Saturday, November 12, 2011

Canyon de Chelly

1.50 Canyon de Chelly. This one is interesting to me. I often find that paintings that I really like don't look as interesting when I view them on the computer screen after photographing them. Conversely I find that paintings I dislike often look better on the screen than they do in person. This one falls into the latter category. Its still by no means one of my favorites but there are certain failed effects that I was trying to create that look a little more believable now. The first (and the whole reason that I attempted this painting in the first place) is the look of the dry riverbed. Its should appear to be streaked with ruts from where the last trickles of water ran before the flow ceased altogether. I was also trying to give a hint of this texture even in the area that is in shadow. I used a couple different shades of brown with a retardant to slow the drying of the paint. I kept laying each shade on top of the other, drawing the brush through the whole course of the riverbed each time. I tried to change the path slightly each time so that the ruts would cross over one another.
One particular detail that I'm very disappointed in are the low shrubs in front of the canyon wall in the right middle of the painting. In a book the reader's interest is held by the author's skill in picking out important details and calling attention to things that the reader may not have noticed if he or she were observing the same event. This doesn't mean giving every detail right down to the amount of rust on the nails in the floorboards; it means picking out the details that provide some insight into the essence of the scene and then finding a way to concisely describe them. These shrubs to me were a key to this scene. The shadows that they cast on the canyon wall gives the viewer a strong sense of where the sun is: just over their left shoulder. It also shows that the horizon is clear and subtly reminds the viewer that the canyon walls are really huge. I failed to depict these shadows. I painted them onto the wall before painting the shrubs but then covered them up when I painted the shrubs.
Seeing an object cast an accurate shadow in a painting is something that is very important to me and it is not so difficult when that object is a large boulder. I must get better at depicting more delicate objects like shrubs though...

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