The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

The road back home

Artists Doug and Sharon Quarles make return


September 18, 2018

Quay County Sun: Ron Warnick

Doug and Sharon Quarles pose in front of Doug's mural, "The Legendary Road," on the Lowe's Market in Tucumcari.

TUCUMCARI — Artists Doug and Sharon Quarles, known for dozens of murals they painted in Tucumcari since 2003, recently returned to town to stay after spending five years in southern Arizona.

The couple announced on Facebook in mid-August they were moving back. They largely were responsible for Tucumcari officials describing their town as the "City of Murals" in the last 15 years.

This month, the Quarleses talked about their return over coffee and water at a local restaurant.

"We know so many people here already, it's like moving home again," Doug said.

They moved to Benson, Arizona, in 2013 after a decade painting an estimated 50 interior and exterior walls in Tucumcari, including many along Route 66. They had landed mural-painting jobs in Benson and decided to stay and open a gallery there.

In the past year, the couple said they talked about moving back. In June, Doug Quarles had gone to Tucumcari to paint a half-dozen murals around town while Sharon remained in Arizona.

"When I came back and did this last stint of murals here, she called and said, 'Let's move back,'" Doug recalled.

Doug and Sharon said there were a variety of reasons they returned.

Her father lives near Conchas Lake, and "he's getting up in years. I missed seeing my dad," she said.

The Quarleses also said it is "more affordable by a long shot" to live in eastern New Mexico than Arizona.

The Louisiana natives also said they missed the seeing the mesas around Tucumcari and the many friends they'd made.

Finally, the Quarleses said they'd missed Route 66 and the people who travel on it each year.

"The route here always has meant so much, particularly with the murals," Doug said. "And you get to meet people from all over the world, traveling the route."

"When we had our gallery on 66, we met people from Finland, Asia, Australia ... and it was year-round," Sharon added.

Doug said his interest in Route 66 was ignited years ago when he was hired to paint a huge mural on the east side of Lowe's Market. It was only his second mural in Tucumcari, and his research into the historic highway sparked many ideas for the painting. The resulting image was "The Legendary Road," which he said remains his most-photographed mural.

Accustomed to a steady stream of foreign visitors, Sharon said that "came to a screeching halt" when they opened their gallery in Benson.

The Quarleses said they were ready to take a break from running a gallery, in general.

"It's time for us to rediscover what life is all about," Sharon said. "We had opened a very nice gallery in Benson, but we weren't able to get out and mingle with the people like we had been able to here. It got old, finally."

The Quarleses soon will close a deal on a house on Tucumcari's east side, about a block and a half off Route 66.

Doug also has a few mural jobs lined up with the Tucumcari MainStreet program. But they're also looking forward to a slower pace.

"We'll think about semi-retirement for six months to a year," Sharon said. "Then will think about opening a gallery."

Doug said he won't think about retiring completely, though. He cited a self-portrait sketch by famed artist Norman Rockwell sitting up in his own casket, painting.

"That's me," he said, grinning.


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