Road Trippin’ II: Skirting the Storm © 2015 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12 x 12 x 1½ inches • oil on 1.5" deep cradled Museum Series GessobordTM
private collection • Athens, Texas
I love driving under storm skies through the desert. As long as the storms are not directly upon us, that is! My mom loves to tell of the time she and my brother were driving through the desert on their way back from a trip to California and the lightning display in the clouds along the horizon all around them was so spectacular they had to pull over and get out of the car just to watch the glorious show for a while before continuing on their way.
My favorite part of painting this one was the abstract feel of the clouds and the surface of the highway.
Here are my work-in-progress photos:
1. Here’s my reference photo, with grid lines added so I can get my composition just right when I sketch the scene onto my Gessobord.
My palette for this painting:
Viridian green light
Cadmium yellow pale
Cadmium yellow medium
Cadmium yellow deep
Cadmium red medium
Rose madder light
Persian (Indian) red
I also started working on making the distant mountains grow lighter as they move farther away, darker on the left, moving to lighter on the right, as they disappear from view behind that orange hill where the road curves out of sight.
Below is a close-up view of how I made the distant rain on the mountains. I took my clean, flat brush and while the paint was still wet I just made one light stroke from the top of the purple area on that lowest rain cloud, down through the cerulean strip, into the white, stopping just at the mountain top. Then cleaned my brush by swishing it in my Turpenoid and wiping it off with my rag (a paper towel in this case), before making another stroke the same way beside it.
I repeated this for just one or two more strokes. Just a SUGGESTION of distant rain … didn’t want to overdo it! This is a detail that the viewer wouldn’t notice right off, but maybe after a few seconds of looking at the painting: Oh, look! it’s raining over in the mountains!
I saved the car until last.
6. I got to this point, declared it finished, and signed it, but something about the colors was just a little off balance for me. I couldn’t put my finger on just why that was until after I had studied the painting on and off for a whole day. Then I realized what it was that was bugging me: the reds in the desert and in the rocky area on the right were just a little too warm for the stormy color scheme. So I layered on just the teeniest touch of magenta on those reds to cool them down a tad -- you can see it in the red area to the left of the car in the close-up picture above, which is from the final version, below.
A subtle, barely noticeable change, I know, but it did the trick for me, and now the painting seems more cohesive, color-wise.
Oh, and I also warmed up the yellow dividing lines in the road by layering on a little more cadmium yellow medium. And I extended that dark area between the two stripes go a little farther up before the two yellow lines seem to merge in the distance.
And NOW I’m done!