Thursday, July 31, 2014

Grand Canyon Rocks

“Study … Rock Formation”
(Grand Canyon, Arizona)
Oil Sketch on Ampersand Gesso Panel
4” x 6”

Next I turned to matters close at hand, after  little stroll and a bit of a stretch, and tackled the rocks just a few feet away from where I’d done the two earlier Oil Sketches.  Now I chose a 4" x 6" panel (being contrary), and used the same palette I’d been working with all day (why change now?), with a brush drawing in Cobalt Blue, and again no imprimatura; Cobalt Blue, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow (hue), Cadmium Red, and Titanium White, all Winsor & Newton. 

I spent whatever time I had here in the Grand Canyon area painting and taking photographs, and have had no time since then to really study the geology, so I can’t tell you at present what these rocks might be, so we’ll just call them “the creamy coloured rocks at the top of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, roughly 12 miles east of the Visitor’s Center,” shall we?  OK, well that’s settled.  But I did have an occasional companion all day, in the form of a blondish squirrel with a spotty or mottled colouration on its back; this was a Rock Squirrel (Otospermophilus variegates), and I saw several during my time at the Canyon, and so far none before or since.  The handling of this Study was looser than the two sketched earlier in the day, as you can see, for example, with the broader brush strokes in the sky and the bit of landscape showing on the left.  The rocks themselves I built up with discreet strokes of colour next to each other, and then pecked in smaller strokes later to build up a bit of the texture of the rock surface, lichens and the sparse branches of the , I believe, Rabbit-brush … maybe a little sagebrush as well, and to give shape to the formation.  I could have gone further, but it stands as it is; the day was waning, and I did cook supper in the deepening dusk.  A good day with three Oil Sketches completed, and my first confrontation in paint with this Great Natural Wonder!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Grand Canyon Afternoon

“Afternoon Cloud Shadows”
(Grand Canyon, Arizona)
Oil Sketch on Ampersand Gesso Panel
3” x 4”

And after finishing yesterday’s Oil Sketch it was time for lunch, hastily wolfed it down and began on the next one, above.  By now the light was a bit mellower, as a little afternoon haze softened the distance.  There was more Sun as the clouds had thinned and become those cumulous of oft remembered lazy days; but no lazing for me.  The slowly moving cloud shadows drifting across the sub-canyons & buttes within the greater chasm itself now became the reason to paint.  The colours of the landscape became a bit brighter than in the morning’s work, partly I think because of the more apparent contrast of the soft greens of the vegetation (grasses, sage?), with the earth reds of the Canyon walls. 

Again I chose a 3" x 4" panel, since Morning & Afternoon makes a natural pair; no matter that they might go to separate homes ... it's the painting exercise that matters.  I proceeded as with the earlier painting, with a brush drawing in Cobalt Blue, and again no imprimatura; the pigments used were the same as the morning, being Cobalt Blue, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow (hue), Cadmium Red, and Titanium White.  The lovely quiet greens, were mixed from the blue and both yellows and the white; I’m always surprised with the various greens one can get with these subdued yellows. 

There is something singular about the perception of space and distance in the West.  I first began to feel this when first crossing the Cascade Range in Oregon from the Willamette Valley to the High Desert, and I realized that I could see where I’d been two hours before and sixty miles off in the distance.  Again and again his happens when travelling out here.  On Thanksgiving Day in 2012, and the day after, while heading east from Oregon to Oklahoma, this would happen again and again with even greater distances.  Here on the edge of the Grand Canyon one looks down thousands of feet and miles across to the opposite rim and, and as you come to terms with the actuality of those distances you realize how long it might take you to walk those distances.  I can well understand those first Spanish explorers with Coronado, who upon looking down from the South Rim for the first time, thought that the “little brook” a few hundreds of feet below could be easily stepped across; or so they thought until members of their party actually climbed down and confronted the Colorado River itself; then they had to climb back up!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grand Canyon Morning

“Grand Canyon Morning”
(Morning Light)
Oil Sketch on Ampersand Gesso Panel
3” x 4”

The Valley of the Gods in southern Utah was my first experience of the red rocks of the American Southwest, and I could have spent a couple weeks there painting the various formations from different directions and in different lights and weathers; of course that is what all Landscape Painting is about no matter where you are.  I’m going to jump ahead in the sequence of my travls from Oklahoma back to Oregon, and I hear you cry, “Why all the jumping around?!!”  It is simply that I am posting paintings that I have available to this blog, as many are in Galleries and thus not available … yet; there are always a lot of balls to juggle as a painter.

Eventually I reached the Grand Canyon for the first time in my life; what would it be like in reality; slightly bigger than Rocky Valley in North Cornwall, I expect.  I arrived at the Visitor Center Carpark on the south rim about mid-afternoon; it was quite crowded even though it was mid-October, but I expect that the re-opening after the Government shut-down might have had something to do with that; I’m glad it wasn’t mid-Summer.  I parked away from the Visitor Center, and as close to the rim as I could and followed likely looking suspects that seemed to be heading in the right direction.  Abruptly I came out of the pines and there it was beyond scores of tourists, both foreign & domestic.  I threaded my way through the throngs to the edge and as the astonishing view opened out, my first verbal reaction to those within earshot was, “Wot! Is that awl there is?  Oi  thot it wood be biggah!”  in my best North London accent (that should actually be Noaf Lahndon … apologies to my true North London friends and acquaintances).  I received the requisite laughs from those nearby who understood the language and blank stares from those who didn’t. 

But seriously, it is truly an astounding landscape, which keeps getting larger as one studies it for a time and begins to actually understand the scale involved.  Colours, cloud patterns and shadows, aerial perspective, all play a role in making this, what could be a painter’s paradise for a lifetime and there are those for who it is so.  I only had a few days.  The next day I managed three Oil sketches, partly by camping in the National Forest just outside the National Park boundary on a back road, and only a mile from the South Rim itself, and partly by staying in one spot the whole day.  The first sketch above depicts the morning Sunlight breaking through the early cloud cover and lighting up portions of the Canyon while more of it remains in early shadow.  Being contrary, I chose my smallest sketching panel of 3” x 4” thus setting myself a challenge to try and capture the immensity of the Canyon, in such a small format; perhaps I succeeded … or not … you decide.

I proceeded to draw directly in Cobalt Blue with the brush and no imprimatura; the pigments used are Cobalt Blue, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow (hue), Cadmium Red, & Titanium White, all by Winsor & Newton.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

In the Valley of the Gods #2

“Afternoon Light on the Keep”
(Valley of the Gods, Utah)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel
5” x 7”

In the afternoon, after painting Battleship Butte in the morning, I moved a few yards away turned 90 degrees towards the North and painted the afternoon light as it bounced and reflected between the rock formations.  I couldn’t find a name for this butte on my maps, so I’m calling it the Keep since it reminds me of many of those Norman castles I saw in England standing on their mottes, or mounds, especially from this direction.  After laying down an imprimatura of Venetian Red, I drew in the design with a brush using Cobalt Blue; I might have used Ultramarine to do this, but at this point I hadn’t decided that Ultramarine would be on the palette.  I laid in the sky with Cobalt Blue, mixing in a little Cerulean as I worked down towards the horizon; the pink in the lower reachs of the sky is the imprimatura affecting the thinly painted blues layered over it.  I am especially pleased with the complementary contrasts of the earth red pigments and the mixed greens of the Sage & Rabbit Brush.  For the greens I mostly mixed Cobalt and/or Cerulean Blues with Yellow Ochre; for some darker passages I added a touch of Ultramarine.  The red earth was a base of Venetian Red mixed with Naples Yellow (hue) or Yellow Ochre and Cremnitz White in the light values, and with Cobalt Blue in the darker passages; Cadmium Red Pale and Vermilion are also mixed in or applied in discreet touches where necessary to add a bit more heat and glow.

The imprimatura was Venetian Red; the palette consisted of Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red, Cobalt & Cerulean Blues [with Ultramarine playing a lesser role], Naples Yellow (hue), Cadmium Red Pale, Vermilion, and Cremnitz White; all by Winsor & Newton.  Naples Yellow (hue) is a convenience colour, which I find useful.  I also have Genuine Naples Yellow by Vasari, but it is a brighter pigment than the Naples Yellow (hue), and so I use that for different purposes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

In the Valley of the Gods

“Dawn at Battleship Butte”
(Valley of the Gods, Utah)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel
5” x 7”

On 14th October, I heard that Utah had provided funds to open some of its National Parks, even though the majority in the country were still shut; it was time to head for the Red Rocks Country.  I passed by a tightly closed Mesa Verde (still in Colorado), but decided that I would return if I hadn’t travelled too far west by the time the Government shut-down ended.  And so on to Utah and spent the first night in Recapture Pocket.  There were a few distant lights, but only a few several miles away; there had been none from my first forest road campsite, nor in American Basin; I will return to Recapture Pocket in another post. 

Passing through Bluff, UT I proceeded down to Mexican Hat, topped up with petrol, and backtracked seven miles to the start of the Valley of the Gods loop.  Desert showers came past with the lowering Sun casting an eerie light, and about 10 miles into the Valley I chose my campsite.  A waxing gibbous Moon rose above the red cliffs, so different from the High Rockies only a couple days before; and no artificial lights to be seen!

There were rabbits here (surprising how they seem to be everywhere you go), and I saw tracks of smaller creatures in the sand, and a coyote scat near the rim of the small arroyo nearby.  The odd vulture wheeled overhead during the day, and Mr. Raven & his wife occasionally made a visit.  I was not sure what wildlife I might or might not see in this desert landscape.

Before dawn I arose and readied myself for the painting above; no sign of the showers that had greeted me the night before.  The faintest butte & chimney are in Monument Valley, in Arizona, scene of many a western film.  I wanted to capture the foreground still in the cool shadow with the butte bathed in the early morning light.  Ochres were the base, but this subject allowed Cadmium Red and Vermilion to make an entrance as well.  The greens or the most part were mixed greens, but I added a bit of Chromium Oxide Green to the palette as well. 

The imprimatura was Venetian Red, and the pigments used in the main painting were: Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red, Vermilion, Cadmium Red Pale, Naples Yellow (hue), Chromium Oxide Green, Cobalt & Cerulean Blues, Cremnitz & Titanium Whites.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Autumn in American Basin

“Autumn in American Basin”
(Colorado Rockies)
Oil Sketch on Ampersand Gesso Panel
4” x 6”

Back in October I spent more time in the Colorado Rockies than I had intended, since I was waiting for the government shutdown to end and the National Parks to reopen and I didn’t want to move too far west, so as not to miss some of those that I wanted to see; who knows how long it might be before I might pass that way again.  On October 7th, after three days on the forest road south of Gunnison, I continued south to Lake City and Lake San Cristobal, one of the larger natural lakes in Colorado; about 700 years ago, the Slumgullion Slide came down the mountainside and blocked the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, thus forming the Lake.  I found a great campsite on the south side of the lake at a county campground at no charge, it being after the season; I was the only one there after my first night, spending 4 of the next 5 nights there. 

After setting up camp on a cliff above the lake, I began a drawing in my sketchbook and finished it the next morning, before exploring up the Lake Fork and eventually ending up at 11,500’ at American Basin.  To get there I had to pass along the scariest two-mile stretch of road I’ve ever driven; a single-lane track cut from mountains-cliffs on the right and shelving off down into a river gorge on the left so deep and narrow the water remained unseen below; I had to keep my eyes on the track ahead, but I kept wanting to look to the left and down.  After 2 miles the cleft broadened out into a pleasant valley, with the river running through it before it plunged into the gorge I’d just driven.  This valley, about 5 miles long, was full of miners and boasted several towns back in the late 1800s.  Now I met a few hunters, one all the way from Alaska, scouting out the deer population before the season opened on the following Saturday. 

A few miles further on I arrived in American Basin just in time to cook supper and settle down for the night.  The temperature was a bit odd in that there was a chill breeze wafting down from the snow field on the basin wall to the south, but the ambient temperature itself must have been higher since I felt warmer in my sleeping bags that night than the first night on the forest road where I had painted the Autumn Cottonwoods; and I was about 2500’ higher in altitude.
The next morning I rolled out of my sleeping bags at first light and as the first rays of the Sun touched the mountain spires I began the little Oil Painting above. I was struck be the morning shadow gradually moving down the western flank on the right, as well as the cloud shadows.  The russets and ochres of the Autumn grasses and leafless bushes contrasted nicely with the violets and blues shadowed areas.  I don’t believe any of the snow on the mountain wall is a glacier, but certainly we are in a glacial basin a remnant of at least the last Ice Age, if not at some time since.  A couple of months ago I revisited the painting and glazed in some colour, strengthening the work overall, but especially the shadows, and thus the contrast between the light and shade.  I have signed this work S.T. Johanneson, instead of with just my monogram STJ, thus denoting it to be a complete painting, as opposed to being a sketch or study, and if you have read under the “Stuff” tab that means a higher starting price, as you may have noticed.

I had hoped to attempt to go higher from here up to 12500’-plus, as the track continues steeply up to the right-rear behind our viewpoint, and crosses a high pass, but the snowfalls already occurring in September, had blocked it at that altitude; and Winter is coming (sorry, for a moment I thought I was inside Game of Thrones), by that evening snow was in the forecast, so that afternoon I backtracked down the desperate road, only passing one vehicle on the scary two-mile stretch (luckily we met at a passing spot), and on below to my campsite on its cliff above the lakeside.  There I awaited the snow and watched it gently fall over 36 hours; it only accumulated about 4” as it was warm enough to melt a certain amount as it landed; I was hoping for more. 

No imprimatura, and the pigments used were: Yellow Ochre, a touch or two of Cadmium Orange, Venetian Red, a little Sap Green, Cobalt Blue, and Cremnitz & Titanium Whites.

Even though I have more Colorado paintings to come, tomorrow’s post will show my first red rock painting in Utah.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Passing Cold Front & Surf

“Passing Cold Front & Surf”
(Devil’s Kitchen, Bandon, Oregon Coast)
Oil Sketch on Ampersand Gesso Panel
5” x 7”


The day after painting Table Rock at Bandon, I chose to paint further south at Devil’s Kitchen and past Bandon’s islands and sea stacks, where there are only a few rocks along the beach.  The cold front was finally pushing through and all morning, there was cloud overhead and clear skies out at sea along the horizon, with every so often a glimpse of sun poking through the odd break.  The surf was coming in nicely in sets, with a bigger set every so often.  I set up back in the dune grass and a bit out of the wind.  The rock being struck by the surf was not particularly large, perhaps 8 or 9 feet high, but every so often a wave would hit it just right to send up a good splash.  Since the horizon marks the eye level of the viewer, in this case myself, and I am up in the grass above the beach, the top of the crashing foam has broken the horizon line, and thus my eye level, and so is reaching about 25 or 30 feet or so; the wave crest itself, perhaps 9’. 

The next day, 4th January 2014, I left Bandon and headed north.  Those paintings may eventually appear, but with tomorrows post I shall return to the trip back from Oklahoma last Autumn, and my night at about 11,500’.

There was no imprimatura under this painting, and the pigments used were as follows: Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Venetian Red, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue & Titanium White; all from Winsor & Newton.  A mixture of Cerulean & Burnt Sienna made the nice grey-green of the Sea.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Table Rock at Bandon, Oregon Coast

“High Tide at Table Rock”
(Bandon, Oregon Coast)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel
5” x 7”

From last October in the Colorado Rockies we are going to fast forward a bit to the 2nd of January 2014, to Bandon on the south-central coast of Oregon.  I had arrived on the Oregon Coast at the beginning of November for an Exhibition of Small Oils in Bandon, and spent the whole month painting seascapes.  I returned to my base in Yamhill County for 3 weeks in December, and returned to the Coast for two weeks over the Christmas period, camping in the National Forest, and painting.  This painting of is representative of these seascapes.  More will appear as time goes on as many are in several Galleries at present.  The Oregon Coast reminds me of the North Coast of Cornwall, England, except it has forests on the cliff-tops and Cornwall does not, and Bandon reminds me of several Cornish seaside towns.  The beach here at Bandon is riddled with islands and sea-stack, and so provides many varied and interesting views to paint.  I’ve been taking full advantage of this and will continue to do so over time. 

I first laid down a transparent imprimatura of Burnt Sienna to provide a medium tone to work on when I began the painting.

The pigments used were: Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red, Cobalt Blue & Titanium White.  As you see I limited my palette to three colours and white, two being earth colours and thus a more harmonious colour scheme.  I had been painting most of November with this small palette and was happy with the variety of greens I was still able to get with just Cobalt Blue and Yellow Ochre.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Aspens along the Forest Road

“Aspens along the Forest Road”
(San Juan Mountains, Colorado Rockies)
Oil Sketch on Ampersand Gesso Panel
4” x 6”


The next day on the Sunday, October 6th, 2013, I drove up to altitude to the Powderhorn Lakes Trailhead.  On the way back down I explored a couple of side roads and in the afternoon decided to have a go at the Aspens with paint.  The Aspens seem to be a bit yellower than the more orange Cottonwoods, and there were more brushes of an almost Spring-green on most of the trees.  This contrasted nicely with the grey-green of the sagebrush in the foreground, as well as the pines, mostly in shadow behind them.  A slightly warmer night last night, and warming up easily in the Sunlight, even though the temperatures would have felt chill in the dampness of say Cornwall in England, where I lived for many years, or west of the Cascade Range in Oregon, where I’ve resided for the past ten years.  It is so nice to experience a dry cold again like in my youth. 

Pigments used were: Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow & Cadmium Yellow Pale, Venetian Red, Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue, a bit of Cerulean, a little Sap Green (Permanent), Cremnitz and Titanium Whites; all from Winsor & Newton except for the Sap Green which I believe was either M. Graham or Gamblin (sorry, but my colour box is out in my truck).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

First Oil Sketch of the Journey

“Autumn Cottonwoods”
(San Juan Mountains, Colorado Rockies)
Oil Sketch on Ampersand Gesso Panel
4” x 6”

I left Oklahoma at 23:30 on September 29th last year and headed for Salida, Colorado, via Tucumcari, New Mexico; for those Spaghetti Western buffs out there, Tucumcari is where Lee Van Cleef gets of the train at the beginning of, “For a Few Dollars More.”  Thus began my meandering route back to Oregon from Oklahoma where I had been staying with family for a while.  I then spent 4 lovely days in Salida, Colorado visiting old friends Dan & Lee, and Edgrrrrr the dog (Edgrrrrr actually has a grin when greeting one he likes … a bit toothie, but a grin nevertheless).  Dan & I graduated from High School together, back in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and in another century (do you hear those creaking bones?).   This Oil Sketch was painted back on October 5th after leaving Salida.  The golds & russets of Autumn were stunning, especially when set against the deep forest greens of pine and fir covered slopes, as I made my way through intermittent snow-showers in the San Juan Mountains, and over the Monarch Pass, at somewhat over eleven thousand feet (if I remember correctly).  Later after passing through Gunnison and turning South on Hwy 149, I spotted a forest road leading to the Powderhorn Lakes Trailhead and setup my first camp some miles down that road.  A lovely clear night and the temperature dropped into the teens (Fahrenheit), but it was a dry cold and I remained toastie in my sleeping bags.  The next morning I painted this Oil sketch, the first of the Journey; the inaugural work for those to come.

Sometimes there is a fine line between a Sketch, and those deemed to be what I would call a Painting.  Usually it’s a matter of completeness, meaning good Design, or Composition, Value & Colour, and perhaps surface finish that causes a work to be considered a Painting.  Sometimes … many times … it is intent, as in this case; it almost becomes a Painting, and there are those who will consider it so to be, but for me the intent was a Sketch, and so it shall remain.

For those tech-heads out there, the pigments used were Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow, Venetian Red, Cobalt Blue, a bit of Cerulean, Cremnitz and Titanium Whites; all from Winsor & Newton. 

Tomorrow I will post another Colorado Oil Sketch; it could be a couple of days or so.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Beginning

Hello, and welcome to my new Blog, “Not Quite a Painting a Day.”  I suppose one should begin at ‘The Beginning,’ and if one has read the essay under the tab above, “The Journey,” one might very well take that to be ‘The Beginning;’ or was ‘The Beginning’ really the earliest of those extended sketching journeys near the start of my Art career; or was it when one of my earliest Watercolour won a 2nd Place Ribbon at the Tri-State Fair at age seven?  Perhaps it was the sunrise seen at age five that inspired that early Watercolour; or maybe it goes back to one of my earliest outdoor memories of sunlight sparkling on the water at a picnic at age two or so?  It might be said that all Beginnings on the thread of life are one Beginning.  Philosophical musings aside, this is the first posting on my first Blog, therefore let us consider this as the beginning; at least of this new Journey.  And so again I bid you welcome.

At present I am on the south-central coast of Oregon and attended the opening of the “21st Maritime Art Exhibition,” at the Coos Art Museum in Coos Bay last weekend, and in which I had two small and highly detailed Watercolours.  These were painted several years ago, before this present Journey had begun, and I had them available for submission to the show.  They represent my labor-intensive studio Watercolours, and not the Oil Sketches & Studies that will be mostly presented on this Odyssey.  They are presented below.

“Day’s End on Indian Beach”
(Ecola State Park, Oregon Coast)
3” x 9”

“Blustery Afternoon at Shore Acres with Simpson Reef Beyond”
(Shore Acres State Park, Oregon Coast)
5½” x 11”

I will be camping on private land in the Bandon area for the next few days, courtesy of friends of mine, and will be painting the coast hereabouts before moving on and painting further south along the Oregon Coast.  While here I hope to finalize the coordination between this Blog and Daily Paintworks, and should have the first of my Oil Sketches up for sale on my next posting.  In the meantime I will leave you with one more image; this time of one of my small Oil Paintings, which is at the Rip Caswell Gallery in Troutdale, Oregon.  Please do come back and enjoy this Journey into the Wild.

“Spring Run-off”
(Lower Lewis Falls, Gifford Pinchot, National Forest, Washington Cascades)
Oil on Panel
5” x 10”

Cheers for now … and see you soon.