Sunday, May 4, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Batavia, Illinois

Fox River, 9x12 pastel

We left Zion, as always, with bittersweet feelings.  We were reluctant to leave that place of beauty, but eager to move on to our next location and thus ever closer to home.

Our planned route was north to I-70 and through the Rockies, but a spring snow storm pushed us south instead.  They were predicting a foot of snow over several days.  Having gotten caught by a surprise snow squall near Vail a few years ago, we decided to play it safe.  Instead, we chose a route that took us through the Navajo and Hopi reservations around Tuba City and Second Mesa - all very  beautiful country - and down to Albuqerque.  As we pushed onward, we learned that the storm to the north was huge, and we soon ran into 60 mph winds and near-zero-visibility dust storms.

Ironically, we encountered the worst in Dalhart, Texas, which had been Ground Zero for the Dustbowl back in the '30s.  (Today, Dalhart is Ground Zero for feedlots, including Cargill's 21,500-acre "hog production lot," which might help explain the dust.) The storm was three hours of white-knuckle driving.  I wish we'd had time to take pictures.  Besides the dust, there were the tumbleweeds, scouring our windward flank like Brillo pads and then leaping helter-skelter over their comrades piled up against the roadside fence before vanishing.  Five states later, we are still picking tumbleweed fragments out of our car's front grille.

Making coffee in Water Street Studio's kitchen

All was calm at our destination of Batavia, Illinois.  Spring was pushing through quietly, popping up daffodils and leafy buds.  Batavia is home to Water Street Studios, where I've taught several times now.  Water Street Studios consists of a large gallery space, two classrooms and a number of rentable studios.  I always look forward to this workshop, since it's a comfortable, well-equipped facility and we have some nice city parks nearby to paint in.  One of my favorites, the Fabyan Forest Preserve, runs right along the Fox River and has scores of huge, old, gnarly oaks.  This time, I had only three students, but we still had a great time.  Everyone was painting in pastel, so I was able to give them a pure pastel experience.


Blustery Spring Day, 8x12 pastel

Maybe it breaks compositional rules, but I like that street lamp in the middle.

Our first day, we had blustery wind and spiting rain, so my demonstration - like all the paintings that day - was a quick sketch, focusing on value and color notes.  I was surprised at how much red-violet I was seeing the spring landscape.  My students were surprised, too, but soon even they were seeing red-violet everywhere.  This color is a complement to the cool, spring greens.  If you put a mark of neutral grey against a swatch of spring-green, that grey mark will take on a noticeable red-violet cast, thanks to the principle of simultaneous contrast.  This is why we were seeing so much red-violet.


Our second day was filled with sun and fast-moving clouds.  I chose to skip the clouds and to focus instead on the Fox River and the beautiful greens and, yes!, the red-violets I saw.  (See my demonstration at the top of the post.)

Now we are in Valparaiso, Indiana, at the Art Barn School of Art.  This is 60 acres of woodland, meadow and even a pond.  Stay tuned!

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