"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sangre de Cristo

Sangre de Cristo, 11 by 14 watercolor, 300  lb. d''Arches paper
They marched up the Rio Grande valley almost 500 years ago on foot, on horseback, on oxcarts, exploring soldiers and priests, conquering and converting, for glory, gold and God.
As the conquistadors came, they conquered also with language, naming the landscape and villages and people as they came. Today that language and names remain, and you can glimpse and imagine what they saw and thought so long ago.
Homesick and thirsty in a dry land, they named mountains for the apples nearby (Manzanos), or because some looked like a watermelon and rind (Sandias) when the sun set. And farther north when clouds turned red when the sun set, the green and blue mountains would reflect the red glow. Those Franciscan friars could only think of the Sangre de Cristo.
They built their mission churches out of adobe, and those also reflected the colors of the dominant sky, usually an always varied earthen color. But not always. At Ranchos de Taos one relative new church built in the 1700s carries the name of their saint--San Francisco de Asis. 
It seems every artist has painted that church, Georgia O'Keeffe the most famous. My Dad drew and painted it. I've done so three times.
But something was missing. Thus the latest attempt, trying to paint what I feel when I enter New Mexico, not just see. This watercolor is the result of at least six attempts over the past week, full of failures and experiments, and a little blood. I guess that is fitting. I'm not finished and will try again.
Colors--3 blues, 3 reds, 2 siennas

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