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This past summer my work took me to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ve been wanting to visit Santa Fe for some time, so I tacked on some extra days. New Mexico is so different than New England — arid, red, empty. I find the beauty mysterious and just a little haunting.

I took a drive into the mountains around Santa Fe to visit Pecos National Historical Park, home of the Pecos Pueblo. I hiked the trails and imagined what life had been like in the pueblo while it grew to house more than 2,000 people over the course of centuries. It sadly declined and was abandoned in the mid-1800s after a complicated relationship with the Spanish that included conquistadors, missionaries, and an uprising.

I stopped at a shaded rest area to take in the vista and was inspired to break out my sketchbook.

I did my usual pencil sketch followed by pen with a fine-point Sharpie. The flies were enjoying my sketching a little too much, so I decided to pack up and finish later. 

As luck would have it, “later” was a cozy restaurant in the small nearby town of Pecos where I enjoyed enchiladas and a beer in the shade of the veranda.

I really like the simplicity and looseness of the painting. The sky wash was difficult because the air was so dry and as soon as I put the paint down the water evaporated. I love the juxtaposition of the greens and browns and reds in the mountains of the southwest, and I like how this painting captures that.

What I love about sketchbooking is how it grounds me in the present moment. Even now, as I write this blog post in the midst of a blustery New England fall Nor’easter, I can still feel the hot tingle of the sun on my shoulders, smell the pungent sage and pine, and hear the crunch of gravel under my feet punctuating the haunting stillness of this long-abandoned pueblo.