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President’s Message Blog

2021 PAPNM President

The current PAPNM President is publishing a monthly letter in this blog.

PAPNM Members: please feel free to comment (see comment icon below each post similar to Facebook). Alternatively send a private message by selecting the underlined author’s name in any post or the president's name to the left.

Select underlined title for full message.

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  • 01 Nov 2020 10:08 AM | Natasha Isenhour

    Dear Artist Family and Appreciators,

    I’ll start by apologizing for my neglect in getting a newsletter out for October.  I had so much happening I had to let a few things slip through the cracks.  But it wasn’t that you weren’t on my mind.  You were.  Art was.  Life was.  So many things.  All these lists I am marking through and adding to daily.  The calendar with all its ink leaving a history of events that were moved, cancelled, changed…

    This year has been something of a tornado.  Despite the cancellations, how it is that I’m busier than ever remained a mystery.

    Then, it happened.  I had an opportunity to leave everything on my desk and walk away for a month.  

    So I worked in earnest to set everything up where I wasn’t going to be in trouble upon my return.  Bills lined up and other systems in place to take care of things in my absence.  Much harder than it sounds.  I packed my art gear, a duffle of clothes and my coffee pot and set out on the adventure of a lifetime.  A residency.  A time just for my art, not alllll the myriad of aspects of the career, but just the making of it.  The contemplation of technique and nuance that my scattered days didn’t allow for.  I settled in, and alas, all the ghosts of the complicated career path I willingly stepped into lay heavy and in the forefront of my mind.  It literally took two weeks for the burden to lift and thanks to the lack of internet access, something wasn’t reminding me constantly of the world outside.


    About a week in, I discovered a wealth of emotion I couldn’t put my finger on.  It was coming from everywhere.  Discord in friendships, the workload, the closing of a very important gallery connection of more than a decade, time marching, people leaving the planet, the monsters of hate and bigotry and complete lack of critical thinking looming larger by the minute… There was certainly plenty of reason for tears.  The world outside is enough to drown goodness and gratitude if we allow it.  Instead, for me, I guess all of that difficulty goes in a pile around my heart until a tool to deal with it comes into view.

    Step one, leave.

    Step two, sit in your madness.

    Step three, identify it and own it.

    Step four, breathe light and space into it.

    Step five, see what was under there….


    Beneath all of that, below the artificial façade that allows you to push through, is the stuff, the pain, all of it.  Beneath the stuff is belief that something can happen to ease discomfort and right wrongs.  Beneath the belief is authenticity. There are so many filters and the burdens of life on top of that genuine authenticity, I wondered if I would ever recognize it if I saw it again.

    So I painted some more.  I had a huge wall to tape and pin my paintings to. The painting I did the day after I arrived hung first, followed in sequence with the other 17 paintings I did over that time.  Everything I just told you here was spelled out a day at a time on that wall.  I even resisted the urge to assign a name to them to keep from attaching vocabulary to a feeling. I simply numbered them GR1, GR2...  I began to see my authenticity emerging.  I was no longer painting based on posting on social media, hoping for a good response.  I wasn’t concerned if these paintings were going to be desired by a gallery or painting something I hoped someone would want to add to their collection.  I was doing what I did when I was 5.  I was painting out of shear joy and to simply see where it would lead.  The paintings, to my eye, got better with each passing day and I was painting in a way I had wished for myself when I would sit back and criticize my still wet work, always looking for something illusive to attain a result I couldn’t even describe. 


    I think that’s what I found.  I really think I did.  The gift of time and absence of the rest of the world gave me just enough time to touch into that precious place to know it was still there waiting for me.

    What did I learn?  Well beyond the fact that I saw first hand, that our child nature, our passion based simply on our goodness and tendency toward beauty never leaves.  It lives in us.  We create very complicated lives and mourn the loss of it, but in truth, it never abandons us. 

    I learned that quiet, and unplugging doesn’t have to wait for permission, we simply must seize it and own it, if not for a month, for a waking hour.  I learned that I had no idea at all how burdened with obligation I had allowed myself to become.  I didn’t understand that I had designed the very thing that was holding back my ability to be my authentic self, simply because I lost touch of even what that meant.

    Why am I sharing all this?  I thought a number of times over that month, that if I could make it possible for all my artist friends as well as others, to hit pause long enough to touch in that deeply, it would be the most blessed Christmas there ever was.  Short of that, perhaps sharing just the surface of this experience would have some of you contemplating your own well meaning, well constructed lives and check in to see how your authentic self was doing.

    Identify what matters, make sure those things are secure, then go check on your heart…

    Blessings and love,

    Natasha Isenhour

    Your humble President.

  • 02 Sep 2020 8:48 AM | Natasha Isenhour

    Fellow Artists, Patrons and Appreciators,

    Well I’ll tell you, with this little hint of Fall in the air, I’m realizing just how quickly this year has gone by, simultaneously feeling it’s been forever since normalcy.  I really do work each day, to stay focused on the things I can do, instead of allowing myself to be consumed by the things I have no control over.

    I find myself entering more shows now than in past years.  We are inundated by opportunities to enter shows online.  So many now are more tempting than ever because there is no shipping involved.  That’s BIG.   We get to put the money into the entry instead of the logistics and costs of packing it up and shipping it off.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    I don’t know how most artists take care of their inventory.  Pen and paper have always been my friend.  I have one book that I log every painting in as I finish and sign it.  Month, year, name of painting, size and medium.  Another book has all my dates and payments for memberships and entries, and another corresponding page for sales listed by gallery or event for that year.  

    I’m beginning to see a problem emerge… Even though I have always been careful not to overbook myself in events and shows where my body or my work have to be in attendance, there is a new issue with this paradigm shift.  The  commitment to these online shows, although most of the scenarios have been in existence, are now getting more complicated with all the shows knocking on our email inboxes. I began thinking about this when it became abundantly clear that people are posting some of their best work (including myself) multiple times for multiple shows on Facebook. I seem to see it more now than ever.  

    The Temptation and the Trap

    All work must be for sale.

    NFS is acceptable. 

    All sales will be a $/$ split. 

    Artist will be responsible for all sales, no commission!

    The Complication

    This show has been cancelled.

    This show has been rescheduled.

    This show has now gone online only.

    The show dates have been extended!

    My little folksy system that has worked brilliantly for years is now taking a beating!  Things marked out, really good paintings that I’ve decided I can enter into a couple of places getting rerouted into a longer or rescheduled show, all manner of confusion.  I cannot possibly be the only one that has a moment of panic when there is an inquiry and that painting is in some online show somewhere.  I go back to see what its in, and I don’t know without looking back at the prospectus (if I can even find it), or maybe at my scribbled notes to see if the sale is committed to the online show its in or not. 

    What I’m trying to call attention to is the fact that with more venues forced to go online, they are working more and more on how to keep the show a cash cow even though it won’t hang on their gallery wall.  It’s only fair that they get a cut of course!  Galleries work hard for their cut of the sales.  But it seems to me, the way these venues are working their shows are as individual as the venues themselves.  In some cases, a great deal of the work has been reduced for the gallery, and a lot of the responsibility that the gallery has assumed in the past is now on the artist.

    Be CLEAR on what you are agreeing to!

    Do NOT assume a venue isn’t likely to sell the piece and double book it into another show!

    KNOW who is responsible for shipping costs if it does sell!

    BE RESPONSIBLE for keeping great records of where work is and what its committed to.

    Most shows will put you on a two year black out if the work you enter is accepted but for whatever reason, you don’t get it to the show.  Think about how much more complicated this is if the work never leaves your studio.  We enter shows sometimes 3-4 months before the commitment date.  With so many tempting shows coming your way, are YOU setting aside the work you enter?  Are you clear on your responsibility if it gets in?  

    Rethink your inventory system.  Is it working well for you?  Are you just wading in to this wonderful world of committing your art to shows and galleries?  If you are, take it from me, adopt a great provenance practice right out of the gate! My early inventory is stuck on an ancient Macintosh tower in an old program that isn’t supported by any computer.  It’s gibberish and forever lost now.  That’s when I turned to pen and paper.  I thought I was so wise at the time lol!  Even if I do move to software for my inventory, I imagine there will be this little life raft of notebooks to be found upon my demise.

    Old dogs, new tricks…

    Speaking of old dogs and new tricks!!  It’s TIME NOW to talk to me about your new volunteer role with the board for 2021!  I’ve learned so much with my time here on the PAPNM board.  Several of the board members are at the end of their term limit and can’t continue to serve in their positions.  Do you have ideas for how to grow our organization or to make things better?  Consider serving on the board and have your chance to help it evolve with your fresh ideas to lend.  You don’t have to be a professional artist to be a dynamite addition.  AND, with all the tools in place now, you can serve from anywhere!  I live two hours away from Santa Fe and have been able to conduct the vast majority of my duties from my studio!  We need you.  Contact me!!  

    Paint ON!!!

    Natasha Isenhour

    President, PAPNM

  • 05 Jul 2020 10:26 AM | Natasha Isenhour

    Summer Greetings Everyone!

    It’s been quite the busy few weeks in my world.  Cancellations abound, and still other plans being formulated. I made a decision early on into this pandemic, that I was going to keep my mind clear of the easy trap.  I wanted to steer clear for many reasons. One of those reasons was that it will be very hard to shake loose of that trap when the world evolves away from this current paradigm.  What trap am I talking about?  It is to stop my energy flow and sit in sadness.

    Energy.  It’s 100 degrees here nearly every day lately, with the foreseeable forecast repeating itself.  The sun, creating an over abundance of energy, saps mine.  That energy is overwhelming so I stay indoors.  The news cycle, creating an over abundance of energy, saps mine.  So I turn it off.  Think of your energy as money.  If your money is being grabbed by a stranger out of your pocket, get away from the stranger!  Your energy is YOURS to spend.  Spend it wisely.

    Energy.  I have read, over and over about artists that “can’t” create now “because” of COVID.  Artists who “feel guilty” creating while the world is in turmoil.  Remember that easy trap I was talking about?  That to me feels like turning my pockets inside out for the stranger.  Don’t get me wrong!  What we do is so satisfying and feels more like hedonistic play than work!  I can see where the easy trap can getcha’!  So let me explain…

    Our work takes energy, and a lot of it.  The point I think that we too often miss, is that our spent energy is going into an Energy Bank.  Think of hydroelectric power or wind power.  Energy to construct dams and turbines and maintain them.  All so they can give back more energy than the expended energy to build them.

    Art as Energy 101.  Art for the artist serves two very important Energy Banks.  The most obvious of course is the financial one.  I paint a painting and sell it lets say, I’m asking you to really consider this…

    I have used my money energy to buy frames and art materials, that energy exchange has funded manufacturers, truckers, suppliers and distributors. It has supplied money energy to advertisers, landlords and web designers in its wake from conception to my hands to do something with it.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Now, when that money energy from the sale hits my palm, I can pay my utilities, put food on the table and stay off the system with good grace.  That’s me holding up my end of keeping the wheels greased.

    Art as Energy Advanced.  What I do is more than the exchange of money for work, which is a lot in itself when you look at it!  The other Energy Bank I contribute to is, at the very least, of equal importance.  I would argue greater, particularly in these times when people feel trapped and in many cases ARE trapped in their circumstance.  Our work can be a life raft.   The number of people affected by just one painting we paint, even if it never sells, is countless.  That one moment of time that they see it in a gallery, scroll to it on social media, or see it on our website that they are touched by it.  For some of those affected its like a gulp of cool air on a hot day, tension paused however briefly, elevated from being sick or caring for a loved one even just for a second.  That, my friends, is the gift of the Energy Bank we make a deposit to every time we share what we do.  WE then, are feeding THEIR Energy Bank.

    It isn’t selfish to do what we love.  It might just be the most giving thing we have to offer in a time when ugly and hurt consumes us all around.  I, for one, cannot think of a better time to be an artist.  A creator of something that could hold promise, healing, comfort or even an escape to someone else I may never meet.

    The lesson here?

    You get to decide how and where to spend your energy more often than not.  We make so many choices that aren’t good for us, (like buying a carton of ice cream…again) why not OWN your Energy.  Why not make a decision to spend your Energy where it has the most benefit, rather than allowing a stranger to pick it out of your pocket and watching him do it?

    The challenge?

    Come to terms with your “Why” of making art, and understand the great affect it has on others around you, near and far.  Be determined not to take your gift for granted.

    Peace Out Folks,

    Make it a great day!!

    Natasha Isenhour

    President, PAPNM

  • 01 Jun 2020 9:41 AM | Natasha Isenhour

    June Greetings Artists and Appreciators,

    What’s on my mind?  To be able to hear my thoughts would be a bit like watching the crawl at the bottom of the screen on a news channel.  Sound bites.  Bits of things that don’t relate to each other rapid firing through my consciousness.  Some that make my heart race momentarily, some anxious, some angry… I try to exercise my teachings from meditation practice.  I allow the thought, then I let it go.  Frankly, without this tool, I’m not sure what kind of state I would be in given the world around us.

    Since I last wrote, I drove to North Carolina to help my mom settle into a new home.  Drove out amidst the varying degrees of fear from state to state, arriving, then hunkering down and stretching my energy and physical ability to its max for six days then drove back.  I utilized all my knowledge of how to be patient and respectful, while steeling myself for how things might be since I was last face to face with my family.  What I realized quickly is that love always pours freely regardless, of course.  But the biggest lesson is that outside of the news cycle, everyone has a story, and its not the same as mine.  Everyone has their own fears, and in these times, those fears are amplified as we spend more time with ourselves and less time distracted with our outside activities.  Fear is debilitating.  

    Painting is light.  Light is both the goal of the artist, and the affect the work has on others.

    I am in the middle of jurying a 76 year old exhibition.  As I begin selecting and weeding out, the use and portrayal of light is often my very first impression, right up there with the composition itself.  We really do chase the light.  We seek it to paint it, and appreciators are affected by it and drawn to it.  

    Light, I would argue, is the opposite of, and the enemy of fear. 

    I know when that crawl of noise is parading through my head, the minute I give myself to a blank canvas, my own fears and anxieties disappear.  Art is my therapist and my medicine for so much.  

    But here is the best part… Art IS light.  Our job is incredibly important. It isn’t selfish to let go of the troubles of the world and dig in to a new painting.  Because once its finished, it gets shared, to family, friends, on facebook, and maybe becomes a light that lives on in someone’s home for the remainder of their lives.  That my friends, is the thing that has kept me non-stop throughout these past few months.  Knowing that it brings something positive to other people.  That is what I can do.  

    When I packed to visit NC, I packed a favorite painting I had done as a gift to my mom to enjoy in her new space.  I also took a painting I did with airplanes on a tarmac in an Asheville sunrise for my Uncle and his wife that are so instrumental in making the move possible.  They are both in the airline industry.  Relocating is very difficult for all involved. But I can tell you, those two gifts of art, stopped the chaos cold.  It moved all the anxieties and fears aside for a time, making room for joy and delight and smiles.  Art is a mediator.  It transcends things that seemingly are so much bigger than that little expression.

    Can you imagine, if all the creatives in the world would apply themselves dutifully to their talent right now?  Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I would like to think it may just have the power to keep us from tipping over, or at least to soothe and bring back Beauty and Love if we do.

    Be the Light…

    Natasha Isenhour


    PS The Taos Plein Air, Fechin and Blumenschein Online Shows Applications are open now!

    Share your LIGHT!!!

  • 01 May 2020 1:27 PM | Natasha Isenhour

    Dear Artists, Art Supporters and Friends of the Arts,

    Maybe I’ll acquire some haters for this, but perhaps there are more like me out there than I think.  I’m just going to say it…I do not subscribe to anything 100%.  There you go.  We are being assaulted with the all or nothing mindset.  Electronics are run through binary code and unfortunately, humanity is being coerced into thinking in terms of 1’s and 0’s.  

    I will not comply!

    Now, to clear up the ragged edges,  yes I’m wearing a mask, curbing my “need” to socialize in person and keeping 6 feet between myself and others in the market.  Also, I don’t touch hot stoves, dance naked in the road, eat delicious looking pastel sticks, or any other of the myriad things that require common sense.  Politics, blue or red, neither if no one is espousing care, good morals and ethics or reason. There is a shortage of critical thinking and respect.  I cannot fix the system but I CAN make sure it doesn’t swallow me and turn me into what I loath.

    What the heck does this have to do with art you say?  Everything! 

    As a professional artist, meaning I make my living off my art, I have come to many crossroads in my decision-making that guided my career.  (Picture my eye roll) Everything from what people will or will not buy, what colors belong together or not, whether to place a subject smack dab in the middle of my painting or not, the right way to frame or not, pastel vs oil, portfolio vs carrying work in hand to approach a gallery, to sell on my website or not…DON”T do THAT, you MUST do THIS….HELP!!

    I am here to liberate you.

    The rules are merely suggestions.  Photo reference is merely a suggestion.  How a teacher guides you to their way of doing things in a workshop is merely a suggestion.  This is where critical thinking makes or breaks an artist.  At some point you have to ask, what works for ME?  Maybe you are a crabby introvert or a nervous neurotic seeking gallery representation.  Might I “suggest” a portfolio?  “ I don’t know what that thing is in my reference, but I’m putting it in there because, well…its there.”  Might I “suggest” a little common sense editing?  “A gold frame tamps down the power of my light source in my painting but I’m going to frame it in gold anyway because it’s the trend.”  Might I “suggest” honoring the painting with what it needs to make it look its best?

    You know, I once heard a prestigious judge kick out a beautiful landscape painting that they otherwise would have given a ribbon to, because according to them, a specific type of yellow that the artist used “wasn’t found in nature.”  Not that I’m not already sort of a natural born rule breaker, but when it came to art, that was a flat out paradigm shifter.  First and foremost, I realized that even the most supposedly knowledgeable art expert can be blinded to genius by some rule they have subscribed to.  My second big takeaway was that if I was going to break some kind of rule-of-proper-painting-etiquette, I wasn’t going to be shy about it.  I was going to do it big, out loud and unashamed!  It was after that I began to notice some of what people loved so much about my art were actually elements where I challenged the rules.

    Back to critical thinking.  What works for you, you know, the comprehensive list that has gotten you to where you are, is it working for you?  Take a look at your assumptions, the methods you hold onto with white knuckles, are they working for you?  Have you been chasing someone else’s rules so long you are horrified to pull the emergency brake and get off the bus?

    Take a little time as you approach your next painting.  Ask yourself why you are painting it.  What excites you about the scene.  Then when you begin to make a mark, whose voice do you hear?  A teacher whose work you admire, or do you even remember?  How is it valid to your work, or is it time to abandon it to see what the artist you are can do without that particular net?  Rules are meant to be challenged to ensure that they are valid to YOUR goal and vision.  

    I remarked to my semi private class the other day.  What if Monet and Van Gogh decided to go to the Bosque del Apache and do some plein air painting together.  What if there was one rule by which to paint trees?  What do you suppose those paintings would look like?  Think about it…

    As you gear up to venture out into the world as restrictions lift, think of your process as a new chapter.  Not that you want to change a lot about your approach, but more than that, decide if you “own” the ideas you subscribe to.  If you do, use them with power!  If your not clear on why you are doing something in particular, explore the alternative.  It could lead you to your Renaissance.

    Happy and safe painting everyone,

    Natasha Isenhour

  • 30 Mar 2020 1:53 PM | Natasha Isenhour

    Greetings fellow Artists and Appreciators,

    Like most of you, I’m finding the time to tackle my computer projects a bit more accessible with so many things having been cancelled or postponed.  As all this began to swallow our normalcy, so many of us were in the midst of events, trips, spring break and such.  We all started to have to scramble to keep the train on the tracks until we could get to the other side of whatever we were in the middle of.  For a number of plein air painters from all over the country and our own John Meister, the Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta was one such challenge.  

    After a beautifully planned kickoff that John had organized with a team of trusty volunteers, everyone was eager to hit the hills and town with their paints and the promise of beautiful paintings to come.  As I sat talking to so many of the participants, their joy of being in Santa Fe was was as evident as the smiles on their faces.  After that, the news, day by day, was becoming concerning.  By the time the scheduled Celebration Dinner came around, there was even talk that we may not be able to honor our reservation at the restaurant.  But indeed we were able to.  Everyone was given a wipe for their spot at the table and their chair, and the restaurant spread us out a bit so we would not be quite so confined.  As the hours (literally) passed, John was consulting with the Sorrel Sky Gallery and myself on how we were going to be able to handle awards and the reception.  The choice was made by the gallery to have a closed reception, because by then, the number of people allowed under roof had been limited.  Hour by hour, some of the participants had to make the hard decision to go home because of health reasons or out of fear they would be unable to fly back home.  Some even cancelled flights and rented a car instead to return home.  By the time the awards were to be given out, the restrictions had gone from 100 to 50 allowed in an establishment.  All that happened in a matter of days, then hours, then minutes.

    The story here is that everyone remained flexible.  Everyone communicated and came together to discuss how best to handle the situation that was changing minute to minute by the end.  The result was an extraordinarily beautiful show, with happy artists so grateful to be a part of the event even in the subsequent difficulties that dampened the prized opening night.

    I can tell you that, as an artist who has the privilege of leading this amazing organization, as well as others in the past, I have never been so proud of a volunteer as I am of John Meister.  This man’s leadership was second to none in this unprecedented situation.  His cool headed responses to the rapidly changing social dictates by the governor had everyone feeling secure and comfortable with their own personal decisions to stay or to go.  The show went on and the gallery was beyond happy with the event and working with John despite what was happening.

    This organization owes a big debt of gratitude to John Meister.  His leadership of this event shines bright on him, but is also an indicator of the integrity of Plein Air Painters of New Mexico.  It should remind everyone reading this that we all play a part in the public perception of PAPNM.  Whether it’s the honors we garner, the volunteerism we sign up for, down to simply our kindness to the people around us and respect to the land we visit to paint, it all factors in.  John has been integral in the movement of PAPNM for a number of years and I hope everyone will take a moment to drop him an email, or to remember to thank him when our lives get us back out doing what we love.  I, for one, am one grateful President….

    As we move forward into what has been said will be “the worst of the situation” lets all be kind, flexible, and understanding as PAPNM’s calendar, like so many others, may have to also undergo some shifts and changes.  Now is the time to come together.  What that means to me is, to watch the site and your email.  Participate in the regular PAPNM online contests.  Donna Barnhill championed our latest Cure the Quarantine Blues popup contest, check it out!  There are a few days left!  Go out and paint where you can, even if its your back yard and post your paintings on the PAPNM facebook page or tag PAPNM on their new Instagram page.  Connect with your painting buddies, check on one another.  We can get closer and even grow in times of distance.  

    I’m wishing everyone a healthy, happy day…

    Most Humbly,

    Natasha Isenhour

    President, PAPNM

  • 02 Mar 2020 8:35 AM | Natasha Isenhour

    Happy March Artists and Friends!

    As I begin writing at 6 AM this morning, I’m aware of the glow from outside reminding me that the days are getting longer.  More time it seems, to get the myriad things done that need my attention and more temptation to grab my painting “go-bag” and run off to chase the light somewhere. Spring is close…

    I always have music playing in the studio.  The last few weeks I’ve spent a good deal of time on the road so I’ve taken to listening to Podcasts while I’m driving.  I listen both to Eric Rhoads and Savvy Painter with Antrese Wood.    “Digging Deep” is a Robert Plant Podcast that I love also, creativity at its finest as well…I digress…. I really enjoy listening to the endless range of artists speaking about their experiences, their path to where they are now, their hard and fast rules, or not, and their opinions and observations based on their years of being professional artists.

    If you are like me, you seldom really realize just how much experience you have.  I remember listening to professional artists talk about these subjects 20 years ago thinking, man, they must all have art degrees, I’ll never live long enough to learn all this stuff!  Ozmosis is the gradual assimilation of knowledge and ideas, so when it comes to mapping our progress, we can’t put a measuring tape on what we have learned, nor are we able to identify where we learned all the infinite bits and pieces that it takes to do what we do.  Painting is like learning to speak.  No one source taught you every word in your vocabulary.  Your parents got you started, school taught you more, social interaction inserted new words into the system (some not favored by your first teacher).  But you were reading on your own, writing things, finding your voice within the parameters of sentence structure.  Ozmosis.

    All this “listening” I’ve been doing has given me time to reflect on where my artistic life began, somewhere in kindergarten, through to when I decided to realize my dream of making living my life as the artist I was 23 years ago, to now.  I listen to the words from these seasoned artists and I understand them now. Some things I agree with, others, I know clearly don’t work for me and still others are ideas I put in my mental toolbox to experiment with.  What I’m learning by listening is how much knowledge I have now versus when I had that idealized notion of what living my life as an artist would be, and how much more there is to learn.

    The point to all this?  Absolutely there is no better teacher than grabbing your go-bag and getting your hands dirty in the field painting.  But don’t discount how invaluable camaraderie with your artist friends is, how much you learn from listening to others, watching demonstrations and reading about your heroes.  The things you disagree with are great for forcing you to understand within yourself why your way is better.  You learn that the path we take is as unique and the marks we make, yet commonality abounds.  

    50 artists juried in from all over the US will be descending on Santa Fe Friday as John Meister launches the kickoff to the 2020 Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta.  Although I didn’t enter this year, I made arrangements to be at the event for the entirety.  I want to be in the company of my peers and absorb that creative energy that they will be bringing.  Join me in painting the area this week for fun.  Respectfully observe these wonderful artists as they capture the spirit of our home state.  Learn stuff.  Create stuff.  Take advantage of the opportunity to fill your mental toolbox!  Opening and awards at Sorrel Sky Gallery March 13th.

    Happy Painting!!

    Natasha Isenhour; President, PAPNM

  • 02 Feb 2020 8:29 PM | Natasha Isenhour

    Dear Painters, Patrons and Art Appreciators,

    First I want to thank all you Master and Signature members that made the arrangements, the trek or that shipped artwork to our Winter Invitational at the Taos Museum of Art and historic Fechin Studio.  I drove up from Socorro to do intake and got to be first on hand to view the work.  The very best part of committing to do intake was the pleasure of spending time talking to the artists bringing in their work.  We shared Plein Air stories of critters and insane weather as well as how to turn your car into a studio when your easel is left 400 miles away, and you HAVE to paint!  I hope everyone will try to make the opening, Saturday, February 8th from 2-4!

    Another thing on my mind this week is technology as I lay to rest a 10 year old Mac for a sleek new MacBook Pro.  Did I want to upgrade?  Short answer, no.  But the need to be able to resize images, name files and the like forced my hand.  But it occurred to me as I was finally able to download Photoshop 2020, that simply having that tool, would have saved me many afternoons and countless hours of frustration trying to prepare a mere handful of images on my 2004 version. That program was a sinking ship that I refused to leave a couple of years ago as it began taking on water.  But to do that, meant I had to buy a brand new computer because the old one simply would no longer support these bigger and more elaborate programs.  Innovations and progress…

    I got to thinking about how hard we try to stick to our guns, stay in that safe place, try to outsmart the system and build hacks to work around the inevitable.  It reminds me of a place in the rural country here, where a tiny adobe got too small, so a worn out RV was attached by a breezeway connecting the two.  Soon there was a room built of 2x4’s and pro panel added to the front of the little adobe.  You get the picture.  All the time and effort and money here and there, maybe a do over would have been the answer long ago so save the frustration and heartache.

    Our world, where our artwork is concerned, is a reflection of technology, life and hardheadedness. We keep doing the same things and wonder why we are stuck.  To often, we fail to elevate our art.  We save money buying student grade materials and get our frames from the cheapest source or buy inconsistent frame styles just for the sake of getting them into a frame. I can tell you, in no uncertain terms, people read your opinion of your own work loud and clear when they see how you treat it.  We think, well, why should I spend all this money on frames!  People should just look at the art and if they like it, buy it and reframe it themselves!  Not my problem!

    I recently held a workshop and we talked about these very things.  I emphasized that even when participating in a plein air event, how you dress up your work to go to the party DOES matter.  It matters to many judges that the framing compliments the work whether we agree with that or not.  And if there is an opening, your work is judged by the public with their eyes.  An immediate gravitation toward the painting or away is a result of the overall effect of the package the painting is in.  A lot of folks simply cannot or do not separate the two because the framed work is one overarching statement.

    So, as you get more experience at events, you need to start thinking about stepping up your game if you expect to move forward.  Maybe you say, my work is better than ever, why aren’t people buying, or noticing it?  It’s easy to blame the event, the economy etc.  But if your presentation still echoes of your first show, you may want to look at how your have honored your improvement.  The same is true with trying to save a dollar here and there by buying the cheaper brushes or paint.  Better bones really do build better paintings.  

    I hope everyone has a great February, and that you will be thinking of ways to step up your game no matter what station in your career you are.  We work hard to bring beauty into the world and prepare it to share.  Be sure it is presented in its best light.  And remember, every painting that we deem good enough to put out into the arena, represents YOU.  So before it goes out there, ask yourself, am I proud to have this painting speak for me?  Because like it or not, it does.  Let go of a couple of old ideas, and make room for the new.  Now off the soapbox, and to the easel!

    Happy Painting,

    Natasha Isenhour

    President, PAPNM

  • 07 Jan 2020 8:39 AM | Karen Halbert (Administrator)

    President's Message -  Jan 1, 2020

    Dear PAPNM Family and Friends,

    Happy New Year everyone!  I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking of what I wanted to say in this inaugural address of the membership.  It’s a first impression for some of you, and others will hear the familiar sound of my voice as you read on. I hope you will take a minute to read it as I think it is important to be a part of new beginnings and shifts in paradigms.  It’s that golden moment to get a sense of excitement of the new, find comfort in the tried and true, and to see where we all fit in among the pieces of the puzzle.

    For all the obvious reasons, the idea of 2020 is most expressed in terms of vision.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve felt so empowered in my own career to take a new look and freshen my vision of what this new year has in store.  Just like standing outside, pochade box being the only thing between you and what you intend to paint.  It’s at that moment that editing becomes your most important ally.  What is most important, what is simply noise and isn’t helpful in terms of conveying your idea and sense of place?  How do we do that in our lives?  Exactly the same way.  

    I could look at 2020 as a summit that looks impossibly intimidating and feeling the obstacles are just too great, or, I can look at 2020 as a journey to be traveled.  Instead of a view far too detailed to possibly get down before the light is gone, I get to edit.  I get to say, “squint down and simplify Natasha.”  I get to ask myself, what is most important and how can I do what is most important to the very best of my ability instead of putting in everything and maybe being lucky enough to be adequate?

    I am a painter first.  Volunteering, then having the honor of being elected President of PAPNM is now another big shape in my career that is deserving of my very best I have to give.  It is part of my “big picture” and the experience of it will be an enhancement not only to my career, but my life.  Thank you for this amazing privilege. 

    We have an incredible Board for 2020 who are excited to work for YOU.  We are stepping in and cycling through, hopefully making PAPNM an organization we can all continue to be proud of.  We are all painters, we are all dues paying members, and we all have the same things to gain or lose by our participation.  This fantastic organization is only as healthy and strong as the volunteers that step up to help and participate.

    Here is where YOU come in!  First, you have a few days left to apply to SFPAF, the Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta!  I persuaded John Meister mid year last year to give us one more big gift of leading the SFPAF in 2020.  It’s going to be held a bit earlier this year in order to secure Sorrel Sky as our venue!  We are incredibly fortunate to hold our show there once again.  And if you want to give of a little time, please sign up to volunteer for a role in this event or any other.  Part of my goal for 2020 is to have the volunteer slots be a manageable load and time frame.  More volunteers with less work load so there are many things you can help with even if you are participating in the event!  A win-win!

    Let 2020 be YOUR year of vision. See how participation and volunteerism can make your art and your heart grow!  Be a part of the greater good in this amazing, Nationally recognized organization that you love enough to pay your dues to each year.

    I am always happy to hear from you.  You can always email me at Please know your email is always read, and it make take a bit to get back to you, but rest assured I will do my best to answer you, or to put you in touch with someone who can better field your question.  And if any of you are interested in volunteering on the Board in some capacity now or in the future, I am happy to know that too!  Hit the ground running and let 2020 be YOUR year of vision!


    Natasha Isenhour, President PAPNM

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