Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stinkingwater Pass

Stinkingwater Pass 1
16 x 20 inches, oil on stretched canvas

Yes, that is a real name of a real place, and (of course) it is located in the western mountains I love. Where else would have a name like this?

The pass is in central Oregon, about 30 miles east of Burns on Highway 20. a narrow, winding, two-lane highway through the Strawberry Range. Elevation 4848. As I approached the pass near noon early in September, I was struck by the contrasting masses lit up by the sun, and found a wide spot to pull off on. I was tempted to set up my easel, but there really was no room (my car barely fit) and it would have been dangerous.

So I walked back down the highway to the place my jaw dropped, and took quite a few photos, some from the middle of the highway (watching carefully for traffic; fortunately, there was little). Back at my car, I made some rough pencil sketches, just blocking in the masses. And that was that.

Until a couple of months after I got home. On one of those incredibly dreary mid-Novermber days, I went through my photos, and found myself again drawn to those massive shapes. I had to paint them.

The first painting I did using the photos to help me place and shape the masses, but drew on my memory for the striking color contrasts that caught my eye. And then I found my little pencil sketches, and did another painting, smaller, imagining myself still there, with quick, loose strokes, plein air style. I like them both.

Stinkingwater Pass 2
11 x 14 inches, acrylic on hardboard panel