Fine art

Warmth of watercolors in new show

‘Winter Watercolor Wonders’ opens this week at the TCA’s Encore Gallery


John Steinbeck once wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” For the passionate and hardy artists of the Taos Watercolor Society, winter is a sweet time to immerse themselves in the use of a medium that may freeze outdoors.

After scores of shows, the artists from the TWS are showing their first ever winter-themed work in a show titled, “Winter Watercolor Wonders,” that opens with a reception today (Dec. 21), 4-6 p.m., in the Encore Gallery at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Admission is free.

Artist Jinx Wright said a good winter scene is about “making winter paintings look cold and making snow look real.” Part of making snow look real is contemplating the nuances of the color white because white isn’t necessarily just white. To properly render snow and other unpigmented objects, a painter must precisely create a subtle prism of colors and shadow values that, when done properly, go unnoticed. Detailed images that feature white as a main component are more complex than what’s squeezed from a tube of titanium white.

TWS President Karen McCurtain Blair said, “The challenges of winter painting is all the white space! I needed to think more about negative shapes rather than detail, which is a departure from my usual painting style.” Artist Charles Doughty added, “In a sense, the white snow creates a uniform background, but it also has a lot of subtle changes that the artist needs to capture.”

Artist Bob Cooley also alluded to the physical challenges of painting in winter: “I have tried to paint on location only to have the paint freeze and form ice on the paper. I now paint in my studio after taking photos to use as a reference. I will be showing three paintings: ‘Pot Creek,’ ‘Kachina Peak and Wheeler,’ and ‘Ski Valley Stream.’ “

Cooley said, “A good winter painting should look fresh and use the white of the paper to depict snow rather than white paint.” Cooley has been in several of the TSW shows and offhandedly quipped about the winter theme “I hope that people will be reminded of what snow looks like, since we have seen so little of it this year.”

Marilyn Price-Reinbolt said about painting outdoors, “As a plein aire painter, I am outside year-round, painting the winter scene on those sunny days we get to enjoy in New Mexico. Like others, we are out on the roads in spite of the weather. And so it goes with painting. We live on the bank of the Río Grande, where I can see and paint the bald eagles, blue herons, the boaters, and fishers, the sunsets, and the apple orchards. No matter the season, it is all there. The color changes; the mood changes. Having lived in Embudo since 1983, I am most likely to be found painting the landscape south of Taos, and these are some of the places that are almost spiritual in their beauty as well as cultural mystery and geologic history.”

TWS artist Diane Nelson-Scott said about her experience painting in the coldest months of the year, “Winter is a wonderful time to find that moment when the world is quieted by a blanket of snow, and the scene or thing before you has something to say. The challenge is to create a composition that will translate the image and feel onto the paper in a luminous way.” She is showing a work called “Holding On.”

“I found this tree on a winter hike and was inspired by the light which accentuated the weathered, aged look of the tree, which had one branch that was barely hanging on. I wondered what stories this tree could share with me,” she said.

Taos artist Linda Henderson plans to show a work she painted in Taos Ski Valley called “Winter’s Beauty.” “[The photo on which the painting is based] was taken up in the ski valley in a place that everyone would see daily but may not notice. I saw a little pine tree surrounded by aspens and being protected by them. I took the photograph during a semi-sunny day and narrowed in on the small pine tree. Then I organized how I would paint the piece by masking off some parts to keep white.”

Local TWS artist Charles Doughty is showing a painting called “Stranded.” “It is a painting of the old truck behind the Farmhouse Cafe. There had been a big snow storm, and I went out to take photos and walked in snow up to my knees to take pictures of it. I am attracted to old rusty things to paint because they represent an important part of our history to remember and value and they always have interesting textures and colors.”

The Taos Watercolor Society was founded in 1992. It promotes members’ works through exhibitions and is committed to the public’s further understanding of transparent water media as an exciting and collectible art form. Participating artists in the winter show include Diane Binder, Karen McCurtain-Blair, Bob Cooley, Carol Doughty, Linda Grams-Henderson, Marilyn Price-Reinbolt, Diane Nelson-Scott, Diana Smith, Pat Woodall and Jinx Wright.

The exhibit will be on view through Feb. 4. An artist will be present at the show from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. For more information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052.