Well, I went to the Chihuahuan desert for several days to paint a few scenes in Big Bend National Park. Each day I'd hike mid-day(around 12-1pm) in order to set up and paint the landscape by late afternoon/early evening. Sometimes this involved hiking several miles to points of interest, while on the hike out I'd seek desert springs to refill my water and take a break from the 100+ temperatures.
In the end I created these paintings from some areas of Big Bend that caught my eye:
As I'd drive on the highway near a little desert town called Terlingua I'd see a famous landmark,
Mule Ears Peaks, as an interesting, light blue shape in the far distance.
I'd see it from the west face, but I wanted to hike the east side of it, while the sun was casting the shadow of the peaks. So, the day before I planned the venture.
Here is a photo my easel setup(I use an Open Box M) while I was painting the east side of Mule Ears Peaks. The solitude during the whole journey was pleasant.
On another day I went to paint a ridge of distinct rock outcroppings called The Chimneys:
Here is a view of Burro Mesa Trail, which was dotted with these huge dagger-like plants:
Here is quite a view of the Rio Grande and far into Mexico. I had tried to paint a scene from way up high but it didn't turn out so great. There are so many great views from River Road but I felt a bit uneasy painting so close to the border, but hopefully another time I will try again.
Terlingua,TX used to be a mining town but now it's a peaceful stay near Big Bend. Desert foregrounds, are an opportunity for me to apply tonal washes of paint, which help to set the color harmony for the overall painting.
I came across one of these, longhorns I think, while I was exploring the hill country not too far from Johnson City,TX. I was attracted to the warmth reflected up and into the shadow of its massive form. Maybe I will see him again sometime soon. CLICK HERE TO BID
I had stumbled upon a heard of around 15 of these little guys, grazing on cypress trees by the river's edge. I'n the past I'd hear them echoing along the limestone cliff sides I'd explore, but had not seen the full herd till yesterday. I wadded into the current and found a boulder to paint from while one of them crossed the river. I guess all my exploring of the hill country is paying off because I have new ideas to try out.Click Here to Bid
I had gone to McKinney Falls this morning and studied this reptile bathing in the light, which was challenging for me because the log it was on slowly rotated in the torrent of the upper falls. So, I did a quick gesture,drawing, and glanced back at the scene for the colors.
Here is another painting from Big Bend. I had stopped by the side of the road after some Ocotillos had caught my eye. The Chisos mountains are in the distance, with the famous "Window" in the background.
Sometimes I'll pack up my travel easel and explore a new area, not knowing what to expect, and when I find something pleasing I'll do one of these field studies. Now, I have a bit more info and possibilities of going back to the scene when the sun is where I want it or going indoors(hopefully in the future) to work on a larger piece from these "notes".
Here is one from when I took a trip out to Big Bend last year. I had hiked up by this huge canyon called Santa Elena and explored around to see this view and gave it a shot. The main focus is on the foreground cactus but I did a gesture of Castolon peak in the distance.
I know one of my weaknesses is in drawing while I think my strength is in color. Perhaps this is because I've mostly painted outside, trying to get the big picture down and chase the fading light. Outside has always been a more pleasing environment for me. Maybe one day I'll have my own studio so I can focus inside on my drawing for a change.
I've been studying trees lately, trying to learn about their qualities. What sets apart this tree from that? While my past efforts were unsatisfying, I think I'm getting closer to recreating more pleasing forms:
I had started in the morning during a bright, overcast sky in with the sun behind the tree, shining into the clouds the sky was bouncing light around like ground glass and the oak cast its huge canopy onto the ground. Among other things, these huge oak trees are known for their shade.
"Every successful artist must possess the courage to meet artistic challenges as well as the ingenuity and determination necessary to carry a work of art to completion. These traits are never more evident than with artists who set up their easels outdoors and paint their landscape pictures right there on the spot. The term plein-air (French for “open air”) refers to paintings that are done on site." (read on)