I First Noticed Adobe When …

I first noticed adobe by trying to paint it. I found that to get that authentic adobe tint, a certain amount of white tempera was necessary along with the earth tones, even in a watercolor of mostly transparent washes. It’s almost impossible to be a landscape painter in New Mexico without noticing the sculptural presence of the earth- in all shapes and colors. At the village level, the painter notes that the natural pigments in the clays and sands are echoed in the hues and tints of local adobe plasters and blocks. Sit long enough and you might observe someone applying an earth plaster in a tone different than that of the adobes beneath. It isn’t long before color and texture in the two worlds of painting work and adobe work meld together. And once the adobe dweller’s curiosity leads outside for a look at the painting, the artist may end up inside, hearing the stories about how the family had built that house in 1790 and see, here are some handprints in the adobes from that time. Of course, artists are always thinking about studios, and adobe is the perfect sculptural, forgiving answer, something you can do yourself while allowing room for experimentation, another characteristic of artists. I’m talking the 1960’s and 70’s when most painters and musicians in the greater Southwest were adobe conscious in one way or another. Around Albuquerque, Santa Fe or Las Cruces, if you rented or purchased a place in the valley, adobe was always preferred. I remember that adobe was always associated with great parties and art- I don’t think that has changed much!

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