Artist Abigail Winston paints the sky from her New Mexico home, capturing fascinating cloud formations and glorious sunsets. Enjoy the portfolio of this talented artist, and please visit her website.
I was born in Chicago, but grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. All my life I have felt a visceral connection with the natural world. As a child, I spent a lot of time exploring the woods nearby. (It was safe, then.) My father was a doctor and my mother was an artist.
Mom read art history books to me, and took me to the museums in Boston quite frequently. She also gave me art materials, especially after I drew my first recognizable image, Mickey Mouse, at age two. She set up a studio for me in our large garage, with an easel and oil paints. I have painted on and off since then, with a long break when I became a modern dancer and taught dance at schools and universities.
Our family vacationed in northern New Mexico in August, with distant relatives, and I fell in love with the place. When I married, I learned my husband had a brother in Taos County. The first time I drove here with him and we came over the hill above the Taos Valley, my first thought was, “Oh my God! I’m home.” When we separated and arthritis hit my body I moved here.
Now I live on a mesa in Arroyo Hondo, a tiny village north of the town of Taos, with a 360o view. The sky dominates everything.
Why do I call my paintings “Portraits of the Sky?” A portrait is a painting of a specific person at a specific moment. My paintings portray specific clouds, cloud formations, details, colors, and moods of the sky in a unique moment. I have also studied clouds in books.
Because this is mountain country, we get some clouds that aren’t found in other areas. Particularly, we get lenticular clouds that look like flying saucers and cap clouds that sit on the peaks. My studio (the living room) looks out directly to the mountains, eight miles away.
Of course, I paint sunsets as well as storms and fair-weather clouds. Taos is famous for its sunsets; how could I not paint them? The mountains are named the Sangre de Cristos, or “Blood of Christ Mountains” because of the colors of the sunsets.
How do I paint such accurate portraits of clouds with such detail and complexity? I use photography, of course. This enables me to capture an exact moment and also to enhance the color, light and shadow, and to play with the composition if I feel it necessary. I have a large library of photos that I go back to regularly to get new ideas or to see an image in a different way.
Sometimes I travel with a camera in the car and pull over to get a picture. And for those plein air purists who frown on painting from photography: clouds move and the light changes constantly. The skies are always new and always an inspiration.