It’s interesting how different parts of the country can look so similar. The following image of a pastel painting that I did in 2005 reminded me so much of a photo of “Weekend Cowgirl” of her farm. Now I am not certain where her farm is, but I can bet it is not where I live. My image is a trail around a lake, which is about 4 miles from my house, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains of Southeastern WA.
These images are all along the Bennington Lake Trail that circles the lake in about 3 mile distance. It’s a trail frequented by runners, walkers, and bikers. The cross-country team frequents it varied terrain and the grade we call Cardiac Hill is deceivingly long. (The first two images).
Bennington Lake is actually a dam – part of the Corps of Engineers water control of Mill Creek. As I said the area has this trail loop and there are others that takes one north to and over Mill Creek and into Rooks Park. With that bit of unnecessary info (perhaps), this is an area that I can go to with my camera and shoots countless shots time and time again for reference. There are wheat fields, sunflower fields, the water, the mountains, trees of many varieties, occasional wildlife and on and on. Sometimes I go out alone and paint plein air there as well as with some other panelists. Looking to the southeast you get a fabulous view of mountains that are ever-changing. Skies are always interesting from that point. Several years ago I painted the “Storms From Come From the West” from that spot and you can watch the weather change before your eyes as clouds roll in from the westerly direction. It is just a great spot for a painter.
So now we are immersed in winter as we know it. We typically have more gray overcast days in this part of the world that bright and sunny ones. I contrast the difference here with the gray not so cold and usually not much snow or at least not much snow that lingers, and the crisp, sunny, cold as *&$#$ days with snow that stays for a season in Montana. Anyone that knows me knows that I like bright! Sunshine! So when there is a day here that is snowy and the sun is shining, I want to get out there and do some reference photos of shadows and the colors of the shade and vegetation. January 1, 2011 was one of those days. Les, the dogs and I jumped in the 4Runner and headed out to new territory along Coppei Creek in the Blue Mountains. Mostly the dogs sleep, but occasionally they spy something that demands their attention and they bark at it safely from interior of the rig, sitting on my lap. The sky is just such a deep blue and the shadows are crisp and dynamic. The draw that the Coppei runs through is narrow and deep. Down by the creek there is no sun in the mid afternoon and the wildlife are meandering around…deer, wild turkeys, hidden from most. Along the road are old apple trees, perhaps from an old farm no longer there or maybe an old orchard that once adorned a southwesterly slope. The birds were thick in these trees, feeding on the apples still hanging. Same thing in some of the other bushes tha had seed pods. shot a few pictures of these guys for fun. But the shadows of the weeds in the drifted snow, along fence lines, trees, roads and buildings were spectacular! Lots of shots. And it would change. As the day got later, the color of the shadows changed. Depending where you were on the road, determined if you were in the sunlight still or driving in the shadow. It was a great day for a drive.
So an opportunity to paint some good winter scenes…I have a friend Kelly Wick who has a wonderful gallery in Joseph, OR who says “don’t bring me winter scenes; we see enough of the real thing here every year!” I am sure since Joseph is nestled up against the Wallowa Mountains in NE Oregon and sometimes when I go there in June for their Festival of Arts, it’s still pretty cold! So Kelly doesn’t get winter scenes! But sometimes I just have to paint them and maybe I can get her interested in one of these small 6×6 inch ones I have started doing. I got the idea of the 6×6 from a gallery in southern CA. they do a juried show where everything is 6×6 in image size. It is a fun size and shape to work with…a square format can be a challenge and yet make a bold statement with the right composition. I used mostly Wallis sanded paper and did a underpainting with hard pastels, washed. I used very little if any workable fix on these…the darkest dark is Diane Townsend dark blue and Sennelier #463. The foliage varies from orange to gray to greens of the evergreen trees. I love that orange that we start to see in the willow trees along the creeks. As spring gets closer and the days warm, the orange gets more intense in color. These images are all reflecting those days of bright winter. In future paintings I might try some of the tonal grays from those days where there is no sun and the reference photos all look like they have been converted to gray scales because there is no color out there except for an occasional red-roofed barn! But for now enjoy some brightness of winter!