Capturing the Southwest
This story was featured in the April 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art April 2013 print issue, or get the Southwest Art April 2013 digital download now…Or better yet, just subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
Last Dollar Road lies west of the Colorado mountain town of Telluride. It’s a scenic, rugged road that served as the vantage point from which Damien Gonzales painted SAN JUAN ASPEN, which won a top award at the American Impressionist Society’s National Juried Exhibition last year. Gonzales began the painting during the Telluride Plein Air show in the summer of 2011. As he recalls, that summer followed a winter of heavy snowfall. “Everything was so lush and brilliant,” the New Mexico-based painter says. “Some marmots watched from the rocks in the foreground while I painted.”
Gonzales has been attracted to landscape painting ever since he visited a Santa Fe gallery and viewed a stunning canvas depicting a large rock wall at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with the Colorado River flowing along its base. He was only 12 years old. “The painting made me feel as if I could yell and hear my echo,” Gonzales says. “The rapids seemed to be making a little background noise, though the gallery was perfectly quiet. I knew that landscapes were what I wanted to paint.”
Gonzales’ father noticed his son’s interest in art and introduced him to the well-known landscape painter Wilson Hurley. From that point on, Gonzales met with Hurley at least once a year for a critique of his work until the artist died in 2008—a ritual that spanned more than 30 years. When it came time for college, however, Gonzales heeded the advice of artists who told him it was difficult to make a living and settled instead on a major in mechanical engineering at the University of New Mexico. Today he divides his time between his engineering job and his passion for painting.
The southwestern landscapes of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah are Gonzales’ artistic stomping grounds. And he is a strong believer that painting from life is the only way to capture correct color and value relationships. On location, with no time to waste before the light changes, the artist has to process scenes quickly. “You may have an hour or two if you are lucky,” Gonzales says. “It’s really exciting to take a small piece of everything that is out there and capture it successfully.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Mountainsong Galleries, Carmel, CA; Altermann Galleries & Auctioneers, Santa Fe, NM; Purple Sage Galeria, Albuquerque, NM; www.telluridepleinair.com; damiengonzales.fineartstudioonline.com.
Featured in the April 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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Southwest Art April 2013 print issue
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