Petrified Forest Residency: Travel, Sept 19

Caldwell, Idaho: too tired, too rainy, too much road, too tacky the surrounds, to do any painting outside tonight. I did drag out my colored pencils and sketch pad and ended up doing a pseudo-watercolor (pseudo because it was sketched and then scratched in with watercolor pencils and brushed over). I wish this piece were more Hopper-esque; the motel, while staffed by very pleasant folks, has the blankest walls and is the least alive place I’ve seen. The view out the window is of the roof of the entrance drive.  I found myself wishing for some motel art! I dabbled in some exciting TV scenes, thinking of lonely people in motel rooms, looking to the TV for their life.

The paper, a new sketch pad, wasn’t meant to be painted on, and my colored pencils are an odd mix of water and non-watercolor, not necessarily the right shades of either.  Maybe I should have stuck to a pencil sketch.

At any rate, I’m really mulling over the paintings I did yesterday. The one of the “empty” valley, pre-white settlers, uses the Cezanne-ish technique of tilting the back of the scene up toward the viewer. This has the effect of emphasizing as well as distorting the subject matter. I have to decide if and/or how much I want to lie that mid-ground valley down. It’s the heart of the subject, the place that I could imagine a band of native Americans, smoke from their fires, kids playing in the river (under the trees), women beading and gossiping, men gambling with stones and getting weapons and nets ready to retrieve an evening meal. But of course, none of that shows, and perhaps the tilt of the golden valley floor merely looks weird.

These are the questions that try the painter’s soul. The farmed valley sits more comfortably on the canvas — perhaps it was my discomfort with the thought of the displaced people that made the valley tilt.

There are other bits that will be worked on, but it’s this particular challenge that I’m thinking about as I ponder what I want in the final painting that will someday emerge from the first drafts.

Reporting on Sunday September 19, from Caldwell, Idaho, in a comfortable but unenergized motel room –June