Thursday, March 31, 2016
Acrylic 12" x 24"
Imagine 15 degrees below zero, more or less, a clear bright blue sky, blindingly bright snow and your friends and you are slowly moving up the mountain side on skis. The morning is spent in a long climb and your pack full of avalanche gear and all the necessities of back country winter travel is feeling heavy. But the top of the climb is near. Suddenly, the rising ground ends and a vast space opens up; clouds and snowfields drop away below your feet and fade into the distance. Rising over the chasm a mass of dark cloud blocks the sun. Everything below is shadowed purples and blues. Mist and cloud fall down the distant canyons into what seems like bottomless space. The wind picks up. Standing on the col, you are on the edge between two worlds; the bright, quiet sunlit fields of snowy slopes falling away behind and ahead, the low roar of wind and darkening storm.
That long, cold ski up the mountain brought my friends and I onto the col where we'd planned to rest and eat our lunch before going onto the Illecillewaet Glacier but the unexpected drama of this view changed our plans. We simply had to stand around for a few minutes and watch the weather roll in. Of course, then our lunch was shortened and the day's plans modified so we could get back down to a lower altitude before bad weather trapped us too far from the hut.
This view remains one of my favorite of all the spectacular mountain views I was so fortunate to know skiing in the Canadian backcountry. I always knew it was a painting, and finally it is!
If you ski, here's some information on this spectacular Canadian backcountry destination:
Rogers Pass ski routes
While doing this painting, our Wisconsin snow has turned to rain, the grass is greening, birds sing and winter is finished for this year. But I'm inspired about painting snow so have another painting started of the Blanket Glacier area in the Monashee Mountains of British Columbia.
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Monday, March 14, 2016
Snow Hoodoos Near Balu Pass
This is the second painting, just finished, from our Canadian backcountry travels, featuring one of my favorite things - hoodoos. Some of you may know hoodoos from the deserts and 'badlands' of our western states but snow can also make more temporary hoodoos.
Alberta has famous hoodoos out in the dry prairies near Drumheller. Travel west through the mountains, past the front ranges and into British Columbia where the snow is usually deep, to find snow hoodoos. I have seen hoodoos in Banff National Park, near the town of Banff, but deeper into British Columbia hoodoos are bigger and more easily found. They form over trees or rock and often have a mushroom shape where protected from wind.
'Snow Hoodoos Near Balu Pass' takes us into the Rogers Pass backcountry. Rogers Pass area in the Selkirk mountains is well known to Canadian skiers for steep, avalanche filled valleys, spectacular scenery and challenging skiing.Snow here can be several meters deep and the sheltered valleys allow hoodoos to form.
These hoodoos formed over rock outcroppings. They are 6-8 feet wide (2-3meters). Sometimes there is enough space under one to stand up inside it. Carefully!
Beyond the hoodoos and out of sight in the painting is Balu Pass, a lovely open ridge surrounded by higher peaks with lots of open space for an afternoon of telemarking.
This painting was started by doing a color palette to decide the basic range of colors and values.
Ken DeWaard , I'm thinking about values!
Values from dark to light were made for three blues; cerulean, cobalt and ultramarine. Then I made samples of these colors with black added.
Early stage of the painting I try to get the basic shapes and values. Still not very efficient with that so often redo it several times.
What seems like a simple, one color snowfield quickly turns into a complex mix of shapes and values. Trying to keep it simple here but those details creep in all too soon. At this point I forgot about taking pictures for a while. I'll try to get more of each stage of development on another painting. This has been changed and changed again, before ending up as below. My photos don't show the values completely.
Deep snow, higher altitude and dry clear air can cause snow to intensify colors and seem luminous. The photo does not quite capture that so I'll keep trying to get better pictures.
Now I'm doing sketches for figures, and thinking about where they will be placed in the scene. One of the pleasures of these paintings is the figures in them are my friends. This painting features Bob and Fritz. I make sketches of skiers in different positions, using a photo reference for how their clothes or packs look. My photos taken while negotiating trails and carrying a heavy pack are quickly snapped and oriented on the large expanse of scenery so figures tend to be small, dark and indistinct against the brilliant white surroundings and don't offer much information for later use.
Once the figures are in the scene they bring perspective and scale to the long range view and the painting is finished. For now. It goes into hiding for a couple weeks, then I'll look at it again and check for anything that needs adjusting.
Snow Hoodoos Near Balu Pass 20"x16"
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Thursday, March 3, 2016
This painting was a lot of fun! It's been many, many years since I've painted a wall sized mural and since starting to paint a couple years ago, have been using canvases no larger than 9x12 inches. This 48x36" canvas was given to me by a friend. There are a lot of unused art supplies in people's closets, and I am the fortunate beneficiary this time.
After preparing the surface, it was ready to become my first large painting. Time to paint!
For many years we did extensive back country skiing in Canada. Everywhere we went offered spectacular scenery and lighting. Trying to get photos of the gorgeous light and colors wasn't possible with cold hands and a very basic camera and I always wanted to paint what I saw. The scene on this blog's home page is my first mountain painting (8x22") but the big canvas inspired me to do another backcountry scene.
I started by making color samples and value studies.
The photo reference was one hazy mass of vague shapes due to the glare from the low morning sun. Many ski trips found us far from the road by the time sunlight reached the valleys. This was a beautiful time to be in the trackless snow fields under towering peaks.
There are numerous problems with the above value study; primarily the light is coming from all over the place! Hmmmm....should have looked a bit more closely before putting all that paint on....
A few more value sketches were done then I just jumped in and laid out the idea on the big canvas.
I don't like the direction this is going. At this point I painted over much of it and made it much lighter in value, and changed the light to come from the left side of the picture. The sun is still behind the mountain, the night's clouds are breaking up and floating away in the warming (relatively speaking) air and each angle of slope reflects a different amount of light.
This is starting to work better but it's a long way from finished. I've saved adding the people into the scene until now. There were seven of us on this trip but that was too many for this picture; but since everyone is bundled up and unrecognizable, we can each imagine we are there in the picture.
By this time life got a bit complicated due to the need to wear a Big Black Boot for 6 weeks.
Suddenly I was very appreciative of Frieda Kahlo's challenges, and her courage and commitment to her art.
Oops, there are some awkward things going on with the clothes and positions of people, not apparent in this dark and blurry photo so this is still very much a work in progress. Shadows, clouds, people...all need some adjustments. Keep working!
This painting took about two weeks to do. At this time it's 'finished'. The quotes mean it gets put away for a while, then taken out to review. Anything that shows up then gets fixed, or if it's the best I can do at this time, it's really done.
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