LOS LUNAS — For about two decades, the Camino Real Artists have gathered to create, to collaborate and to critique one another’s work, and they’re inviting the public to come out to appreciate their work.

Susan Brooke, one of the group’s artists, says when the group was first established, the original name — Camino Real 8 — reflected the number of artists involved. Currently, the groups consists of nine artists — Linda Boatwright, Susan Brooke, Lorraine Burleson, Duffy Peterson, Fran Ryan, Sondra Schlotterback, Jean Stone, Gwen Wilemon and Penny York. The number of artists fluctuates, so they decided to not limit themselves with the name.

“We were mainly plain-air painters,” Brooke said of the founding members, she being one of them. “We would paint whatever fascinated us outside.”

In the last 20 years, the group has changed course not only from the number of members, but also where they are from. Some live in Las Vegas, N.M., Santa Fe and Albuquerque and the rest live here in Valencia County.

Linda Boatwright

Gwen Wilemon

Sondra Schlotterback

Lorraine Burleson

“We come from all over, and there’s no dues. It’s just for the pure joy of painting and critiquing,” Brooke said.

The Camino Real Artists meet once a month, and critique one another’s work. Brooke said they had one show at the museum in Los Lunas last year, but nothing during the COVID pandemic. 

Brooke has been painting and drawing most of her life. A learning disability helped her cultivate her artistic skills.

“I’m not a great verbal communicator, and when I was young, I would draw because I was very dyslexic,” Brooke remembers. “Since everything was backwards, I would draw someone a picture instead … and I just stayed with it all my life.”

What’s unique about the Camino Real Artists, Brooke says, is there is a variety of styles and almost every medium is covered by the nine artists. There are artists who specialize in abstract, extreme realism, pastel, oil, watercolor and pen and ink.

“We have a varied group of artists,” she said. “It’s a varied group of individuals. We’re all professionals. Between all of us, we have between 75 to 100 awards in the state and national shows.”

Brooke said being a member of the group is amazing because of the diversity of the artists, and what they learn from one another.

“You learn to appreciate all styles of artwork,” said Brooke, who specializes in oil painting, pastel painting and charcoal drawing.

“It’s really been a learning and growing experience for me,” Brooke said. “Everyone in the group gets along amazingly well.”

Fran Ryan

Susan Brooke

Jean Stone

The collaboration and critique of one another’s work is also essential to the group.

“We can say, ‘I don’t like that painting at all,’ and there’s no hard feelings,” Brooke said. “We can just nail one another just to help. It’s a fun group in the fact that we can show together and paint outdoors together.”

Brooke said there isn’t one specific place in Valencia County where she enjoys to paint the most. She’ll drive around, and stop at any given area and ask a property owner if they can set up and paint.

“To me, I can find something beautiful in a dead cactus,” Brooke said. “I am a winter person, so I don’t mind painting out in the cold. Some like painting when it’s 105 (degrees) outside. I think the most beautiful time of year to paint outdoors is in the fall, with all the gold and light.”

The Camino Real Artists is holding its Winter Art Show at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts, 251 Main St., through April 8.  The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday.

Each artist will have between six to eight pieces on display in three rooms at the museum, and the artists will hold demonstrations at 2 p.m. every Saturday throughout the duration of the show.

“Some of these people can paint magnificent paintings like snapping your fingers,” Brooke said. “And some are as slow as the proverbial turtle. It’ll be interesting to see how each artist works at these demonstrations.

“They’ll be able to ask questions, or just sit there and watch the artists if they want.”

Duffy Peterson

Penny York

If you go

♦What: Camino Real Artists Winter Art Show

♦When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, until Saturday, April 8

♦Where: Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts, 251 Main St., Los Lunas

♦Other info: Artist demonstrations will be held at 2 p.m. every Saturday

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.