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06.25.2012 ~ opening up in slickhorn canyon, utah

by | Jun 26, 2012 | backpacking, canyons, cottonwoods, spring, Utah

opening up in slickhorn canyon, utah ~ oil and mixed media on panel ~ by dawn chandler ~ copyright 2012 dawn chandler
A favorite scene from my April Utah backpacking trip. You may recognize it — it’s an expanded version of the little study painting I did soon after the trip. The scene is from the afternoon of the first day.

I just love the surprise of greenery in the bottom of these canyons. The colonies of cottonwoods are such inviting, verdant oases in this parched landscape. I could hole up forever in the cool shadows of those trees.
One of the biggest challenges for me with this painting was the massive canyon wall — getting the color right (warm-colored rock in cool shade), and also the feeling of weighty volume without it being visually ponderous. Trying, too, to suggest the cracks and fissures in the geology without the geometry getting too rigid and detailed was tricky. More than once did I wipe off the paint and start over.
My favorite part of this painting may be that which is otherwise pretty rare in my landscape paintings: the people. There in the lower left are two of my backpacking companions, rounding the bend as we close in on camp for the day. Their presence there on the path just seems to beckon me to grab my pack and follow.

As with the other panels in this series, this one started with my free-write scribing on the undersurface with a dip pen. This time though I added a little pen and ink sketch in the upper corner as I considered the composition of the piece. I later went in with ink washes and blocked out the main compositional elements, before commencing to paint: