Saturday, September 17, 2016

Grand Canyon 2016 - Part 8

Saturday, September 17, 2016

I thought I’d take a moment to talk about my evolving palette. Many of you have asked what I use and if it changes from Maine to Arizona. Up until this week, I have used what is basically a split-primary palette. And no, the palette doesn’t change. In the photo above, you can see the these colors in the top row, from left to right:
  • Cool yellow (cadmium or hansa yellow light)
  • Warm yellow (cadmium or hansa yellow deep)
  • Warm red (cadmium red light)
  • Cool red (permanent alizarin crimson)
  • Blue (ultramarine blue, which is a blue with red in it and next to cool red on the color wheel)
  • Green (phthalo green)
Rather than two blues, I prefer use use a blue and a green. I feel it enlarges the gamut, or offers more color mixing possibilities.  That's titanium-zinc white on the left.

This week, however, I’m finding it advantageous to add some earth colors. These are in the column on the right, from top to bottom:
  • Yellow ochre
  • Burnt sienna
  • Raw umber
  • Prussian blue
Prussian blue, of course, isn’t an earth color, but I’ve found it plays so well with the earth colors and is perfect for the skies and canyon blues this week. That last little dollop in the column is Gamblin’s Solvent-Free Gel. It’s my medium when I don’t want to thin with Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits.) It also helps the earth colors stay glossier. Earth colors tend to go matte, whereas the modern colors tend to stay glossy.

Now you are asking, Why the earth colors? To make the colors of the canyon, it’s just faster and easier to use these rather than mix the equivalent with the split-primary palette.

My process is to first tone the surface with Gamblin’s transparent earth red (all my colors are Gamblin) to get a nice warm effect going. Next, I paint as much as I can with the earth colors. Then, since the earth colors dull down so easily, I move to my split-primary palette if any of the colors need to be richer. This is especially the case with sunlit areas, where I might need a warmer, more intense light than I can achieve with yellow ochre. I might use the cadmiums here. In the darks, I might add touches of ultramarine, alizarin crimson or even phthalo green.

Now, on to my journal.

Chimney by Mary Jane Colter at Hermit's Rest

After delivering my final painting Friday around noon, I was beat. It’d been a busy week. But I had a breather, with nothing really to do until Saturday, when two fun-filled days of hob-nobbing with collectors will begin. So I took the afternoon off. A couple of friends surprised me by coming up from Sedona, and we had lunch together. When lunch was over, they had to head back, so I was once again on my own. I decided to drive slowly out to the end of the West Rim Drive to Hermit’s Rest and take a hike there.

As Arizona goes, it wasn’t very hot -- 82 degrees -- but the sun at 1 p.m. was intense, even for being so near the autumnal equinox. I smeared on the sunblock, put on my hat and grabbed two bottles of water. I began to hike down the trail and quickly realized, yes, it was indeed hot. I decided to go off-trail and hike along a rock shelf that followed a contour line.

As it turns out, it was a very pleasant detour. I came across twisted, graceful junipers; patches of blooming apache plume and mountain mahogany; agaves that had recently sent up flower stalks and were now green with fruit; and of course there were the ravens, playing. I strolled for about an hour, all told.

Next stop was Pima Point. The view there is amazing. You can look back to Hermit’s Rest and see the trail winding far, far below. All the layers of the Earth lay open, peeled back by erosion like the layers of an onion. I stood at the rail for a long time, entranced. It was a very spiritual moment, and for awhile, I was no longer a painter but a witness to the ages.

From there, I went home. It was time for a rest and to engage my mind with something other than painting. When you are painting for a festival, you are always spending your creative energy and not earning it. You empty the bank. It’s good to have a break just before the end to take a little in. Hiking and sightseeing is part of that; so is sitting down with a book or magazine or movie.

After my rest period, I went off to hear a talk given by Curt Walters. Curt, who lives in Sedona, has painted Grand Canyon for many years and has won many awards for his work and kudos for his activism in helping to preserve the Canyon. He showed a retrospective of his work and talked about how it had changed over the years, and why.

Now it’s Saturday morning. The Quick Draw starts very soon. Artists are expected to check in at 7:30 with the starter pistol going off at 8. We’ll paint for two hours along the Rim, between Verkamp’s and the Bright Angel trailhead. At 10, we are expected to deliver our paintings finished and framed to the auction table at the Bright Angel trailhead. The auction starts at noon.

Finally, the day will end with the Grand Opening at 5 pm at the Kolb Studio. This is a ticketed event and allows you to get first pick of the paintings. The public opening isn’t until Sunday at noon. I hope to see you at all these events! Visit for details.

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