Do I paint from photos? Sort of…

This morning my windows are fogged up from cold air for the first time.

Yesterday local artist Roxanne Everett guided me most of the way up McGregor Mountain – over one hundred switchbacks to a Park Service radio repeater on the summit. We made it as far as a campsite 1000’ below the summit, which is still 5600’ of elevation gain. My knees are threatening mutiny. It was glorious to be in alpine terrain once again. The blueberries were ripe, the larches haven’t begun to turn, but there was a real chill in the ambient air, made more dramatic by a brisk wind. Later it was quite warm but only down in the valley. I better understand the geography from seeing it from so high above. I was sentimental to see glacier-bound peaks I climbed 30 years ago.

A quick sketch of Dome Peak from McGregor Mountain. Behind the painting is the outline drawing across three small sheets of watercolor paper that will be a panorama of a similar view.

A quick sketch of Dome Peak from McGregor Mountain. Behind the painting is the outline drawing done on location across three small sheets of watercolor paper. It will become a more expansive panorama of the same view.

When I am with other people who may not be inclined to wait 2 hours in the cold for me to paint a complete picture, I still bring my paper and board. I make a rough outline of what I intend to paint and take a photo. Most people are willing to wait the 5-10 minutes that takes . It’s important to capture the proportions as I see them — or perhaps as I exaggerate them — which no camera will do. Color is somewhat arbitrary and personal anyway, and the camera does an OK job of capturing basic light and dark values. (It does tend to miss shadow and highlight subtleties.) I still like to paint the sheet as soon as possible after returning.

So far into this residency I seem only able to tackle scenic landscapes. I have already accumulated some wonderful source material of fire-sculpted trees, especially from the 2010 Rainbow Bridge fire. These will be great fodder for large studio paintings in the future.

Near Rainbow Bridge, 2010 burn.

Near Rainbow Bridge, 2010 burn.

I have been reading Flames in Our Forest by Stephen Arno, which makes the case for fire as a necessary factor in a healthy and diverse forest. But I haven’t yet done enough time alone, putting one foot after the other, to stretch for a deeper connection between the artistic process and the meaning of the work.

It’s like I have to get through all that beauty first.

 

Postscript September 22: I realize I should have posted the photo I took as well. You can see how different the proportions are between my interest — the distant massif — and what the point-and-shoot snapshot shows.

DomeSnapshot (640x480)

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One comment on “Do I paint from photos? Sort of…

  1. Margarite says:

    Nice seeing your sketches with the Dome Peak watercolor. And good job on hiking Mt Gregor. We hope we can come over . . . today and see you in person and get some exercise.

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