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Monday, September 17, 2012

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim 2012 - Thoughts

The 5x7 study I did in preparation for my 9x12 Quick Draw piece.
I gave this to the buyers of my 9x12 as a bonus.
(Photo courtesy of Amery Bohling.)

[Update:  I've posted the paintings on my Facebook studio page, Michael Chesley Johnson Studio.  Some of the paintings are still for sale and benefit the Grand Canyon Association's project of an art center and museum.]

Every time I come back from a major event such as the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art "Plein Air on the Rim" event,  I like to take a moment to reflect on what I learned and what I might have done better.  I also like to spend a little time looking over the paintings I did that week.

One thing I learned is the power of violet in dulling green.  First, let me say that the greens you see in the Canyon aren't as bright as you think.  Most novice Canyon painters push the chroma too high.  To be sure, the Canyon got a lot of rain this summer, and the greens were unusually vivid.  Also, the abundance of pink rock in the Canyon always makes the greens seem much richer than they are.

In the past, to dull down green so it seems more natural, I used Gamblin's Chromatic Black.  But because it seems to have a greenish cast, it doesn't do as good a job as I'd like.  This time around, though, I threw in a tube of Dioxazine Violet - and I found it works miracles on greens.  You can make them as grey as you'd like by just adding more violet.

By the way, some of the painters this week just painted those distant greens as blues.  That's another way of attacking the problem, but again, the blue shouldn't be too rich or too cool.

So, that's what I learned.  What could I have done better?  I might have varied the format from my standard dimensions of 9x12 and 12x16.  The Canyon really is about depth and breadth.  It is deep, and it is wide - a mile deep, ten miles across from South Rim to North Rim, and 300 miles from east to west.  Does a 3:4 ratio really work for the Canyon?  It can, but I think the viewer gets a better sense of the spectacle if a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio is used.  (I used 1:2 in my 12x24 studio piece, below.)  A couple of painters tried vertical long formats, and some of those were truly stunning, as the view looked down a tall tower into the Canyon.  Of course, now you have a custom framing job!

"Glorious Evening" 12x24 oil
As I mentioned in my last post from the Grand Canyon, I immediately sold half of the paintings I made.  There are still some left, plus a few that didn't get framed that I have in inventory.  Once I'm back home - I'm currently sitting in the Phoenix Sky Harbor waiting for my flight, and there's a nice exhibit of Grand Canyon paintings by Bruce Aiken, Curt Walters, Gunnar Widforss and others at the PHX Airport Museum - I'll post the ones that are available.