Thursday, June 28, 2012

06.28.2012 ~ sojourning artist, i

the fiountain, villa torlonia, frascati, italy ~ oil on canvas ~ by john singer sargent ~ c.1907

Like a lot of people I first start packing for any trip by making a list. Highlighted at the top of the list are The Essentials — those things that you simply can't travel without. In my case these include my wallet, id, plane ticket, boarding passes, cell phone, supplies

Art supplies?  



For the thought of sitting idle somewhere without some form of creative expression at my fingertips is anathema — and that's putting mildly.**

So of those art supplies... What to bring?

Or the harder question: What not to bring?

With a studio brimming with supplies, it's oh-so-easy and tempting to bring a plethora of materials — for of course you want to be sure that when the Muse visits, you're well equipped to accommodate her with sufficient supplies and choices.

But No.
The reality is that having too many choices can too often be crippling. Too many temptations and you can't make a decision about anything, never-mind having to deal with hauling all of that crap around.

No, I'd rather be decisive in advance and minimize the choices.

But before packing, it's important to establish why I'm bringing art supplies in the first place. In my upcoming travels, my main goal is to relax, and fortunately for me, one way I relax is by sketching and painting (I'm lucky that that is also how I earn my living!). With these trips I'm not looking to complete finished "masterpieces" for the larger art market.

Rather, my intent is to engage in creative reconnaissance: Take in the colors and textures and shapes and atmosphere of the place and see what moves and inspires me. Experiment and play and try things I haven't tried before. Look. Watch. Listen. Feel. Observe. Play.

And draw.

And paint.

And draw.

And paint.

So now....what to bring?

** I also consider a good book and letter-writing accoutrements to be Essential.

Monday, June 25, 2012

06.25.2012 ~ opening up in slickhorn canyon, utah

opening up in slickhorn canyon, utah ~ oil and mixed media on panel ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright 2012 dawn chandler

A favorite scene from my April Utah backpacking trip. You may recognize it — it's an expanded version of the little study painting I did soon after the trip. The scene is from the afternoon of the first day.

I just love the surprise of greenery in the bottom of these canyons. The colonies of cottonwoods are such inviting, verdant oases in this parched landscape. I could hole up forever in the cool shadows of those trees.

One of the biggest challenges for me with this painting was the massive canyon wall — getting the color right (warm-colored rock in cool shade), and also the feeling of weighty volume without it being visually ponderous. Trying, too, to suggest the cracks and fissures in the geology without the geometry getting too rigid and detailed was tricky. More than once did I wipe off the paint and start over.

My favorite part of this painting may be that which is otherwise pretty rare in my landscape paintings: the people. There in the lower left are two of my backpacking companions, rounding the bend as we close in on camp for the day. Their presence there on the path just seems to beckon me to grab my pack and follow.

As with the other panels in this series, this one started with my free-write scribing on the undersurface with a dip pen. This time though I added a little pen and ink sketch in the upper corner as I considered the composition of the piece. I later went in with ink washes and blocked out the main compositional elements, before commencing to paint:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

06.14.2012 ~ santa fe cicadas

The cicadas have come.

They arrived a few weeks ago, burrowing out of their decade-long home in the earth so as to scale the nearest evergreen and glue themselves to the windy limbs. There, in sunlight and moonlight, they break free of their armor and emerge winged, filling the sky with their song.

At 7:30 each morning is when they break into song at my house. That's when the sun fully peaks over the eastern mesas and begins to build momentum across the morning.

Imagine the sound of a casting fly reel. Now multiply that sound by the thousands, and that's what it sounds like around here when the sun is out.

In the evening — when the sun is low — the cicada song becomes a clicking sound. [Really, the poets need to find a descriptor other than "castanets" to describe the sound of that clicking. But for now it's the best my limited poetic mind can muster.]

I guess it's not really a "song" we're hearing, since these sounds don't come from the mouth of these creatures, but rather from the abdomen. At least that's what the Wiki tells me. Well, whether it's a vocal song or a belly song makes no difference to me; I remain fully entranced.

Not only entranced, but incredulous that these little guys have crawled out of this hard-packed earth from depths as deep as 8 feet. How do they do it?! And to think that when they went into the ground as little grubs some 10 - 17 years ago, my house wasn't even here!

I keep studying the trees trying to spot them. It's sort of like looking for four-leaf clovers: it takes a bit of training your eye, but once your eye is in the mode, you see them everywhere. I find late in the day to be the best time for spotting cicadas. I look for the exoskeletons on the pine limbs first. Find one or two of those, and you start seeing them everywhere — the late day sun illuminating those tiny abandoned coats of armor like Japanese lanterns. Soon you start noticing the winged cicadas themselves, and next thing you know, the pinons are alive with them.

There's rich mythology around cicadas, and I can understand why: Their life underground as a grub is epically long, while their post-moulting life in the trees and sky is all too short (just a few weeks). Is it any wonder that they've come to symbolize reincarnation and insouciance in some cultures? I like that symbolism. They all will die in a few weeks, but I have a feeling they're going to be returning again soon, in my studio.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

06.06.2012 ~ autumn on the edge of baldy

autumn on the edge of baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil and mixed media on panel ~ 12 x 24 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

Autumn on the edge..... Okay, so in early June perhaps no one is thinking of Autumn. But when I came across a photo of the Sangre de Cristos from the edge of Philmont's Baldy Mountain, something pulled me in. 
This just may be my favorite of these new panoramic paintings. I'm not sure why....but something about it feels bolder than the others. Really, the composition is simpler -- there's really not a whole lot going on. But that sharp diagonal thrust from upper right to lower left adds dynamism. Break it down to it's barest elements, and the simplicity of the composition becomes almost abstract. The palette, too, is minimal -- yet contrasting, further energizing and emboldening the scene.

A few close ups:

Like the others, this one started with a rough under-painting followed by a layer of scribing (below). Look carefully under the gold paint (above, lower left) and you can just barely make out some of my writing.