I left Ghost Ranch in awe of the scenery and
enamored with what Georgia O'Keefe painted there. Of course I
wanted to capture it all it but it is hard not to copy exactly what she depicted...
so I challenged myself to tackle a still life she did not paint.
Her land, her hills and valleys, her colors...how could anyone have a thing to add to the body of work O'Keefe left behind? She documented Ghost Ranch in every season. Was there no more to add?
The only answer would be to look differently and paint differently; not to copy what had been done but to see through her eyes what she might chose if painting today. I kept this thought in mind as I took photographs for future painting references.
I decided to warm up with a natural still life that captured my eye, a threesome of the pine, juniper and scrub. Ms O'Keefe would have centered in on one, but not me, I went for all three.
9" x 12" oil on canvas
The next day I began to flesh out the composition and realized just what a challenge it was going to be: everything was so red! The deep red-orange of the ground was reflected on everything and it was going to be a challenge to capture the distinctions I wanted. I was really determined to take your eye up every twist and turn of the ancient trunk (which was as graceful as a dancer) and still relate it to the scrub and the tree. It was meditative to get lost in the weathered wood - quite zen; slowly I began to feel the movement and eye direction. I also noted a need to change the horizon line which became important but not to the extent that I spent a lot of time matching the sky coloration.
9 x 12, oil
The photo is a little wonky but good enough. Of course Georgia did not paint like this at all. That was not the point. I just enjoyed paying as close attention as she would have to something many people would have walked on by. Three Graces? Perhaps. Three generations? Maybe. I'm still working out why this scene attracted me but I do know that I felt a closeness to Ghost Ranch as I worked on it...like the Ranch muse sat on my shoulder for a little bit while I recalled how it all felt.
So there you have it.