Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Needles & Environs.

Friday, 05th January_Thursday, 11th January, 2018; 
The Needles, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

“Early Morning Desert Frost”
Oil Sketch on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
5” x 7”

(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.)


The Needles sector of Canyonlands National Park is as interesting in its own way as Arches NP, with its own collection of geological formations of fins, pillars, giant stone mushrooms and toadstools, and even the odd arch.  Whereas the Island in the Sky main interest for the average visitor lies in the views from the various overlooks, to really appreciate the Needles it takes some hiking.  I only tasted the possibilities, as my first, Friday, I didn’t get there until the afternoon (overcast), and on the Sunday, I retraced some of Friday’s steps to get sunny photos.  I did take a partial hike towards the Needles themselves, to get a feel for the trail; it is definitely an all day affair, for sometime in the future.  The Needles themselves are only seen from distant viewpoints, requiring either several mile hikes or jeep quality 4-wheel drive vehicles to get close and in amongst those formations.  I might have taken the hiking option, but the next three days, we’re foggy and overcast. 

I came away on Thursday the 11th, a pristine day, taking my time stopping for many photo ops along the way.  I probed down the Lockhart Road for a few miles, the road I had been camping on close to its beginning, crossing Indian Creek in doing so.  I scouted the road on the west side of North Cottonwood Canyon for nine miles and had lunch there.  Scenically, this area outside of the Needles sector, is quite striking and highly deserving of exploration in its own right.  The painting above (Early Morning Desert Frost), is from my campsite, and of the Needles Overlook.  My former campsite is up there on the extreme right cliff edge.


As I said, Sunday the 7th was a first class day at the Needles, cloudless and relatively warm for a January day.  Photo-recon was the order of the day.  The stars were bright and seemingly myriad that night, so it was with surprise that I awoke to overcast and thick fog on the Monday.  Processing photos took up several hours, and then a couple hours were spent touching up two recent Oil Sketches, and blocking in the new one, above.

That evening the cloud which had lifted somewhat later in the afternoon, lowered again.  Way out on the Lockhart Road, somewhere below the Needles Overlook there appeared a dim hazy light as of distant beams of headlights still hidden from direct view, in the folds of the land.  I wasn’t sure that I had really seen it, as for awhile I could not spot anything further.  By and by, however, a brighter beam appeared seemingly closer and again disappearing, as though a car following a twisting road.  I kept expecting it to finally crest the low hill and roll down the nearby road and past my campsite, secluded by a low rocky ridge.  It never did.  Instead for forty minutes the beams appeared and disappeared, sometimes so strong that I was sure that any moment headlights would break over the ridge a mile distant, only to disappear again and moments later the beams would reappear dimly much further away.  At times 8 or 10 minutes went by with no beams at all.  Then a final bright finale when I thought for sure headlights would soon be visible, and then nothing.  And that was it … nothing further occurred by the time I turned in an hour later.  The Lockhart Road is gravel and extends off through the wild for miles, and is twisty as it negotiates the canyons of Indian Creek, but not convoluted enough to explain the strange light show I had observed.  What was that guy doing out there … or was it E.T.?  I’ll never know.  The next morning I was up and out of the truck when still dark, when a vehicle, headlights and all came down the road from the direction of the previous night’s mystery.  Was that the source of last night’s light … or was it E.T.???  I’ll never know.

On Thursday the 11th, after posting my last 2 Blog Postings from the Monticello, Utah Library, I found a campsite in the National Forest up Devil’s Canyon, amongst the Ponderosas … I have not seen Ponderosa Pines since coming south out of Dinosaur National Monument, when I camped up on the Uncompahgre Plateau above Unaweep Canyon, back in mid-October.

The Pigments used in the painting:

Imprimatura: W&N Venetian Red;

Drawing: W&N Ultramarine Deep, Venetian Red & Rublev Purple Ochre;

Pigments: W&N Cerulran, Cobalt & Ultramarine Deep Blues, Cadmiums Orange, Red & Yellow Pale;

Rublev: Ercolano Red, Purple Ochre, Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Orange Molybdate, Ceruse, Lead White #2.

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