Joan Foth | Washes of Color

Aspen Covered Mountain [1992], watercolor, 22 x 30., Southwest Art
Aspen Covered Mountain [1992], watercolor, 22 x 30.

By Nancy Ellis

Joan Foth works often in her garden. Over the years gardening has brought this longtime artist the typical and expected pleasures, but it has also provided a needed respite from what can be a draining painting process. Given the challenges of watercolor and Foth’s preference for painting on a large scale (her canvases often stretch 7 feet in length), it’s easy to see why she sometimes needs a distraction.

“When you are preparing to do a major passage of watercolor, you have to be ready,” she says. “It’s truly a Zen moment. You can’t wipe off the surface and start over, as you can with oil.” The difficulty—and the excitement—of getting the watercolor washes right is exhausting, Foth says. “That’s why I have my garden right outside my studio; I can stop at any time and go pull weeds for 20 minutes.”

Truchas [1991], watercolor, 28 x 78., Southwest Art
Truchas [1991], watercolor, 28 x 78.

The flowers in Foth’s garden are as naturally adapted to the environment as Foth herself. The New York native lives and works high in the New Mexico foothills in Chimayo, an historic Hispanic village about a half-hour north of Santa Fe, where she came to live almost by accident nearly a decade ago. The view is spectacular in every direction. “Here, everything changes color all day long,” Foth marvels. And in every season, she might add. From the emerald greens and pale pink blossoms of early spring to autumn’s shimmering gold, these striking landscapes are prime subject matter.

Featured in November 1998