Winter Along the Forgotten Road
pastel on 140# w/c paper with Golden pumice ground
When I pulled together the reference photos for the Impressions of Winter series, I'd almost forgotten about this one. It's easy to forget that winter isn't only about snow-blanketed land and frozen streams, but that it casts its influence across the desert regions to the south as well.
This painting is based on a photo I took last February - Feb 28, in fact - during my stay in Bisbee. A winter storm blew through the region, dropping temperatures down into the low 30's, and produced fierce wind gusts. I would frequently head out on photo shoots on such stormy days, assuming road conditions were acceptable. On this day, I drove out towards the Huachuca Mtns., circling south towards the Coronado Nat. Monument.
This region is a semi-desert grassland and lower areas are surrounded by Chihuahuan desert. Scrub oak and manzanita are found throughout, and then there are these amazing spreads of grass that turn to pale yellow-gold in the winter - I find these to be absolutely beautiful. It's increasingly difficult to find an area of this grassland that isn't broken up by housing developments now, but I found one. Essentially untouched, save for a small fence and fading double-track road, leading straight to Mexico...which is probably less than 1/2 mile away.
The sweeping view of the Sierra Madre Occidentals within this basin and range province is obliterated by the storm and falling snow and rain falling to the south. Behind me to the north, the Huachucas were getting a dusting of snow. This is winter in the desert - subtle, mostly, but present.
Here is a photo of the blocking-in stage, prior to application of rubbing alcohol for an underpainting, which helps fix the pastel well into the surface. I always use an underpainting on these home-made w/c paper surfaces when I don't tone the paper black as I dislike working on a white surface. Plenty of room for corrections between this and the finished painting, thankfully.