This is Adobe Steps

My grandfather traveled all over the world and in some instances spent a great deal of time looking for painting destinations,  teaching classes and participating in collaborations with his mentors.  One of my life's missions is to share his paintings with the world and tell the story behind them.   Over the last decade of his career he produced several paintings featuring scenes of the American Southwest.   Today I am going to share one of our favorites from New Mexico. 

This is Adobe Steps

When I first saw this painting I was convinced it was either Santa Fe or Taos as both places are full of this beautiful traditional adobe architecture.  However upon further research we learned Don conducted a painting workshop in the small community of La Luz, New Mexico where we think the source material for this scene would have originated.   This particular piece was featured as the cover on Don's final piece, a retrospective book "Don O'Neill Watercolors" which he published a limited edition of 25 hand bound copies shortly before his passing in 2007.

Despite being executed with a limited palette of 4 or fewer colors, this painting showcases two techniques which Don was known for, one was a wash that transitioned from cool to warm that made up the light areas of the painting and the other was a strong calligraphic marks which makes up the foreground bushes and the background mountains.  The cottonwood trees in abundance formed an oasis of shade.  Important to the composition is the interesting stone stairway.  Note how it invites the viewer into the painting.

My best estimates tell me that this painting was produced sometime in the early 2000s.    Don went through a period around the 2000s where he produced a great deal of works featuring the American Southwest.     You can see this print on our online store at and we produce it in four different sizes with each one individually printed on archival grade watercolor paper.  When properly framed the print will look nearly identical to the original painting and will hold its vivid color for decades.

You can see adobe steps at

Every painting has a story behind it.   Some details we know from my grandfather's writings and notes on paintings, and other details we had to go learn for ourselves.  Paintings themselves are documents of their own creation.  

Riley O'Neill 


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