When I arrived at the ranch on May 1, the cottonwood and aspen groves along the creek were still mostly dormant. A Rocky Mountain winter takes a long time to let go. This particular place looked like it flooded repeatedly. There were rocks strewn about, broken trees and lots of dead vegetative stuff in heaps. It looked like a bone yard. But cottonwoods, despite their relatively short messy lives, are genuinely majestic. In the two weeks I was there, this circle of trees came alive! High above the chaos on the meadow beneath them, the branches sprouted tender new leaves and the atmosphere became ethereal.
oil on canvas 40x54
There are many hours involved in this small painting. Getting the right mood was elusive. Twice I painted over the whole thing then scraped that off and went into the 'ghost' of what had been there before. Eventually, something sort of tremulous happened and I was satisfied.
In between massive though typical fall storms, we`ve had a couple of dry days. What gifts they are!
The forests are muddy and wild with ferns and mosses. And still, some lingering bright maple leaves which are stunning against the blue fog and deep green firs.
oil on panel 8"x8"
I don`t think I ever posted this watercolor. It was inspired by Sauvie Island and is now owned by the talented Brent Perkins.
After percolating for six months, I`m working on a big oil painting of a grove of cottonwoods that have just budded out in early Spring. From my residency at the Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. The place was still kind of bleak from the winter, lots of downed trees and debris. But the tiny green leaves were a hint of color and life. Suggesting that delicacy in contrast to a battered dormancy is my challenge. I`ll post a progression of photos when it`s finished.
watercolor on Yupo 12"x9"
A view north of Mammoth Hot Springs. The clouds didn`t lift to let me see what was back there.
No doubt it is spectacular. Driving up to the Springs from the geyser basins in the south part of the park is nothing short of miraculous. Within mere minutes the landscape dramatically changes into something altogether new and breathtaking several different times. Last spring when I visited. the weather was cool and misty so the vistas were rarely completely visible. Not knowing what to expect, I didn`t mind at all. The clouds and fog just heightened the other worldliness of it.
oil on panel 8"x8"
This began as the demonstration painting for a class I taught last weekend. The topic was working from a drawing. When doing a sketch on location, one immediately emphasizes the elements that are interesting. Painting from that first interpretation offers a more personal response to the subject without too much confusing detail. Though I use photography as an integral part of my process, I find that if I`ve drawn something first, I begin with more confidence.
watermedia on paper 24"x18"
graphite on paper 6"x3.5"
I`ve heard that because our summer was so dry, autumn came early. And it seems to be going fast. Every day I`ve been out walking in it and in these final days, I think it`s most beautiful. Because of the rain, the ferns and mosses are vividly healthy yet the forest floor is covered with bright decaying leaves. Now that they`ve fallen, you can see deep into the trees. That spatial element with the rich autumn color is rewarding even in the rain.
oil on panel 12"x12"
I`ve painted this group of trees several times. I like how they erupt from the hillside.
The forests are now foggy, rainy and cold but alive with fall color. More moody and bittersweet than the wall of summer green.
oil on canvas 36x36