Monday, October 15, 2012

Back from PleinAir Moab...and with another ribbon

Back yesterday shortly after noon, as I decided that it was too far out of the way to paint at Dead Horse State Park after almost a solid week of painting.

Anyway, aside from last Friday being pretty much a total wash due to rain throughout the day from the storm passing through the region, it was another productive and fun trip.

Something different happened on this trip, unexpected, which was spending four sessions over four days working on a single painting:

Late Afternoon Glow on the Monocline - 12x24", diptych
pastel on black cardstock

The finished painting on location, after the sun had
set behind the cliffs and the clouds had moved on
Part of the reason for this was because I ended up reworking the sky twice, the La Sal mountains once, and it wasn't until Wednesday late afternoon that the sky gave me what I wanted, and I was able to take the painting to the  level I had envisioned.  On the previous days, there were no clouds, which made for a bland sky.   Last year, during our early November trip, we had stopped by this location, which is along the road to Ken's Lake a few miles east of town, in the late afternoon.  I was struck by the intense glow of the light on this monocline (it may be an anticline in this salt valley, but I did not have access to the geology book to confirm this), and the mountains were in shadow due to an impending storm system.  So, the seed for this as a painting was planted almost a year ago.

Anyway, it ended up being a labor of love, I guess.  While I think it has far more impact as the two-part painting, I think each half stands on its own, which is always a nice thing.  Honestly, I wasn't sure how the whole diptych thing would go over with the judges, one of whom was Lorenzo Chavez, who is well-known amongst all pastelists.  Had PA Moab not been back-to-back with Escalante, I would have tried to sign up for one of his two workshops given at the event; both sold out quickly.  I've long admired his work, and I have heard that he is a wonderful instructor.  I framed it without a spacer or mat, just as you see above, on black foamboard, in the mahogany plein air frame I have (and non-glare glass).

I'm pleased that it had enough going for it to win a ribbon out of the ~30 dry media entries, especially as it was competing against a handful of pastelists who have won awards at this show in the past and have been painting far longer than I have.

I didn't get as many paintings done on this trip as I did in Escalante, partially because the diptych tied up a couple of hours during the afternoon over those four days.

Here are two, with adjustments and finishing touches done today:

Along Lower Courthouse Wash - 12x12"
This was Sunday's painting, the first day I was in Moab.  Courthouse Wash is located within Arches NP, but this section is accessed from a trail that starts outside the park.  We hiked it during our spring trip, and I knew I wanted to hike up and paint a section.  This is about 1.50 to 1.75 miles up the trail, and I loved the contrast between the Navajo Sandstone cliff with its beautiful desert varnish facade and the sunlit cottonwoods in the wash.  Desert varnish is an interesting thing; I actually find it more difficult to paint than water.

Here's a picture of my new hiking plein air set-up at this location:

- New, larger backpack purchased from Walmart recently ($29 - a great deal!)
- folding table in green plastic, which I just carry
- folding stool from Walmart, round III, so far so good with no tears.  It secures to the outside of the backpack sideways under the two clips of the lid of the pack
- 12x18 piece of foamboard as painting surface; this now allows me to bring papers up to 12x16 on these longer hikes
- a second piece of slightly shorter foamboard with a piece of foil taped to it; the foil side goes on top of the painting, and large clips secure it in place so it is protected from smearing or damage in my backpack
- two of my three pastel boxes; the third is a smaller Rembrandt box that carries all my sky colors.  I bungee cord the three boxes together and they go in my backpack.
- a small viewfinder by Guerilla, sits on the edge of the box.  It was part of the pack we got for the show!  I have larger handmade viewfinders that I keep in my portable bag, but this one will be a permanent part of the backpack gear.

Steelbender Trail Morning - 12x12"
This was Tuesday morning's painting, done in a hidden valley area just north of Ken's Lake.  Wayne was on his way in the RV to camp at Ken's Lake, so I didn't want to go far.  Fellow 4C painter Carolyn Daily, who lives in Moab, had taken me to this area on Sunday afternoon after I finished my Courthouse Wash painting.  This trail is used by mtn. bikers, dirt bikes, and Jeeps (and at least one trail runner who went by while I was painting).

Had I not finished the diptych, or ruined it, this would have been the other painting I'd have put in the show.

I have four other paintings, in various stages of completeness, that I did on the trip.  I'll post some or all as I bring them to completion...along with those from the Escalante Canyons trip.


  1. Beautiful, beautiful!!! Congrats on the award. Well deserved. I like your p-a setup. I'm working on an altered book now for Nov. 2 art auction for the library. Got in over my head with trying to do a 150page book!!! Headed to N'ville via plane next week and trying to figure best compact packing method and what to take to work on the altered book. Not similar to p-a, but I got some ideas.

  2. Hi Liz,

    Thanks so much :). I'm glad you found my PA set-up to be useful; what I'd recommend is laying out all the "must have" materials for your book on a table, and assuming they aren't over-sized, find a suitcase or backpack they can go into. Eliminate all the things you could get anywhere, like paper towels, non-specialty tools, etc.

    Have fun, and that does sound like quite a project; I wish I could see it!

  3. That is a fantastic pastel, and congratulations on the award. Bravo!

  4. Thanks Casey - it's nice to see that my concerted efforts to improve my plein air work are paying off. Motivates me to push myself even further.


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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