Painted Deserts

I was born and raised on the East Coast, but I love the desert. I find it spiritual and cleansing. It’s also beautiful and therefore I’m drawn to do paintings of it.

My experience painting the desert began a while ago with a trip to Santa Fe New Mexico.  I enjoyed painting the adobe structures.  Unfortunately, I haven’t photographed any of these early paintings (which aren’t very good). If I do I’ll come back and add them.

In 2004 we went to Fountain Hills Arizona and addition to playing a lot of golf we did some hiking.  I painted this painting in 2004 from one of the photos I took on the hike.  It’s 28 x 22 oil on canvas. I liked the painting, especially the highlights and shadows in the mountains, but always felt it lacked composition.
Arizona Desert 2004 sm

In 2012 we went to Utah canyon country, which is unbelievably beautiful. I wasn’t painting much at the time, but when I started again the photos from that trip were some of my first subjects.  All three of these come from photos taken in Devil’s Garden, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Park. These are all 16 x 12 water mixable oil on canvas.

We’ll start with my least favorite of the three, the toadstools. I suppose I should skip this, but in the spirit of sharing both the good and bad in this blog I’m including it.  I didn’t really get a good 3D look here and the rocks below the toadstools never really worked.
Devils Garden Toadstools

This next painting is an arch and I like it better. I realized later that I missed an opportunity to get more highlights and shadows in the distant mountains.  The 3D effect in the arch itself is good.
Devils Garden Arch

I actually did this one on my iPad too, after I did the painting. In many ways like the iPad version better. The Procreate tools allowed for much softer shadows and features in the arch itself.  I also got better depth in those distant mountains.
Devils Garden Arch iPad

The third, and my favorite, is from a photo of a series of hoodoos on a very flat sandstone rock.  This actually looks much better in person than in this photo.  The photo flattened it out. The actual painting is very 3D.
Devils Garden Formation

I also did a watercolor study of this before I did this painting. I’m generally not very good at watercolor.  This is one of my better attempts at the medium.  Devils Garden Formation (WC)

iPad Art

I’m a big fan of my iPad. I’m always looking for new ways to put it to use, and drawing on it seemed like a possibility.  From my early iPad days I purchased apps like Brushes and Sketchbook Pro. More recently I got Procreate.  Mostly, I would tinker around with them but I’d get frustrated before getting too far.

Last spring I took a four-hour class through Falls Church Arts from Bobbi Pratte.  Bobbi is a wonderful landscape artist and I’m going to take an afternoon painting class from her in May. I’m looking forward to learning a lot.

In the class we experimented with Zen Brush, Sketch Club and Brushes.  After we’d done some experimenting with each Bobbi gave us each a photo of a flower and we “painted” them using Sketch Club.  I got a good start but ran out of time and had to finish my painting after class. The most important thing I learned was to use lots of layers! Below is my iris.
Iris

I was pleased with the results and since then II have gone on to do several more iPad “paintings”. Some have been studies that I did in conjunction with actual paintings, but others I just did for fun.  I will save the studies to discuss with the associated paintings.

Mostly I use Procreate.  I’m more comfortable with that than Sketch Club. I have tried several types of stylus — my favorite for painting on the iPad is the Sensu Solo.

As you know, I’m a big fan of butterflies, so I needed to try that out. Here is my monarch on pink pansies.
Butterfly

After some time of not doing much iPad art I was worried I’d lose my knack, so I took on something pretty challenging.  I drew the post office building from Nimrod Hall.  (Nimrod Hall is an art retreat in Bath County VA.  We’ll talk about that in a future post)
Nimrod PO

Finally, what’s really fun is that most of the apps record your brush strokes (mistakes and all) and you can play them back as a movie.  Below is the movie showing the strokes involved in me drawing the butterfly.  It’s 3 minutes and 16 seconds long.