By Southwest Art Editors
How do your latest paintings reveal the evolution of your style?
My paintings are a continuous study. One flows into the next, a never-ending story. I tend to do paintings with the same theme. I do “walk” paint-ings, like Morning Walk, which consist of a road, maybe a spotted hill, or maybe three trees. These paintings are really just to draw the viewer into the subconscious. The road leads you through the painting toward light. It is simply a design. I keep it simple so the painting is the viewer’s statement, not the artist’s. The viewer can finish the painting at any particular time.
When I paint an old adobe house, church, or morada, for me, it’s about capturing a mood and feeling surrounding the place. In Old Adobe Light, it is like a faded photograph, toned with green. Toning with green took the adobe house out of the present time into its own time. The trees are ghostly. The sky is also toned, using that space to continue the aura of the house. If I had done a beautiful blue New Mexico sky (which it was when I was sketching), it would have conflicted with the feeling I was after. I will, however, in each painting, leave a small percent of pure color to give my “toned” color light. So with my small percent of light, dark, and pure color, I hope to achieve the painting’s own light.
The interiors are a continuation of the feeling of an old adobe, but inside. They are empty rooms; what is left in the room is enough to describe who once occupied the room. Maybe it’s a chair, a bed, or a painting on the wall. Inside Light is a commissioned painting, based on a painting I did titled She’s Still There. It is the presence of the grand-mother who lived in the house. Her wedding picture is over her bed. To the side, a painting of the chapel she was married in, and hanging in the back room is her patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe. The colors and objects in the room suggest to me that she was a very caring and loving person. What I would like to do next is a grouping of paintings that stay together. Starting with the outside of the adobe house and entering into each room, each room a painting, and then out the back door behind the house. I would like to tell the story with objects, light, and color.
How do you select subject matter for your paintings?
My subject matter comes in different ways. Most of the time I travel the High Road of northern New Mexico. I get detailed sketches of the scene, an adobe house, spotted hills— or a road going off in the distance. When I get home from a sketching trip my compositions are ready to paint. During the painting process I delete most everything of the detail I sketched, except for what seems to be important. This way I impart a “memory” quality to the painting rather than the actual scene. By sketching the detail I feel I have done my homework, allowing me to take the detail away. Other paintings come in spurts of inspiration, maybe in a dream or daydream. I sketch the dream image down on my board and go from there. These paintings often end up being my favorites.
What do you like about working with pastels on sandpaper?
Pastels are a passion for me. They are pure pigment in their natural state, not broken down by anything mixed with them. The crys-tals are three-dimensional and glisten with light. Because of their natural beauty I do not use any fixative during or after my painting. The fixative would alter and/or flatten the pastel. Pastels are straight-forward and immediate. It is direct contact between the paper and the artist. The tooth of the sandpaper allows the build-up of many layers, allowing me to reach the subtle color I’m looking for.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Inspiration comes from the New Mexico landscape, the high-altitude light, the mysteries surrounding an old place. Inspiration comes from emotions and dreams.
Are your landscapes based on particular places or are they composites?
My compositions include my peripheral vision. They are not framed in as if looking through a camera lens. So, it is both a particular place and a composite.
What do you hope to convey to the viewer with an interior scene?
With an interior, it is celebrating who once lived there. I hope to convey the presence of that some-one. Not just an adobe room but an adobe room with a soul!
Churches, particularly mission-style churches, are frequent subjects of your paintings—what is it about them that appeals to you?
The churches and moradas are surrounded with intrigue and mystery. They are part of the New Mexico landscape. Some have a sweet air about them and some have a heavy feeling—the kind of feeling that gives you goose bumps.
It is being there, watching and listening quietly, when you begin to realize their essence. Then capturing the feeling is challenging. Also painting the churches and moradas is documenting them, none too soon, as many are falling down from neglect.
What do you think your paintings say about you?
Painting is my form of meditation, going to a spot I’ve known since I was young, working from the inside out, going to a familiar place of calm and quiet strength.
How long does it take you to complete a painting?
Once a sketch is completed, I work in my studio, in sessions over a two- or three-day period, building up layers. I like to have a painting on the easel for a week so I can review and do touch up on what I missed.
How do you know you’re finished with a piece?
The painting is completed when no more layering is possible and the painting has a life of its own.
Huston is represented by Studio de Colores Gallery, Taos, NM.
Featured in November 2002