A few years ago, I wandered off to Colorado by myself. All the many times that I went before, I was with family or friends, and my wanderings were tempered by the group's need for regular meals and sleeping patterns, and semi-compromised schedules of sight-seeing, and shopping.
As I drove out the straight red line map-course of my Garmin, along the top of Oklahoma, through the panhandle, I feared that I would be plagued by loneliness, and the disorientation of being alone.
By the time I got to the end of the panhandle, I began to be excited at the prospect of doing what I wanted when I wanted.
I stopped at Alabaster Caverns, Folsom, New Mexico, Capulin's extinct volcano, and everything else that caught my attention.
I slept in a tent in a road-side rest stop close to Clayton, New Mexico, downwind of the massive cattle feed lots (not recommended), with a howling panhandle wind, and broke my lantern on the first night of my exploration.
Finally in Southfork, Colorado, I planned on camping in the mountains, but a friendly lodge keeper let me sleep in a room over the laundry, saving cash for other things. Later I camped at Silverton, and Chaco Canyon, but for now it was nice to have a bed and home-base.
To the point, on one particular day of exploration, I made it to Big Meadows Lake, a favorite place for my family and extended family to visit and fish on every visit.
Being unencumbered, I decided to hike around the lake. It sounded like a giant proposition, but having water and time, I wandered at my own pace, and made lots of sketches.
This painting is from one of those sketches.
The original path was a little less defined, but still maneuverable. The rocks were bigger, and sometimes hindered a straight line hike.
The forest hugged me in a tight embrace. I thought I saw the trees, then i looked up and saw that there were more, and looked up further to see even more, and realized that one step off the path and I would be in wilderness.
8 x 10" acrylic study on canvas
Here's another Monument Valley study, 8 x 10" acrylic.
I painted this one a little warmer than the other Monument Valley studies, but still red, yellow and blue.
All the interest is in the middle ground. Although it's a little difficult to have 1/3 of the canvas be represented by flat, featureless land, it serves to shoot the viewer's attention across the desolate land, creating virtually infinite distance.
Man, I love old trucks. I don't want to own one, I just like to see them.
I remember my Grandpa's turquoise '55 Chevy pickup. That was a utilitarian vehicle. I remember him opening the hood, and the whole engine was there, easy to work on, no extras, no fluff. Not that I was or am mechanically inclined.
This truck is one I sketched long ago. I don't remember if it belonged to someone I knew, or if I just found it in a pasture.
Yep, there was a time when you just came across these beauties just sitting out on the back 40, usually full of chickens or pigeons.
I think, looking at the sketchbook that it came from, that this was in Southwest Oklahoma, down around Mangum.
The question will inevitably come up if it was Johnny's.
I just don't know.
In Montone, partway down the hill at the back entry gate, is L'Mugnaio, the town's bakery and pizza place.
Every day I walked down there for lunch. It's a dream for a traveler on a shoestring budget. Unlike some of the four and five star restaurants up the town square, L'Mugnaio can serve you an inexpensive lunch. A slice of pizza, customized to your liking...1 euro...a delicious handmade pastry...1 euro....a glass of great Italian wine...1 euro.
Three euros for lunch...unless you make the mistake I made...and order Pepsi. Evidently American soft drinks are just rare enough in Montone to cost 5 euros, in a glass, with just a little ice. Live and learn. But sometimes you just gotta have a Pepsi.
The other hang-out for the locals is the Aries Bar, on the piazza. I hit the Aries every morning for breakfast pastries and "grande cafe' Americano" much to the amusement of the locals who think I'm chugging a huge mug of espresso. The Aries is also the go-to place for afternoon gelato, evening pizza, if Michaele is in the mood, and evening drinks. (Oh my God...the "Spritz")
Back to my painting....As I walk down the steep path to the bakery, I pass this high wall of apartments with an ancient facade and remnants of very old murals still visible if the sun is just right.
Some days, all the windows are open and the Italian women are hanging out, sharing the local news, and keeping an eye on the going's on. On wash day, that venerable old wall comes alive with colorful laundry hanging from retractable lines.
Such was the view on this day. Mostly bedding with a few errant shirts and towels. All the more personal items are modestly hung on racks inside the house.
Here's my painting of Wash Day in Montone, Italy.
Down the path, on the back side of Montone, Italy sits a church...an ancient church.
That in itself was enough to pique my interest, and I sketched it several times.
I even set up with my watercolors and painted it from the side (at the time, the most interesting angle) several times.
The area was shady, and had a bench and table, so it was convenient enough and comfortable enough to spend lots of time painting and drawing.
What intrigued me most was that the back side was in virtually impenetrable undergrowth, with old debris and rocks blocking my way.
Like I said, I was intrigued. Feeling adventurous, I managed to navigate the debris with little personal harm, and came upon this wonderful door in the back. There were pigeons warbling around. The place was magic.
Once again, painted with only red, yellow and blue.
"Oh the things a painter can do, when he's armed with red yellow and blue"
Just had the first painting returned when one of my favorite galleries closed.
It's a 24 x 24" acrylic on canvas, called "Big Meadows Lake", and was painted in 2014.
The second painting below was created along the same lines, in 2015. It's also 24 x 24" acrylic on canvas.
I had forgotten how loose these painting were, and, once again, they are both done with red, yellow and blue.
I love the pure bright colors. That might be due to the fact they were painted before I had cataract surgery. Ha ha.
Anyway, this is the way I like to paint.
I'm really loving working on my Monument Valley paintings.
What an absolute perfect subject to portray with the primary colors.
This time, I substituted Cerulean Blue for the Windsor Blue. Beautiful purples, but really hard to get a good dark.
I finally relented, and just let the darks be what they are, and it's nice to see the ethereal dreamlike shapes come into being.
I also decided to let the sky be a simple wash...helps with the "ethereal-ish" quality overall.
This is one of my favorite 8 x 10" studies, created early in January.
I love the foreboding feeling that comes with an upcoming storm while the sun still shines brightly in one last hurrah, before getting doused with wind and rain.
Even the birds know what is about to happen, and scurry for cover.
Here, the bright oranges co-mingled with the purples and blues in the foreground create a little tension as the storm moves in.
I can smell the rain.
As is my wont to do, I love to paint the same theme multiple times with different color schemes and techniques.
Here, on the same day as the last Medicine Park, is Medicine Park II, again using the primary colors, but lightening the sky and working toward more pure color, substituting Carmine Red for the Cadmium Red used in the last painting.
Several years ago, I was the guest of a neat couple who had volunteered to house me as an artist in Lawton's Art for All Festival.
They had an incredible home in Medicine Park, near Lawton.
While there, I wandered and sketched the giant granite boulders and oak trees, and have painted them many times.
In fact, I painted this scene in oils a couple of years ago, and that painting is in a private collection here in Tulsa
Today I painted this 8 x 10" acrylic study from one of those sketches.
Micheal W. Jones
Thoughts and work from a mid-career artist working his ass off every day
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