Monday, August 11, 2008

Values in the landscape - learning to see again

Ever since spending a week learning from Richard McKinley, Tom and I have been looking for values in every scene before us. On the way out of Bend, we stopped at Smith Rocks again to do some value work. The photo above is of one of the beautiful rock formations. Even though I know that the camera lies about values, you can see some of the darks in the shadows and crevasses. Such a beautiful place. Keeping in mind the value challenges of the camera, I have selected a few representational photos of what we have been seeing, drawing, and discussing on the way to St. Cloud, Minnesota (our present stopping place).

This is a view from the west side of Logan Pass from the Going To The Sun Highway. We were stopped for road construction, so took some photos. Notice how the values go from the dark shadow in the foreground to a middle value on the nearest ridge, finally to a cool light value on the distant ridge. This is a pretty good photo showing the warmer tones closer and the cooler tones in the distance. This is something I have to work on. I tend to use too much warmth in the distance at times.

This was taken from a trail in the Many Glaciers area of Glacier NP, I think. Once again, look at the warm darker values in the foreground and the cooler lighter values in the distance. One of the things I am working on is to make sure the darker values in the distance, like in the shadows, are not as dark as the darks in the foreground. I also need to make sure I don't do major value jumps in any one area. Sometimes in the studio, I relied too much on the photographic image. Since I am learning to see again in real life, I am seeing that photo images cannot be relied upon completely. Value sketches are much more reliable.

This is not about value. I just had to throw it in because it was so cool seeing these beautiful animals so close. This herd of bighorn sheep was in the meadows at Logan Pass. They were very close to the boardwalk feeding on alpine lilies.

This photo is a perfect example of how a photo can lie. This is the Painted Hills area of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. It was taken on an overcast day. Notice that the values read the same from front to back. It was not that way in reality. It was also much more colorful than the photo shows. The hills were brilliant pinks, calming ochres, and many shades of browns and lavenders.

This last photo was taken from the car, at 72 mph. It is a field of sun flowers along I 94 in North Dakota. I kept wanting to get a good photo, but the people who plan these roads simply do not have artists and photographers in mind at all. Don't you think they should build in pull-outs for plein air painters in spots like this? So far, we think Montana wins the prize for artists pull-outs. Or course, they are cleverly disguised as scenic overlooks or chain removal spots.
Today, we head further east. We will still be looking at values. In a couple of days, we may even be able to stop and paint again, if the weather holds out. Forecast is for rain and thunderstorms to the east. I will post again on Friday when we get to Boston.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

From Bend, Oregon to Bismark, North Dakota

On the way out of Bend, we decided to stop again at Smith's Rocks. Both of us were determined that we could actually paint this place. We allowed ourselves time to do good sketches, one line and one value. We both would have stayed to paint, but we had to make it to Spokane, WA by dinner time. We both think we have good sketches and photos. I wrote extensive color and value notes on mine. Look for it when I get back to the studio.
After two nights with family in Spokane, we headed northeast for Glacier National Park. It was a long drive, so we decided to stay the night in West Glacier before we headed over Going to the Sun Highway to our campsite in St. Mary's campground. The motel I selected had fantastic views. Tom did a great painting there. The room was very clean, very small, and very basic. It was also really pricey. For the money, we could have stayed in West Glacier itself and had stuff to do.
The next morning, we headed over Logan Pass. There is construction on the steep west side, but we were lucky to have only a six or seven minute delay. Most of the delays are 30 minutes. We decided to push on to the campground and drive back to the meadows on the top another day. The picture at the top is of our campsite and Tom's painting from the day before that he wanted to work on a bit more.
We spent the next two days exploring the park and painting. The next three paintings are pleine air pieces we did. I have decided to post Tom's paintings from the trip also.

From St. Mary's Lake

12 x 18 soft pastels on Wallis

Tom Willa

View from St. Mary's Lake

12 x 18 soft pastels on Wallis
Miki Willa

Jackson Mountain
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa

After we left the park, we headed east on Highway 2 through Montana to Glasgow, where we found another interesting motel. It was a very hot drive. This morning, we headed southeast to pick up interstate 94. We stopped at a very cool dinosaur museum, looked at the North Dakota Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and drove through the rain to Bismark. Tom picked this place to stay which has reliable internet access, plenty of room, a laundry (thank goodness), and very cool furniture. I am not sure how much painting will be done between now an Maine. The weather forecast is dismal so we may not be camping much until after the 16th. Hopefully, it will clear up by then. If we don't get paintings done, I will post some great photos from Glacier in the next few days.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blog news

Sorry. No picture this time. I just wanted to let you know that the McKinley workshop was fantastic, and now it is time to head east. Tom and I are going to take a plein air cross country trip for a few weeks. I will post results when I have internet access. We are going to Glacier National Park, North Dakota, several state parks on the way to Boston, three parks in Maine including Acadia National Park, and Yellowstone on the way home. Look for my impressions along the way.