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.