Thursday, May 31, 2012

05.30.2012 ~ approaching la veta, colorado

approaching la veta, colorado ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12 x 24 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

You know how it is: Over the years you make dozens of road trips to the big city, and every time you pass a curious looking exit and think, "I should go explore that some time...." And next thing you know years pass and you still haven't taken the turn to go explore that exit.

La Veta, Colorado is one of those "exits."  I can't tell you how many times I cruised along I-25 or County Road 160 on my way from Taos to Denver and considered taking a detour, but never did.
Fortunately my hand was forced on the issue a couple of years ago, when I was invited by a friend to exhibit some of my paintings in her yoga studio — smack in the heart of downtown La Veta, Colorado.

What a beautiful and charming little community!! All of about 7 blocks long, with tall shade trees and a lovely little park. I was smitten instantly. And the drive down on County Road 440....Well, it's pretty glorious with the whole Cuchara Valley opening up before you.

After hanging my artwork and having lunch in one of the cool little eateries, I headed back for home, but kept pulling over to take photographs. The view was simply stunning.

Here's my attempt at capturing it in paint. Not a bad first attempt, though I find some areas problematic. The clouds feel a bit dense rather than light and airy. And I think perhaps I should have lightened up the distant line of mountains; that's kind of a hard edge on the Spanish Peaks there to the left, especially. But dang it! That's how it looked. Still, here's a perfect example of where the painting might have succeeded more if I had abandoned a literal interpretation of the photo and instead went with what with my gut was telling me to do for the painting: "lighten up those distant edges."  Oh well... There's always the next time....

A few details:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

05.16.2012 ~ cimarron morning ~ back of tooth ridge

cimarron morning ~ back of tooth ridge (philmont) ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil and mixed media on panel ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

The view from my friend Ed's place in the northwest outskirts of Cimarron, New Mexico....One of those post-deluge kinds of mornings, when the warming of rain-soaked earth rises in a haze across the mountains. [To get a sense of the menace that battered these mountains the night before, scroll down or click here to see my previous painting.] 
That main ridge line is Tooth Ridge with the Tooth of Time itself hunkered down in the upper right. We're seeing just the tip of the 'tooth, so to speak — the back side; the south side of it is a massive sheer face of rock.

I finished this painting....and then decided that Tooth Ridge was too dark. It looked okay, but didn't capture the hazy atmosphere of that warm, evaporating morning. So to fade the mountains and push them and the distant horizon back a bit more, I skimmed that area of the painting with a translucent creamy white glaze. It worked.

Whether consciously or not, when seeking landscapes to paint, I usually crop out the presence of "civilization." Call me a Romantic, but I like to image the land and Nature uncluttered by us reckless humans.
Here though I made an exception and left in the Cimarron water towers. I rather like the splash of blue they add. Their presence provides not only further specificity to this view, but also "ground" the foreground with more visual interest; a place to settle the eye for a moment after traveling the long lines of mountain and mesa ridges. 

Some details:

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

05.09.2012 ~ rayado summer storm

rayado summer storm ~ oil and mixed media on panel ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

Perhaps no other canyon on Philmont pushes and pulls my spirit for adventure the way Rayado Canyon does. The southern most canyon on the Ranch's vast acreage, it cuts the line of mountains with a cleaver of mystery. Philmont's epic outdoor challenge program is named for this canyon and the river that shapes it. The sides rise sharply and seem to wend eternally to a place of unknown opportunity.
If pressed, I would say the canyon's features are best accentuated in setting sunlight rather than that of morning. For it's in the late light of day when the sign of the buffalo — the southern silhouette of Fowler Mesa — is most clear and recognizable.

On this summer evening captured in my painting, the buffalo's silhouette is obscured by a heavy bank of clouds. That patch of distant coral sky seems so innocent, belying the brute force of the storm that is about to pummel my car with marble hail. (I recall spreading a blanket on my windshield during that storm, for fear of the glass breaking.) The light on the foreground is that eery just-before-deluge kind of color, when the hues and scents of the land are keyed up and your own senses are heightened.

Some painting details:

This painting, as with the others in the series, started with a loose umber under-painting and scribing, though it's hidden to the casual observer:


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

05.02.2012 ~ cathedral rock, i

cathedral rock, i ~ oil and mixed media on panel ~ 12 x 24 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

A view of Cathedral Rock and the reservoir — the gateway to Philmont's "Central Country"

Curses Cathedral Rock! You are hard to paint!

When searching for photos of this landmark, inevitably photos seem to be limited to three times of day: Sunrise, midday, sunset.

If you catch the view for sunrise, then the rock is silhouetted. That can make for a beautiful photograph but it makes for a less interesting painting.

Midday the colors are pretty washed out, with few shadows to help describe the volumes and contours of the rock and land. Everything falls flat.

At sunset, if you wait until the sky has some vivid color to it, by the time that color hits, the land has fallen into such shadow that the land and rock are more or less silhouetted again.

Time of day aside, there's the issue of composition. The typical view of Cathedral Rock is from the southwest side of the reservoir, looking east toward the rock. What a view! It's gorgeous! And naturally well-balanced, framed with meadow and water and sky. But that's just it: it's such a stunning view, it's the one everyone photographs, so it's become the iconic view; a cliche. But, it's accessible. I mean literally. You walk right by it!

What I'd really like to do is get out there when the shadows are long and there are clouds in the sky. Not too many clouds, mind you — just enough to add visual interest, but still allow for sunlight to break through and dapple the scene. Late afternoon sometime.
And then to scramble around and try to get different angles on the scene....

For now though, I'm limited to the images I have available. But if anyone reading this has some good pics of Cathedral Rock, I'd love to see them — even if they are the "traditional" view.

Anyhow, despite the iconic view portrayed here in my painting, I'm reasonably satisfied with how this panel turned out, especially when I consider the inadequate photo it was based on. I struggled to tease out a little more of a sense of sunlight, but haven't quite hit the mark; my interpretation falls a little flat for me, but it's okay. I'll keep trying with other panels.

Below, a few details:

Oh, and this piece — like the previously posted Vermont panels — did start with my "underscribing". Only this time I ended up concealing all of the scribing with paint. Here's what it looked like before I broke out the oils: