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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire Painting

"...I've always had a special place in my heart for fire fighters."  Delta Burke

Waldo Canyon Fire
Acrylic on panel, 15x9 1/2", memento box lid
Rita Salazar Dickerson

Completed Painting/ Final stage: I reworked the clouds and sky, adding more contrast and color overall plus thicker paint on the light yellow clouds. I also brushed a light purple glaze over the clouds on the right
A community rally will be held this Saturday to recognize and show appreciation for the firefighters, police and forest service personnel who valiantly fought the Waldo Canyon Fire. It will be another step in the healing process for our city that is still trying to regroup and adjust to the changes and the sadness of this tragedy. This will be a great opportunity to focus on the heroes of the fire. 
Stage 1: Brushing in the sketch with a thin wash of gray.
Not long after the proclimation I received an invitation to paint.
Stage 2: Painting in the sky and mountains working in blues, greens and purple.
A wooden box, that will be used at the rally, has been made to hold special mementos from the fire. (The wood used for this box came from a previous fire in California.)

Stage 3: The beginning of the clouds. I used Naples Yellow and Raw Sienna mixed with Titanium white.
The request was for a painting to be done on the lid of this special box.

Stage 4: Working in more blue and yellow.
 This was a great opportunity to be involved in the rally, the healing, the celebration of our heroes. I was happy to say yes. It felt good to contribute in a creative way.
Stage 5: Filling in the rest of the sky.

For inspiration, I decided to approach this painting as the depiction of a significant time in the history of Colorado Springs. A story that needs to be told with heroes that must always to be remembered; they boldly faced a flaming giant and refused to back down. We will always be grateful.

Waldo Canyon Fire painting: Side view with painting inserted as the lid of the custom made wood box.
Waldo Canyon Fire painting: Top view of the lid of the box. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Visiting Steamboat Springs

Completed Painting
Steamboat Aspens
Acrylic on panel, 9x6"
Rita Salazar Dickerson
We received a wonderful invitation last week to spend some time in Steamboat Springs.

There are so many pleasant things to do in and around Steamboat: hiking, rafting, kayaking, cycling...enjoyable art galleries and fun restaurants...all of it is placed in a gorgeous mountain setting of aspen and pine trees.

I brought my little Jullian paint box and waited for the perfect opportunity to do a little plein air painting at the cabin in the woods. It was an ideal set-up with a convenient little table on the back porch - supplied by our gracious hosts, Noreen and Alison, where I could lay out my painting supplies and get to work.
With the soft, late afternoon light, the variety of aspen trees in front of me were my inspiration. I decided to pick and choose the trees for my composition and noticed that the blue sky and rolling foothills were the perfect backdrop. I worked quickly using small brushes and my little palette knife.

It was a mountain party! With the sounds of  lively conversation and laughter swirling all around me, I painted. The Colorado weather was ideal and the beauty of the outdoors surrounded me. It was a refreshing change of pace and I felt invigorated.

I will always have special memories of my visit to beautiful Steamboat Springs with just a little part of it recorded in this painting.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Visiting Northern England: Completed Painting #3

Completed painting.
Oil on canvas, 20x16"
Rita Salazar Dickerson
I had to ask myself what it was about this ewe that made me want to paint her. There was something about her boldness, the way she carried herself and made her presence known. Plus there were the dramatic markings on her face and her thick wool coat; more than anything I was inspired by the random textures, colors and the light that played off of it. Having already painted a smaller version of her, I knew it would be even more enjoyable doing it large, using tons of paint and adding lots of color.

Stage 1: Drawing with paint, using a thin wash of Burnt Umber and mineral spirits.
I decided on a 20x16 inch canvas so that the head looked almost life size.

Stage 2: Painting in the dark markings.
Painting the ewe's face was the most tedious for me. I know it really didn't matter how accurate the black markings were on her face but I tried to get them as close as possible to how they really were.

Stage 3: Blocking in the rest of the face.
At this point it was just a matter of filling in with a gray paint around the black, blocking it in so that it would be ready for a thicker layer of paint (texture) to portray the ewe's fur. Painting wet-on wet, I wanted to complete this painting as I went, section by section.

Stage 4: Painting the face with a brush and palette knife.
At this stage I paid attention to color and value. Though it might be hard to tell from this photo, I used a lot of purple and blue.

Stage 5: Blocking in the body.
In general, I put more detail into my focal point, the face, and then used broader strokes and colors for the rest of the painting.

Stage 6: The background.
I followed the study rather closely for the background - keeping the strokes and colors varied and spontaneous.

Stage 7: Working on the ewe's neck.
At this stage, capturing the ewe's woolly neck and making it look thick and scruffy was my main objective. Once again I felt like I was playing with paint, my reward after all the detailed work on the face.

Stage 8: Completion.
It was rewarding to compare the final piece with the 10x8" study. To finish the painting I went over all of it again just to make sure I had everything the way I wanted it. I added more blue to her body and  lightened the shine in her eyes just a bit. I accentuated the edges of her wool and randomly pulled some of the paint into the background to give it a softer effect.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Visiting Northern England: Completed Painting #2

Reflections On The River Nidd
 Oil on canvas, 24x20"
Rita Salazar Dickerson
The February day was cold and wet. My fingers were numb as they held the camera. As I snapped the photos, I envisioned this scene as a painting. The River Nidd never looked more beautiful to me. Even the bare branches up above, dusted with snow, seemed as though they were dancing.

Stage 4: Painting the middle ground of water and river bank.
My goal was to keep it simple but I could not help but tell this story with interesting details. The reflections in the water from the bridge, the branches and the snow, all of it was important to me.

Stage 5: The under painting of the foreground snow bank.
Even the light snow in the foreground was good because of the texture that was created from the grasses and stones protruding from underneath.

Stage 6: Completing the foreground; adding the grasses and the final details.
 As I work on this series of paintings of North Yorkshire, England,  there is definitely a sense of accomplishment when I take the photo of the small 10x8" study with the final painting. Its fun to observe and compare the changes and enhancements that were made in the final piece - such as adding more color and thicker paint to virtually everything. I will set this painting aside and let it "rest" for a while until I can see it with fresh eyes again. Right now I am oblivious to any changes that might need to be made. Its time to move on and keep the momentum going.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Visiting Northern England: Final Painting #2, Stages 1-3

With the hot, dry summer weather we have been experiencing, painting a cold, snowy winter scene was very appealing to me. After painting the 8x10 inch study of "Reflections On The River Nidd", I was excited to see what this would look like on a larger scale. I chose a 24x20 inch canvas and started by painting in the shapes with Burnt Umber that had been thinned with oderless mineral spirits.

Stage 1: Painting in the shapes.
I used a No. 14 flat brush for the sky; I wanted it to look thick and heavy with snow. For the trees I switched to a No. 8 flat brush.

Stage 2: Painting in the trees.
Since I knew that I would not have time to paint this entire piece from start to finish in one day, my goal was to complete the upper half, wet-on-wet, in three stages: the drawing, blocking in the shapes with the two flat brushes and then working in the snow on the tree branches with a palette knife.

Stage 3: Adding snow to the branches.
Once again, I felt like I was playing with paint when using my palette knife. I added small amounts of Veridian and Tranparent Oxide Red to Titanium White to create a cool, muted white. Even then the white seemed bright and cold next to the blues and greens of the background. With snow on the branches it felt like things were starting to come alive.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Visiting Northern England: Final Painting #1 Completed

24x30", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
It felt good to come full circle and achieve my goal of completing this first large piece in my series. Doing the little study was fun but there was a sense of satisfaction seeing it painted large. I wanted this painting to be big enough to give the feeling of the sheep looking almost life size, to command a presence in a room.

Stage 7: Painting in the black.
I started by painting in the black markings on the lamb. (I mixed Ultramarine Blue and Transparent Oxide Red in equal parts to make a black.)

Stage 8: Blocking in the lamb.
Next, I blocked in the lamb's body with a flat brush. With this under painting still wet, I then began applying the paint, wet-on-wet (alla prima) with a palette knife.

While I worked, I kept my little 8x10" study close by using it as a reference for color and technique. It was  enjoyable using generous amounts of paint mixed with a paint medium, Neo Megilp; the paint had the consistency of mayonnaise -  smooth, silky and spreadable.

And now it is time to move on to the next large piece in my series. I think it will be a landscape.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Visiting Northern England: Final Painting #1/Stages 3-6

Stage 3: Blocking in the ewe's body.
It felt good to get back to painting. I started by blocking in the major shapes and colors of the ewe's body with a No.8 flat brush.

These are the two palette knives I used.
And then it was time to pull out my palette knives to add the wool texture.

Stage 4: Adding texture to the neck with a palette knife.
I started with the ewe's neck using my smaller knife.

Stage 5: The ewe's body.
At this point I was squeezing out generous amounts of oil paint onto my palette as I worked on her round, wooly body with the larger knife.

Stage 6: Legs and background.

I worked in the green background as I went to keep my edges varied and fresh. Her legs were a combination of brush and palette knife.

And now, its time to move on to her little lamb.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire

I was planning on painting last Tuesday, the 26th of June. Within a matter of minutes my plans changed.

My sister, Joan, who lives less than a mile away, called frantically saying, " I can see flames from our deck!" We had been watching the fire since it had started just a few days before, never suspecting it would come this close. In disbelief I told her we would be right over. As I grabbed my camera, my husband Robert ran out the front door and yelled, "Rita!!! Come and look! We don't need to go to Joan's to see the flames!"

This was the view from the front yard of our home. The Waldo Canyon Fire had suddenly grown into a horrible monster, raging over the foothills and racing toward us.

I looked up at the sky and felt the heat waves from the fire pressing down on me. It was time to flee.

Today, the fire is at 45% containment, the evacuation for our neighborhood has ended and yesterday we were allowed back into our home. My painting of the ewe and her lamb sat untouched on my easel; the paints and brushes were just as I had left them. It felt strange that everything seemed the same though I know it never will be. There is a sense of relief for me, mixed with sadness for those who were not as fortunate as we were and a knowledge that many will not be able to return to their homes because they are no longer there.

With a heavy heart I begin painting again today - feeling so blessed that I can.