"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Sandias, first attempt

The Sandias at sunset, 12 by 16 watercolor, 300 pound d'Arches paper.
We grew up looking at the Sandia Mountains, at Albuquerque, New Mexico, which you can see in the photo in the blog title and below. After all these years, they always catch my eye and imagination.
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.


1 comment:

  1. I think you did well.

    The Sandias are truly magnificent. I love how they changed color during the course of the day and how when the light was just right you could see the cables of the tram, and the buildings at the top.

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