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"Forty Miles of High Desert"
(Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Oregon High Desert)
Oil Sketch on Centurian Oil Primed Linen Panel
with additional Coat of Rublev Lead Ground
4" x 6"
(Take further Note: the images and incidents herein occurred in December 2014.)
I awoke at 05:43 hours and by the position of Jupiter peeking through the Aspen branches I ascertained that it must be close to morning. I pulled my long-John shirt into the sleeping bag to warm up for awhile before I began to dress. It takes close to an hour to wash up ‘me pits & bits’ (as they say in Blighty) with my solution of witch hazel and isopropyl alcohol, and gradually clothe myself in the myriad of layers necessary to be comfortable on frosty Winter’s mornings, all in a prone position, in the back of my SUV! When I finally emerged from my cocoon, the sun was touching the top of Warner Peak across the Hot Springs Valley, and while breakfasting I was able to watch the Sun-line gradually sliding down the mountain slopes.
So where to go today? I drove out of the Hot Springs Valley, past the site of yesterday’s two paintings, proceeding towards the road junction at the Refuge HQ. A couple of miles on my way I passed the Blue Sky Road upon my right, and noticed there were tire tracks in the snow; of course I followed them, as the road is of reasonable quality, but not plowed in the Winter. I knew that 12½ miles down this road there was to be found a grove of Ponderosa Pines, which I hoped I would be able to make it to. About a mile or so before the Pines I paused at the top of a hill down into the valley across which was the grove … would I find the hill too slippery to return up the hill? I made a couple of tests before proceeding, especially in light of my recent mudfest (here). There was a lot more to the grove than I expected, and I determined that in a drier time of the year I would return and explore and paint here, especially as there is another campground here (closed in Winter), but as I was worried about the imminent ascent on my return journey, and the Sun making the road possibly more slippery, I took a few swift photos and headed back. I took the hill in 4-wheel drive, with no real difficulty as long as I did not pause on the incline; I breathed easier, nevertheless, upon attaining the crest. On the way back I checked out a short side road leading to an Aspen grove, within which there is a private structure on a few acres of private land within the middle of the Refuge. I think a painting from the road leading to this grove is on the cards, at some future date. Later I discovered, that in spite of the vehicle tracks on the Blue Sky Road, this road was deemed closed in the Winter … perhaps the fact it was not plowed is the tip-off … oh well!
Today, however, I was struck by the view, from below Lookout Point, towards Beattys Butte, with Steens Mountain beyond. Today there were more of the tops of Steens Mountain below the cloud level than in previous days. The distances involved in such vistas continue to strike me, and again I sought to relate the 16 miles to Beattys Butte, and the 40 miles to Steens, with just a few strokes of the brush to depict the intervening sunlit and cloud shadowed spaces across the wide landscape between the foreground and the far mountains; always a daunting task. A longer painting panel would have been nice, rather than the standard panel sizes I have, but for a longer panel there seem to be no stock frame sizes available … for once I envy the French, since their art suppliers seem to have a stock set of longer canvases and frames that fall into a marine category, which we in the English speaking world could well do with!
Very windy that night as I placed the ice bucket of my cooler outside the truck to freeze overnight, before I turned in. I think I will need to pour my cans of spare petrol into the tank in the morning, before heading out.
Imprimatura: Venetian Red.
The Pigments used were: Rublev Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, Lead White #2 & Flemish Lead White, with Winsor & Newton Cobalt & Cerulean Blues and Venetian Red.