Thursday, July 20, 2017

Yellow, Red, Black and White

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
A few more from the weekly portrait sessions. As mentioned in the posts title, these were painted with a limited palette. When painting plein air landscapes, I usually use some kind of split primary plus green. For studying portraits at the weekly sessions, I limit colors to a modified "Zorn" palette;  usually yellow ochre (or cadmium yellow), cadmium red, ivory black, and titanium white. I probably won't always use that palette for painting people, but it serves it's purpose for now.

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
The first two portraits shown here are the most recent ones. They were painted with only yellow ochre, cadmium red, ivory black, and titanium white. The last portrait was painted a month or so ago, and I don't remember the exact paints used.

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
The last portrait is of Micah Christensen. Micah is an art historian and lecturer who's work takes him to places all over the country and around the globe. He was good enough to sit for us one Thursday evening at Casey Child's studio. This portrait could have been better, but rather than hold still, Micah talked for the whole three hours. I was OK with that because of what he had to say about artists of the past, the art world of yesteryear and today, and what the future could hold for the visual arts. I was happy for the opportunity to listen to him while I painted. For more information about Micah Christensen, click here. While you're at it, be sure to check out his lectures, articles and other presentations about 18th and 19th century visual arts at The Bearded Roman.

For more about portrait sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "portrait", "sketching" or "drawing".

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


There was so much to do last Saturday, but not enough Saturday to do it in. I thought hiking was one of the important things, though, so that afternoon I headed to a canyon in the mountains not far from town.

It was a very hot day. The temperature rose to 102°F in the afternoon. It would have been much less hot up in the high country, but summer storms had already laid claim to the mountain peaks. Dark blue-grey clouds brooded over the peaks and ridges and the sound of thunder could be heard all the way down the canyon. The lower canyon, where I was, was in full summer sun. A few lizards seemed to like that. I, however, hiked from tree shadow to tree shadow, pausing to rest at every shade along the trail. 

When hiking, one should pay attention not only to what is immediately ahead and under foot, but also to where the trail leads and what might be up ahead. Early in this hike I forgot about the second part of that. Distracted by the hot sun on my back and loose rock beneath my hiking shoes, I trudged up one of the steeper sections of trail. Upon reaching the top of that stretch, I finally looked up. There, twelve or fifteen feet in front of me, was a bighorn ram - who was looking back at me! Close by was another bighorn. I was surprised! I also felt uncomfortable about being so close to two large wild animals.

The closest bighorn appeared tough and powerful. Its thick horns were not quite full curl, but looked imposing nonetheless. The other bighorn had horns not much larger than a bighorn ewe's, but I think it was a younger ram. The two bighorns stood and looked at me, then milled around a little before stopping to look again. I backed off a few steps, swung off my day pack, and fished a camera out of the pack. The heat, exertion and excitement of the encounter made my hands unsteady, so the first few pictures I took were as blurry as photos of Bigfoot or UFOs. Then I was able to brace the camera against my hiking staff and got the more acceptable photo shown at the top of this post. 

There's usually a spring running where the two bighorns were. I've seen bighorn sheep at this spring before, but now it had dried to a wet spot, of interest to wasps and hornets but of little use to the parched tongues of much larger beasts. Both of the bighorn sheep were panting. So was I, but I could do something about it. I had brought my own water.

I considered what to do next. I thought my presence would cause the rams to move off and allow me to continue hiking up the trail. Deer would have quickly left. The rams, however, showed no signs of yielding right of way. After a short impasse, the larger ram tilted his head and tapped one of his horns against the flank of the smaller ram. I don't know what that gesture meant, but I figured that if he was thinking of his horns, maybe I should think of changing my plans. I decided to use a nearby wash to swing wide around the two rams.

Both bighorns watched as I hiked down to the wash. I went up the wash and then through some brush to get back onto the trail farther above where I had met the two rams. I discovered that as I tried to circle around the bighorns, they had actually moved farther up the trail. I met them again after rounding a bend in the trail. This time, they were down in the wash and I was up on the trail, ten or twelve feet higher than them. The two bighorns had stopped in the wash to investigate another place where water had flowed in an earlier, wetter season, but all that was there now was a damp tease in the bank. This time, upon seeing me above them, the two rams bolted down the wash, kicking up dust as their hooves clattered over cobbles and boulders. After watching them go, I continued hiking up the trail.

I wonder if, in nature, both predators and prey recognize the high ground as the angle of attack. When I was level with or slightly below the level of the bighorns, they stood their ground, if a little nervously. When I appeared above them they spooked.

A couple miles up the canyon I discovered the wild red raspberry bushes were beginning to bear fruit. I plucked a few of the bright red berry clusters and ate them before continuing up canyon. The storm clouds which earlier in the day darkened the higher elevations had moved on. Now blue sky brightened the mountain peaks. Other storms, however, had been forming and gathering to the west, and were beginning to move my way. The growing cloud cover cooled the air a little, but the heat of the day had already drained me a bit. That, and occasional lightning visible among scattered, tattered curtains of rain to the west convinced me to return back down canyon.

Other wildlife seen on the hike includes a racer (snake), hawk, hummingbird, and cottontail rabbit. I'm happy for any encounters with wildlife, great or small, that goes well. I'm especially glad I came across the bighorn rams. There are things to think about and learn from all such encounters.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Green Blouse

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
Here's an oil sketch from last week's Thursday night portrait session. As always, I painted until time was called. I never get finished with these, but what a valuable exercise they are! There was a little change to the colors on my palette for this painting. Like always, titanium white, ivory black, and cadmium red were used for this portrait, but then I used two yellows; yellow ochre and cadmium yellow. Ultramarine blue was also introduced into the mix.

For more about portrait sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "portrait", "sketching" or "drawing".

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Late Afternoon in June

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
Tomorrow is the First day of summer. It's a great time of the year to paint in spite of the heat. Of course, if the weather becomes too hot, the Wasatch Mountains are close by to provide a cooler place to go. Paradoxically though, the high mountain altitudes can provide relief from the heat, but not necessarily from the sun.

This was painted on a pleasantly warm afternoon, a few days before June started really cranking up the heat. I've driven past these stands of cottonwood trees west of town many times, thinking I would stop and paint them some day. That day came late last week as I was on my way to paint somewhere else. The air was full of fluffy cottonwood seeds, but I decided to risk getting cottonwood fluff stuck all over my painting anyway. Turned out that, in spite of flurries of fluffy seeds, few seeds stuck to my palette and none to the painting. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Three Women

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
Here are some more portrait sketches from the weekly portrait sessions. All three were made using oil paint and were painted from live models.

The first one shown is the most recent, and was painted last Wednesday. It was made using my most Zorn-ish color palette: yellow ochre, cadmium red (instead of vermillion), ivory black, and titanium white (instead of flake white).

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
The next two were painted with a few changes or additions to that palette. Having been two or three weeks since they were painted, however, I'm not sure I can remember everything I did differently. For the second painting shown here, more Naples yellow and less white was used. It was an experiment to see what would happen if a pale yellow was largely substituted for white.

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
The third painting is of a substitute model. She filled in on the spur of the moment when the originally scheduled model failed to show. This was painted on an entirely untoned panel to see what effect that would have on the portrait.

For more about portrait sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "portrait", "sketching" or "drawing".

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Along the way to the Marina

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
Here's a painting made last week. It was a warm summer day and lots of people had headed to the lake. So many in fact, that parking in the state park had filled up and spilled out onto surrounding roads. I was lucky enough to find a good spot to park, and hiked a short ways to an area just north of the marina and campground. The park was crowded, and there were watercraft galore out on the lake, but there was no one else where I went to paint. Cottonwood trees were shedding flurries of fluffy seeds, which could be a problem because they stick to wet paintings. Thick swarms of midges were near the lake shore. They also stick to wet paintings. The open area between the cottonwoods and the marshy lake shore was mostly free of both problems. Besides, it had the visual angle on the trees I wanted to paint. So that's where I set up for the day.

The marshes, trees, and fields near the lake are some of my favorite places to paint, or even just go for walks. Wildlife is one of the attractions there. On the day of the painting, six big white pelicans circled in a thermal not far behind me. The pelican's long black-tipped wings lent grace to their otherwise ungainly bodies and huge orange-yellow beaks. Four seagulls circled with the pelicans. I had to stop painting and watch the show. Three more seagulls joined the pelicans, then two more gulls joined in the dance. I wondered why the seagulls seemed to want to be with the pelicans. It soon became apparent, however, that the seagulls were not there for the pelicans. The gulls were there for the thermal, which the six big white showy pelicans had inadvertently advertised to them. The seagulls gained altitude faster and much higher than the pelicans, then slid off the top of the column in twos and threes heading north. The pelicans labored to gain altitude, rising maybe a hundred feet above the ground. They circled for a few minutes before heading off together southward. The show was over. I returned to painting.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mount Olympus in May

11" x 14" Oil on Panel
Late last week I went to Olympus Hills Park in Salt Lake City for another visit with Mount Olympus. This painting was made just outside the outfield fence of the south softball diamond. I had plans to paint from right field again, but some kids were already batting a ball around on the diamond when I got there, so they had first dibs. Just outside the chain link fence worked just fine for me. I was a little worried about the weather clouding completely over, but the wonderful partly cloudy skies held out all day. It was a great day to be outside.