Passing Storm 24"x24" oil/panel
I completed this landscape after working out issues with it for several weeks. It's interesting to look at progress photos and see how the momentum builds and looks so effortless when in fact there were so many little decisions I agonized over before finally reaching the final expression. When I begin a landscape it is all feeling, intuition and memory. I felt something when I gazed at a the clouds and sky during a stormy evening, it is that emotion I am intent on capturing... I do not think of color or shapes, I think of luminosity and the grandeur of the New Mexico landscape. How small I feel in the wind and oncoming storm. The vastness of the desert landscape and how the rolling hills are empty and quiet, beyond civilization and human's reach.
First I begin my painting with a concept; I see something that inspires me to paint. Usually that is the spectacular light of the sky against the desert horizon as in “Passing Storm”. I paint from memory, using thin layers to wash in the cloud formation, staying very loose and high key to keep the sky light and ‘airy’. For the foreground I use a large ratty bristle brush and umber with impasto medium to build texture of the grass and desert growth with thicker paint. I use a medium with calcite which is lovely to work with. After the texture of the foreground dries I use a palette knife to add color and establish values, this stage is shown above. This smooths the surface some but retains the look of grass and desert growth due to the texture from the previous layer. The beginning of a landscape is just prepwork for the effects I want to achieve in the final painting. I add a few spots of juniper bushes to establish my darkest dark and a strip of light along the horizon for my lightest light. This first step is just a whisper of what I want to capture.
After this dries I continue the painting with photo references or often going out to my own backyard for direct observation. I add more details. I refine the shape of the light and bottom of the cloud mass and distant hills.
Finally the sky is glazed with transparent color and semi-transparent color, and the top of the clouds are carved out alternating soft and hard edges to retain the loftiness of a storm cloud. The lightest light is layered one more time to create the most lightfast paint quality and most illumination. The warm glazes in the clouds and light radiating out across the low hills and foreground create the atmosphere I had envisioned in my first inspiration and concept. The texture and opacity of the foreground comes forward in the picture plane adding to the sense of depth juxtaposed against the smooth glazed sky. All the previous work has come together to create a sense of luminosity and grandeur of the desert sky during monsoon season.