I always enjoy the high mountains. Something about altitude just works for me. It might have something to do with having grown up in the Ecuadorian Andes, shuffling between towns at 7,000, 9,000 and 10,600 feet. Whatever the reason, I feel the mountains calling me all the time.
I’ve been fortunate to hang out with these huge peaks in several countries. Painting them brings me back. Here are three recent paintings of views I’ve enjoyed over the years, all done in soft pastels on Strathmore Artagain charcoal black paper.
“Titan” – California – Pastel on MingART Premium, 8×10″/20×25 cm
“What an experience!” I said this so many times in the past week!
It was an amazing time, from the moment I received the notification that my painting “Titan” was accepted into the show to the last evening as we drifted away from the table, still enjoying each other’s company. I appreciated the graciousness and generosity of Simon and Junny, our hosts at the Ming Gallery of Art, who made us feel so welcome and honored. I thoroughly enjoyed the boundless enthusiasm and energy of the indefatigable May who facilitated the plein air event and found a place in everyone’s heart. Mingxing’s open, positive attitude allowed us to simply be ourselves, and the photos she captured of all of us are treasures to be savored like a fine banquet, complete with a delightful dessert (those are a few of Mingxing’s photos, below). To all the artists whom I met and who shared their love of art and life: I am blessed to have met you and spent time with you in Suzhou!
I am so grateful to the world of pastels for having brought together the talents and personalities of so many from around the world, and to the Ming Art Gallery for its ardent dedication to the medium. I can only imagine how daunting it was to choose these paintings from the submissions. The quality, vision and skill evident in this show speaks volumes for the medium. I appreciated the richness of the Chinese masters, in particular. It was an immersive education just to walk the gallery in wonder, observing one beautiful painting after another. This experience alone was priceless.
To the jurors and the awarding judge I give my thanks. This has been a golden moment, and I am so pleased that they resonated with the grand old oak in my “Titan” painting. Their decision and the gallery’s generosity made all this happen for me and for Ping. I am happy to have donated this painting to the gallery.
“What an experience,” indeed!
I welcome any opportunity to return to Suzhou! I look forward to all the wonderful paintings that proceed from here!
“Echoing Moran” – Graphite – 5.8×7.7″/14.8×19.5 cm
I’ve got another chance coming up to do some plein air work, so I’ve been preparing my kit for travel. I used to keep a small (1/4 letter size, or A6) spiral-bound sketchbook with me in my pocket, but good ones are getting harder to find these days. This time, I’m going to try using my usual sketch clipboard for drawing on the fly. It’s twice as big as the sketchbook, but the paper will be far superior. I’m hoping I can still do the quick 2-to-5-minute sketches I did when I could just whip out the sketchbook. We’ll see!
Just to practice with this particular paper and pencil combination, I started what was going to be a rough sketch. Not surprisingly, I got caught up in the craggy details (who, me??). This was from a photo taken in China some years back. I’ve been studying Thomas Moran’s work again recently and I think I had those images somewhere in my subconscious while I drew this.
“The Remainder” – Acrylic on Canvas – 16.1×10.6″/41×27 cm
We couldn’t see much in the fog. No one could. Cairns placed haphazardly anywhere and everywhere gave no direction at all. I headed away from the group, up into the mists, until I could see no one else. All was quiet, save for the jostling of stones under my boots. How far these stones had traveled, broken loose, carried along, ground down in the massive river of ice that carved out this slope. The ice is long gone. These stones, covered in their green mosses and red algae, hidden in the mists–these are the remainder. They lie there still, lost in the fog, slowly breaking down bit by bit.
A friend has graciously invited us to stay in her house in California’s famed Napa Valley. Every morning, we awaken to a beautiful dawn. On any given day, we might see low clouds, patchy fog, or a bright blue sky. The clouds are usually long gone by noon, and the midday heat is a bit easier to take when one can sit inside where it’s cooler, and look out the large windows. Evenings can be brisk and breezy. A couple of times, we even built a fire in the fire pit so we could sit outside and watch the stars appear.
The backyard here is actually a small vineyard surrounded by classic Napa trees: pines, redwoods, oaks, maples and eucalyptus. I’m nursing a bad case of poison oak just now, but I can still paint, and I’m grateful for this marvelous view! This painting was a very quick study, focusing on shadows and capturing the various greens.
Derwent Inktense on Arches rough 100% rag paper
5.9×8.75”/15x22cm – plein air
I saw the marking for the Monticello Rocks on Google Maps and traced the route from where we are staying. It just sounded cool. “Monticello Rocks.” Ever the adventurer, Ping was game. Thus, we set forth.
Anticipation gripped us like a cheap pair of shorts that had shrunk in the dryer. Every turn in the road brought us closer, closer, closer…WAIT! I think those are the rocks! YES! Rocks, they are! Ah, the excitement, the THRILL of seeing the Monticello Rocks for the very first time! I’ll never for-…
That’s it? It’s over? No, there are some more!
Oh, the ecstasy, the glory, the–! Okay, now it’s over.
We couldn’t get to them. We couldn’t even turn around on that road. There was nothing left but to continue forward. We did.
Neither of us saw any more rocks. Okay, that’s not entirely true, there was the “Old Man Rock” a bit later that did, indeed, have a nose larger than my own. So, that’s something.
We laughed and laughed about the Epic Quest for the Monticello Rocks.