Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back-Lit Mountains

"Thunder Mountain, Backlit"
8x10, oil, en plein air

"Doe Mountain, Backlit, with Snow"
5x7, oil, en plein air

The sun can be intense in the Southwest, even in the winter. In the event you can't find a good spot that'll put shade on your painting and palette, an umbrella is handy. I have long-touted the $5 chair umbrellas one can pick up in the camping section of the "big box store" of your choice. These last about a year because the plastic clamp fatigues and snaps, but the umbrellas are cheap enough that you can afford to have a back-up or two. I bought two new ones for my trip.

Unfortunately, the manufacturer seems to have changed the recipe for the gooseneck that lets you move the umbrella to where you need it. With my new ones, if the umbrella's not completely vertical, its own weight will pull it down out of the desired position. Clever use of a bungee cord will solve the problem, but on Monday, I forgot the bungee cord. Nor was there any shade.

My friend Clive Pates doesn't use an umbrella. He says, "If there's no shade, then there's no shade!" Well, I like shade, since I believe it allows me to mix colors more accurately. (Clive doesn't have my problem. See his work at I decided to simply wheel my Guerrilla Painter box around so the lid cast an adequate shade on my palette and to paint whatever I saw there. (Finding a subject to paint in Sedona is, as they say, like shooting fish in a barrel.) I painted a back-lit view of Thunder Mountain. The next day, I decided to paint sans umbrella again. Trina and I went out to Doe Mountain for a hike, and afterward, I painted a view of it from the nearby Fay Canyon parking lot.

It's fun doing back-lit scenes. It forces you to choose between making the deeply-shadowed areas the center of interest, or the scant bits of direct light.

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