Jim Alford


Jim Alford

Beginning in July of 1989 I became a student of Southwestern skies.  I live on ten acres of land out on the plains southeast of Santa Fe. Here I indulge myself in the vast 360 degree views that extend as far as a hundred miles.  My celestial observatory is almost equal distance between three mountain ranges and provides me with my primary source of artistic inspiration.  An artist friend has dubbed my studio as the “Cloud Research Laboratories”.

New Mexico skies display their most dramatic atmospherics in three distinct periods: the spring, the monsoon season from mid-July through early September, and the post-monsoon clouds of fall.

Spring skies are especially dynamic as they are a refreshing change from the relatively lifeless ice crystal clouds of winter.  The skies of March, April and May offer a plethora of different kinds of cloud shapes and sizes.  They range from the silky cirrus to the robust hard-shaped cumulus that drop delicate veils of virga late in the day.

Powerful cloud giants that sour into the upper reaches of the atmosphere characterize the monsoon season.  The clouds rise so quickly and to such great heights that you swear you are watching a time lapse movie.  They reach elevations of up to sixty thousand feet and usually migrate in a northeasterly direction.

September and October mark the climactic times in the cloud season for New Mexico.  This time is the post-monsoon period of peace and calm, a time when one becomes more aware of the impeccable quality of light that artists have flocked here to paint.  It is a vaulted time when there is a lot of space around each individual cloud, when one cloud may slowly change forms for hours at a time.  It is also the time of the spectacular gradations, extended periods of quiet transition and change in color after the sun drops, when the entire sky glows and the day becomes night.

As a painter and photographer I find myself subjectively evaluating the aesthetics of various atmospheric conditions.  I tend to prefer days when the clouds fill approximately half the sky; a balance between crystal blue and the multi-valued clouds.  The preference for the compositions with both significant positive and negative shapes comes from a long-time appreciation of Franz Kline paintings.

On a good sky day I can be entertained from about 2:00 in the afternoon to well past sunset. The very best days are when it is difficult to decide which direction to look, as the drama unfolds around you from every side.  During these times I search for small exquisite moments of celestial magic.  These moments are the subjects of my paintings and my photographs.