Visitors are welcomed by Woodall to the remodeled Taos Rock House. It was built between 1917-1918 for Justin Henry McCarthy as a home for his family of six children, by local builder Raffaele Pettine. It featured the first in-door toilet in Taos. After being vacant off and on for 37 years, the house has been restored by Woodall and his wife, Carmen and houses the gallery, along with Southwest Framers. “The house is happy to be lived in again,” says Woodall. “We are truly a mom and pop shop. I do the paintings and Carmen frames them, along with work that others bring in. She’s trained in conservation framing techniques.”
The house with its flowers blooming near the front porch and green lawn full of fanciful decorations enlivens the southwest corner of Bent Street and Paseo del Pueblo, across the street from the Taos Inn. The stone house has been revived to again contribute to the area that was near the original center of town. Woodall says “As far as I can trace it - about 1678, there were originally five buildings in town. One was where the dress shop is next to Taos Inn, then there was the blacksmith shop behind Martyr’s, a sheriff’s office down the street, one wall left at Alley Cantina and a shack near the Stables. This area was basically the center of town.”
Since last September, the restored house has featured work in a variety of media by Woodall. The rooms have high ceilings, craftsman-style windows and built-in features, along with a stone fireplace and vintage furnishings. The space is a gracious backdrop for Woodall’s work in oil, pastels, watercolor, acrylic, and monotype prints.
Paintings and prints
Colorful paintings of Taos street scenes, flowers in bloom, horses, donkeys, buffalo and aspen hang near a mysterious monotype of Taos Pueblo. The Pueblo is a favorite topic, depicted in a variety of media and mood, including night scenes of the village under star lit skies and others of moonlight processions
On a recent afternoon, Woodall welcomed locals and a variety of visitors from all over the country with his soft drawl; a remnant of his early Southern upbringing. Woodall talked about his work and graciously signed cards and took pictures with the visitors who were excited to meet the artist.
In the dining room of the house, Woodall’s easel had a mountain scene in progress with vibrant greens, blues, and yellows. Called “Last Light Taos Mountain,” it embodies his love of Taos and of brilliant, free-flowing color.
On display are paintings of snow scenes at Taos Ski Valley. Woodall says “I’m an avid skier and I love to paint Taos Ski Valley. A recent painting is a chronicle of changes and history; others feature important buildings like St. Bernard and the Bavarian. The paintings of the ski valley are exceptionally popular. They take a lot of time, due to sculptural nature of the work, which incorporates the topography of the snow. The pieces have impasto with brush strokes to build the layers of paint and create shadows.”
He did a painting on commission from a Chicago man who liked to go skiing with his son and wanted to commemorate their time together at Taos, including hiking the ridge to Kachina Peak. It had been their way of bonding when the son was young, and the painting features little touches like a sign with all of their favorite runs. Of his snow paintings and his work in general, Woodall says “I’m Interested in light and how it affects the paints and what kind of colors make things happen. I like paintings that show you something different every time you see them.”
Woodall has been painting professionally for 35 years. He says “Painting is a passion. Sometimes circumstances allow you the opportunity make a decision to get into it full time; to allow yourself to dive into the deep dark pool; to devote yourself to it totally.”
His opportunity came in the form of a serious accident. He’d come to Taos when he was 19 to help his brother build a house. After he saw Taos, he knew he wanted to stay. “The whole idea became – I want to live in this place and want to build a house,” he says. “My wife and I bought a piece of land in Arroyo Seco and worked on it every weekend for two years.” He and Carmen had a son Nicolas and then a daughter Natasha, who was born in the house and will be married there this summer.
Woodall was working constructing homes and would come home at night to draw and paint. When he broke his neck, he spent a year and a half recovering. On the way home from the emergency room in Santa Fe, he stopped and bought some oil paints and an easel.
Wearing a halo brace, he began painting the next day and immersed himself in the process. “I found my talent in that commitment,” Woodall says. “After I recovered, I continued to work and paint. Life goes on and I needed to support my family. In 2005, I decided to jump in that deep dark pool and make it work one way or another.”
He opened a gallery just south of downtown. He’d been showing in other galleries for years, but loved the chance to meet the people who were excited by his art. “I have three generations of collectors in some families,” he says. He enjoys having the gallery in the Taos Rock House right in the center of town, which allows new people discover the gallery as they stroll through downtown.
His love of Taos is evident in his work and his stories. “Taos is hard to get to,” he says. “There are really only four ways to get here. But what a valley! The first people I met here were Pueblo Indians they were very friendly, inquisitive, and kind.”
Woodall’s own stories and those told to him by others form the basis of many of his paintings. “We all have stories,” he observes. “I’m interested in the stories people tell and I might end up doing a painting that reflects that story. He points out a piece titled “Horse Traders,” that depicts the men who used to come to flat top plateau near Dixon and light a fire so that surrounding Pueblo peoples would see the smoke and come to trade on neutral ground.
Capturing the stories of others is the essence of the work he does with commissioned paintings. Over the past several months, he has finished six large commissions. A recent painting shows the Ranchos church as it might have looked in 1860 when the church was built. Wagons surround the church, along with mariachis, and people dancing. A light from inside illuminates the scene. “I invite people to tell me what they want to see. Each one a collaboration,” says Woodall.
The couple who commissioned the church piece, wrote Woodall to say. “The painting is a centerpiece in our house. We love the piece and can almost hear the music, laughter and conversation of people enjoying this gathering around the church on a full moon night. Your attention to detail is remarkable and sets the painting apart. It creates a new standard of perfection. You are indeed greatly talented, and we feel very privileged to have you do this work for us.”
Other recent commissions capture a memory of a chuckwagon serving dinner as remembered by a man who was a young boy at the time. Another depicts a ranch with a view of the Spanish Peaks in southern Colorado and a herd of elk crossing a river. Then there is a snowy street scene in Taos that features family members and special cars, along with a building owned by the man who commissioned the painting. “People have a story to tell. They trust you to come up with something special and unique. Commissions are demanding; they can take a lot of research. Adding details like their children, make it more personal,” explains Woodall.
Painting lessons and magic moments
So that people can tell their own stories, Woodall gives art lessons. The student learns about painting and come away with a finished piece at the end of the lesson. Although he helps both new and experienced painters, it is important to him that the finished piece reflects the aesthetics of the person making the art. “I love seeing the light go off in someone’s eyes when they step back and really see what they’ve created,” he says.
Whether he is teaching others to find their talent or working on his own art, Woodall says “The actual painting is the most fun part. There is no sense of time passing. Nothing comes in except what is happening in front of your eyes. Watching the painting develop without preconceptions and rolling with it is where excitement comes from for me. The magic moments are the times when your brain is not working, but you just see the painting taking form.”
For more information
Stop by Woodall Fine Art Gallery with Southwest Framers at 122 Paseo del Norte or call (575) 758-3320. Visit the gallery on-line at www.patwoodall.com.
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