Sunday, February 27, 2011

Utah canyon country landscape - pastel

tags:  southwestern landscape painting - pastel painting - original art - 9x12 - Canyonlands NP - southern Utah

Wingate Colors Against a Turquoise Sky
12x9 inches
pastel on Wallis sanded paper

Based on a photo taken from our trip to Canyonlands National Park last October, this depicts the arcing cliffs of wingate sandstone that line the canyon and road leading towards the park.  The amazing array of colors found on the eroded face of this rock result from both the mineral composition of the sandstone itself, as well a biochemical process with manganese oxide, water and bacteria to form the deep purple-grays of desert varnish.  The fissures and fracture lines form a series of abstract shapes that always appeal to my aesthetics.

I couldn't resist a turquoise sky for this piece, although it doesn't photograph as well as I'd hoped.  Cirrus clouds were added as a diagonal thrust to balance the curves of the sandstone.  Chamisa (Chrysothamnus sp., aka Rabbitbrush), sage and juniper make up some of the foreground botanicals.  

For this piece, I pulled out some tube watercolors I bought for sketching and did an underpainting to block in basic shapes over a loose graphite drawing, with none of the original underpainting showing through:


  1. This is appealing to me on a lot of levels. Not the least of which is my rock climber's love of rock faces.

  2. Nice job on capturing the big shapes, I'm sure there were plenty of nooks and crannys you could've added. The upward view definitely allows you to get saturated colors into the sky.

  3. Thanks, Casey. My sense of adventure doesn't include any rock climbing (although I want to learn technical canyoneering), so I tip my hat to you as a climber!

    Hi Dan - thanks. I was looking through my Albert Handel landscape book before I embarked on this painting, to refresh myself on how he [masterfully] handles rocks by use of subtle variations in hue, temperature (there it is again!) and stroke direction, and balancing the amount of detail to add. It's tricky.

    Thanks, Jala :).

  4. I love your sprawling sky and the sage mirroring its color. I've never heard of wingate or desert varnish. I know what they are, I just didn't know the names. Rabbitbrush is all over the ranch. It's an invasive weed (so are we), but it's always good to see its happy yellow bloom at a time when nothing else is in flower.

  5. Hi Sam - appreciate your comments. I can't help but to geek out over the science and geology of the region in some of my blog posts...Wingate is the oldest member of the Glen Canyon Group, a late Triassic-era rock. Kayenta and Navajo sandstone are the other members. I didn't know Chamisa was non-native; it's at least not a noxious, invasive eyesore like Russian thistle is.

    Hi Skizo - thanks for dropping by :)

  6. Sonya, you have done such a great job of capturing the "feel" of the Canyon. I really enjoy the perspective you chose.

  7. Hi Sandy - thank you very much for your comments! The perspective was also one of the things that drew me to paint this as well.


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