For anyone who thinks familiarity breeds complacency, Don Brackett sets the story straight. After more than 60 years of painting on location in northern New Mexico, he says the experience—and the landscape—remains fresh in his eyes and his art.
The 91-year-old painter grew up in Albuquerque and earned a fine art degree from the University of New Mexico. His early work was in watercolor, a medium he shared with his wife and lifelong painting partner, P.J. Garoutte. In 1980 they both switched to oils, finding, as Brackett puts it, “a whole new world.” That world has been rewarding: His widely collected and exhibited art has received numerous national and regional awards, including first place (a $10,000 cash prize) at Best of the Sangre de Cristos.
For more than 40 years, Brackett and Garoutte have lived in northern New Mexico, roaming the mountain and mesa roads in their tall-top painting van. Sometimes Brackett completes multiple plein-air paintings in the same spot. “I just point the easel around in a different direction,” he smiles. And if nature’s composition requires some adjustment, the artist draws on a well-earned fluency in the language of landforms and light. Of the landscape he loves to paint: “After a while it just gets in your blood.”