Friday, January 25, 2013

A surprise and a lesson just around the bend

After living here in New Mexico for about two and a half years, I figured we had explored most of the area around here. Especially considering that we do take excursions when the mood strikes and we have nothing better to do than jump in the car or on the motorcycle. Wrong. There are gems all around this place.
This week a neighbor showed me the most delightful canyon, less than 7 miles from our house. It is hidden away and a local favorite of off-roaders, be they motorized or hoofed and saddled. If you feel like backpacking (not in this lifetime) there is actually running water further up from the canyon entrance. But the road farther in is very soft sand and treacherous to vehicles unless they are ATVs or the saddled variety. This canyon is called Saddle Rock, because there is a formation that looks very clearly like a saddle.
Saddle Rock and two riders
It was a delightful place to paint, one that is both secluded and having some recreational types around that seem to want to keep to themselves as well. So it was a major find in my book.  And though I don’t have 4 wheel drive vehicle, prudent driving keeps me safe and makes the most delightfully dramatic canyon views accessible.
Clock in of Saddle Rock area
Oil 8x10
I painted with this new painting friend. That is we are new in our acquaintance and she is new to painting. It takes a couple of shake down forays to work the kinks out and figure out what a body needs, so this was her virgin cruise so to speak. There was lots of frustration on her part, coupled with more than a few exasperated sighs, and flying paper towels. But she took home a painting that had a decent beginning and learned the value of wiping out and starting over. She also left with a list of a few items to take with her the next time and a major adjustment to her palette for stability. It’s the little things that make painting en plein air enjoyable, chasing down a palette and picking up dumped turps cups, not so much.
Finished study of Saddle Rock
Oil on Linen Prepared Board
It strikes me that painting is so very much like life itself. If you don’t like the results, you change your path, your plan, your mode of operating. There is no shame in that. It simply makes basic good sense. I told this friend of a workshop I took with David Leffel, who many consider one of our great living master painters. We watched David wipe out a very decent painting block in four times before he was happy with it. He refused to proceed until the beginning matched his concept. It didn’t come right away, he had to work at it. David Leffel, master painter, had to work at it. Even now in this stage of his career. That is one powerful message. And it was a revelation to me, to never be satisfied until the imagery matches the concept. That lesson alone was worth the price of the workshop.

I doubt I’ll have a new painting this week, as I am preparing for teaching a pastel workshop this coming Friday and Saturday. This workshop will be taught from a setup as well as a photo, and there are still the logistics of the studio to figure out and set up. This dual approach is for those who attend and work slowly, to enable them to finish the piece at home, while the setup will not be available to them. If there is any interest in this, I might blog about it. So tell me if you want to see it, I’d like to know.

Favorite quote:
‎"You will always get into trouble unless you design all the time when you are painting. Stop designing and you are in trouble. You are so fascinated with painting, with making the things to look like reality that you forget to design. The things themselves should be made only at the very end..."                                 (Frank Benson)

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