Archive for August, 2008

Ed Sandoval, paint flying, music blaring, always the life of a party and is often seen riding his Arabian horse, El Patron, to breakfast or dressed like Zorro riding through the plaza. Ed is one of the most renowned, engaging and popular contemporary artists in northern New Mexico. He, like many other artists, is married to an artist, Ann Huston. Down the winding one-way street of Quesnel, across from Patron’s pasture, tucked under the workshop of Kibby Couse, is Studio de Colores Gallery.

Here Ed paints (Ann paints in her home studio) and they both show their work. Ed’s roots are in New Mexico where he was born and are as true and deep as the colors on his canvasses. Each painting evolves with a shimmering red undercoat that establishes the energy for what is to come; the old figures, El Viejito, the elder or Old Man that inhabit his paintings are the common people, caught in a moment, walking down a path, returning home, or entering a humble adobe church.



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After nearly 6 weeks of intense travel, we have decided to spend a few days working on some of the studios we photographed and catching up on our long over due e-mails.

Lucas has been working in a non-stop, caffeine induced frenzy. His first “rough” pass takes a few hours. He than adds in the exterior and interior viewpoints. Next comes details, lighting and people. After the conversion to black and white is complete, the most difficult step in the process happens…… editing and a very close inspection by both of us. Sometimes it does not look the way we want it to and he starts all over. When we decide that the image is what we want, he prints two on velvet art paper and passes the prints to me.

I am in the process of creating “mock-up” studios. I am looking for a color and hue combination that will convey the artwork and energy of the artist and the studio. We create an artist’s proof and an original of each, they are never exactly alike because I use traditional methods to handcolor.

The complete process may take as many as 3 weeks for each studio. We thought it may be interesting to show our studios in different stages of development. During these past few days, we added a link to our website showing our progress. The images will change as we begin to work on and finish each studio. We also published a list of those artist who have committed to be a part of this project, many have not yet been photographed. Check back often to see if your favorite is complete.


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Sally Russell, is a natural expressionist. She uses words to create her articles for art magazines and brilliant multi-layered oils to create vivid contemporary landscapes and her trademark poppies, amaryllis, and canna lilies floral works. Inspired by the intensely creative community of artists and writers, she moved to Taos, from Venice, California.

This is Sally’s studio above the Cañon Gallery she and her painting partner, artist Jerry Emonds, have built. It is located 3 blocks east of the Plaza at Kit Carson Road and sits in the shade of old cottonwood trees (look at the view through the French doors). The day I photographed Sally, she look so small painting that extravagant amaryllis triptych (she nearly gets lost in the foreground). About six months before, Sally had lost her best friend and canine companion, Pookee, who had given birth to a litter of Shih-Tzus, three of whom Sally kept and are inseparable. They are pictured together on the small chair next to the doors and again wrestling on the floor to the right.

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Plein- Aire Painters – Painting from life is a pursuit unlike any other painting technique. It challenges artists to concentrate every sensory nerve on the information in front them. They absorb it all, from sight to sound, from temperature to atmosphere, and then channel those feelings from head to hand, re-creating the vision in paints on paper or canvas. Driving along the enchanted circle, one of New Mexico’s most gloriously scenic routes, I came across this group of 5 painters.

Maybe it is the altitude and wide-open spaces of the high desert region with it’s shapes of everything from the sage-dotted plains to the vast peaks of the many mountains with their forests of pines, Aspens, Cottonwoods, wild flowers, and wildlife to the earth colored adobes that characterize the Taos style. Or, maybe it was the piercingly blue and startlingly clear Taos sky with the magnificent sunsets that drape the Rio Grande Gorge with splendid gigantic clouds of ember reds, glowing oranges, vivid violet, deep pale blues, and a vast array of silver and gray colors.

The roots of painting from life are found in 19th-century Europe. Englishman John Constable believed the artist should forget about formulas and trust his own vision in finding truth in nature. To find that truth, he made sketches outdoors, then elaborated on them in the studio.

Taos is an area for artists. Everyone in Taos is fluent in the language of art. Today, painting from life is a pursuit that continues to challenge the finest artists in the world, and no group is better known for upholding that credo than the Plein-Aire Painters of New Mexico.

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When I met Mary, she had just moved into the old W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton Studio on Ledoux Street. Dunton and his ten-gallon hat were charter members of the Taos Society of Artists with Berninghaus, Blumenschein, Couse, Phillips, and Sharp, and exhibited with the Taos Society all over the United States. In 1919, Blumenschein bought a four room house with his wife Mary and daughter Helen, both also artists, the latter acquired several adjoining rooms and adapted the home into its present layout in 1931. It is now a historical museum. The 3 room Dunton studio, two rooms are through the door next to the mirror, was a part of the Blumenschien complex. In fact, you can see the Blumenschein house and courtyard through the windows and door at the far left.

Mary has a long family history of painters, including George Gatlin painter, preservationist and ethnologist who documented the American Indians in the late 1800s. Mary has the gift of conveying, in her impressionistic paintings, the feelings inspired by this low-celling historic paradise she calls a studio. She uses the rich drama of light against dark, complementary colors and varied brush strokes to allure viewers into her canvas.

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Born in Bari, Italy, raised in New York’s Lower East Side and joined the Air Force at age 17 during the Korean War. He attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, majoring in illustration. He later got a job in Pittsburgh as an industrial illustrator and then in California for Lockheed and Disney Productions (working on the classic “Mary Poppins”). Inspired by a Nicoli Fechin exhibit, he quit illustration and moved to Taos in 1969. Ray’s first home/studio in Taos was the historic Martinez Hacienda on Lower Ranchitos Road. He helped form the Taos Six with Walt Gonske, Ron Barsano, Julian Robles, Robert daughters and Rod Goebel. Vinella is one of the grand old masters of Taos, having instructed a large portion of the younger painters in the Taos area. Ray continues to paint and mentor younger painters in the area of oil painting.

In 2001, after 24 years together, Vinella lost his wife, abstract painter Leslie Crespin. I met and photographed him after he had moved from his home and into a retirement home. Leslie’s face recured in every room, in paint and on film, her arms thrown around Vinella or alone. In his poignant egg tempera piece, Portrait of Leslie, she is still with him, as she walks along a fence line in a meadow alone, wearing a long blue dress, hands clasped behind her back, her golden head bent.

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Having spent the last 3 weeks, in the Los Angeles area, shooting artists in their studios, we are now traveling up the coast to San Francisco to do the same. We want to know, how much, if at all, the environment has an impact on the art? We immediately notice a more commercial quality and marketable work than that of New Mexico. California artwork uses less earthy features in both color and medium. However, the studio is still the studio.

Our series still contains scene-setting images from the artist studio, views of the creative personalities, short anecdotes to illuminate some facts that help to define the faces, converted spaces and often unconventional places where art is born. Each creativity sanctuary (even though some artists have spacious and elaborate studios, many others work out of small less complicated areas) is used to reflect and contemplate.

There is always the element of surprise and if you look closely, you will see the special personal items that have encouraged and will continue to surrounded each artist from cradle to grave. A circle of bohemian friends that offer inspiration and nurtures dreams. These items and the workspaces are as creative as the artwork itself.

Our hope and goal of this series is for the viewer to forget about the technical aspects of how the photograph was produced and remember that the minds, hearts and hands of three artists (whoever we are photographing and ours) are behind each studio photograph. While the photographs do accurately document the studio, our hope is that the viewer will see the feeling and emotion of the space. The compositions and images are rendered and printed in a manner that requires a considerable amount of manipulation, by Lucas, just as he would have if created during the darkroom process.

Using controlled lighting and the best color technology available, reproducing the true color of artwork is tricky. Photographing in a studio where artwork is in the shadows, sunlight, or outside makes reproducing the actual color of the artwork impossible. As we are trying to provide a “feeling” instead of pure documentation we decided to photograph the spaces in black and white and handcolor the photographs. Rather than a pure revelation of the essentials, we chose the process of seeing the real-world studio through my artistic expression of soft selective handcoloring.

On one hand, we have a feeling that artwork should be created and admired in isolation, cordoned off from the circumstances which surround their creation. History tends to ignore the personality and let the art speak for itself, never considering the factors, social, political, sexual or the studio environment.

On the other hand, there is an increasing tendency to see the works of recent art as being extensions of the persona of those that created it. The publics continuing obsession with the personalities of the creative has become the dominate element.

W.B. Yeats wrote “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” How much of the artists is in each piece? How much of the environment? We might find the answers in San Francisco.

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