Monday, November 15, 2010

Plateau Shadows - FC & Colorado Plateau Road-trip series

I didn't give much thought to the title of this series of paintings when I began it about 6 weeks ago, sticking to a purely descriptive term of the geographical location and region the paintings encompass - Four Corners and the Colorado Plateau.  Technically speaking, Four Corners only extends as far west as Kayenta, so we left that a while back, but I wanted to maintain some consistency in the titles.   I just hope it isn't confusing or misleading for anyone not familiar with the region.

The bottom line is that this is all about the Road Trip.  I've always loved road trips, probably because we took them when I was growing up, often in the form of extended car camping trips.  I would guess many readers have similar experiences and can relate to the delights of the changing scenery and sense of adventure that go with auto travel.

We are now on the final section of our drive:  the Kaibab Plateau.   At the small establishment of Jacob Lake, we take Hwy 67 south towards the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  After beginning in a ponderosa pine forest, the road continues to rise and eventually opens up to a broad meadow that now has aspen and some spruce.  At the time of the trip, the grasses were in their mature summer greens with hints of yellow and rosy-browns.  Clouds distal near Vermilion Cliffs are now directly overhead, casting shadows on large sections of the forest and meadow.

Hwy 67 travels about 45 miles due south before terminating at the North Rim Lodge.  Multiple FS roads lead off of the highway to head for destinations more remote, and the occasional FS or NPS cabin is seen; I decided to keep  them in this painting, in fact.  Their small size gives a sense of how large this meadow is.

Plateau Shadows 
oil on canvas 

This was done in a single session, and I limited the palette to ultramarine blue, sap green, cadmiums red deep, orange and yellow medium and titanium white.  I found that adding just a touch of sap green (warm) to the UB (cool) was just perfect to take that intense edge off without resulting in a turquoise sky.  

Another important change/discovery I made for this painting was trying a different brush.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to figure out that the brushes could be part of the problem for laying down paint in the manner I wanted, but it did.  The brushes I was using were primarily flats and filberts in various sizes, but the problem is that the bristles are very stiff...too stiff for any type of thick paint application, in fact.   So, on a whim, I pulled out some older flat of softer nylon bristles and noticed a 100% improvement.  

Nice to have those ah-ha moments from time to time - it helps validate the whole process a bit when things are learned.  The result is that I really like how this painting turned out.  I seldom enjoyed painting with greens in pastels, probably because I never seemed to have the right colors I needed [and green isn't my favorite color, either].  But, this was different.  Easy.  Fun.  

Next up:  the destination view.  I'm off to go work some more on it and hopefully will have it finished by tomorrow.

In the meantime, because I found it difficult to narrow down to just one photo of this meadow, here are a few others taken along Hwy 67.  I may revisit some at a later date for paintings.  

Big sky country
Not just for those in Montana

Dramatic lighting
No boring greens or shapes in this forest.

Front row seats
Ignoring the blown-out sky, the stand of bright green aspen really catch the afternoon light in the predominately coniferous forest.


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