Monday, November 29, 2010

Coyote Gulch

Painting 1.35 Coyote Gulch. I really like paintings where the entire sky is beyond the view of the canvas and the whole frame is filled with a canyon wall. The other 5 paintings where this has happened have all depicted man-made subjects like cliff dwellings or pictographs. Here, instead I have my first attempt at a tree! Because this tree is at the bottom of a canyon, the lighting is strange with some parts lit by harsh direct sunlight and others lit by diffuse, warm, reflected light. I'm not sure if I was able to capture the warm light. I also think that the bunches of leaves seem a bit contrived. They were supposed to look sparse, but I think I got carried away and didn't realize that I'd overdone it until I stepped back and looked at it. I do really like the division between shadow and light in the background.

The way that the shadows ended up being depicted made me realize one of the reasons that it is difficult to paint from a photograph. A photograph has a limited dynamic range and highlights will appear brighter than you would see them in person and shadows darker. If you were painting en plein air then you would be looking around at the different elements of the scene with your eyes adjusting to the localized lighting of each of those elements. This allows you to bring out details in the shadows that are lost in a photo and to tone down the highlights. It would be difficult to lug along a easel, canvas and paints on a hiking trip so you have to be sure to take lots of pictures, from different angles and from close up and far away. These will help you to remember what it was like to stand in front of your subject, with your eyes darting around taking in its elements one at a time.

Giclee Print

Spiderweb Arch

Painting 1.34 Spiderweb Arch. This one almost felt routine, so it must be time to try something new. My goal has always been to work towards an abstraction of the landscape that I'm trying to depict. I want the paintings to be simple and to evoke things like sunlight and shadows, blue skies and red rock. In this painting that was almost taken too far in that there is no middle tone on the rock. When looking at these formations in person, you'll notice that the shady areas sometimes glow with warm light reflected from the surrounding sandstone. The reflected light can't reach everywhere so there are then shadows within shadows. So my two goals for the next painting are this: warm reflected light and something else new that I haven't tried to depict in a painting yet. If these paintings are going to become abstract it will be because I can develop a shorthand for showing what I have seen, but I need to feel confident with a literal depiction first.

Giclee Print