After extended camping expeditions to Utah and the outback of central Nevada [which was great!].. I returned to work on this piece... his is where it stands now. It has changed quite a bit from the original layout.. however.. I am still not satisfied with the design and will likely change it yet again. So.. back to the easel to solve this problem.
Off for an extended plein-air painting camping expedition for a month.. so this studio piece will have to wait until I return. Here is how it stands as of this morning. Really been hot here in the desert and in the studio.. looking forward to the high elevations of Utah!
Here are the first layers of color... mainly ultramarine blue, manganese thalo, cadmium red deep, cadmium red light and a little naples yellow. I will be expanding this limited palette somewhat.. but this piece is based on a blue/red concept. You can see the shapes are taking on a life of their own already. Long ways to go....
Started a new painting from one of my photos taken in early fall... the Paria River Canyon area.. 24x24 oil .. one of my favorite areas.. a relatively unknown vast high desert region of the Grand Staircase NM.. just on the border between Arizona and Utah. A painter could spend a lifetime in that wonderland.
Here are two versions of the structure.. the initial layin.. a de-saturated version and the drawing I did on the canvas with my brush... prussian blue over a dried flesh-colored acrylic wash.. just to seal the canvas and cut the white glare. I find this the only good use for any 'flesh' named paint.. the earth as corporeal. Onwards!
Finally! I am calling this finished.... cruising in for the night on the magnificent Lake Powell. This started from a photo from one of my houseboat expeditions.. [it has changed significantly from that image]... to one expressing the beauty of reflected light into this unknown cove and the peace of nightfall... Sanctuary.
Still working on this piece...getting there. I am posting all these versions of a painting so you and my students can see how a painting might evolve. Complex works of art demand lots of problem-solving.. and answers that serve both the original conception and the painting's evolution towards a conclusion that presents itself as felt. This conclusion is usually not the artist's choice alone...the painting speaks and has it's own life.. it seeks full symbolic manifestation. The artist acts as a medium and a partner in this process.
I think there must be 20 pounds of paint on this by now... have been experimenting with colors and shape changes.. much easier to do in Photoshop than with wet paint layers. Now to refining from this stage and figuring out how I want to do the water. Water needs to be clean and not fuzzy.. so there is work to be done.
This is the kind of painting that one could re-paint many times. Since the basic composition is interesting.. I decided to experiment further.. more shape changes and increased the chroma ... a strong red orange light is being reflected from an unknown source on the left.. plus there is still the last rays of sunset on the top rocks. I will continue to refine this idea until it all comes together.
However.. since I have been working on this exclusively for so long now.. I am looking forward to the next project.. so this will be wrapped up soon. More color/ value adjustments on the rocks and then the final glistening effects on the water.
I decided on changing the shapes of the foreground rocks and tweaking the other forms somewhat. Also you can see the first layer of color on the water. I want to make it look like still dark water with a glossy foreground bow wake.. coming into 'sanctuary' for the night.
Since the rocks are nearly finished [except for fine touches]... will be painting the water next. If all goes well it should not take long. I put a thin glaze on the water surface already... and when that dries.. I will add more warm glazes and a few floaters on the glassy surface. The time of day and mood indicates a calm surface and a deep dark color with glowing reflections... now I just have to do it :)
Here is where this painting stands today.. I decided to emphasize the reflected light coming into the cove from the left.. lightens the formations considerably.. but since there is a lot of light in the sky yet I think this will work. I added a few bushes on the slopes.. and adjusted values again [and again]. Rocks are about 90% done.. soon on to the water challenge!
I am into the refinement stage on the rocks now... the water reflections won't be painted until the formations are 90% finished. Time to get out my mediums and start mixing with the oils for the final layers. I will be using a high-gloss mixture of spike solvent, varnish, stand oil and turps for the water.. and a dammar varnish, stand oil, wax/turps mix for the rocks and sky [a much more matte medium]... this will add to the sandstone texture instead of too glossy. I also might pull out the palette knife for a few thick pieces of paint on the foreground rocks. Since there is not a lot of depth in this composition.. I will use some texture for contrast.
I thought this painitng was going to be rather easy to do...no such luck. I am still working my way through the rock structures and trying to decide if I need to make it warmer or cooler. Slow going on this...here is the current version as of this evening. I am also in the middle of creating a new website from scratch...so my studio time has been usurped. Gotta be done tho!
Here is today's effort.. more painting on the rocks and the dark dark underpainting for the water. After this dries somewhat.. I will apply thin paint in lighter colors for the reflections.. but the rocks need to be mostly finished before attempting this.
Taking the underpainting from the previous post further... refined the drawing of the shapes and experimented with this uncommon limited palette: naples yellow, jaune brilliant, yellow ochre, orange ochre, mars violet, permanent madder, cobalt turquoise, cobalt blue and mineral violet... basically using the complementary pair.. yellows and purples. I can mix wonderful soothing colors from this combination.. the mood and light of this must be maintained by close values and subtle temperature changes within the shapes. Interesting!
Here is the initial underpainting of my current project.. cobalt turquoise and magenta only.. 20x30 canvas. This will be painted from a photo I took while working at Lake Powell one summer while on one of my many houseboat expeditions. The concept is on feeling.. the quiet hour at sunset looking for a good place to shelter the boat for the night. The water is usually calm then... the desert winds dying down... the massive rocks veiled in soft grayed colors. Peace reigns.
I decided on a major change... now there is a larger juniper tree in the foreground and more bushes on the slopes. I needed to break-up the orange shape on the right.. it was too much and was competing with the main focus.. the towering citadel of stone. I also needed to balance the dark masses ..more of an entrance feeling. So don't be afraid to go for it.
Finished!.. [well except for a couple more strokes of paint]. On to the next project.. I'm thinking skies. The early spring skies have been amazing here in southern Nevada.. and I feel I want to do something more abstract and not as detailed. I need a break!
About 7/8 done.. getting closer. These large paintings are fun but can take a long time to complete.. probably a couple more days [weeks] in the studio. You can compare this version to the earlier underpainting post and see how it has evolved. Colors used are a fairly limited palette... naples yellow, cad orange, two earths [light red and terra rosa], two blues [prussian and ultramarine].. and a violet. 24x24 oil on gallery-wrapped canvas. Onwards.
Slow going on this piece... getting the values and lighting right is a challenge. There is something about this that I am not happy with.. haven't been able to put my finger on it yet.. but I will. The halfway mark is usually the most difficult part of the painting. Each piece 'wants' to come to fruition and needs me to concentrate and be open.. it's a synergistic process.
The next post will be the finished piece [maybe].. and I expect it will be quite different than this image [like what happened to the "Queen of Spades Range']. So back to the easel!
Last night I quickly did the color underpainting for this piece.. prussian blue, cadmium red light, and an earthy light red. I was able to do this so fast because the drawing I did earlier was easy to follow [one reason why drawing is important]. Of course there are always areas of a composition that are problematic.. but eventually they will be designed to belong. The concept has to do with the awe one feels when driving into Zion Canyon.. intimate yet grand.
The concept for this piece is based on a b&w photo I took while working in Zion Canyon last summer. From that.. I drew with a brush and some muddy oil paint I had on my palette diluted with lots of thinner... just a rough sketch on the canvas. This is only a guide.. the painting will evolve as it will when I add colors. Stay tuned!
I am calling this finished! Of course there are always tweaks to be done... but I am on to the next project.. a large painting of the road into Zion Canyon. The concept of this piece came from the painting's title. *There really isn't a range named the 'Queen of Spades'* .. it is named for the strong paisley patterns that are found on the alluvial slopes of deep desert mountains. So here it is.. 24 x 24 oil on canvas.
*Update a couple years later: I am re-working this painting yet again! I guess I just needed some time away from it .. I was never happy with the composition .. the balance was lopsided.. really liked the concept tho.. so back to the drawing board it goes :)
Getting towards the finish on this piece.. paint is too wet for the final layer. I changed the design yet again and added more color... the warm reflected light from the sky on the alluvial fan below. Still have to figure out the foreground and the cast shadow area. The next post on this painting will be when it is completely finished [never!] Hopefully soon...
If you have looked at the previous posts you will have seen my progress.. still have a ways to go. Naturally I had to change colors several times and am contemplating making the foreground all in shadow... not sure I want that much dark.. maybe. Anyway here is the day's work:
Here is where I am in this painting... still working my way through the color harmony... design is very close to where I want it... minor tweaks to be done. But the colors and values are not where I want them yet. Back to the easel!
Today's work left me at about the halfway mark.. spent time adjusting the design and also decided to show some shadow from the mountain ... that put the dry lake in darkness.. I didn't think viewers would understand the lighting if only the mountains were in shadow. Added a few more colors... cadmium red light, permanent madder, and cobalt blue.. hard to use just a few!
Here is today's effort... the first layer of paint over the blue underpainting. The medium I am using is an exotic smelling mixture.. spike lavender oil, dammar varnish, stand oil, and real turpentine... pungent and intoxicating.. wonderful! So far the colors used are gold ochre, terra rosa, prussian blue and ultramarine deep. The values need major adjusting and you can see the design has already changed.. and will again as it evolves.. a somewhat complex patterned piece.
I painted while listening to the great Beethoven's third... music while working is inspiring... puts bounce in the brush. This piece is like a giant puzzle... all the colors and shapes have to work together... a symphony in paint.
Back in the studio! The above image is the original concept pencil sketch for this painting from my sketchbook.. and below is the underpainting done with one of my favorite colors.. prussian blue. I find it much better than the popular thalo.. it has subtle qualities especially when mixed. This piece will be painted using a limited palette.. more on that later... but the focus is on design.. the paisley patterns of a desert alluvial fan ending in a luminous dry lake bed. The light is late afternoon with most of the mountains in shadow... hence the blue blue underpainting.
This is on a 24x24 gallery-wrapped canvas that will require very little framing if any... maintaining a contemporary abstract feel. The values here are not what they will be with color... the shapes are what I needed as a guideline for my paint strokes and are not set in stone. We will see where this goes...
Just recently returned from my nine month sojourn in Zion National Park. Have been busy getting settled opening up my shop/studio and getting ready for some serious concentrated effort...yay! While in Zion... I took hundreds of photos.. but I was only able to dash off a few small plein-air paintings while there...spent most of my free time hiking and exploring this magnificent area of southern Utah.
This spring my plans are to complete several large oils focusing on the imposing Zion monoliths [see sample quick sketch below]. And as for plein-air work.. they will be of the deep deserts found in the outback around Las Vegas and Death Valley. Hope to post some new work soon!