The sky above Jim Alford’s head provides most of the wonder and inspiration that Alford needs for his paintings. Residing on 40 acres off Highway 14 south of Santa Fe, Alford has a life filled with daily rituals that involve observing and photographing the ever-changing heavens.
“My paintings are literally inspired by what I look at outside my back door,” says Alford, who’s lived in his house for decades. “I never get tired of looking at clouds. I’ll sit down in a chair in the evening, have a cocktail and look at the clouds.”
Hat Ranch Gallery, which is located just a few miles from Alford’s home, features a solo show of his sky paintings from December 16 through January 16.
Some of the work on exhibit goes back more than 20 years, and other pieces are hot off the easel. Many of them have what Alford calls “architectural areas” in them. All of the paintings have been created by referencing hundreds of photos that Alford has taken of the sky through the years.
“I begin a new work by making a drawing and putting it in my computer,” explains the Santa Fe artist, who earned a master’s degree in painting and drawing from the University of California at Santa Barbara and has had his paintings featured in more than 33 solo exhibits and 24 group shows throughout the United States. “Then I start looking at different photos I have in the computer, searching for cloud and sky images that work well with the drawing. I assemble the imagery in the computer before I begin painting.”
Alford studied geography in school and is knowledgable about different types of clouds. He’s excited when he gets to see lenticular clouds in the winter because they look like space ships. Sometimes he focuses a painting on one specific type of cloud.
“I’ve always got my camera handy because I never know what I’m going to see in the sky at any given moment,” he says. “On a good day, I take 300 to 400 photos.”