Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Across the Foothills

Second in the Impressions of Winter series (name change for series), this depicts a scene commonly seen in the high country of the southwest:  a snow cloud blowing across nearby mountains or hills.  I used to go snowshoeing in such weather when I lived in Flagstaff, and when you are in the midst of it, the sun is obliterated and it seems like a never-ending blizzard.  However, it's usually a much more localized event, as is shown here, as the clouds "catch" on the mountains and have a rather finite range.  The mountains themselves are only hinted at behind the increasing veil of snow, adding a sense of mystery and drama.

Across the Foothills
oil on board - 6x8

This probably would would really well in a larger size - I had intended it as a quick piece, so I kept it small - but it needs a bit more detail to make it work than some other references might.  There are some things I'd change looking at this, but the journey as an artist is a work-in-progress, and there are many things I do like about it.  It also marks my 60th oil painting.  

Since all the photos I shot along this section of Hwy 550 were taken through the window of a moving car, they aren't really "photo-worthy", but are proving quite useful as painting references for this series.  However, I do want to share this particular photo, which, all things considered, isn't that bad.  It is a not-often seen cloud phenomenon, and regular readers know what a complete geek I am when it comes to clouds:

Sundog over distal mesas

Trivia:  Sundogs, aka "parhelium" (or "parahelia" for plural) are more often seen during the winter months, and form when light from the sun passes through hexagonal plate crystals of ice found in cirrostratus clouds at 60 degrees.  The red side faces the sun, and these sometimes occur in pairs - each parahelium is 22 degrees away from the sun and at the same elevation.  I've seen them several times, and it's always a treat.

So, if you've ever seen one of these delightful "mock suns", but didn't know what it was called, now you know.  


  1. Sundog - sign of change in the weather. Fascinating how you parsed it out so well. Love it.

    I am interested in your name change, but I can imagine your thinking as you go along. The hillside )or below it) and then winter scenes with light just so, perhaps. Very good stuff.

    I was looking at an old winter scene of mine that I actually unframed, and thinking about redoing it. These give me inspiration.

  2. Casey - glad you enjoyed the info on the sundog. They are fascinating, aren't they? There are only a few things that cirrostratus are good for: halo phenomena like this, and sunsets/sunrises. They have ruined many a good photo shoot otherwise ;).

    It's funny - I find that I'm usually not very creative when it comes to naming things. And, yesterday, that was as good as I could do for a name for the series. Today, as I finished working on this and began the third, "Impressions" rather just surfaced in my mind. It seemed more fitting, as these are really impressions of what moves me in this season.

    I'm delighted and humbled that these have now given you inspiration! May the torch continued to be passed along.

  3. Love how you captured that effect of the snow "catching" on the mountain. I've experienced that, and it feels very accurate here.

    Sundog! I didn't know that had a name. How totally cool. I LOVE the stuff I learn about clouds on your blog.

  4. Jala - yeah, living where you do, at the base of the Front Range, I'm sure you see these snowstorms all the time. So, I'm glad you think it works!

    Glad you also enjoyed the info on the sundogs; now you can impress your friends with geeky cloud trivia as well ;).


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