Monday, August 27, 2012

"Chaco Canyon Memories" (oil on linen; 8" x 10")

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The view

Have you ever been to Chaco Canyon?  It is one of my favorite national parks ever.  If you are planning a vacation in the Southwest, it should be at the top of your list of places to visit.  My husband and I had been to Chaco Culture National Historical Park back in 1993 and we wanted to show our daughter this awesome place.

Two years ago, on a typical, hot, summer day in New Mexico, we were back at this amazing monument to a native American civilization.  It was as impressive as I remembered.  While my husband and daughter were checking out some archaeological sites, I set up my easel at Una Vita, apparently over an ant hole. Huge black ants soon crawled all over my feet, my art gear--just everywhere. I got stung.

Ouch, so I moved. Perhaps, I had offended the spirits of the Ancestral Puebloans. The evil ants followed me, swarming all around, biting, hurting. I even got bitten on my neck! At this point, you may be wondering why I didn't spray myself with a bug spray. I did, and it didn't do much good.

Clouds kept moving.  Since I didn't have the wisdom to plan out the value scheme at the outset, I had to chase the clouds, changing values every five minutes in between scratching the itchy spots and crushing as many ants as I could.  Did I mention the heat?  The sun was beating down on me.  Although I was partially shaded by my umbrella, my right side was exposed to the sun and was burning.  A painting session turned into an extreme sport. Ah! Perils of plein-air painting.

"Chaco Canyon Memories" had been hanging in the foyer of my house since then, always evoking the unforgettable memories.  But something bothered me.  Last week I took it down, looked at it for a long time, and finally figured out the problem.  The middle ground in the shadow may have been there at some point while I was painting, as you can tell from the scudding clouds in the sky.  But it didn't make sense to the viewer.  The dark middle ground had also the unintentional side effect of throwing the formation in the background into prominence. 

As soon as I brought back the sunshine to the troublesome spot, the background receded, blending into the land itself.  After more textures were added to the foreground sage brush, I was finally satisfied with the painting.  Now I can fully enjoy the memories of my family vacation to the Southwest.

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