sunset
looking towards the sunset on the way back to the parking area

Dawn. Madrid

This was a little 11″ x 17″ commission of an early morning in Madrid, New Mexico just as the sun was about to come up. I’m always experimenting a little bit,  and in this case, after I painted the sky, I laid out the scene using pens filled with acrylic paint, before  working with brushes once the basic structure was delineated. That worked okay, except that the wet paint caused some of the pen work to smear, so I had to rework a few areas. I am using what are called Open Acrylics, which stay wet and workable longer, which is better for the southwest climate. Unfortunately, I thought the painting was dry when it wasn’t really, so my isolation coat destroyed a lot of my work, so I painted some of it twice…


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
_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