Every November the University of Alaska Student Union Gallery hosts a juried exhibition of self portraits. It's called No Big Heads, for its requirement that no portrait exceed 12" in any dimension. My submission, painted on a very beat up old palette, slightly cut down to meet the size requirements, was just juried in. It's really handy to have the paints laid out on the painting!
I always try to do something a bit whimsical for this show. Here are some entries from past years:
On our sixth and last painting day in Denali National Park, I went back to Eilson Visitor's Center to catch the afternoon shadows. This little river joins up with the Thoroughfare River, which runs roughly parallel to the Alaska Range. What a gorgeous last day!
Mary Bee came down from her hike on a nearby ridge, found me painting, and took this excellent photo.
The next morning we all went back to the north side of the lake for an early walk. We came across this old truck (no, it wasn't abandoned), and wished we could just get in and have our own adventure vehicle. I can't imagine two better people to have adventures with!
Mary Bee caught this photo of Paul and me having one last walk before leaving the park. Just another beautiful morning in one of the most beautiful spots on earth.
This is the last post of the Denali National Park series. Thanks to Mary Bee, to Paul, to friends who helped make this trip possible, and to all of you for being an appreciative audience!
These fireweed, gone to seed, were just a few feet from our tent. I admired them every time I walked past, so on our fifth day of painting in Denali National Park, I set up the easel and got to work. I thought for once I would not have the big mountain in my painting, but it got in somehow, just faintly in the background.
Here is a photo of the mountain a few hours later, flushed with alpenglow as the setting sun slanted through the atmosphere. This phenomenon comes on quickly, and the peak of color lasts less than 5 minutes, then twilight sets in. Hard to paint that fast.
Here's the rest of our view that night, the Alaska Range stretching out before us.
On our fourth painting day in Denali National Park, we rode the bus to this spot on the north side of Wonder Lake, at the opposite end from the campground. Wonder Lake provides some great reflections of the mountain.
Mary Bee was amused by how carried away I get with the brushes, so she took this photo. Interesting angles! It says everything about how intense this experience was for me.
Paul hiked along the lakeshore to join us an hour or so into our painting session, and did some sketching, too! This photo by Mary Bee is one of my all time favorite shots of Paul. He really looks like he belongs in that landscape, which he most definitely does!
Our third day of painting in Denali National Park was a bit damp. Luckily, Mary Bee's artist friend, Matt Unterberger, works at at Kantishna Air Taxi (and has a studio/gallery) in Kantishna, a small community just outside the park. The air service staff were busy ending their season, packing up equipment and cleaning their offices, but they graciously provided a deck with a sweeping view of the surroundings. The overcast light brought out all the colors of the turning leaves and tundra, this hillside was like a kaleidoscope.
Thanks to Mary Bee, here is a photo of me, my big palette, and the big round brushes I used on this trip. Also thanks to Kantishna Air Taxi for the use of their deck! Click on the next link to see more views of their chalet and overnight visitor accomodations, Skyline Lodge.
Here's Mary Bee Kaufman, intrepid plein air painter, watercolorist, wildlife photographer, hiker, and adventurer, and all around font of knowledge about the park.
In the afternoon of our second painting day in Denali National Park, I hiked a short way up the path from our camp spot, sat on a little hillock, and painted this. Mary Bee and I had discussed the most difficult problem we faced in our project: the landscape was so information-rich it was hard to know how to organize all the visual input. I think this piece illustrates that problem. Trees, tundra colors, and mountain all get similar emphasis. It was great fun to sit in the warm sun and paint it, but it also brought home the lesson: pick a primary focus and be sparing with details.
Mary Bee took this photo of me coming back to the campsite with my kit and wheelie. Yes, that's a can of bear spray tied at my waist, even though there were no bears near us. I figured it was a good habit to carry it along, since I had been sitting alone, very quietly, and might have inadvertently surprised the wildlife.
Here is a beautful sow and one of her two cubs, trying to find berries on a very dry year. We saw them about 40 miles from Wonder Lake campground, on one of our bus rides.
The view from our campsite just got better and better. We spent the entire second day at Wonder Lake, Mary Bee and Paul took a break to hike and had fun watching moose. After so many weeks getting ready for this trip, it was good to relax in the sun.
In addition to doing her own paintings, Mary Bee, as usual, took outstanding photos. There were quite a few yellow things!
After painting, lunch alfresco.
Paul was our food manager, and he did a great job. What a pleasure to have a hot meal when needed, plenty of variety, and good snacks to take along on day excursions. Next time, he says, he wants an assistant!
This third (!) painting from our first painting day shows you our view from the picnic table at our campsite at Wonder Lake. Even though I was kind of bushed after our work at the Eilson Visitor Center, I just had to do this one too. The clouds had dissipated, the whole mountain was out, and I was warm and comfortable, so why not?
The little white dots just above my signature are the footprints of a gray jay that visited when I had several paintings laid out on the table. He hopped from one to the other, left lots of little footprints. I got most of them repaired, but saved a few for souvenirs.
After lunch on our first painting day, the mountain came out intermittently, with blustery wind at our level and sweeping clouds up there at 20,000 feet. I pulled out my biggest panel to capture this biggest mountain. I had to work quickly, while it was still in view, and here is the rather dramatic result.
That's the Thoroughfare River at the foot of the mountain, below the tundra-covered glacier.
Mary Bee Kaufman, my painting partner, took the photo of me, and I used her camera to photograph her. It's great to have a really good photographer along, I would have many fewer photos but for Mary Bee!
Yes, I look like a crazy woman with all those layers, but I was glad to have them! Mary Bee warming up in that afternoon sun.
On our first painting day in the park, my friend Mary Bee Kaufman and I were so ambitious we took the 6AM bus from the campground at Wonder Lake to the Eilson Visitor's center. When we got there it was chilly, and still dark! Undaunted, we set up easels and started right in. By the time we were painting, the sun was making its appearance, while we tapped into the general wildness. The wind was up, good thing we had lots of layers. Mary Bee remarked that this painting was aptly of Gravel Mountain, because right after I finished it, the easel blew over and dumped the painting face down in the gravel. Just a little extra texture, more authentic that way!
Using a big rock to counteract the wind worked for a while.
Here's Mary Bee a little later in the day. Rosy cheeked and smiling!
At long last we headed north for the plein air painting trip in Denali National Park! This painting was done about an hour south of the park, in Broad Pass, on Sept 7th.
This is my second attempt to capture the sweep and colors of that area. See my April 22, 2009 post for the first attempt. That first one was done in the studio from oil sketches made on site. This one was completed entirely in the open, looking out on those hills, grasses, and berry bushes (the autumn-red leaves of the blueberry bushes dominate the pass at that time of year.) My first Broad Pass painting looks west, this one looks east.
On this trip I tried to minimize my use of cadmium colors. The reds and yellows are all earth colors. I did use a bit of cadmium yellow in some pieces, but mostly the ochres and mars yellows worked great, and did not threaten to unbalance the color harmony as the powerful cadmiums can do. There is the added advantage of using less toxic materials.
This is the box my partner Paul made for me after I got home from Peter Van Dyck's workshop. I had made drawings and measurements of Peter's box, which he had designed and built. A friend in the workshop cut a bunch of palettes from a template traced off Peter's in-box palette. I have Peter's permission to publish these photos, and I thank him for sharing his ideas for tools and working practices so generously.
I have used several of the small plein air pochade boxes in the past. They are meant to be lightweight and convenient, but I found myself fumbling around with tripod, fittings, brushes and paints that didn't fit, and the tiny palette surface. This box weighs 16 lbs fully loaded, in Denali I pulled it around on a luggage wheely. I absolutely loved being able to set up my easel, open the box, and go immediately to work with a full size palette. I spent a lot less time managing my tools that way.
The palette rests in the box, it can be fully loaded with paint, ready to go. That cylinder of wood projecting from inside the lid holds the palette in place when the box is closed.
The little metal box is for tools like the viewfinder, pliers, etc. I have since replaced it with a larger, lighter plastic box that accommodates the palette knives. The brush compartment is divided in half so during painting you can keep the used brushes separate from the fresh ones. The cover holds a mirror, a piece of red glass for values viewing, and tools for judging angles.
An extra tool is in the top of the lid, held on with velcro.
You can hold the sticks up to your eye, get a measurement, and tighten the wing nut to hold it while you measure other items against the first object. You get a more accurate angle than holding your thumb up, because you are working from your exact viewpoint.
As I post photos from the Denali trip over the next week or so, you will see this in the background.
This is the second painting from the Peter Van Dyck workshop. This time I used a linen panel. The surface stayed a bit oilier, but I liked how it went.
This is the same flowered napkin featured in the Russian Sugar Bowl painting (see the August 1, 2009 post). Quite a contrast, isn't it? I was worried it would steal the show in that little sugar bowl painting, so I made it more uniform. But in this painting I found that the sketchier treatment had more visual interest for me, and it didn't steal the show.
I found this tin sheep (or is it a cow??) at a yard sale full of funky stuff in Seattle. August is a great month for finding cool still life stuff! I was really attracted to the strange colors of the rust and wear on this object.
My partner Paul found these in a market in Argentina. They are for a child's shoe, the mark says size 6. I love the feel of old tools like this, I get a sense of connection with the persons whose craft went into making and using them. This is the first painting I did at the Peter Van Dyck workshop I blogged about last time. This painting is actually oil on treated illustration board, a different surface for me. I enjoyed using it, it grips the paint, and invites a looser, more free brush stroke.
I apologize for going so long between posts! My desktop computer blew up just before we left for our painting trip to Denali National Park, so when I got back I had the task of recovering what data I could and getting set up with something new. I decided to switch to an IMac, which was difficult at first, but I don't regret it one bit! My photo editing software took forever to get here, but it arrived today, so I am back to the blog. Thanks for your patience!