Tag Archives: Aztec Ruins

Aztec Ruins National Monument – Along the Animas River

This week I moved on from this completed painting for Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico. Projects are piling up here. Below is the sketch I posted some weeks back, and it’s a great example of things changing as they go along. The Park Service, of course, hates change, but, I don’t know, it just happened. The entire thing got reversed, river got bigger (like it is), cottonwoods got smaller (like they are), the chickadee changed into a turkey. It’s just the process of creating something from nothing but a blank piece of paper.

Some things remained, especially this little desert cottontail that I followed around the native plant garden near the visitor center. I could have petted it if I’d had a Cheeto to use as a bribe.

Desert Cottontail at Aztec Ruins

And here’s the river in summer when I was there. A green ribbon of life. Amazingly, even though the bottomland is packed with people, the original ecosystem is almost perfectly intact, right down to the cougars and bobcats. This will become a wayside exhibit panel with some text added to explain all this. It turned out pretty well, I think.

Again, here’s the link to the NEW new puzzle I talked about last week.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

A Vibrant Pueblo at Aztec Ruins New Mexico

Click the image to enlarge it.

Quite an interesting project here.  This is one of the half dozen paintings for the National Park Service at Aztec Ruins, New Mexico. Photos I took like the one below of the real ruins today were about all I had to go by – that and Google Earth. The task was to paint this place 1000 years ago when the Indians had migrated from Chaco Canyon and set up a real economy on the banks of the Animas River. I asked the Chief of Interpretation at the park just how much of the land would have been under cultivation: “all of it, every foot”. That sketch didn’t make the grade ‘too jumbled’, and I couldn’t put the many irrigation ditches in because ‘we don’t know where they were’. So, I just made it all up! And tossed in a red-tailed hawk to keep my heart alive.

Here’s a section view of the pueblo painting, today a World Heritage Site. Yes, there are tiny people down there; yes, it’s pretty much the same layout as today but the photo below shows how much it’s changed.  I really love working out these challenges. I was surprised the NPS really doesn’t have a good grasp of what it was really like. Yes, COULD be, yes, it might have been like that – but in the end it was just a big cloud of not much to go on.

Probably the best set of reference photos I took were of the native plant garden just outside the ruins. It had the same native species that would have been in all those gardens, and how they think it was grown. Flooded occasionally, it’s all grown on mounds.

This painting will be made into an outdoor wayside exhibit with some text added. The original art will hang in the visitor center with the others I’m doing. Only one more big one to go. Thanks to Rosene Creative in Jasper Georgia for putting up with me on this one. It’s been fun.

Again, here’s the link to the NEW new puzzle I talked about last week.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Riparian Ecosystem Painting for Aztec Ruins National Monument

Click this and it should enlarge. Too big for small screens.

I’m painting some other installations for Aztec Ruins National Monument, a World Heritage Site in New Mexico, but this additional image just received funding to proceed – and I like how it’s looking and wanted to share. Aztec Ruins is in the town of Aztec, NM and straddles the Animas River, life blood of this green little valley. People 1000 years ago also thought this was a good place to live, so they build a massive pueblo with upwards of 500 room! The rooms are still here, the Indians not so much.

Here’s the Animas with cottonwoods and willows I used for reference in the sketch.  Amazingly, almost the entire original ecosystem is still in place, more than I can say for most places. Several additions such as saltcedar are here now, but they’re not goofing things up like so many other western desert rivers.

Here is a small section of the park with trails through the ruins. The river is just a few hundred yards south. I could really see how the river directed what went on here. The pueblo is close to it, but not close enough for flooding. When I asked the Chief of Interpretation how much land would have been dedicated to farming, he said “all of it, every inch”.  The people lived here on top of each other so as to not ruin their the very land feeding them. That’s NOT the way it is today!

They have a giant kiva that was restored many years ago, over 50 feet in diameter. I thought these big kivas were used mainly for religious events, but it was more, a communal place to hang out in winter or blisteringly hot summer days. My site visit highlight was a guided tour into a closed section of pueblo off-limits to visitors and not restored at all. Absolutely fascinating to see how these places looked before they were ‘cleaned up.’

Give me a project in a new park and I’m a happy painter! And if you, too, think our heritage is important, resist, I SAID RESIST ANY ATTEMPT to reduce or revoke national park designations. This is not who we are!

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Mules and Horses – Old Santa Fe Trail painting for the National Trails System

This will enlarge by clicking it.

While the Hoh Visitor Center mural is proceeding, I did this “little” wayside painting for the Old Santa Fe Trail with the National Park Service. A fun and very different sort of project for me.

Last year I did this sketch for Aztec Ruins National Monument, but  it wasn’t used. They wanted something less ‘social’. This is Armijo’s Expedition in 1829, a group that went from Santa Fe to California and back, proving this route could be used for trade. In the painting, they’re crossing the Animas River in New Mexico. They’ve had a difficult day herding 150 horses and mules, and the group is setting up camp for the night, beans are in the pot, gear is being unloaded.

To do this painting, I went over to Olympic National  Park and photographed the two ladies that take care of the 34 mules the park uses for backcountry use. Amazing afternoon! Here are Heidi and Jill, seasonal drovers who push those big mules around like they were goats, and you can see I turned them into Spanish young men in the painting. Others models included my neighbor, Michael, who is the cook. Jill and Heidi are in other poses, as well as Henry the mule.

And this is what it’s all about for me. I learned a LOT on this project, had a great time figuring out how this might look, how the gear would look in 1829. It took over a year from field trip to Aztec Ruins to painting completion. It went from an installation at Aztec to several other installations along the Santa Fe Trail, and I really know about pack mules.

And here’s the Animas River at Aztec New Mexico where the scene is located. It looks exactly the same as it probably did 188 years ago.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.