Thursday, February 18, 2010

Painting Snow in the Desert !

"Bridge Mountain Blues"
Oil on Linen
9" x 12"

We have had so many wonderful rain storms here in Las Vegas this winter and most of them left snow in the mountains for us to enjoy for weeks. I have been in heaven painting the beautiful snow and waterfalls of the Red Rock Canyon escarpment. The valley floor with all the dry washes full and rushing with the runoff are all so dramatic. I hardly knew what to paint first. Thank-you El Nino!

Early this winter I painted color charts for my oil palette. I have posted the chart for ultramarine blue deep above. The instructions for making these charts can be found in Richard Schmid's book "Alla Prima". This book can be see in the background of this photo and it is open to the pages that explain how to mix the colors. I used 1/4" masking tape between the squares of colors as advised. I made these charts on Gessobord which worked fine and they come in different sizes. I have pulled the tape off in the upper section so you can see the straight edges. The lower section where I am adding yellows and reds to the blue (to make green or purple squares) still has the tape on so the edges are still irregular. Of course these are oils so they take weeks to dry and you must pull the tape off while the paint is still fresh and wet.

This photo shows five of the seven charts I have finished. I still have 3 to 4 more to make. If you are thinking of starting to work in oils I highly recommend doing the charts. Each chart is dedicated to one color on your palette. This gessobord is 18"x 24" so there is plenty of room for two colors to be studied on one board. For example, yellow ochre is at the top section of the chart on the left side of the photo and burnt sienna is the section below it. That particular color is painted straight out of the tube and unmixed in the farthest left column. It is then mixed separately with each of the other colors on your palette. That new mixed color is painted in the square at the top of the next column. And that new mixed color is also mixed with white to four graduating values and each of those values is painted into a square going down the column. This has simplified the process of finding the right color, value and formula for any passage in a painting. It does take time to make the charts but it was truly worthwhile.


  1. Your painting is beautiful. No wonder you have not posted for a while - you have spent an unbelievable amount of time working on your panels of color. I have a book of colors I did in my watercolors, that people tell me looks like work, but it is nothing compared to this!

  2. Thank-you so much Deb! These color studies really are invaluable. Glad to hear you have done them too. They make painting so much more pleasurable.


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