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Painted Vista

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Painted Vista, Original Watercolor Painting by Jenny Armitage

Painted Vista (watercolor 6 x 13) available

During the pandemic I’ve been spending time traveling through my extensive collection photo files.  The reference photos for this painting go all the way back to a Southwestern odyssey we made in 2013.  This vista is from Painted Desert National Park in Arizona not far from the visitor center.

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Sage Brush Spring

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Sage Brush Spring, Original Painting of Idaho by Jenny Armitage

Sage Brush Spring (watercolor 12 x 20) available

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Welsh Farmhouse

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Late Afternoon Denbighshire, Original Landscape by Jenny Armitage

Late Afternoon Denbighshire (watercolor 17 x 23) available

We are just back from a narrowboating trip on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.  Paradoxically, we spent much of our week’s boat rental walking on dry land both along the canal and into the countryside.  This particular walk was along part of the Offa’s Dyke Path just a few miles west of Chirk Marina.  The typical slate farmhouse in the mid-ground was visible for most of our late afternoon walk. 

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The Corrugated Plain

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The Corrougated Plain, a watercolor of Montana by Jenny Armitage.

The Corrugated Plain (11 x 15 watercolor) Available

I spent a few hours at The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. My husband is a sort of pocket expert about Custer’s Last Stand so it was a place we simply had to go if we got within three hundred miles of it.

Stephen did show me over the battlefield. Standing on the actual ground makes many contemporary descriptions clearer. Western plains are deceptive. They often look flat from a distance, but turn out to be steep and hilly. People, houses, factories hide in what looks like an unobstructed view to the horizon in a all directions.

The battlefield is like that. From the ridge you have the illusion that you can see all, but you can’t. And the land leading up to the ridge is steep and hard. But my painting is not of where Custer made his famous last stand. Instead, I painted view from where his Lieutenant Reno was pinned down. Reno retreated up the gulches after meeting the Indians in the valley below. The hills are probably much the same, but the river below snakes through a flat valley and it has moved over time. And of course that fields and ranches now occupying the land came after the battle.

Despite the graves, the markers of where Custer’s men fell and where Indians fell, the land itself remains beautiful.

Painted on Arches cold-pressed 140# paper with phthalo blue, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, quinacridone deep read rose, burnt sienna, quinacridone gold and raw sienna.

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Montana Skyline

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Montana Skyline, a watercolor by Jenny Armitage

Montana Skyline (11 x 15 watercolor) SOLD

Touring Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and sliver of Nebraska this summer, I was forcefully reminded of what is so beautiful about the mountain west.  It’s the vast ever changing vistas with little or nothing to clothe them or block the view.  There’s a reason they call it big sky country.

I took the reference photos for this painting from the car window on I90 somewhere east of Butte but west of Bozeman.   But it hardly matters, there isn’t an ugly spot on all of I90 throughout Montana.

It was the light on the peaks that caught me eye.  If anyone can identify name of  the mountain for me, I’d like to know it.

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Fort Robinson Paintings Times Three

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The View North From Fort Robinson

Through the Wind Break (watercolor 11 x 15) SOLD

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.

Watercolor Sketch of Bluffs to the north of Fort Robinson, Nebraska

Sketch of Nebraska Bluffs at Fort Robinson (watercolor 10 x14) SOLD

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:

Rocky Hills north of Fort Robinson and Painting by Jenny Armitage

The View From Fort Robinson (watercolor 11 x 16) Available

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.


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