Sunday, September 30, 2012

09.30.2012 ~ sunset light on glorietta mesa (x2)

sunset light over glorietta mesa, i  ~ oil on panel ~ 8 x 10 inches ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

Last evening's view from my balcony, looking east toward Glorietta Mesa.*

It's funny: I painted the first one as quickly as I could what with the wind whipping up, me getting oil paint all over my hands, and the light shading rapidly to grey as a massive bank of clouds moved in behind me. Disappointed in the fading of the light, but relatively satisfied with my little painting (my 3rd attempt at plein air painting in many years!) I deemed it finished, gathered my brushes, packed up my paint box, and carefully walked down the outside stairs from my balcony to my studio. I was swishing my brushes in fresh turps getting ready to wash and retire them for the evening, when I looked up at the window only to see the setting sunlight beaming brilliantly across the hills. QUICK!! I gathered up my brushes and box again, darted up the stairs, praying the light would last as I started a second painting...

Sure enough.

sunset light over glorietta mesa, ii  ~ oil on panel ~ 8 x 10 inches ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

*If you've read Hampton Side's excellent book, Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West, then you know much of the history of the US conquest of New Mexico happened right here at Glorietta Mesa, within plain view of my bedroom. In fact, I'm quite sure Kit Carson himself walked right over my septic tank.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

09.26.2012 ~ cathedral rock ~ taking it all in

cathedral rock ~ taking it all in ~ oil on canvas ~ 18 x 24 inches ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

My second painting of Cathedral Rock for the book project mentioned in the previous post. This one based on a photo by my 80s Phil staff colleague, Gina Dobratz-Rezner. I wanted to do at least one painting with a vantage from higher up in the meadow, and Gina's pic fit the bill perfectly. (She also has some glorious photos with lots of sunflowers in the foreground...May need to try to capture one of those next...). I like that this one clearly includes the road; there's something inviting about it.

When comparing this painting with the previous one, it's interesting to note the difference in the color overall and especially of the Rock. The colors in the first painting are much, much cooler, with the greys leaning toward blue (hence my comment that it almost feels more like the Pacific Northwest), whereas here the colors are all much warmer, with the greys leaning toward red or pink. Neither is wrong; color is relative, so the exact color of that rock -- and the whole scene -- will change throughout the day depending on the weather and light.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

09.25.2012 ~ cathedral rock ~ summer clouds

cathedral rock ~ summer clouds ~ oil on canvas ~ 18 x 24 inches ~ by dawn chandler  ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

The first of four very recent paintings of Philmont's Cathedral Rock and reservoir. (Check back! The other three will be posted here over the course of this week!) Special thanks to Greg Palmer who's lovely photo of Cathedral Rock provided the inspiration for this painting.

As mentioned in an earlier post this spring, I've been commissioned to create a painting for the cover of the next Philmont Staff Association publication: The Life and Times of Jack Rhea, director of Philmont's camping department from 1954 - 1962, and edited and co-written by Bill Cass. 

In his research for the book, Bill learned that Cathedral Rock and the reservoir was Mr. Rhea's favorite view on the Ranch, hence the request for a painting of this view. Much like the way my Baldy painting was used for the cover of the PSA/Cass book on Joe Davis, Carry On, one of my Cathedral Rock paintings will grace the cover of this new book on Jack Rhea.

My first attempt this spring at painting this scene was frustrating, as I discussed in some detail in that earlier post. Mainly I felt that that painting fell flat, due almost entirely to a lack of contrast in the lights and the darks.

This attempt is vastly more satisfying! There's a much better differentiation between light and shadow, such that there's a real sense of the time of day. It's funny though, this painting style feels a little "chunky". What do I mean by that? I'm not even sure...But there's something about the paint handling that's a bit unusual for me. It almost feels like a woodblock print rather than an oil painting. Maybe that's from the halation of warm under-painting emerging around the edges of most of the shapes? Hmm... Not sure.

This scene is pretty lush. In fact, truth be told it really kind of feels more like the Pacific Northwest than the arid Southwest...! Oh well. Sometimes, when the rain gods are smiling, Northern New Mexico and Philmont's Central Country really are this lush; it's a blessing when they are.

Below, some details:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

09.23.2012 ~ 7am sunday morning ~ morning clouds

7am sunday morning ~ morning clouds ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 6 x 6 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

Thank goodness I opened the blinds. And when I did, my breath halted. This is the view from my studio, just a few minutes ago.

This is "plein air" painting -- painting from life. It's darn tricky to do, and I haven't even attempted it in at least four years. 

More about that later. But for now, while a fresh pot of tea steeps and my neighbor's rooster's crow is just audible through the cracked window, I'm thinking "not a bad beginning...Not bad at all!"

Monday, September 17, 2012

09.16.2012 ~ hiking wheeler peak, i

hiking wheeler peak, i ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 6 x 12 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

Was there a more perfect day than yesterday? I can't imagine. 

Up before sunrise to tea and homemade breakfast burritos (made the night before and warmed while tea steeped). We owned the empty road from Santa Fe northward. Quick stop in Dixon to pick up our potter friend and be revitalized by a spot of green tea served in perfect ceramic vessels. Then on to Taos for coffee and a sweet roll at the counter of Michael's Kitchen while we waited for the rest of our party coming in from Cimarron -- nine members and friends of the Philmont Staff Association's board of directors who had just finished their annual autumn meeting.

Bundling up with hats and mittens, we hit the Williams Lake trail just before 9:00 -- later than planned, but still a respectable time. An hour later, after a break above the lake, we cut north on the new trail, eager to experience the relative ease and graduation of this new path. The weather was a perfection of mild temps, blue sky, and only a smattering of clouds -- just enough to add interest to the vast expanse of blue over our heads. Though still steep, the new trail makes for a much more gradual, middle-aged-joint-friendly hike. The climb out of the trees is enchanting, as you then rise up into spacious alpine plains. By noon, with layers peeled, we high-fived on the summit of Wheeler Peak, our ascent celebrated at 13,161 ft. with the consumption and sharing of all manner of toothsome snacks.

An equally glorious descent, albeit with above-mentioned joints getting a bit cranky. Clouds painted the nearby ridges shades of purple-blue; in the distance flecks of gold just staring to appear in the green stands of aspens.

More high-fives on the sunny deck of the Bavarian, as we toasted ourselves and this perfect day with the consumption of fine German lager, hot pretzels and sweet mustard.

A long satisfied drive home in the fading light. Crawling into bed, weary. The best night's sleep had in many an eve.

Then... SHAZAM! The morning after and I sprang out of bed with excitement to get busy painting! Decidedly ignoring my "Monday To Do List," I just had to try my hand at recapturing a little bit of yesterday. So here it  is  -- a sweet little 6 x 12 inch oil 'sketch' of our descending hike, just above timberline:

Can hardly wait to capture more of this grand day and hike!

Below, a detail:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

09.13.2012 ~ of eastern shores: vinalhaven revisited

vinalhaven, ii ~ oil on panel ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

Whoop-yeah! Second attempt at this view of the coast of Vinalhaven Island and I am pleased! 

This new one just seems to capture more of the warmth of the late afternoon sun glaring across the rocks and evergreens. Too, I think I differentiated better the variation in color of the tidal-washed granite. But Gorry! (as my sainted Yankee grandfather would say) it was a real challenge trying to get the color and value (shade/brightness) just right on those brightest rocks. I must've scraped off and repainted that area half a dozen times. Alas, my photo here doesn't do it justice.

Here's a comparison of the two paintings. The most recent painting is on the bottom.

vinalhaven, i ~ oil on panel ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012
vinalhaven, ii ~ oil on panel ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

Okay, so maybe it's a toss up. Now that I look at them both together I'm having a tough time choosing a favorite. The shapes of the trees on the first painting (top) are a bit more interesting, as are the shapes of the clouds. But the colors overall — especially of the rocks and trees — on the bottom painting are more true to my photo and memory. [Note to Self: Go for the charm of a third try?]

Incidentally, some of those rocks that look so rectangular and shaped by humans are just that: shaped by quarry workers and stone-cutters. For back-in- the-day (19th century), Vinalhaven was a mecca of architectural granite. Maybe you've seen this building? 

That's the US Customs house in NYC, and much of that beautiful stone came from this very island.

Or this gorgeous interior?

Photo by Eric Hunt via Wikipedia

That's New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine — the largest cathedral in the world! (it's also known as "St. John the Unfinished," as it's still under construction after more than 100 years...!) Those four glorious columns are Vinalhaven granite. There are eight of those colossal columns, each fifty-feet long and 130 tons. Imagine what it must have taken to get them off the island and down to New York. 

Dying to see the exterior? Me, too. Here's the outside: 

Photo by William Porto via Wikipedia

Buildings just aren't made in this grand style with granite anymore, so nearly all of the quarries on Vinalhaven have shut down. Lobstering is the main source of employ for the island now. The island though remains riddled with scores of quarries, now abandoned and filled with ground water. I'm told the waters are quite fine...Indeed, I have made a vow to myself that I will return again to Vinalhaven, if only to "take the waters" and skinny-dip in the quarry pools. And then I'll walk again along these shores in the early evening glow with my friends....

Some details of painting #2:

Betty Crocker would be proud

Those dark smudges are some of my underwriting / scribing bleeding through. More about that technique here

Sunday, September 09, 2012

09.09.2012 ~ of eastern shores: vinalhaven, i

vinalhaven, i ~ oil on panel ~ 12 x 24 inches ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright 2012 dawn chandler

A week ago tonight I stood here, a permanent smile radiating across my face as I contemplated the ragged Maine coastline bathed in evening light. There in the briny breeze, we sampled the skin of wild rose-hips and the few remaining blackberries growing in the brambles spilling down to the granite coastline.

Oh how lucky am I to have dear friends living on that island haven, who graciously invited me to come and sojourn in their sanctuary. I could barely get enough of
the rustic warmth of their cozy home, breathing deeply of coastal air, waking to the sound of gulls and distant lobster boats, the perfection of morning tea, cappuccini and maple syrup served from a Mason jar.

My painting here isn't bad...

But's... not.... quite.... right. 

Though the landscape of Maine is cool........ cool........ cool as can be,
in this evening light the rocks radiated more warmth than I've conveyed here. 

The sky did, too. 
Hell, the whole scene did.
Struggle as I might I just...    couldn't...     quite...    get it. 

Maybe it's the Titanium White I was using rather than my usual Holbein Foundation Umber (a warmer shade of 'white')? 

Hmm....    not sure.

There's only one thing to do:
Try it again.

Below, some details: