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.

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