Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Utah

My rock-climbing son-in-law tipped me off to Kolob Canyon, a group of finger canyons in the less frequented NW corner of Zion NP. A crisp Sunday morning with fresh snow coating on the peaks found me up early trying to make a special painting out of breathtaking scenery. I spent about 6 hours on three paintings there. This is my last and favorite. When my shoulder started hurting I was finally able to stop painting. This one was done about 6000 ft above sea level.


The wildlife I saw on this great spring trip to Mojave (the smallest and driest of US deserts) was numerous: birds which I could mostly not identify except for jays, wild turkeys, blue herons, roadrunners and black chinned hummingbirds. Mule deer, desert cottontail, black tailed jackrabbit, amargossa pupfish, the aforementioned kit fox in Death Valley and red racer in Las Vegas. I saw some other unidentified wild life in Vegas, too.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nevada

Nevada had been a challenge; wind, wind and more wind, which, of course brings dust in the eyes as well as a vigorously shaking easel. Stubbornness and sheer resolve urged me to set up my easel early one morning on a mesa
above the Virgin River Valley.  Hanging on to my painting and easel with one hand and trying to hit a moving object with the right color in the right place led to a rather abstract little landscape.



I love the complimentary colors of the bright green irrigated hay fields against the red dirt and rocks.

Cattle are scarce this trip to the southwest. Drought has sent them to market, I guess. The next ones won't be so affordable?

Back in Las Vegas with a few hours to kill I found Springs Preserve Botanical Garden . The garden is free. The museum and native animal exhibits have a fee. IMHO, it is the best thing in Las Vegas, since the art museum closed, although there is still Cirque du Soleil. So I was quietly sitting on a bench sketching the cacti when I saw a slithering 40" pink snake moving slowly and directly from one cactus raised bed to the next one. Sorry, I don't have a photo. It obviously did not see me. We were close! It was identified for me by the education center as a Western Coach Whip (commonly known as Red Racer). Pretty.

Monday, May 5, 2014

California

The April day that I arrived in Death Valley National Park the temperature at the Visitors Center was 93(F).  The dry hot wind was a balm to my thoroughly disgusted self after the winter that would not quit here in Vermont. In this vast other-worldly place I took my cue from the map and headed out to Artists' Drive and the many-colored rock walls. I looked and looked and chose my location to face into the setting sun as opposed to the lit up walls...beautiful, but not as interesting to me as this backlit view of mountains, rock and dry little bushes. 


I dawdled over packing up. The road was empty now and the silence of Death Valley mesmerizing. A true desert lover I wanted to be alone as night fell over my little moonscape. Finally, I slowly started my car on the return to the lodge. Almost immediately I startled a kit fox. She/he dove back into the den. What a lucky glimpse of a shy little animal. 

That is not the only time silent stillness paid off on my Eight Days in the Mojave Desert tour.

This is a 9x12 pastel painting and is for sale...like all the others not marked otherwise.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Louisiana

I found these three colourful "fish camps" in Grand Isle, Louisiana...about as far  as you can go south of New Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico coast; indigenous architecture. A quiet, peaceful respite from the Big Easy.

100% plein air...might tidy it up a bit, now that I'm away from biting flying beach bugs.

 We had hardly been there 5 minutes before I met the local cops...yes, I know I was speeding...38 in a 25 mph zone...hard to keep track of the sudden and unpredictable sign changes...but it is a good way for me to meet some locals and (them to ascertain that my daughter and I were not new criminals in town)....no ticket...just a friendly welcome to Grand Isle, after running some checks on us and our gray rental car whose registration said it was red. They got us turned around in the correct direction to our hotel, which the GPS was heading us away from when they pulled us over.

We decided this outpost (and site of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion and gigantic spill) was full of friendly folks. We did some nature trails, birdwatching and ran on back to New Orleans where we saw many wonderful things one could paint if one were not enjoying the gumbo, music, cocktails, singing, art, trombone playing, seafood, walking and handsome guitar players so very much. That easy southern life-style is catching. It sure was great to warm up for a week!

My 44th state...in the bag!



Monday, September 16, 2013

Michigan




Lake Huron tried to thwart my progress, but I did not end up at the bottom of it like so many before me (mostly boatmen...no plein air painters, that I know of). I kept my feet firmly planted on the shoreline and my eyes on the soggy wet skies in hopes of seeing a patch of blue. I saw all manner of threatening grey/black clouds. I saw rain driven sideways. I saw lawn furniture becoming airborne...and finally I saw a peep of blue. After a long morning of looking, driving, drinking coffee and trying to be patient, I knew just where there was a large beach pavilion with stone piers perfect for lashing my easel to. Yes, bungi cords of several lengths are a crucial part of my plein air gear. I chose the smallest board I had (8x10) because in those winds I did not want to be hoisting large sail.



Much to my surprise, as well as that of the three other people crazy enough to be on the beach that afternoon I was able to make an energetic little pastel painting. This is what I love about plein air painting; challenges met and spontaneous paintings-of-the-moment! Did I say it was barely 50 degrees and that it continued to rain sporadically, but thoroughly, all day? Oh yes, there was the 1200 miles driven, too. It was a great trip...this kind of exciting stuff rarely happens to me at home.

Flexibility is an important tool to pack in the plein air kit. Patience would come in handy, too, but I'm always losing the darn thing...it's so small.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Kansas


Jefferson County is where I finally found the cattle I'd been looking for. Really hot, they'd been fed and now they were headed for the watering hole. I'd never seen cows wading up to their eyes before, but, as I've said the temps were broiling hot and I was wishing for water up to my eyes, too. I had a great hour and a half working on this painting - I was in the shade. Different beefers would come up to the fence to investigate me. Satisfied that I was not bringing food or harm they would watch with those great brown eyes and then, bored, go off for more swimming, eating and mooing. I was thoroughly entertained by them. So, don't tell me there is nothing in Kansas. I am easily entertained by stock, clouds and huge open expanses.

This is the last of the Seven HOT Mid West States Trip. Not everyone thinks driving around the mid west is fun, but I do. Only eight states to go. I think I'll get on I 90  west soon for a couple days and paint something in Michigan, but I'm saving Louisiana for cooler weather. After those it's all West Coast, Nevada, Utah and Alaska. With any luck that will be in 2014.

All paintings unless marked sold are available for purchase by contacting me. 
rtilley(at)rodricatilley(dot)com

Monday, July 29, 2013

Oklahoma

Vinita, Oklahoma gave me the biggest challenge yet. The main street is a wide boulevard typical of Western cities. Early Saturday morning it was just me setting up my easel by the curb and the guy hosing down my main subject...this sparkling brick 5 story monolith. It wasn't long until trucks were rumbling past regularly. Their trailers carried hay, grain, poultry, cattle, hogs, goats, horses and equipment.   I was aware of the smells and sounds as they breezed by and now I know that goats do not go quietly like the other cargo. Two hours of that and It was becoming hard to concentrate so I pulled up stakes and hit the road myself, less than delighted with my choice of subject and it's execution. I knew I had most of a painting and it could be tinkered with back in the quiet of studio. The paper held the essence of morning light, at least. That is why we love plein air painting...it's authenticity and freshness.


Vinita is a rodeo town on the professional circuit; once a year there is a four day event at the rodeo grounds right across the street from my hotel, but not the weekend I was there. Too bad. I'd like to paint a cowboy portrait. I suppose some of the ropers and riders leave Vinita feeling a little defeated, too. At least I wasn't sore and broken.