Historic Empire Ranch Arizona Part I

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A recent visit to the old ranch that was homesteaded in the 1870’s. Painting the ranch and landscape is part of a project to embrace the environment visually, as part of an effort to save the Santa Rita mountains and area from being devastated by the proposed Rosemont Mine.

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The ranch is lonely and austere, and kept up by the Park Service. The structure I’m drawing in pastel is the old Hired Man’s House, an adobe structure also from the late 19th century.

 

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Imagining the old west: cattle days and cowboy architecture. Wind, turkey vultures overhead and a glimpse into time that exists in the past, present and maybe the future.

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For more information about Empire, go to empireranchfoundation.org. To learn about the project that opposes the building of the Rosemont Mine, go to: http://www.Lensontheland.com.

 

The Land is the Space.

Landscape painting reminds me of what keeps me grounded and centered – connecting to the land and the wisdom and peace it offers.

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This beautiful image  above was taken by a friend who lives at Rancho Linda Vista in Oracle, Arizona, a magical place indeed. The Sonoran Desert is unique, dramatic, inspires inward journeys and (im)practical escapes. My dog Frida feels empowered too.

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I had a show of landscape paintings last month at the Ranch gallery, in the old barn dating from the early years of the last century.

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Some good people up from Tucson town listened to me talk about my process, the land, painting.

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Below, “Aspen Grove”, 5 x 4 feet, oil on canvas, somewhere between reality and abstraction, states of consciousness, the spirit of the wood.

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Primal landscape: earth and sky. Kaua’i.

Winter:Dawn, Hanalei, Kaua'i.
Winter:Dawn, Hanalei, Kaua’i. Oil on Canvas, 4 x 5 ft.

 

 

This new painting will be featured in my upcoming show of Landscapes from Arizona and Kaua’i.

It was inspired by a visit a year ago to one of the most beautiful places on the planet: the northern shores of Kaua’i, Hawai’i.

I worked on the painting from memory and sketches done on site, and I also took some photos, just to jog my memory of how intense the sky was, and the delicate reflectiveness of the ocean. So primal, so endless, a wonder.

Sunrise over Hanalei.
Sunrise over Hanalei.

Hudson River Valley, New York

One week before hurricane Sandy hit, we had an absolutely bucolic experience in the town and environs of Hudson.

Being a transplanted easterner living in the southwestern United States, as well as a landscape painter, I longed for the soft green and dramatic splendor of Hudson valley October:  the fall colors. I set out to visit “Olana” the home estate of 18th century landscape painter Frederick Edwin Church. This was not just some estate.

The whole mountain is landscaped to allude to a pastoral and picturesque landscape, a view that Church used as inspiration in his work and continues to be cultivated according to his designs today. A picturesque view from the top:

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The spring fed lake in the distance, the majestic Hudson river in the distance, it is all a fine drama not to be believed. The glory and the power of nature. No surprise that Mr. Freddy was inspired to paint thrilling and meticulous monumental landscapes in oil, such as “Twilight in the Wilderness”, 1860.

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Sitting on a rustic bench facing the lake and river, I humbly sketch a little notation of the seemingly still pristine view, and thank the keepers of this beautiful place in our world.

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My heart goes to all of the displaced and adjusting victims of Sandy, and hope for adjustment and peace.

Terrifying Beauty

A new series of paintings includes one of an experience of an enormous wildfire here in southern Arizona in 2003: the Aspen Fire. My friend Chuck took this photo during the fire, looking towards the Santa Catalina’s, with Rancho Linda Vista in the foreground. Normally I never paint from photographs, but this one was incredible in it’s terrifying beauty, and took me 10 years to consider.

The Aspen Fire, 2003, Oracle, Arizona.

The reality of the experience was in the not knowing when the fire would end, what would be destroyed, when the monsoons would start. Black slurry planes flew over our houses en route to the core of the fire.

Recently when I sketched the experience in preparation for a large scale painting, I borrowed heavily from the composition of Chuck’s photo, but drew from the experience.

Colored pencil sketch.

Many months have gone by since beginning the final painting. Layers and layers of glazes and impasto, and finally I think it might be done.

“Seasons Series: Summer at Dusk”, oil on canvas, 4 x 5 feet, 2012.

The smoke becomes an abstraction as it pushes towards the Ranch. The sky looks clear against the black, grey and green of the smoke. The Ranch sits and waits.

Tucson Classical Atelier

This quick study (2 hours) is based on a 19th century botanical illustration, a favorite theme of mine to reference.

 

 

The first step to painting a copy is to map out the composition using a mathematical division of the space, and placing the image along the sweet spots of diagonals, horizontals, verticals, using charcoal.I will remove the lines with mineral spirits before continuing with the painting.

 

I then begin to mix the oil paints, using a limited palette of cadmium red deep and a green that I mixed from ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow light.

 

Next step, blocking in the background using a combination of the lightest value of the neutral: the middle string of mixed values (the result of mixing the red with green).

 

Then, a blocking in of the lightest lights over the entire image.

 

Continue with the darkest darks.

 

Finally…

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