BELEN—Artist Thomas Weis, a Midwestern transplant, knew New Mexico was the place for him from the first time he came here.

Growing up in Nebraska, Weis said he knew he wanted to paint but found the landscape uninspiring.

“I’ve been here 40-plus years and I’m doing what I love,” said Weis, a Los Lunas resident since 1974.

The painter, who works mostly in acrylic, has won awards in shows such as the New Mexico State Fair and the national VA competition, and is holding a one-man show on the next two weekends at Studio 508 in Belen.

Weis is making a bit of a comeback after several years on hiatus, and was once prominently displayed in nearly a dozen galleries across the Southwest.

His technique echoes that of the oil paintings done by the 16th and 17th century masters. Weis starts by putting down five layers of black paint before he creates his image.

“I just wasn’t getting the depth I wanted,” he explained.

Using this multi-step process can take 50 hours or more per piece. His subjects range from an old paint-peeling door to the dunes of the White Sands National Monument.

One such piece is a frost coated cottonwood at his home. Weis started by doing all the leaves on the massive tree in black, then going back and adding the white paint.

“It was back and forth, layer on top of layer,” he said. “I have a lot of tiny brushes.”

He also made use of those tiny brushes to make thousands of tiny dots to create just the right texture of the sand dunes at White Sands in a piece portraying the moon rising over the mountains.

A Vietnam veteran, Weis says he spent 13 months surviving combat and came home with a “big case of PTSD.”

“This is therapy for me,” he said. “You have to like being by yourself because you’re sitting for hours and it’s just you.”

Weis, who would like to get his work into local galleries, said he was looking forward to the show at Studio 508, owned by artist Kelly Cross, and getting back into the art business.

He also wants to make his work accessible to as many people as possible and will have reprints of his paintings at the show.

“You can’t just walk into a show with nothing but $2,000 originals,” he said.

Weis’ show at Studio 508, 508 Becker Ave., Belen, will run for two weekends, Friday-Sunday, May 31- June 1-2, and Friday-Sunday, June 7-9. The gallery will be open 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Fridays, 12-5 p.m. on Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.