Through the Wind Break (watercolor 11 x 15) $200.00
I’m just back from an extended vacation that took me across eastern Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, The Black Hills of South Dakota, Montana, and the northwest corner of Nebraska. These paintings come from that northwest corner of Nebraska, at Fort Robinson State Park, where my Mother’s family held its family reunion this June.
The cavalry fort was once known as the country-club of the army because of the polo field, golf course, swimming pool, gymnasium and horse trails in and around the camp. The swimming pool and the horse trails remain for the use of park visitors. My paintings depict what was once the polo field and is now pasture for both horses and long-horns. We hiked into the bluffs and I may do some more detailed painting of them this summer.
I made my first sketch of the field from the shade of our house (0nce the officers’ club and lodging for 65). I made a short job of it as the wind wanted to carry not only the paper, but also my palette, brushes, and everything else away. My main objective to was to capture the hills as reference for later paintings. I removed a number of trees from my line of vision.
Sketch of Nebraska Bluffs at Fort Robinson (watercolor 10 x14) $50.00
Back at home, I decided I liked the trees and set about recording them as the main subject. They reminded me of the view from numerous parks and rest-stops across the plains states where the view is pleasantly interrupted by a wind break. Here is my first attempt:
The View From Fort Robinson (watercolor 11 x 16) $150
I wasn’t entirely happy with it although various people visiting the gallery while I painted it liked it. I have trouble with trees. Either I put in too much detail, or I put in so little they become bland. The painting also suffers from lack of punch. There isn’t enough value contrast and the fence interrupts the view without adding to it. It is unclear whether the trees or the view are the subject.
For my second attempt I let go of realism and tried to paint the feeling of the cool trees with the dry view beyond. To do this I placed most of the attention on the trees. I began by masking everything expect the tree shapes. Then I got out the large brushes and began adding wet juicy areas of raw sienna and new gamge to the tree tops. I brushed the trunks with burnt sienna. Then I washed over the damp yellows with cobalt blue, phthalo blue, and French blue (much like cobalt only darker and not as transparent). I took the blue down the trunks too. I allowed back washes and other water marks to form.
The resulting trees are less real, but much more interesting, and though they have a flat feeling to them, they convey the sense of light passing between the leaves and branches.
After removing the mask, I added a light cobalt blue sky. I added some darker patches of blue around the edges of the leaves too.
Then I used the same palette to add the bluffs and grass working carefully to keep the distant hills blue, pale and receded. FInally, I added a few small touches of orange mixed from burnt and raw sienna to the edges of the trees to bring out the green of the leaves.
I like the results.
I will do the bluffs again later, closer and in more detail. They were beautiful to hike in.
I may do the Fort itself eventually too. It is steeped in history beginning in 1873 when Camp Robinson was established to to protect the Red Cloud Agency. The agency was then home to some 13,00 Lakota Sioux most of whom were unhappy with the accommodations and the treaty which led to them. Crazy Horse died during a rebellion there. About ten years later, the 9th Calvary, an all black unit known as the Buffalo Soldiers were stationed there. Eventually the Fort became a remount station in WWII, a prisoner of war camp, and a K-9 training camp. Pieces of all these permutations remain on the site.
This Through the Windbreak is currently for sale on line at my Etsy shop. The sketch is currently at Art in the Valley, Corvallis, Oregon.
Or purchase prints from my Fine Art America Website.