August 17, 2015

Painting and Drawing at City of Rocks, a New Mexico State Park

One of my favorite places to hike and just have fun is the New Mexico State Park, City of Rocks. My husband and I enjoy hiking the rocks. There are picnic tables in nooks around the park which provide a good amount of privacy and all have views worthy of painting. 

The photographs above were taken in 2002 during our first visit to the Silver City area. You can see the scale of the rocks from this photo. Our daughter Leela was in her last year of High School. She is now a professional 3D environmental Artist. She is reading in the photo and I am painting. I have some links more to blog pages about Leela's art and career at the end of this post.

I like to hike up with a sketch book to paint the small stunted trees among the cliffs which I like to call by their Oriental name, Bonsai trees. 

Bonsai Tree in Rocks:
Watercolor and Ink 5"x7" 

There is camping in the park some with electric and water and more sites around the park without. The park has clean bathrooms, showers and a visitor center.

We hiked a new trail in City of Rocks this spring to Table Mountain but it was too hot for us to climb it. I get low blood sugar so we brought water and chocolate in a belly pack but unfortunately the chocolate was melted so we sucked it off the metal wrapper and got it all over our faces and laughed the whole time. It may have been the best chocolate I have ever had!

Watercolor sketch of Table Mountain 4"x6"

Watercolor sketch of Table Mountain 4"x6"

View from one picnic site on the east side, beautiful
cooling rain clouds all this summer.
Clouds In View: Pastel, charcoal and chalk
on toned paper. 6"x8.5

Above is Cook's Peak seen from the same picnic area as the two views of Table Mountain
Cooks Peak: Watercolor 4'x6'

Cook's Peak: 10.5x14 Oil on Linen Canvas

I painted the above view in 2002 when we first came to the Silver City area and we decided this is where we would relocate from Florida. 

I painted the view below this spring on the west side of the park as the sun was going down and reflecting on the rock walls.

Sunset View: Oil on board 10"x7"

Balancing Rock #2: Pastel, Charcoal and Chalk 6x8.5

Drawing the balancing rock while staying out of the wind.

Balancing Rock 9"x12" Oil on Birch Board

Above is a different Balancing Rock painted in 2013.

Virga Rain at City of Rocks
Oil on Linen Canvas 10.5x14
Above is a view from the west side of the "city", painted in 2002.

We have been blessed with rain just about every day this summer and I am working on a number of paintings in my studio most of the time instead of plein air painting. The Mimbres River is filled and when we visited Las Cruces I was happy to see the Rio Grande filled with water too, as it should be.

We are planning to travel as soon as the weather cools down to camp out in more of the State Parks in New Mexico so I can spend a good amount of time uninterrupted at the parks painting en plein air. I plan update my blogs to include information on this endeavor with suggestions and insights on painting in the State Parks of New Mexico. 

You can see more information on the New Mexico State Parks at:

Related Blog Posts: 

March 17, 2015

Trees With Faces & Happy St Patricks Day!

Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Aleada Aine age 27

This is a photograph of me holding my blackthorn walking stick from my paternal Irish grandfather. St Patrick's Day has always been important to me, especially because it is part of my heritage.

Face Tree In the Gila Forest

Recently while hiking in the Gila National Forest I came upon this face in the tree, actually there are two faces in the tree. I tried showing it to Guy but each time I walked to the tree, it disappeared. So I memorized just where it was to walk up and show it to Guy. It was only visible for a short time because the light was hitting just right.

I also took several photos of the tree and when I came home I did a drawing of it, just for fun.

Weirwood tree

This tree face reminded me of the Weirwood tree or Heart Tree from the popular  Fantasy Book and TV Series; Game of Thrones. These trees often had a face carved by the Children of the Forest in its trunk, and is the center of the religion Old Gods of the Forest Religion. I am listening to the audio version of the book sometimes while I paint and also while I fall asleep.

Bev Doolittle is I believe, the most famous artist painting the hidden patterns in nature which contain images. I thought I would share this artist with some of the younger folks who read this blog and who may not have had the opportunity know her art.

I read some time ago Leonardo De Vinci told artists he was inspired by images he found in wood grain patterns and other natural forms and he advised them to look at these shapes for inspiration. I see faces and all sorts of things in flooring also. I enjoy collecting rocks, pebbles and small bits of wood with faces in them.

January 31, 2015

Snow Day: Plein Air Painting in Southwest New Mexico

We decided early in our quest to relocate that we were going to move to a mountainous area in the southern region of the USA. We liked the cool summers and the mild winters here in the Silver City NM area. We moved from Florida in the summer of 2012 and were able to move into our home in the beginning of November of that year.

We do not often have snow here and the weather is great for hiking all year long. When we do have snow in the Mimbres Valley where my husband Guy and I live, we celebrate. The snow does not last very long on the ground except in the higher elevations; we are at 6,000 feet elevation.

Snow Day: View From My Studio
7" X 10" plein air oil
Mimbres New Mexico

The painting shown above was done just after New Year’s Day on an overcast but bright day. I was surprised how the trees and the mountain were affected by the snow and the overcast sky. We usually have red or a rust color in the trees and in the mountain but everything had a pale green cast which I had never seen before.

 I made adjustments to the foreground of the painting by eliminating a shed and a tree in view and substitute this with an uncluttered view of our neighbor’s snow covered lawn and beyond this uncut light yellow ochre grass. I painted this scene while looking out a window in my studio.

Snow at Bear Canyon Lake
9" x 12" plein air oil
Mimbres New Mexico

Here is another Snow Day Painting painted en plein air at Bear Canyon Lake. My husband and I like to go out to hike often while enjoying the cool weather. I was very excited when a friend told us one day recently that the snow was still on the north side of the canyon. I gathered my supplies and made it there in the afternoon. It was a fairly mild day and for most of the afternoon I kept my wind breaker jacket off until the wind picked up when the sun started to set.

I heard that oil paints get stiff or what is called, “short” in cold weather. I often put my Masterson’s Air Tight Pallet Holder outside after painting so the paint remains moist for days. I had not considered when I went out to paint that day that the paint would be too cold because it did not have a chance to warm up in my studio as it usually does before I start painting. As a result the paint was stiff and spread in short strokes.  I did not bring any other medium except a tube of Impasto Liquin from Winsor Newton. I would have been better served by another more fluid medium. I added  mineral spirits to the impasto medium to remedy the matter, but that did not work too well. 

I was happy with the light which I was able to capture on the snow and bushes and I look forward to plein air painting again on another snow day, but the next time I will keep the paint in my studio the night before so it will start out warmer and therefore more pliable and I will bring a medium which will lengthen the strokes, if needed. Perhaps I will simply add some cold pressed walnut oil to increase the paints fluidity. Live and learn; after 30 years in Florida I have much to learn and adjust to here in the high desert of Southwest New Mexico.

May 31, 2014

Aleada Siragusa in Artesanos Gallery on Texas Street, Silver City New Mexico

You can now see my paintings along with other art work from local and regional artists at Artesanos Gallery on 211-B North Texas Street in Silver City New Mexico 88061.

Artesanos on Texas Street Silver City New Mexico

My art always has a spiritual component as it reflects my love of the land and its people. I most often paint my landscapes from life, which is popularly known by the French word plein air or to paint out of doors. I use my plein air paintings and my quick reference sketches for larger studio paintings but I often will bring my plein air work to a high degree of finish so they also stand as well executed works of art and not just quick reference studies.       

 I hope when you see my paintings or other any painting for that matter, you will take the time to look at the color and brush strokes close up and from a distance and realize the artist makes intuitive and decisive decisions with each stroke. 

Aldo Leopold Vista by Aleada Siragusa

Also please keep in mind this is done with a brush, which is when you think of it, no matter how refined or costly, is just a stick with some hairs and perhaps a palette knife or just the artists finger to wipe or smooth; all are primitive tools which in the hands of the accomplished artist honed with years of experience can create a masterpiece, a feast for the eyes and soul.

Mimbres Mountain by Aleada Siragusa

 The Gallery is run by two sisters; Gloria and Margaret who are of Chiricahua, Warm Springs Apache descent, their ancestors lived in Pinos Altos New Mexico, 7 miles north of Silver City.

My husband Guy and I met Gloria, Margaret and Gloria’s husband Joseph Beltran when we were visiting Silver City in 2010. We so enjoyed talking to them and learning about the history of the area and we found we were drawn to them on a spiritual level.

 Day of the Dead Folk Art by Margaret Beltran

I have a deep appreciation for the spiritual art which is part of this land; so it is a privilege to learn about the Hispanic and Apache art from these two ladies who practice the art of their heritage.

 Miniature Alter by Margaret Beltran

In the Gallery you will see the Folk Art of Margaret Beltran featuring; the Day of the Dead Celebration, our Lady of Guadalupe, Traditional Mexican Crosses and detailed Miniature Alters; all which have deep spiritual significance. Beading and mixed media using oil, acrylic, tin, and polymer clay are used at times in her art. She uses a lot of Native American religious and spiritual iconography in her art.  Margaret is a graduate of Frank Wiggins School of Design and she was then awarded a scholarship to Otis Parsons School of Design, both in Los Angeles. She uses her design skill to also to create exquisite handmade shirts.

 Traditional Native American Bead Work by Gloria Beltran

Gloria Beltran’s Apache name is Goya which literally means Good Mind and translated it means, Wise Woman.  Her art reflects her Apache heritage in excellent traditionally crafted including beaded moccasins and medicine pouches from deer and elk hide and loom work such as pendants, chokers, hatbands; appliqué beadwork and peyote stitch key chains. She is teaching the art, culture and traditional ways of the Warm Springs Apache to her children and grandchildren.

 Traditional Native American Bead Work by Gloria Beltran

 The regional photography of Gregg Patrick is a popular item in the store for visitors and residents alike; they are wonderful keepsakes of this area.

Regional Photography by Greg Pactrick

January 15, 2014

Was Norman Rockwell Gay Or Is This Just Innuendo To Sell A Book?

Was Norman Rockwell Gay, 
Or Is This Just InnuendoTo Sell A Book?

 I will pass on reading Deborah Solomon’s Book on Norman Rockwell but here in my blog I will comment on her premise that Norman Rockwell had homoerotic feelings.  I watched a review of the book on the Colbert Report and followed it up with a Google search and I have listed below the articles I read on the review of her book. Concerning the accusation that he had sexual feelings towards men is a great way to get attention and to sell her book. Would this book have gotten this amount of attention if not for this remark?
Normon Rockwell: Beyond the Easel

Since posting this blog a few of people have commented to me that it does not matter whether he was attracted to men in a sexual way because he is a great artist; case closed. And while I do agree it does not matter what Norman Rockwell's inclinations were, I think it is important to artists that their work be regarded in the manner it is intended and that we do not interject our own (particulary sexual) interpretations into the art. 

Freedom of Worship

One common misinterpetation in art is that Lord of the Rings was allegory about World War II. To this the author JRR Tolken replied that it was not true and that he hated allegory in all forms. This false notion was refudiated by Tolkin himself, unfortunatly Norman Rockwell cannot have this opportunity.

JRR Tolkin 1916

I think it is strange that an art ciritic who usually writes about modern art would be chosen to write a biography and critique about Norman Rockwell, a painter in a realist manner. Writers of Modern art, especially abstract art, do have a way of  reading all sorts of things into a painting; how else would they get away with convincing people a solid black or white painting is art without their complex conceptual ideas explaining the validity of the piece.

 Kazimir Malevich Black Square on a White Field, 1915

Mark Rothko’s black canvases in the light

 But with Norman Rockwell and most other realist paintings, the work is self evident what you see is all you need to know, you don't need deep psycological insights into the artists motives to explain the piece, just look and and take the time to experience what you feel about the painting.

 I have several books on Norman Rockwell that describe how his paintings came about from start to finish and some have great sequential photographs of his work, in progress. One book in particular covers his use of the photograph and how he uses his models in the painting.  If you are interested you can do a search for these books, they are probably out of print but you may buy them for a reasonable price in the second hand book market. The one book I have on hand is Norman Rockwell Illustrator, by Author L. Guptill. You may also look for books from the Norman Rockwell Museum Store. 

The one thing that I did learn about this artist from my books is he sent people drawings and paintings just because they wrote that they admired them and that he was considered a generous and humble man.

Norman Rockwell: 1894-1978

Ms Solomon used the painting below in particular to represent her view that Norman Rockwell had homoerotic feelings towards men. About the sailor touching the other sailor's knee, this is an artistic device to connect the two people, it is not a subtle gay pass but friends do occasionally touch each other in emotional support.  People now look at two friends and wonder, are they a couple? Whether shopping for a couch or picking out a pet together, they may just being friends hanging out, offering advice and who cares anyway?

 Heterosexuals have bad marriages, divorce and problems and it doesn’t make them gay, Ms Solomon; just dysfunctional and it certainly does not indicate a homosexual leaning as she impliied.

Norman Rockwell's art tended to be whimsical, filled with pathos; he spoke to the heart of Middle America. He stated in one of the books I read that he liked to use teens in his paintings because they were awkward; I suspect he leaned towards drawing teen boys because, like most great writers, his art is somewhat autobiographical; he drew from his own life and what he knew and what he personally experienced at such an awkward and disconcerting time of life.  He said in one book which I read that he often avoided middle aged people because he was not able to make them as sympathetic or comical like he could when he portrayed the elderly and the young.

Ms Solomon said that he was a figure painter and most figure painters like the ones she mentioned in the Colbert Report; Picasso, Matisse, and Gaugan all painted women as their main subjects. What Deborah Solomon did not recognize is that while Norman Rockwell does paint figures, he was a commercial illustraitor who in the fine art world would be more accurately categorized  as a Genre Painter; one who paints slices of life with the intent of showing us views into people's lives.

Norman Rockwell: The Problem We All Live With
 Genre Painters have a more complex illustraitive motive for their art than the figure painter and their work often has humorous, social or spiritual statements. 

Two Genre Painters from the past: 

Jan Steen: The Eve of St Nicholas

First is Jan Steen was a Dutch Genre Painter of the 17th c.

 Jan Steen showed psycological insight and humor in his genre paintings which is similar to Norman Rockwell's art. In this painting, "The Eve of St Nicolas", we see a family recieve their gifts only on boy is crying, he apparently was bad and recieved only a birch rod. 

Jean Baptists Greuze was a French Genre Painter in 18th c.

 The Village Bride is a scene of the "lower class" is a staged allegory with a pictorial sermon. 

Jean Baptiste Greuze: The Village Bride

I remembered Genre Painters from my college days in art history class in the 70's, so I looked up the two artists who were referenced on the subject so I now can share the information with you so many  years later.

While at college I spent a required year studying H.W. Janson's Book, History of Art for my BFA degree from The University of Akron, I had a wonderful teacher, Earl Ertman. 

Further Links To Explore:

Books: Was Norman Rockwell Gay?
Posted: 11/14/2013 6:58 pm
$28; Farrar, Straus and Giroux

December 15, 2013

Our Lady of Guadalupe: A Devotion in Paint

Our Lady of Guadalupe: A Devotion in Paint

She appears to a simple peasant and gives hope to a defeated people.

In the process she converts a Nation to Christianity.

She teaches the world that the Holy Spirit transcends race as The Mother of God manifests herself as a mestizo, a mixed race of European and Native American descent.

She is proclaimed by Pope Benedict XIV on May 25, 1754 as Our Lady of Guadalupe Patron of Central and North America.

A common depiction of the Virgin of Guadalupe

My dear husband Gaetano Siragusa, aka Guy, has a spiritual connection with devotion to Mary: Mother of God. While a young man serving in Vietnam he made a promise to the Virgin Mary that if he survived the war he would create a shrine to the Blessed Mother.

Guy as solder age 21 in the Army taken at Graduation from Basic Training

When he returned from his tenure in Vietnam Guy kept his promise and set up a little shrine to the virgin Mary in his mother's backyard. And when she passed away we took the statue from this shrine  and it traveled from St Petersburg Florida to our home in Mimbres New Mexico.

The Statue Guy set up to honor the Blessed Virgin, in our yard  in Florida                                             after his mother passed away

Guy recently asked the Virgin of Guadalupe to help us out on a pressing matter and he also promised to erect a shrine in her honor.

When we were at the Mesilla Valley Mall in Las Cruces NM a couple of weeks ago we found at Kestin Decorations  a beautiful statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe on an also beautifully carved pedestal, graced by angels and flowers. 

 We were sure this was the statue we should buy to honor Our Lady.  This is a porcelain statue which stands 6' tall including the pedestal. We were originally looking for a statue to put outside but this was so beautiful we decided to buy it and put it in our living room and we do have a great location for it.

Guy told his story of his promise as a young soldier and his promise to the blessed Virgin to the two people working in the store and I shed some tears because I love him so much and I love that he has such a strong faith. So we brought the statue home and put it in it's perfect place, as a centerpiece in the living room. The only thing was the features did not show up at any distance in the room. I thought the pure white statue would be beautiful yet subtle but I realized this statue would need to be painted in order to for us see it. 

Della Robbia Statue

So in keeping with my concept of having a 6' devotional statue which would be subtle but be able to be seen I decided it would just be painted with a blue background much like the Della Robbia Statues I have seen in many museums in the eastern part of the United States. Della Robbia statues are made of which porcelain, much like our statute and they usually just have a blue background or limited color, leaving the figures white.

While I started painting the statue over the next few days it evolved from something of my European understanding of the Virgin Mary to a traditional Mexican image.  As I read and studied more of the meaning of the statue I found that my connection to the Virgin of Guadalupe also grew.  As I worked on painting her image, my European roots and knowledge were transcribed by a new deeper appreciation of her Mexican heritage, for the scared apparition which is the Virgin of Guadalupe. There are a few good websites devoted to explaining the symbolic meaning of the image and how it came into being. 

I will recommend just a few of the websites I found most helpful in my search for a better understanding of this Virgin and her place in  her place in history, in our home and in our hearts. I will put these links at the end of this blog post.

Day one; while  starting to work on the statue my idea is a Della Robbia Style paint treatment. I am using Golden Acrylic paints, a combination of Golden Fluid Paints and Golden Open Acrylic. I particullary like the Open Acrylic Paint from Golden because of the extra time it gives me to work. I am used to doing most of my paintings in oil so adjusting to the quick drying time of acrylic paint is always an issue for me.

Day two; I worked on the gown and I used an Interference Light Gold Acrylic Paint from Golden . I am reading in a description that the gown is pink, but an earth toned pink. I used an Antique Gold and a Silver Rub and Buff wax paste on the light rays and for the crown and edge of the oval shell.

Day 3 must run out and buy burnt sienna for the faces

 I am now ready to repaint the gown towards a deeper reddish orange and color over the pink. I am happy with my decision to study her coloration from the image below and I also use a votive candle and other images as a reference.

photograph of the original image
I used photographs of the original miraclous image to paint the face and I also used a votive candle. In the photograph above this one you can see the photo of her face which I was using. 

 The paint tubes I am using for the flesh tones are dried out, the burnt sienna is usless and the burnt unber is also dried but may be workable, these are older tubes of Golden Acrylic Paints. A description of her olive skin says it has a greenish cast so I try working with the burnt umber with a touch of red, but this is not working well what I am getting is a flesh tone with an unhealthy cast. I look at my husband's face and analize the color of his face because he has a classic olive complexion.

Day 3; I need to get to Leyba & Ingalls Arts Supplies and Gallery, lucky for us artists in area, Diana Leyba Ingalls is an artist herself and she buys top grade artists paint for the store instead  of student grade. I am happy to see they have a good selection of Golden Open Acrylic Paint, so with a sigh of relief I purchase my Burnt Sienna.

I taper the cloak which give the figure and tunic a more gracefull look. I am using the votive candle you see in the above picture as a guide.

Day 4; I decided I was happy with the face now and the over all painting and although I still have more painting to do on the statue, she can be place on the pedistal once again. I will work on she again this spring and complete it but for now I am happy with it and we will enjoy her this way and I will get back to working on my  studio paintings. 

Guy of is Italian descent, namely Sicilian, with one grandmother who was Spanish. He has a light olive complexion. I was concerned that I had painted the face of Our Lady too dark so I had him stand beside her and angle his head in the position she was in, I am happy to say, it was spot on 

Here is Our Lady of Guadalupe in our living room, she has a wonderful presence in our home.

Here is the Silver City Museum Show which inspired me while I worked on the statue
The Silver City Museum has an absolutely beautiful and educational show devoted to Hispanic New Mexican Devotional Art. The art is from the collection of Barbe Awalt and Paul Rhetts, who have collected this spiritual genre for around 25. They published a book called, "Our Saints Among Us: 400 Years of New Mexican Devotional Art," this tells the story about their collection and it is availabe on sale at the Muesum book store where I also found a book on making your own Retablos or Spiritual Icons and several small icons which you may buy.

Paul Rhetts pointing out an icon in the colletion

Barbe Awalt, the couple collected these spiritual icons for nearly 25 years 

Silver City Museum

I learned while reading the information from the museum collection at the Silver City Museum that for the artist making the image it can be a spiritual devotion. I certainly had that experience while working on this statue and while painting it I was contemplating the information I had read about the specific imagery of the details of the statue and how she appeared to Juan Diego and the miracle of the image she left  behind and the flowers. 

Please go to my links at the bottom of the Blog post to find more information on this statue.  

This is the original Icon, a miracle left by the visitation of  The Virgin of Guadalupe

As we are approaching the Holidays, namely Christmas, I pray and I suggest we all pary for the new leader of the Roman Chatholic faith, the first pope from the America's. Pope Francis has requested that we pray for him. Let us pray that this mantel of office not lay heavy on his sholders but that with a joyous heart and a peacefull soul which comes from his humility which allows him to work through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Amen

"See how they love one another"

Website Links For Further Study: