The dramatic vertical cliffs of Diablo Canyon Recreation Area make the area a hiking and climbing destination near the Rio Grande. The eastern cliff walls are on BLM-managed land and the western cliff walls are managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Diablo Canyon has been featured in movies such as The Missing, 3:10 to Yuma, and Cowboys and Aliens. The cracked basalt of Diablo Canyon offers some of the best multi-pitch tradition and sport climbing in New Mexico.
We drove out on Easter Sunday, a rare cloudy day in New Mexico. Traditionally plein air painting holds the challenge of fast moving, ever changing light. the sun moves quickly across the sky. Not so with flat light which invites all the lolly gagging you might want to do. We had a picnic a short hike did some photo reference shots all in good time.
Because of the location I brought a couple of colors for the palette that I don’t normally use in the studio. Transparent Earth Oxide and Indian Red. These colors added a richness to my earth reds.
I started with a light lavender sky. I thought it would be a nice compliment to the sandy yellow/buff foreground . I found a spot right away that gave me a vantage point of being above the pinions and junipers. The composition of the canyon walls seemed to call out for a square composition. I chose an 8×8 wind river panel of portrait grade linen. I prefer a really smooth surface. I keep my compositions simple and more abstract. My main reason for the journey is to come home with an experience and a color study. I like allowing each plein air experience to filter thru my regular studio practice and observe the ways I am impacted rather than set out with a too specific goal in mind and push to make something happen.
When I think of what it is like to sit several hours in this kind of environment the word that comes to mind is eternity…. The rock formations, so imposing impact you with the reality that they have been there a really really long time and will be there long after I am gone.. I find comfort in that idea. We enjoyed a conversation of imagining ourselves in a covered wagon and looking for native american indians positioned with bows and arrows up on the rim. This while we sat less that half a mile from the car sitting in our camp chairs having a picnic.
Now that I am back in the studio I will carry this memory and glance at my study and think of mixing the colors and see where is shows up in the work ahead.