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Land of Enchantment - Perspectives No. 377

Land of Enchantment

Perspectives No. 377

Photograph of northern New Mexico Landscape and Sky

   We go to northern New Mexico for its unique light and landscape. To us, the clarity of the brilliant light seems different from that of most other places we’ve had the opportunity to paint. The 6,000-foot elevation of Abiquiu accounts for some of the light quality. There is just less atmosphere to diffuse and scatter light up there. What atmosphere there is, is bone dry so that everything near and far stands out in sharp focus. Against an impossibly blue sky peppered with towering clouds, the topography and rainbow colors of the surrounding mountains, mesas, plateaus and escarpments create the special light the area is famous for.

   These same conditions create many challenges for painters, especially those coming from other landscapes and climates. Trying to paint plein air in the middle of the day can feel like staring into a 1,000-watt light bulb, throwing value judgments off. We tend to paint lights too dark and darks too light. We can’t paint wearing sunglasses, so an umbrella is a must. The same clarity in northern New Mexico that allows us to see great expanses combined with the enormous scale of the landscape can confuse senses of distance and proportion. The dryness of the air (an average of 10” annual precipitation) combined with strong afternoon wind, dehydrates the body, especially the eyes. Preparation is key. A big hat, proper clothing, sunblock and plenty of water all help. We know that it can take a few practice paintings to get in the groove, so we allow a couple of days to sort our senses out and adjust to the climate.

   One very helpful technique that we offer to our students is to start any painting by putting the darkest dark and lightest light in first so that all the other values can be compared with them. Otherwise, one may find that painting becomes an exercise in constant re-painting as eyes gradually adjust to the extreme values and intensity of light.

   Perhaps the very best times to paint there are the hours around sunrise and sunset. With the rising or setting of the sun, a magic show begins that will take your breath away. The air is cool, there is generally less wind then and the colors are wonderful both in the sky and on the land. Then take the middle of the day and just relax and enjoy being in the Land of Enchantment. It is easy to understand why so many artists have migrated there. It is an artist’s paradise.

Plein Air Painting in New Mexico




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.

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