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Nancy Wood Taber meditates with animals via her colored pencil drawings

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nancy Wood Taber captures the spirits of animals in colored pencil drawings as finely wrought as a tiger’s whisker.

“Introspection,” colored pencil, by Nancy Wood Taber.

The Tijeras artist will be one of 80 showing their work at the 36th annual Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale this weekend. The juried show includes painting, printmaking, clay, glass, sculpture, wood, silk, photography, gourds, jewelry, metal and more.

Look for the fair in three locations in the historic village: the Anasazi Fields Winery, the big tent next to the Presbyterian Church and at Placitas Elementary School.

This year’s featured artist, Taber mined her work with Great Pyrenees show dogs, Native American spirituality, and her own creative passion to produce intricate drawings of creatures big and small.

She says it all started when her parents gave her a trip to Europe when she graduated from high school.

“When I got to Florence, Italy, and I saw the statue ‘David,’ I thought, ‘Oh, my God, human hands did this. I want to be an artist.’ I was 18.”

Cast sterling silver wolf pendant by Nancy Wood Taber.

Taber would go on to earn her bachelor’s of fine arts degree in jewelry at New Mexico State University. By then, she had adopted a Great Pyrenees, whom she showed across the country. A job at a Rio Rancho jewelry factory lasted eight years until she left to draw portraits of her dog-loving friends’ pets. She’s been an independent professional artist ever since.

“I started doing custom pet portraits,” she said. “That was the last time I worked for anybody else.”

In “Introspection,” a bear stares at a scrub jay through a tent of leaves. The image grew from Taber’s own property. She placed piñon seeds atop a rock. The crested Steller bluejays flapped their wings and cowered, while the scrub jay began feeding.

The imagery often circles back to her personal philosophy.

“I thought, ‘That little scrub jay is really brave,'” she said. “When I put the bear with the jay ——a bear can be rather intrusive, but the bird isn’t afraid. I thought, ‘Be brave and find that strength within yourself.'”

“Raven Heart” spirals with Celtic knots orbiting the birds in question.

“Ravens mate for life,” Taber said. “And they love to pick up little trinkets. I pick up rocks everywhere I go. I thought because ravens mate for life, their heart is like a stone.”

“Observation” began as a photograph of a snow leopard at the Denver Zoo.

“I have a real special connection with snow leopards,” Taber said. “Snow leopards are representative of looking deeply within yourself at your deepest, darkest secrets and then exposing them. You see the leopard and he comes toward you. He begins opening you up with his claws and you’re totally exposed. Then he heals you totally. There’s that deep sense of survival.”

Taber took up colored pencil because she wanted to work in something other than paint or clay. At the time, colored pencil wasn’t even considered an art form.

“The pencil is very meditative,” she said. “All the colors are mixed on the board. Everybody does pencil in school and they can get it. All that layering gives me time to meditate with the animals.”

Taber illustrated “Anna Finds a Home,” a children’s book about Great Pyrenees puppies. The Leanin’ Tree of Boulder, Colo., has distributed more than 2 million cards featuring her images since 1994.