Saturday, May 30, 2020

Elk Meadow Mornings - Phenomenal Light

Phenomenal Light

A long time ago at the outbreak of a confusing contagion, the foothills were pummeled by a big, spring snow. The morning after, Elk Meadow was interred in an arctic valley of ice.

Dawn had broken clear and cold as the storm quickly dissipated, revealing the faint contour of Bergen Peak. Frosted pine decorated the hillside, windswept drifts choked the gulch and strong sunlight resulted in an effect of phenomenal light.

The moody, gray sky was stubborn and it would not submit to the comfort of clarity for long. Foretelling desperate times ahead, the temperamental weather sullied the already dark mood.

The restless clouds were constantly shifting shapes, creating an unsettled panoramic vignette that tempered any sense of optimism. They converged and closed back in, crushing a hopeful spirit while erasing the skyline from view.

A second wave steam-rolled over the pass and we suffered the foreboding atmosphere in silence. Blue skies had made a brief appearance leading us to believe the storm was over but as the clouds reconvened, we discovered that it was really just beginning.

Pummeled by snow

Phenomenal light

Arctic valley of ice

Elk Meadow

Blue skies over Bergen Peak

A hopeful spirit

A dark mood

Tempermental weather

Frosted pine

A foreboding atmosphere

Spring snow in the foothills

A decorated hillside

Windswept gulch

Snow-dusted boulders

It was just beginning

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Potomac River - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Potomac River" Colored Pencil

It is a sultry, summer evening in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Potomac River drifts wearily through the West Virginia wilderness. Situated here, at the confluence with the Shenandoah, Harper’s Ferry is a historical village associated with Southern succession and the Civil War.

Squeezed into a spectacular gorge, the patriotic waterway encourages a slower pace notwithstanding its proximity to the bustle of big city life. The jungle environment is bursting with flowers and foliage that seem to be thriving despite the searing heat and tremendous thunderstorms.

An old railroad bridge, lush green hills and a purple sky are reflected faithfully across the surface of shallow water. The sharpest contrast occurs below the train trestle where the drawing’s darkest shadows are juxtaposed next to the sunniest highlights, creating some drama in the otherwise serene setting.

Patches of color close in value are paired with soft gradients that do not necessarily describe form but become design elements that unify the whole. A tapestry of cheerful pigment fills an abstract arrangement of organic shapes that when fused together give the impression of a bucolic scene.

Finally a dark silhouette of foreground vegetation frames the composition, creating a window into an unfamiliar, eastern landscape. While walking down the Appalachian Trail, contemplating a countryside so different from home, the conclusion must be that the beauty discovered in this place is just as divine as that found on the western frontier.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Simplicity - The Greatest Adornment of Art


“As I grew older, I realized that it was much better to insist on the genuine forms of nature, for simplicity is the greatest adornment of art.” ~ Albrecht Durer

Evergreen, Colorado is that magical place situated over the rainbow. Upon arriving 22 years ago, we discovered a land of silvery aspen where bluebirds fly, red foxes hide and each morning begins with a golden sunrise. Away from the confusion of suburbia, I found more time to simplify my work. The true essence of nature became obvious.

To simplify is difficult. I like to choose a motif and use all of my senses in a thorough examination. Observe the subject intensely and memorize the attractive, essential features. My camera is an indispensible tool in the process. It’s a digital eye that freezes a fleeting moment in time.

I have steep reverence for nature so when I wander alone into a remote wilderness, it’s a spiritual experience transporting me closer to heaven. In order to create an honest representation of the image fixed in my mind, the scenery is simplified while using bold contours and coloring. My drawings are heartfelt expressions depicting the grandeur of the American West.

Spectacular landscapes are much harder to break down because in my enthusiasm to replicate the scene, the inclination is to include every detail. Unfortunately when that happens, the soul of a place becomes lost and the expression becomes complicated and troublesome to grasp.

When drawing a tree, I try not to reproduce every branch and needle. I employ techniques in regards to pencil pressure and color blending while at the same time stylizing the essence of a solitary pine. I break the tree’s complicated shape down into its basic elements, exaggerate the color and capture its personality in an effort to create a more expressive piece of art.

If I’m lucky, I’ll dream about a work in progress. Then it’s almost as if the simplification becomes interwoven into the subconscious. In technical terms, the art theory is surprisingly simple. More contrast and colors equals complex, while less contrast and colors equals simple.

I’ve learned much from a deep appreciation of art history. The first cave paintings are sophisticated simplifications that exhibit a graceful elegance. Creating beautiful abstractions by eliminating unnecessary details while preserving the spirit of the whole is something artists have been striving to achieve ever since.

The temptation to emulate my artistic heroes is irresistible but my artist-father preached from the pulpit of originality. He urged me to stay true to myself and not be influenced by what others are doing. I was challenged to develop interpretations unspoiled by imitation, criticism and greed.

My approach is not formulaic. It’s been a matter of accepting and embracing my natural style while resisting the ever-changing, fashionable trends. An eternal mystery to me is how an emotion conceived in the heart emanates into an eager left hand where it’s delivered by pencil point for all to see.

Spending many years painting commercially to please a fickle audience, I was caught up in the competitive affectations of photorealism. A fascinating movement but if executed improperly the results can be cold and lifeless. I chose to follow my heart and returned to a little box of wooden crayons.

I’ve spent the past couple of decades laboring to uncover a nice middle ground between photo-realism and abstraction. In order to achieve this, I’ve spent countless hours studying nature, art history, science and religion but mostly I’ve worked on drawings. I’ve experimented with different compositions, color schemes and paper, hoping to arrive at a more personal interpretation.

I began listening to the old masters from the past. Albrecht Durer admitted, “As I grew older, I realized that it was much better to insist on the genuine forms of nature, for simplicity is the greatest adornment of art.”

Hans Hoffman instructed, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

Vincent Van Gogh revealed, “How difficult it is to be simple!”

The simplification of my style has been a gradual, uncalculated transformation. An arduous process chocked full of confusion, doubt and failure but in the end it’s worth it. For a humble truthseeker like me, it’s been a revelation to discover that the simplest things in life are often the truest.

A deep reverence for nature

The soul of a place

Eliminate the unnecessary

Embracing my natural style

Grandeur of the American West

A middle ground between realism and abstraction

It is difficult to be simple

An arduous process

Beautiful abstractions

A revelation

Stylize the essence

Exaggerate the color
Countless hours studying nature

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Animas Forks - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Animas Forks" Colored Pencil

It’s a warm, summer evening in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton, Colorado where the Animas Forks River is born above the tree line. The turquoise torrent cascades down through a rock-hewn canyon of purple cliffs and into a spectacular basin entombed by towering peaks.

A few rows of dark trees are scattered diagonally across the wide open tundra. A sulphur sun streams golden rays through a verdant sky, bathing the surreal scene in ethereal light.

The color choice is influenced by the high altitude where the blazing orb sears through thin air, tinging the atmosphere with sulphur which gives the sky its green cast. Notice how swirls of this emerald color are reflected in the river current below.

Flush with the optimism that comes from fine weather, the bright highlights sparkle with intensity. Notice how the same colors are being used in different areas of the drawing. Carrying common pigment into multiple places across the surface is an effective way to unify the composition.

The entire picture is composed from patches of flat color which deliver a powerful effect similar to woodblock printing or a stained-glass window. By doing a bit of shading, though, the static atmosphere is transformed into a more dynamic work of art. The soft gradations indicate the direction of light and define the different forms.

For no other reason than sheer joy, the pure yellow is injected into the composition, reminding the viewer that this humble drawing is merely a simple arrangement of abstract shapes and cheerful colors. These exciting hues more honestly express the awesome beauty of summertime in the mountains.

Like a beating heart, the earthen core permeates the landscape with a mineral warmth from the inside out. More than a century ago, this fragile environment was devastated by man’s greedy quest for precious metal and some of the unhealed slopes still bear scars.

Known for its raucous past, the historical location is now literally a ghost town. After spending time in this magnificent wilderness, I know one thing for certain - the wealth extracted from these mountains, today, is measured in beauty instead of silver and gold.

If you would like to read a step-by-step tutorial about how this drawing was created please check out this issue of Carrie Lewis' CP Magic Magazine.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Golden Hawk - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Golden Hawk" Colored Pencil

Perched on a high throne decorated with a wreath of autumn leaves, a golden hawk gazes over a vast empire. The royal color scheme of blue and gold is applied in patches of similar value, resulting in a posterized portrait.

Highlights and shadows are downplayed as the abstract contours exaggerate the drawing’s obvious two-dimensionality. The resplendent creature is static and solid suggesting a timeless permanence that symbolizes confidence, power and freedom.

This piece does not portray a specific individual but it is more of a generic representation of a dazzling species that is so often overlooked. The monarch’s feathers are barely insinuated and the tail stripes are reduced to a simple pattern.

The long, dark wing is devoid of detail, the ochre bib promotes a sand-colored chest and the yellow feet, equipped with sharp talons, melt into the mosaic of foliage. Cut out of a powder-blue sky, the noble profile of a bronze head is adorned with a curved, violet beak.

This memorable recollection of a frozen moment from the past has been transcribed onto a single sheet of white paper. The animal’s dignified spirit expressed by a compact arrangement of interlocking shapes and multi-layered pigment.