Goldwell Open Air Museum: diary of a residency

Day 1, February 16, 2009

We arrived in Beatty, Nevada, 100 miles north of Las Vegas, on Sunday, February 15th. We stayed at the Phoenix Inn,  currently under renovation by a friend of Charles and Suzanne Hackett-Morgan, who are the founders, chief board members, and construction/clean-up crew of the Goldwell Open Air Museum.

The Phoenix Motel is worth a painting all its own.


The Phoenix Inn, Feb 2009

This is the newly renovated front section of the motel. The motel consists of 4 long rows of trailers, with interesting stairs to the as-yet unrenovated parts, and this striking front. The owner plans to call it the Atomic Inn and is working on a 50’s theme. The new renovations were just fine, and we got to use one of those key cards that you don’t insert, but merely wave in front of the lock.

As usual, we are disoriented and grumpy by the time we arrive at our destination. I painted four of the days we were on the road, but the socializing with David Lancaster and the Hackett-Morgans at the Red Barn (four miles east of Beatty) and the Goldwell House in town wiped me out. Monday it was cold and rainy (in the desert!) and mostly we  were waiting around to get into the house and settle in. So the last two days, the 15th and 16th were useless for painting and fraught with various whinings and whimpers.

But we are now settled in. Here are the paintings  I did on the road. No touch-ups yet;  at the very least, all the words on the signs have  to be painted in. The Red Barn studio looks like it will be great for a painting studio, and I have a place here at the Goldwell House in town in which I can paint.


The Redding Motel, California, oil on board, 12 x 18, Feb 12, 2009 (Recycled after six months)


Days Inn in Chowchilla, CA. Oil on board, 12 x 16, 2009 Feb 12.


The Barstow Best Western, California, 12 x 16, oil on board, 2009, Feb 13 (recycled after six months)

Below is a photo of my plein air set-up in Barstow, where I could paint outside instead of from the motel window.


I see immediately that my palette changed — payne’s gray, pinks, violets.

My goal in this six weeks is to achieve a fresh look with the hamlet-scapes — to try to avoid the pains-taking, over-cautious look. This may be a mistake and I may have to go back to my squinting little brushes. Those cautious paintings feel a bit cramped; perhaps I can uncramp them without losing the wacky look that I like –Underwood’s faux naive.

The second goal is to achieve a way to deal with the massive landscape that surrounds us here in Beatty. I’m thinking at the moment of panels which make up a whole of a mountain, but which are painted separately and don’t quite match, perhaps, either in palette from day to day and time of day or using the Hockney/Downes ideas of perspective, or overlapping but not seamlessly panoramic. The confusion of syntax matches the confusion of mind.

I have four 5-foot panels that could be mounted one above the other.

I have 4–5 18 x 24 that could be mounted in a rectangular way.

I have a large canvas roll that can be cut in practically any way I care to. I may save it for last, or I may use it early on to see what size works well.

Big brushes for these. Lots of paint. Differing times of day. Focus on one view, easily accessible, for each set of panels.

Then there are the plein air outings, with the 12 x 16 masonite panels — the hamlet-scapes and landscape sketches. I may have to use the canvas roll for these too. Must remember to leave ample margins for stretching.

And so, on Feb 16, if I haven’t painted, at least I have a plan. Tomorrow to the red barn. Or the Phoenix Motel…. Maybe the¬† sun will shine.

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