Nov 2008

Victorio Peak

All we know is still infinitely less than all that remains unknown.
William Harvey

The illustration above is the last of a twenty-five piece series I recently completed for the children’s book, New Mexico: its History, Legends and Icons to be published by Impossible Dreams Publishing.

The painting depicts Doc Noss exploring the hidden treasure he claims to have discovered within Victorio Peak in southern New Mexico. While on a deer hunting trip with his wife, Noss reportedly stumbled upon a passageway leading to an underground cache filled with all kinds of treasure ranging from gold bricks, jeweled daggers, a Wells Fargo money box and even a huge statue of the Virgin Mary. In addition to all the booty, he described skeletonized bodies he came across, their hands tied behind their backs, or tethered from the neck. Much of the treasure was said to be of Spanish origin and there were theories that Noss had found a repository used to hide booty stolen from Mexico or a place where Spanish missionaries hid their wealth. The story became complicated with business partnerships, backstabbing, divorce, and even murder. The entire thing reads like the script from some 1940s film noir. Whether or not the mystery will ever be revealed completely remains to be seen but it’s a compelling chapter of New Mexico history.

This was another great illustration to paint, wrapping up what has been a truly enjoyable, year long, project. Steve Richardson at Impossible Dreams Publishing has been terrific. He’s one of those people who stands back and lets the artist have at it, feeling that creative freedom results in work that exceeds expectations. I thank him for the assignment, for all of his kind words about my work and look forward to working with him again in the future.

Portrait of PoPay

Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend.
John Singer Sargent

The past year I’ve been working on a series of illustrations for Impossible Dreams Publishing’s forthcoming book about the history of New Mexico. Titled, New Mexico: its History, Legends and Icons, it’s been a great opportunity to paint a variety of subjects and scenes including this portrait of Pueblo leader PoPay.

PoPay was a Peublo medicine man and leader who after being imprisoned by the Spanish for practicing sorcery, led the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The goal was to drive the Spanish out of Pueblo land and preserve the traditions and way of life the Spanish sought to eradicate. In order to coordinate the timing of the revolt among several settlements, PoPay sent out runners, each bearing a rope with a series of five knots to give to that particular settlements leader. A knot on the rope would be untied every day until the morning the 5th knot was reached signaling the time was right for the revolt to begin. Fearing the plans for the revolt had been compromised, the action began sooner than expected, however, the revolt succeeded and the Spanish were driven out of Pueblo territory for a period of time The Spanish did reassert their dominance over the Pueblo in the coming years but this time they allowed the culture of the native Americans to remain intact.

No one knows what PoPay actually looked like of course, which means that a likeness of PoPay is not the goal with a portrait like this. Instead I was attempting to capture the nature of the man, an attitude of proud defiance and a refusal to allow a way of life to be take away.

The art was created primarily with Painter IX with several texture overlays added in Photoshop.