Friday, December 30, 2011

A Pastel Portrait Sketch

Pastel Sketch on Grey Paper
Here's another sketch from one of the weekly drawing sessions I've attended over the years. Most of my sketches from these sessions are done in charcoal pencil so I can focus on values. One main focus I have while drawing from life is learning the visual anatomy of the head and how that varies from person to person. Every once in a while, though, I like to break out the pastels or oil paints for a color study. Color certainly needs to be studied and practiced too, but it's easy to get caught up in the fun of color and neglect more important matters of drawing. For me, regularly doing monochromatic drawings helps the color studies.

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

High Valley Winter,  9" x 12" Oil on Canvas Panel
Can't let Christmas Day pass without wishing everyone a merry Christmas! 

The painting shown above was done last winter in a high mountain valley in the Wasatch Mountains. When the snow flies and some think of getting away to warmer climes, I head up into the high mountain valleys for some wonderful opportunities to paint snow scenes. I love snow painting!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Winter's Night Painting Tale

8" x 10" Oil on Canvas Panel
Today, December 21, the Winter Solstice happens where I live. For some of you it might be on the 22nd...I think. Figuring out the timezones for this event is beyond what I want to do with this post, so my advice is – celebrate both days! Of course for some of you it may already be the 22nd. Somewhere I read that daylight will officially be about 9 ¼ hours long. Or maybe I should say short. It's the night that'll be long. With a tip of the hat to the longest night of the year, I thought I'd write a post about plein air painting – at night! The painting above is about my third attempt at painting outdoors at night and was done a winter or two ago in Heber Valley near Midway. The musical term “nocturne” is also used for these paintings made on the shady side of the planet.

Last January I was tramping around on some ridges by Goshen Valley looking for likely paintings. These hills are dotted with juniper trees and sagebrush. The snow that covered the ground had a slight crust to it's surface. Just below the crest of a sand hill, I set up to paint. Several deer were browsing in the fields below or wandering along paths through the sagebrush. After completing the painting I hiked up onto higher rocky ridges to scout out sites for possible future paintings.   

It was well after dark when I began hiking back down. With many years experience hiking at night, and snow on the ground, seeing my way was easy so I left the flashlight in my pack. As I neared the sand ridge, a full moon rose from behind the Wasatch mountains to the east. The moonlight cast a pale blue-purple glow onto ribbons and patches of snow between dark shapes of junipers. Deep blue shadows stretched from tree to tree.

There have been nocturnes painted by others that I have enjoyed very much. The night has been a part of my outdoor experience perhaps nearly as much as the day. For a while I've wanted to try my hand at nighttime plein air painting but suspecting it would be difficult, put it off. The opportunity provided by this night could no longer be resisted, though. Setting up a pochade box and strapping on a headlamp, I was going to try.

It was while into this painting that a chorus of coyotes struck up their wild harmonies. The coyotes' songs seemed to come from several directions at once, all around me. As usual, the coyotes sang for only a short time, then left me to the quiet of the winter night.

Farther into the painting, I heard the sound of footsteps in the crusty snow approaching from behind! Quickly turning around, the headlamp beam revealed only the tree directly behind me. Stepping around the tree I looked for the source of the footsteps but saw nothing. The footsteps had been too heavy to be a coyote. Most likely it was a deer that bolted once it became aware I was there. Mountain lions have been known to pass through this area, but I think the footfalls of a mountain lion would have sounded different. That is if a mountain lion cared to be heard at all!

More or less completing my first attempt at a nocturne, I packed up my gear and hiked down the sand ridge as the full moon rose ever higher in an indigo sky. I thought about how I was out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of winter, in the middle of the night, surrounded by coyotes, while some unknown large thing walked up behind me. Then I said to myself,

“Man, I gotta do this more often!”

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Exhibits, and That Santa Cat!

Riverside Cottonwoods in Winter, 11" x 14" Oil on Canvas Panel
There's still time to catch an exhibit or two of my paintings! Here's where you can see them:

Hope you can get out and enjoy one or maybe even more of these exhibits!

Now to leave you with this warm, fuzzy and festive holiday image:

OK, maybe the cat's warm and fuzzy, but not too festive. Merry Christmas anyway!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cowboy Sketch

Charcoal Sketch Approx. 12" x 9"
For several years I've been attending portrait drawing sessions once or twice a week. These sessions along with other drawing sessions, plus sketching on my own are how I've been able to develop drawing skills to any degree. The sessions have been very important to me. Without them, I wouldn't learn how to to draw. No amount of painting will make up for lack of drawing because drawing provides the structure that supports the painting.

Just as in sports or music, drawing requires practiced hand-eye coordination. The best basketball players, for instance, don't just read a how-to book and immediately go out and win a NBA MVP trophy. They have to spend a lot of time in practice learning, developing and polishing basketball skills. They study and practice the game. There are many fine books which teach drawing skills, but then the student of drawing has to figure out how to apply the book learning. That takes practice, practice, practice. No matter where a painter is in his or her career you should never stop improving your drawing. If you're not building drawing skills you're loosing them. Sooner or later that will show in your painting.

Developing good drawing skills isn't easy but needn't be drudgery. Finding a drawing session that provides a place to work and models for a reasonable fee allows the painter to network with other artists, get feedback, and join in the energy of a group of painters all developing their own drawing skills. And if someone brings snacks it's even less drudgery! Yum! (Thanks everybody!)

From time to time I'll post on this blog some of the portraits I've drawn from life at these drawing sessions, but for now it's time for me to saddle up and ride off into the sunset. Wish I had a horse!

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holders for Small Painting Panels

6" x 8" Panel Holder
Most of my pochade boxes hold two or three painting panels. That's usually enough for a day's worth of painting for me. For painting excursions lasting several days, I carry extra painting panels in panel holders. These same panel holders are also used for transporting wet paintings back home. Pictured above is a holder for 6" x 8" panels. The picture below shows how the panels slide into groves in the holder and are kept separated so wet paintings don't smear against each other.

6" x 8" Panel Holder with Two Panels
Here is a painting panel holder for 9" x 12" panels:

9" x 12" Panel Holder
9" x 12" Panel Holder with Three Painting Panels
I also have panel holders for 11" x 14" Panels. I have a few of each of these three sizes. They can be built to hold from one to a dozen panels and even more, Depending upon the painter's needs. I made mine rather slim so I can fit them into my day pack. That way I can fill up one panel holder with the day's wet paintings, return to the car, drop off the holder with the fresh paintings, grab the next panel holder full of new painting panels and head out the next day for more painting.

The three narrow sides (including the ones with the grooves) are made out of pine. The front and back are 1/4" Baltic birch ply. I considered using 1/8" Baltic birch but decided that was not strong enough for something that will be thrown into a back pack and have to take rough handling out in the field.

Besides size and the number of panels, another difference between the 6" x 8" panel holders and the larger size holders is how I cut the groves the panels slide into.

Closeup of 9" x 12" Panel Holder

The grooves in the 6" x 8" panel holders were cut with parallel sides. The grooves in the larger holders were cut with tapered sides (see above photo), creating less contact with paint on a finished wet painting. The tapered grooves can also be a little deeper allowing for differences in panel sizes between different brands of painting panels and still hold the panels securely. It's important that the wet paintings are held apart and do not come in contact with each other. I think the tapered groves are better, but the straight sided groves still work well enough.

Lids could be made for the panel holders to keep objects from accidentally falling in and messing up wet paintings inside the holders. I'm probably asking for trouble by not having lids for mine, but I'm not terribly worried about it and I can make lids for them any time.

Any two same size panel holders can be doubled up to hold larger size painting panels. The holders are then secured together with rubber bands. Have extra rubber bands on hand.
  • Two 6" x 8" holders will hold 8" x 10" panels.
  • Two 9" x 12" holders will hold 12" x 16" panels.
  • Two 11" x 14" holders will hold 14" x 18" panels, if I ever paint that size.

12" x 16" Panels Being Slid Inside Two 9" x 12" Panel Holders.
Two 9" x 12" Panel Holders Held Together with Rubber Band
12" x 16" size panels are starting to get a little big to fit into my pack. Sometimes I need to find another way to carry them. For the 16" x 20" and 18" x 24" painting panels I have a different kind of panel holder, but that's for another post.


My painting panel holders are pretty bland looking, but they suit my purposes just fine. You, however, can fancy up the ones you make with stickers or paint or whatever you like. Maybe paint a copy of your favorite Monet or Degas on them. Or maybe a reproduction of a French Rococo painting, if you're into that sort of thing. Perhaps something like the lovely couple with house scene shown above. If you're into abstract art, Karl Momen on your panel holder would be cool!

At this point I'm too busy painting on panels to paint on the holders.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sporting Art...sort of.

Branta Canadensis, Pen and Ink Study

There's a place mentioned in my last post where I frequently paint, even year round. A bike trail runs along the edge of the lake there. Cottonwood trees and marsh grasses edge both lake and trail. I've seen deer, fox, beaver and muskrat there. Owls and hawks of different species hunt there, as sometimes do eagles. East of the trail are ranches. On the other side of the ranches is the edge of town. Beyond that are the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. 

Canada Geese are common here, as I think they are everywhere in North America. In winter, geese will sometimes bed down out on the frozen surface of the lake. Occasionally on winter walks out on the ice I've come across imprints left in the frost and snow by a bedded down flock, probably from the night before. Each goose leaves an oval imprint with webbed footprints on either side, and ample goose droppings.

A couple winters ago, I walked to the end of the bike trail, hopped the creek there and set up to paint a landscape on the other side near the frozen lake. Nearby was a flock of Canada Geese bedded down on the ice. I thought it was strange that the geese were relatively close to the marsh grasses and brush at the lake's edge. They were also strangely quiet. 

As I painted, a couple little shore birds came along checking the edge of the stream's unfrozen banks for morsels. One of the shorebirds passed by giving me a wide berth. The other walked right under my easel as I paused to watch.

As the painting neared completion, I turned to look at the geese again. They were still quiet. They were still bedded down in their same places. They were still in the same poses as earlier. They were - within shotgun range of the nearby brush. That's when I realized these weren't geese - they were decoys! I had set up to paint near a goose hunter!


The hunter(s) wasn't visible, but hunting camouflage these days is so good that you could be right beside a hunter and not see him. It's possible the hunter couldn't see me because of some nearby thick brush between us. Or he could and just didn't worry about it. Nevertheless, I finished painting as quickly and quietly as I could and got out of there. Still, I don't think I messed up the hunter's outing. There was never any sight nor sound of Branta Canadensis that day. If any had been within a mile or so, I think I would have noticed. Canada Geese are rivaled for noise only by Sandhill Crane, and would have probably made their presence known. 

These days, I try to be more aware and careful of where I set up to paint. Steel shot would not help my painting!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some Fall Color, and a Snake!

Rocky Mountain Maples in Autumn, 6" x 8" Oil on Canvas Panel
A few weeks ago high up in the Wasatch Mountains, over 8000 feet above sea level, I found these Maples bright red-orange against a blue sky. Now there's snow up there and the leaves have all been blown out of the trees.

The next painting was done almost a week ago down here in the Valley. This was painted along a favorite walking trail of mine down by the lake:

Autumn Ranch Cottonwoods, 11" x 14" Oil on Canvas Panel
The next one was painted two days ago not far from the spot where the last painting was done, looking more towards the south:

Maple Mountain in Autumn, 9" x 12" Oil on Panel
This is one of my favorite mountains to paint. The low sun in the colder seasons highlights the different slopes like giant crystalline facets. This is one of my favorite seasons to paint in, too.

While walking yesterday along that same path I was surprised to come across a snake! This kind of snake is common around here and I often see them sunning themselves on the trail. They're harmless, and I tend to chase them off the trail when I see them so they don't get run over by bicycles or pickup trucks that use that trail to access parts of the ranch there. At least I hope fewer of them get run over. The snake was more stretched out when I first saw it, but when I walked up to the snake and leaned down for a closer look, it bunched up into this shape. The sky was overcast and the air a little chilly, and the snake seemed somewhat lethargic. That gave me time to sketch the snake. When I was done with the sketch, I let the snake alone.

Snake Sketch, 6" x 8" Graphite Pencil on Paper
It surprises me to see a snake out in the middle of November, even though I've seen this sort of thing before. 

Around a year ago I was driving down a dirt road in the West Desert when I came over a rise and saw a large gopher snake in the road. Driving around the snake and coming to a stop, I got out and walked up to the snake for a closer look. There had been snow a few days before, and although much of the snow had melted off there were still lots of snow patches around. The day was chilly. At first the snake seemed not to react to my approach, but then slowly started to move. It went into a striking attitude. I wanted to get the snake out of the road so it wouldn't be run over, but it put on a ferocious, if slow, display of striking. I gave up trying to catch the snake with my hands. The snake's strikes were slow, but it was a good sized snake with a good sized mouth full of good sharp teeth, and it really didn't want to be caught. Gopher snakes aren't poisonous, but I didn't want to get bitten, anyway. True to one of the gopher snake's nicknames - "blow snake" - the snake would hiss loudly every time it struck out, except this one was so cold and slow that it's hisses sounded more like croaks. I broke a dead branch off of a fallen juniper tree and used it to safely lift the snake and place it off of the road. Then leaving the cold, grumpy snake in a sunny spot, I headed off to paint.

A few days before yesterday's snake sketch, on another slightly chilly day, I found a Western Chorus Frog on the trail. The little frog didn't move at first, and then slowly began to stir when I carefully picked it up. I was careful to handle the frog only long enough to move it off of the trail. Perhaps the warmth of my hand limbered the little frog up a little, because it was moving more when I set it down. Even then it seemed too lethargic to hop, and could only crawl a little. 

I guess these cold-blooded critters get lured out into the sun's warmth on these short days, and then get caught out when the temperature drops suddenly. Or maybe it's hibernation time and they just don't want to go to bed yet. I can't blame them. I don't want to hibernate, either.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Show at Terra Nova Gallery

Autumn Cottonwoods, 8" x 6" Oil on Canvas Panel
There's another show I have artwork in besides the PSNM National Show that's opening on Friday, November 4th. The Terra Nova Gallery's Great Things/Small Packages '11 exhibit opens Friday, 6 - 9 PM and runs through the end of December. Two of my small plein air oil paintings are in the exhibit. This annual show traditionally has lots of smaller artwork for sale that would make great gifts.

Near Sundance, 8" x 10" Oil on Canvas Panel
The show is free, so come out and enjoy artwork by local artists. Terra Nova is at 41 West 300 North  Provo, Utah. If you want, while you're out you can do the gallery stroll!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pastel Society of New Mexico National Show

Rubies, Pastel on Paper
This Friday, November 4th, is the opening for the Pastel Society of New Mexico's 20th Annual Pastel Painting Exhibition. The show will be at EXPO New Mexico, Hispanic Arts Center (State Fairgrounds), 300 San Pedro NE, Albuquerque, and runs through the 27th. The pastel shown above is my entry and was accepted into the show. 

Click for Larger Image.
I'm excited to be a part of the show. Last Week I got a sneak peak at many of the other pastel paintings that are going into the show. There are a lot of very good paintings that will be on exhibit there. It's another good reason to visit New Mexico! You can find more information at:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reflections on Moab

Another season of plein air competitions has come and gone. Some sales and a few awards have come my way but the experiences, things learned and ties made might be more valuable. Each year and every painting builds upon previous ones. Painting for competitions brings a mind set and level of focus that is different from just going out to paint on my own. Many of the lessons learned can be applied to other kinds of painting and drawing I do.

Early Autumn Desert Asters
Sure, the competitions can be fun, but they aren't easy. Traveling long distances, not always knowing where I'm going to stay, dealing with all kinds of weather; every competition is an adventure.

As often as I can, I paint not only for the competition but also for my own portfolio. Here are a couple of small pictures I painted on the Moab trip. The first is actually the last one painted. It was done while visiting relatives in the four corners area.

Cottonwood Wash, 6" x 8" Oil on Canvas Panel
The next one was painted south of Moab:

Red Rock Juniper, 6" x 8" Oil on Canvas Panel
That was painted on a sandstone bluff looking across a canyon-creased valley toward foothills of the La Sal Mountains. While painting, a little reddish lizard came and climbed onto my foot. I stopped to watch what the lizard was doing. It crawled through a loop in my boot lace and poked it's nose under the cuff of my jeans. Worried about having a lizard up my pants I shifted my other foot. The lizard jumped off the boot and ran a couple feet where it stopped, turned and looked up at me. Again I stood still to see what the lizard would do. It crawled to the boot I had just moved and then went over to the painting equipment I had set on the ground nearby. The lizard crawled around, through and all over the leather bags. I returned to painting. Fifteen or twenty minutes later I took a few steps back from the painting to get a better look at it. When I did, the lizard leaped off my boot and scampered away across the slickrock, not to return this time! Absorbed in my work, I hadn't noticed the lizard was sunning itself on my foot!

There was another strange thing nearby on that same sandstone bluff:

This structure had a semicircle wall of stones about two feet high on one side. Stones, strips of juniper bark and sticks were arranged in curious fashion within an outline of rocks. An uneven pathway outlined with more small stones stretched for several yards from the main structure. Another small arrangement of stones was found close by.

Was this an ancient Anasazi structure? Or was it the site of some strange religious ceremony? After briefly considering these more exciting possibilities, I had to admit the structure was probably built by bored kids entertaining their imagination, possibly while their parents sat in camp chairs around a campfire just down below.

Exploring a dirt road several miles south of the slickrock bluff and the friendly lizard, I came across a somber scene:

This was the largest roadside memorial I've ever seen. It was covered with bouquets of artificial flowers. Here and there among the flowers were dolls and plush toys of all sizes. Toy soldiers were arranged in a couple areas of the memorial. There were a couple small American flags. A set of barbells were included in the mix as was what looked like some parts from a car. Other items were there, including a few pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters scattered around one end of the memorial. I walked around the memorial but out of respect touched nothing. I wish I knew the story behind it.

The days spent on this trip were perfect, all with early autumn blue skies! The cottonwoods in the canyon bottoms were just beginning to turn their brilliant yellow. Stands of scrub oak bore colors from golden ochre to russet. Here and there some reds peeked through all the other colors. Early childhood experience told me to stay away from some of the fall color though. In a side canyon along the Colorado I found this:

Poison Ivy
At a kiosk near Onion Creek, I saw this poster:

Stay off the biotic soil. It looks like it could bite!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Slickrock Formations, 16" x 20" Oil on Canvas Panel.
Stepping on the heels of Plein Air Provo is Plein Air Moab. The first day of painting for the Moab competition is the same day as the opening in Provo. There's still plenty of time for painting in the Moab event, though, so I didn't worry about arriving for that competition until Monday. Monday was spent traveling and scouting possible painting spots between Moab and Monticello. The next three days I painted three 16" x 20" paintings. For this event the weather has been great!

Today I painted at a campground near Fisher Towers, in the Colorado River Gorge. While painting I was visited by a fat little ground squirrel who kept checking out my painting equipment. A little red lizard also came to check me out and crawled right up to my feet before moving on. I can't imagine the lizards at this campground are starting to mooch too!

While at Fisher Towers, I also picked which painting to enter into the show and framed it on a picnic table in the campground. The painting shown above is probably the one I'll enter into the competition unless I change my mind in the morning. The deadline for turning in entries is tomorrow morning. 

The show opens Friday the 14th, at the MARC, 111 E. 100 N. in Moab, and runs from 4:00 AM to 9:00 PM on Friday and 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Saturday. All works are for sale. The show is free and I understand there are already some (non-competition) paintings on exhibit!

Plein Air Moab, 2010
Last year was the first Plein Air Moab, and the photo above shows my entry in that year's show. The area surrounding Moab has probably some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. It's about time there was a plein air competition here!

Hopefully I'll get in a little more painting while I'm here, paintings that can go to shows or in galleries. Maybe I could have painted more than three pictures so far this week, but I thought I needed to get in a little exploring both on foot and in four wheel drive. This is wonderful country!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Plein Air Provo

Image courtesy of David Hawkinson.
Cold, wind, rain and snow. When you paint outdoors on a regular basis, sooner or later you're going to have to deal with it. Those of us participating in this years Plein Air Provo had our choice of three days of cold, wet weather to paint in. I chose all three. Other challenges I dealt with were when the river rose unexpectedly while painting there on Wednesday, and on Friday, at a ranch on the west side of town, finding myself and my paintbox invaded by baby spiders!

The show opens Friday, October 7 at Terra Nova Gallery, 41 West 300 North, in Provo, Utah and runs through the 28th. Hours for the opening are 6 - 9 PM. After tonight, the show will be open at regular hours. For more information, visit Terra Nova's website and click on "Exhibits." Then scroll down to "Plein Air Provo."

When I dropped off my final entry for the competition, I got a sneak peak at many of the entries from other participating painters. I'm looking forward to tonight's (Friday, Oct. 7, 2011) opening so I can see everyone's paintings up on the wall and visit with other painters. I also look forward to meeting many of the gallery goers who come out to see the exhibit.

The show is free, and while you're out enjoying the artwork, you can also enjoy Provo's First Friday Gallery Stroll. Come and enjoy the paintings!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Rest of the Escalante Paintings

My poor little Nikon digital camera is still suffering from the effects of a sudden dust storm which struck while I was painting near Escalante. It remains to be seen if the camera is repairable. In the mean time, I found a relatively inexpensive little Casio to fill in for the Nikon. It's not as slick as the Nikon (was?), but if I'm going to be feeding cameras to the desert from time to time, I don't want to be paying very much for them!

This is a continuation of the post Escalante, Another Demo, and Alien Beings. Brought to you courtesy of the little Casio digital camera.

Here's the painting I did Wednesday at the paint out at the Slot Canyon Inn:

11" x 14" Oil on Canvas Panel
Another camper where I was staying in Escalante told me about a place nearby full of hoodoos. This little natural red rock alleyway ran by there. Here is where the sand ate my camera:

8" x 10" Oil on Canvas Panel
On a long drive up on the Aquarius Plateau, I found this dramatic view late in the day on Friday:

8" x 10" Oil on Canvas Panel
Saturday, I went back out to the hoodoos and painted this:

6" x 8" Oil on Panel
Hopefully I can keep the Casio out of the sand and the myriad other things that could destroy it! Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The BIG Box

When painting small, pochade boxes fit the bill for me very well. There have been a number of posts on this blog about those, in particular here and here. However, larger paintings such as 16" x 20" or 18" x 24" require more paint, bigger brushes, more solvent, etc, and that needs a larger, beefier means of carrying it all around. This post will be about the paintbox I use for bigger paintings.

I built this box nearly twenty years ago. Plans - or wishful thinking - were that I would begin serious oil painting soon after building the box. In reality, it was used mostly for storage of neglected painting supplies until just around a year or so ago. The design idea came from smaller paint boxes I've seen for sale in art supply stores. Not knowing much about oil painting, nor really knowing what I needed in a paint box, I just took the design ideas I saw in the stores and beefed them up considerably to what I thought would work for my purposes - whatever those were! This box was built almost entirely out of pine. Not the most durable of wood, but it was what was available then and it works well enough.

After years of pastel painting, and then lots of oil painting in pochade boxes, it was time to begin learning to paint bigger. Something was needed that would hold bigger brushes and large tubes of paint. Commercially made boxes of the scale I needed aren't readily available, so I needed to figure out what to do. Suitably sized plastic storage bins or even a cardboard box came to mind. Finally I remembered the lonely pine paintbox full of 37 ml paint tubes with stuck caps. It was promoted from storage box to working paintbox - what it was originally intended to be.

With the experience I've gained in painting larger pictures, if given the chance I would build this box entirely different. It's smaller than I would like, and the compartments could be better designed, but it works and will make do. This paintbox has everything needed to paint except easel and large painting panel, although I usually take the usual painting supply bag with it. Here's a photo and bullet points explaining what's inside the big paintbox:

Click Picture for Larger Image
  1. 11" x 14" canvas panels in swing out panel holder.
  2. Wooden palette. Fits in same holder.
  3. 150 ml size tubes of oil paint.
  4. In this compartment  I keep a tube or two of white paint, a small (37 ml) tube of ivory black, vine charcoal which I may someday use, along with an eraser, and whatnot. Whatnot gets into a lot of my stuff.
  5. Here I keep a few plastic bags for oily rags, plus a couple bottles of almost-never-used medium; one of linseed oil and one of liquin.
  6. Tube wringer. Domestically made - not imported. The imports break as soon as you try to use them.
  7. Brush washer filled with odorless mineral spirits. Bigger than the one I use with the pochade boxes, but I wish it was bigger still.
  8. This little compartment holds a small container of brush cleaning soap, if ever it's needed, a neglected medium cup, a wire hook for hanging the brush washer from my easel, and a thumbscrew for fastening the support that holds the paintbox lid open.
  9. Bamboo brush holder with brushes ranging in size from a little rigger to size 14 or 16 flats.
  10. Also in this compartment are paper towels in a plastic bag and a couple palette knives. The hardwood lid support fits into this compartment for transport. There's a collapsible mahl stick in there, too.
Back when I built the box, I thought it needed to hold a couple paint panels. They might come in handy someday, but that's not so important to me now. Access to the panel holder is made by turning a little wooden latch at the top of the lid, then the panel holder tilts out. Moving the palette out of the way allows the paintbox to be used like a pochade box. The paintbox is too big and bulky to be carried very far and being a pochade box is not its primary purpose. My feeling is, if I have to lug around such a big paintbox, it will be for big paintings.

The brush holder is a necessary evil. It's there to keep brushes in place. Otherwise when the box is closed and being transported the design of the box could allow brushes to fall into other compartments  - and into the panel holder, where there might be wet paint. I don't want the brushes painting unsupervised!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Escalante, Another Demo, and Alien Beings

Last week was Everett Ruess Days and the annual plein air painting competition in Escalante, Utah. After attending the opening of the show at Fremont Indian State Park, I drove to Torrey and camped for a couple nights in a tent at an RV park. Like last year, the picture I entered into the show was painted in the Capitol Reef area. On Monday I set up in the parking area for the Chimney Rock hiking trail. Here are some photos of that painting in-process.

Canvas toned and initial drawing.
Messing with lights and darks.

Adding Color
Finished painting. Chimney Rock, 16" x 20" Oil on Canvas Panel.

Just as last year, I handed out business cards and talked to people from all over the world. I enjoy talking to people who stop for a short visit while I'm painting. Some painters don't. If you see a painter and they're wearing earphones, they probably don't want to be bothered.

The next day, I painted near Torrey. This is the painting I entered into the main show:

Torrey Breaks, 16" x 20" Oil on Canvas Panel.

Monday night I camped at a spot north of town near the Great Western Trail. After driving a couple miles up an ATV trail, through a couple mud holes and across a stream, I came to a washout that even the ATVs wouldn't tackle. Their go-around looked too adventurous for my 4Runner, so I pulled off the trail and camped there. Walking over for a closer look at the washout, I thought, "This will take a piece of heavy equipment to fix." I had no idea how soon that would happen.

This kind of camp has advantages and disadvantages. On the minus side, there's no wi-fi or showers. On the plus side, it's free and it's wild. This spot came with an additional challenge, though. I thought since it was late Monday, and there was a washout making the trail difficult, no one would likely come by. So I began to settle down for a peaceful night in the pinion pines beneath red rock formations. 

But shortly after sunset, an ATV came by and stopped at the washout. Then along came a backhoe followed by a pickup pulling a flatbed trailer. The backhoe commenced scooping dirt out of a bank not far from my camp and filling in the washout. That accomplished, they parked the backhoe not 50 feet from my camp and both the ATV and the pickup headed up the freshly repaired trail. They had to see that I was camped close by, but they never seemed to acknowledge I was there. A while later, the ATV and the pickup returned, followed by another ATV. They didn't stop at the backhoe, but continued on past. Later, an ATV with two people came back up the trail and stopped at the backhoe. One of them got in the backhoe and fired it up while the other person continued on up the trail on the ATV. The backhoe operator drove the piece of heavy equipment back down the trail. Later that night the ATV came tooling back down the trail. 

So much for a peaceful night. There was no more traffic for the rest of the evening, but I lay awake awhile wondering if anything else was going to come motoring by and maybe even start digging again.

The next night I camped further up into the trees, and nobody came by the entire night. Except for the construction crew and all the unexpected traffic on the first night, it was a nice place to camp. Two old campfire rings nearby indicated other people thought the spot was a good one, too. There was other evidence this was a choice spot for camping, even to ancient people. Wandering around my camp one morning, I discovered a lot of lithic flakes. These were shards of sharp obsidian and flint knapped off of stone tools or weapons by Indians long ago. I examined a few of the lithic flakes, putting them back when I was done with them.

Lithic Flakes
Closeup of Lithic Flakes
I'll bet ancient Indians didn't have to worry about backhoes in the middle of the night!

Wednesday I went to Escalante and participated in the paint out at Slot Canyon Inn. For the rest of the week my camp was at Escalante Outfitters. I did a few more small paintings that week, at Devil's Garden and Hell's Backbone, then attended a small town church service on Sunday.

Thursday at Devil's Garden, an F-16 fighter jet came roaring by, just a couple hundred feet or so off the ground. A while later a C-130 flew overhead just as low. I set my camera aside while I painted to be ready to snap a picture should another war bird fly by. No other war planes came by. Instead, a sudden dust storm blew down the little canyon I was in and my camera was caked with desert sand! After blowing and dusting the camera off as best I could, I turned it on. I got a "Lens Error" message and the camera wouldn't work. If I can get photos of the other paintings I did I'll show them in a later post.

Now for the alien beings! The first night at Escalante Outfitters I was out under the pavilion in the campground working on my computer when this little guy came wandering by:

Only it wasn't so little. The thing was at least two inches long and it's ugliness made it look even bigger! It trundled back and forth across the concrete floor of the pavilion the whole time I was there. Or there were several of them taking turns crossing the pavilion floor - I don't know. This is one of the most bizarre looking creatures I have ever seen and it looked like it was from another planet! 

Turns out, it's not an alien creature from outer space after all, but a Jerusalem cricket (Stenopelmatus spp.) It (or they - I don't know) seemed to behave itself, so I decided not to call out the army on this one!