Monday, October 06, 2014

mirrorless paintings of leaves and glass ~ my last post... for a while.

photograph by dawn chandler of dale chihuly glass sculpture at the denver botanic gardens, october 2014.

"Ohhhhhhh.... That hurts. That's so sad," the man at the table next to me said when my camera hit the cement floor of the Santa Fe Baking Company last Sunday.

"It's okay; it's durable," I said, noting that the camera appeared to be totally intact.

But later that afternoon when I went to take another picture, it very definitely wasn't okay: my 7-year old Cannon Powershot was busted.

And, wouldn't you know it, in just few days I was to embark on a journey that, for an artist, is unimaginable without a camera: One month of painting, hiking and — I'd hoped — photography in the heart of a western mountain range. [Details about THAT in a future post!].

I needed a replacement camera N O W.

I started looking up cameras online, and was utterly and completely overwhelmed. Yeah I had this sweet little Cannon, But really? I had grasped little about photography and cameras since my Photography-101 with a Pentax K 1000 continuing education class in Berkeley c.1989 back in my deli-girl days between college and grad school. And I sure as heck didn't have time to start educating myself now about cameras.

I closed my eyes and slowly started to rub my temples, in an attempt to stave off the headache that was about to descend.

And then it occurred to me: Ask my FaceBook Photography peeps for advice. For lucky for me, I'm connected to quite a few gifted photographers.

Jump seven days and I find myself the owner of a Fujifilm X-M1, a whiz-bang of a "mirrorless" digital camera that's — OH. MY. GOSH. — such an upgrade from my little pocket camera.


W O W.

And what better place to give it a real test run than the
Dale Chihuly glass sculpture installation at the Denver Botanic Gardens? I can think of none.

And so.... I part from you for some weeks with this cheerful slide show I've created of a glittering autumn morning. Enjoy!

p.s.: I'll be back in touch in early November with tons of new paintings, photographs, insights, and a whole new website and blog base. See you then!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

10.01.14 ~ four autumn mornings

I can't resist. I've got to be up there among them. To lose myself among the gold coins of leaves — a world's ransom of gold leaf.

My new home in town gives me a fine vantage point from which to observe the mountains and their mood. And so it was one day early last week when I looked up there and saw the first hint of yellow. 

The aspens were turning.

With a stress-inducing "To Do List" on my mind it was all I could do: Just look up there.

..One day.

..Two days.

..Three days.

And then I couldn't take it anymore; I had to get up there.

That night I laid out our gear, my pup's and mine. 

And at sunrise we were making the climb up toward the gold....

One day...

Two days...

Three days....

Four in a row

santa fe aspens, i ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

santa fe aspens, ii ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

santa fe aspens, iii ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

santa fe aspens, iv ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

9.16.14 ~ giving away free art again!

adjective: loco
  1. crazy.
late 19th century: from Spanish, ‘insane.’

Evidently I'm loco, for I'm giving away free art again. Congratulations to Mr. CW Webb of Texas who read my summer edition of my online newsletter "Studio Notes," found and played along with my wee little contest, and — lucky guy! — had his name drawn out of The Venerated Pith Helmet! Bravo, Sir!

Want to play along? Go to my website at , scroll to the bottom of any page to where it says subscribe to dawn chandler's studio notes newsletter, enter your name in the field and hit "subscribe." Then, next time my newsletter comes out (early November) you should receive it. Read it — carefully — and see if you can sleuth the contest details. Then, play along. Kinda fun and — dare I say? — well worth your time. At least I'd like to think so. But just ask Mr. Webb who did all that and won this cool little original painting:

april morning above the arroyo, frenchy's park, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Special thanks to all of my current Studio Notes Subscribers. It's always such a bonus to me when I send out a newsletter, and hear back from so many of you. Thanks for keeping me motivated to keep on writing and keep on painting.
And extra special thanks to those of you who not only read my newsletter but sleuth out my contest and play along.
Remember that every time you enter one of my wee little contests, your name gets added to the end-of-year Ultimate Venerated Pith Helmet Drawing for an 8" x 10" original painting.

Okay, back to painting. Cheers and may you enjoy these last few days of summer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

8.27.14 ~ meeting oneself above timberline

walking to the clouds ~ santa fe baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

I love being above timberline. My first recollection of being above timberline must stretch back to my childhood, hiking those stunning mountains of Acadia National Park in Maine. And some of those Appalachian ridges of lower New York State. But the memory of timberline that comes back to me most strongly is that of the While Mountains of New Hampshire, up near the Lake of the Clouds Hut. I must have been 13 or 14 when I first hiked those granite peaks — back before I was exposed to the magnetic pull on my soul of New Mexico. The Presidential Range of New Hampshire though was my first love affair with the mountains. And I remember being up there beyond the trees, walking across smooth rock and lacy grass, closer to sky than I ever had before. On Top of the World. 
I remember thinking, "This must be what Greece is like." Something about being exposed up there with nothing much more than Rock. Grass. Sky. It just seemed an ancient environment, a place where heroic deeds were done and battles among gods and goddesses were fought and won. A place where one faced the elements and met oneself.

Pictured here, Walking to the Clouds of Santa Fe Baldy, as my friend Joyce approaches the summit of Santa Fe's highest peak during our July backpacking trip. When I looked over to see her contrasted against the clouds, that sense of Earth falling away from her, my pulse quickened and I knew I had to capture it. 

Below, another scene from that same day, also above timberline: Crossing the Boulder Field ~ Santa Fe Baldy, my friends Tavo and Joyce up ahead as we make our way back to camp after a victorious lunch on the peak.

crossing the boulder field ~ santa fe baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

8.19.14 ~ from the summit of santa fe baldy

view from the summit ~ santa fe baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

In July two friends and I did a three-day backpacking trip to the summit of Santa Fe Baldy [elevation 12,631']. Though the forecast was literally dreadful, with warnings of "Hazardous Weather" resulting in flooding throughout much of New Mexico and north Texas (some towns in Texas got something like 9 inches of rain in 6 hours one of those days). 

Despite the forecast, we decided to go for it anyway, fully expecting to turn around at any moment.

And in the end? 
In the end we had perfect weather.
When I say we had perfect weather, I mean it: We had perfect weather. 

Sure there were some clouds, but not til the afternoon, and rarely anything that seemed threatening. Not a drop of rain except at night, when we were already curled up in our sleeping bags, and then it cleared well before we got up in the morning. It was as though we had a halo of glorious weather followed us for the full 3 days.
I've never experienced anything quite like that. And because the forecast had been so bad, no one else was up there: We had the trail and the summit to ourselves. Unbelievable!

Here's the first painting from a series of new ones I'm currently working on based on our trip. [With my Outback Series of mixed media paintings now on exhibit in Taos, I'm focusing for a few weeks on traditional landscape painting; feels good!] 

The view here is from the top of Santa Fe Baldy. And yes! thanks to recent rains, the summit grass is indeed that green. (Anyone know which direction I'm looking?)

The challenge with these paintings is the light: When you're on a summit that's barren of trees and made up mainly of grass and rocks, there's not much to cast shadows — which add contrast and visual interest to a painting. But even if there were interestingly shaped things to cast shadows, in the middle of the day — here, literally, around noon or 1:00 — with the sun directly overhead, what little shadow there is is short and limited. The bright sun filtering through thin clouds washes out what little color there is in a mostly grey-green-blue-white landscape, making it a challenge. But heck, it's a pretty good challenge!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

8.14.14 ~ water and oil DO mix

My quandary in June was what art supplies to bring on a 3-week road trip. I had been having such fun this spring doing my little 5"x7" plein-air oil paintings with my cool little Guerilla Thumb Box, that I really kinda wanted to do that: Bring oils. But what about the turpentine or paint thinner needed for cleaning my brushes?  
I was going to be cruising through some deathly hot temperatures, especially across Utah and Nevada, and I really didn't want to be hauling flammable liquids and paint rags in my car—especially not if my car was going to end up being parked in the hot sun for hours at any given time. Three years ago I witnessed a neighbor's house engulfed in flames due to paint rags spontaneously combusting in the outdoor garbage can sitting next to the house; I've a sober respect for the volatility of art supplies.

And then it occurred to me: How about water-soluble oil paints


Water-soluble oil paints? Do they really make such a thing?

Yes, Yes, they do! Developed just a couple of decades ago, they are real oil paints, but due to the chemical make up of these, you can use water rather than spirits for mixing and cleaning.


I had a hard time believing this. I know a few artists who claim to have tried them a while back and said they really didn't like them, though they weren't real specific as to why.
A little research online indicated that yes, some painters love them and some painters don't care for them at all. Me? I decided I needed to love them.

So I decided on Winsor & Newton (one of the most trusted names in artists' paint) and ordered my basic 4 colors (ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow medium and titanium white) as well as a small set of brushes (designated my "water-oil brushes") and a bottle or two of WN "Fast Drying Medium" since the air in the PNW would

be damp, and some WN "Satin Varnish" as well (both formulated for water-oils).

Since I'd never worked with these kinds of paints before, I figured I'd better try my hand at them before hitting the road, just in case I really did despise them. If that was the case then I certainly didn't want to be stuck with them for 3 weeks on the road. So about a week before departure I loaded up my groovy little kit and walked over to my neighborhood park with my pup. We found a shady spot under a big ole' cottonwood and, while she napped in the grass I set to work.


Not bad.....not bad at all!

These were going to be just fine! 


Since I would be in the Pacific Northwest where the  colors are a whole lot cooler-bluer-greener than in the hot-red-orange-ochre Southwest — I decided to pick up an extra blue (cobalt) and an extra yellow (lemon), so I'd have some more choices when it came to mixing greens.

I ended up doing just a handful of paintings on my trip**— only because it's tough when you're traveling with someone to make the time to break away to paint. But when I did pull out my water-oils I thoroughly enjoyed using them. 

Here's my observations about water-soluble oil paints:

-- No, they don't have quite the same texture as traditional oils; water-oils are much smoother, much more slippery than traditional oils.
-- You have to load a little more paint on your brush to make it go as far; or, to put it another way, you go through more paint over a small area than you do with traditional oils.
-- They take a few days to dry.
-- When they do dry, the colors dry a bit dull; this is easily remedied with a coat of varnish, which you're going to use anyway to protect the painting surface.
-- They simply take a little getting used to.
-- The EASE of clean-up and lack of worry about flammability of materials when traveling TRUMPS ANY reservations.

The bottom line: Give them an honest try, stop comparing them to "traditional oils," get used to them and recognize that they are an easy and excellent choice for a traveling oil-painter.

**Want to see the paintings I did on my trip? Check out my next Studio Notes newsletter when I send it out next week!  [Subscribe to it by clicking here, and then scrolling to the end of that page to where it says subscribe to dawn chandler's studio notes newsletter.]

june morning ~ ashbaugh park, santa fe, new mexico  ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7"

Friday, August 08, 2014

8.8.14 ~ the rhythm of the heat and creative holiness in the outback series

and find what i need ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

The most recent paintings in The Outback Series are among my most favorite, for they were created in a perfect storm of intense, passionate and focused creativity. Over the course of a recent week these were the focus of my existence, as I moved back and forth for hours each day between these six canvases laid out on my work tables. The underlying collages of printed and glued words I had done months before — way back in January, actually, before I had decided to move. Then the canvases sat in my studio — until, quite unexpectedly, the "storm" hit. 

There's something thrilling and deeply satisfying when that kind of creative passion takes over; everything just seems to align and it's almost as though you are a mere a vessel — a conduit — for an authoritative and generous Muse.

I remember the first time I experienced this, I was in graduate school in Philadelphia, working in my studio on the third floor of the old turn-of-the-last-century art building. 

It was late spring, in the late afternoon, and most of my peers had left for the day. I was working on a series of enormous paintings — 9' tall x 3-1/2' wide. They had been a struggle, for these were among my first experiments in trying to 'abstract' the landscape, and, though I couldn't really grasp it then, I really was a novice with color and scale and so much else. 

The theme of my work was the Grand Canyon — a place I had recently toured by backpack for the first time. I had struggled through several of these paintings, but that late afternoon as I worked into evening — my studio window open, a warm spring air faintly breezing in the window — as I worked on the final couple of canvases, everything just seemed to come together. I remember I was listening to Peter Gabriel's album Security — this was in the days of cassettes and Walkmans — and in particular the songs The Rhythm of the Heat and San Jacinto, just seemed to conjure the experience of the west for me and electrify my muse. As I pushed paint and color around, music blasting, I felt utterly radiant, utterly joyful, utterly and exquisitely present. ON FIRE. Totally in the moment.

My graduate school paintings. Before moving west, I needed to dispose of these paintings, so my parents and I decided to display them on the walls of our "old garage," where for 20 years now they have drawn attention from passers-by. Faded and worn by the elements, they are now pretty much destroyed. But I can't think of a better death for art.

What I experienced in creating these recent paintings was something akin to that perfect storm of creative holiness I first witnessed that spring evening in my west Philadelphia studio so long ago. Here's hoping for more "perfect storms."

nothing is harsh ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

to be a life ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

inside    out ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

secrets drifting ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

mourn no fear ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media ~ 10" x 20" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

The Outback Series: Mixed Media Paintings Inspired by the Western Landscape by Dawn Chandler is on view from August 2 - September 12, 2014 at Salon X, 226 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, New Mexico, 87571