Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

How I Came to New Mexico and learned about Art and Life



Once we settled into a daily routine, life calmed down.  Mornings, diaper changes, breakfast, laundry – now it was time for me to set up my own schedule to paint.  It was easy to spread out a comforter and all their toys on the floor of the family room.  Cheerios were everywhere.  John had his trucks and a little train set.  I put on some music and sometimes I would be able to paint for an hour or so.  Naptime – another two hours if I was lucky!  We had fun.

The alla prima technique I learned at Jan’s workshop allowed me to work fast.  I was good at drawing and this method relied heavily on a “cartoon” or sketch which would then be the preparation for the heavier paint.  Soon I had built up about twenty small pieces – some of which were quite passable.  My husband had invited one of his colleagues and his new wife over for coffee.  His name was Lamar Lamb, old-timer who lived in a ranch house in Pecos right next to the river. His wife was a teacher in Santa Fe.  They both took a liking to my work and before the afternoon was over had purchased two paintings for about $100! We were later invited to their rustic log cabin home for a visit – very upscale.  I sat in an old ranch chair beside the river – a quiet joy.  Another new experience!

We were beginning to make friends.  The Tony Luna family lived across the street from us; their teenage daughter often babysat for our gang of three.  I met a woman artist named Edda Lynne and we became friends. We made plans to go out painting together and would pack up our easels and gear and set up in local fields to paint old ruined houses.   Through our field painting trips I soon came to know places along the Turquoise Trail – Madrid, Cerrillos, Golden.  Enough old buildings and landscape material to last a lifetime!  Edda was quite prolific and soon decided to open a studio gallery across from Three Cities of Spain (now Geronimo’s Restaurant).  She also exhibited a few up and comers like a young Dan Namingha, who would later open his own very successful Niman Fine Art Gallery.  Through Edda I began to get acquainted with the workings of selling art.

I received a Polaroid camera for my birthday – it was magic!  I could take photos and the pictures were ready immediately – back up info for when I got home to paint.  Everything seemed to be falling into place.  If this was my life for the rest of my life, I would be a very happy girl.

I still had a lot to learn…..