Monday, January 31, 2011

Across Mormon Lake

Finally finished just a bit ago, with a less-than-optimal photo from a jury-rigged indoor photo set up, this is the next in the Impressions of Winter series.  There is some slight glare on the left side of the apologies for that!

Last year, during my winter stay in Bisbee [we were still living in Mystic at the time], I drove up to Flagstaff to visit friends.  The most direct route from Phoenix is I-17, which is how I drove up.  On my way back, however, I took the scenic route.  It heads out of Flagstaff to the east and continues in southeastern direction along Lake Mary Road for about 80 miles until it intersects Hwy 87.  Hwy 87 crosses over the Mogollon Rim before winding down through the Mazatzal Mountains and into the Phoenix valley.  It is a spectacular drive, and should you find yourself needing to head either to or from Phoenix and Flagstaff, it is well worth the extra time for the drive.

About 30 miles south of Flagstaff is Mormon Lake - popular with fishermen and wildlife.  Small clusters of homes line the forested area along the road, and scattered cabins are also found in the open meadows near the edge of the lake.  As the road curved around the southern edge of Mormon Lake, I was struck by the expanse of snow covering it, and the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.  Pulling over and climbing up a snow berm, I took several photos.

This one is a closer crop of a wide-angle shot.  I loved the contrast of the log cabin and barn against the ponderosa-covered hill behind it, and the SF Peaks in the far distance.  I chose to leave a lot of white - most of which is the lake - in this painting.  I feel it is necessary to give the sense of space and scale to this scene, and to show that man's presence is still subordinate to the land and sky here.

Across Mormon Lake
9x12 - oil on board


From yesterday afternoon:

Lenticular-type cumulus foreshadow the coming arctic storm

This purchase of a $100 box for my cat Nelson included a free pair of running shoes.  Thankfully, the box met to his approval.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

On inspiration, passion and paying it forward...

Well, I have a painting started three days ago that's not finished, got nothing done on Thursday, and yesterday was spent hiking and photographing the Bisti Wilderness area of New Mexico (which I will share in a separate post).  So instead, this post is about things relating to art and its creation - a topic which I regularly mull over in my mind.

To begin, I wish to extend a huge thank you to my fellow art blogger and accomplished pastelist, Casey Klahn.  I'm sure many, if not most, readers are probably familiar with his very popular blog The Colorist.  If you haven't visited, please do - in addition to his fine pastel art, he also discusses art and artists, both historical and contemporary, famous and unknown.  I've been a regular reader ever since I came across his blog in 2009, I think.  No matter the medium you work in, it's always a good read.

[stratocumulus sunset over Huachuca Mtns, AZ]
So, imagine my surprise when I see this header on my blogger Dashboard "Items" feed.  It literally left me speechless (and those that know me personally know what a rare thing that is).  And humbled that the tiny space I occupy in the blogger universe had actually made an impact on a fellow artist in such a way to inspire a dedication such as this!  And, importantly, it got me thinking even more about the value of the artist blogosphere collective, supporting each other, and the driving forces behind creating art.

A Window of Opportunity
[Partition Arch, Arches NP]
We all have our particular reasons for choosing to start an art blog.  For myself, a relative late-comer to the art blogging scene, it was the realization that, unlike most personal blogs I'd come across years ago that were nothing but humorless, vapid excursions of narcissism [now supplanted by Facebook], there was actually an incredibly rich source of content in these art blogs.  Artists sharing their creative process,  materials, artwork, and musings along the way.  I found them increasingly enriching, educational and inspiring - more so than the art forum I sometimes participate in.  Beginning a blog seemed like a good way to document my artistic journey, share things that I am passionate about with like-minded folks, provide the impetus to do something art-related daily, and a great opportunity to meet other artists across the country.   And, perhaps I could help inspire others on their artistic endeavors as I had been inspired.  For anyone who is a new reader, or is otherwise inclined to read it, I went into much more detail about my artistic background and history leading up to the point where I began blogging in my introduction post, which can be read here.

A Good Thing
[unidentified Lepidoptera sp. - Colorado]
When I first began blogging and following and regularly reading them, I started linking other artist's blogs on mine, but I was otherwise a lurker.  None of these artists knew I existed, which was understandable, but they also didn't know I enjoyed their work, either.  That seemed contradictory to the spirit of a social network like blogging, so I began to leave comments to let artists know I appreciated their post and blog.   Some would even return the gesture, which was a pleasant surprise.   Leaving comments and sharing the work of fellow artists makes me feel good, because I know it's appreciated.  How else will we find out about the multitude of talented artists out there, or know if anyone cares about what we are doing if not for these same small gestures?  So, in the spirit of that, I will make a point of regularly sharing with you the work of others that I find inspiring on some level, a small way of "paying it forward", as it were.  Perhaps a few more will be so inclined to do the same if you don't already; it is a reward unto itself.

[9-13th century Hohokam rock art, White Tanks Reg. Park, AZ]
Another thing that Casey's post got me thinking about was how important passion for one's subject is to an artist.  It probably is the single biggest driving force that fuels every accomplished artist - famous or not.  I think of work I see by artists of all abilities, mediums and cultures, spanning the centuries, and it's immediately clear whether the artist was passionate about his or her subject - the resultant painting, music or writing can't help but to engage viewers, listeners or readers.  It truly does appear effortless, and it's easy to forget that it is usually the result of years, if not decades, of dedication to one's craft.  But, passion is at the foundation.   I've even seen it in the artwork of children, whose technical skills are far from refined.  I really appreciate Casey's thoughtful observation about the subjects I've chosen to depict in most of my art; the fact my passion comes through in my paintings means that to that end, I've achieved one purpose as an artist...but that will never justify complacency or maintaining the status quo - it merely means I'm correctly following my artistic compass.   I've painted other subjects - boats, and other scenes from the eastern part of the US when I lived there - but it's just not the same.  It doesn't even feel the same.   However, I delight in seeing the artwork of those that express their passion for boats, or whatever emotive response to a subject that moves them to create, even if it's not a subject I'm normally not interested in.  I think it's exciting, and it's one of the things I think I enjoy so much about art in general, and why I appreciate art of all styles, genres and media.  

Community Support
[hoodos, Bisti Wilderness Area, NM]
Finally, I'd like to express my gratitude to those who have taken the time to read my blog, leave comments, and especially my followers and regular readers.  It's your support that keeps me inspired to keep forging ahead towards greater artistic heights, and provides the sense of community that I value so much within the blogosphere.  To all those that are new and just now following or reading this blog, thanks to Casey's generous post, I will do my best to maintain and hopefully elevate the level of content  that he felt made it worthy of a mention and marked as a "hot blog to watch in 2011".  

I leave you with a favorite quote from a source of inspiration to me:

"Betterment is a perpetual labor."
                                          -Atul Gawande, MD, from Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shadow Crossing - winter landscape

original oil landscape painting - snow - winter landscape - 9x12

Next in the Impressions of Winter series is this painting, which is based on a series of photos taken last year when I was on my way up to Flagstaff to visit friends during my AZ winter stay.    In a recent post, I included a link to the pastel "Winter Stream" I did last year, also based on the same area.

This is what I'd describe as an "intimate" landscape, one that focuses on a discreet element of the land.  I was drawn to the organic shape of this small section of open stream, its reflections, and the colors, curves and shapes cast from an unseen ponderosa pine across the untouched banks of snow.  A nearby tree line marks the end of this mountain meadow that this stream traverses.  

Shadow Crossing 
9x12 - oil on board

I had it mostly finished last night, save for the top section of trees, which I finished this morning.  This was another one of those paintings where I wasn't sure it was going to work, but after pushing the paint around and continued finessing of various areas, it came together, and I can honestly say I'm quite pleased with it, especially since it's the first time I've done water reflections in oils.  

On a completely unrelated note, I wanted to take a minute and give a huge THANK YOU to those of you (and you know who you are ;) ) who have been so kind to link my blog on yours.  Seriously, it means a lot to me.  I wouldn't have known about half the wonderful art blogs I follow had it not been for links other bloggers have, which is one reason I enjoy having links to your work and others on my blog.  Thanks again - you all are the best!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Final Light [of the decade]

The latest, and maybe the last, of the Impressions of Winter paintings based on northern New Mexico references.  I may revisit them at some point, but now I'm going to move on to some different locales for winter paintings.

This painting depicts the late afternoon sun shortly before it dips below the horizon, but also as it is partially obscured by a distal winter cloud.  The trick, or challenge, was to try and capture that in the painting without it appearing contrived.  The cloud's edges act like an aperture of sorts, causing some of the sun's rays to form a radiating pattern of light.  It's an effect I quite like in photos when it is expertly done, and I've seen many painters pull it off as well.

So, I thought I'd give it a shot.  This is also the first time I've done anything approaching a sunset in oils.  This really didn't photograph as well as I'd hoped - it looks better in person.  As I look at it now, the small dark scattered clouds in the upper left are bugging me...enough that I'll probably re-do that area when the painting is dry.

It's titled as such, with the portion in brackets, because this was indeed the last sunset of the first decade of the new millennium:  Dec 31, 2010 - 6:20:13 PM, according to the EXIF data on the reference photo.

Final Light
9x12 - oil on board

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Prelude to Winter: La Plata Canyon

After working on the sanded black board for yesterday's pastel, I decided to do a piece that I've had in mind for a while now, on the same surface, but in a 1:2 format I've been really wanting to try.  So, I'm sneaking it in between the winter series.

It's based on a photo taken right after one of our early snows, as we were heading out for our Arches trip in October, looking towards La Plata Canyon along Hwy 160.  Fall colors have faded, leaving large patchworks of bare aspen interspersed with stands of evergreen spruce and fir.  The grasses of the meadows leading into the canyon area have turned shades of golden and earthy brown.  The road to La Plata Cyn follows the row of cottonwoods, and one of the handful of ranches off the road can be seen.

Consulting a local map, I believe that one of the distal peaks may be Hesperus Mountain, the tallest of this group in the La Platas.  Hesperus is Latin for "evening star", and it has significance as being one of the four Sacred Mountains to the Navajo people.

A Prelude to Winter:  La Plata Canyon
pastel on black-toned archival board 
10 x 20 inches

And a photo of the waning gibbous moon, taken earlier this morning, before it passed behind the crest of Smelter Mtn:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Red Barn and Foothills - pastel

Another quick break from the experiment to try snow and high-key colors on a black surface.  It is a home-made surface of Golden pumice ground and black acrylic paint applied to 4-ply archival matboard.

Unlike the Four Corners Roadtrip series, these paintings aren't done in temporal sequence.  This, in fact, was based on one of the last photos I took before the sun really beat it back behind the horizon and I put the camera away.  The light on the foothills of the Jemez Mountains was incredible, and I tried to capture it in this painting.  I kept a single building in - a western-styled barn, I'm guessing, from my blurry reference photo.  And it had to be red.

Red Barn and Foothills
~11x 7.5 - pastel on black-toned pumice board

Friday, January 21, 2011

Winter's Light on the Mesa

Next in the Impressions of Winter series is this painting, depicting more juxtaposition of light and shadow on the land via the nearby hill and distal mesa.

Winter's Light upon the Mesa
9x12 - oil on board

Plenty of challenges in this painting, including trying to suggest groups of pinyon/juniper on the distal sun-covered slopes.  Not easy, especially working wet-in-wet.  And using very slight value shifts to give convincing depth to the foreground.  I'm not sure if it reads well to viewers, actually, or is just plain bizarre.  It was still enjoyable to paint, despite the frustrations of those distal greens...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Encroaching Shadows

Back to oils for a bit.  This piece was started before the pastels, but I decided to split it into two sessions, which turned out to be a Good Idea - I was able to fix several things that were bothering me in the first session.

More sandstone, shadows and snow.  And those glorious clouds!  In my computer room/office, the view faces east, and there is a large rocky hillside slope about 200 meters away.  It is currently covered with snow, and in the late afternoon, I watch as the shadows lengthen behind the pinyon and juniper and the full shadows gradually creep up, replacing the pale pinks, yellows and lavenders with cooler, darker blues.  This is of course what caught my eye and prompted this photo along the drive.

Encroaching Shadows
9x12 - oil on board

For this piece (and the next one coming up), I decided to pull out another of my seldom-used colors from my equine art days:  Indian yellow.  It is a very dark, intense transparent pigment that tints with white to a brilliant earthy yellow - just perfect for the yellows of these sunlit sandstone cliffs.  It's probably a more practical color for southwestern landscapes than the cadmium yellow light I had used in the past as my primary yellow.  It's also in the clouds and the juniper scrub.  Indian red, yellow ochre, purple lake, pthalo and ultramarine blue round out the palette here, along with white.   The biggest challenge here was to try and define the changing planes of the slope via subtle color shifts and brush strokes.  The shrubs help as well.

And, here are some photos from this morning's sunrise  moonset, taken just after I got out of bed.  Another 10 minutes, and I'd have missed it.  Isn't she a beauty?

Approaching the horizon
70mm - shot with 18-70mm f/4.5 Nikkor zoom lens

Full moon morning glow
200mm - shot with 55-200mm f/5.6 Nikkor tele zoom

Full moon going...

...almost gone

Monday, January 17, 2011

Roadside Decor - pastel - SOLD

Finished just under the wire with this painting, in terms of being able to get a photo of it for today's blog post [I take all my photos outside under shaded natural light - I hate using tripods and indoor lighting if I can help it].

It took me the longest time to come up with a title for this piece, and I changed it again as I was writing this part of the post.  And yes, it's another highway scene; I can't seem to stop painting them.

Roadside Decor
pastel on Strathmore 500-series paper

The contrast of snow against this road-cut section of sedimentary rock slope caught my eye.   The snow forms delicate patterns down the face of the uplifted rock, helping to define the curves and grooves within the eroded facade of pink and red sandstone, decorating it.  I really like the juniper along the distal edge of the flat land plane, so I kept some there, as well as a few tenacious individuals residing on the slope itself.  Meanwhile, the sun awaits  the traveler just up the road and around the bend.   There is a quiet drama in this scene.  

Unlike the last painting, also on Strathmore paper, this time I decided to use blending.  The paper was a mid-value brown, and I didn't feel visible paper would enhance this painting.   In one of Johannes' live painting demos with pastel, he recommended the use of a styrofoam packing peanut to blend the pastel with.  I decided to try it, and it was great, giving me more control over blended edges than my fingers could.  Working in this paper definitely requires some finesse, as it doesn't accept nearly as many layers as sanded grounds do, and I see areas that could use some finessing of the snow lines.   I'm probably a sucker for punishment to keep using it, but it does keep me on my toes as mistakes aren't easily forgiven.

And, here are a few photos from this afternoon's sky, taken when I was photographing the painting.  Temperatures were warmer, and snow clouds were blowing through the mountain areas earlier in the day.  It was a good day for cloudspotting .

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hillside Shadows II - pastel painting

I was drawn to the reference for this because of the simple, abstracted shapes of the hills and shadows/light.   I made several compositional changes from the original reference photo, including removing the highway at the bottom and varying the positions of the dried grasses and adding the shallow gully.  The juniper shrubs and distal mesa add some depth and a sense of scale.

My goal was to work quickly and not fiddle with it; it took just over an hour after I'd blocked in the basic shapes with a charcoal pencil and white Conte pencil.  I chose the medium value blue paper intending that some would show through, so no blending at all was done, other than scumbling of layers.  Bringing some of the purple-gray used in the clouds scumbled on the blue shadows helped to harmonize it a bit.

Hillside Shadows II
12 x 16 inches
pastel on Strathmore 500-series paper

I think one of the things that draws me to this series of photos that were taken within a relatively short period of time and small geographical area is the wide variance of the topography, all of which I find visually appealing.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fading Light - pastel

Number three in the Impressions of Winter series was begun two days ago, but I decided to split it into two sessions.  While waiting for that to dry, I started this piece, in pastel, yesterday late afternoon and finished it up this morning...before our snowshoeing trip, so at least I'd have something to post today.

Unlike my Four Corners roadtrip series, which was purposely done in sequence, this series is not.  I started out with what I thought would be the simplest image to paint and have been choosing references based on what appeals to me at that moment.

Having been working in oils now for the past 3 1/2 months almost exclusively, returning to pastel seemed so...easy?  If not for the more detailed graphite drawing and alcohol wash underpainting, this would have come together even quicker than it did.

More fun with shadows here.  This piece reminded me of why I love pastels:  their immediacy and ability to layer without waiting for anything to dry.  And snow is really a blast to paint in pastels.

Fading Light
pastel on Wallis sanded paper - 9x12

Snow is really the magical transformer of the land and the elements within.  Its effect on mountains is, of course, stating the obvious.  But, it makes for a glorious addition to sandstone.

Another thing it does is distill and simplify.  Needless detail is eliminated.  Elements of the land emerge as abstract shapes, and there is more contrast of values.  I think this is one reason why winter scenes are so compelling and popular to paint; I am seeing them show up on so many blogs lately, and the work is just fantastic!

Speaking of simplification, here are a few photos from today's snowshoeing trip near Molas Lake, shot with W's new Nikon Coolpix that I commandeered as I decided to leave my D40 at home today.  We hiked the section of the Colorado Trail that passes through, and we did end up catching part of it today.  It's just amazing how the land is transformed, and is hardly recognizable in many ways.  

Embracing aspen and shadows
Aspen are one of the few trees that are simply beautiful no matter what the season.  I think I have an obsession with them...and the shadows they cast on snow.

The Grenadier Range to the east

Zen Tree
The essence of transformation.   The little critter tracks everywhere fascinate me.

Molas Creek
As seen near the section of the Colorado Trail, and looking back towards the rock outcropping where the second photo was taken.  

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.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hillside Shadows - first in new series SOLD

After minimal consideration (and indications that people were getting bored with the sky series), I've switched gears again!  I had been debating between beginning a series of portrait studies, based primarily on copying of Master's works, or another landscape series.

What ultimately inspired my choice, however, was Don Gray's post today on his blog Daily Art West, entitled "Below The Mountain".  It is a marvelous winter landscape depicting the light hitting the face of a mountain with the land below cast in shadows.   It immediately reminded me of the photos I took on our Dec 31 drive back from AZ, along the section of Hwy 550 north of Albuquerque, beginning around the Zia Indian reservation.

The light was in the "magic hour",  producing a beautiful pink glow on the sandstone cliffs, hills and distal Jemenez Mountains to the east as we headed north.  Much of the land was cast in deep blue shadows from cliffs and mesas to the west, and residual snow clouds were also catching the late afternoon light of the sun.

I went back through my photos of that area and knew that I'd found my next series, which I'm calling Winter's Presence, for lack of a more creative name.  I've found at least 10 photos out of this batch that I could easily paint.  Plus, there are photos I took last year, this year in the La Platas, and no doubt more to come.  So, it could be a long series.  I did two snow paintings last year, in pastel, which remain amongst my favorites, and I knew I would be painting more snow/winterscapes.  You can see them here: Winter on the Ridge Trail and Winter Stream.  I'm actually really excited about this new series, and am off to work on another piece in a bit.

Hillside Shadows
oil on board - 6x8"

I never got around to posting photos from that section of the trip, which is just as well, but here is a panoramic shot I took when we stopped to switch off driving duties,  showing how beautiful the combination of sandstone cliffs, snow, and afternoon light and shadow are:

Mesa on the Zia Reservation

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Uncertain Skies

Another, perhaps next-to-last, in the Southwest Sky series.  Another with the highway - the interstate this time, with its smooth black asphalt - visible.  View is due west, heading towards Flagstaff.  Titled such because it's not clear what the weather will be like as we climb to the 7,000' elevation of Flagstaff.  Clearing, rain or snow?

One observation that I've made regarding cloud-filled skies, is how intensely blue the sky patches are compared to how the sky seems on a sunny day.  From an optical perspective, I'm not sure how it is explained, so I am assuming it is more of a phenomenon of contrast:  the grays of the clouds, as they absorb, reflect and scatter light from the sun and the surface of the earth, make the colors of he sky seem so much more pure and intense.  The gradations of color are so striking and beautiful in the negative areas where sky shows through.

Even looking out my window as I type this, I notice the effect.  Stratocumulus snow clouds are drifting by, in lovely shades of yellows, purples and blue-grays, and the sky seems so much more intense in areas surrounded by cloud vapor.

Uncertain Skies
oil on MDF oil primed board

The snowshoeing post with photos of Andrews Lake will be a separate post, perhaps tomorrow, but here are some photos of today's walk down the Animas river trail:

Looking upriver from the footbridge - intense blue reflects from the small patches of visible sky.  Some ducks enjoy the icy water.

Downriver from the footbridge -  hard to believe it's the same location.  Warm southerly light reflects in the river and a patch of willows on the embankment add some additional interest with the snow-covered river boulders.

Cross-section of life forms
  A front line of dormant reeds contrasts with the rock-strewn section of the river.  Can you find the Canadian geese?  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Two more in Southwest Skies series

These paintings were actually completed on Wednesday, but too late to get photos.  An all-day snowshoeing trip on Thursday caused me to miss the opportunity to photograph them on that day, and yesterday, I just didn't get around to doing the planned blog post.

So, here they are, finally.  I'll probably do 1-2 more, depending upon what grabs me, and wrap it up.  I've been thinking about the next direction I want to head, subject-wise, and am starting to gravitate towards figurative work, both animal and human.  We shall see.  I may do a short series of winter landscapes based on some of my recent photos.

Along the High Plateau
oil on panel

Painted Desert Sky
oil on canvas board

Both of these locations are along I-40 in Arizona.  Just west of Gallup, the Painted Cliffs form an unexpected addition to the land, tapering away near the AZ border to form wide, sweeping plains with pinion-juniper as the dominant vegetative zone.  The land is cut with washes and arroyos, the edge of which is seen in the first painting.  Near Holbrook, the Little Colorado river , on its northwestern path towards the Colorado, passes by, follows along the interstate, and takes its exit north at Winslow towards Leupp and Grand Falls.  The geologic make-up along much of I-40 east of Flagstaff is Chinle formation - Painted Desert.  Both the Petrified Forest and Meteor Crater are also right off I-40.

Both of these were again done with the limited palette of the two blues (phthalo and ultramarine), Indian red, yellow ochre and purple lake.  "Painted Desert Sky" was sort of an afterthought to do as a quick painting on these small 5x7 canvases I'd purchased shortly after I started my Four Corners roadtrip series.    Despite the extra layer of oil primer I used over the canvas, I really don't care for the texture at this small size.  Once the other two are used up, no mas - only MDF or Masonite panels.

The snowshoeing trip we did on Thursday was amazing on many different levels.  I was going to include some photos I took here, but I think they warrant their own post.  So, I will post that later today.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back on track for 2011

A belated happy New Year to everyone!  Despite the fact we got back on New Year's eve from our 9-day holiday trip, and theoretically had plenty of time to work both in my studio, or write up a post reflecting back on 2010 and outlining goals for 2011, it just didn't happen.   Instead, because of the sporadic and limited time I had internet access during our trip, I simply slummed it around the house and caught up on blogging and other reading.

I actually did finally start working on a new piece - a large pastel of the local area - for a specific project, and it ended up being a dud right out of the blocks, and after spending one evening and part of yesterday morning on it, I decided to put it aside.  I'll probably toss it, but perhaps if I look at it later with a fresher attitude, I'll have the energy to rework and perhaps salvage it.   The other productive thing I managed to do yesterday was to finally construct a drying/storage rack for my paintings; I'll post pictures and a description of the tools and materials I used in another post.

I've given some thought to the direction I'd like to go with my art, as well as the blog, this year.  I will keep working in oils, definitely, and I'd like to work on some still lifes, which will be a good way to work from life when it's too cold to paint outside.   I also had another idea for a series of small paintings, based on a subject that is near and dear to my heart:  my beloved cat.  I also want, or need, actually, to dedicate more time to drawing.  Despite what some artists will say, I absolutely believe that good paintings come from good draftsmanship.  One can get away with limited drawing skills when painting landscapes, but there is little room for error when doing still lifes, and essentially none when doing portraiture.  And, finally, I'd like to resume playing with clay again; I've had ideas bouncing around in my head for both bas-relief pieces and some full sculptures.  I know myself well enough not to commit 100% to any of these, thus these are not "resolutions", but more of a mental "to-do" list.

I keep editing the layout of my blog, both adding, removing and changing elements there.  I'm sure I'll continue to do so, all to make it more streamlined and adding new links as I come across them.  As a primarily "self-taught" artist, I spend a great deal of time reading.  This includes instructional and technique-oriented books and articles, as well as those profiling specific artists.  As I always enjoy reading such information that other bloggers share, I will probably start incorporating more of these sources of information and inspiration in some blog posts.   I hope readers will get something out of the shared information as well.  I'm currently reading a book on Sargent from our library, so that will perhaps be my first discussion topic.

In the meantime, I finally sat down and painted in earnest today, going back to some of the 9x12 panels I prepared.  I'm not sure how many more in this Southwest Sky series I'll do, but I'm probably over half done.  I was drawn to the reference photo for this because of the sweeping gesture of the center cloud - its drama contrasts with that of the land, which like much of the region along Hwy 491, has a wide-spanning and grass-covered foreground with distal plateaus and mesas.  I really don't tire of this landscape.  Due to poor weather, we took the same route down during our Christmas trip, and I enjoyed seeing the locations of the paintings I've done thus far, and with a new perspective.

Towards the Heavens
9x12 - oil on board

As is usually the case, I always see things I could change when I look at the photo:  a few awkward shapes in the clouds, primarily.  The color correction is a bit off in this; it's a tad too green, and the colors within the clouds aren't as apparent as they are in the actual painting.  I'm still confounded by working alla prima and trying to keep those sky/cloud edges from becoming messy.  

Another experiment here was replacing ultramarine blue with phthalo blue.  One of the stores we went into while in Bisbee had some Van Gogh paint 1/2 off, including a tube each of cobalt and phthalo blues, and I ask you:  who could resist buying art supplies on clearance?  Not me, and I bought them both!  This brand is quite chromatic, a strong tinter, and very much leans towards turquoise, but I loved it.   It will be part of my permanent palette for sure.  I used a limited palette here of the phthalo, yellow ochre, Indian red and purple lake.

I am hoping that this now fires up my energy in the studio to resume daily paintings, and a productive year.  

And, here are two photos from yesterday afternoon.  Temperatures have just recently warmed to above freezing for the day, so the 1' of snow that fell last week is slow to melt.

Altocumulus over Smelter Mtn. and Perins Pk.

Smelter with winter tree silhouette
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