Rackstraw Downes  Mixed Use Field on Texas Coast, 1987, oil on canvas on board, 11 x 58 inches

As someone soon to be facing how to paint a large desert sky spread across a large desert panorama, I’m circling the question of the possibilities available.* The Goldwell Foundation, where I’ll be painting,locates itself physically near Beatty, Nevada, on the northwest region of the Basin and Range country, 8 miles and one mountain range from Death Valley. I’ve done lots of small studies there. Now I’m contemplating the Big One. Desultorily contemplating…..

I have no theories, only pictures.


Turner  Landscape with Distant River and Bay
c. 1840-50; Oil on canvas, 94 x 124 cm


Richard Wilson, On Hounslow Heath,  14 . 5″ x 18″,  circa 1770


Turner Sun Setting over a Lake
c. 1840,  Oil on canvas, 91 x 122.5 cm


John Constable, The  Stour Valley from Highham, c. 1804, Oil on canvas


A.Y. Jackson Terre Sauvage, 1913, oil on canvas, 50 x 60″


Lawren Harris, From the North Shore, Lake Superior,1923 or 1927 Oil on Canvas


Emily Carr (cropped by Underwood) Vanquished, 1931, original: 92 x 129 cnm

And then there are the photographers. I got waylaid, distracted, stopped and muddled by the plethora, so I only include two. A number so small as to be silly. I suspect that Steve could provide me with innumerable sky photos just by turning on his computer —


Roland Lee, Yucca Skies Chosen for its desert reference.


Ian Parker, Light Beam (Iceland), chosen for its stylized photography — the illusion of a painting.


“Morgan” from a student work, on a London Educational web site, chosen because it’s so eccentric.

There are thousands, possibly millions, more paintings and photographs of skies, ranging from the most subtle to the most outlandish, from the dabs of the impressionists through the stylish swerves of the Candians to the symbols of students. Photographers love skies; ordinary people love skies. Everyone has opinions about skies. Even the desert has skies, skies that can be far more interesting than the skies that I love in Portland Oregon. (Well, sometimes I love them; sometimes they are just gray).

I think the sky I’m envisioning will have to both blend and change, across the 25 or so feet of the panorama. I think it will have to signify different things — time of day, weather, potentials. I think it will have to be interesting, but void-like. It will have to signify “sky” but be one with the desert below.  It will have to be interesting. It will have to say distance and potential and sublimity. Small challenges.

It’s less than a month before I get to work on this itch, this desert panorama, and and so this is one way to spend the intervening weeks.

*For those not following my obsessions, I will return to the Red Barn at the Goldwell Foundation, at the head of the Amargosa Plain, to work on three to five (?) 4 x 5′ vertically oriented canvases, arranged in a panorama, in November and early December. I will be keeping a journal of that time on another blog. Stay tuned.