Monday, August 31, 2015

Visions of the Night

As you may know, a "nocturne" is a work of art or music that is all about the night -- typically, night with a full moon.

It's amazing how magical nocturnes are! Provided a landscape feels like a safe place to be in, the darkness + moonlight casts a spell as nothing else can.

I've painted less than a handful of nocturnes only because they can be too dark for people to hang on their walls, especially if rooms are not brightly lit during the evening hours. But I suspect I may do more of them -- possibly scenes that are not desert. I absolutely love the look the full moon gives to the land, as it has been the last few nights during the "supermoon." (Full moon was last night, but it's still lookin' pretty darned wonderful out there!)

night,nighttime,full,moon,moonlight,moonlit,desert,Joshua Tree,National Park,cholla,monzogranite,rock,clouds
Mojave Nocturne
In these two images, you can see I sometimes make the night sky quite blue; other times, I tone it down quite a bit. We don't see much, if any, color when the light levels drop too low. We may think everything looks blue, but it's mostly shades of gray. (The sky MAY have a little blue in it).

What's amazing to me are the color photos (35mm slides) I've taken by moonlight. Given enough exposure, the pictures look just like daylight pix! The relative values, darks and lights in a moonlight scene are the same as they are in daylight -- things are simply darker.

AND -- just a couple of other differences:

1. The brightest stars show up in the nighttime photos;
2. Shadows have blurry edges. The moon moves enough during the time exposures to blur things.

Maybe someday soon!! More nocturnes!
night,nighttime,full,moon,moonlight,moonlit,desert,Joshua Tree,National Park,cholla,monzogranite,rock,clouds
Moonlit Desert    

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What to Paint, What to Paint

I don't know if other artists struggle with deciding what subjects to paint next, but sometimes I sure do! That's why I have to think in terms of future images even while I'm working to finish whatever I'm working on now!

I recently bought a canvas made of polyester -- it's supposed to last much longer than cotton or even Belgium linen. The size is 30" x 40" / 76cm x 102cm -- I prefer canvas for larger sizes just because they weigh so much less.

So what's the problem? Well -- do I paint Monument Valley or a redwood forest?

Monument Valley,North Window,Navajo Tribal Park,AZ,UT,painting,art,red rock

redwood,forest,waterfall,trees,blue,fog,mist,sun beams,sunbeams

Admittedly, I've painted Monument Valley many more times than I've painted the redwoods. Yet, I feel like I've never caught the redwoods quite the way I've wanted to. The first time we saw them in Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park, CA, the morning sun was shining through the trees, and I was disappointed because I knew the forest would not photograph well -- bright spots of light next to deep shadows. (I was a photographer back then, not really a painter).

But then we rounded a corner, and a light fog had filled the forest. The air was lit up by shafts of sunlight breaking between the branches. We felt like we had stepped into heaven -- the blue sky that appeared beyond the hills showed through the fog, the ferns gave a lush carpeting of dark green and bright yellow-green from the sun. And, of course, we had those awe-inspiring giant trees rising to the skies in cathedral-like reverence.

Of course, it still didn't photograph quite the way we saw it, but the pictures + my memories help me remember how the redwoods looked that day. But I never got it right when I wanted to transfer my memories to the canvas.

Well, maybe NOW I'm ready to give it another shot. It won't have a waterfall like the image above (we never saw any waterfalls there), but I keep thinking there's a picture of heaven in my head, and it wants to be out in the open for all to see.

Maybe I've made up my mind about what to paint next! ...

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Wildlife Moments

My newest painting, Looking for Dinner -- Redtail Hawk, depicts what could become one of those nature documentary-types of moments... or it could be nothing at all!

Joshua Tree National Park,Joshua trees,redtail,red tail,hawk,desert cottontail rabbit,Mojave,clouds,yellow flowers,goldenbush,rugged mountains
Looking for Dinner -- Redtail Hawk               11" x 14"

In the air, we see a redtail hawk sailing effortlessly over the Mojave desert, making one last pass for tasty goodies before the sun sets -- coming close to what could his/her dinner. That cute little desert cottontail bunny-rabbit probably doesn't know about the hawk yet, but it's OK as long as it stays put. But if it hippity-hops into the open, it just may become a meal!

I won't reveal where the bunny is -- I hope you can see it. But I wanted to do a piece that tells a story -- as brief as it is. Prey-predator relationships. Life and (maybe) death in the surrealistic desert.

The setting is Joshua Tree National Park, with some of its namesake plants scattered about. The dominant tree is leaning toward the south -- unfortunately, Joshua trees have a bad habit of growing toward the sun. When they get bigger, they're off-balance, and in time will topple over. Not ALL JTs work out their self-destruction in this way, of course, but it isn't unusual to find places where all or most of the JTs have that characteristic lean.

The small mountain in the background has become one of my favorite geological features in the Park to paint. Most of the hills and formations in Joshua Tree National Park are unnamed officially -- often, the climbers come up with names that they share with each other, but the National Park Service never went around naming everything. So I just call this mountain "the peaks." I like all of the pointy projections for some reason. This paintings shows "the peaks" reasonably accurately (the peak on the far left is shorter than I've made it here).

The hawk is the sharpest item detail-wise and contrasts strongly with the lighted area of the peak behind it. It's also located at one of "golden mean" points of the composition. All this tends to make you look at it, although the JT in the foreground does some of that, too. The bunny, of course, blends into its background -- natural camouflage.

Wildlife moments. Kinda fun sometimes!