Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Skull Valley and Beyond

Skull Valley, 9X12, oil/cavas panel ©2011

Hi Everybody!
Last week I got out of the studio long enough to paint this piece on location. I found this view when I was out geocaching, which is a modern day treasure hunt (hidden are little capsule which contain a log book to sign in and some small trinkets you are free to take with you, as long as you leave something of equal value. But for me the treasures are the locations I'm taken to by other geocachers who hide caches for the rest of us to find. Locations I might never find on my own. Breathtaking views and vistas are the norm). Anyways, when I found this site, I knew I would have to come back to paint it. We've had plenty of snow here in the high desert and this scene is evidence of that. True enough it usually doesn't stay around long, but if you're quick you can get it down before it melts. As the name implies, this is a view of Skull Valley which is a ranching area.

Skull Valley photo reference

I got this down between 3 and 5pm, and touched it up a bit in the studio. When I started out it was intermittently cloudy, but was clearing up. Here is what the scene looked like when I started painting it. As the afternoon wore on it cleared up and I was able to get the light effect I was looking for.

Thanks for looking! Steve

Friday, January 7, 2011

Painted the Grand Canyon yesterday

Grand Twilight, 10X8, oil/linen panel

Hi Everybody,
yesterday I was fortunate enough to take a road trip with fellow painter extraordinaire Bill Cramer. Bill is an extremely talented painter who spends a lot of time outdoors painting on location. So when I had the chance to get back up to the Grand Canyon with him, I jumped at it. Though you would have thought having my plein air butt kicked there last September would have been enough! But I figured, Hey, It's a new year, there's snow on the ground, and well.... it's the Grand Freakin' Canyon. Many thanks to Bill for all the coaching and tips he shared with me about painting the Canyon. Plein air painters joke that painting the Grand Canyon is like getting your graduate degree in location painting. I couldn't agree more. We only had time for a couple of studies. Today in the studio after a good night's sleep, I decided one of them was good only for a color study from which I can do a larger painting down the road. Which is the real reason to do these in the first place. But the second one had possibilities if I did some repainting. So, even though this painting started as a plein air, it is squarely a studio piece.

The painting ended up being set at twilight with the stars just becoming visible. The colors are saturated and the shadows in the canyon are long and deep. It retains the feeling of a plein air because I kept my brush loose. I don't believe it would have improved the painting by tightening it up. What's important to me here is the feeling and mood of the light.

Thanks for looking, Steve

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Canyon Glow

Canyon Glow, 9X12, oil on canvas panel

Hi Everyone,
Things have been busy in the studio. I've been working on several figurative paintings lately, which for me at least, take more time to finish. But I found time to do this landscape studio painting last week, just before Christmas. Ann and I have a tradition of going to Zion in early November right after the peak season finishes. The cottonwood trees are at their peak and the weather is cool and comfy (ok, sometimes it's cold and frigid). At this time of year, the sun's arch is low in the sky and it takes a long time for it to light up the canyons, but boy when it does, it's glorious! I always joke that at this time of year, you can't throw a stone without killing a photographer.... they're EVERYWHERE! And since we're all there for the same reason, it's like you're part of this fraternity that's on a working holiday. Most of our time is taken up with being with friends, so I didn't bring my paintbox this time, but my camera was never out of my hand. I remember taking the photo from which I painted this picture. I stood there for some time making mental notes about what the light was doing, the color temps and why it would be so effective as a painting. The smaller trees which are still in shadow in the foreground were surprisingly green compared to the line of cottonwoods being lit by the sun. This helps to separate them from the focal point of the glowing foliage. There was quite a bit more detail in the canyon wall, but if I had painted it in in the same detail as was there, it would have competed with the tree line, so I minimized it. I have a quotation taped to the top of my easel which I see every day to remind myself, "Minimize the Obvious, Maximize the Essential". That about says it all!

Thanks for looking, Steve