Diary of a Residency, Day 38, March 25, 2009

We went back out to Death Valley, to Zabriski Point, today. Jer hiked down to Gower¬† Gulch and I painted one of the 18 x 24″ boards. The sun was hot, the wind was blowing, but the board stayed put and the painting was well along by the time he returned.

zabriskipointdraft1wThe photo was taken in the Red Barn, where I had Jer drop me off on the way back to Beatty. There I had a couple of good solitary hours to work on this painting and the two I did yesterday. All three are just about finished, although I only remembered to photograph this one. I’m quite pleased with the way it came out. At 5:30 pm, the painting looked like this:

zabriskipointfinalwZabriski Point, Death Valley, 18 x 24″, Oil on board.

Friends of ours are flying in from Lake Havasu (literally flying in a light plane) any minute now, so this is reported from the Goldwell House, Beatty, Nevada, in haste, and contentedly.


Diary of a residency, Day 37, March 24, 2009

I got back to painting today. And it went well. It was a bit chilly and windy this morning, but when the time to paint comes, it comes. And sometimes it isn’t as bad as one imagines.

I went off with my now-ratty painting coat and gloves, heading for the Beatty Cut-off road to Death Valley. As you leave Beatty you climb through a couple of road cuts. The second one opens out into the Amargosa Plain (Playa/Valley) and you see the road going off into the distance, to the cut through the Funeral and Grapevine Mountains at Sunlight Pass before entering Death Valley proper. The ideal place to paint would be in the middle of the highway, right at the road cut. That being rather dangerous, I opted to climb the hill on the right, hoping to get both a good view and a place somewhat sheltered from the wind. I went around the tip of the hill, found my spot, and saw Jer below, willing to carry up my cart and gear, so I wouldn’t lose track of where I was standing. I painted from there. It felt good.


Between Beatty and Rhyolite, oil on masonite, 12 x 16″, 2009

The painting needs a tiny bit of tweaking, but given that this is the fourth time I’ve painted the plain (but not the road) it seems fairly complete.

The other painting I did this afternoon, in Beatty itself, at the general store, officially now the Beatty Mercantile, but still having the Lost River Trading Post sign on its highway side. The store looks modest on the outside, but has vastnesses within which could hold treasures. We frequent the store frequently, and so it has a special place in our hearts — oatmeal and raisin bran are essentials of life.

Behind the store is my old joy, the Beatty Mountain, which I’ve also painted three or four times (depending on whether you count the failures or not). So the modesty of the store against the largeness of its background made a fun combination.


The Beatty Merc (unfinished), 12 x 16″, Oil on masonite, 2009

This painting is missing both its sign and the Volkswagon bus coming down the highway. They will be inserted soon. My view was blocked by a large white trailer being fussed at by the driver, and so I felt like I didn’t really get to work as much on the building as I wished. But the blocking of my view forced me to look more at the mountain, so it might have been providential. I do like that mountain.

Tomorrw we are going back to Zabriski Point — nothing like painting the place where everyone has to sling a brush.¬† I’m not going to Google to find out who else has painted there; I fear to see too much of others’ works.

Reported from the Goldwell House, Beatty, Nevada, where we are getting ready to watch a video. Such decadence!

[ed. note: the link to the Beatty Mercantile is actually a link to a report from Beatty’s Fourth of July parade in 2009, which the Mercantile donated to. The link is written by the fellow who made ice cream with his solar panels, courtesy of the Goldwell Foundation. All part of the fun. We missed this, but were there in spirit. And the link gave us more to day dream about.]


Diary of a Residency, Day 36, March 23, 2009

I continue to vacation. Sleeping in, napping, acting the tourist.

We spent yesterday driving through the eeriest dust storm (in Death Valley and the Amargosa plain) that I’ve ever experienced. At least, I think it was a dust storm. Maybe it was a saline rain. We actually had a few drops of rain on the windshield at Sunlight Pass, as we went from Beatty down into Death Valley. In Death Valley itself, the wind was constantly changing direction and the dust from the saline flats would obscure first the Panamints on the west and then the Grapevines on the east, then turn north and fly right into our faces and then suddenly veer off and the sun would be shining and the sky blue.

The wind was fierce and cold. I took my painting gear and lusted over painting at Zabrisky Point (another area like Golden Canyon; in fact, directly above Golden Canyon with a trail head leading down to the Golden Canyon trail.) But the wind was too much for me, and the cold racked my bones. We drove up to Dante’s View, but I took four photos and jumped back in the car. Jer managed to stay out a couple more minutes, but that was it.

On the return home, we went on the Death Valley Junction, past the Amargosa Opera House where we had seen Marta Becket’s performance the night before. There we turned north, heading back to Beatty, through something that resembled fog or dust or both, with a dim sun and a bruised sky. It was like we were heading into a science fiction scene — I almost expected to hear the spooky music rising as we got closer to the Beatty Narrows.

However, we got back to First and Valley safely , turned on the lights, and all was completely normal. No aliens appeared.

Today I spent most of the morning and half the afternoon writing and editing vignettes for the back of the paintings. George Radomski wants to sell them to tourists, and I thought an explanation of how each was painted and a bit about the process for the paintings would be good for his sales. We went out to the Barn Studio to check to make sure I hadn’t missed any painting and had conversations with a couple who had a specific interest in Rhyolite and Goldwell (Carla Henry and her husband), and after they left, Betty and Fred appeared. They invited us to go with them down Titus Canyon to Death Valley, where we can’t take the Honda, on Thursday, and we agreed to that. So our week is filling up rapidly. Tomorrow it’s possible that friends in a light plane will appear at the Beatty airport — it will be great to see them and show them this country. They are from eastern Oregon and Texas, so they will have interesting comparisons to make.

We came back to Beatty after chatting with Betty and Fred and checking the information I had keyed into the computer, and I made did more editing to the texts for the paintings. Then I took a nap. We went off into the Bare Mountains about 6, to explore a fluorspar mine road we had been told about and saw more gorgeous country, crying to be painted. Alas, not today. Not this time ’round, I fear.

Here’s a good night view of Beatty from that gravel road.


I’m going to try to fit in 3 more paintings before we leave for home, but I’m not quite sure when or how. Tomorrow I want to head out to the roadcut on the way to Rhyolite, where the road goes down the hill and then straight through the Amargosa desert to the Grapevines Mountains.¬† If I can capture the rocks at the cut as well as the road heading off the top of the canvas, I’ll be delighted. And if the weather is good, we will go back to Zabriski Point on Wednesday. Thursday, I’m hoping to put in a couple of hours on a¬† Beatty painting before we go up Titus Canyon. And then it will be Friday and time to set up the Open Studio. So much to do, and so little time. And I’m not making any bets as to whether I will actually accomplish these 3 paintings. But sometimes writing things down helps me keep my promises to myself.

As of today, I have 26 paintings that I’m willing to show (and 4 that are hiding in embarrassment and one that was painted over).¬† Not even close to a painting a day.

Here are photos from the Death Valley storm:


This is the way the “dust” storm looked at the pay station on the Beatty Cut-off road, just as you enter Death Valley. It was on the way to this stopping point that we has a spray or two of rain and thought maybe it was raining in the Valley. And maybe it was. But we saw no more evidence of any such thing.

dvstormsaltblowingBlowing salt with blue sky above. This is the split in the road, going to 190 east and west.

dvstormfurnacecreekAt the Furnace Creek Ranger Station. Ordinarily the mountains across the way are crystal clear.


dvzabriskipoint2flatsZabriski Point’s golden formations. The second photo shows the rising clouds of dust and/or salt over Death Valley.

dvdantesviewDante’s View, although I think I was in his hell, not just looking at it.

Reported from the nice wind-free quarters of the house at Valley and First, Beatty, Nevada.