Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An Ancient Lake

You're standing in a lake bed. No, really -- you are! A dry lake bed, that is, in the desert.

This is Lake Cahuilla ("cah-ooo-EE-yah"), an ancient lake that came and went depending on whatever direction the Colorado River "decided" to flow. The lake bed exists in the desert east of Palm Springs. This painting was one of the few commissions I've done in my career. The clients live close to this site but requested a painting of how it looked at that time because developers were planning on home and golf course construction out there. The development, Andalusia, now fills part of the area you see here.

One feature of the scene that was important to the clients was the waterline that marked Coral Mountain, the mass in the center of the painting. I'll have to admit: the waterline fascinates me. It appears especially dark after significant rainfall drenches the rocks. I noticed that the waterline was darker even than the shadows of the crevices among the rocks.

The early Spanish explorers never got to taste the water of Lake Cahuilla. Apparently, the lake water was gone by 1600AD. But the waterline is still visible 400 years later, a remnant of a time when a precious desert resource -- water -- made life a little easier for the native residents of an otherwise dry place.

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