Thursday, September 27, 2012

Painting and Petroglyphs

The scenery around Dubois was arid but beautiful.

Being surrounded by so many talented plein air painters can be a little intimidating when one is just a newbie, but by Thursday I was itching to get out in the field and give it a go. After another delicious lunch at the conference center, we headed south-east of Dubois to the Torrey Lake area and set up our easels below some interesting boulders and rocks. Painting was a bit challenging, however. The sun was strong and the wind had picked up, so any bit of moisture in my paints (not to mention my skin!) evaporated in record time. I realized that painting in acrylics was going to be nearly impossible so I switched to watercolors and just did some sketches of the area. Not for the first time I wished I worked in oils, but even the experienced oil painters were cursing the conditions.

Watercolor sketch of the boulders above Torrey Lake. I used a lot of dry brush technique on this one without really meaning to!

 In the rocks above our easels, other artists had left their mark hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago. Petroglyphs were scattered on the rocks and boulders around the area we set up in. According to the book "Plains Indian Rock Art" by James D. Keyser and Michael A. Klassen, this ancient rock art is considered part of the "Dinwoody" tradition, found almost exclusively in the Wind River area of Wyoming. I was in awe and wished I knew what the pictures meant.

There was a bird-like figure to the left of this petroglyph. I can't even guess what this one depicts, though.
I spotted these petroglyphs under a rock overhang, sheltering them from the elements.

After sketching for a while, I drove further around Torrey Lake and spotted some immature common mergansers out on the water. Mergansers are diving ducks and have very thin bills with serrated "teeth". They eat fish and other aquatic life. 

An immature common merganser having a nice day at the lake.

It seems like there's always some sort of Murphy's Law of Wildlife Observation at work; if I see some great wildlife, there won't be any place to pull over or safely observe it from. This time however, the birds were kind enough to be near a lake access area so that I could watch them for a while. 

Some pencil sketches of an immature common merganser sunning itself on a rock.

As the afternoon wore on, the angle of the sun just lit up the fall colors around the lake. I took lots of reference photos for future paintings. The trip out to the lake was not particularly successful for plein air painting, but I enjoyed sketching the area and the birds, and the petroglyphs were definitely icing on the cake.

The Fall color was spectacular.


Vickie said...

Hi Gabrielle,
Your blog is delightful. I haven't had much time for blog reading lately, but noticed this post with petroglyphs in the title. I enjoyed visiting petroglyphs in NM several years ago. Your sketches are great inspiration for stopping where ever you are to create a sketch. I'm not finding that easy to do while traveling but I'm working on it!

Gabrielle said...

Hi Vickie,

Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoy my blog.

Petroglyphs are pretty cool, aren't they?

I am not as successful in sketching wherever I go as I'd like to be. It can be especially hard when you are traveling with other people and/or on a schedule. I guess the main thing is to just keep trying!

Ken Januski said...

Lovely drawings here Gabrielle. I think the mergansers are very strong.

Gabrielle said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for your comment! I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to return the favor lately. Congratulations on all of your recent successes!