Sunday, May 3, 2015

December Rain Showers in the Warner Valley

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"December Rain Shower"
(Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Oregon High Desert)
Oil Sketch on Winsor & Newton Canvas Panel
5" x 7"

(Take further Note: the images and incidents herein occurred in December 2014.)

After the delightful though brief glimpse of the stars through the sucker holes in last night’s cloud, the rest of the night was overcast and a quarter inch of snow had accumulated on the truck.  I was at work finishing up yesterday’s painting by 09:00, refining the huddle of buildings and vegetation that make up the headquarters of the National Antelope Refuge, here at Hart Mountain.  And the rain came sweeping in … and the wind … at times obscuring the HQ, but most of the time obliterating the distant Beattys Butte, and even the closer mass of upland on the right where lies Lookout Point. 

Upon finishing the sketch I drove the mile to the HQ and entered the ‘Open 24/7 Visitors Center,’ and corrected my entry in the log about how many days I had been in the Hot Springs CG.  I used the indoor head and spent some time musing about the weather outside through the windows, working out my best course of action.  The rain was obscuring the view of Hart Mountain, which I had considered sketching; the rain might freeze on the descent back down to the Warner Valley, up which I had ascended a week earlier; the rain might turn to heavy snow back at the Hot Springs CG, and keep me there longer; so the best course of action seemed to be descending the 1400’ back to the Warner Valley, and to camp at the CCC campground at the base of Hart Mountain, which was still just inside the Refuge. 

Thus I gingerly made the descent; my fears of rain freezing on the road proving unfounded, and the driving rain had now turned to individual squalls moving periodically across the landscape.  After exploring the as expected empty campground, I began another painting; this time of rain showers over the Warner Valley.  The view is north from the CG with the northern extremity of Hart Mountain being the cliffs on the extreme right of the sketch, and Poker Jim Ridge, being the lower high ground immediately to its left; the road up to the plateau behind, and down which I had come, lies between the two.  I’m not sure whether Poker Jim Ridge is considered part of Hart Mountain or not, but it forms part of the same escarpment that forms the eastern edge of the Warner Valley.  I wonder how often the lakes in this valley actually have water; I would like to see them when that might occur, filled with wildfowl, as in times of old (actually not so long ago, but the current extended drought, hereabouts, has aggravated the situation).  You might wonder where the drought is, with all this talk of snow and rain in these postings, but the accumulations have not been great, and if that which falls is rain instead of snow the accumulated snowpack up in the higher mountains is not as normal; and the accumulated snow pack up there is what sustains these regions, by its slow and measured melt, during the warmer months of the year.

With dark coming on I repaired to a roofed picnic area, with walls at one end and prepared supper.  Although windy, the main wall blocked a good part of it, and my body the restless gusts that crept around the barriers, so that supper was more easily managed than if I had been out in an open site.  I would finish the painting in the morning.

Imprimatura: Venetian Red.

The Pigments used were:  Rublev Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, Lead White #2, with Winsor & Newton Cobalt Blue, Venetian Red & Cremnitz White.

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