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President’s Message Blog

2024 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.

  • 28 Feb 2021 7:00 PM | Phyllis Gunderson (Administrator)

    Good morning members, sponsors and benefactors of PAPNM.  I hope this note finds you and yours healthy, happy and painting our beautiful American landscape. With the weather changing, I would hope to see more of us getting out to capture the beauty that is uniquely ours.  Of course we will follow the guidance from the New Mexico Department of Health guideline as we do in all of our events.  

    I would like to update you on just a few of the things your energetic Board and other volunteers are working on your behalf.  If you would like to join us in working our activities, drop me or one of the board members an email. 

    We have three events in the works for 2021.  If you would like to add your wonderful talent and energy, please contact your Events Director, Beth Ming Cooper  (

    • Jemez Non-Juried Members Paint Out and Show hosted by Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17346 Hwy. 4, Jemez Springs, NM from April 24 - May 7, 2021.  Our event co-leaders Wendy Alhm and Susan Nichols have arranged a wonderful paint out and event.  In addition there will be a workshop put on by our very own and talented Signature member,  Tobi Clement. Check out the details on the website "Hot Springs, Cool Town" Non-Juried Paint Out and Show in Jemez Springs.  There are still spaces left.  It promises to be a wonderful event.
    • Taos Plein Air "Painting the Enchanted Circle" Juried Members Paint Out and Show.  The opening is September 25, 2021 at the Wilder Nightingale Fine Art Gallery in Taos New Mexico.  Call for entry should be in June. Save the Date: Taos Plein Air "Painting the Enchanted Circle" Juried Paint Out and Show  Our chairs for this event are Beth Cooper, Beth May, Suzanne Schleck, Susan Brown and Dick Wimberly.  Watch this space!
    • 13th National Juried Members Exhibition at the Sorrel Sky Gallery in Santa Fe with an opening on October 29, 2021.  Save the Date: 13th National Juried Members Exhibition Call for entry should be in June. The chairs are Carole Belliveau, Lee MacLeod, Kat Hansen  and Beth Cooper.

    We have started up PAPNM sponsored Paint Outs.  Contact Beth Cooper if you want to host one in your area.  Remember that our planning and registration is in accordance with current NM state health department regulations.

    A reminder to register for our Winter Wonderland Online Contest 2021 Winter Wonderland Contest . Entry closes on March 10, 2021.  Get your beautiful work uploaded.

    Our Communications Director, Stephanie West has a wonderful advertising plan in place.  We will be focusing our advertising dollars on Plein Air Magazine, Western Art Collector, Southwest Art, New Mexico Magazine and Taos News.

    Vice President Carole Belliveau in partnership with Membership Director Jane Frederick have sent out welcome notes to our new members.  If you see our new members out and about on the byways, say hello.  A warm welcome to new members: Bryant Bullard, Charles Coutret, Sally Delap-John, Jan Marie DeLipsey, Gwen Ethelbah, Sandra Heller, Doug Hemler, Cynthia Inson, Leah Jeffcoat, Julie Kennelly, Tina Little, Ellen Marshall, Teri Smith, Kevin Weckbach!

    New offerings…

    • Paint Out Stories Paint Out Stories. Our team has started to collect and publish stories from our members.  There are a couple posted.  Check them out.  Get involved and add your story and perspective.
    • Coming soon is the Plein Air Cafe - casual chat for members.  This new and innovative activity is the brain child of Beth Cooper will be the 2nd Wednesday of each month on a Zoom call.  Watch the website for the premier. 
    • Stephanie West and Wendy Ahlm will be sharing information about PAPNM and the Jemez Paint Out and Show on KRQE TV's New Mexico Living show. The segment will air the first week in March. 
    • We now have the ability to accept cash donations online in addition to those that are associated with a show.  You can direct potential donors to our page  ( to make a non-tax deductible gift to the organization.  We will use those donations in accordance with regulations governing our 501c(6) status to support on events, publicizing the organization and the furtherance of the practice of Plein Air painting.
    • Jane Frederick has put a membership card on each of your profiles for you to print out.
    • New How To Video links are now being posted on the website.  This will be a valuable resource for not only our newer painters, but also our veterans to see how different setups work in the field.  Check out and subscribe to our You Tube channel: 
    • Interested in Plein Air Live?  Sign up from our home page 

    Again, wishing you health and creativity as you go forth to interpret the beauty of New Mexico and other state landscapes as Plein Air painters.

    Best Regards, 

    Phyllis Gunderson, President

    Plein Air Painters of New Mexico

  • 19 Jan 2021 2:59 PM | Phyllis Gunderson (Administrator)

    First off, I hope this note finds you and those you hold dear healthy and happy.  As we start the new year, I am reminded of all the things for which we can be grateful.  With that perspective, I would like to start my first PAPNM President’s message to you.

    • Grateful for the beautiful New Mexico landscape:  I think sometimes the hardest part of painting in New Mexico is deciding where and what to capture on canvas.
    • Grateful for the tremendous talent and diversity in the organization:  Quite simply, I am in awe of the talent and accomplishments of this group.  We can all learn so much from each other.
    • Grateful for the flexibility of this organization:  Last year had not just a few challanges brought on by the health crisis.  We met them and grew from the experience.
    • Grateful for those intrepid painters who have stepped up to be on the Board of Directors this year.  We have large shoes to fill from the last Board. We had our first meeting last week.  What a group!  To reintroduce them to you: 
      • Vice President, Carole Belliveau
      • Treasurer, Ginny Bracht
      • Secretary, Wendy Ahlm
      • Membership Director, Jane Frederick
      • Events Director, Eilizabeth (Beth) Ming Cooper
      • Communications Director, Stephanie West
      • Historian, Anita West
      • Past President, Natasha Isenhour

    At the first meeting and accomplished a few important items:  re-look and confirmation of our individual and group roles and responsibilities, setting our direction for the year, creating a preliminary budget and and a review of 2021 planned events.   I am so very pleased with the energy and vibe of this group! I'm confident you will be as well.

    Our focus areas for the year:

    • Increase membership numbers and participation
    • Increase transparency and build enduring relationships with our members
    • Increase sales opportunities and resources for our members
    • As these goals are admittedly high level, they will give us a framework to work through ideas we have for our organization.  If you have ideas, we would love to hear them and work with you to bring them to life.  Reach out to me or any board member so that we can have a conversation. The list of specific ideas from the board is a pretty long one.  This is what we are working on now.
      • We have three confirmed events for the year. Beth and her team haveus set up well for preferable in person or virtual events as current conditions warrant.  If we have learned anything from the last year, we need to stay flexible.
        • Jemez Springs - “Hot Springs, Cool Town”. This will be a non juried show led by Wendy Ahlm and Susan Nichols in close coordination with Susan Vigil and the Jemez Fine Art Gallery.  The opening is April 24.
        • Taos - Taos Plein Air - “Painting the Enchanted Circle”. This will be a juried show led by Beth Cooper, Beth May and Dick Wimberly in close coordination with Wilder Nightingale Fine Art Gallery.  The opening is September 25.
        • 13th National Juried Members Exhibition and Show.   This is our premier event for the year.  It will be a juried show led by Carole Belliveau and Beth Cooper in close coordination with Sorrel Sky Fine Art Gallery in Santa Fe. The opening is October 29.
      • The team is researching setting up a PAPNM ‘store’ for branded items such as aprons, tees and the like.  We believe that we will team with an organization like Zazzle to carry the merchandise.  Watch this space!
      • Another activity we are working is better engaging new members.  I think we can all remember when we joined the organization and how it felt to be new.  Carol Belliveau and Jane Frederick are collaborating here.
      • Setting up a virtual coffee hour so that we can share tips and tricks with everyone.  Beth Cooper, Dick Wimberly and others are working to bring this to life. This should be a lot of fun.
      • Hosted paintouts and a repository of places to paint in New Mexico. This initiative will be led by Beth Cooper and most of the board.

    So, in an effort to keep this relatively short, suffice to say you have a very energetic board who is focused on you, the members.  We appreciate the accomplishments of the past and plan on building on that to make PAPNM an even better organization.  

    I hope to hear from you!

    Best Regards,

    Phyllis Gunderson, President

    Plein Air Painters of New Mexico

  • 30 Dec 2020 7:40 AM | Natasha Isenhour

    Dear Plein Air Painters of New Mexico Artists and Appreciators,

    My monkey mind, a gift and a curse…

    As we sit on the cusp of a waning 2020 the old adage of wiping the slate clean comes to mind.  A new year and a new clean slate.  The thought of getting the erasers out and eliminating the marked out, marked over, changed and forgotten ambitions of the year.  That’s a lot of cleaning, a real chore, a dusty mess…

    Then I thought of a show I just finished watching, The Queens Gambit.  I thought about Beth Harmon, the lead character and the sequence of events, completely out of her purview, that led her to being placed into an orphanage as a young child.  Then, how a chore, cleaning erasers in the basement of the nunnery, led her to her life’s calling of playing chess.  

    I’m reminded of the lesson here.  Of all the difficulties 2020 has presented, I have watched folks deal with the chaos and unknowing, the solitude, inconvenience, sadness, boredom (the list is endless) in so many dichotomous ways.  What instills my hope in humanity are the ones that chose to rise.  People that developed flexibility, forged new trails, or simply set out to conquer something in their life.  

    Nietzsche said, “one must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.”  Difficulty boils our own internal chaos to the top.  It can manifest into destruction or beauty.

    I’m so proud of PAPNM and how you guys, artists, the board and everyone, have kept the candle of creativity lit.  From our first  board meeting in January full of amazing intentions to organize paintouts, mentorship programs and shows, to suddenly becoming an online organization and doing our best to bring as much as we could to you within the the parameters set outside of our purview as an organization.

    Although I would have taken the beginning aspirations and plans formed in January over the eventual history of the past 364 days, we have moved forward as an organization.  For that, I am incredibly proud.

    One of the most gratifying parts of my interpretation of my job as President, has been to write to you.  So many of you have written lovely responses to me at how I tapped in to something you were feeling, experiencing, something helpful or hopeful.  It has been a privilege to do that.  That was part of creating a dancing star from the chaos for me.  I have enjoyed it so much in fact, that I plan to begin my blog on my website again.  My writing fuels my painting among other things and this year has taught me to seek fuel in equal parts to the fuel I spend.  

    I want to thank each and every one of you that touched in to PAPNM this year.  Every active and passive way you participate is fuel for this organization.  The lifeblood of it.  I encourage you to get more involved as plans are laid for this next year, somehow already at our doorstep.  Please let us know if you have a desire to help with an event or perhaps consider a board position for 2022. It’s never too early to make plans.

    Mark up your calendar as if everything you put down will be able to move forward, but in your heart, hold the flexibility to adapt to change.  Your discovery may lay beneath the feet of your upended plans. 


    With Sincere Gratitude,

    Natasha Isenhour

    President PAPNM

  • 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

Mail information to:
P. O. Box 20503
Albuquerque, NM 

Mail Payments to: 
PAPNM Treasurer
P.O. Box 1948
Santa Fe, NM 87504 

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