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Terri Sanchez: En Plein Air and More.

High Country Haven by Terri Sanchez. 11"x 14" Oil on canvas.

"I love the high country and appreciate the easy accessibility here in Colorado. In a matter of maybe hours or minutes, you can be in the mountains or canyons, as well as glaciers, cascading waterfalls, and mountain lakes." Terri Sanchez.

Those words by the artist say a lot about the beauty and thrill of the Colorado High Country, but as the old saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Here Sanchez gives us that picture. The mountains soar right off the edge of the canvas. Too massive, too tall to be confined to any picture plane, these mountains are allowed to strut their stuff by the artist who gives us the upward lift of their steep slopes. The tall trees try their best to catch up as they follow the slope of the mountain ridge. Light falls on them revealing the subtle variations in green, just as that same light does with the blues and violets of the mountains. Sheltered by this wall of craggy rock and deep forest is the valley of golden orange and golden yellow grasses, blue-white water, and huge blue-gray rock. Above it all, the sky holds the whole thing in a giant blue protective bubble. No wonder the artist calls this a haven. Some might call it heaven.

Terri Sanchez is a native-born Coloradan. She grew up seeing her dad take correspondence art courses, as that is what he could fit into his busy work and family schedule. Her interest was particularly sparked by the drawings her dad had done while in the military, flying in Vietnam. Sanchez took advantage of all her native Colorado Springs had to offer, taking classes at the Bemis Art School and Pike's Peak Community College, even winning 1st Place while still in high school for a still life charcoal drawing that was exhibited at Colorado College. After her marriage to her husband, who has always supported her artistic endeavors, she moved off to the San Luis Valley, another area known for its beauty, before being able to once again return to and settle in Colorado Springs and the Pike's Peak region.

Approaching Storm by Terri Sanchez. 16"x12" Oil on canvas.

"When you go into nature and see something magical, [it] sticks with you. Maybe it’s the way the light and shadows dance on the aspen trees or the autumn foilage reflects on the river. " Terri Sanchez

Mountains make their own weather. Certainly when in the mountains, one has to pay attention to the weather. Sanchez shows her seasoned perception of the immediate environment in this painting. Some might look at the faint bluish haze obscuring the snow-capped peak and think the mountain is decorating the scene with this veil of blue-violet mist. Sanchez, who knows these mountains, sees that the mountain is brewing up a storm. As she keeps an eye on it, she does not let it make her miss the glorious contrast of the deep green forest that fronts the violet hills or the dance of yellows that meander through the foreground. She even hints at the path of a dried up creekbed. The near forest echoes the deep greens in the distant forest, providing a color-based unity to the painting. The storm is approaching, but it has not arrived yet, leaving the artist with time to capture the scene.

In talking about her approach to nature and her painting, Sanchez says, "I am able to make decisions and decide how the elements can fit together to make an intesting composition, like pieces of a puzzle. Whether I am just hiking, photographing, or painting, going outdoors, I can discover the beauty all around me." Sanchez produces her work through a combination of plein air painting, photography, and painting at home in her art studio. She says she was particularly influenced by David Bayles' and Ted Orland's book, Art and Fear, learning from it to "create a space for your studio that promotes healthy awareness for creating and learning" and to commit "...your future to your own hands, placing Free Will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work.

Lilies, Limes, and Roses by Terri Sanchez. Oil on canvas.

While Sanchez often shows her mastery in capturing the majestic views of the surrounding landscape, her attention can also turn to the more intimate. In Lilies, Limes, and Roses, we find not only wonderful color contrasts, but various shifts in focus in which the less distinct background and foreground are balanced by the precise rendering of the still life that takes center stage. The loose rendering of the lilies serves both as a contrast to the precision of the other objects and as the strongest light/dark color contrast. As it is centered in the midst of the composition, it allows the eye to refresh itself before resuming a look at the bright roses and limes. The tiny touches of pink are like sweet treats - little treasures hidden amid the bolder colors. The indistinct background of orange and the watery reflection in the foreground provide the eye a way to relax before it continues to take in the well-defined rendering of the colorful composition that is the center of this painting.

Contemplation by Terri Sanchez. 12"x16" Oil on canvas.

My Garden Rose by Terri Sanchez. 11" x 14" Oil on canvas..

Piet Mondrian is often only thought of as an artistic purest who worked only in red, black, and white geometric patterns. However, the works he sold the most of in his lifetime were his flowers. (See this Art Blog for "Piet Mondrian Did What? Flowers!") Like Mondrian, Sanchez focuses on one bloom. She does not abstract it or modify the colors to ones not associated with that particular flower as Mondrian did. Her perception of the various textures and color modulations allow for a rendering in oil of the delicate petals. The softness of the fragile petals contrasts with the sturdy ruff of leaves that stand in protection of the bloom, all the while hiding the sharp spikes of the thorns. Look, but don't touch!

To a certain extent that same phrase goes for Contemplation, as the woman whose back is turned to us is deep into her own thoughts. The monochromatic use of shades of gray from the deepest slate to almost pure white takes the viewer through a range of her thoughts. As we all know contemplating even the sweetest things, like a rose, can hold the thorn of a bittersweet moment. This painting allows the artist to show her sense of elegance. The graceful rendering of the turn of the subject's head, the revealed structure of her shoulder and upper back, both swathed in whitish-gray cloth, ends in the graceful folds of the dress. One can see a curve that goes from her turned head, down the right side of her back to the slant of her hip and another such curve that goes along the front of the body. These encase the soft whites of the dress and seem reminiscent of a crescent moon. Along with the shadowy white light the illuminates the figure, they present a fine symbol of the mysteries of inner contemplation.

Morning Light Trail by Terri Sanchez. 16"x20"Oil on canvas.

"I want people to have a feeling of peace and tranquility that when they look at one of my pieces, they feel an emotional connection." Terri Sanchez

One can certainly get that feeling of peace and tranquility when wandering through this painting of a forest with an early winter snow. The aspens have shed their golden leaves. Yet the snow is not many feet deep, so one feels invited to wander down this path, taking in the sharp cold air and visually enjoying the play of light and dark green that indicate the presence of sun and shadow on the trees. The composition communicates to the viewer that this is an inviting trail, one that has been made wide by the journeys of many a hiker. One feels relaxed by the comfortable space between the tall trees, aided by the naked trunks of the aspens that allow you to see into the woods. The bears are asleep and many other animals have burrowed in for the winter. Painters can wander through and capture this rare beauty, translating it onto canvas for us to enjoy at any time of year. Sanchez has a whole series of paintings that are designed to take the viewer on a hike with her. As art is about communication, Sanchez is well aware of what she wants to say in her paintings. She says, "The series of paintings takes you into the forest where the magic happens and takes you on a visual journey into nature." Certainly in Morning Light Trail the viewer is right there on the trail with the artist.

Walking Toward The Light by Terri Sanchez. 11"x14" Oil on canvas.

"Art is enriching and is an expression of what is in the artist’s soul. The art they produce in their lifetime is translating history about the area they lived in and the places they traveled to and the people they meet. Paintings are a visual journey and portrait of the artist." Terri Sanchez

This sunset stroll through what very well may be one of Colorado Springs' wilderness areas, like Garden of the Gods, gives the viewer another opportunity to share in the experience of nature as seen through the eyes of the artist. One feels the warmth of that setting sun as it shines its last for the day through those trees, lighting the path, and changing the blue of the mountains to a red-violet glow. As this painting is named, Walking Toward the Light, the fact that the path has the same color as the distant hills, which visually seem very close to the light, indicates that one is on the right path, the one that leads to illumination. Finding one's path in art and sharing the journey through painting are key elements in being an artist. Sanchez says, "the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, taught me to listen to my heart and follow my dreams." Her painting lets us go along for the voyage.

Terri Ssnchez out plein air painting.

Sanchez has had many awards and honors, which are listed in detail on her website. She has also had her paintings appear on several book covers, such as Steven Robert Alexander's Follow You and We Fly at First Light. She is represented by Kreuser Gallery in Colorado Springs, CO; Earthwood Collections, Estes Park, CO; Fare Bella Gallery in Manitou Springs, CO; and Western Stars Gallery in Lyons, CO. You can find Terri Sanchez on Facebook at on Fine Arts America and on her website

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She also has an engaging art history blog that talks of painting and wine on

© Marjorie Vernelle 2021

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