The mountains are calling
and I must go.
JOHN MUIR (1838-1914)
Road Trippin’ © 2015 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12 x 16 x ¾ inches • oil on ¾" cradled Ampersand Museum Series GessobordTM
private collection • Chicago, Illinois
Warmer weather gets me thinking about road trips, like this one a couple of summers ago to a family reunion in Colorado. This is just as we were crossing the border from New Mexico into Colorado. Love that glorious, crisp summer light!
The palette I used for this one is the same as in Monday’s post, and here my work-in-progress photos:
1. On my reference photo (which I work from on my computer screen) I put grid lines to help me block in my subject in just the right position on my board.
2. The rough-in, using French ultramarine thinned with Gamsol. Along the sides you can see where I made little marks with my brush to indicate where the imaginary grid lines should be, and little cross marks in the middle to indicate where the lines would cross each other. Notice how I made perspective lines along the top and bottom of the fence posts; this is an easy way to get the height of each post just right.
In this stage I want to keep all the colors transparent, so I’m thinning with Gamsol for a watercolor effect. The way I do this is just dip the brush in my little container of thinner, then just barely in my paint, and wash it onto my board. Sometimes for large areas I’ll brush a good bit on and then spread it around lightly with a paper towel or clean paint rag. To get a darker color, like the ultramarine I use on those dark trees, I use just a little more paint. It doesn’t take much!
The sky and the farthest mountain in my photo have warm pink undertones, so I choose brilliant pink for those, and mixing in a little white for the sky because it’s a little lighter than the mountain. The white will tend to make my pink opaque, but thinning keeps it a transparent lighter pink.
You can see in the reference photo that the road is really four main strips of color. The far left (oncoming) lane is lightest, and sort of pinkish, the tire-worn areas of the right lane are a little darker, and purplish, and the center of the lane and the shoulder of the road are a little lighter, but not as light as that far left lane. I could have used pink instead of green there, but I wanted to make those a slightly cooler temperature than that far left lane.
The mountains have three main areas getting lighter as the ridges recede into the distance. The middle one has slight green undertones, I used Caribbean blue and turquoise there, and permanent mauve for that closest, most purple mountain.
Since I’ve been practicing working with a true impressionistic palette, I have been leaving off the black, so for the fence posts and those power poles, I make a tiny mixture of diox mauve, Caribbean blue, and a little orange and red to make a rich dark brown. French ultramarine and diox mauve for the trees, and last but not least, yummy Cadmium red medium as the underpainting for the grassy areas, to make them really shimmery with summer light.
NOW, I stop to have my lunch and let this stage dry for about half an hour. It won’t be completely dry, but mostly.
Next I paint in the mountains. For all these areas I put on some generous strokes of white and then brush in my colors, mixing right on the painting instead of on my palette.
After this I work on painting the road. This to me is the most interesting part of the whole painting. I spent a good hour painting this part. Notice how I just left a block of blue where the car will be.
Oh, and I made the car red, just because. Artist’s prerogative.