ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — From a gold-flecked “Playground Princess” to a vase of nodding sunflowers, the New Mexico Watercolor Society’s fall show spans a vibrant spectrum of subjects and styles.
The society is displaying 118 watercolors in the Fine Arts Gallery of Expo New Mexico through Oct. 26.
Albuquerque’s Patricia Baca discovered her love for the water-soluble pigments at a 2001 Ghost Ranch workshop.
“I hadn’t been to the Abiquiú area before; feeling the Georgia O’Keeffe spirit,” she said.
Baca had scribbled and drawn with pencil all her life – even producing an original poster for her second-grade teacher.
A retired Albuquerque claims adjustor, she took to watercolor almost immediately, despite its reputation as difficult to control. But she loved the bright colors.
“It can go south on you really fast,” she acknowledged with a laugh.
The artist works from her own photographs of people in parks, farmers markets, arts-and-crafts fairs and even a church parking lot.
The portrait “Playground Princess” emerged when she spotted a friend’s granddaughter at a birthday party. She decided to limit her palette to four colors – Antwerp blue, cobalt blue, gold and red.
“I was amazed at the range of colors I could get,” she said. “I could get really dark values of brown as well as the bright golds on her hair.”
Santa Fe’s Jeanne Hyland turned to watercolor after a bout of breast cancer curtailed her ability to make sculpture. Oils gave her a headache. She had “doodled and drawn” with watercolor as a child and decided to take a local class.
“Everybody was coming over and saying, ‘Wow, you’re good at this,'” she said. “I’m a fast, twitchy person. Watching paint dry doesn’t work for me. I work quickly. I like the immediacy of it. Especially in New Mexico, it dries quickly.”
“Sunflower Blast No. 2” is part of a series of explosive, gestural floral imagery.
“I do that as part of my workshop,” Hyland said, ” – encouraging young people to break out of their routine.
“I’m not afraid to use the paint right out of the tube with bright colors,” she continued. “Even with portraits I take the color knob and dial it up. I just find it more exciting.”
Hyland has taught watercolor in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and California, as well as Belgium and France. This marks her sixth year in the show.
Albuquerque’s Joy Brinkley-Hill’s latest series focuses on startling depictions of cut and depression glass she received as family heirlooms. She moved to New Mexico from North Carolina four years ago.
“Gram’s Candy Dish” shows the faceted cut glass bowl her grandmother kept filled with orange slices.
“It’s just transparent layers of watercolor,” Brinkley-Hill explained, ” – one layer on top of another. I set up a still life on the windowsill and take photographs.”
Sometimes she uses up to 20 glazes to create the transparency. It may take her from two to three weeks to complete a painting.
A jumble of patterns forms from reflected and refracted light.
“It gets chaotic wherever the lights shine through the glass; they’re almost abstract patterns,” she said.
Brinkley-Hill wants to continue working on the series for a couple of years. She’s also painting a series of antique trucks.
“I go to car shows and I’ll take photographs of refurbished old trucks,” she said. “It’s the same process. I like the shiny bumpers.”