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Sunday, March 19, 2023

Extreme Makeovers for Plein Air Paintings: From the North Rim

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Madeover: From the North Rim, 12x9 Oil
Available, PM/DM me if interested
Read about my process below

(Continuing my series of Extreme Makeovers for Plein Air Paintings.)

Why's the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park such a crowd scene?  Well, it's incredibly easy to get to.  Major roads from Flagstaff, I-40 and elsewhere zip you right to it on a beeline.  The North Rim, on the other hand, isn't so easy.  The drive from the South Rim's visitor center to the North Rim is a good four hours.  And because of snow and high terrain, the road from Jacob Lake, the only road that gets you there, is open just from mid-May through November.

Even though I've painted the South Rim many times, I've managed to get to the North Rim just once.  On an early November RV painting trip to Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs in northern Arizona, my friend M.L. Coleman and I decided to head to the North Rim.  Unfortunately, this was right after a full federal budgetary shutdown (thank you, Congress), and the Park had laid off most of its employees because of it.  Because of the lack of staff, the only road open was the one that goes to the Grand Canyon Lodge. This was unfortunate, because other roads lead you to some fantastic views, especially near Point Imperial and Cape Royal.  Because of this—and the fact that the long drive had cut into our time and we still had to find a campsite for the night—we stayed only long enough to do one painting each.  

For some reason, my painting skills were off that day, and I was never happy with what I came away with.  As I was going through my boxes of old paintings, this one struck my fancy as one that I could improve easily.

Camping at Marble Canyon, heading to the North Rim

North Rim view

North Rim view

Grand Canyon Lodge

Posed photo, but yes, I'm painting

I'm sorry I didn't take progress shots on this painting, but the changes were simple.  (I've included some travel shots above for interest.)

1. Original painting, 12x9 oil on linen-covered board.  I don't like that this piece is trapped in mid-values.  It has a somewhat warm and hazy appearance—I don't remember, but maybe it was hazy that day from controlled burns—and I want to correct this by extending the value range. The painting also has a single focal point, the foreground cliff, and I want to give the eye another place to wander to.

2.  Makeover.  I lighten the top of the foreground rock, apply richer greens to the vegetation there, and also add some darker notes.  This pulls the rock closer to the viewer and increases the sense of depth in the view.  To enhance this depth more, and to cool off some of the piece's overwhelming warmth, I add richer blues to the distant, vegetation-covered cliff areas.  Finally, to add a secondary point of interest, I add some raking light to the distant cliffs.

Will I go back to the North Rim?  I hope so.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Larry Seiler on Wetcanvas once referred to it as a "Mid-value Crisis". It was like an ear worm that stuck with me. I think it happened to my amateur self much more while plein air painting. I always felt that the better lighting ourdoors made me overrate my value-contrast and chroma.

Thanks for this great blog. Gary