Greetings! I don't suppose anyone has really noticed that I haven't posted in months…but I'm back at it! My big focus this year is another project with Idaho Conservation League - this year I am their first Artist in Residence, which means I'm putting together a body of work to exhibit later in the year. I will have three regional shows this year - Sandpoint in August, Ketchum (Sun Valley) in September, and Boise in November. The piece below was written as a guest blogger for Idaho Conservation League, describing a day of Plein Air painting in the Pahsimeroi Range of Idaho. It was very satisfying to put words to the experience I have when painting outdoors - an entirely different animal from cozy studio painting. Click here to view the original blog posting on ICL's website. Enjoy!
The Pahsimeroi Valley, October 2012
The sun rises late on a fall morning below Mount Leatherman in the Pahsimeroi Range. I wake up snuggly warm in my frost-covered sleeping bag after a night perched on the back of a pickup bed under the piercing stars and black sky. Sean, my trusty tour guide, rises and makes a pot of matte on the camp stove as I stay curled up in my warm nest and pull out my painting box and canvas. I hurry to establish the contrast of the dark canyon walls with the shining sky and sun-bathed valley beyond with charcoal before the light changes or my fingers freeze. This is the essence of day’s first painting - subtle variances of color within the shadowed canyon and deeply glowing alizarin crimson willows, and the brilliant morning sun theatrically up-lighting the wider valley beyond. I alternate left and right hands, warming one inside my sleeping bag while the other works. This morning epitomizes the thrill and challenge of working on site – subject to the elements, hastened by the rapid changing of the light. As I apply color with my oil paints, I am grateful for what I’ve learned from studying Vermeer’s paintings of dark, emerald-toned interior spaces and portraits – there is always color within even the darkest dark. This shadowed canyon is much like one of the rooms in his works – rich and velvety even in the darks, gloom avoided by the startling ray of light entering through a window.
Pahsimeroi Valley Morning, 18"x24"
Both sides of the steep canyon walls are still untouched by the newly-risen sun, save the tiniest tip of rock lit by a filtered ray. For my second painting, I will zoom in to accommodate the square format of the canvas. The jagged, dramatic downward slope of the cliff bisects the composition diagonally. The willows have added color to their alizarin hue – now a cadmium orange glows like embers from what bits of sunlight infiltrate the valley. The soft, fluffy contours of the willows in the creek bed are a stark contrast to the sharp sawtooth rock edges, and towards the center of the composition they yield to a meandering, sky-blue stream. The co-existence of harshness and gentleness is what I have come to see as the defining and sometimes painful beauty of Idaho landscapes – whether it’s a delicate pink flower in the seemingly barren Owyhee Canyonlands, or these jovial, fluffy willows bouncing along their streambed towards an imposing valley. It is getting a little warmer, and I know that soon the sun will surpass the jagged horizon of the peaks to flood the entire valley floor.
Pahsimeroi Dawn, 18"x18"
Pahsimeroi Willows, 18"x18"
Later that day...