Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist

Plein air artist Carol Ordogne with her pastels
Photo credit: —Oli Robbins

Plein Air Painters of New Mexico entry, Summer at the Pond, 20 x 24, oil, painted at Shady Lakes in Bernalillo

The (Not So) Still Life, 11 x 14, pastel

Signpost featured artist
Plantin’ and paintin’: Carol Ordogne

~Oli Robbins

Placitas painter Carol Ordogne shared the following quote with me: “I’d rather be in the mountains thinking of God than in church thinking about the mountains.” That sentiment, penned by naturalist John Muir, is one that Carol keeps close to her heart. Carol grew up with religious, Dutch-Reformed parents who took her to church every week. She turned to drawing to pass the time during many long church services—likely dreaming up the nature to which Muir refers. There was little artwork inside her church walls (since the religion viewed art as idolatry), but she keenly observed the church’s tropical plants. Says Carol, “Today, I still consider studying and drawing nature to be a spiritual experience.”

Carol grew up in Southern California, across from a University. Says Carol, “I would play on the grounds making fairy boats of flowers, leaves, and ferns that I would sail on their pond. I think studying nature led me to being an artist.”

When she was reimagining all those ferns and vines on campus and during church services, she didn’t know that decades later she would be working in landscape architecture, highly educated in a variety of species of plants. Before that though, Carol completed an art degree in Hawaii, where she moved after honeymooning there in 1975.

“I always wanted to be an artist,” said Carol. “My career tests in high school always came out artist or architect. It’s funny that I ended up being both.” At first, it wasn’t financially viable to make enough money with her art degree, so Carol allowed her love of nature to guide her toward a similarly creative career path. “I loved plants and sculpture and gardens, so landscape design was a good way to still be an artist of sorts and make a living as well.”

She had moved to Louisiana and earned her Landscape Architecture degree after finishing her undergrad in Hawaii. She began practicing when her third and final child turned three. Says Carol, “I worked in a nursery at first and eventually started my own design/build practice. Working out of my home was ideal—my slow seasons coincided with my children’s vacations.”

Landscape Architecture proved a fulfilling alternative for Carol, and her practice specialized in designing gardens—or “living sculptures” as she likes to call them. “I loved picking out all the plants, fountains, and accessories to make something relaxing and beautiful for my clients,” she said. “I loved getting to know them and being of help. It was a fun, rewarding and a good creative outlet.”

While working, Carol enrolled in painting classes at LSU, building upon her many previous years of artistic training from high school and college. In 2001, she took her first plein air workshop with Leonard Wren, which prompted her ongoing study of the technique. Says Carol, “I love painting animals and landscapes. I often paint outdoors to really see the colors correctly. A photo reference is so dull in comparison.”

Before picking up a brush, Carol spends time closely discovering her surroundings. “I walk around looking for something that enchants me. I use a viewfinder and sketchpad to plan exactly how I want to present what I see. I move things around in my mind and on my sketchpad to arrange all the elements into a pleasing abstract design of big shapes and values.” Only then does she begin to paint with a brush and thin paint, slowly mixing colors and blocking in the big shapes, which are later broken down into smaller, more detailed ones. Her expertise in landscape architecture provides her with the ability to deeply understand her natural subject matter. Says Carol, “I am very sensitive to the color and texture of plants and their silhouettes.” Her still lifes and landscapes bare her connection to nature, but aren’t tight and exacting. Rather, they seem to reflect Carol’s immediate but resounding experiences with her subjects

New Mexico became a dream location for Carol and her husband, Paul, in 1997, when the duo traveled here on vacation. At the time, a move wasn’t possible since they were rooted in Louisiana. One of their daughters relocated to New Mexico following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and, upon retirement, Carol and her husband followed. They are recent residents, buying their Placitas home four years ago and living here full-time for just two years. Like his wife, Paul is bound to the outdoors and acts as a guide at the Rio Grande Nature Center and the Albuquerque Open Space. Carol currently finds herself playing with pastels and working with clay—a medium she hasn’t touched since college. Says Carol, “After years of working and living in a city, I am thrilled to be out in the wide-open spaces. Every day I see either a beautiful sunrise or sunset while walking my dog out on the mesas. I also use that quiet time to think about future paintings or to analyze the colors I am seeing.”

Last month, Carol was a featured artist in the Placitas Artists Series, and her work will be on view at several upcoming events. One of her oil paintings was juried into the Plein Air Painters of NM exhibition at Santa Fe’s Sorrel Sky Gallery (open from November 3 to November 27). Several of her works are featured at Hoot Art Gallery in Placitas, and one of her pastel paintings will be hanging in the 25th Annual National Pastel Painting Exhibition at EXPO NM’s Hispanic Arts Center (October 29 to November 27). You’ll also get the chance to meet Carol (and eighty other artists) at the Placitas Holiday Sale on November 19 and 20; she’ll be inside the Elementary School.

Contact the artist at and visit her website ( to view several galleries of paintings.

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