ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Todd Winter’s journeys are oftentimes the inspiration behind his work. For the former Taos resident, northern New Mexico plays a big role in his watercolor paintings.
His piece of artwork – “The Journey” – was inspired by Chaco Canyon and is the featured painting for this year’s Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival.
“It’s based on the idea of when you are standing there in front of all these different passages,” he explains during a recent interview. “It’s very representative of the different stages of life. We all are going on a life journey, and each one of us is in a different stage.”
Winter, along with more than 250 artisans, will participate in the festival, which has been held during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for the past 24 years under the white tents near Paseo del Norte and I-25. It features entertainment and music in the outdoor pavilion, food and artist demonstrations, as well as activities for children.
Winter returns to the festival for a second year and was honored with his painting being selected for promotional shots and a T-shirt.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” he says. “What’s great about this festival is that I’m able to meet a lot of different people from around the world. That’s what makes this fun. I work hard all year to meet some of the greatest and most interesting people.”
Winter’s paintings are all transparent watercolor and he calls his style expressive realism.
“There’s a bit more exaggeration to the paintings,” he says. “I’m very sensitive to elevate color in my artwork. I’m looking for color contrast and want to put warm versus cool colors. I feel that it brings more emotion.”
While Winter will be traveling with more than 50 pieces from Texas, New Mexico artists also will show at the event. One of those artists, Claudia Young, will make her third appearance at the festival. Young is an acrylic landscape artist who also works with floral designs.
“My paintings are very traditional and lean towards impressionism,” she explains. “I strive towards getting them as perfect as I can, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.”
Young grew up on a farm in Hobbs and often traveled with her father, a lawyer, to Santa Fe. It was during those trips that Young noticed the drastically different landscapes around the state.
“The first time I visited Santa Fe with my dad, I was taken aback by the scenery,” she says. “There was a stark difference compared to the landscape in Hobbs. I couldn’t even grasp that both of these different landscapes existed in the same state.”
Young says she’s been painting her whole life, but took a hiatus from it while raising her children.
“I taught other children art and we did murals at different schools and I had a good time with that,” she says. “So I didn’t abandon art completely. But I took it back up as my children headed to college.”
Young and Winters say that being involved in the festival really helps give artists international exposure.
“Even if people don’t buy specifically at the show, there are many that follow up after the festival is over,” Young explains. “But you get a big group of people who are being exposed to your work and there’s really nothing like it.”