PEFO is the government’s acronym for the Petrified Forest National Park. Around the house, we’ve come to like the abbreviation so much, it’s now how we speak of that space in northeastern Arizona.
Of course, I’m not tweaking the park — it’s had plenty of that without my help. I am tweaking the paintings.
My first tweaking task is to add more paint. The magnitude of the original plein air paintings I wanted to tackle and the relatively little time I had to get things down in paint made me paint much too thinly. So now I’m slathering on more good buttery color.
And then, of course, I have to make the painting actually work. Actually, in some cases, that isn’t going to happen. But others are coming along.
This is the second Painted Desert Inn, from the front of the building. The first one I showed was painted from the back of the building, was far more “flat,” and certainly more high-toned. On my computer screen this looks a little more faded than it is on the wall in the studio, but it’s a lot less shrieking than the first one.
Here’s a second version of the primary Visitor’s Center at PEFO — the Richard Neutra designed structure. I sat in the courtyard one warm evening just as the light was declining outside and painted this. The original structure had a flat roof and elegant, austere stainless steel triangles where the awnings run now. The steel looks wonderful in the old photos, but I think in reality they may have been impractical, as was the flat roof.
The tweaking on this painting, from Tawa Point, has been given much greater sense of space, and the Painted Desert Inn, just above the ridge of green, has been toned way down, to fit into the scene rather than pop out from it.
Finally, this is the painting that the detail was taken from that I showed the other day. This is the Painted Desert, and the mounds across the flat of the plain are quite large and, yes, this red. They are the eroding clay of the Chinle Formation, 225 million years old. That is, the originals of these are. The painting is only a couple of months old. This is one of those scenes that gives a painter fits, but I think I’ve got it now. Or at least, as well as I can, I’ve got it.
Along with the fun of tweaking paintings, the other fun I’ve been having is “setting” these into that semi-rectangular format that I’ve envisioned. In a few days I’ll show some of the versions of “formatting” — rather like setting quilt blocks. I’m thinking that I may need two or more sets rather than a single one (and perhaps different sets for different spaces), because putting up 14 of these means some are too high and some too low for comfort. But for now, my studio setting space is good for the fourteen, and it’s fun to see how they play off one another.
The sets are all about context. Context — or history, geography, geology, culture, weather, and human activities — all bunched together, at PEFO. –June