Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

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

WORD PAINTINGS #54 – Taos, 1/10/19 – “MORNING WORDS”


Up early.  The sun rose through a bright yellow band of clouds over the mountains towards Pecos.  Joyous!  Worked all day yesterday to prepare the house for some rather serious hours at the easel.  Coming out of the longest period of “creative work block” I can remember in all the years I have been painting.  Starting over.  Have likened this waking up time to a ballerina recovering from a broken toe – muscle memory needs prodding – the first steps are hesitant and slow.

My painting “Two Cows in a Winter Field on Christmas Morning” was completed last spring. Friends Doug, Seamus and I had a wonderful eggs & green chile Christmas breakfast and then took a long drive through the villages north of Taos.  I was hemmed in and couldn’t get out of the car; Seamus took the photo of a large herd of cows in a winter field.  For months I stared at the photo and then isolated these two in a rather abstract composition.  Finally I felt a spurt of inspiration and I began to lay in the paint.  When the painting was completed, I knew that I was capable of moving into a new phase of my work.  Mistakenly consigned the work to Gabe at Chimayo Trading.  Two days later I was back at the gallery asking him to give it back to me. He reluctantly took it off the wall and let me have it. Good Gabe!  It is still hanging in my living room and I am loathe to let it go.  In my life and my work, the road ahead is a mystery.  I believe this painting is a “life arrow” – a signpost.

Laying out a new palette of juicy colors this morning.  So many pieces in front of me half finished.  The little studies from my trip to Truchas.  I need to get acquainted with my brushes again – my motor memory – how they feel in my hand.  Once it begins it is like waking up to life again.  For a long time after John died I really didn’t want to live.  Every day it felt as though I was just clinging to the edge of a cliff.  What changed?  Healing comes in phases.  It doesn’t happen all at once.  The deep grief diminishes – except when it hits when I least expect it.  Yesterday when I was “doing the things in life which must be done” I felt a sense of wholeness.   An old and sorely missed friend.  Order out of chaos – the return of purpose and meaning.

Would love to start out with a large and profound landscape this morning, but like that wounded ballerina, I need to exercise – stretch – take those small baby steps of a brand new beginning.  Setting a goal for myself.  Complete some of those studies and get them to Gabe by the end of February.  One step at a time, one day at a time.  

My friend and helper, Doug Yeager, is coming by on Saturday to photograph two large canvases which I completed last year.  One canvas is 60″x36″ – “Autumn Fields at Ranchitos”.  I want a photo of me standing beside it.  The painting is a meditation of a place near Middle Road.  Whenever life would get too hectic, I would get in my pick-up truck and climb the hill overlooking this little valley.  Silence, calm – a quiet heart.  Small hypnotic brushstrokes….colors of the earth. Meditation – peace.

The frames  for these paintings have been leaning against the wall of the studio for almost six months, the result of my creative brain freeze.  Will varnish the paintings and Doug will help me frame them next week.  Time to fill up the studio again….perhaps my Art Gods still have some surprises in store for me.  Who knows?  What I do know is that one little canvas will often have inside of it a much larger inspiration.  Progress, not perfection!

And more will be revealed….