Not being a painter myself, I may not understand all the technical painting terms, so I will be asking lots of questions as I go, which hopefully will not get me banned from tagging along! Jade, our jack russell terrier, has been tagging along for quite some time now and she’s actually treated like royalty so let’s see how it goes for me!
Our venture this past week has been just outside the beautiful little town of Boulder, Utah, just 30 miles from my hometown of Escalante. For those of you who have been to Boulder, you’ll understand there’s a new meaning to the word “laid back.” No one is in too big of a hurry, and everyone would literally give you the shirt off his back if you asked for it. You also get very straight-forward conversation, as I did when I ran into an old high school classmate who had no problem telling me he didn’t recognize me because I had gained weight since he’d seen me last! Ouch! The truth hurts!
We spent the week in my brother’s beautiful yet rustic log cabin, which is just far enough up the mountain that the nighttime doesn’t just turn the lights down, it brings pitch-black darkness! It is also eerily quiet with the exception of some crickets, hoot owls and an occasional bellowing of a lost cow! The stars, however, are nothing short of spectacular! Scouring the sky looking at bagillions of stars (yes, in Southern Utah, that’s a word!) is breathtaking! Spotting shooting stars is a nightly event that brings many “ooos and aaahs.”
Okay, so back to the main event here – this is a painting trip, isn’t it? Well, yes, eventually Doug pulled the paints out after a few days of R & R, (Doug carrying our friend's 60-pound dog with burned paws out of Calf Creek Falls is kinda like rest, isn’t it?) and teaching me to ride a motorcycle was also very relaxing for him I’m sure!
One evening on our way to Escalante, we stopped on the highway just above Calf Creek Falls to get a shot of the breathtaking view of the Escalante River going up through these magnanimous red mountains with bright green trees lining the river. The road is narrow and it’s straight down on both sides (yikes) but we shall stop anyway – apparently this is the perfect shot . . . except for the sun . . . it’s behind a cloud. "Let’s just wait a minute and wait for the right evening light – I want to see the sun hit on this side (pointing to the left), and the dark shadows on the other." Dramatic light! Oooh, interesting . . . Of course, the cloud is NOT budging, and we wait for quite some time . . . never fully getting the shot he wants (like sitting around watching grass grow).
Finally, I say, “Ooh, there ya go, now there’s some nice light!” (because I’m hungry and I’m ready to go). He gives me a look, “Nah, that’s not the light I'm after.” Dang it! Never realized how important the sunlight is to a plein air painter. I’ve heard Doug talk about “nice light” or “flat light” which I always just went along with. Now, I find that early morning light and evening light are “nice light” because it drags wonderful dramatic shadows across his painting . . . flat light being straight up above, offering no shadows whatsoever. I had never noticed shadows before, but in looking at some of Doug’s paintings, the shadows are amazing! I was taking them for granted.
Well, we didn’t get the light we wanted on that tiny little ledge (where I held my breath until we got on our way). He set out early the next morning to do a great color study. He wants to do a very large painting of this spot and this color study gave him all the right colors of each of the rocks, the trees, clouds, and sky. As he takes the detail from his digital images, the colors from the study will help him create the right view from that tiny ledge. That larger painting will be forthcoming in the months to come!
Our ventures onto the Boulder Highways (dirt roads) were hot and dusty. Jade panted patiently in the back of Doug’s Element as the heat took its toll on her. Doug looked for places to paint where there was some shade for his dog and of course, his lovely wife who is now tagging along asking questions! Ah, that’s tender! These paintings were painted on the same road, but facing three different directions on three different days.
Black Ledge Road
8 x 10
8 x 10
On occasion, a local will stop and ask “whatcha doin?” A brilliant and clever comeback is always tempting, but kindly Doug generally responds with a polite “just paintin!” He’s always gracious with a thank you when they come back with “well, that’s perdy darn good!”
8 x 10
8 x 10
Capturing the simplicity of this little community and the genuine goodness of its inhabitants is what makes these paintings so amazing to me. The paintings captured the feel of the dust in my mouth, the grit in my hair and the heat from the sun.
Let me know what you think . . . I might be prejudice but I think they’re amazing . . . course, that’s just from my perspective . . .