Friday, October 16, 2009

Canyon de Chelly paintout post #2

Sunset at Spider Rock, 9X12, oil/panel

Hi Everybody,
I'm in the middle of moving a house packed full of stuff from the basement to the top floor, from Minnesota to Arizona. Now I remember why I never wanted to have to move again....Hmmmm. But, it's all worth it to be moving toward something as great as living in the West. I won't have to jump on an airplane in order to paint the mountains anymore. Now I can slip out my back door and I'm there. Within a couple of hours to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Phoenix and Flagstaff. Within driving distance to....Canyon de Chelly! Not to mention my Gallery. Several lifetimes worth of painting material right in my back yard. I'm feeling so blessed right now....I just have to get through the MOVE!!

But I have a spare moment, so I wanted to post the rest of my Canyon de Chelly paintings. The painting above is of Spider Rock or Tsi na ash jeii, probably the most well known and easily recognizable of the rock formations at the Canyon. This rock spire is 800 feet tall, so you can see that the vantage point is above the spire and is probably over 1000 feet. According to Navajo legend, atop Spider Rock lives Spider Woman, a deity who taught Navajo women to weave. She's also believed, by the Navajo, to carry naughty children to the top of Spider Rock.

The way to do a painting with quick moving light, such as this, is to lock in the shadows quickly (no details), and leave them. Do not try to follow the light. If you get your values down quickly, the whole time checking them against one another, you will have enough information to add the details later if you need to. Even if you have to do it in the studio later, you can, as long as your values are accurate. For this painting, I had plenty of time to do it all on site. Partly because the arc of the sun is relatively low across the sky in Northern Arizona, so when it gets close to setting, it does it more slowly than I'm used to. Which is a blessing.

My friend Rusty Jones and I, sat down to paint this on a rather windy evening. Rusty is an incredibly talented plein air painter and all around good guy. I truly believe that in the two hours we took to paint at this site, the temps dropped twenty degrees. I've painted in a lot of cold weather since I live here in Minnesota, but I have to say that I have never been colder than I was when I painted this one. I wasn't dressed for it in just a t-shirt. Luckily I had a wind breaker in my back pack, cause if I hadn't I don't think I'd have been able to finish it.


Tsegi Overlook, 11X14, oil/Canvas Panel

Painted on location at Canyon de Chelly, Sept 21, 2009 approx 2pm on a very very windy day. In fact, this painting has a great deal of sand embedded into the paint. It was impossible to turn my paint box to keep the sand out of my paints or off my painting. This painting was painted in wind gusts I have to guess were 30 to 40 mph. So I painted it with one hand holding the paint box and panel and the other holding my brush. This painting truly holds a special place in my heart. My wife calls it my "Sand Painting". That's about right.


Canyon Passage, 9X12, oil/canvas panel

There are still Navajo families living and working on the floor of Canyon de Chelly. They farm and raise livestock and the fences you pass by while in the Canyon are put up to keep curious tourists out and their livestock in. I've learned that there is an incredible amount of water just a couple of feet under the surface and cause the cottonwoods to be this incredible neon green. If you painted them that way, no one would believe they were that color. So I dial down the saturation in the tree on the right side. The trees in the middle ground are a greyish blue green. I don't know what kind they are, but I thought they were a nice variation of all the cottonwoods.


Ancient Waters, 9X12, oil/canvas panel

I love the depth of the cliffs in this painting. I didn't have to change too much in this composition. I stayed pretty true to what was actually there. The only change I made was adding water rivulets. Originally the tracks were made by the jeeps that drive through the canyon. All I had to do was fill them with water.


Ray Craighead said...

Wonderful work, Steve. Yes, moving is no fun. Just completed one myself. Looking forward to your new work as you settle into your new home.

Rusty Jones said...

Seeing these on your blog after actually watching you paint them is way cool.I really enjoyed our time painting, but more importantly just getting to know the guy behind the brush was real special. Let's do it again soon.

Tim Fitzgerald said...

Congratulations on your move to a sunnier climate. The colors are just perfect out west. Really enjoyed your canyon paintings.
Moving is difficult and leaving a place has is bad points and also its rewards. Change is always a good stimulus.
Good Luck

Steve Atkinson said...

Thanks for the posts guys. It always makes my day when you take the time to comment. I'm in the home stretch now for finishing up the move, just a few more weeks, I think.