I just delivered this painting to the good people who commissioned it. The commission is for 3 paintings, all to be placed above doors in their kitchen. Look for the next two in the series on the blog soon.
It was so pleasant to see their delight at how the painting turned out. We planned it together, sitting in their garden, eating melon, while the apples ripened nearby and raspberries grew alongside the house.
When I came to collect some props, though, a moose had eaten all the apples still on the tree! Luckily, some were picked before the moose arrived, and I gathered leaves off the tree, so I had what I needed. They had just finished their jam making for the year, so that was handy. These raspberries actually came off my bushes, where I had a small crop still hanging on as the weather cooled.
Thanks guys, for giving me the opportunity to do this painting, it was fun! I have been holding off taking commissions, but am available to discuss commissions as of now. Oil on panel, 8" x 14"
On the last glorious sunny day I hiked back down the McKinley Bar trail, hoping the frost had not entirely wiped out the colors we saw on our rainy day hike. No such luck, the trees were going brown, though there was still color in the low vegetation.
While I was working, two young men from Fairbanks/North Pole, Chad Odom and Diego Servan, hiked down the trail and stopped to talk and take pictures. Many thanks to Chad Odom for these photos of me and my set up.
They were interested in how I set out the paints on the palette. I explained my strings of color, arranged by hue, value, and chroma (for more on strings, see my post of 8/18/10.) . These were colors I premixed and tubed for the trip. You can see some reds and yellows from the Munsell soils book, and some blues and greens from the Munsell student book. It sure is easier to squeeze colors from a tube than trying to mix them on the palette while fighting off bugs!
As I worked on the painting, it occurred to me that I was in danger of falling into heavy cliche territory: big mountain, autumn colors, reflecting pool, perfect, right? Or maybe not, maybe too much like a cheap postcard????
Luckily, there was a broken up tree just to my right, which relieved a bit of the perfection. Those familiar with paintings of McKinley will say, yes, but the mountain with dead tree in foreground is also a cliche. Point taken, but my tree is even more broken up than most, so I think it does the job.
Here is an oil sketch, McKinley Bar Trail Reflection, by Mary Bee Kaufman, painted at a nearby location, but before the colors were completely gone. I like how the trees, with their variety, shadows, and reflections, create visual interest, and how the soft edges portray the indistinct boundaries of the marsh stream. The whole effect is light and delicate.
This is the final chapter of our plein air trip to Denali National Park. Look for a link to Chad Odom's blog here soon. He is about to start some world travel, and will be posting more of his excellent photos on his blog as he goes.
McKinley in Autumn 2 is oil on linen panel, 10" x 12"
Continuing the account of our September plein air trip in Denali National Park:
We thought we were going to have sun when we took the early bus to Eilson Visitor's Center, but the sky remained overcast. However, the views from that spot are so fantastic, we didn't mind that the big mountain was hiding again.
The colors of Denali in autumn are both subtle and exciting. It would have been easy to get carried away with the excitement, and miss the subtlety. Here is where my Munsell soils book really came in handy.
I hope my notes are legible in the photo. Essentially, I was able to make fine distinctions about what I was looking at, and note the specific hues, values, and chromas for reference.
I kept the notebook where I could see it while I worked (it's just under my right elbow here.) When the light conditions shifted (or, in this case, when the rain came) I was able to stay on course.
That's Eilson Visitor's Center on the right, I like the way it harmonizes with its surroundings. Thanks to Mary Bee Kaufman for these photos.
When the mountain comes out, it's compelling. I mean, you can't not look at it, and if you are a painter, there is definitely a pull.
I recall reading that McKinley rises 18,000 feet out of the plain, from base to top 8000 feet higher than Everest. (Everest is on a higher base.) On some clear days I can see the mountain from the end of my street in Anchorage, across hundreds of miles. However, many visitors never see the mountain, it is so often shrouded in clouds.
So we felt pretty lucky to have conditions like these.
As soon as I set up my easel and had a preliminary sketch, I pulled out my Munsell books and made color notes. My notes helped me maintain control of my values and chroma, essential for painting atmospheric differences across a view of about 30 miles.
The regularity of nature comes through in the value notes. The mountain in light was obviously the highest value, 10 if not 10+; in shadow it was value 8; the lower mountains, 7-8 in light, 7 in shadow; the middle ground grassland, 6 in light, 5 in shadow. Near ground grasses, which were more chromatic, and had more contrast, were value 7 in light, 3-4 in shadow. By continually returning to my notes, I stayed out of trouble.
Here is a little color study Mary Bee did on the same day, of the mountain, seen from above Wonder Lake. She calls it Wonder Lake View. I like how she created an ethereal feeling of space, distance, light, and the slight chill of autumn, by using various low chroma, high value reds and blues.
McKinley in Autumn 1 is 8" x 16" oil on linen panel
After three days of rain, and rainy day projects, the weather cleared and we headed out to paint. I was still thinking about the foliage we had gathered, and wanted to put all that practice matching colors to use. I also wanted to capture the last of the summer colors before they faded away (which began immediately, following a wind and a frost.)
Now I need to put in a correction to the last post. That gorgeous red leaf was not a blueberry leaf, it was a bearberry leaf. Mary Bee alerted me to the error, at which point I hit my forehead and uttered "Duh uh!" Considering all the blueberries I ate, . . . oh well, this is the result of writing blog posts when one ought to be sleeping.
The blueberry leaves, while also gorgeous, are much smaller and a bit lower chroma. In my last post I was going by my notes for blueberry leaves. In fact, we noted the bearberry leaf within this range: 5R 4 - 4.5/10.5 - 12. We mixed it by adding a lot of cadmium red and cadmium orange to my 5R 4/8 pre-mixture. Sorry for the confusion.
In the painting of the yellow sapling, you can see how the bearberry leaves stand out like little red beacons, growing low to the ground, while the blueberry bushes provide the slightly lower chroma backdrop. I was very glad to have my color notes when I got home, they helped me to complete areas of the painting that needed adjustments.