Friday, November 17, 2017

Tracking Dinosaurs.

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email.  As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest blog posting at the top of the post, and not the title of the painting itself; this will open up the actual blog itself, and you may then enjoy the paintings at their best.)

Wednesday, the 25th_Sunday, the 29th October, 2017; Moab, Utah.

“First Night in the Desert … Venus Setting beneath a Desert Moon”
(near Recapture Pocket, Utah)
Oil on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
5” x 7”

My first night in the deserts of the Southwest was in October 2013, near Recapture Pocket, not far from Bluff, Utah.  I had come down from the Colorado Rockies, past a closed Mesa Verde (thanks to the damned government shut down that year), and wound up across the valley from Recapture Pocket.  It was a warm evening with a quarter Moon off to my left as I sat and watched Venus setting over the desert rocks to the southwest, and the next morning I began this painting … I dug it out and finished it the other day.

Somewhere in the Utah Desert.

Dinosaur Trackway.
However, to continue with this year’s trek, I arrived in Moab, Utah on Wednesday, October 24th, and met up with my old friend, the Dinosaur footprints expert, Dr. Martin Lockley, attended a talk by him at a local Paleontology group that evening, and helped out Martin, on excavating a Dinosaur footprints trackway over the next couple of days, along with volunteers from the Paleontology group.  Martin had a permit for the excavation of the trackway site and it was a most interesting couple of days.  Think about this, that as you are digging away the overlying soil, and then brushing it away off the rock layer below, that you are among the first human eyes ever to see these newly exposed tracks from the Jurassic times.  The trackways consisted mostly of Therapod tracks (3 toed carnivores), but a few were of plant eating Sauropods.  By the way … nice meeting the other volunteers: Diana, Barbara and the Mongolian lady, Ken, Mike, Albi and the Polish guy (apologies Mongolian lady and Polish guy, but I didn't learn how to spell your names ... if i had done so I would have remembered your names).

Continuing the theme of Dinosaurs, I highly recommend that if you visit Moab, to head north on Highway 191 for eleven miles to the junction of Highway 313, that goes to Island in the Sky (part of Canyon Lands National Park), where you will find Moab Giants.  Here at Moab Giants you will find an extremely well thought out Dinosaur trail of about a half a mile, displaying life-size & extremely life-like replicas of a myriad of Dinosaurs.  These are the best replicas I have ever seen, and there are a few that you can get right next to get an idea of how big those suckers really were!  If you are like me you will read every information board, and improve your mind … the family groups, however, seemed to move at the rate of young children dashing from one Dinosaur to the next, as the kids couldn’t wait to see what the next bend presented in the way of saurians.  Hopefully they will stop and read the signs on future visits when they are a bit older.  There is also an informative inside display or small museum, and a 3-D Prehistoric Aquarium, which is set up so that you think you are actually viewing an actual aquarium of ancient sea life … both of these are most worthwhile.  On the day I was there it was half price in celebration of the upcoming Halloween holiday, and families were all tricked out in their Halloween gear … my favorite was the Ghostbusters family complete with the “slime spirit,” that I met at the Tyrannosaurus Rex replicas … I managed not to be slimed(!); perhaps because I kindly took their group photos for them. Put it on your list folks … Moab Giants.

A few examples follow:

One of the excellent information boards ...

… and the replica dinosaur.

A close-up.


T. rex eating the Moon.

T. Rex with Ghost Busters.
After I said my goodbyes to Martin, as he headed back to Golden, CO, on the Sunday, I found a dispersed campsite on Willow Springs Road, and prepared for my visit to Arches National Park.  And that will be the subject of my next posting or two, since I am still in the area.

Pigments used in the painting were, Imprimatura: W&N Venetian Red;

Drawing: W&N Ultramarine Deep;

Pigments: W&N Ultramarine Deep, just touches of Cadmiums Yellow Pale, Orange & Red, Venetian Red & Cremnitz White;

Michael Harding Prussian Blue;

Rublev: Purple Ochre, Lead White #1.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Anisazi Cliff Dwellings and more at Mesa Verde.

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email.  As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest blog posting at the top of the post, and not the title of the painting itself; this will open up the actual blog itself, and you may then enjoy the paintings at their best.)

Saturday, October 21st_Wednesday, the 25th, 2017; Mesa Verde & on to Moab.

“East from Muley Point”
(near Mexican Hat, Utah)
Oil on Ampersand Panel
3” x 4”

Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most interesting of the National Parks, primarily since it is the only one of the Parks that was made a Park for its human landscape, rather than for its natural beauty, which it undoubtedly has, but not unique enough to set it apart.  It is also an Unesco World Heritage Site.  The archeology of the Park ranges from the excavated 1500 year old pit houses of the Basket Weaver culture, to the 700 year old stone architecture of the Anasazi Cliff Dwellings.  And Europeans say we don’t have anything old in this country!  And these marvelous ruins were constructed by the ancestors of the Native American Pueblo People of New Mexico and Arizona. 

The following photos are of Balcony House which I toured with a group guided by a Ranger.  Later there are a few more photos of Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace … I have limited it to these, although I took many more, but this should give you an idea of the wonders found at Mesa Verde.

The Knife Edge … believe it or not,
the access road to Mesa Verde once rounded the cliff
just below the Knife Edge, until the 1950s.

Balcony House within the landscape …
I went on the guided tour for this dwelling.

Closer view of Balcony House.

The impervious shale layer that allows the water that slowly percolates through the sandstone above to seep out of the cliff face.  This causes the above sandstone layer to flake away allowing the alcoves to be formed over centuries, within which the cliff dwellings were built, and also provided the seeps of water in the back of the recesses for the residents.

In the center of the photo is the old seep
for Balcony House.

The Balcony area after which Balcony House was named.

Original Wood.


Their mastery of their environment is put into perspective when you consider that at the height of their culture there were more people living in this Four Corners area than are living in the area today; and better than the average European of the time (and I’m talking of the average European, not the pampered elite in their castles).  It is astonishing to think that out of this dry and seemingly forbidding landscape, they were able to produce enough corn, beans and squash, to have 4 or 5 years worth of supplies in their store houses at any one time, so as to weather the drought years, that would invariably occur.  A corn, beans and squash diet is nutritious enough to live very well, and when you factor in the other wild foods available, such as berries, pine nuts, game animals etc., as well as the domesticated turkey, life was pretty good.

Balcony House.

For grinding corn and seeds.
Original painted plaster.

Finger and toe holds for climbing up the cliff …
evidently they did not fall off as often
as one would have expected.

However, it was probably a 50 year drought that caused the abandonment of the area in the end.  A fifty year drought is no easy thing to overcome.  But they had a good agricultural run for seven or eight hundred years, from the Basket Weavers and their pit houses, through the above ground Pueblos, and finally to the sophisticated stone constructions of the Cliff Dwellers of the twelve hundreds.  By 1300 AD, they had pretty much all moved on towards the southeast and southwest to modern day New Mexico and Arizona, where their descendants live today.  These ruins were never lost nor forgotten, and survived in the memories of their Pueblo Peoples descendants.  This is the second time I have been here; two days in 2013, and four days this time.

Spruce Tree House …

… which I toured 4 years ago …

… and now is closed due to a rock fall,
although they may be able to stabilize it,
I was informed.

The following are various views of Cliff Palace …

… the largest of the Cliff Dwellings.

All these plants were made use of by the Anisazi.

I camped about half of a mile off Hwy 141 north of Egnar just before the highway starts the long winding descent down Slick Rock Hill, in amongst the Junipers and Pinyon Pines on BLM land.  About 19:45 (timing not accurate), I spotted a bolide meteor, that flashed downwards at a slight angle from east to west through the teapot section of Sagittarius. It was a flickering descent ending in an orange red flash.  About ten minutes later I saw a trail paralleling the path of the bolide, reflected in the crescent moonlight.  I got out my binoculars and confirmed what I was seeing.  It was not unlike a jet contrail, but there were no others in the sky in that direction, even though there were planes passing through the night, and none were leaving trails.  The meteor’s train lasted another 10 or 15 minutes, gradually drifting towards the southeast.  This is the first time I have seen a meteor’s train, although I have been aware of the phenomena.  This is more of an ascetic observation than scientific as my timings and exact location against the background stars is approximate.  The orange red colour I have not seen in a meteor before.

Pigments used in the painting were, Imprimatura: W&N Venetian Red;

Drawing: W&N Cobalt Blue;

Pigments: W&N Cobalt Blue, Viridian, Venetian Red & Cremnitz White; 

Rublev: Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dinosaur National Monument to Mesa Verde … No Autumn Aspens in Colorado!

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email.  As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest blog posting at the top of the post, and not the title of the painting itself; this will open up the actual blog itself, and you may then enjoy the paintings at their best.)

Wednesday, October 18th_Friday, the 20th, 2017; Dinosaur National Monument to Mesa Verde.

Here is another painting I did last Winter in England.

“The Calm before the Storm …Gulls Rising over Kingsgate Bay”
(Isle of Thanet, Kent, England)
Oil on Centurian Oil Primed Linen Canvas
5” x 7”

On through Dinosaur, turning south through Rangely, both of whose lights I had been seeing of an evening for the past four nights, and on through Grand Junction, to Hwy 141 and Unaweep Canyon a few miles beyond.  Well, not exactly quickly through Grand Junction, for I had ascertained before leaving my clifftop camp above Dinosaur that if I got to Grand Junction by 13:30, I could catch a showing of “Bladerunner 2049.”  And so I did.  It is not as revolutionary a Sci-Fi film as the first one all those years ago, but it creditably continues our look at the Bladerunner universe.  I will say this that it is a long film, but I sat through the whole thing without a fidget, and was surprised at the time when I looked at my watch as the credits rolled (I did not  know its length when I sat down).  The first film is still one of the few true Sci-Fi films that there are, ‘Alien’ and ‘The Terminator’ being another two.  Horror and Fantasy get lumped in with the genre, but they shouldn’t be; they are their own entities.

Hwy 141 on the way down the Divide Road
from the Uncompahgre Plateau.

At Seep Springs in Unaweep Canyon.

At Gateway and the end of Unaweep Canyon,
and on into the Delores River Canyon.

After the film and a bit of resupplying, it was getting on towards sundown by the time I got twenty some miles into Unaweep Canyon, so I took the next forest road on the left (Divide Road), and as I did so I saw a truck on a ledge high above me … good grief, I thought, I’ve got to go way up there!  It was not a difficult drive, as it turned out, but a bit wash-boardie here and there, and the views from the ledge were spectacular … when I could take my eyes off the road to take a look.  And there was an inordinate amount of traffic coming down off the Uncompahgre Plateau.  Twenty eight vehicles passed me going down by the time I got into the National Forest and a campsite amongst the Ponderosas.  Normally I would have encountered two or three, or even none.  Upon nearing my eventual campsite, I spotted a sign in the dusk, informing all that there was a controlled burn in progress.  After I settled into camp, more vehicles passed by on the road, most heading out, and a very few heading in.  There was a bit of smoke in the air, but since most of the vehicles were leaving, I figured the controlled burn must have burned down.

In the Delores River Canyon.


The next day it took me six hours to make the hundred or so miles through Unaweep Canyon, and along the Delores River Canyon beyond the community of Gateway, as the photo-ops seemed to present themselves every few yards; red canyon walls contrasted with the green of the Junipers & Sage!  I hope I got some good shots as it was a mostly overcast day, although with some sunbreaks.  Once past Norwood, I thought I would find an early campsite, but I ended up on this interminable gravel road, with small ranches wall to wall and no public land for 17 miles, dropping down into and climbing out of two deep canyons along the way, before I found a campsite inside the National Forest on the northern slopes of Lone Cone, the westernmost mountain of the Colorado Rockies.  I was in a forest of dead Aspens, or so it seemed, since there was not one golden autumn leaf on any tree that I could see.  The Aspens had been in their prime when I left Grand Teton National Park, several degrees of latitude north, but down here in southern Colorado they had already turned and been blown off!  In 2013, at almost exactly this same time of the year, the Aspens had been in their prime, when I passed through not so far from where I now was.  At least the Cottonwoods had been stunning during this days drive … so to hell with the Colorado Aspens.

North Slope of Lone Cone Mountain …
no Autumn Aspens in Colorado …
I left them all in Wyoming this year.

Main Street Telluride.

Telluride is up at …

… the head of this valley.
The next day I refused to retrace my route along that gravel road, but took a different one north to the Highway, east of Norwood.  Here I did overlap the previous afternoon’s route, for 5 miles or so, but I was on blacktop.  I breakfasted in the campground I should have stopped at, but I had assumed it would have a charge, but I discovered too late that it did not.  Chalk it up for future reference.  I arrived in Telluride about 11:30, just to see the town, not knowing anything about it.  It has a really beautiful setting near the head of a canyon, with stunning peaks all around.  The town itself seems really laid back, almost hippie-esque, much more accessible than Aspen appeared to be.  I asked about how the snow compared to Aspen or Vail, and was told there was little difference, but that the ski runs were much steeper.  Another native said that it appealed to 20 year ski bums who liked to point their skis downhill and hang on for dear life.  I think if I had been able to afford to take up skiing when young Telluride would have appealed to me, but I went to England and an art career instead.  Telluride, so I have been told was the site of Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery … that boy got around … I’ve been running into him all over since I headed up for the Eclipse.

Sheep Mountain on Hwy 145.

Yellow Mountain is across Hope Lake from Sheep Mountain.

Yellow Mountain from the top of the pass.

The Lizard Head.

Hwy 145 from Telluride to Cortez and Mesa Verde is one of the great mountain drives, and if you have ever drunk a can of Coors, you will recognize one of the views.  And here at Mesa Verde National Park I finally have been able to dispense with my long-johns for the first time since September 15th!  It is chill at night, and there has been a vicious wind building up during the days, but it is warmer than northern Wyoming.

Imprimatura: Rublev Italian Burnt Sienna;

Drawing: W&N Cobalt Blue;

Painting: W&N Cobalt & Cerulean Blues, Venetian Red; Rublev Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, Lead Whites #1 & #2.