Friday, April 26, 2013

Taos Plein Air Painting Retreat – Day 4

Painting at Rio Grande Gorge

We had more spring New Mexico weather Thursday.  The radar showed rain nearby and possibly overhead.  A quick glance at the sky, though, showed the rain wasn't reaching the ground.  Virga, as it is called, can be quite beautiful with its long, feathery drifts of rain, so after breakfast and our daily critique session we headed out for the Rio Grande Gorge.

Demonstrating the use of manganese violet
Ordinarily, the Gorge is best painted in sunlight with good shadows.  But I liked the clouds and the sense of distance the moist air created.  Best of all, though, I liked the little "Ice Cream Bus" parked  on the road by the bridge that crosses the Gorge.  (The bus also advertised "Strong Hot Coffee," and in the 46 degree chill, a couple of our group patronized the bus for exactly that.)

Ice Cream Bus  - If you're not on the bus, you're off the bus
One of the problems with the scene was the preponderance of hueless greys.  As I've mentioned before in my blog, I am red-green colorblind, and some of the more subtle greys tend to look, well, like grey.  If I see a pure, neutral grey in nature, I always to push it toward one color family or the other.  Which color I push it toward has to do what I perceive as the dominant color in the scene.  Today, I convinced myself I was seeing a lot of violet.

I picked up a tube of Gamblin's manganese violet this week, and I have been determined to use it.  (Perhaps this is what convinced me that I was seeing violet.)  It turned out to be the perfect "mother color" to use everywhere in the painting.  The middle-distance cliffs are mostly manganese violet with white and a little Torrit Grey.  The farther ones have some ultramarine blue added.  The closest ones have some permanent alizarin crimson.  Elsewhere, the greens, yellows and oranges have all been moderated with manganese violet.  Even the "school bus" yellow of the Ice Cream Bus has manganese violet in it.

Ice Cream Bus, Rio Grande Gorge 9x12 oil - SOLD
One of the retreat participants asked if I was going to add the letters on the bus.  "Ice Cream Bus" was painted in black along the top, but the letters were too small for a 9x12 format.  I opted to leave them out, hoping that the little seemingly-blank sign propped up in front would indicate that it was some sort of vendor's bus.  Also, the title helps.

Fechin House interior

San Fransisco de Asis church in Rancho de Taos.  This is the back of it.
Why does everyone photo and paint it from the rear?
After lunch, the overcast skies continued, but it seemed a little sun was coming out.  Some went back into town to tour the museums.  The Fechin House and Taos Art Museum are not to be missed.  Not only can you see some prime examples of Fechin's portrait work, but you can also see his handiwork in the house.  He hand-carved every piece of exposed wood, incising intricate scrollwork and other details.  We also visited the famous church at Rancho de Taos – it was painted by Georgia O'Keeffe, photographed by Ansel Adams and probably painted and photographed by a few hundred thousand other people over the years.

Painting on the back porch

Taos Mountain, Sunspots 9x12 oil

In the afternoon, I tried my new palette out on Taos Mountain.  The light was fleeting – shifting sunspots as thunderstorms built over the landscape – but as the mountain and the field of sage in front of it were mostly in shadow, my magenta violet was really appropriate.  (I'm not sure if the two photos of my paintings show the true colors; I'll take better ones once I'm at my summer studio.)

Pizza for dinner at Taos Pizza Outback!


Dena Hill said...

Michael, I am loving the posts on your Taos retreat! Hopefully I will be able to join you on one of those someday! When you worte about dinner at Orlando's, my mouth watered! My husband and I were in New Mexico last November and Orlando's is where we fell in love with posole and red sauce!

violetta said...

Taos Mountain Sunspots is awesome.