Despite the wonderful days I’ve spent traveling and hiking in the American Southwest, I’ve not painted a lot of sandstone so far. My palette has tended toward the blue/purple/brown/green end of the spectrum, and I’m not as familiar yet with the pinks, reds and oranges inherent in sandstone.
I do like the streaks and random stains that appear when sandstone gets exposed and weathered. To play with this a bit, I decided to use a small (27×22 cm) canvas which had already been subject to at least two painting experiments over which I had unceremoniously slopped gesso. That gave me a relatively rough surface that I thought could be useful when painting rocks.
On my first attempt, I used the wrong tint of pinkish-kinda-orangey, so I wiped it off. I switched brushes and decided to try the sky. Not bad, but not particularly inspiring. I tried the cliffs again. Ugh! Not good at all. I attempted to fix it by quickly swiping here and there with more paint, as if to accomplish Art by derring-do. It looked like someone had applied WAY too much makeup. Nah. I wiped it off, soaked a rag and wiped it again. And again. I left most of the sky. Below the horizon line, it was just the stuff I couldn’t get off. I should have taken a picture: all that aerial drama over a dull salmon fog.
The next day, I went at it again. I’ve been following Joshua Been‘s work, and he keeps talking about painting “deliberately.” I’m more of a frenetic scrubber and scraper, or a delicate dabber, but I see his point. Laying down specific, intentional brushstrokes can give the work a freshness that belies its deliberateness. I tried it. Not bad. Here’s where that ended up:
The day after that, I went at it again, hoping to get some more personality out of it. Sure enough, I found myself doing all those little cracks and crevices again. They’re irresistible. The cool thing was that the more I worked on it, the more fun I had. All that sandstone character started to emerge. Maybe someday, I’ll get more efficient and just leave the strokes as they lie. For now, I’m having a good time playing with a tiny brush to bring out all those nooks and crannies.