Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Mabel Dodge's Birdhouses


Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. I just finished a watercolor workshop in Taos, New Mexico. We headquartered at the historic Mabel Dodge Luhan House and I would like to thank everyone who attended. It is always more fun to paint with other artists and, at the end of the day, to see what everyone created.

Mabel Dodge was a socialite from back east who moved to Taos with the intention of turning the town into a world class art colony. Her guest list included Georgia O'Keefe, Ansel Adams, and D. H. Laurence along with many other artists, photographers, and writers. She married Tony Luhan from the Taos Pueblo and they continued adding on to the lodge to include a handsome guest house which she later sold to the artist Victor Higgins for 1 dollar. We could all use a patron like that.

Mabel evidently loved pigeons because she built these pigeon condominiums which over time have become almost as famous as the lodge itself. I painted this as a demo on our first day and the sunlight shining through the golden autumn trees was enchanting. The kiva ladder, adobe architecture, and arched doorway are all things I have painted many times in different locations and they are some of the iconic features that make Taos a favorite place for painters. Add the pueblo and the beautiful Taos sunlight and you can understand why artists started taking up residence there in the early 1900's.

For the adobe wall, I used a mixture of cobalt violet and yellow ochre and, in the shadow areas, I added a little mineral violet. The golden trees were painted with lemon yellow, transparent yellow and a little burnt sienna. The bird houses, kiva ladder, and wooden doorway were all painted with different mixtures of burnt sienna, raw umber, yellow ochre, and ultramarine blue. The dirt in the foreground is a mixture of raw umber, cobalt violet and cerulean blue with a little spattering for texture. If you get to Taos, I suggest you visit the Mable Dodge Luhan House and maybe spend a night or two in Mabel's bedroom on top of the lodge. It has glass walls and the view of the stars on a clear night is breathtaking. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton

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