Cebolla Canyon, NM



Our first site on this grand adventure across the American Southwest was a campsite in a quiet valley off a dirt road in northern New Mexico. Our first camp set-up was a long one and consisted of pitching a large shade structure with tarps and aluminum poles under which the kitchen was erected, hauling out buckets of food and dishes and gear from the vans as the sun went down. Next, we scattered to pitch our tents – five of us pitched near one another without really conferring on it. New to sleeping out in this unfamiliar landscape, there was some comfort in being closer to one another I suppose. The sky threatened rain.

We sat together for dinner and then cleaned dishes in frigid water. We pulled camp chairs into a circle around a gas lantern and held our first seminar. We shivered noticeably in our sweatpants and layers of sweaters and wondered quietly in our heads if we had packed incorrectly. Weren’t we supposed to be too hot on this trip? I fretted slightly about how I would shake this chill but once I slipped into my sleeping bag I warmed up immediately to the point of sweating. Invest in good gear, then you can trust your gear. Being exposed to the elements 24/7 is no joke. It can lead to a world of discomfort.

Field Notes cover
Valley Outline – Cebolla Canyon


Our next day was with Curtis Fransisco, a Laguna tribal member and geologist who fed us a meal he had prepared and took us around the old town and various areas affected by the infamous Jackpile mine. The Jackpile mine is the largest deposit of uranium in the United States (and possibly the world?) We visited radioactive run-off that was apparently “hotter” than some of what you’d find at the mine itself. It was difficult to learn of the Native American community that had paid the heavy price of ruined health and spoiled land for the temporary profit the mine offered. Never have I felt more uncomfortable in a landscape, and I was only there for a day. After just a day’s visit, I don’t feel I know enough about this area to go on beyond these few sentences.

Watercolor palette and sketches from the van


The following morning, I managed a 5.5 mile run along the dirt road we came in on – only I continued on in the direction beyond camp where we hadn’t yet gone. It was near impossible to catch my breath – when on foot and not in the van, I realized just how hilly the terrain was. The 7700-foot elevation made itself known in the burning of my lungs. I hadn’t been able to run for four days though and felt cooped up in the car for two days, so I pushed the pace and freed my legs. I returned to camp in time to hike up the ridge with the group to view shards of painted pottery from countless years ago. From the top of the ridge you could see the entire valley I had just run an hour earlier. To think my body carried me that far was a tad baffling. I don’t often get the chance to see the distance I run from that vantage point. 2.7 miles never looked so far.

some notes


Land Arts of the American West

Hi all,

It has been a crazy wonderful two years working on my Masters of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing at Texas Tech University, and thus I haven’t been posting on this blog. Currently I am in my third year of my Masters and working on my thesis as well as graduate show. I have joined the Land Arts program this fall and wish to update you, as well as professors and students back at Tech on my explorations, discoveries and progress out here in the field.

Taken from the Land Arts website ( ):

Land Arts of the American West is a “semester abroad in our own backyard” attracting architects, artists, and writers from across Texas Tech University (and beyond) to investigate the intersection of human construction and the evolving nature of the planet. Land art, or earthworks, index the complex array of human activity shaping our world—petroglyphs, roads, dwellings, monuments and traces of those actions—to show us who we are. Our itinerary brings us six-thousand miles overland to experience major land art monuments—Double NegativeSpiral JettySun TunnelsThe Lightning Field—while also visiting sites to expand our understanding of what land art might be. We camp for two months witnessing pre-contact archeology at Chaco Canyon and infrastructure at Hoover Dam, as well as military-industrial operations in the Great Salt Lake Desert and scientific exploration at the Very Large Array. We experience remote sites like the north rim of the Grand Canyon and Gila Wilderness in addition to occupied zones such as Wendover, Utah and Marfa, Texas. As we travel we make our own work in the landscapes we inhabit to calibrate the expanding range of our examinations.

So… let’s get rolling.

The passenger van at Cebolla Canyon, NM – our first site

Santa Fe Plein Air Festival 2016

I just returned from maybe the most intense week of painting of my life. In March of this year you may remember I was juried into the Santa Fe Plein Air Festival. Well, Friday June 3rd marked the kick-off to this year’s outdoor painting extravaganza in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico. For the following six days I painted between 8 and 11 hours a day not including time taken to drive to various painting locations, eat, chat with other painters etc. I met an amazing group of passionate painters who painted on site, outside in the sun, wind and thunderstorms.

Visit the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico Facebook page or website to see some of the work made this past week. All artists chose two pieces to hang in the exhibition at the InArt Santa Fe Gallery (219 Delgado St. Santa Fe, 505 983.6537) until the show closes July 4th.

Saturday June 4th at Santuario de Chimayo: notice how the light changed so that by the time I was done there were no shadows left!

Sunday June 5th at the Rio Chama below the dam:

Monday June 6th at Los Luceros Ranch:

Tuesday June 7th at the Ski Basin:

My two choices for the show with a picture of InArt Santa Fe Gallery where they will be purchasable through the month of June:

Wednesday June 8th: Little lesson learned that day… the first two photos are of my painting BEFORE a giant gust of wind blew grit and dirt into the painting. I tried to scrape it out and paint over it but it was not possible to salvage so I wiped the board and started over with a slightly different composition, pictured on the right. What did I learn? On a windy day, FACE the wind, so if there is a gust hopefully you can minimize the amount of dirt stuck to your painting. I haven’t put this into practice yet… I actually moved to the side of a building to take shelter from the wind – another effective strategy on a windy day.

Thursday June 9th: two more sky paintings…

Friday June 10th: notice the seamless insertion of the waterfall painting into the scene in the middle photograph. Shabang!

The Enchanted Skies hanging Friday:

All in all a fun, albeit exhausting week of painting, socializing and learning. To view better pictures of my finished pieces you can visit my website or my daily paintworks gallery where many of them are set at auction prices before becoming full price (and even the full price is a bargain) . Thanks for reading!

Art in England

I recently returned from a joyous whirlwind of visiting family in England with my husband, the Brit. I’m pleased to report that although I usually manage to squeeze in a few watercolor studies, this year I was able to use fast-drying oil paint and make a few small oil paintings as well.

First, let me share with you the sketches I completed in my faithful 5 x 8 travel moleskin watercolor sketchbook:

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As for the oil paintings, I used Windsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd fast-drying oil paints on my go-to 6 x 6 gessobords:

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English Sky, oil on board, 6 x 6″  Click to Bid
2016-06-14 15.49.12
Magnolia in Bowl, oil on board, 6 x 6″  Click to Bid
2016-06-14 15.49.45
English Channel from Balcony, oil on board, 6 x 6″  Buy with PayPal
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Bournemouth from Balcony, oil on board, 6 x 6″ Buy with PayPal

Plein Air Journal: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

I spent this past weekend in Santa Fe and despite the chill found time to make a small 6 x 6″ study from the rooftop of my hotel in the late afternoon sun. The sky was really interesting and changing every minute.

On Sunday I joined other Plein Air Painters of New Mexico (PAPNM) on a paintout to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument to absorb more of this state’s stunning geological formations. There was a cave at the top of one of the hikes that was used by prehistoric peoples. The charred ceiling of the cave is evidence of their fires. The layers in this formation erode at different speeds and this created a bench inside the cave. How I longed to climb up and sit in it! I’m sure everyone who visits feels that way.

I enjoyed my hike and commune with the landscape but because the park was quite busy with hikers and people moving through I actually drove to another more secluded spot where I fell in love with the shadowy cliffs (below).

In the top right corner you can see another PAPNM member under her white umbrella painting the tent rocks.

If you would like more frequent updates on my works in progress or other inspirational occurrences in my day-to-day life, find me on  <a href=””>Instagram</a>  (jdodington) where I make frequent photo posts. It’s free to make an account and you don’t have to post actively in order to follow people and enjoy their photographs.

Plein Air Festival Santa Fe 2016

I just got word that I have been juried into this year’s Plein Air Festival in Santa Fe. It seems fitting that the last post I made was after an exhilarating painting trip at Ghost Ranch because I used those paintings in my submission. The third painting I submitted was “Boating in the Canyon” (below).

A bit about the festival that I grabbed from Bmoreart blog:

Plein Air Painters of New Mexico (PAPNM) will host the Fourth Annual Santa Fe Plein Air Festival in the Land of Enchantment. Fifty (50) artists will be selected to participate in a seven day event from Friday, June 3 through Friday, June 10, around Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico (within a defined zone). InArt Gallery will display the participants’ best two works along with special award winners. The show will hang through July 4. Daily guided paintouts will be provided for those who want to paint in a group setting. Events will include a Kick Off Fiesta, an Enchanted Skies Award Event, Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony.

boating the rio grande small
Boating the Rio Grande, 9 x 12″ oil on board

I was thrilled to get this news while in Santa Fe this past weekend, painting the amazing landscape that surrounds the city. Stay tuned for another one of my “Plein Air Journal” posts coming soon.

Plein Air Journal – Ghost Ranch

This past weekend I had the pleasure of painting the famous Ghost Ranch scenery with other PAPNM (Plein Air Painters of New Mexico) members Mary and Marilyn. As I had a bit of a longer drive than the other two, by the time I arrived at the ranch they were already lost in the landscape. It only took two minutes up the rough gravel road past the campground to find them though. Their reflective umbrellas stood out in the pale yellow grassy hills. Both painters were already hard at work, absorbed in laying down the outlines of their pieces at their shaded easels. I commenced to set up my not-so-professional camping chair with a purple polka-dotted umbrella bungie-corded to the back. hahaha.

My not-so-professional, yet very cheerful painting set-up.
My not-so-professional, yet very cheerful painting set-up.

It was an excellent morning that started cool and warmed up quickly. By noon we were all a bit too warm and after lunch headed down to paint from more shaded areas. I set aside my painting of the giant rocky cliffs and planned to pick up where I left off in the cool of Sunday morning.

Mary and I chose to paint from the portico of the worship building. Our view:  Cerro Pedernal, locally known as just “Pedernal” is a narrow mesa in New Mexico. The name is Spanish for Flint Hill. The sky was doing amazing things with big dramatic clouds sweeping over the mountains while the cottonwood trees flamed a brilliant yellow.

Mary and I chose to paint from the portico of the worship building
the portico of the worship building
closer picture of where we painted from
closer picture of where we painted from
Pedernal, oil on board, 11 x 14"
Pedernal, oil on board, 11 x 14″

Marilyn set up under the large shady trees near the dining hall. Not too long after she began painting we could see from our portico another painter had set up near her and I can understand why. The view of rolling hills and mountains in the distance was really captivating. All the yellow in the trees and scattered leaves also lent the whole scene a decidedly autumn feel, something that hasn’t reached Portales yet.

The dining hall surrounded by shady trees dropping yellow leaves
The dining hall surrounded by shady trees dropping yellow leaves

After the ladies finished their second pieces Husband and I bid them farewell, ate fajitas in the dining hall and retreated to our adobe abode to read and collapse.
The following morning we enjoyed breakfast in the dining hall again and it really felt like we were kids back at summer camp. What a nice feeling! I got myself a hot apple cinnamon tea to go and headed back up the hill to set up my painting again.

Morning walk down to breakfast in the dining hall
After breakfast: heading back to the Coyote building where we stayed
Finishing the rock piece from the day before
Finishing the painting of the cliffs from the day before
Painting the rock
Painting the rock
Ghost Ranch Rocks, oil on board, 11 x 14"
Cliffs at Ghost Ranch, oil on board, 11 x 14″
Elliott and I after breakfast
With my biggest supporter
We'll be back here...
We’ll be back here soon…

Plein Air Journal – Elida, New Mexico

Just a half-an-hour drive down the highway from Portales lies the tiny town of Elida. The 2000 census reported 183 residents and I’m fairly certain there are fewer today. Despite its diminutive size the town has bright storefronts (all of them closed), giant shady trees and lots of artfully scattered abandoned farm equipment. It’s a painters paradise really. Today was a blustery one so I painted from the passenger seat of my car.

The view with my palette on the dashboard
The view with my palette on the dashboard
Just starting out with the washes...
Just starting out with the washes…
Painting in progress resting in the driver's seat while I stretch my legs.
Painting in progress resting in the driver’s seat while I stretch my legs.
Finished painting
Finished painting, 11 x 14″ oil on board

Plein Air Journal – Bottomless Lake State Park, New Mexico

Just half an hour outside of Roswell New Mexico (aliens, yeah yeah…) is Bottomless Lake State Park. These lakes are sinkholes and range from 17 to 90 feet deep. The greenish-blue color created by aquatic plants is what gives the lakes the illusion of great depth. Husband and I drove out there yesterday afternoon and I managed to get a painting done before the sun went down and the flies came out to play.

Setting up in the shade to paint
Setting up in the almost-shade to paint
In progress
In progress
Working away...
Working away…