Mora County Notebook - Artist creates and teaches painting

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By Ruth Fort

Sylvia Ortega, a talented artist, lives in Guadalupita, located in Mora County. Ortega has loved art all her life and has shown it in her beautiful paintings, water colors, oils and acrylic, are the media she has used to express her skill at different times.

Since she was a small girl she has loved to draw and color. When she was growing up on their farm, in Dilia, her cousins from Las Vegas gave her coloring books, crayons and the little boxes of water colors that were popular at that time. They were a treasure to her as she loved the colors and spent hours coloring and drawing pictures.

She now produces many beautiful oil paintings that are a popular because of their vibrant colors, depicting local scenes of nature and architecture seen in her surroundings. Her husband built her a studio where she does her painting, displays her work and teaches classes.

She has been very generous as she shares her talent and knowledge with others in her studio. She said that one time a friend said that she wanted to learn to paint.

Ortega helped her,  and then the group grew until at the present time she has a class of roughly 10 enthusiastic painters who meet every Wednesday to learn. They do oil painting, and one lady paints with acrylic. They have improved their skill and produce beautiful paintings. Some of them have sold their paintings, which is cause for great celebration for the whole class. The class enjoys their time together and spends the day painting and visiting. They take field trips to buy material, have their paintings framed and visit art galleries.

The artists enjoy the classes so much that they do not want to miss a single class. It is very rewarding and relaxing. Worries and troubles fade away while they are engrossed in painting.

Sylvia was born in Las Vegas and grew up on a farm in Dilia. Her parents were Roman and Lidrada Gutierrez. She had three sisters and two brothers. She says she was a middle child. Everyone worked on the farm. They had 500 to 600 chickens. Her father sold eggs to the Safeway store in Las Vegas. They also had 10 Jersey cows and sold the cream to the Las Vegas Creamery.

She said that it was her job to use the separator to separate the cream and prepare it for sale. Her brothers left home and she was her father’s sole helper, and she had to do all of the work on the farm. She knows how to work hard and continues it today on her ranch in Guadalupita, although her husband passed away 15 years ago.

She grew up during the depression and World War II. They had very little money. But they always had good meals as her mother had been a home-economics teacher and could make tasty dishes out of most anything. She was also an expert seamstress and could alter hand-me-down clothes that cousins brought for the family.

Sylvia went to grade school in Dilia. They had to walk a mile each way. In those days school started at 9 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m., and sometimes they did not get home until dark in the winter.

They went to high school in Las Vegas. Her grandma lived in Las Vegas, and the children would stay with her. She started high school at Highland High and finished at Robertson High School.

Sylvia did have art classes in high school. They were instructed in drawing, water colors, oil painting and acrylics.  After each project, the class would critique one another’s work and get suggestions for improvement. She says that after she was older she took two classes at New Mexico Highlands, in perspective and water colors.
She uses her water- color skills to make greeting cards. Otherwise, she was virtually self-taught and continued as she had talent and enjoyed art.

In June 1948 Sylvia married Billy Ortega from Guadalupita. He was a rancher and lumberman. They made their home in Guadalupita where Mr. Ortega ran his ranch and his lumber business.

They have three children Edmond, Tammy and Liticia. They have all done well in their life work. She now has nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Ortega has always been a hard worker and used her talent to help others. Her attractive home and gardens show the work of an artist and rancher.

Ruth Fort is a Mora County correspondent. She may be reached at (575) 387-6523 or ruthfortchacon@yahoo.com.