|The Sandias at sunset, 12 by 16 watercolor, 300 pound d'Arches paper.|
I've never tried to paint them, until today. I guess they've been sort of a taboo. My dad painted them in oil and watercolor several times, and those paintings are masters of composition, art, and craft. But today, inspired by that old black and white photo, I had to try. This is a first attempt, full of mistakes, but lessons learned, for future attempts. I also learned that trying to paint this is exhausting, trying to get a sense of the drama and subject.
For those of you who don't know, the Sandias were named by some hot and homesick Spanish Conquistadors almost 500 years ago, as they marched up the Rio Grande valley toward La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis, 60 miles north. When the sun sets, it causes dramatic shadows and it can turn those granite cliffs red, and the forested top on layers of limestone looks like a rind on a watermelon ("Sandia" in Spanish.)
The geologic story is also dramatic. The Rio Grand is a rift valley, and these mountains were thrust up, like a trap door at the edge of the Great Plains. You're looking at the west face, the door of the opening. On the other side, the mountains slope gently to the east. Sandia crest is over 10,000 feet high. Albuquerque, straddling the Rio Grande valley, is 5,000. The rock matching the granite and the to of the Sandias, is 5,000 feet below ground on the west side of the Rio Grande.
Of course today, Albuquerque is built right up to the mountains.