Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Using Natural Pigments from the Land - Maria Hodkins

A week ago I was dangling my feet in the coolness of Jemez Creek in the midst of a scorching New Mexico day. This creek runs through the tiny village of Jemez Springs, in the Jemez Mountains, about one hour outside of Santa Fe. The tumbling water was mesmerizing, as were the tall, vibrant green grasses thriving on the banks across the the creek. I had my journal with me in a backpack, and I couldn't resist capturing the moment. The color of the water, of course, was the color of the mud that swirled under its surface--that New Mexico soil, a delicious red-brown sandy earth, at the bottom of the red rock walls lining the canyon. I was fascinated by the color of the creek water, and just had to render it on paper. To capture the color, which I tried to match on my portable field palette (and just couldn't quite), I finally dipped my finger into the mud beside me and smeared it across the paper. What sensual ecstacy!--and a true and lasting memory of my toes wiggling in the cool silky softness of the creek bottom. I'm tickled to say this sketch was created from watercolor and mud on Fabriano Artistico 90 lb. hot press paper.

And another note--I always try to use the water from the location where I am painting in my watercolors--a river, creek, ocean, pond, or even swimming pool (I have even used the rain). There's something aesthetically true about the painting for me when it contains the actual elements of the landscape--the spirit of the place seems embedded in the page.


  1. Love that you used a bit of the mud in this one. Great idea!


  2. What a wonderful connection, Maria, thank you!

  3. And what beautiful mud it turned out to be!

  4. Isn't the Jemez beautiful! I've just finished a painting of the river, a few miles downstream from where you were. There the water is not muddy, with lots of little rapids.

    I LOVE your approach....mud and water to add spirit and memories. Beautiful!

  5. Adding a piece of a place is a marvelous way to capture the spirit of the moment.


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