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This 4’x3; painting was begun last fall, and then I was crowded out by the plants coming in for the winter. With the plants out on the deck for the summer, I’ve been back at it for awhile now and thought I’d post some progress picts.

Mount Arikaree and Arikaree Glacier are the subject of this painting. I’ve summited this 13 thousand foot peak more than 20 times. After the last ice age 10,000 years ago, the glacier retreated into its cirque. Glacial meltwater passes through the talus field to emerge on the low shoulder of the mountain with only 1 part per billion of sediment- some of the cleanest water imaginable. Colorado State University’s Alpine Research Center is based in this glacial watershed, and last year they predicted Arikaree Glacier would be gone by 2025, with the sister valley’s Arapaho Glacier meeting its end soon after. I was the protector of these glaciers and their watersheds from my 18th birthday though to my 30th; I kept individuals from leaving physical footprints and infecting the watershed with giardia, but all the billions of humanity’s footprints are stomping it into oblivion now. While painting I’m streaming interviews with arctic / antarctic scientists, biologists documenting the 6th Mass Extinction, investigative climate journalists, climate activists such as Extinction Rebellion, Dark Mountain poets and authors; keeping my head in the game of reality while memorializing the heart of the mountain, already so much smaller, and ever smaller, and gone. Climate Collapse is finally obvious in everyone’s back yard, and if your back yard is alpine wilderness, it is already over. There is a white-hot place in my mind now that wasn’t there in my patrol days, a spot the glaciers kept cool, and now with them dying- it is a strange inescapable light, an ultraviolet long wavelength, a wave form of oblivion.

This is the underpainting combined with blocked in color from last fall, just a few layers along. Before any painting, I had to create the “canvas”- MDF sanded and primed, and a new hanging system using a French Cleat on the back ( I may go back through my other large paintings and retrofit them with French Cleats as well).
Acrylics allow opacity or thin transparent washes, so I’m going back and forth a bit with bold areas of saturated color followed with multiple transparent washes to tone and shift.
Eventually I hope it will feel as if the sun is setting far below us, shining back up to the mountain- creating the indigo/violet/magenta spectrum that can’t be seen on any other solid object save a high mountain at sunset/sunrise. Unless you are there seeing it, it will seem impossible and even fake- however within the large field of this painting I am pushing and pulling with value/intensity/saturation and hot/cold contrasts trying to find an immersion that allows the odd sensation of being there in that strange light. These pure colors are invisible to the eye in the white light of day, and occur only when the sun has already set and is long past the horizon for all the lower elevations, allowing these wavelengths of light that vibrate on the extreme ends of the visible spectrum to reveal themselves with a clarity that stuns the imagination. Still a long way to go…

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Broad Canyon Fire:#2  24″ x 48″ Acrylic on Panel. 2016

The first Broad Canyon Fire painting was dark and had the sun in it; this one glows with sunlight but does not have the sun. This image views the fire from the side, while the former is a view of the fire just before passing through/under it. This was the logical companion/complement to the original painting, and a strong enough choice to stand with the original work. It may be that these two works are as far as this series can go and retain pure authority to the subject and themselves and each other. Each must have its own necessity or it becomes derivative.

The artspeak is likely just an attempt to be able to quit, as the process of transparent washes and semi-opaque layering is burning through my creative patience; i.e. this takes forever and requires allowing the painting to pass through many stages of layering to build to where it finally comes together- and it is difficult to keep this all in balance and not lose focus on the whole for the parts for the days-long processes to effect a subtle change upon a subtle change to move the work along. Yet global warming says I’ll have the full sunroom for awhile yet before I have to move the trees and plants back in off the deck, and so the theme of beautiful armageddon under the global warming sun can push me further than I would like as well…plus, they are really something in real life and my love/hate of the process may just have to suck it up as this is about making Art. The finished paintings have a life of their own, which is rare; and respecting this is an artist’s responsibility to work toward the quiet and invisible thread of direction that seems to bring itself into being.

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Broad Canyon Fire. Acrylic. 24″x48″

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some sense of the perspective; near = fire/sunlit crazy smoke you are about to pass under, far is miles and miles of smoke heading to distant mountains.

Redo of the last post with an image 5x denser; the sun is now red and the vaseline view is clarified.

This is ten days of painting, but who’s counting…

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Broad Canyon Fire. 24″x48″  Acrylic

This image is way off, yet it links to facebook with all the colors correct and it is correct in the blog upload library. All other versions I’ve brought into the library are similarly off when selected for display. For one, the sun should be glowing crimson; and everything else you can guess is way off from there. Second- blurry / vaseline smeared. Hardly worth putting it up.

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Bluebirding Storm on easel.

On a late afternoon bluebird house expedition (house is just left of center) this storm brewed up over the mountains and shot out a large arm reaching over the ranch to blot out the sun. Rain misted the air under the vast arm turning the sky beneath it a brilliant gold, while a premature twilight of the cloud’s shadow swept the landscape. The breeze fell away and the stillness was broken by the booming of thunder resonating from beyond the horizon.

It was a landscape that challenged me to paint the mood of it, and after spinning in pre-art miasma for a few weeks I finally toughened up and got to painting. The painting is in acrylic and 12″x48″, a new format for my work as my new camera has a panoramic feature. This brings a whole new challenge, as the light changes dramatically across the expanse.

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Bluebirding Storm

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Morning Glory Natural Bridge. Acrylic on board. 32″x49″ 2015 (with some final tweaks yesterday)

After nearly a year of hanging on the wall, problem areas and fixes amassed and I set up the easel and went back into it. Now the yellow wall on the L recedes from the central bridge, the central form of the tree is warmed a bit tying it to the sandstone as it had drifted too far into the realm of the sky, and subtle tweaks to how the stone forms meet the edge of the picture plane at the top of the composition to project the mass out and overhead. Also, I wanted to reshoot it with my new/used camera: a Sony NEX-7. My old first digital camera (2007) was killed by the airlines on the flight to KS for Xmas, and Wichita has a great used camera store= Santa-self says: Merry Xmas art nerd, now you can take great pictures of your mediocre little hobby.

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As glazing layers build the overall values tend to darken and homogenize. There are rumors of painters who don’t have to rebuild their lighter tones, but they may just be monsterous fairytales.

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Over-darkened and over-saturated with glaze. An in-between step that I’d hoped was my final step, but then wasn’t.

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Today was back at Morning Glory Bridge. The tree gained dimensionality, and I put some atmosphere between the left yellow wall and the bridge, and between the bridge and the tree.

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“Before” The changes are subtle, and maybe don’t quite punch up via photograph…

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shadowed branches against sunlit stone

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Bounced glow on stones, with direct and indirect light on the tree.

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Morning Glory Natural Bridge in Moab, Utah. 49″ x 32″. Acrylic. Finished at last.

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The scrim of tiny branches nearly did me in. Then it was back into the body of the tree for volume and bounced light.

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When addressing the landscape it is important to leave representation to the photograph, and let the painting address the concerns of fine art. Inherent in my original photograph was a degree of abstraction favoring spacial relationships and contrasting organic mass, hazy winter light  favoring a palette of mid-tones; this was a good jumping off point. The intent of the painting is to move beyond visual recognition of form, and enter the sense of presence and living dynamic of direct experience that many skim over even when directly experiencing- therefore, heightening the pathways laying dormant in everyday life. That is the living quality of painting, and the sense in Van Gogh’s work that is often referred to as “passion”. There is a reason 19th Century ideals of The Sublime are expressed in landscape, as with JMW Turner’s seascapes, they point toward deep time and erase the primacy of the individual, planting the viewer squarely outside their frame of reference and into the question of identity and mortality and the false mental and physical worlds of human making. Art becomes a gateway to a sense of hidden living experience, pulling back a veil that is unrealized until seen beyond. This power of art is why the fine arts were traditionally aligned with religion, then realigned to a secular experience of the divine in Nature (The Sublime) durning the Romanic Era, and finally to the subconscious in the New York Style or Abstract Expressionism wherein Jackson Pollock declared “I am Nature!”.

The bridge is the size of a skyscraper, spanning high above. The bridge shares the palette of the surrounding landscape elements, yet each of the three main aspects of the landscape have their own tonal emphasis. This dynamic push and pull of color within the looming landscape is augmented with the patterning brought to each element. To the left is the south face of a rounded cliff heated with intense yellows that roil in curvilinear tension against the expanse of the bridge. The bridge offsets against the right cliff wall through complementary contrast of red (bridge) v green (wall) in the base tones, and the strong striping that curves and dives along the shear wall. This shadowed striping points up and inward, mirroring the opposing sunlit angled form, driving the linear focus beyond the span of the bridge into the clear resting breath of the sky. An aspect of the wall at the top right has sheared away, and the tones in this area shift from green to red, aligning with the bridge, stabilizing the upward thrust at the painting’s base and helping the eye hold the expanse of the floating bridge aloft at the painting’s top. Both bordering landscape elements bring emphasis to the bridge, which is chiseled with high intensity shapes that swirl and align, all in warm tones of hot orange, toned sandy pink, and saturated violet shadow. There are also two pulses of pure white snow that move the eye from the near ground to the farthest reach of background, both are positioned toward the base of the bridge to break the bridge free at its base from the pinching condensation of forms. And then there is the tree.

The tree forms its own abstract ideation of the bridge, with a cold bluish arm individually arising from below the bridge, pushing deep into the left of the picture plane for a high temperature contrast to the yellow wall. As the bridge is a geological aspect of the right wall, two branches (one physically connected to the main tree and one arising in harmony with the the far blue branch) push up through the darkest shadow of the wall connecting into the undercut of warm bounced light on the cliffs underside. The interplay of these three elements are crucial to the central body of the tree, allowing it to move across the body of the bridge aligning in tone with the sky, connecting the twin diving arrows of sky to the ground, then lifting the sky back to float below the bridge. A complex haze of darkly intense color screens this area of the tree’s dominion, a netting of branches to further define a boundary of sky to lower the viewer’s frame of reference once again and set their sense of craning their necks upward and feeling that slight vertigo as the ground falls away under your feet, though they remain planted firmly.

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Week 2 / Day 1 – Working the dark striation on the beveled sides of the arch. Compare to the far R side, which now looks greenish and unresolved; that will be tomorrow’s problem.

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Wk2 / Day 3- R stone wall is resolved, and it is back into the tree for modulation and branches, branches, branches.

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Wk2 / day 4 & 5 – All to the tree. What to put in, what to leave out. The tree wants to overwhelm the arch with branch “noise”, so abstract alignments supersede as a pruning logic.

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This is nearly the whole image, yet the image is a bit wonky. The L side is washing out in reflected glare of afternoon sunlight and I have to make the shot at an angle, hence the fern.

Looking at last week’s dramatic climb from underpainting to something like a painting gives a false sense of painting being a whiz. This weeks images by comparison seem to be nearly identical to each other, but have much bigger differences than sprouting tree branches. With last week’s job of blocking basic shapes and colors established, then comes the longer process of creating harmonious colors, all in balance for tone, intensity and temperature. Shape of color areas must enhance the form and contours of the objects they relate to. The entire sky has to be reworked for vibrancy and tonality. And the tree is changed again and again, raising intensity and altering tonality to push and pull the branches up and back into space, or down and in toward the viewer. A few books on tape in otherwise unmeasured time, stopping only for the inevitable mental fatigue that leads to ruin.