Friday, August 3, 2012

Extreme Painting: Arkansas in July

I paint on a lot of cliffs. At least this one has a rail.
With temperatures going above 100˚F everyday, painting outdoors is not a good idea. Artist Jason Sacran and I tried to create a plan that would be safe and bearable. We would get up early and try to do a painting before the heat really kicked in. We'd spend the afternoons in the studio and end each day with a sunset or nocturne. The first morning worked like a charm. We drove to the top of Mount Magazine, the highest summit between the Appalachians and the Rockies. It was at least twenty degrees cooler on top than down on the plains. With a slight breeze, I was actually comfortable.

Cameron Bluffs, 6 x 12, oils.
That afternoon we headed for the studio where Jason finished up some in-progress paintings and I started my first self-portrait. The plan of attack was to paint just like doing a landscape, blocking in the major shapes and then breaking them into smaller ones and saving a few details for last. It was great having a portrait specialist around for feedback.

Fifty-Two, 11 x 14, oils.
For the evening we went back up Mount Magazine to paint the sunset. I ended up chasing the light and creating a piece that I will not post here. Hey, they aren't all winners. The most exciting moment was coming upon what we believe was a young mountain lion. We were within 50 ft. and got a good look at it. It was larger than a German Shepherd, had short hair, no stripes and roundish ears. The last three details don't match the description of the more common bobcat.

A Bit Drafty, 6 x 12, oils.
We had a stream in mind to paint the next morning but found it completely dried up and ended up painting at an old farmhouse near the studio. Jason painted Mount Magazine with an old fence line in the foreground. The composition required standing in full sun and Jason had to quit after only 45 minutes. He still pulled off a nice piece. I chose to set up in a shady spot and paint an old barn. I loved the yellow green light pouring through all the cracks. Still, it felt dangerously hot and when we got back to the studio, his outdoor thermometer read 105˚F in the shade. It would eventually reach 113˚F. We opted for a nocturne that evening but got caught in a thunderstorm after about 20 minutes of painting. The rain felt great and was desperately needed.

I'd love to paint in the Arkansas River Valley again but next time let's make it Fall or Spring.

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